Comic-Con 2011: Perception vs. Reality

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pie2 Comic Con 2011: Perception vs. Reality

By TORSTEN ADAIR — special to The Beat

People have been complaining that “Comic-Con” is no longer about comics.

How Hollywood has slowly colonized the show, and that comics are becoming marginalized.  Is this true?

Yes, Hall H and Room 20 are packed full of film fans, celebrities, and press, and much of the news from San Diego each year is media related (even if it does tie into comic book properties).

Yet comics had a fair share of panels in the Indigo Ballroom and the various Room 6 halls, so there were large crowds for comics panels, and a lot of cosplayers dressed up as their favorite comic book characters.

But does media really dominate the programming at Comic-Con International?

Let’s find out!

I used the grid charts found at the CCI site and tabulated the hours for each category.

“Media” is Animation, Movies, and Television.  I grouped them together, since most critics lump them together as well.  (Razzafrackin’ Hollywood…)

I didn’t count the panels or screenings occurring in the Marriott, nor the special events and playbacks scheduled in the evenings.

This is just the panels.

So, looking at the pie chart, we see that comic book programming has 51% of total programming, for an estimated 298 hours of programming!  (That’s twelve days and 10 hours, if laid end to end!)

Media has about a third of the programming pie, with 190.75 hours (almost 8 days).

The remaining sixth is almost evenly divided between Everything Else (toys and other miscellany): 37.5; SF/Fantasy/Horror: 29.5; and Games: 28.5.

The grand total?  584:15 hours of programming!  24 days of programming (not including the Masquerade, Eisner Awards, and the film festivals)!

What is amazing about Comic-Con, what makes it such a mecca, is that it is a fan fest for a wide variety of tribes.  Thumb through the panel grids (ha!  A comics reference!) and look at the “Everything Else” panels.  Yes, lots of toy groups there, but also Harry Potter, costuming, sculpting, and Klingon lifestyles!  Plus a separate track for film-making.  It’s diverse and chaotic, and one hopes that the fandoms cross-pollinate.  Yes, the crowds are crazy, but the energy is intoxicating.  Find a way to enjoy it, not just survive.  (And attend one of the many regional cons which tend to be smaller, but just as much fun.)  And quitcher bellyachin!  Grim and gritty is out!  We’re in the “hippie” phase of the Sekhmet Hypothesis!  Grant Morrison says so! So be happy!  Accentuate the positive!  (Unless you live in New York.  New Yorkers are never satisfied.  We complain/kvetch/grumble/grouse as a form of therapy.)

Comments

  1. Same amount of comics content. Just not enough people who care about it!

  2. Joe C says:

    I’m mor interested in the breakdown as far as vendors go. buying comics ain’t what it used to be.

  3. I went to SDCC for my first time this year and was disappointed that I didn’t arrive early enough to get into Hall H for the Doctor Who panel. However, I was very happy to easily get into Mike Mignola panel, the Love & Rockets panel, the Fables panel and the Dark Horse panel (even with Guillermo del Toro on that one). All panels these comic panels had good crowds, some that I had to line up to get in, but I still managed get in which as a comic fan is great. I’ll take that any day compared to the media panels where you have to line up for some hours before hand to get in.

  4. Every year at comic-con is a hair pulling exercise for me. There are a lot of great comic panels and there is always several that overlap, forcing me to choose one of the other.

    This year I barely had enough time to walk the floor and see everything. I actually didn’t get to see a lot of people I normally visit and have a conversation with.

  5. Is there any way of knowing the comics square footage vs. Hollywood square footage on the convention floor?

  6. Milton Burden says:

    I’m with Cliff, I think the bigger issue is the amount of booth space that non-comic stuff takes up.

  7. Thanks for that, Torsten. Your work is appreciated and your research is happily accepted. It’s true that we see the huge Hollywood displays and read the media news and cringe, but this is heartening to read about the panels.

  8. I think your report here could use another level of analysis, that is you should look at the room size as well as the hours programmed. How many comic book programs were booked in Hall H or the equivalent?

    Does it even out? Do the hours programmed coincide with attendance #’s? My theory is you’ll find a shift in the percentages, with a larger percentage of SDCC attendees in the media events than the comic ones. However, it needs to be proven.

    If this is indeed the case, what does that mean for SDCC, the attendees and so on…?

  9. This is just counting programming hours. But I always cite cases where fans of Twilight have bought tickets just for the Twilight panels and never ventured outside of Hall H.

    Then take into account the traffic of ‘big booths’ in the center of the con floor coming to a standstill, but walkable in the artist alley/small press/golden age areas.

    Just because 50% of the coffee shops in a city are Starbucks, doesn’t mean 50% of the coffee that people are drinking is Starbucks.

  10. Al™ says:

    From here (in a land far, far away from Comic-Con) any mass media coverage has featured 1. movies and movie stars and 2. People dressed as squirrels or Conan

    Nothing about comics, creators or art.

    So, Comic-Con equals movies and dressup.

  11. Todd A says:

    This comment thread makes me sad. Comic-Con attendees sound like a bunch of whiners. They will never be able to make everyone happy, and people will always find something new to complain against. I for one am happy that they have this much comics programming. Thank you for the article and analysis.

  12. Torsten Adair says:

    Each panel room has a public square footage, and even a suggested occupancy given a particular layout (classroom, banquet, theater…)

    So all it would take to figure this out:
    multiply room footage by panel duration for each category.

