10 Comic-Con Questions with Sideshow’s CEO Greg Anzalone
COMIC CON IS A UNIQUE STAGE FOR THE ARTISTS AND THE ARTISTRY OF OUR POPULAR CULTURE. WOULD YOU AGREE?
There's a new generation of very talented artists that are looking to make their mark through our popular culture. They're not traditionalists and are uninterested in the tradition of fine art. They certainly have the talent to go in that direction but they prefer to work within the freedoms of our popular culture instead. I love these guys (& girls) and truly enjoy the notion that Sideshow has been of some small support with their creative endeavors. We're unabashedly for the artists and celebrators of what they create. We hold their talents in high regard and treat them with as much respect as any other accomplished professional. To have an event like Comic Con to showcase their work is a unique opportunity that I don't take it lightly - so we tend to go all out at the Con.
YES, SIDESHOW SEEMS TO STAFF ITS BOOTH WITH QUITE A FEW ARTISTS ALMOST FORCING AN INTERACTION WITH THE ATTENDEES. I ASSUME THAT'S INTENTIONAL.
We always bring the Sideshow art team to the show. It's important to me and my partners to showcase their finished work but to also showcase the personalities behind the work. We love to see Sideshow artist's interacting with the fans, explaining our product, talking through designs and product features, and soaking up the adulation and even the criticisms of the collectors. Like most artists, the Sideshow team works in a vacuum, a self-directed form of isolation in which their best work gets done without too many distractions. Comic Con is a way to break that routine and while some of the artists are too shy or too reclusive to completely immerse themselves in the experience, I believe that most get recharged from the show and return to work enlivened and inspired about their career direction and individual work.
HOW DO YOU SEE COMIC CON FROM THE SIDESHOW PERSPECTIVE?
Comic Con is Mecca for Sideshow and for me personally. It's an annual pilgrimage, a sometimes crazy but worthy endeavor. For our business it's a privilege and a necessity. We're honored to be mid-floor, in one of the larger booths at the show, adjacent to both DC and Marvel. Over the years we've developed a wonderful relationship with the organizers, their staff and the volunteers. We view their work in the light of the service that it is. It's amazing to me how much effort these people put forth to make the event a success for the exhibitors and the attendees, all of which comes from a historic non-profit initiative. I'm unaware of other industries that have this kind of independent support, generating so much goodwill and buzz, and doing it all from a profitless philosophy..
HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN GOING TO COMIC CON?
Many in the Sideshow family are long time visitors to the con by my family and I are relative newcomers to the show, with maybe 12 or 13 years of Comic Con visits. My wife Yvonne and I walked the show for the first few years and were touched by the artistry and enthusiasm of the exhibitors and the attendees. It was an experience that hooked us and one that we wanted to be a part of. So as a Sideshow exhibitor we started with a small 10 x 20 booth and hardly a clue about how to work the show, but the organizers and the attendees were forgiving.
ANY COMIC CON HORROR STORIES?
We expanded the Sideshow booth as the show expanded and in one of those early years we had one of the great screw-ups in Comic Con exhibitor history. Many years ago the show did a follow-up event to the public show in which certain exhibitors also manned a booth for a 'Trade-Only' event held during the day(s) following the public event. We thought that was a great idea and signed up for it - or at least thought we did. I naturally assumed that our booth was set-up in the appropriate area for the Trade event so when the public event ended on Sunday my team and I left the Con, had dinner, drinks, laughs and went back to our hotel rooms. Well around midnight I received a call from Faye Desmond, Comic Con President asking me to get back down to the show floor immediately to dismantle my booth. I immediately woke the Sideshow team and we reentered the show floor around midnight. Everyone was gone, the show was packed up, except for one lonely 20 x 20 booth still standing completely intact in the middle of the floor. I was too embarrassed to have thought to take a photo but it was quite the sight. Through a paperwork mix-up we were not in the Trade Show area for the following day's event that was one hall over. So we dismantled and re-built our display. The following morning I was standing in line at Starbucks and overheard the guys in front of me laughing about the idiots that left the Con the night before without dismantling their booth and had to come back at midnight to move it. It was a very humbling wait in line just for some soy chai.
SIDESHOW SEEMS TO HOLD SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR EITHER ANNOUNCEMENT OR DISPLAY AT COMIC CON. IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL THAT WE CAN EXPECT FOR THIS YEAR'S EVENT?
