Monday, July 27, 2009

Why BEA should be more like Comic-con

Here's what strikes me about Comic-con -- besides the fact that it is a riotous celebration of visual arts, design, gaming, movies, TV, outsiders, and, oh right, comics. What strikes me is that it's also a riotous celebration of books. Johnny Depp makes headlines around the world when he appears on behalf of Alice in Wonderland. Pixar teases the masses with footage from The Princess and the Frog. Twilight's Robert Pattinson walks into a room and strong women faint. Even Ursula the Sea Witch got her start in a book. All while Harry Potter 6 opens worldwide.

What's wrong with us?

Why isn't BEA like this, for Gandalf's sake? When did we fall asleep at the wheel?

People have fun at Comic-con. They don't take themselves too seriously, even though it is Big Business. I found, the times the I went -- not this year, alas! -- that people were unfailingly generous to each other. Of course it's work and it's hot and crowded and sometimes the masks are scary. But mostly, it's a let-your-purple-hair-down fest of fun things to play with, look at, and read.

As BEA feels more and more dull, Comic-con feels more and more alive. Maybe it's time to open the gates to the Javits Center, and see where the crowds lead us. Can 125,000 story-loving people really be wrong?
PS: Thanks to Tony and Angela DiTerlizzi for the photos of themselves, the Ursulas, and Eoin Colfer.


beth said...

I am SO with you on that.

BEA is NOT user friendly--and it should be. I remember I was at a conference in NY and BEA was starting the next day. I talked to an organizer of BEA, explaining I wasn't published but love books and want to see what it's like. Was it worth it for me to delay my trip home and spend the money for a day pass?

The flat answer was simply: NO. The organizer, although friendly, told me there was no point in me staying to see what BEA was like, that it would do me no good.

But BEA *should* be a celebration of books and authors! It should be an event the public can get involved with, at least on some level! Think of all the hype and excitement that *could* be generated there.

Monkey God said...

I've been to both and I agree BEA needs to do something to generate more hype. It couldn't hurt to be a little more like ComicCon, but they also need to avoid some of the trappings of ComicCon. It's nice that you can actually make your way through the aisles at BEA and not have to wait 3 hours to get into a panel.

BEA is clinical and by the numbers function and ComicCon is a major event. ComicCon is a living animal where anything can and often does happen and that draws in fans and press alike.

BEA is definitely going the wrong direction though. Switching to the middle of the week, which will only make it harder for librarians and booksellers to go is a bad idea. I also don’t think they should be focusing so much on foreign rights rather than promoting books here in the states. Instead they should be putting Neil Gaiman on a stage and flaunting him like a rock star to anyone and everyone.