On Bauer Business Focus — A conversation on the growth of the comic industry in Houston with Andrew Schneider, business reporter for KUHF 88.7 FM.
When crowds of superhero, sci fi and fantasy fans fill the George R. Brown Convention Center this weekend for the fourth annual Comicpalooza, they’ll be doing more than just showing their adoration for their favorite genre — they’ll prove the buying power of a niche industry and help to put Houston on the map for comic book conventions.
Comicpalooza founder and chairman John Simons visited Bauer Business Focus recently to talk about how the event has grown in the past two years and what’s in store for the 2011 Comicpalooza, slated for May 27-29.
The city of Houston has strong ties to Comicpalooza, with sponsorship from the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau and other local businesses. In addition, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the Houston Astros will offer special promotions to Comicpalooza attendees.
Involving the city in the event has helped it to grow from a small showing of comic book artists in the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in 2008 to nearly 300,000 square feet of exhibits, panel discussions, workshops, screenings and gaming, Simons said.
“It’s turned into our original concept, which is the major comic convention for Texas,” Simons said.
Hollywood guests slated to attend and sign autographs at the convention include Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica), Sam Trammell (True Blood), Meaghan Rath (Being Human), Sean Maher (Firefly/Serenity), Tony Todd (Final Destination, Candyman), Jeremy Bulloch and Peter Mayhew (Star Wars) and Marina Sirtis (Star Trek).
The event will also feature premiers of local films, live music and performances, Quidditch matches and a roller derby competition. Although it may appear to be fun and games from the outside, Simons said, Comicpalooza and other conventions like it can be huge tourism boons and generate big profits.
“These events are not only a lot of fun, but they can also have a large financial impact on host cities,” he added.
Simons said he expects people of all stripes to attend Comicpalooza, from die-hard fans of Star Wars to teenage girls getting in to the fantasy genre through Twilight.
“In the 90s, this was a very niche market, but we’ve seen this whole market become very mainstream,” he said, noting the impact of big-budget Hollywood comic book movies in helping to grow the industry.
With a large portion of the population primed to embrace all things comic book, now is the time to launch Comicpalooza into a full-scale convention the size of Comic-Con in New York and Los Angeles, Simons said.
He and his team have used both traditional promotion tactics along with new media to cover their bases.
“A lot of it is about creating excitement and buzz,” Simons said. Comicpalooza has been doing just that through social media and its website, announcing additional programming for the event as the kickoff date draws near.
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