SD09: The New Invaders

sd0927 SD09: The New Invaders
Before I get into this, let me state unequivocally that San Diego Comic-Con is a fantastic experience, and despite any kvetching that follows, it’s an incredible, inspiring event and I remain amazed by the organization and efficiency with which it is run. For better or worse, Comic-Con wouldn’t be the mega media event that it has become if the infrastructure to make it so weren’t there. I think in all our suggestions and observations we forget that there is only a small crew of fulltime people who put this on, and as a non-profit, they have a lot of goals to juggle. So let’s give Faye Desmond, David Glanzer, Eddie Ibrahim, and everyone else involved a big hand. They did a phenomenal job and I know I’ll be back.

Another caveat, what I’m going to talk about isn’t about comics and the quality thereof. Comics are swell, and we all know that. I’m more interested in examining the social construct and how it has evolved at the place men call Con.

With that in mind…

There are two things that everyone in our line of work talks about after Comic-Con. “Is it too big?” and “Is there any room for comics at Comic-Con any more?” Let’s start with the crowd issue.

1: Take me out of this Hell Hall   

First, it must be admitted that getting around, getting into panels and, at times, even standing still were all problematic in the Convention Center this year. 2008 saw a big spike in moaning about security, and this year was even worse. Red shirts — Elite Security forces — and orange and green shirts — other security companies contracted by the show — were everywhere and necessary.

With so many people attending, safety is paramount and preventing small children from being trampled should be the main goal for everyone involved in the show. That’s understood. (One rumor going around was that a child had been injured on Thursday, leading to the increased security.) As long as 125,000+ people are trying to get a free bag, this is the way it’s going to be. Indeed, the present structure of the show has evolved around crowd control. The reason the programming is so incredible and jam-packed is to keep people off the floor and moving around. (Former 15 minute breaks between panels have also been eliminated to increase the number of panels and keep people in panel rooms.)

Likewise, security’s evolution means zero tolerance for straying outside the lines, both to keep people moving safely and to create the mood of obedience that keeps a crowd docile.

Bearing in mind that my expertise is in being part of a crowd, not crowd control, some of the new practices (or newly noticed by me practices) seem to be more for psychological than logistical reasons. There’s no winner in the war between freedom and safety. The plan to keep people in a subdued, law-abiding state certainly succeeded. My own personal reaction to this was a state of demoralization and surrender, which did not enhance my enjoyment of the show, and I’m sure others felt as I did.

To give a little context, on Saturday at the PopCult party, I was standing outside with a G&T in my hand for about 20 minutes before a bouncer told me to go inside. Standing outside with an open alcoholic drink is illegal and not allowed in a single club in the land. It was also 15 minutes longer than I went at the convention center without being told I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

For instance, in past years, I was accustomed to ducking outside on the balconies of the convention center. Both the old and new halls have small balconies on the front of the hall where you could go out, get some fresh air, and relax before plunging in again. (I even taped one of my DivX spots on one of these balconies back in the day.) This year? The balconies were locked off. Why? No idea. I’m sure there’s a good reason, but it was frustrating not to be able to go outside for a quick break in a quiet spot.

In addition, this year, for the first time, people weren’t allowed to sit on the floor in the front of the hall. To be honest, I’ve long thought that the sprawled, exhausted families lying underfoot was an impediment to traffic – and unsightly as well – but there are very few seats in the hall, and the con floor has long been the traditional place to sit down, read some comics and chill out. I often use it for going online, eating a muffin, or even just talking with a pal.

This year, periodic attempts to clear the floors were made. I say attempts because it was a very temporary thing. One time I got rousted out, along with a family next to me, and it took three separate announcements and two different guards to actually get people to move. The red shirts were not nasty about it, but I would imagine that if we’d hung around long enough, efforts would have increased.

Another time, I foolishly used an exit to go to a balcony that was open to make a phone call. The guard wouldn’t let me back in so I had to go down the stairs only to find that THOSE were closed off too. Luckily there wasn’t an actual guard or a locked door at the bottom of the stairs so I was able to make my escape. This kind of left hand/right hand stuff was quite common this year, and this, too, was frustrating and added to the anxiety level.

I heard all kinds of stories like this – people not allowed to go two feet to get their valuables, exhibitors stopped from reentering the hall in the back, people ON panels told to wait in line with the rest of the folks waiting to get in. Like I said, stressful.

I haven’t even mentioned getting in and out of panels, but it was the usual disaster. The Twilighters had the right idea of camping out. Seeing anything that you had your heart set on required planning, discipline, and sparkle. When you REALLY have your heart set on something, you will make the sacrifices necessary. Aside from even people ON panels not being allowed into their panel rooms – Iron Man artist Bob Layton wasn’t allowed into the IRON MAN 2 panel in Hall H and even Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige had a hard time getting in – there were other, even more complex issues where the crowds for different panels came into conflict.

One of the incidents I heard about was occurred during the Fables panel. This comics-themed panel was to be followed by the Venture Brothers panel, and there were lots of “campers” in the room during the Fables presentation. The campers’ disrespectful behavior reportedly got several of the Fables folks upset, and even led to some sparring between the panelists and the Venture folks. (Reportedly, one of the Venture fans finally held up a comic and said “We read comics, alright?”)

(Ironically, Venture co-creator Jackson Publick is a comics fan and cartoonist in his own right. Why can’t people just get along?)

This year’s worst mess was at the IRON MAN 2 panel, as mentioned. Even people with studio passes were denied entrance – we heard a rumor that was because studio passes had been forged. But here we come to the most surprising part of my amateur investigation. A veteran news guy with a legit pass told us that after he was thwarted getting into Hall H by normal means, he instead used a back way that any veteran media type would be able to figure out – and was, in a few minutes, sitting in the green room next to Robert Downey Jr. I’ve already mentioned the Nathan Barnatt/Keith Apicary incident during the Jackson/Cameron panel. If security is really that worried about a crazed fan taking out Corey Haim, they need to tighten it up where Corey Haim hangs out and spend less time ordering around law abiding fans and exhibitors. (Barnatt had been on a panel earlier in the day so he probably had a green room pass and getting on stage wouldn’t have been that difficult from there.)

That said, the floor security was, by all accounts we heard, very efficient in keeping lines organized and kept crowds well under control. It’s a given that when you have 50-60,000 people a day wandering around, some tired, cranky and some desperate, you need to make sure everyone is safe, and safety comes first. So none of this is going to change. With Comic-Con sold out every day, this is just the way it has to be. My personal solution? Spend less time at the convention center! But we’ll get back to that in a bit.
 SD09: The New Invaders
On the other hand, on Saturday afternoon, this guy was lying on the floor of the DC booth for about five minutes. This is either everything that is wrong with Comic-Con or everything that is right with Comic-Con in one handy image. You decide.

2: You know where you stand in a Hell Hall   

And now the “Is there any room for comics” question. Going back to my old “Book of Invasions” theory, there are now three new classes of invaders: Total Douchebags, Locals, and Twilighters who are crowding out the Original ‘Tooners.

I: Total Douchebags.
A 20-megaton douche bomb has hit San Diego Comic-Con over the last few years. They are everywhere you want to be, and are eating all the food, drinking all the liquor and taking up all the time of the people you would like to meet. Even with the bad economy and contraction and all that, there are still a zillion D-girls and boys, movie website wonks and video game voyeurs who think they are the A-list.

In proper “green pants” fashion, along the way I suddenly wondered if maybe it IS their con now. After all, a lot of them have been coming for five or six years, and they have their own little traditions and hangouts and favorite things to do. Of course, mere familiarity doesn’t mean they aren’t still annoying douchebags. The big media parties are just one aspect of this, but it’s probably the worst. There are several honest to god nerdlebrities who came to the con for decades before Hall H just because they liked comics – these folks are fine and have always added to the cultural richness of the event. It’s the “80% of these people who don’t give a shit about comics,” as Jeff Katz is fond of saying, who are really stinking up the joint and using up all the oxygen.

Stan Lee Comic con l SD09: The New Invaders
It’s quite disheartening and demoralizing to look at all the major media coverage of the con and not see a single comics-only project or personality (unless you count Stan Lee) getting coverage. The LA Times took a lot of justified heat before the show for their “female guide to SD” and their wrapup of “Comicon’s best” includes “Sorority Row” and nothing comics-related at all. Wired touts 7 Women Who Will Rock Comic-Con, and not one of them is a woman who makes comics. I didn’t get all the way through this photo gallery, but in the first 30 or so pics I saw the guy who created the Ugly Dolls but not a single cartoonist. Sad. Are creators really so invisible and meaningless at the show?

The lack of the comics element in their own big party is mirrored in the comments of some major media “comics moles”. David S. Goyer wrote the script for BATMAN BEGINS – instantly vaulting him to some kind of comics movie Valhalla — but attended as a fan and emerging writer long before he was a Hollywood success story. (He’s now producing the TV show Flash Forward.) He feels our pain:

The one thing I’ve seen over the years at Comic-Con — and find disheartening — is the increase of parties by studios and others. It’s becoming like Sundance. Everyone is vying to get into one party or another, which leaves virtually less room for comic creators.


In the next paragraph, however Goyer is, like most of us, back to the good parts:

Anyway, always an insane, inspiring experience. There’s nowhere else on Earth where creators can interact with their audiences in such a mad, flash-mob kind of way. Humbling and a much-needed reminder of why we do this.


(This whole post is worth reading, spanning much of the show’s downside – his (I’m assuming female since named Nellie) assistant getting “manhandled” by “someone in a really bad Joker costume.” And Goyer’s own run-in with security in the green room when he tried to filch some food from the WB table. Plotting THE DARK KNIGHT only gets you so far, apparently, and free bagels aren’t part of the deal.)

