Written by Chris Smits
With Comic-Con only days away from its takeover of the wonderfully accommodating city of San Diego, fans of all makes and models are talking, tweeting, and posting their excitement for the event. With the con having grown to proportions over the past several years that no one could have predicted, this now-cyclical round of excitement is also followed by the now-cyclical observations wondering what place (if any) the comics of the convention’s namesake hold at the spectacle.
There’s no question that attendance is in overdrive more and more, every year. People stood in line last year during the wee hours of the morning for the chance to buy their passes for this year’s convention. If you do happen to score those coveted passes (which is very much like a lottery now), you still have to win a second lottery in being able to secure a hotel room (that now have triple their normal rates). A potential convention participant has to start taking care of these things up to a year in advance now, including the opportunity for dollar spenders to reserve their parking in advance.
With so many folks willing to go through this process, it’s been widely accepted that the majority of those in attendance are no longer comic book readers…and there lies the point of contention for those in the “Comic” portion of “Comic-Con”. This isn’t just about the fans, either. Most people may not be aware of how difficult the whole process has become for artists and writers of comics as well. They’re spending even more than badge holders, having to jump through more hoops than ever before to keep their table space at the show, and then coming to the realization that their target audience may not even be at the show at all. It is very common now for a freelance comic book artist to be thousands of dollars in to this show before it’s even showtime. That’s hard money to recoup when the folks wandering the aisles walk past you because what you do isn’t on their radar at all.
For some creators, the San Diego Comic-Con now means they’re bringing a comic book knife to a Hollywood movie gun fight.
Amongst the seeds of that frustration, a few like-minded people came up with an idea for an event that would do something for a positive change to help fans and creators of comics alike. Their event would push things even farther by providing resources for creators to improve their skills, encourage fans to become creators themselves, and provide shelf-space for their wares. During the convention last year, the city of San Diego also played host to the launch of this new event; right across the street from the convention center, one could buy a comic book, a t-shirt, and even original artwork, and then sit down on a patio to enjoy a beer and sushi (if one were so inclined) all while probably being a few seats over from the person who made whatever one had just bought.
This event was called TR!CKSTER and, with the slight title modification to TR!CK2TER, is only days away.
Relocated to WINE STEALS/PROPER, 795 J Street, San Diego, CA, TR!CK2TER will once again provide an atmosphere of creativity and one of learning as well. Through a series of ticketed “Symposia” events, people can sit in an intimate setting and learn about not only the individual crafts of storytelling and artistry, but also how to combine the two. There will be products on sale that come directly from the creators themselves; products that these creators hold the rights to, maintain control of, and (hopefully) profit directly from. Products like these are what has become known as “Creator-Owned” in the comic community, and this is the area that TR!CK2TER is focusing on.
- An example: Batman is published by DC Comics, which is owned by Warner Brothers, which means that Warner Brothers owns Batman. If an artist or writer is hired to work on a Batman comic, they are “work-for-hire” and own none of the rights to it. If Warner Brothers based the next Batman film directly upon the works of the story that those creators invented, and that film made a gazillion dollars, Warner Brothers is not legally obligated to give those creators one extra cent in any way, shape, or form, unless said creators had the ability to negotiate such things into their contracts…which doesn’t really happen.
Now that we’re in a time where movies based on comic books are making billions of dollars, there has been an upswing in addressing the rights of the creators. A call-to-arms that creators should start going “Creator-Owned”. It’s a call that TR!CK2TER is at the forefront of and is actively trying to help with.
TR!CKSTER Co-Founder Anita Coulter told me that “The way I like to explain the TR!CKSTER Trio of Scott (Morse), Ted (Mathot), and I goes like this: Scott wanted to inspire people to create. He was interested in the Symposia idea to fire people up. MAKE STUFF! IMPROVE your art! That opportunity of creative types sparking each other was very important to Scott.”
”I was all about the shop.” she continued. “I figured if someone was going to go to all the trouble to MAKE STUFF you have to show them the end game. You made it, now what? Let’s get it out to people. That’s my thing. I love that ability to discover something in a store you’ve never seen before.”
In regards to her third co-conspirator, Coulter explained that “Ted was all about the atmosphere. If you don’t have the proper environment, inspiration can’t flourish. If TR!CKSTER wasn’t a fun place to go, no one would see all the great stuff in the shop…”. I had asked her if the social aspect that the event had hit the year before was the result of a concentrated effort or a happy accident, and she told me that “no, the fantastic feeling of the place was no accident. It was all Ted.”
For their second outing in San Diego, the TR!CK2TER team decided to try a different approach, though. They launched a fundraiser through popular site indiegogo as a means to make such an event more sound, financially. As mentioned earlier, space is almost non-existent during the San Diego Comic-Con, and companies are willing to go above and beyond the call to pay top dollar for it; last year Morse and Mathot footed the bill themselves. Though a lot of people showed up, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re spending money. When asked about this, Anita said that TR!CKSTER, unfortunately, did not make money last year. “The store sold a bundle, (happily) but, we run the show shop on consignment ONLY. It gives the creators who show there a bigger cut than typical retail, which is important to me. It does, however, make it difficult to use that as a revenue stream. So, the short answer is that TR!CKSTER did not make money last year.”
She added that “The long answer is that we all felt that TR!CKSTER NEEDED to come back again. As long as we can keep the show from losing money, it’ll be a success for us.”
The fundraising has offered pledges the opportunity for “perks” ranging from exclusive prints to getting a one-on-one sit down with notable creators to discuss the project you’re working on, and at the time of this writing had a ways to go to reach their targeted number. More info on the day-to-day plans of TR!CK2TER can be found on their website.
In the future Anita said that they hope to expand things and do other pop-ups spotlighting film, writing and toys. A permanent location will be opening in the Bay Area in California that will give TR!CKSTER a base of operations. “We want TR!CKSTER to be a home for all kinds of creator-owned storytellers and we look forward to finding more ways of getting those stories told.”
TR!CK2TER will be found at WINE STEALS/PROPER, 795 J Street, San Diego from Wednesday July 11th through Saturday July 14th and will be absolutely free to visit.