The title of this article is the sentiment I have been hearing on the internet in response to Mile High Comic’s ‘break up’ letter to San Diego Comic-Con. Written by owner Chuck Rozanski, he shares that after 44 years, he is officially done with San Diego. From his letter, it sounds like the divorce was brewing for some time. He cites the diminished traffic at his part of the convention center, the proliferation of offsite events, and when there was a problem, the lack of personalized staff attention was the proverbial straw broke the taun taun’s back. In short, Chuck has decided that Comic-Con has changed and he doesn’t feel it has value to Mile High anymore. As a result of his letter, a myriad of writers, bloggers, comic book creators and fellow vendors have harrumphed in unity to show their support. Long time fans have agreed that the show is not comics focused anymore, gritting their teeth and shaking their fists at the Hollywood presence that dominates much of the attention. There is a lot to unpack here.
I too am a veteran of the show of a dozen years. While not as impressive as Chuck’s four plus decades, I’ve been paying close attention since the days you could go on a Saturday and buy a ticket at the door (2006). While there have been many changes to the show, I would argue that none so great than what has happened in the past 12 years. Since about 2010, San Diego Comic-Con has become the pop culture capital of the world and this site has chronicled that success over the years. While I don’t know Chuck, I’m very familiar with him and Mile High Comics. Owners like him are a dying breed as are comic book shops with the history and legacy of Mile High. No doubt after being their for 44 out of the 47 years of Comic-Con’s history that he deserves a memorable place in it’s history. So when I state the following, I say it with all respect to him, to Mile High and to all of his supporters; Chuck, grow up.
When I read his letter, it didn’t illuminate an underlying problem or reveal a sinister plot conspiring to his downfall. Instead, it showed me a crumudgeon that was not willing to change with the times. Blaming how the floor is laid out, the popularity of offsite events, the Hollywood presence and most importantly, the taste of fans, makes it sound like Chuck is a dinosaur cursing the meteorite that is plummeting to Earth. Change is going the hit the surface whether we like it or not- and blaming all the conditions around it makes Chuck sound like a sore loser. If Chuck is paying $18k for his booth and that’s the average rate for his peers, then that is the fair market value. Is Comic-Con expensive? Sure it is, but no one is forcing anyone to be there. With the explosion of shows around the world, there certainly are plenty of exhibit opportunities instead of SDCC. Honestly, when I read this letter and the related articles, I was just disappointed in Chuck and Mile High Comics. The philosophy of clutching onto the past has rarely bode well for business owners since the dawn of time. Culture and taste is not the enemy, but it’s one’s inability to adapt, innovate and influence that leads to death (anyone remember Blockbusters?). Complaining about how things used to be is a galactic waste of time. The next generation needs veterans to lead and inspire them- not show them how dinosaurs die. 44 years is a pretty solid run. How about instead of going down kicking and screaming, you throw a big farewell party at Comic-Con saying goodbye to fans. How about being remembered for 40+ years of great memories instead of a final year of disappointment. Again, dinosaurs don’t die with dignity but instead cause as much collateral damage as possible.
Let me remind you of Comic-Con International Mission Statement:
Comic-Con International: San Diego is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.
Comic-Con is doing what it has set out to do 47 years ago- creating awareness of, and appreciation for comics and all related popular artforms. 40 years ago, it was basically just comics, but now, the ‘related artforms’ have finally grown up too. Sure the show has gone through some serious growth and certainly the emphasis has gone to a lot of the TV and film properties. However, Comic-Con still celebrates and elevates more comic book creators than almost any other entity in the world (along with comic book vendors). As the programming is being released this week, try counting the hours devoted to comic book creators. The ‘changes’ of Comic-Con that Chuck refers to is the fruits of it’s own labor. World culture has changed largely because of Comic-Con’s influence- and our nerdy lives are richer as a result.
I cringe whenever I hear someone say that ‘the show has changed’ in a negative context. The show hasn’t just changed, the world has changed and certainly no one has felt it more than the publishing industry. We all know change is hard but writing letters and blaming everyone else for your business woes sounds like an entitled kid that wants to take his ball and go home. Chuck had 4 1/2 decades of pursuing what he loved and built one of the most noteable shops in history- hashtag #FirstNerdWorldProblems. I want good men and companies like Chuck and Mile High to win and get the respect they deserve. No doubt he has paid his dues and has committed his life to providing comics to a legion of adoring fans. My hope is that he and his business continues to grow each year without relying on Comic-Con business. However, after his letter, I won’t shed a tear for him and I hope Comic-Con International doesn’t either. Chuck, just go to the island, Chris Pratt will be along shortly to welcome you.
The organizers of Comic-Con are far from perfect. Managing the biggest pop culture event of the year is no easy task and they make mistakes as humans do. But if you think you can do it better- you can’t. Because no one understands the magnitude of a 150k+ crowd, 10k+ vendor staff, catering to half of Hollywood, organizing an legion of security and managing thousands of volunteers. They will learn from this backlash but more importantly, I hope we learn too. While the mission statement will stay the same, the experience will change year after year. Meteorites fall all the time and you can either evolve or hang out with the dinosaurs over in the corner. We all love dinosaurs but you know what we love more? To watch them fight, tear each other apart and die.
Agree or disagree? Leave your comments below and let’s discuss.
**Update July 9**
An example of someone who was on top of the world and got screwed in the most public way. This is how you go out in the worst circumstances. His last sentiment is priceless: