Now that the holy pilgrimage to the mother of all shows in Canada is over, what do comic fans have to look forward to? Typically, Fan Expo signals the end of summer and along with it the end of the convention season. However, it’s been an unusually busy summer for comics this year. In addition to new shows like the GTA Comic Con and the SuperFan ComicCon, we also have the rise of smaller one day shows like the Toronto Comic Book Show (TCBS).
Being a relatively new show, I understand that it’s a work in progress. There is a lot to juggle in getting sellers and buyers to all meet up at the same place. You have to allocate your efforts and resources to where you think they’ll have the most impact. In speaking with the organizer, I was curious about the efforts he was making… That is, what can vendors expect for the cost of setting up? In addition to the growing mailing list, TCBS advertises the show in local newspapers, Craigslist and Kijiji and other online forums, including the CGC boards. There is also a big social media push with Facebook and Twitter, on top of the TCBS website that is kept updated. Full colour flyers are left behind at local comic stores and posted around town. Rented street signs at key locations around the city has also helped to bring people in. The show is listed on various partner sites that references other related shows. And, being a good host and fair to people, which help to generate positive “word-of-mouth” buzz isn’t taken for granted. In addition to all this, TCBS has hourly give-a-ways at the show with a grand prize draw that makes the collector in me drool. With plans to give away an Amazing Spider-Man #129 at the next show, and an X-Men #94 at the December show, TCBS is fast becoming known for their big give-a-ways. I have to say, I was impressed to hear all these initiatives.
Great effort, but does it work?
This past Sunday I attended TCBS and I was pleasantly surprised. There were a lot of people in attendance, more than I had expected to see. I saw some familiar faces behind the tables as well as in the aisles. There were some families, lot of ladies but mostly adult males (come on kids and gals… join the fun). There was a variety of merchandise on display, everything from sports cards, movie posters, original comic art, games and toys, art books and of course tons of comics! Comics ranged from cheap $1 bin books to high-end $20,000 CGC books. Although there were plenty of CGC books, based on my own observation, Sunday’s crowd seemed more interested in raw, uncertified books. Considering how expensive some CGC books have become, perhaps the lower price tag on the same uncertified version was more appealing.
Good attendance, but are people buying?
The first thing I noticed as I walked in was people leaving with a bag full of merchandise which was a good sign. Once I started making my way from booth to booth, I couldn’t help but overhear the many discussions and negotiations happening all around me. There were genuine collectors at this show, many who came looking for specific books. I know that some people are curious about the actual sales numbers but it’s difficult to say since it will vary from vendor to vendor. But the few vendors that confided in me said that they sold about $1,000 worth of merchandise in the first few hours, which I though was pretty good. Perhaps some were doing better and some worse, but a lot of this depends the individual inventory and presentation (and a bit of luck doesn’t hurt as well). Being a more focused audience, the attendees came ready to pick up deals.
There is no denying the challenges that comic books face, so to start up a series of one day shows in the face of it all seems daunting. However, with an average attendance of nearly 300 people and growing, this particular show seems to be building momentum. Part of the appeal has to be the low cost. The cost of setting up is the cheapest in town, which means less risk for vendors and the cost of admission is only $5 (which includes an entry into all the draws), so for all the excuses we make not to attend the mega spectacle that is Fan Expo, those same hurdles do not exist here. Aside from the low cost, there is also a wider range of vendors. You’ll find some of the same dealers who set up at the big shows but you’ll find shops like Retro Rare from Mississauga and Comic Book Lounge set up here as well. You’ll also find smaller hobbyists, like myself, who bring in their own collections to sell. But what I personally like about this show is that it’s comic focused. You won’t find corporate media here looking to push their next big thing. Instead, TCBS provides an intimate setting with a casual atmosphere where comic enthusiasts can enjoy their hobby. With another successful show under their belt, TCBS is fast becoming the monthly meeting place for comic fans.
As we head into the colder months, there are planned show dates for October 26 and December 14. This year, comic fans will have a warm place to gather where they can immerse themselves in all things comics. As much as I enjoy the big shows, there is an authentic quality about the smaller shows that I enjoy. I’ve got a table booked for October 26 so I hope to see you there.