Your December agenda for ECCC


ECCC Happy Holidays

Right now, you're probably enjoying the lack of Comic-Con angst in your life. We still have at least a month of reprieve from SDCC badge sale stress, and any financial maneuverings on your mind probably relate more to holiday spending and tax deductions than Con costs. And between Christmas parties, family visits and end-of-the-year work stress, Comic-Con can seem as distant as another planet.

But there are a few things to be aware of now if you're headed to Emerald City in March. The first: it's not that far away. Less than 3 months - 87 days, to be precise. So if you haven't yet dealt with hotel rooms, airfare, cosplay manufacturing and such, now's the time to do it.

Now is also the time to move in a few other areas, such as:

  • Buying single day tickets for Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Saturday's gone and not coming back, but 3 days is still a good deal. You can see the comic guests and entertainment guests so far if that sways you. Friday will sell out at some point - all of it will - so don't be lazy about this.
  • Apply to host a panel. The deadline is 8 December, so apply this week if you have special knowledge, fan passion or something else to share with the masses.
  •  Buy an ECCC holiday certificate to give your favorite nerd. Is there a better stocking stuffer/tree envelope than that?
  • Save your $$$. Depending on your Con plans for 2017, the first few months could put serious demands on your wallet between present Cons and badges and hotel room deposits for future Cons. Start saving now, and if any relatives are still asking your mom what to get you for the holidays, be very clear that you need Visa gift cards. They spend so nicely at exhibitor booths and restaurants.

2 March will be here before you know it - even if we're currently besieged with the same 8 Christmas songs on every radio station and mall sound system. Be ready.

Are you an average SD convention center attendee?


At most Cons, there's not much point in thinking about the facility around you. You hope the bathrooms are clean, the escalators work, and the rooms are easy to find as you hotfoot it from one panel to the next. That's about it.

But San Diego Comic-Con is a bit different, of course; its convention center has been the center of much drama and controversy as the possibility of its expansion - and different forms therein - hangs in the balance, throwing into question the future location of SDCC. Recently a number of proposals went down in flames but the issue is far from dead. And it's not just of interest to attendees; locals have many feelings on the expansion and who will pay for it.

Some of those calculations come down to us: how much do we spend in the fair city of San Diego, and are we worth catering to?

The convention center has focused on that spending in its new 2016 report. Alas, some people doubt its monetary authenticity. Heywood Saunders, for instance, author of the esteemed Convention Center Follies - possibly the best title that has ever existed - scoffs at the reported attendee spending. However, he also seems to be unaware of the clamor for hotel rooms, stating "People aren't staying anywhere near four nights and they never have." He also has this to say about the various California center expansions: "It is not plausible that all will succeed or any will succeed." Okay, then. I'm sure he'll enlighten us more in his sequel The Comic-Con Curmudgeon.

Here are the numbers the convention center is reporting on the "average" FY16 attendee. See if you fit the bill:

  • Lodging: 428
  • Food: 143
  • Shopping: 80
  • Local transportation: 18
  • Total: 1,179

You get the idea - these numbers are way lower than what you and I drop at SDCC. Yet even though Comic-Con is listed as the king of all convention center events, the report doesn't focus on us too much, instead exploring - yawn - medical convention attendees.

You may not be a report person, but if you are interested in our impact on San Diego - besides how magical and beautiful we make it every July - you might want to check it out. That said, I don't think our taxi and drink budgets are the biggest factor in keeping the Con in San Diego. We come, we spend, many of us definitely stay for 4 nights, and then we leave. The city could survive without our money. But they also enjoy a certain prestige in being the city of the most famous Comic-Con, and CCI has their roots there, and all in all, I just don't see the two of them breaking up with each other.

However, Heywood Saunders and his ilk have a point - convention centers are more than their biggest events. We may be a carnivorous demographic in our need to consume every meal, hotel room and Sailor Moon shirt in sight, but the San Diego Convention Center can't justify a costly expansion just for us. They haven't so far; they've spoken of attracting other events as well. But the report is still a good reminder that we are not the be all and end all of the expansion.

Should you be thinking about SDCC? Probably.