Every year we look to bring something special to the show and this year is no exception. Our big announcement is the long-awaited DC deal and is a big development for Sideshow and our artistic and product goals. We'll be showing our new Joker Premium Format figure and I suspect it will be one of the highlights of the show. Our collaborations with Hot Toys and the products that come from that artistic union will be a big hit as well. But I'd also expect that our Legendary Scale Gallery display of figures in approximately 1:2 scale will be the most photographed collection at the entire show. The Sideshow art team has gone to extraordinary lengths to create the absolute seminal representation of some classic characters and I'm thrilled to be showcasing these new pieces at the Con.
WHY DO YOU THINK COMIC CON IS SUCH A DRAW FOR FANS?
I believe that most attendees come to the Con for the opportunity to have a unique experience, to immerse themselves in a cultural phenomenon like no other in the country (or dare I say the world). Of course there's a great sense of excitement about seeing or meeting celebrities, getting autographs, viewing special panels, visiting with comic artists and illustrators, seeking out hard-to-find collectibles and meeting up with old friends. But the real gift of Comic Con is the totality of the 'experience'. In the mix of all that makes up the event there's some magic, a unique blend of human and artistic personalities that produce an experience that upon reflection is truly hard to find elsewhere. It's that magic that, while often hard to explain, is the annual draw for so many people.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE SHOW HAS DISAPPOINTED SOME FANS. THE EMPHASIS SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN TAKEN OFF OF THE COMIC WORLD AND PUT ONTO OTHER FORMS OF MEDIA AND THE SHOW HAS CHANGED ITS PERSONALITY AS A RESULT. HOW DO YOU SEE IT?
I'm not discouraged by the evolution of the show. I've heard all the complaints about how the event has changed over the years but I'm not cynical about how its grown and changed. Do I miss some of the charms of years past? Sure. But I think the organizers have done an expert job in allowing the show to evolve its personality from a purely comic and graphic arts based event to one that is more of a pop culture experience. As our pop culture has become more of an influencer within the mainstream media, the show has taken on a more rounded personality and is now more dynamically driven by the game companies and film studios.
SIDESHOW APPEARS TO HAVE EXPANDED ON THE COMIC CON WEEKEND BY HOSTING A MONTH-LONG WEB EVENT IN JULY ON THE SIDESHOW SITE. HOW DID THAT DEVELOP?
It's really the result of us realizing that as popular as the show is, the vast majority of our fans and collectors do not attend the Con. We serve a global audience in which it's simply not practical for all these collectors to be in San Diego in July, so we try to bring a little bit of the show to them. We run a month's worth of promotions, discounted product specials, shipping deals, giveaways and auctions. During the even itself we also set up a camera or two to allow web viewers a glimpse into the Sideshow booth. The online feedback from all of these efforts is very positive. Fans feel like they get a taste of what's happening on the show floor and what items we're promoting or new pieces we're debuting. And because we typically show so much product its not practical for us to simply do it during the 4 full days of Comic Con, so we've expanded our celebration into a month-long even culminating with our physical presence at the show.
YOU HAVE TWO KIDS, HOW'S THE CON EXPERIENCE BEEN FOR THEM?
My kids are fully infected with the Comic Con bug. They look forward to the show and talk about it for months prior. My son Julian is 14 now. So he's grown up at Comic Con. At first it was all too much for him and his tolerance was under 60 minutes. There were simply too many people, costumed characters that scared him and unbridled crowd commotion. But kids have a great way of adapting and indoctrinating themselves into most experiences. His comfort level increased each year and he found his preferred venues. Early on he'd spend a lot of time at the Pokemon booth, and in later years at the Lego booth, and more recently at the Hasbro and Star Wars pavilions. But for the past few years my wife and I have asked both he and his younger sister Kyra to work at the Sideshow booth for a small portion of each day. It's a good experience for them to interact with the show visitors and to experience what it's like to have a little responsibility at the booth. They give out Gift Cards, scan badges, pack bags, and support the Sideshow staff. They like working the booth and I appreciate their enthusiasm for our goals of the show, but it comes at a cost, as they want to get paid for their time. And fortunately the money they earn goes right over to someone else's booth at the show.