Over the past couple of decades, the San Diego Comic-Con has undergone a profound change, from a relatively low-key gathering of avid comics readers to one of the world’s biggest launching pads for multi-billion-dollar pop-culture properties. Mile High Comics, the retailer profiled in Morgan Spurlock’s 2012 documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, has stuck it out through all these changes, and has exhibited at the con every year since 1973. Until this year, anyway.
In a post on the Mile High website, owner Chuck Rozanski writes, “for the first time in 44 years, we will not be exhibiting at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.” He explains the decision in terms of economics, saying that “San Diego has grown far beyond its original premise, morphing from what was originally a wonderful annual gathering of the comics world, into a world-renown[ed] pop culture and media festival. As such, it has seen rapidly escalating costs, and also a dramatic change in the demographics of its attendees. Neither of those changes worked to our advantage.”
That’s been the case for a while now, but Rozanski says the final straw was the sharp decrease in foot traffic at the Mile High booth last year, which made it impossible to recoup the $18,000 booth rental cost. He blames this on stricter enforcement from the fire marshals, as well as the proliferation of celebrity-filled panels and flashy offsite events that keep people away from what used to be the raison d’etre of the con: Buying comic books. So while the geek culture wave doesn’t seem to have crested just yet, it appears that the people that started it all—actual comic-shop owners—are increasingly being left behind.
As for Mile High, it still sells comics online and at two retail storefronts, as well as in its gigantic headquarters in Denver, Colorado, recently re-located after Rozanski sold the old Mile High warehouse to a legal marijuana business in 2015.