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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FACTS of life

This weekend (23rd + 24th of October) I'll be attending the FACTS convention again. if my math is right it will be my 9th time. Now for all you non-Belgians, you should realize there are NO Comic book conventions at all over here, in fact I don't think there are more than a handful throughout Europe.

Sure we have comic strip cons nearly every month, but the American comic book isn't exactly a staple here.
In essence Facts isn't really a comic book convention, it's a popular culture convention, much along the line of the big San Diego Comicon.
When I started to attend there were maybe 10 comic book dealers and no books older than say ten years. Slowly the comic book part was dying and I remember one glum year where there were just 5 comic book dealers and there was nothing at all that interested me.
But the next year some new people joined the organization (yes Boom, I'm talking about you) and the comics part started to blossom again.
FACTS was able to book more and better artists, which in turn led to more fans turning up which lead to more dealers coming which lead to even more fans coming etc...

Last year the 15.000-attendance (or 15,000 if you don't like the metric system) figure was breached, which is incredible for such a small country and this year everybody fully expects that figure to be reached and even overtaken again.
But alas some things haven't changed, there still is almost nothing at the entire con that I'm looking for. There are almost no Silver Age or Bronze Age books for sale. Can't really blame the dealers as the brave ones who do bring them, don't sell a single issue. There is just no interest in vintage (and expensive back issues). Most collectors, no strike that I should actually call them "readers", are interested in trades, hardcovers and cheap singles from the last 10 - 15 years. Why buy a €300 Silver Age Spider-man book when you can buy the hardcover for €20.00 and have enough money left to buy hundreds of cheap one-euro comics.

Some readers do become collectors over time, but it's a slow progress and doesn't really happen the first 5 years when somebody comes into the hobby.
And to be honest, the rare vintage stuff that is for sale at FACTS can be found cheaper online most of the time. At the con you pay more for the convenience of being able to look through the book, don't have to pay shipping and be secure in the knowledge that the comic doesn't have to be shipped thousands of miles.


So why am I still going ? Well mostly because it's a lot of fun. I know a lot of people there among the staff, exhibitors and visitors and it's always a treat to meet up with them every year. I also tend to go toy-shopping for my kids (this year my son wants a Joker action figure and my daughter wants a Power Girl or Hawkgirl).
And then there are the artists...all credit to FACTS, they manage to get top-shelf artists every year, but as I'm not a modern comic book fan, most of them don't toot my horn...but now and then they get one that even I in my curmudgeonly way like.

I'll be lining up this year to do a meet and greet with Dave Gibbons and have him sign my Watchmen page...that should be nice.
But mostly I will be selling trades and hardcovers at the cheapcomics.com booth, like each year I'll be assisting my friend Chris to bring wonder and joy to the masses in the shape of luxury (and cheap) reprints.
It's always a lot of fun to meet other readers/collectors, to try and answer their questions and generally talk "comics" with them. Maybe steer them in the direction of a new series they didn't know or help them complete a storyline.
I'll probably be dead tired at the end of it all, will have spent too much money on toys, won't be able to go box-diving to find some bargains and will undoubtedly forget to eat again this year....but I can't wait. Bring it on, it's FACTS time again.
Oh and if you are looking for me, I'll be the one wearing the green suede Puma's.

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