12 NOVEMBER 2016

Is your head throbbing with a post-election headache? It's been an ugly week, and many of us are facing acrimonious Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving dinners bound to feature aggressive debates. If like me, you have relatives furiously correcting each other between Holland, New York and San Francisco, the rest of 2016 may look pretty contentious too.

So here's a happier idea to contemplate: San Diego Comic-Con. Okay, the badge sale part is far from happy, but right now you can keep your eye on the prize and fantasize about all the idyllic panels and parties you'll experience next summer. You can almost feel that Ballroom 20 seat underneath you, right?

And of course - I know you know this - that means good planning. 2017 Pre-reg will take place early next year, with Open Registration not long after, and that really isn't so far away. To anchor SDCC 2017 in your mind and your future, you might want to start mapping all this out now:

1. Your buying group. Discuss your methodology and rules. Not to be all stodgy about this, but so many "groups" are people promising to be all in, while really belonging to multiple groups and shutting down as soon as someone gets them in. Think about who you can trust and start talking now about it.

2. Your safety hotel room. A lot of people have been on this for months but that doesn't mean all the rooms are snatched up. Other hotels haven't even made any rooms available yet. Start calling and Internetting around and see what you can get. And remember, this only matters if you want to stay downtown. If you're okay with staying far out, you can rely on the Early Bird sale.

3. Your back-up Con. We're facing 2 sales in a smaller timeframe, which might mean washing out might pack a tougher emotional punch. So think now about where else you might like to go if you don't get a SDCC badge. Obviously I'm an Emerald City fan but Salt Lake, Dragon Con, NYCC, Gen Con, Boston, Denver, Silicon Valley, Phoenix, and so on are all contenders. Start researching alternates now and pick one that gets you somewhat excited so your badge sale failure won't feel quite so fatal.

4. Your traveling companions. I know the SDCC cliche is a gang of friends all having fun together, but there are thousands of people who either go alone or would like to go but don't have friends that share their interests. If that's you, don't let that stop you from going to Comic-Con. It is fun by yourself and you'll meet a lot of people who feel like immediate friends. Plus a lot of people who go "together" barely see each other because they're always at different panels and events. But in the event you do want to go with someone, if only to share hotel expenses, start looking around now. Ask coworkers, long-distance friends, fellow fans, and don't feel weird about it. Expanding your social network is part of what's great about Comic-Con life.

5. Your budget. Saving money is always smart when it comes to Comic-Con; you might not get a discounted room in the hotel sale, a roommate might bail at the last second, your car might die and you need to buy a plane ticket, etc. And of course you'll always want to spend spend spend when you're there. Make a savings plan now, and if you have the kind of family members who like to be generous around the holidays, don't be afraid to ask Santa for a Comic-Con contribution.

I really do think the badge sales will come up fast. The holidays are always busy, and then there we are plotting our badge sale domination, our Hotel Day strategies, and it just accelerates from there. If you've been to SDCC before, you know that planning is the key that opens the door to a fulfilling Con. And if you haven't? Study up, kids, starting now. You've got a wild road ahead of you.

Say goodbye to ECCC Saturday badges

27 OCTOBER 2016

Did you get around to buying your Emerald City Comicon badge, slacker? I hope so, because Saturday tickets are gone and they're not coming back; they won't be sold locally around town at comic shops so if you didn't snatch up all 4 days yet, you're out of luck.

Fun fact: this is just a few days later than Saturday sold out last year. Except that sale was much earlier than this one, which means we went from Saturday selling out in a month to selling out in a week.

Nothing too surprising here. All the cool kids want to go to Emerald City Comicon. For anyone who thinks Cons are just for Hollywood fans now, this is proof that comic-oriented Cons are still a hot ticket. If you're thirsty for comic book talent, fun and offbeat panels, incredible cosplay and great events, ECCC is your jam.

That's not to say you don't get great entertainment guests too at Emerald City, because you do. I just returned from Halloween Horror Nights where no one I talked to had heard of ECCC (I had to discuss my 4-day ticket, what can I say.) Some of the people I talked to - people who love Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad - seemed skeptical that a Con in Seattle could attract any actors they'd want to see.

