30 December 2009

Barometers Of The Comics Community: Strength In Numbers

Nationwide, comic book readers, collectors, and fans of all things Super have forged a unique and formidable community.  Not only does the Comics Community represent a sizable population,  its a population with considerable spending power and growing economic influence.  

Our earlier blog of next year's Coming Attractions  is but one indicator of influence comics fans wield; with twenty-three or more films on their way catering to America's comics and sci-fi hungry populace, films from these kind  out-number those of  many other genre, including comedy, romance,  and horror.  Of course, several of the films we listed, such as Twilight: Eclipse, Legion, and the remake of Red Dawn could fall into  standard categorizations   like horror or action  as well as our broader context as 'Comic Book Movies'.  DC Comics' western hero Jonah Hex is first a comic book movie, although it fits as a square second into the western genre.  Regardless the extent of this cross-pollination, there can be little doubt that film makers are relying on their movies' appeal to the broader comics fanbase to make box office bank.  One needs look no further than Christopher Nolan's Inception to prove this point.

A closer examination of our trust list reveals that eight (8) of the 23 movies we listed are specifically based on original comic book or animation properties. And our list isn't yet complete; films like Solomon Kane, an upcoming supernatural thriller, is a comics-realm character based on the pulp-era fiction of writer Robert E. Howard. (Howard, you might recall, also created the bare-chested hero that put Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map --  Conan The Barbarian.)  Solomon Kane has already premiered in France, and is scheduled for 2010 release here in the United States, although no specific date has been given.  Similarly, comic book writer Warren Ellis' graphic novel Red is currently moving into production, and is expected to premiere in October or November 2010.  
So take heart, dabblers - especially those of you newbies venturing into the comics scene for perhaps the first time. We know many of our frequent dabblers are pretty new to comics, and we know that whether you're in a big city or a far smaller community like our Springfield,  it does sometimes feel like you're the only person out there who enjoys reading comics.  A review of next year's films is just first step towards knowing that you're not alone.

An even better second step is taking just a quick peek at  our nation's largest comic book conventions Abbracadabbling will explore these conventions in greater depth down the comicsblog road; for now, our focus briefly falls to just three of the most popular annual comics gatherings and the sheer number of fans these conventions represent.

Far and away the biggest of all comics conventions is the San Diego Comic-Con International, held annually each  July.  From its relative obscurity years ago, Comic-Con has become today's  mecca for not just comics, but the entertainment community, gaming community, and the broad collectors' market as well.  The event maintains an active online presence, and has even begun publishing quarterly magazines with news and features about the summertime event.  While both of those actions are contribute greatly to building the Comics Community, nothing is as telling as Comic-Con's attendance. The convention sells out completely each year, and 2009's attendance topped-out at a whopping 125,000 comics loyalists. [To read Comic-Con Magazine's Fall 2009 issue, you can go HERE to download it as a Free PDF!!] 

If you're getting a better feel for the Comics Community, then we're doing our job pretty well. We're also not done by a long shot. The comics convention closest to our heart is Wonder Con, also sponsored by the same folks responsible for San Diego's aforementioned show.  Wonder Con belongs to San Francisco, however, and for The Dabbler, there couldn't be a better show to network, shop, and meet fellow fans and comic creators alike. Wonder Con's attendance is considerably smaller than its parent Comic-Con, but it's nothing to sneeze at, either. Last year's figures exceeded 34,000 - and filled San Francisco's Moscone Center to the hilt.  The 2010 convention will happen this coming April 2nd through the 4th, and more information can be found HERE.

Dabblers on the East Coast have no reason to even think they're among the few and the proud; they're among a proud legion of comics fans, if the relatively new New York Comic Con has anything to say about it.  Not more than five years old, the NYCC has always been an early Spring event as well, although next year's convention will take place over the weekend of October 8- 10th. The 2009 NYCC boasted an attendance in excess of 77,000, up 15% from 2008.  Chances are, someone you knew was there, and the chances that they - and you - will be in attendance come October is even better. If you want more NYCC info, check it HERE. 

Of course, not everybody who reads, borrows, collects, or creates comic books can attend a comic book convention. They're not cheap, and the crowds are be considerable.  Thus,  even the Convention scene and its astronomical attendance don't give us abbracadabblers the best idea of just how large our Comics Community really is. 

Abbracadabbling, being the intrepid comicsblog that we are, did a little digging closer to home. And by 'home' we don't mean Springfield; nope, we mean the world wide web, because the busiest places on the planet these days happen to exist in a virtual world. 

On the internet, comics fans find as well as build community in a variety of places, including: online bulletin boards, chat rooms and forums; fan-driven blogs like abbracadabbling as well as blogs run by comics creators and industry insiders; the home pages of publishers large and small; and, at the top of the list, comics industry news sites, many of which feature their own array of blogs to boot.  It's from these latter sites that the size of the Comics Community comes even clearer.  (Granted, while the 2003 census reported that sixty-two million households - or 55% of American homes - had internet access, 45% still weren't online at that time. Given the historic increases in those numbers, though, today's numbers are likely closer to 75% or 80%. And as the demographics closely match those of the comic book reading public, we believe these internet figures  provide us the best and most accurate snapshot available.)

With the research assistance of fellow comic book blogger Kevin Huxford and his blog Schwapp Online, abbracadabbling chose 17 of the top or  most-recognizable comics-related news providers on the internet and ranked them below according to the number of visitors each site received for the month of November 2009.  (Links to all of the websites below can be found on our blog's Pull List.)

CBR - or Comic Book Resources - leads the bunch, with 303,000 November visitors. The number two site, Newsarama, is right behind them with  nearly 270,000 comic book clickers dropping by. While this is just November '09 data, we should note that historical data trends reveal that  Newsarama and CBR generally alternate the top position almost monthly. Both web sites also feature their own blogging community; Newsarama's collectively known as Blog@Newsarama and CBR's as Robot 6.  Blog-wise, Newsarama draws nearly 30,000 more readers per month than Robot 6, but when added to their parent sites totals, both websites show impressive readership. 

We were a little surprised that MTV's comics-centered Splash Page didn't rank a little higher than it does, coming in on our ruler at 12th overall.  They're a great source of information, and often grab their own exclusives.  Splash Page is just one part of the overall MTV site, however, and its possible this has affected their visitor count. It's also possible that MTV, and other sites with impressive content like Bleeding Cool are also relatively new on the comics scene, with readership numbers yet to reach a plateau.  

Whatever the case, our intention isn't to speculate on the performance of the fantastic comics news providers above; our focus is simply to show that they perform - and perform big.  Together with the thousands of people who attend comic book conventions each year, belong to the untold number of internet comics forums, collect action figures, show up for the latest superhero movie at the corner ten-plex, tune-in weekly to shows like NBC's Heroes or Marvel's Super Hero Squad on Saturday mornings, and regularly pay visits to their local comics shops, the truth is out there: comic book fans are everywhere.

And we're Super -- in every way that counts.

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