There were lots of glitzy parties at San Diego, some of which I was invited to, but getting in to them was such a hassle of line waiting and proving to door people that you actually were invited that there was no point in trying. The people who were getting in were not only not cartoonists, but they were the kind of showbiz tag along wannabes that I came to an underfunded, low profile industry to avoid in the first place — and they were MOTIVATED to get in in a way I could never be. The LA Times’ John Horn has several insightful posts covering this from the Masters of the Universe viewpoint:

Swag. One of Comic-Con’s distinguishing characteristics is its egalitarianism: It’s impossible to cut lines, and those with disabilities are accommodated everywhere. But just as the Sundance Film Festival was spoiled by the advent of swag suites, the same elitist lifestyle boutiques are starting to flourish all around the convention. The Wired Cafe — invitation only, please! — had as much snobby attitude as Café Bustelo coffee and Patrón tequila had free samples.


and

The environment. Hollywood loves to share its passion over global warming with anyone and everyone, but when it comes to Comic-Con, Earth Day is a distant memory. Though many studio executives (Summit’s Rob Friedman) and actors (take a bow, Breckin Meyer) took the train from Los Angeles to San Diego, more than a few — Cameron Diaz, for one — made the 100-mile trip in private jets. Other carbon dioxide-spewing studio types used car services to drive five blocks from their hotels to the San Diego Convention Center (which, due to traffic, took twice as long as walking), later leaving their empty SUVs idling in parking lots much of the afternoon with the air-conditioning blasting. But what does it matter? According to Roland Emmerich’s “2012,” the world will be facing cataclysm in three years anyway.

In this regard, a viewing of the classic South Park episode “Chef’s Salty Balls” — in which Sundance moves to South Park and sewer problems ensue from a sleb’s fiber-rich diet — is a useful palate cleanser.

The Times’ Patrick Goldstein also cries that the douchebags have won:

It’s now all too obvious that Comic-Con, once a wonderfully oddball, Woodstock-like gathering of the tribes for fanboys and comic-book geeks, has become a giant propaganda megaphone for the big Hollywood studios. The San Diego Convention Center was so packed with Hollywood big-shot filmmakers and stars Thursday that the parking lot behind Hall H (where the studios unveiled footage from their slates of upcoming blockbusters) was jammed with black SUVs, their motors all idling, single-handedly spewing enough exhaust fumes to burn a hole in the San Diego ozone layer.


USA Today’s Whitney Matheson, who navigates between reading Carré and interviewing Gerard Way in a graceful, big tent way, expressed similar sentiments:

The downside: Yes, there are more parties at Comic-Con, but some of them are becoming a lot more exclusive. At the top of the invite list: Hollywood celebrities, not people who make comics.

[snip] 6. Comic-Con is still a great place to find comics. I hope you watched my video yesterday where I talked about some of the books I picked up at the convention. The Hollywood movie stuff is cool and all, but honestly, that pops up on YouTube within an hour, and it’s mostly just a bunch of silly hype that’s forgotten once we actually see the film. Each year I love going to Comic-Con because it’s one place where I’m surrounded by hundreds, even thousands, of people who make art for a living. Wait, let me correct that — a lot of these folks don’t even make art for a living, they do it on the side. They make the work because they need to, and that energy is contagious. I come home feeling simultaneously exhausted and invigorated.


The problem with the Douchebags — indeed, the defining element that MAKES them such Douchebags — is their sense of entitlement to what was built on the hard work of these talented men and women. If the Dbags think it’s so cool to be at Comic-Con with all the quirky comics folks, maybe they all need to chip in to the Hero Initiative?

wiredcafe SD09: The New Invaders
I’m torn between advocating for a Jehovah-level cleansing of the access and merely creating more access to the excess for the people who deserve it. My own encounter with Sundance-level pampering came when FMB and I invaded the Wired Café (above, ganked from Flickr). For years, I’ve been complaining that Comic-Con needs a better press room – one with a coffee pot, say. Let’s just say that the Wired Café, once I’d passed the test, was the press room of my dreams. Free Wi-Fi, free video games, free lunch, free coffee, free alcohol, free back rubs, bonus milling movie stars, TV stars, booming house music. The only problem was finding a spot to sit where the sunlight wasn’t too bright to see my computer screen!

I had an interesting talk with Wired’s Marketing Director — whose card I managed to misplace — that was all about branding and whatnot. She felt that having the mix of journalists, stars, and other creative types – even cartoonists! — was something that only happened at Comic-Con, and was a great mix of ideas that really represented what Wired was all about.

Personally, I thought that the sponsors of the Café would look at their bill and decide “What the f–?” but later on, I ran into a publicist who thought it was the greatest thing ever. “I wish I could get my clients into it!” he said. And indeed, the photo parade plastered Wired’s name everywhere.

And I guess it worked, because the cans of Cafe Bustelo they were giving away were very, very tasty, and I just plugged them; likewise, I will be using my Delta beach towel for years to come.

I hope there’s a Wired Café next year, and that I can get into it. (I think the former is unlikely because as word spread, it got more and more crowded.) It would have been nice if a few actual cartoonists had been invited to the Wired Café. They are smart, creative, and good conversationalists. Some are even attractive. They make nice hood ornaments. But money was tight where cartoonists were concerned. I and most of the creators I know were disinvited from the Syfy/EW party this year, in favor of a more star-studded crew. (I hope the star of Mansquito was disinvited too, meow meow.)

If that was the view from the green room, what about the show floor? I think the “ultimate downfall” of Comic-Con began two years ago when Warner Bros. started giving out those damned giant bags. Now there are different bags each day, and variant bags and collect ‘em all. It’s a damned activity. My Unscientific Unverifiable Poll™ backed up the notion that many of the locals and lookeloos had come for the free shit and it’s free shit FRENZY! The size of the lines every day to get cheap tacky tschatke’s from Paramount, Adult Swim and every other studio was truly epic and mind-boggling, and people seemed committed with all their might and mien to just standing around. One dragalong auntie I talked to had the schwag run down to a science, was able to tell everyone within earshot where to go, when to go and what was the best stuff – all the while sharing free tattoos she’s scored on one of her runs.

Yet through it all, the original Comic-Con – with comics publishers, cartoonists and even back issues! – can be found in halls A though C, a peace-loving Hobbiton of signings, ink and print schedules. Are comics people even trying to compete with pure comics power any more? I noticed that as the “publisher as agent” model becomes more prevalent, the celebrity signing became more of a tool in each company’s PR arsenal – it’s almost as if various companies have their mascot celeb, like Archaia and Zack Quinto, IDW and Jennifer Love Hewitt, Top Cow and Milo Ventimiglia, Radical and the Simmonses and Oni and Bryan Lee O’Malley…..WAIT one of those things is not like the other!

I haven’t even touched on Tyrese, although he has touched on me (upon being introduced, he gave me a big hug.) The guy’s charismatic marketing skills and focus are not to be belittled (In a strange small world moment, during my stay in LA, my friend’s roommate turned out to be an aspiring screenwriter who used to intern for Tyrese. “He’s great at marketing,” I was told.) Tyrese made an unscheduled appearance at the little attended uClick panel, where he and Stan Lee put on a show. Several people told me about this event, whereupon I observed, “They’re the same person.” Amazingly, Marc-Oliver Frisch made the same connection without even being at the show, and giving Lee the edge.

I had a long conversation with Percy Carey, whose marketing company, Master of the Widget LLC, is handling both MAYHEM and THE TROUBLE WITH KATIE ROGERS graphic novel. Carey, subject and writer of the Vertigo graphic novel, SENTENCES, has lived a colorful, dramatic life, and also run a music distribution company, which is why he has been so outspoken in criticizing some of the comics industry’s standard business practices. (I confess, he won me over when he said he was doing a video report on comics POS systems, something only a business wonk would love.)

While a lot of the marketing for MAYHEM is overly ambitious, or disorganized, there is one thing I think it’s fair to say about Carey and Gibson’s efforts: they are honestly trying to sell more comics, not just some “media property.” There are quite a few “comics to movie” companies that I could name – or any regular reader of this blog could name – that are very, very obviously not interested in being successful publishing companies — and succeeding handsomely in that goal.

The MAYHEM thing is annoying a lot of people but at least they are trying something new and putting energy into it. In a way, Tyrese and co. are delivering a real time marketing experiment and they’re the ones paying for it…so let’s all watch.

Anyway, getting back to putting the comics back in Comic-Con, while the business of comics does go on, strong and sure, it’s galling that at the biggest media event on earth, the only way a cartoonist who created all the ideas that people are exploiting can get his or her picture in the paper is by standing next to the star of some forgettable TV show. Is there any way to fight back? Is there any POINT in fighting back? Are we just being self-loathing again? Can’t we vanquish the Douchebags?

As many have pointed out, once you cracked open the candy coating, there was a chocolate Comic-Con at the center of the event, with sales, news and the rest of it. Finding comics news online isn’t difficult, nor was getting a signed comic by your favorite creator. I don’t think we should overlook these positives, despite the major media blackout for comics content. However, putting something like the Eisner Awards on the radar of the Big Media narrative of the show would be a start. At the very least, getting the LA Times to take a photo of it would be super duper.

THE LOCALS: Whenever I was taking a break I’d strike up a conversation with the people around me, and most of them were Locals. Several were people who lived in San Diego and had thought about going to the con for years but finally had a chance. Each family usually included a core fan and some dragalongs – the core fan might be dad or a teenaged daughter or son. Based on my Unscientific Unverified Poll™, I’d say moms and aunties were the highest percentage of dragalongs.

As mentioned above, they seemed to be there for the free shit. And the amount of fun they were having was highly variable. I rarely had a conversation that went “Man, I’m having a great time!” I talked to a young mom of two kids around 4 and 7, maybe and she was really neutral on the show. She thought there wasn’t enough for her kids to do as opposed to standing around looking at things.

Of course that’s just a few voices, and I’m sure that lots of people did have a great time. But as the stress and exhaustion of just Being There increase, the level of will to put up with it decreases.

On the plus side, it was VERY notable this year that the local service people were being as friendly as possible to the convention folks. The Hyatt staff was reportedly given orders to be as nice as possible – definitely something not seen in past years. While buying a coffee or talking to hotel personnel, people often expressed the wish that they could get into the con next time. The realization that the con is cool and the city needs the con for its dollars has dawned loud and clear.

