The flea market at the San Diego Comic-Con (officially not called a flea market but an exhibitors’ area) is where most of the action on the ground floor of the convention takes place. By flea market, I refer to any vendor that is a not a comic book publisher or creators of contents, whose sole objective is to sell wares and turn a quick buck.
While everyone wants to turn a quick buck at the Comic-Con, others also go there to promote themselves. In most comic book conventions, the flea market is where organizers make the bulk of their income. Flea marketers book more tables and have a lot of stuff to sell and peddle around. They attract a lot of visitors looking for a rare item, like a 1960s
Spider-Man comic book, or a good deal. I was once told that some flea marketers even travel around the country from convention to convention.
While comic book purists may feel negative about the flea market aspect of the San Diego Comic-Con, along with the costume masquerade and the overt materialism of show attendees, there is no denying, the flea market has its appeal. The flea market is the extension of the comic book store and other hobby-oriented commercial venues. While comic book enthusiasts and their cousins in Anime, science fiction, video gaming and action figure collecting know about the local venues in their communities, a convention, like a the San Diego Comic-Con just opens up all the regular source of popular culture apparels and wares available.
It used to be that the flea market was taking over much of the floor space reserved to comic book artists on the floors. Nowadays, it seems that even the comic book peddlers are being pushed aside by sellers of action figures, Chinese imports, statues, apparels and related novelty items. This is where all the action and where all the sales are.
Parts of the flea market in San Diego remind me of a public market in Marrakech. There are people shouting about their specials and waving banners announcing price cuts on action figures. It’s impossible to move by the tight alleys and booths between merchants. Almost anything one wants to find, related to comic books and toys, one will find. Many of the retailers sell the same goods as their competitors and hope to attract customers to their wares, before the other guy reduces his prices in retaliation. Even outside of the convention floor, in the streets around the Convention Center, there are people peddling cards and things, to promote new television shows.
I usually try to avoid the flea market areas of comic book conventions until when I’m ready to leave. That’s when I go for the hunt of some promised good that I can’t find anywhere else near home. I could probably find the same good online at auction Web sites, but for some reason, the ease of the transaction, being able to see the goods live, are too good to pass on and convenient.
Perhaps that’s why, even in the age of the instant auction Web site where one can find about anything one desires online, the flea market still reigns over the gross materialistic culture of comic book enthusiasts and their cousins.