    Hall H hosted NO comics events. (And it would be difficult to picture a comics panel which would fill 6,000 seats.)

    Indigo hosted three comics panels (one of which had a media tie-in via Joss Whedon). Heidi, how was your panel with Frank Miller?

    Room 20 hosted no comics panels (and was empty on Sunday).

    Most big comics panels were scheduled in the “sixes” (A, BCF, DE).

    The convention exhibit floor (Halls A-G) is more difficult to gauge. Square footage is harder to calculate, and some exhibitors are promoting more than one category.

    http://www.comic-con.org/cci/cci_exhib_1.php

    As for attendance figures, unless a room is packed, that figure is harder to calculate. CCI might keep a head count for future analysis, but even the general attendance figures for conventions have a bit of wiggle room.

    A more general question, which Dave brings up: what is the greatest attendance a comics-only show could generate? In Japan, that number is 560,000 and growing. Anime expo cites 47,000 attendees (128,000 turnstile). Baltimore, Heroes, Mega Con are some of the biggest “comics only” shows.

    For fans, the question is, Was there enough stuff to keep me occupied, and was it worth the hassle?

    For professionals and exhibitors, the questions is, Was the show profitable for me, and was it worth the trouble to exhibit?

  13. Matthew Southworth says:

    For what it’s worth (not a lot?)–

    I spent the weekend in San Diego, totally busy the entire time I was at the show, and the only celebrity I saw was James Urbaniak, the actor and voice of Dr Venture, who is just THIS CLOSE to being a comics guy. . .

    The “Hollywood Thing” is only a problem in one respect, in my opinion. I really wish that Artist’s Alley and the booksellers like Stuart Ng and a few of those folks weren’t placed on the end past all the games/movies/toys. Because that’s where the huge clotted crowds are, going to get the con exclusive toys and seeing the celebrities.

    It’s idiotic to approach this as an “us vs them” thing, though. Is this high school again, a jocks vs nerds battle? Doesn’t the success of Comic-Con prove that the “nerds” won?

    So while it’s a hassle sometimes, I’m thrilled that the whole world wants to come hang out in a building full of comics, art, movies, games and toys, all the things I’ve always loved.

  14. Torsten, I’m sorry for not being clearer — what I was getting at was: How much space on the actual convention floor does comics use vs. Hollywood. Not the conference rooms where the panels are held, but the area where the booths are. Artist’s alley would be included as well.

    For me, it’s the presence on the floor of con — that area where everyone converges and one gets a sense of what is happening at Comic Con that truly matters. I would be surprised if that area showed that comics held the majority of booth space in square footage.

  15. Wait— so you mean “Comic-Con” actually STILL has Comics content in it?? I’m shocked. And stunned. Mostly stunned.

    /chasm

    It’s nice to have statistical proof here on the BEAT what I— anecdotally through my years of attending SDCC— have experienced first-hand.
    Funny how my memories of attending Comics Writer/Artist “Spotlight” panels… “Golden–” and “Silver Age” ones moderated by Mark Evanier… “Comics Art Conferences” on various topics and themes… among other non-Hall H/Ballroom 20 panels I’ve attended have always ran counter to the prevailing BEAT comments on the post-mortem of the Comic-Con just ended.

    This year, the Chan/Niño/DeZuniga “Spotlights” and capping “Philippine Invasion” panels, the “WATCHMEN: 25 Years Later”, Evanier’s “That ’70s Panel”, a “Spotlight on Chester Brown”, and “The UK Invasion” (complement to the “PI” one; all thanks to Joe Orlando at DC!) were highlights of my SDCC’ 11 experience. Okay, so I also managed to score an AVENGERS poster/t-shirt and went to that Christopher Moore panel and booksigning… but I think I STILL managed to have a Comics-dominant Con experience. Just as I’ve had all these years prior.

    Now exactly WHAT am I supposed to have missed
    out on on this “Comic-Con” [that] is no longer about comics? It’s good to have corraboration here on this site that’s more in line of what I’ve seen being presented each year at SDCC… FINALLY putting to rest all those mistaken perceptions and Message Board echo chamber pronouncements to the contrary?

    Oh, but now I see that there’s the new twist: ah, so it’s not about the “Comics” CONTENT of Comic-Con… but about Exhibit Floor space and panel room SIZE?? Somehow I don’t think my observation about Comic-Con’s Artist Alley, Illustrators Areas, Small Press and Indy Exhibitors Pavillions, Web Comics, “Gold and Silver” Age sellers area, and the size total of the DC/MARVEL/IMAGE/D&Q/DARK HORSE/SLG/IDW/BOOM!/BONGO/AVATAR/ANTARCTIC PRESS/ARCHAIA/HEAVY METAL/FANTAGRAPHICS/EXHIBIT A PRESS/VIZ/UDON booths would change that point of view much.

    Perhaps a similar graphic might help out there?

    (And I look forward to this site’s similar analysis of the actual “Comics” content of NYCC ’11, what with the convention merged with the “Anime Festival” [not Manga], the PAX EAST-Jr. presence of the Gaming Industry, and that “Cultyard” partnership with REED Pop.
    As a non-attendee of that Con, I’m curious to see if my perceptions of it is also mistaken.)

  16. Horace Austin says:

    Nice work, Torsten.

  17. Comicfan says:

    This was my last one.I find its too full of Hollywood media types networking.

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