200908040019 SD09: The New Invaders

THE TWILIGHTERS: The latest invaders to con is a gang of teenaged girls, and unlike stormtroopers, Klingons and even cosplayers, they were met with some level of hostility, which may have been playacting, but humor is often a mask for the truth. In a way this is an outgrowth of the whole manga invasion, which was met with more bafflement, followed by pretending it didn’t exist by prevailing fanboy culture. But it is curious that this element has been singled out for overt rejection from the big tent. I didn’t see any actual skirmishes, but I don’t believe there were SO MANY people who wanted to get into the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs panel and couldn’t that they alone created all the tensions. Like I said, I haven’t seen the Twilighters side of things yet, but it’s definitely something to continue exploring.

PS: One of the quotes of the show was an overheard Twi-Teen exclaming after the New Moon panel, “I don’t know what an orgasm is, but I think I just had one!” I guess THAT’S why Comic-Con is so damned popular!

Some people are blaming the Twilighters for the poor sales on Saturday. That could be partly true, but perhaps people need to evolve to the idea that Wednesday and Sunday are the big selling days now. After all, those are the days when most booth personnel walk around.

What is more troubling is that Indie Comics and their adherents are being squeezed out by all these new people, as much by the Locals and Twilighters as by the Total Douchebags, alas. Eric Reynolds’ first, gloomy post on the subject was followed by a slightly more sanguine one that still makes it clear that the lifeblood of the pipeline is being squeezed out:

Why am I talking about this? I’m not sure, except that I think it’s healthy to have some honest talk about how this year’s show went, and what it means for the future, instead of hearing everyone jostle for position in the hype machine and meaninglessly declare the show a raging success (“bigger and better still!”). I know that this was the first year where I spoke to many of my peers in the small press who openly wondered whether they could afford to exhibit next year. This included publishers, artists, and retailers. I also noticed appreciably fewer cartoonists that I admire attending the show this year, simply due to hype surrounding the show’s sellout status, hotel occupancy, and the fact that you have to register further and further in advance.


(Jason Miles’ con report was even more demoralized.)

More voices from the wilderness, Jordan Crane

Yeah, San Diego sucked. For me the barometer of it’s sucktitude was the number of minis that I traded for. Three. Grand total THREE. The people who make mini comics are not the same people who buy their tickets to the con 3 months in advance. I think that SD is getting greedy and preselling their tickets and selling a whole mess of 4 day passes ahead of time squeezes out the casual attender, the “regualar” person, and it is just this person who buys the unmainstream comics. I don’t know. I’ll probably go to SD again.. I’m tenacious. But if next year sucks as much as this year did, I’ll quit SD. The problem with the smaller cons, for me, is the travel – I just can’t afford the travel. It’d be swell to have a convention that’s decent in Los Angeles.


Shaenon K. Garrity appears to have just said no:

Previous columns have touched on my nervous romance with the convention circuit. I like the comics, the socializing, and the Stormtroopers; I hate almost everything else. In my ongoing hero’s journey along the path of geekdom, I’ve accepted that, although I may blog about all the comics in the world, I cannot actually own them, not with the price of storage space in the Bay Area. At some point I stopped being a collector and became a connoisseur (or, if you prefer, a snob), and conventions lost a lot of their glib, glitzy charm. The consumerism built into any convention, the pressure to buy and sell, wears me out. Especially when nobody’s buying.


We’re losing good people.

In past year,s the Indie folks had more of a presence in extracurricular activities. The Indie Beach Party was for several years an event of deeds of renown, from skinny dipping to fire jumping. The party died away, and I talked to a few people who remembered it wistfully but the sad reality is that just being at the show these days leaves no energy to plan such a thing. With the Indie circuit of TCAF/APE/SPX/Stumptown and a hopefully more chilled out MoCCA already well established, it seems there is less and less reason to come to the big tent. I’m not sure that this “Screw you guys, I’m going home!” idea isn’t self-defeating, though. Designer toy companies, to pick one example, don’t get much “mainstream” coverage outside their own area, but they come back every year. San Diego is still a fantastic marketplace. It’s possible that the flat sales this year had more to do with the global economic collapse than some kind of Twilight of the Indies. I hope there is an evolutionary path that will allow comics to do well at the show, and the smart, dedicated people will find it.

And that brings us to our final (whew) section.

3: Folks lend a hand in a Hell Hall   

sd091 SD09: The New Invaders

So, are there solutions to any of this? That depends on whether you think there are actually problems. Unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment and sadness. Acceptance leads to peace and desire is pain. In our surrender is our salvation.

I’m pretty sure I will never again do Comic-Con the way I did it this year. The Land of Wanders is too stressful and tiring for me. Perhaps I’ll just make a list of panels I want to attend, strategize around that goal, write it up in my room every night, and then go hang out with friends in the time left.

Or else, I’ll find a table to sit at, get an exhibitor badge, spring for wifi in the hall and just do it that way. I spent my actual show working – Publishers Weekly paid my way so I made appointments for interviews, saw the people I needed to, and so on, but it wasn’t as effective as I would have liked, due to all the logistics. I tried really, really hard to be organized about what I was going to do at the show, but new and developing stories arose, as they always do, and this caused scrambling and less efficiency. It’s easier to be flexible with more backup and we had a very small crew with lots of responsibilities. So my own tactics are evolving along with the show.

It was really heartbreaking to only go to four panels at the show – the one I was on, the one FMB’s book was announced at, one I was assigned to cover, and 20 minutes of the Jackson/Cameron panel. (I would have loved to see Miyazaki and John Lasseter, but not in this lifetime.) Audio from panels I wanted to attend are now coming on line, so it isn’t a total loss, but it ain’t the same as being there. There is no real solution to the panel problem. It’s supply and demand and people with the most motivation and access to publicists’ cell phone numbers will get in; others will not.

As for other solutions to problems…most of the problems stem from the egalitarian nature of the show, and egalitarianism is something that is praiseworthy and to be nurtured. It seems that there are just as many complaints about things that are more gated, like industry parties and so on, so maybe first come, first served is the right idea. I know there is a lot of momentum behind the idea of trimming the press list so a little kid who blogs in her cellar doesn’t get the same access as CNN, but I think publicists as the gatekeeper work for this system – think of a Comic-Con panel as a concert. You just need to schmooze the right people and you’re golden. Otherwise, stand in line. As much as I like the idea of the Golden Ticket that gives you access to Everything You Deserve, I don’t think that will ever happen. See? Surrender is easy!

Just as an aside regarding that egalitarianism, here is the BEST post about all of Comic-Con that I found, also in the LA Times, about howempowering the event is for the disabled.

The disabled are so much a part of the Comic-Con fabric that some of the convention’s security officers use wheelchairs and Comic-Con staff have been heard yelling at other attendees using wheelchairs to slow down like everybody else trying to get to a presentation.

“I wish everybody had services like they do here,” said 28-year-old Melissa Eckardt of San Diego, who uses a wheelchair because of muscular dystrophy and is attending Comic-Con for the 15th time. “They know what to expect and what they need to do, and it only gets better year after year.”


It’s a really beautiful story, and for all the kvetching, puts it into perspective how special the show really is.

The real problem with the con is space, and that is where the future truly lies. One blog posting I read while all this was percolating in my brain dared ask the unaskable:

I suppose part of the question is, what do the organizers really see as the future of Comic-Con? Is it going to become just more and more of an event for the entertainment industry and the mainstream press than it is for the fans? Is it already long past that point? Is this just another sign of the changing face of genre conventions, with more and more of the small, fan-run, not-for-profit events shrinking or disappearing completely, leaving fans with only the mega-events like Comic-Con and Dragon*Con left? (And D*C as well is reaching the breaking point of its capacity in recent years, for if its growth continues it will surely be forced to move from its current host hotels into a convention center facility.) >
What indeed is the plan? In an interview with me for Publishers Weekly, David Glanzer offered the idea that the con wouldn’t always be as big as it is now – whether that was just a hope or a plan is anyone’s guess.

What was really clear is that the attempt to move more events off-site is working. Along with panels, the things I’m really sorry I missed were all away from the Hell Hall: a Zombie Walk that saw scores of Zombies headed up Fifth Street beneath the clear blue sky of dusk; the Tron “Flynn’s” video arcade; the sheer, insane SPECTACLE of it all.

It seems to me that San Diego’s future is as some kind of pop culture Angoulême, with the circus coming to town and taking up their corner of it every year. This would allow for the “Slamdance” for indie publishers that a lot of people have suggested. It would also keep people off the con floor, making it less of a Hell Hall. It would give the locals more access to stuff. It would be more impressive in many ways.

For this to happen, the city of San Diego has to play along and desire for it to happen. While it’s all love and smiles for now, when the city desperately needs nerd dollars, keeping them contained in con center quarantine might be part of the deal. I’d love to see the city embrace its comics compadres and inner child, but I think it’s way too uptight for that to happen. For now, with no place to grow, the convention center expansion up in the air and LA and Vegas vying for CCI business, it’s one giant game that will unfold over the next year or so. Outcome cloudy, ask again later.

In the end, as usual, San Diego Comic-Con is what you make of it. My personal preference is for the big tent, purged of Douchebags and other assholes. Making San Diego into SPX or Heroes Con isn’t the answer – I love those shows and they are great as they are, but CCI is something else. It is the cross roads and it is in that role that it is most needed. The mix of comics, animation, movies, TV, toys, and video games can be the chance for an exciting exchange of ideas, not necessarily a threatening invasion. Finding a way to keep the melting pot while keeping comics preeminent should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list.

