Con Season Always Guarantees One Thing...
....a chance to see the comics industry through the distorted view of the mass media! Yay! As more cons garner coverage from traditional media outlets (IMDB has San Diego Comic Con coverage on their front page), opportunities for the the industry and fans to be seen in new ways are squandered, and con attendees are often presented in a not so pleasant light. Features lean towards the goofy and / or scantily clad, and creators are almost never showcased. Whether the spotlight is on fans, vendors, or special celebrity guests, the photographs are almost never flattering. Although fans relish the opportunity for their hard work to be seen by the masses, it's safe to say that most cos-players would rather have their costumes unseen than have it in the local newspaper, poorly photographed. Just look at this year's Philadelphia Comic Con coverage from this local Philly news website:
Actually a fairly decent photograph of a convention goer! It's an obvious Star Trek fan, and having been taken outside, the lighting is definitely fan / viewer friendly.
And then we have this. Another image we are left guessing at the costumes (okay, Batgirl and then....Black Cat?) this time because of the poor lighting. Most cameras actually come with flashes these days, so I'm not quite sure what happened here. Also, it's called Levels. They are adjustable.
Condescending captions are also an added benefit of convention coverage. Here's what the photographer / editor had to say about this vendor: "Before Comic-Cons got huge, this is what they were all about. Guys who know way more than you about comics selling you issues you'd never be able to get without their help. " News flash, conventions are still about these guys. Cons wouldn't be "huge" without them.
Though I'm sure this Imperial Officer cos-player considers herself a babe, I'm betting she wouldn't choose to be relegated to the "Wizard World's Hottest Hotties" slide show. Or to the caption alluding to the possible S&M tendencies her costume promises.
Not every news outlet misses the mark. Dread Central does a good job at attempting to show the Philly con goers positively (their photographer used their flash for one), and even though there is still a strong focus on the costumes and celebrities, there aren't condescending captions about fans and no eye-rolling commentary about the vendors. There is plenty of room for improvement though, like actually having pictures of vendors and creators. Of course, Dread Central also appears to be more fan oriented and not run by anyone associated with Newscorp or Time Warner.
In all, the experience of finding con coverage in mass media is one of excitement, followed by frustration at the distorted view outsiders sometimes bring to their coverage. Not sure about a costume? Ask. Want to give a well-rounded view of a convention? Try actually covering all aspects of the show, or if you are dead set on focusing on Wizard World's Hottest Hotties, then don't have any pretenses and just do that. But above all, don't put blurry, dark photos as your final presentation of the event. It reflects poorly on both the fans and the organization covering the event. The people attending these shows are passionate about the industry and often put news outlets to shame by creating images as interesting as their subjects. Each year it does get a little better, and the coverage, good or bad, increases the public knowledge of comics. Despite how atrocious some of the images and captions were on My PHL 17's coverage of the convention, I'm still happy to see them sending people out and giving it as much attention as they did. Let's just hope next year the editorial department handles the subjects with a little more respect.
Here's a good example of what a talented photographer and comic book fan can bring to the table. Check out more of Lucianno Noble II's photos here with photos from his visit to San Diego Comic Con '08.