In my nearly twenty years of attending comic conventions there’s always been one staple: Artist Alley; a place where local and not-so-local talent can come and share (hoc) their wares. Some conventions do it better than others, but the consistency of this is what maintains that link to the truest nature of what a convention within this community is supposed to be about – the art.
This year’s Wizard World Chicago has a decent size Artist Alley section – smaller than some of the previous years; which could be attributable to several factors, cost being the most likely issue. I spent a lot of time today between panels wandering up and down the aisles and there were several pervasive thoughts that kept creeping in.
There are an incredibly small number of artists represented who were displaying actual comic books. The primary wares shown were with sketch art or poster-style pin-ups. I use that term specifically because for the most part the drawings leaned towards being a depiction of some popular female character: Storm, Rogue. Leia Organa, etc. This wasn’t something exclusive to the male artists represented either, this seemed to be a rather universal theme. I take from this the thought that, in reality, the primary audience at these conventions is still young men and the fantasy aspect of this art is a sales driver. But the lack of actual comic books makes me think that artists are more and more navigating away from this part of the business choosing to focus their efforts elsewhere, which is a discouraging thought.
I don’t envy those who choose that life as even a side-job. Coming to a convention, sitting at a table surrounded (typically) by competition you probably don’t know and are forced to essentially sing for your supper. I went out of my way to go and interact with artists whom I noticed, as I walked by a couple times, no one had been stopping to interact. The art that is displayed isn’t always of the highest quality (in my less-than expert opinion) and by that I mean that it doesn’t appeal to me; but those are instances where I have even more respect for that person. They’re putting themselves out there and trying. They believe in their product and want others to see it. My hat’s off to each and every one of them.
On a more positive note regarding Artist Alley, the smaller size did allow for the size of the aisles to be widened which is a considerable improvement that allows fans and creators to have greater opportunities to interact without the constant shuffle of other passersby knocking into everyone. A few of the artists I spoke with commented on this specifically and applauded the organizers.
This is your Bin Fodder Guru reporting from the Rosemont Convention Center at Wizard World Chicago.