This has already become a novella, so I guess its time to go out with the really great things about Comic-Con:

* There really is no place on earth where you can see so many amazing people in such a small place. IN one brief 10 minutes span, I went outside for a break (through one of the doors that was open!) I ran into DC’s Adam Phillips, and while we were chatting, director John Landis, Peter Mayhew and one of the best Darth Vader costumes ever all wandered by. Going inside I ran into Scott McCloud, Jason Lutes and Derek Kirk Kim, and had a brief but welcome catch up. It’s that crazy mix of people and ideas and IMAGES that makes Comic-Con so inspiring. As Gilbert Hernandez told me, “It’s 80% visual.”
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* Likewise, the Hyatt Bar, while obnoxious and homophobic, is still one of the greatest shows on earth. You just never know what you’re going to run into, or how it will all interact. It tests your mettle, and it’s not for everyone (or even for every night) but it’s something, alright.

* I really, really enjoyed the Pop Candy meet-up at the Bayfront Hilton. It was small (as Con goes) but friendly, allowing people from Joss Whedon to fans to mingle in a relaxed atmosphere. And Whitney Matheson is a great hostess. PLUS, it must be said, the Hilton Bar’s handmade cocktails are awesome. The con needs a lot more events like this, that reflect the spirit of egalitarianism. (Some people wondered if the Hilton would replace the Hyatt as the Cantina Scene of Comic-Con, but the Hyatt’s gravitational pull is just too huge. The Hilton is a welcome change, and I hope it never gets too crowded.)

* That said, I didn’t think it was, location aside, the greatest place to stay. The rooms were average. I prefer the Omni for luxury and my other, unnamed best beloved hotel for everything else.

* Also, it was very funny to see one of the stars of Heroes sitting in a chair at the Hilton, having a deep conversation, while the crowd of people for the Heroes panel streamed right past him.

* Having messed up my hand on the very first day of con – it was literally shaken to pieces – I learned many interesting things about first impressions. Extending your hand and then pulling it back with a cry of “NOOO!” is a very bad first impression. Wrapping your hand up with an Ace bandage is a conversation starter AND a fashion statement and far preferable.

* Despite all the insanity I managed to have conversations with so many swell people: Floyd Norman, Dave Gibbons, Jim Pascoe, Amanda Conner, John Cassaday, Trina Robbins, Brett Warnock, Whitney, Keith Knight, James Sime, Gerard Way, Bill Mumy (the ORIGINAL Comic-Con Nerdlebrity!), Eric Lieb, Sunday’s dinner crew, and many more. New pals include Andie Tong, Ryan Schiffrin and AICN’s Mark Miller.

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A special shout out to Jill Thompson who was the life of the party at the Hyatt and the Eisners and, wherever she goes, really. She’s bigger than life and I’m lucky to know her.

* Eternal gratitude to Zena Tsarfin and Evie Nagy for manning the home fires while I was on the road. They are both magnificent bloggers and I was lucky to have them.

* As always, special thanks to the special people who helped me survive the show. Thanks to Christopher Moonlight for the carrots; to my fellow panelists Chip, Kevin and Sam; to Evelyn Dubocq at Viz for giving me food and water when I needed it; to David Marks likewise; to Jeremy at Dark Horse and AnnaMaria at IDW for all their help; to my fellow bloggers, Laura, Matt, and Rich — wish I’d seen more of you!; to the home crew of Jeff, Brian, Charles, Nikki and Jimmy (much smaller than usual!); a HUGE thank you to Ben and Lorelei for the incredible hospitality and help; and to Future Mr. Beat, Ben McCool as always.

This post was brought to you by Spinal Tap and South Park for the metaphors, and now, a closing montage.

Below, various views of Camp Twilight:
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At Thursday’s CoC/IDW party.

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Our favorite part of the Bayfront Hilton was this little strip of landscaped grass that gave the impression of a deserted salt marsh even though it was tiny.

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Ben, Ben, and Heidi toiling on the Monday after.

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Every con report should end with a kitty!

PS: I wish I’d gotten a picture of the dude on a rascal with the dragon helm attached.
Wait…Jessica Campbell did!

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And on that note…weeeeeee’re outta here! See you next year!

Comments

  1. Excellent and comprehensive report. I’ve never been to San Diego Con, but now have a better idea of what it has become.

    What a complicated formula, with Twilight, Movie, TV and Comic fans all looking out for #1 in one location! The San Diego Con is maturing, and reflecting the character of the Media Conglomerates: Movies, TV, and Comics.

    Does this create synergy and excitement, or just resentment of “Douchebags”??
    What if there is a separate building for the ComicCon aspect. Away from the FREE stuff people and the um.. so-labelled Douchebags. Would that help isolate the Comics from the chaos, or just frustrate those who had hoped to get a glimpse of the star of the latest TV/Comic/Movie crossover?

  2. Great report, Heidi.

    To me, the problem with Comic-Con is the sense of elitism I infer from the movie studios. Not the actors, the directors – they seem delighted to meet fans – but the bosses who want the special treatment. Make the Con about the attendees! They’re the customers! We need them!

    Here, I say it at greater length: http://mdwp.malibulist.com/?p=773

  3. Ali T. Kokmen says:

    As always, Heidi, great and thoughtful insight.

    Especially since the only panel I saw was one I was on, and the only party I attended was one my company threw, I’m particularly intrigued at how the panel/party scene seems to be coloring the overall Comic-Con experience.

    As for: “I hope the star of Mansquito was disinvited too, meow meow”…I gotta ask: Huh? (Actually, I just love to type “Mansquito” whenever opportunity arises, so forgive me.)

    And a special kudo for Best Use of Spinal Tap as an Organizing Theme to a Convention Report ;-)

    –ATK

  4. Alan Coil says:

    Thanks, Heidi.

  5. Epic report Heidi! Wow – now I really feel like I was there. Exhausted! Comic Con used to be like a state fair – manageable, fun, something you look forward to. Lately it’s more like a giant theme park – something you feel compelled to see but end up weary, standing in line, and having an occasional meltdown. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the stamina or bucks to go back; I know it won’t be every year.

  6. That’s what I call a Con report…. no wonder it took some time to get together. Well done, Heidi.

  7. Wow — well worth the wait.

    I also saw false elitism at the toy booths. Last time I was there I talked myself into buying a Stan Lee figure — I walked right up to the ‘exclusive’ Hasbro booth on Sunday, bought it, and walked away. This year I wanted a Blue Lantern figure for me and some Wonder Twins for a friend — GUESS AGAIN. Every time I went to the ‘line’ there was a new caveat: you need a ticket you can get upstairs (where?) you need a ticket from yesterday (wha?) or my favorite, just a horizontal shake of the head. I felt like saying, “Dude, I got a PLANE ticket, isn’t that enough??” The best though was when a woman guarding the stacks of GLs just sighed in front of the toyboys clutching their debit cards and gestured towards the figures: “can I just burn these?” I have enormous sympathy for the people working at these booths — their procedures were designed to promote false fan elitism (I am King of the Weekend!) but they had to sit there and explain it a zillion times a day.

    lowest moment for me: no AdHouse booth…..

    But like you said, there were still oasii of comics goodness. And that is the real measure of what is cool and what is fake. While Preview Night was being mobbed, I was in a ridiculously short line to meet Darwyn Cooke, who was awesome and did a sketch-in signature for everyone who waited. A guy came up with about ten copies of the new book and Cooke smiled, leaned over, and planted one on his cheek. That’s good Comic Con.

  8. Jill Thompson says:

    Thanks for the shout out, Heidi. I was just being myself. And thanks for the comprehensive coverage and con thoughts. Now I don’t have to blog, just retweet. As it stands right now booth#1322 IS slated to return next year. We hope the comics fans will hang in there with us. We’re bustin’ our respective@$&es to create great art and stories for everyone!

  9. James Van Hise says:

    Another big problem is that the dealers room has become exclusionary by now charging four thousand dollars for a booth. So Lucasfilm pays the same amount for space as the guy who prints 3,000 copies of his indy comic. And with a waiting list of 300 companies wanting space in next year’s show, there’s no reason that will change. That’s why you’re seeing fewer comic dealers in the dealers room every year. A friend of mine was thinking about trying for a booth next year but he thought they were two thousand dollars, not four, so he dropped that idea in a hurry.

  10. Naveen says:

    Wow, thanks for the thorough report. I’ve only made it part way through, and will revisit as work allows!

    This was my first year there, so I have nothing to compare it to except smaller cons. I totally enjoyed it, except for the thickness of the crowds and the uber-security, though I understand the latter. “Mayhem” would be more than a comic if security wasn’t so tight considering the attendance.

    As to movies and stars crowding out comics: I went for the comics. I didn’t bother waiting in line for Ballroom 20 or Hall H events. And so these people, Twilighters included, were just obstacles to navigate around. When I saw the press coverage of the event online or on TV afterwards, it was like I’d gone to a different convention. Jon Favreu and Scarlett Johannsen were not part of my con experience and I wouldn’t have missed them either way.

    It was still a comics event to me. The downside was in the number of artists/creators who hadn’t come, scared off by Hollywood.

  11. Yes, it would be nice if San Diego morphed into Angouleme with the movie companies turning the Arena into Hall H, with exhibits at the local museums, the Mayor issuing a proclamation which is printed in the Con guide, maybe even a costumed 10K run for charity…

    HOWEVER, CCI:SD needs to do a better job of fulfilling its “MISSION STATEMENT: Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”

    Do they offer drawing workshops for kids during the summer? Do they participate in the San Diego Children’s Book Festival? Partner with the library to program comics themed events? Act as a clearinghouse for area educators looking for speakers?

    Did you know that Sunday was Kid’s Day at the Con? (Don’t feel bad… comics in general didn’t get much coverage, why should comics for kids get any at all? One hit on Google News…) Does the Con offer reduced admission for children? Or free admission on Sunday with a paying adult? Wouldn’t it be nice to take the Petco parking lot and transform that into a “Kid’s Comic Carnival”, set up lots of tents and booths, sponsor it with Scholastic and Abrams and HarperCollins and Johnny DC, and offer FREE activities for any children under 13. (Remember two marketing mantras: “The first one is always free” and “Get `em while they’re young”.)

