On Business: CXC

By | Monday, October 02, 2017 Leave a Comment
This past weekend was Cartoons Crossroads Columbus (CXC) in the middle of Ohio. It's one of the newer comics conventions, spearheaded by Jeff Smith and Tom Spurgeon. I believe this was the show's third year, but the second in the newly renovated Columbus Metropolitan Library.

The show itself was really impressive, and had pretty much everything I'm looking for in a comics convention these days. There was a really solid mix of creators there, in terms of racial/ethnic diversity as well as age/length of time in the business, plus a good mix of different aspects of comics, running from monthly pamphlet creators who've worked at Marvel and DC to editorial cartoonists to webcomikers to small, indie press folks. There were lots of creators tables, but also some setups from publishers and comics retailers. The panels, too, seemed to reflect the mix as well.

Despite some big name talents like Kelly Sue Deconnick, Chris Ware, and Kyle Baker and being in the center of Ohio's capital, the show still seemed fairly intimate. I started seeing people I know while I was parking my car the first day, and ran into a few other people I knew before getting into the show itself. And throughout the two days I was able to attend, I spent a good deal of time catching up with people I knew. One of the show's organizers noted that was deliberate; trying to give a comfortable atmosphere for professionals who know other people in the business.

Interestingly, one of the creators I spoke with noted that the show seemed quieter than many others, but not in a bad way, like there was nobody there. Rather, it seemed like people were pretty intent on checking out what people had and were invested in finding new things. And, while I did see many people I knew, there were many more than I didn't know, or only knew by reputation.

I talked to multiple organizers who said that they had very much actively checked out other conventions to see what they did right and wrong, and it very much showed here. Everything seemed to be laid out fairly well, and traffic seemed to flow pretty smoothly most of the time. (Although it did get busy enough a couple of times that I had to do some odd side-stepping, it certainly wasn't the completely-blocked-aisles that I've encountered at other shows.) That's not to say there were no problems, but the ones that came up seemed (to me, as a visitor) largely inconsequential and ones I would scarcely have noticed if I didn't actually know some of these people who told me the issues they ran into. This speaks a lot to the benefit of checking out and critically analyzing what other people are doing. Steal from the best, as they say.

The show is free to visitors. I gather the show's income comes more from the tabling fees and some sponsorships. I did some back-of-the-envelope math, based on some guestimated numbers and it doesn't strike me as a show that's going to get either Smith or Spurgeon rich any time soon. (I'm having trouble imagining they had any more than $100,000 in revenue; the number is probably much closer to $50,000. I have no first-hand, or even second-hand knowledge on this but for a show of this size/caliber, that strikes me as an incredibly small amount to work with.) But that's not the point either. From everything I know about them (and the other folks involved) they're very much more interested in making it a genuine celebration of comics. Not the commercialized version of a celebration of comics, but a heart-felt celebration of the medium.

I thought it was a fantastic show, and I would encourage everybody who can to go in future years, so they are able to keep things going here. I had a great time (despite missing the entire first two days, which also sounded amazing!) and I found a wealth of material to explore. I told several people, truthfully, that I could have dropped at least $20 at every single table if my bank account would have allowed it. Seriously, the only real complaint I could lodge would be that I wasn't able to attend every day of the event!
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