By Nicholas Eskey
It’s that time again. Each and every year, almost as an unceremonious wrap up for San Diego Comic-Con International, the Comic-Con Talk Back is one of the last panels to run on Sunday. Its aim is to allow convention goers one and all to address any questions or concerns that had arisen over the last four days. And heading the panel as always is the president of the Comic-con board of directors, John Rogers.
Room 23A isn’t the largest of the rooms by far, but it most certainly wasn’t the smallest. And before the panel even began, the line of people starting at the microphone located at the front of the room extended all the way to the back wall. People who just by the looks on their faces said plain as day that they had some issues to discuss. And for the most part of the panel the line stayed consistently long.
John Rogers took the center spot of the long table onstage, gave a brief introduction as to who he was and what the role of the panel was for, and then opened the microphone to those who wished to speak. The first man to speak quickly brought up the topic of the famed Hall H. For those not in the know, the convention center is designated by letters to show different sections; A through H. Though A through G is set apart for the lower sales pavilion, the entirety of H is set apart for high profile, high traffic, Hollywoodish panels. This year, the likes of Warner Brothers were showing their upcoming works – the Supernatural television show and Lionsgate Films filled every seat.
In fact, most of the questions and concerns that were raised at the panel this year either involved issues with Hall H, inadequacy of Comic-con security, or the problems with getting Comic-con tickets through the website. For the concerns with Hall H’s long lines that seem to get longer each year, having to line up earlier and earlier to be guaranteed a spot in the hall, some resolutions were suggested.
One person mentioned a possible three tier system, where one half of the hall was reserved for those willing to pay extra, the other half for those willing to wait in line, and also a live feed that can be displayed either at the convention grounds, or on the internet. Another person suggested paying for access to a live internet feed instead. John Rogers explained that Hall H was a hard issue to approach. It would be possible to do a live feed, but it would cost money. He ended the matter with saying “We’re always trying to find ways to improve.”
On the matter of security, a few people did have some interesting accounts with security personnel. One person had issues with two separate security people telling them that their disabled son didn’t look disabled enough to issue the use of the special entrances (even though they clearly had a disabled person pass). Another person (who could only walk by aid of crutches) complained how a security person told them that if they had any complaints and wished to talk to disabled services, then they had to go walk to the desk inside of the convention.
John thoroughly apologized to those who had negative experiences with security, then explained that most of them are individuals contracted from third party companies to help patrol the convention. And if anyone in the future has issues with any such individual, take down their full name, the company they work for, and find guest services. “I’m sorry security did that. That is highly inappropriate. [When that happens] tell us who did it, and their company, so we can tell them to go home.”
In recent years as Comic-con passes have become harder to obtain (mostly because a majority sell out a year before, with online ticket purchases completely replacing the old ticket counter sales), a growing issue has arisen with Comic-con’s ticketing site. “When thousands of people are trying to access a website,” says John Roger, “problems are regrettably going to arise.”
The only real guarantee for tickets these days is if you purchase them onsite on day one of the convention center at a computer terminal. The moment tickets become available online though, the masses are scurrying to swipe them up. This causes slow load times and possible site crashes. Out of the many who try, only a lucky few get through and are able to purchase.
The president of the convention commented on how he’d rather have had a lottery system for passes, which was used recently as a method to sell returned tickets. But, as only being one vote compared to the others, they voted to keep it a first come, first serve. “But when you have so many people trying to buy at the same time on the internet, it still becomes a lottery.”
As I said, these three issues were the majority of questions and concerns. There were some other one’s that bear mentioning. Some complained about the stop and go photo traffic on the sidewalks outside of con (which John Rogers said the convention had limited to no control over the sidewalks). Some brought up the confusing arrangement of interactive zones and booths outside of the convention center (which John also commented on how they are not affiliated with Comic-con).
A few thanked John on him and the conventions organizers’ hard work at presenting a stellar convention (and also having available the awesome large convention bags with the capes attached to them). And of course there were those who seemed to be there just to hear themselves talk, with issues that ranged from the tedious to the near-deranged. One of which loudly commented on how he wasn’t allowed to sell his merchandise to other people on the sales floor, that he was “a powerful artist” and an “ex-rockstar.” Eventually he ended his rant with “I have my own solution. I’m not afraid of you. It’s coming.”
After about two hours of individuals speaking their minds, John Rogers thanked the now much thinned out audience, and said “till next year.” Though I felt a majority of the topics that were raised were either out of the convention’s hands or too soon to change overnight, there were some things raised that I felt were worth the time and effort it took for John Roger to pull from his already busy schedule. If any positive change comes from the talk back, that’s a success right there. And I do have to agree; the bags with the capes were awesome.
Find more from Nicholas at @NikolaiEskimo