    And a simple solution to the “Hall H is Hell” conundrum of press and tickets and panelists… print a barcode on the badge. Link the barcode to lists… press (subdivided by type of journalist (blogger, TV, radio, trade), coverage (film, comics, general)), panel guests, VIPs, and:

    Allow people purchasing tickets in advance the ability to reserve tickets to two events per each day registered. Scan the barcode, person gets in. Paper receipt from registration solves any problems. The barcode can’t be transferred, so no scalping. Five minutes into the panel, ticketless attendees are allowed to enter. Barcode readers give precise occupancy to guarantee fire code compliance.

    Schedule room clearance into each panel. Cram more questions into the panel by using the National Press Club model: attendees write questions on cards, moderator selects the best, rest are posted online where people can comment.

  12. The Beat says:

    Martha you went all meta and Margaret Mead on us, but a good con report!

    I think anyone who gets to the end of this report deserves a gold star of some kind. But to have cut it to reasonable length would have taken another two days!

  13. Thanks for this report — there are as many different experiences of the con as there are attendees, and it’s always interesting to see a completely different perspective.

    A thought on the locked balconies: Either last year or the year before I saw a group of teenage girls sitting on the ledge around one of the balconies out front. The kind of ledge where there’s a 50-foot drop unless you land on one of the curved windows and bounce. Later that same day, or maybe the next day, I wandered by the same balcony and wanted to get a shot of Downtown San Diego from outside, but the doors were locked. So it could be another safety issue.

  14. Ali T. Kokmen says:

    Torsten, all great brainstorming ideas. As far as your Kids Day observations go, from my vantage point in the RH booth, yeah, you could certainly tell that Sunday was Kids Day, regardless of what kid-specific programming may or may not have been going on.

    As for “Does the Con offer reduced admission for children? Or free admission on Sunday with a paying adult?”…I do indeed seem to recall something about the Con offering lowered rates for those under 12, and perhaps free admission with a paid adult ticket; I imagine, though, that such offers sold out just as quickly as every other permutation of admission did…

  15. Henrik Andreasen says:

    Great report and great meeting you again. As for the con, it is basically the same to me as it was 16 years ago when I went the first time, I just ignore all the tv and movie stuff, and enjoy meeting and hanging out with the comic creators, who are still there in aboundance. It may be a little harder to get around, but that didn’t prevent me from having a blast, while buying a lot of new and old comic books. And as you pointed out in the beginning of you report, the people who run the convention is to be recommended for making the convention as good as it is, despite all the things mentioned in your report.

  16. Sean W says:

    After returning to SDCC last year from a 2 year break, I once again took this year off for many of the reasons mentioned here. My experiences between 2005 and 2008 were incredibly different, in both good and bad ways. I became less of an autograph fanatic, which is good (less running around, less money being spent), but the panel and convention hall experience was much more populated and frustrating, which is bad (sat in very long panel lines, and couldn’t even get into the Venture Bros panel despite being in line for almost 2 hrs beforehand).

    The environment of Comic-Con is definitely changing. I don’t notice it in most regards (don’t go to parties, so I don’t really encounter many douchebags if any) but I fear that if I go next year, there will be more changes afoot that help tarnish the whole SDCC experience to a point where I just won’t bother going anymore.

  17. I stopped going to cons cold-turkey a few years back when I saw the writing on the wall: The price we have paid for comics becoming universally accepted into the pop-culture mainstream is that now it attracts… the pop-culture mainstream – not to mention the greedy fuckers who will exploit every aspect of that, squeezing out every possible dime they can get their glad-handing mitts on.

    What this means – and most everybody who has attended cons in the 80’s will know what I’m talking about here – is that the days where one could go to a convention and talk shop with pro’s (either at the booth or at the bar), attend panels or browse the dealers room with little trouble & actually feel like you were part of a greater community are long gone. I knew we were headed in this eventual direction at one con several years ago – when after seeing the 5-mile line for a dollop of Kevin Smith’s time, I retired to a couch in the lobby – where I was joined by two very witty older gentlemen who were just as dismayed by the feeding frenzy as I was. As it turned out, just by sheer dumb luck, I got to chat it up with Curt Swan & Murphy Anderson, two of my boyhood heroes, for hours. Nobody else going past us even seemed to realize who they were – or that if *anyone* should’ve been mobbed by an adoring crowd, it should’ve been these guys.

    So I really have to laugh when I see ‘old-timers’ of the con circuit grumbling about the crowds of noobs & Twilighters wrecking everything. Imagine how many indie & mini-comic creators have been pushed out of the way for **BIG HOLLYWOOD HYPE** or how many big-name pro’s like Alan Moore will never bother to attend an event again because of the ever-increasing crowds of douchebags.

    Yeah. Comics are finally cool now; At $4 a pop for revolving-door-death and continuously plummeting sales, for selling its soul to Hollywood for a stale bowl of porridge, and for courting the good will of the masses who deep, deep down, only like us in the same respect that they like standing in line for six hours to pay through the nose for a fucking iPhone.

    I know I’m being a cranky middle-aged dick about all this, too… so if anyone wants me, I’ll be in the corner, happily reading a stack of 70’s Marvels. :)

  18. Solid report. Thanks, Heidi.

  19. “Thanks to Christopher Moonlight for the carrots”

    You’re welcome Heidi. Just doing my part to prevent Con burn out. Got to keep my peeps rollin’.

  20. A couple of ideas-

    Move the vendors into one area-artists tables, comic books, books, mini comics, etc.. all in one area, not interspersed with huge companies giving away freebies.

    REPEAT popular panels.

    How about a comic book panel in Hall H??? Get Stan Lee in there. How about Stan Lee in conversation with any of the other comic greats. How about a panel of must see comic book greats? Hmmm…people like Ditko, Lee, Frizetta, etc… If you promote it right, it could be HUGE. Hall H would fill in a heartbeat if you brought in the right people for a COMICS event. There’s never been a comic event in Hall H. How wrong is that?!?!?

  21. Alan Coil says:

    kelly,

    Appreciate your enthusiasm, and you do have a point about Hall H, but Ditko won’t do conventions, and I’m pretty sure Frazetta won’t be doing any more conventions.

  22. Great report Heidi!

    I have such mixed emotions about this show because I’ve gone 30 times now.

    On the one hand the huge crowd was a rising tide that COULD carry all boats. Our Tripwire panel had 15 people WE DIDN’T KNOW attend. That’s a first! For sheer exposure, the show is unbeatable. There are tons of people and that increases the percentage of hits for any product, performance or presentation.

    But on the other hand, the huge crowds kept me from going to panels. At all. I stayed at our table. The people that did get into panels had to arrive early and/or leave late from the rooms. That put most of the crowd upstairs waiting or in Rooms 6ABCD or 20 and Hall H. That takes customers off the floor and concentrates them where no amount of sales will reach.

    The “Comic” falling out of the name and the crowds clogging panels instead of buying stuff are big issues, the parties not so much. There are possible solutions to the crowd thing though:

    * Maybe it’s time to put part or all of the dealers’ room off site (maybe the old convention center) or move the exhibits (movie and video game booths) elsewhere.

    * It’s certainly time to ticket ALL panels and clear the rooms between them. The show should make a firm panel list available every morning and first-come-first-serve each panel. You want to camp out? Do it outside. No more waiting to get into panels means no more milling lines upstairs; you’re either getting in with a ticket or you don’t hang out. A red shirt could check tickets at the door: press goes this way, panelists that, attendees the other way to the seats.

    * Maybe the show should rent the Horton Plaza theater or the other nearby cinema for the entire convention and let the Studios run their presentations therein. Let Horton plaza deal with the sparkle crowd.

    The elitism thing is just going to increase. Gone (LONG gone) are the days of Shooter’s parties or anyone-can-come, free booze Marvel soirees. We will probably not see an inclusive-ish party like the Diamond Zoo party from way back. Part of it is budget and part of it is studio wannabes that want to feel important. But hell, it’s their money to spend. Nothing is going to compare to the Heavy Metal/National Lampoon party from 1980 anyway so it’s all downhill from there.

    So I didn’t get into (or even get invited to) any elite parties. Yet I still managed to catch up with friends from years gone by (yourself included) at the Hyatt bar and elsewhere. The party is where your friends are not where the stars are.

    I have altered my expectations for the event. From now on during the show hours it’s all about marketing a product with presence, just sort of soaking up the ambience. It’s not about making money or others spending money; it’s about being around creative fun people of all sorts crammed into one space sharing a “vibe”. And then at night it’s about peace of mind, rejuvenation, and spending time with people I know and enjoy. And if by some happenstance people I ought to meet come by then all the better.

    I don’t know whether it’s Comic Con that’s grown up or just me.

  23. This year was my first SDCC. It will likely be my last, for the reasons you’ve outlined here. Great people, good times, but with too much noise and not enough signal.

    I’ll be sticking with Emerald City Comic Con from here on out.

  24. @ Torsten Adair who said: “HOWEVER, CCI:SD needs to do a better job of fulfilling its “MISSION STATEMEN”

    Agreed, I put in to do a panel for aspiring comic book colorist that was not scheduled as there was no room in the hall. The panel was no to promote anyone one book or company but to give a real understanding of how to color comics.

    @ Heidi:

    Fantastic recap. I believe Ben and I have found the cure for any convention stress. I believe you know what I am talking about, next year I hope you will
    join in!

    Cheers!

  25. im glad im part of your home crew, heidi! :) always a blast hanging w/ you & this con was no exception.

    great report & so many solid points. i was one of those people ON a panel who got held up by security (explanations & pleading did no good) and was late to my own panel.

    following up on torsten’s idea of a fair outside. heroes tried to do that in a weird way outside the hilton gaslamp that one day. but some friends and i have been saying for the past few years that they should block off the main drag (5th st?). make it sort of a street fair type thing where you could walk up and down the street. have booths, etc. if they are arguing about expansion, this seems like a simpler way to make an attempt at spreading the crowd around.

    while it was maddening at times, i had a blast as per usual!

