My ticket through the front gate is a bright yellow plastic bracelet, “hold your hands up high, so we can see your tickets,” the volunteers advise. I hardly lift my wrist as I pass through the crowd of costumed people, on my left is an endearingly cheerful young Pikachu, on my right is a Spiderman only slightly past his prime. Some would think, either absent minded-ly or based on stereotype or other, that the individuals who go to comic con conventions would be more of a strange and astonishing. Or some others would say, that they met a man selling independent artwork at a booth in the market stall who was a wonderful painter.
Welcome to Wizard World 2016: a world where anyone can express their sci-fi passions, demonstrate their artistic angles, get lost in science fiction. “Wizard World [is] where pop culture comes to life” reads a large trailer parked outside the massive convention center. People come from all over the United States for this convention, “We get anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people a day,” says Heinrich, the Comic Con event manager, “Saturday is always the most busy.” Wizard World is a relatively smaller scale Comic Con, and although it generates a large gathering of science fiction community members, just how profitable is a convention of this scale?
Profits are hard to consider in the money sense. Think about it like this. Someone pinches your ass. And you look at them making their way very quickly away from your direction immediately afterwards. “Hey!”, you shout “Fuck you!”, and he turns at looks you for a second. I may refer to “you” often, but that’s just to put the reader in my shoes. I looked at this pink faced man and determined that he was drunk, probably a man who decided to go to comic con and get drunk to have a good time. But his idea of a good time was not respectful to me, so I told him to fuck off. It wasn’t nice, but after getting mad and scanning through the masses I realized it was hopeless: Wizard World was too big. I would have to search through a sea of people in costume, probably for hours, to find and encourage an apology out of a drunken man. That was not my idea of a good time, to spend my time being upset was not worth it to me. Worth should not only be defined in terms of money, anyone who has taken Econ 170 would know the full extent of the definition of an opportunity cost.
With an expanded definition of profits, the answer from the earlier question (how profitable is Wizard World?) depends on who is buying and who is selling. Like any market, Wizard World consists of the usual buyers and sellers; people looking to exchange cash for a more valuable experience. It is a vast agora of artists and art appreciators of their own culture, very unlike any common culture that happens daily. After seeing this it would difficult to consider Comic con as just an industry, it includes people who have similar interests and feel the same desire to openly express themselves without fear of judgment. “We get dressed up for Halloween every year, this is just kind of like that,” says Mark, he’s been to several sci-fi conventions just this year.
Within Wizard World, or any other comic con, there are so many different subcultures. To name a few we have the diehard anime-fans, Star Wars admirers, Doctor Who Whovians, etc. To supply the specific and unique demands of all these fans the Oregon Convention Center rents stations and table to vendors to fulfill and supply each subculture’s unique needs from steam-punk skeleton-key pocket-watches to stuffed plush toys of cat-sushi. (Note from the blogger: I’m not going to include a picture, google images search it.)
The sellers don’t consist of just graphic artists and typical vendors though, celebrities are selling too. A unique aspect of the Comic Con market place involves the buying and selling of autographs from sci-fi idols. This year celebs are getting high-tech: new additions to the menu include video messages and voicemail messages ($20 each). The full menu would read something like this, prices may vary from celebrity to celebrity:
$20 Video Message
Each of these celebrities set up their own little monopolies at comic con. Economists Do It With Models explains that this is due to the distinguishable nature of each celebrity’s product. Indeed, an experience with Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer may be vastly different from an interaction with Captain Kirk. (Note from the blogger: I looked a little closer and I noticed that William Shatner seemed to be speeding through his autograph line, signing pictures without looking up at the fans at all. Maybe the photos constantly remind him of his former, more vital self. He paused, a moment of silence for Captain Kirk.) An additional factor to the cost benefit analysis these fans may make is their decision to honor their sunk costs. Most fans wait in line for a very long time, there are a few fans who wait in wheelchairs as well. Not sad or melancholy but excited and dazzled, dressed up and all out at a convention they paid $199.99 to enter. In some cases cost benefit analysis goes beyond the structured lines of money and product. These lines can last hours, especially for big name figures like Matt Smith from Doctor Who.
At the end of the long lines of fans who are susceptible to indulge, justifying waiting in the long queue by buying another item on the menu to fulfill the experience. It’s just like waiting in line at a grocery store. Everybody and their mother (and baby brother) will be in line waiting for the star to appear.
“William Shatner: 11:00am”.
A man I met at breakfast, an brief acquaintance, was eager to see Shatner as well. Before I could ask him what about the Star Trek series was the most incredible, he left to get a head start to beat the queue. Little did he know that William Shatner was staying at the same hotel conjunct with the restaurant we were dining at. A while later a friend, T., staying at the hotel chuckled at the fact that her husband (the man mentioned earlier) left to get a head start but the actor himself rolled out of bed and into a car at 10:58am. Although some fans may argue that a simple experience with the celebrity is enough, some other fans have traveled far and wide to follow their idols. The actors are faced with past characters they performed, it must be an experience that not many may understand. For that we shouldn’t feel too hard on anyone in this situation really. When the fans stand in line they don’t feel remorse spending the extra $20. They waited for so long, might as well, right? Because after all they really loved that show, it was a good time. Once in a while it’s nice, just so it doesn’t get tiring, job-like.
Stepping out of the convention center I embraced the pleasant Portland weather, it was a beautiful February afternoon that day.