Wednesday, April 13, 2011

ehh: Audience

Lobos is a small town in the provinces of Buenos Aires, birthplace of Juan Peron, and capital of ice cream. It is also a pretty random place for a comics convention. Although located only an hour and a half outside of Buenos Aires, Lobos is a prohibitively hard location to visit. Cheap, local busses stretch the ride out to 4 hours, while smaller, private busses are expensive. Most of the people that came to the convention were invited guests, locals, and a scattering of fans. To my knowledge, I was one of the few fans that managed to arrive from Buenos Aires and the only international visitor. The artists and writers that attended were either hosted by the city of Lobos or came to support their friends.

The citizens of Lobos made up the majority of the attendees. The talks were filled with an eclectic mix of children, sullen teenagers, families, and the elderly. I think many of the locals attended the conference not because of any sort of fanatical devotion to comics, but because it was a big event in a small town. Families with children were quite common at every talk. Rosty, a friend from Laura’s “Artes Secuenciales” class, pointed out a mother nonchalantly handing her son copies of El Asco by Diego Agrimbau and Estupefacto by Lucas Varela. If you look back a few posts, you might remember that these authors produce comics with very adult themes. Very adult themes. Shocked, I wondered out loud why, exactly a mother would think that was appropriate reading material for a child. Rosty reminded me that most adults think comics are primarily for children, and she probably had no idea what she had just bought for her son. But, as one panelist pointed out, getting children interested in comics (in whatever way possible) is beneficial because they are all potential future readers. In that sense, listening to the panelists speak and reading their work might be the beginning of a lifetime of readership.

Each talk was attended by a smattering of teenagers. They mostly hung out in the back and tried to look cool, but you could see that a few of them were really interested in the topics. An art class from a local high school visited a Q&A session made up of Diego Agrimbau, Gustavo Sala, and Lucas Varela. The teacher excitedly asked the panel what sort of career her students might be able to pursue in the arts. Their suggestion: If you want to make money, don’t go into comics. Although this is a depressing truth, just learning that writing and drawing comics is an actual profession is sort of revolutionary. I read comics in high school, but didn't know how they were made until college.

So why, exactly, is something like audience composition interesting? I want to know who the target audience is for these events, the potential for generating new readers and sustaining old ones, and perceptions of comics held by the mainstream. At this conference I was a mere observer, but at Crack Bang Boom and Viñetas Serias I might conduct an informal survey.

Overall, the turnout was not disappointing. The auditorium was filled during the round table discussions and there were always people looking at the comics exhibit in the Casa Española. As long as this conference keeps hosting such famous and important comics creators, I think this event’s reputation will grow and more people will come. Once, of course, they figure out how to get to Lobos.

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