  26. Torsten mentions the Comic Con mission statement as “dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms” – that puts everything at Comic Con inbounds – we are stuck with Twilight Fans, legions of Stormtroopers and the rise of Steampunk. Fandom has become mainstream and I think that is what everyone is having a problem with. The 1980’s, when only 5,000 people came to the con are days gone by. Back then you had to go to a con to find back issue comics. Now you can buy pretty much any comic you want from ebay.

    So the vendors at Comic Con (and I am one) have to provide something the crowd wants for they won’t be able to pay for a booth (it is $2200 for a standard booth not $4000 and if you pay a year in advance you save another $600). I sell in the Toy Section, I actually do comics but a lot of the dealers do not. And everyone I know that did the show will be back next year because 125,000 potential customers is amazing thing.

    But the main crux of your story is Hall H. That is where everyone wants to be so they can see Johnny Depp. It is all the paparazzi effect, people want to see celebrity and Comic Con is a place where that can happen. Hollywood uses that celebrity bait and the public bites (as does every blogger and pop culture media outlet). It is all great for the movies but does it damage “COMIC CON”. I don’t think it does. I had friend who spent 10 minutes telling me all about the Stan Freberg panel. It sounded like an amazing hour that I really regret having missed. Is anyone really saying that about the Iron Man 2 panel? “Dude I saw 15 minutes of Avatar footage before anyone else, my life is complete”. Most of what goes on in Hall H (from what I read at least,, since I have never been in there) is just Hollywood promotion. And if it was anything all that magical it will appear on the DVD release.

    So I just ignore all the Hollywood and try to say hello to all the fans of my work and try to hunt down a few cool things to buy for myself. It is not the same con it was 25 years ago (or even 10) but something bigger, different, weirder which I think is a very good thing whatever the faults may be.

  27. Calvin Reid says:

    Whoa! As usual Heidi gets a little deeper and little more meaningful than most when it comes to bringing scrutiny to the comics world. In comparison to Heidi, I’m still a newbie. I didn’t start going to Comic-con until 2002 or so and it was overwhelming then and its just gotten more so.

    I’m not quite as disheartened by the movie/TV invasion because I didn’t care about those panels when you could just walk up and get it and I certainly don’t care about them now that you have to stand in line for 3 hours. I don’t care because I ain’t the slight bit interested in going to them. (I made a lame attempt to get into the Superman Returns screening a couple years back and that cured me of ever trying it again.)

    But I guess we have crossed some kind of threshold for SDCC and there’s no going back. I think big is here to stay. I also think big (and by that I mean diverse, crazy crowded and full of opportunities) is ultimately better. But I could be wrong.

  28. SDCC *DOES* fulfill its mission statement in one major way though it is really overlooked sometimes: The Comics Arts Conference, run by Peter Coogan, who once again but together an incredibly interesting schedule way down in Room 30: people like Trina Robbins, Hope Larson, Jerry Robinson, Craig Yoe, and ADAM WEST all just talking about comics. If you *really* want to escape the Hollywood machine, go to the CAC next year: you get a good seat, people are nice, and you can always hear something interesting — which is very different from a press release.

  29. Wow, I’m glad I went back in ’98. It was big enough THEN.

  30. Here’s a theory: The Comic Book Industry follows a similar path that Science Fiction has, but about thirty years later.

    First Fandom and historians will remember when science fiction hardcovers were rare. When a lot of short fiction was found in monthly anthology magazines. SF fans will remember the influx of women after Star Trek and mainstream fans after Star Wars. They’ll remember the pride of seeing a “serious” SF movie (2001: A Space Odyssey) get some serious attention from the Academy Awards and critics. The joy of SF and fantasy titles charting on the bestseller lists. They’ll recall the “New Wave” of experimental fiction in the 1960s. Some may even recall an incredible retailer who not only stocked the latest Ace or DelRey paperback, but also had old copies of Astounding Stories, Weird Tales, and Tales From the Crypt.

    And so it goes. Tick tock tick tock….

  31. This was my eighth working Comic-Con and my twelfth overall. I have to say, as other industry people I’ve spoken to have, this was the year in which the feeling that Comic-Con has become Something Else was palpable. Almost oppressive. Hollywood’s presence in past years at least made some kind of contact with us, in the form of Hollywood guys who would trawl the indie booths for “properties.” But they’ve gotten much more sophisticated (and less annoying — phew!) in relationship with publishers, even small ones like the one I work for. They familiarize themselves with your output and call the office instead of stopping by your booth and asking for a synopsis of every book you publish.

    And you know, as annoying as that was, at least it brought with it a feeling of being part of what was going on at Comic-Con. But Hollywood isn’t hyped about comics at Comic-Con anymore. It’s gone back to the natural order of being hyped about itself. And Comic-Con doesn’t seem to be hyped about comics, either. It’s been almost completely appropriated.

    I have to disagree with Calvin. Bigger isn’t necessarily worse, but when it comes to promoting comics, to presenting the diversity of what is in the medium, I think it is worse. It’s difficult enough to be an independent comics publisher under the shadow of DC and Marvel. There’s no getting any sunshine when you have to compete for attention with huge movie studios, too. Small publishers just might forgoing Comic-Con in favor of more publishing-focused conventions where what they have to show isn’t lost in a cacophony of explosive movie trailers.

    And I kind of mean that in a positive way. I’m looking for a backlash here!

  32. Wayne Beamer says:

    Jennifer: I agree with your disagreement — ??? — with Calvin, from the perspective of the indy publisher vs. the Big Two vs. Movie Companies vs. Video Game Producers vs. Stormtroopers/Booth Babes vs. Retailers vs. Toys vs. TV shows. Comics publishers beyond DC and Marvel, and creators, bring intrinsic value to big shows like SDCC that passing pop culture diversions — think TV shows and movies — can’t manufacture. I can’t imagine SDCC existing as a pop culture “Sundance” festival without the CC, nor can comics live apart from Twilight, badly dressed costumed folks and Bruce Campbell (thank God for that!).

    Heidi: The fact that your report took a week to come out told me more about the state of the comic book business at 2009 SDCC from your perspective than any other report I read beforehand. Today’s report only confirmed what I already suspected. Comics took a subordinate position at SDCC this year, just a reflection of what’s going on the industry as a whole and in the pop culture economy. Glad I wasn’t there…

  33. Alexa says:

    A lot to absorb in this article, but it raised one concern in particular with me. If Comic-Con can be so admirably accommodating for the disabled (and kudos for that), why can’t they put an anti-harassment policy into place?

    The fact that women are still subject to groping and lewd remarks (this year even at the encouragement of one of the big video game companies) and yet have no official recourse is shameful and unforgivable.

  34. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I was allowed to grope women and make lewd remarks?

    GLANNNZZZERRR!

  35. Wow, reading that report was almost as exhausting as attending the Con, but in a lot of ways more rewarding. It was a great piece.

    For my part, I realize in retrospect that it might be kind of telling that whenever anyone asked me what my “book of the show” had been, all I could think of was The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke, which I’d brought with me on the plane. There was some big comics news (new Bone! Schreck at IDW! Marvelman?) but there was definitely a sense this year that Hollywood had taken over.

    I know it was the first year that I said “I think I’m going to take a break” and think that I actually meant it.

  36. Yeah at the con I just focus on the comics, to the best of my abilities. Ignore Hall H, go to the panels that aren’t likely to be covered by Newsarama/CBR (Marvel/DC/Big name creator stuff). I don’t bother chasing exclusive stuff and I’m not an autograph/sketch hound.

    My first con was last year and after it was done I wanted to go every year. But after this con I’m thinking I’ll skip next years and focus on the smaller ones, like the new one in Chicago.

  37. Keith Moriarty says:

    Excellent report.

  38. Oh well, I got into the Wired party. But those Twilight fans ruined the con for my guest — my friend’s daughter — so they are on my shitlist forever.

  39. I agree that Comic-Con is large enough that it’s anything you want it to be. I like films as much as the next person, but not enough to wait in line (or sit in a hall for hours), nor do I care about getting some freebie that will just get thrown in a junk pile. Though I was saddened to see the smaller Bud Plant Booth, I was satisfied to do my usual rounds of the publisher/dealer stalls and original art dealers to browse and make the occasional purchase when I was away from my booth.

    Like many other exhibitors, I found sales on Saturday awful–not just sales, but people rarely even stopped at my booth (which are related). But this fortunately was made up by strong sales the other days, esp. Thursday and Friday. This happened to me last year, so I was kind of anticipating it, but it’s still a bit of a downer when it happens. But overall, my sales were good. But it’s not a given anymore that everyone stopping by my small press booth will be into comics, unlike the old days….

    As I said, Comic-Con is anything you want it to be; since I have no interest in Twilight, they were simply outside my radar generally. But at least they are true fans; I’d rather they come to the con than the people who are simply there because they have bought into the hype and simply want freebies and to see celebs.

  40. alwaysoptimistic says:

    Thanks for the great article!

  41. Another great post-Con wrap-up, Heidi! One of my rituals after attending the latest SDCC is to read the various web and blog commentary on what just happened—- it helps in the Con ‘come-down’ recovery phase, and also provides an opportunity to compare/contrast my experiences with those other attendees…

    Not being Industry nor Press, those commentaries hold the most interest for me. It’s disheartening to read over the last couple of years, the complaints/threats of various Publishers pulling out of SDCC becoming a repeated motif… as though the previous years’ “Alt Comix” usual suspects’ too-cool-for-not really-COMICS-Con stance has morphed into some ATTENDING Publishers’ growing discomfiture with the multi-media reality of the Con. I hope the SDCC’s Board of Directors will address their concerns to keep them from bolting; I wouldn’t want the Con to be just the domain of the Publishing Big 3 or 4. (Because then it’ll be a WIZARD Con.)

    As for the Press’ complaints—- I didn’t know that exclusive, invitation-only
    Parties have become the 4th Estate’s version of ‘Hall H': only the few, the chosen, those blessed by Fate may attend! [Okay, those hotel rooftops and bars probably hold much less than the 6.5K of Hall H, but still.] So, Heidi, who are the competing hordes? Are those meat puppets from EXTRA!HOLLYWOOD!ACCESS!! your “MARVEL Zombies” that took MY spot for the IRON MAN 2 presentation? Are some real-life walkoffs from THE PLAYER scoring the sweet, sweet freebie swag like all them SDCC Newbies
    that took MY “Flynn’s Arcade” coin token? Could you spot THEM from a distance, mutter under your breath, and remember the SDCCs before THEY started cluttering the once-wide-open aisles and hallways? ;)

    As for a coping mechanism for the Con: “Perhaps I’ll just make a list of panels I want to attend, strategize around that goal, write it up in my room every night, and then go hang out with friends in the time left.” TRUER WORDS WERE NEVER SPOKEN. This has been my m.o. for attending the Con in the last 10 years or so—- and has really paid off in the last 4! It
    requires a stringent ‘Con Triage’ of wants and desires when that Schedule of Panels and Autograph sessions gets posted a week before Preview Night… and then a finalising go-through when you get that Events Guide in your hands that evening.

    I’ve managed to map out a fairly satisfying SDCC over those years, getting to do most of the stuff I want, while still allowing some open time to let the Con surprise me. Admittedly, that schedule DOES include some
    of the latest Hollywood rollout in Hall H, but if that willful p.r. wallowing includes the chance to see Miyazaki, Lasseter, Jackson and Cameron like it did this year—- count me in! (Luckily, their Hall H presentation were all on Fri.) I opted out of the AVATAR and IRON MAN 2 presentations knowing they’d be the clusterf*ck they’d be… so I attended some Room 2 panels instead. Those Comics-centric historic panels are the HEART of my Comic-Con experience, something I look forward to every year of attending—- AND the cleansing ‘penance’ for my going to Hall H, grabbing that WB WATCHMEN bag, lining up for STAR TREK foam finger and Tribble!

    Nothing like hearing all those Golden and Silver Age creators and, this year, all those SD ‘freaks and geeks’ responsible for starting the Comic-Con ball rolling 30 years ago, listening to their anecdotes and memories from back then—- and then facing the attending crowd massed under the Sails Pavillion and Exhibition Floor afterwards. From tiny acorns?

    So, another Comic-Con over. And another one less than a year away…

    (BTW, I’m saving this SDCC ’09 wrap-up to compare/contrast with The Beat’s future NYCC ’10 wrap-up. I’ve read that NYCC scouts were at Con this year to take notes… It’ll be interesting to see what lessons REED took away for their East Coast version of SDCC!)

  42. Evan Meadow says:

    The only good thing I read in that whole report (which of course I’ll add my thanks to Heidi for writing) was seeing that disabled attendees are still being treated with the utmost respect.

    Having gone their many times previously in my own chair, the level of help I get from EVERYONE at the con to get my comics signed, purchases made, and entry into any panel (thank god for the aisle right down the middle :-) ) just always makes me happy because we’re shown that WE MATTER!

    LOL now if they can just somehow make a wheelchair driving lane for us to go up and down the aisles with on the floor.

  43. Torsten Adair says:

    Psst… the Big Four publishers do not exhibit at Wizard shows….

    The CAC has been chugging along since 1996 or so… I remember them running programming parallel to the trade show.

    CCI:SD runs the risk of losing their comics cachet. Were I a publisher, I would publish a book in the Spring, hit Book Expo in May, then promote it through the Con season. Why announce or premiere a title at San Diego when the news will get buried? Besides… July and August are dead retail months, hit the Spring or Fall/Holiday seasons. (And by having a title ready in May means less stress when preparing for conventions.)

  44. Jim Caldwell says:

    Psst… the Big Four publishers do not exhibit at Wizard shows….

    They always had exhibits in Chicago – until this year. (Even the year Marvel was reduced to a handful of card tables, they had a presence.)

    Heidi, how much longer is the director’s cut of this post?

  45. Brian K. Morris says:

    Fantastic report, Heidi! I attended SDCC in ’06 and it was GREAT after 30 years of con attendance to be treated well by the locals and to have just about anything I wanted to see in one place, hellish as it could often be. Then again, it took a different set of survival skills to enjoy the event and after two and a half days, it cheerfully beat my wife and me into joyous submission (sounds like it should be a plot for an old Wonder Woman comic, doesn’t it?).

    Remember a day when we’d all sit around and moan how Hollywood was ignoring comics and didn’t even TRY to cater to our desires for a faithful representation of our heroes? Well, we have that now! They know where we are, they try to feed us what (they think) we would like. It’s the price of our success, I guess. I believe there was a line from The Monkees’ HEAD, “The problem with today, my young friend, is that you may get exactly what you want.”

    Speaking of being treated well, I am absolutely sickened by the comic-snobs who moan about the infusion of the Twilighters into “their” convention. Did any of the vendors who have complained about sales think to rise off their chairs and try to sell them a comic book? Did any of the toy sellers who tried to foist the latest PVC “collectible” on a gullible public even TRY to say, “I don’t have anything for TWILIGHT, but here’s something else you might find interesting.”

    But how many toy reps and comic publishers might have nervously worked their Blackberries that weekend, hurredly begging for a TWILIGHT license for next year’s con? Hopefully, the smart ones.

    If anyone wants this to be a COMICon again, let’s stop wasting time complaining about the “invaders” and try to grow the comic market so they’ll have something to enjoy also. Why waste the energy on being negative when you can do something positive that could have a LOT of ripple?

  46. John Tebbel says:

    Bravo. And thanks for the gold star.

    I see the crowds of people waiting for whatever (lets call them dinosaur chow) and see opportunities for entrepreneurs (lemurs? Barnums?) to program whatever they think might draw this audience a few hundred yards or way up to the Gaslight district for whatever this con doesn’t do or doesn’t do anymore. We could go from more is less to more is more.

  47. michael says:

    Yeah, the Wired Cafe looked like the coolest place I’ve seen on Youtube. Yet, if you were doing business, it sucked with the hotness and all, but if you were just lounging, and swimming in the pool it would be awesome..and free Patron shots!!! O.O

    That definitely sucks about all these parties dis-inviting the comic book community.

    And for all those nerds complaining about the Twilight fans, get a life! Seriously, it’s not the end of the world. If you want change, complain to the SDCC organizers, they’re the ones who don’t move people out of the hall after a couple of shows. And if you want more tickets, beg the con to provide tix for special events that don’t have to do with the convention experience.

  48. Thanks for such a long and interesting report Heidi!

    I wonder what those who think Twilight does not belong at SDCC will think next year when there’s a Twilight comic book? The Buffy comic ended up as a great gateway comic for a number of people. Now Twilight doesn’t have the advantage that Buffy did, with Whedon doing other comics such as Sugar Shock, Runaways and Astonishing X-men providing great jumping points for Buffy fans who were interested in more. Still, it means comic book exhibitors at SDCC will have something to sell the Twilight fans next year.

    Personally, despite being a big comic book fan, I think it’s great to see all the different fandoms mix at SDCC and only wish it there was more room for the convention to grow and allow more different people in.

  49. I dunno, Heidi, I was at that Fables panel and I don’t recall any Venture Bros. fans being disrespectful; I do recall Fables writer Bill Willingham talking s**t about “TV fans”. I could tell he was trying to make a joke and repeatedly failing to be funny, but as the last questioner from the audience pointed out, there was more overlap between Fables fans and Venture fans than he was letting on. (Including the new Fables writer, who was wearing a Venture Bros. t-shirt.)

  50. Great piece! I remember going to a bunch of Con’s in Missouri in the early 90s, meeting lots of fellow ‘geeks’ and going through all the bins for rare books. It was so much fun. But SDCC is just a Hollywood marketing machine now. I’ve also discovered I can buy basically any comic I’ve ever wanted on Ebay now (hello Chris Claremont X-Men/Roger Stern Spider-man!) and wonder if that is having an effect on the con status.

  51. Still slogging through copious follow-up, but I your invader POV is dead on. I feel like I had that same converstation that you did, Heidi, with the marketing director of Wired.
    The best of times, the worst of times: One of my high points was talking to the fine folks who carry on the Prince Valiant Strip (Gianni, Shultz, and a brilliant husband-wife colorist team). Sadly, I felt like I was the only guy who cared. No lines. No wait. No media coverage.
    On the positive side, reading Gianni’s brilliant new coffee table book makes it all worth it.

  52. As I mentioned to Heidi earlier today, there has been talk by Willingham on his message board about taking the Fables panel “off-site” next year to avoid some of the things that happened this year.

    I know people have been doing stuff off-site for a while, including stuff at the Bayfront this year, but can’t recall something from the Big Two that was actual “programming” and not a party or the like.

  53. Heidi,
    this is a fantastic report. This was my eleventh Comic-Con and it continues to fill me with ambivalence. I only started going in 1999 long after the El Cortez/ old Convention Center days and, with the exception of the Kiwis, have travelled the furthest. I sometimes wish that there was less of an emphasis on the movie stuff but the fact that this is there has meant that I’ve been able to report on it for the past six years, so there may be less of a reason for me to come if it wasn’t there. Considering the amount of people and potential for sheer chaos, the organisers hold it together pretty well. And I did get to meet and do a roundtable interview with Terry Gilliam, which made the whole show for me. Each year I question why I come but I’m sure I’ll go again next year.

  54. Peter Sanderson says:

    Heidi, your excellent, thought-provoking essay on this year’s San Diego Con deserves a long, considered response.
    (1) In my past blog reports on SDCCs, I’ve made pointed jokes about the security Red Shirts based on their seeming lack of politeness towards the customers. (I’ve actually encountered kind security people at NYCC.) Last time I went I was annoyed at getting ordered about for no good reason, and I’d just duck into areas that weren’t being heavily supervised. The fact that being a pro and a member of the press didn’t afford any advantages in getting into panels or even onto the con floor was irritating. Your comments that the multi-colored Shirts are in large part there to create a “psychological” effect, to keep the crowd “docile,” is brilliantly observed. It is indeed demoralizing. One goes to the San Diego Con to have a good time, not to be reduced to a passive, subdued state of mind.
    (2) Re: Campers. Perhaps the next time I go to the San Diego Con, I’m going to have to choose whether to spend the whole day in Hall H or to go to comics panels. Three years ago I was able to go back and forth, except on Saturday, when, even after waiting nearly two hours, I was unable to get into the Hall H “Spider-Man 3” panel. I’m now getting the impression that the interminable lines for Hall H are frequent, with people even camping out overnight to get in. Has anyone timed how long the waits were this year for various Hall H panels (“Iron Man 2,” Miyazaki/Disney, “Lost,” etc.) and reported the findings?
    Are there even long waits for some of the comics and animation panels? I am impressed that hundreds were turned away from Mark Evanier’s interview with Stan Freberg for lack of room, but apparently the Con simply put that panel in too small a venue.
    Torsten Adair’s suggestion for ticketing panels in advance is intriguing. The Con would then have to get people to check tickets outside panel room doors, thereby slowing things down considerably. This might mean that Hall H events would “sell out” before the Con even starts. I can imagine something like the “Iron Man 2” panel “selling out” online as fast as the hotels do. At least then when people arrive at the Con they won’t spend hours waiting in line for panels they don’t get into. And then think about all the scalpers who will reserve tickers for the prime panels and then sell them at high prices on eBay.
    (3) Re: The Douchebags. You wonder if it’s “their” con now. It was suggested to me a few years ago that a main reason that hotel rooms for the San Diego Con have become so expensive and so hard to get is because of all the Hollywood people with their expense accounts being willing to pay high prices and buy them up. Certainly this helps explain why the Con sold out months in advance during the Great Recession.
    In recent years I’ve been envious of those comics folk who get into the many invitation-only parties. Now I feel a certain schadenfreude that even comics people are being excluded from many Comic-Con parties.
    But I’ve been grateful that the Eisner Awards are open to all attendees, and provide an opportunity after the ceremony for anyone to mingle with major names in comics. I’ve also been amazed the last few times i went at how underattended the Eisners are. For the 21st century Comic-Con attendees, an event devoted purely to comics–even if its our version of the Oscars–doesn’t seem to be considered cool or important enough.
    (4) Re: Media Coverage.
    Here’s my theory, based on the scientific principle that the fact of observing a phenomenon changes that phenomenon. Say that you had no interest in comics. But for several years now you’ve been reading in “Entertainment Weekly” and newspapers about this fantastic convention in San Diego where you can see movie and TV stars in person and see sneak previews of footage from upcoming blockbusters. Where else can ordinary people see Robert Downey, Jr., and Johnny Depp and James Cameron and Peter Jackson and Kiefer Sutherland and “Lost” cast members all in person under one roof? You’d want to go, right?
    For several years now, the mainstream media coverage of the San Diego Con has emphasized the movie and TV panels, and as you note, this year the MSM coverage seems to ignore comics at Comic-Con altogether. I suspect this means that despite Comic Con’s name, the general public now thinks of it primarily as a showcase for movies and TV. And that means that the audience the Con attracts will increasingly be made up of people who are there primarily for the movie and TV presentations.
    One friend of mine has argued that it’s mainly the comics fans who know enough to book their tickets and hotel rooms early enough to get them.
    Really? Now that Comic-Con has been a major event for “Star Wars” fans for years, you think they haven’t figured this out? The major influx of “Twilight” fans at this year’s Comic-Con indicates that even such a new fandom knows enough to get their tickets and accommodations early.
    Has anyone ever done a survey of the Comic-Con audience? How many of them are primarily there for comics?
    You note that the only “comics-only” personality who gets mainstream media coverage at the Con is Stan Lee, though, of course, he has his movie and TV deals, too. Stan is still the charismatic Face of Comics to the public at large, and I don’t think there’s anyone around now who will take his place. (Art Spiegelman can and does do it for indie comics, but not for mainstream comics.) If Stan stops coming to Comic Con, the MSM won’t mention any “comics-only” personality.
    Perhaps the MSM’s lack of interest in comics at Comic-Con should also serve as a wake-up call. Despite comics reviews in “The New York Times” and other welcome signs of progress, maybe the mainstream coverage of the San Diego Con demonstrates that the MSM really isn’t that interested in comics, maybe even that the surge of media interest in graphic novels over this decade could be declining. If even “Entertainment Weekly” is excluding comics creators from its party, then the tide may have turned. (I presume that media outlets are mainly sending TV and movie reporters, not reporters on books, who might be more interested in graphic novels.) It’s interesting that the Hollywood people are reportedly less interested in comics; maybe they think they can now generate comics-style properties themselves.
    (5) You ask, “If the Dbags think it’s so cool to be at Comic-Con with all the quirky comics folks, maybe they all need to chip in to the Hero Initiative?” Or what if Hollywood people contributed to CBLDF, or to the various comics museums?
    (6) Re: the free bags of swag. I’ve seen one comment that people who grab the bags then go home and auction off the swag on eBay.
    (7) Re: The locals. This is another reason I’d like to see a survey of Con attendance. How many people who go are locals from San Diego, or from Southern California in general? Pros like ourselves, who travel cross-country to San Diego, hang out at the Con with other pros, and probably have a distorted impression of who the majority of the attendees are.
    You say, “But as the stress and exhaustion of just Being There increase, the level of will to put up with it decreases.” Exactly. And I don’t think that pros who spend most of their time in panel rooms at the Con realize how stressful and exhausting it is for the rest of us to try to make our way through gridlocked aisles or stand in interminable lines for much of four days. Indeed, the last several times I’ve gone, although I feel it’s obligatory to make my way once through the main floor, I spend most of my time upstairs around the panel rooms for my own peace of mind. If the Con is supposed to be fun, why is it so difficult to endure? It’s interesting that so many pros among my Facebook friends before this year’s Con seemed to look forward to it with a certain dread.
    (8) Re: Twilighters. Why do the Old Guard of Con attendees dislike them? Fanboy misogyny, maybe?
    (9) Re: Indies. We have also seen that indie comics people are drifting away from the New York Comic Con, which is too big, expensive, and mainstream for their tastes. Mark Evanier has long propounded the correct theory that the San Diego Con is actually many different cons under one roof, but it would be sad if indie comics aren’t one of those cons. Since the San Diego Con sees itself as an educational enterprise promoting the art of comics, can’t they do something to help small press people attend? Then again, is the small press audience being shut out by rising expenses, too?
    Eric Reynolds’ observation that “I also noticed appreciably fewer cartoonists that I admire attending the show this year, simply due to hype surrounding the show’s sellout status, hotel occupancy, and the fact that you have to register further and further in advance.” is important. All of these factors may be scaring increasing numbers of comics creators and comics fans away from the con, even if there are plenty of Douchebags to take their place. I’ve seen one person point out that lots of people with day jobs simply can’t plan their schedules as far in advance as is now necessary to book hotels for Comic-Con.
    (10) Re: “I’m pretty sure I will never again do Comic-Con the way I did it this year. The Land of Wanders is too stressful and tiring for me. Perhaps I’ll just make a list of panels I want to attend, strategize around that goal, write it up in my room every night, and then go hang out with friends in the time left.

    Or else, I’ll find a table to sit at, get an exhibitor badge, spring for wifi in the hall and just do it that way.”
    For years I’ve downloaded the SDCC schedule from their website weeks before the Con and planned which panels I would attend. It’s like the advice that travel guides give for visitors to Disney theme parks: with a venue this crowded, you have to plan in advance to see what you most want to see.
    I’ve enjoyed the occasions when I get to sit down and do a signing at a major con. It’s as if I’m in an island of peace and stillness amidst the tumult, and if I’m in a good location, I can flag down friends who pass by and talk to them.
    (11) Re: the future of the San Diego Con. Like you, despite everything, I’d still go to the San Diego Con–if one of my clients paid my expenses. In the years that I don’t go, it feels as if a big party is being held that everyone is attending but me. But stories about the hassles reconcile me to staying home, and feeling grateful for the big, mostly-comics cons closer to home, like the NY Comic Con and MoCCA Art Fest.
    I wonder if G4’s telecast of this year’s Lucasfilm panel is the wave of the future. I am amazed at the number of Comic-Con panels that I’ve been able to watch this year and last on YouTube because they were surreptitiously videoed by audience members. If the Con is sold out, it might as well do official webcasts of various events. The San Diego Con now attracts national attention, so this would be a good next step in broadening its audience. Moreover, virtually all the Comic-Con videos on YouTube are from movie and TV panels. If the Comic-Con did its own webcasts, maybe they’d webcast the Eisners and actual comics panels as well!
    (12) And next time I go to the San Diego Con, I had better attend and write reports on some of the comics history panels because if I don’t, it seems that nobody out of the 120,000 attendees will.

  55. Great piece, Heidi.

  56. great read. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did you hear that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Today Heidi MacDonald published her huge, comprehensive report over at the Beat, covering everything from Camp Twilight and Stan Lee to Hall H and the “20-megaton douche bomb” that has hit the con: […]

  2. […] permalink A REALLY long, but great read on the state of ComiCon: THE BEAT Blog Archive SD09: The New Invaders __________________ My blog: One Of God’s Own Prototypes. Recently played on Last FM: Also check out: […]

  3. […] Sorry…it’s just staggering on, and I wanted to link to a couple of reactions to my novella yesterday. […]

  4. […] SDCC ‘09 | Heidi MacDonald at last files her lengthy Comic-Con report, focusing largely on Elite Security and crowd control, the age-old question of “Is there any room for comics?” and what the future may hold. Tom Spurgeon zeroes in on what he considers the “core problem”: Publishers no longer know what to do with the convention. […]

  5. […] (The twilight camp out and one attendees reaction. Both images from Heidi’s Beat writeup.) […]

  6. […] SD09: The New Invaders Weekly Music Agenda Social Media Updates for 2009-08-02 Pretty in Politics: Sarah Palin vs. the Laws of Power A Month’s Worth Of Wednesdays: Wednesday Comics So Far Ranked (Now With The GD Flash!) […]

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