Wrong! Big stars from big shows and movies regularly offer themselves up to hungry fans at ECCC. So if you're thinking should I go for 3 days, is it worth it, I don't know - yes, it is. And don't think having a Saturday gap ruins anything. You will have plenty to do.

Look at it this way - thousands of fans who feverishly buy up ECCC tickets faster and faster every year can't be wrong. So pounce on those remaining tickets if you want them.

Your strategy for buying ECCC single day tickets

19 OCTOBER 2016

As the sun sets on the first day of the Emerald City Comicon ticket sale, all single day tickets are still available. You may hear a lot of histrionics about how "ECCC sold out in 10 minutes!" But it isn't true.

What actually happened is that the 4-day tickets - where you get a complete set for a slightly lower price than you'd pay for each day separately - sold out. And it was in about 20 minutes. You can still buy a complete ECCC experience by buying the single day tickets.

I realize that if you missed out on a 4-day ticket, you may be slightly grumpy about paying 40 dollars more. Or maybe your finances are very precarious, and that 40 dollars represents something vital to you. Either way, remember this; you don't have to buy all 4 days.

Thursday is a half day and will focus mostly on comics. It's also your chance to shop on the showroom floor while the booths are at their fullest state. But if you skip Thursday, is it really going to ruin your weekend?

Friday and Saturday are of course the days that traditionally have major celebrities and panels. If those are important to you, buy those days now - they'll be the first to sell out. You can decide on Sunday and Thursday later.

Sunday usually has good offerings at ECCC. But if you party it up on the preceding nights, you may just wind up sleeping in Sunday anyhow. Maybe your flight leaves in the afternoon. Maybe you spend Sunday catching up with friends. Unless you know you absolutely cannot miss Sunday - skip it for now.

And don't forget, you out-of-towners, that the area has beautiful hiking to offer and lots of worthwhile day trips. If you've never been to Seattle before, don't let ECCC be all you see of it - take some time off and go explore.

I'm sure there are some disgruntled nerds out there today, lamenting their inability to get their hands on a 4-day ticket. But it's not the end of the world, even if you can't or won't pay extra for a complete set of single day tickets.

Welcome to the Emerald City Comicon sale

19 OCTOBER 2016


I feel compelled to put this in historical context:

Last year 4-day badges sold out in 50 minutes. Celebrity tickets went a few hours after that and Special Access a few hours after that. Since they abolished those VIP levels and made 4-day the top tier, that means what took most of the day last year took 20 minutes this year.

Unless of course they made mostly single day badges available. Which is possible, but I don't see why they would radically reduce the number of 4-day tickets.

Now we just have to see how fast Saturday sells out. Last year it took a month. The year before that, multiple months. But people are already buying up all of the single days right now.


4-day passes just sold out. Entirely. Single day tickets are available so please get yours now if you want to make all 4 days of this Con.


The queue has barely a wait at all. So yes, anyone who really wants an ECCC ticket is going to get one today - if they're on top of it.


Just a note on the hotels - if you're not seeing the days you want (like Weds) don't freak out. It's possible more days will be added later, which happened last year.


And I've already gotten 1 "ECCC is turning into SDCC" gripe-text. Nah, not really. This is eating ice cream on the beach while serenaded by angels compared to an SDCC badge or hotel sale.


So I spent about 2 minutes in queue before getting in on the first one, and 4 minutes on the second, experimental one. I know this is frustrating, but the 4-day tickets are still available and if you're in queue right now, I'm sure you'll be fine.


It took me 3 minutes to even get into queue. 5 minutes on my other laptop. Anyone else?

11:31 am

Just a half hour till the sale goes live. At this point you should have your credit card in hand, your hotel already booked, and your dreams of hanging out with Carrie Fisher and Chewbacca firmly in place.

I'm really hoping today doesn't bring any snarly surprises. Yes, ECCC tickets have gone faster and faster every year. This could be the year that all 4 days - both packaged and separately - sell out in a snap. But last year all 4 single day badges were available for about a month, so there's probably no need to worry this year.

That said, I'm sure we'll set a new record this year. 

Emerald City hotels are live

19 OCTOBER 2016

And they're already going fast, so grab yours now.

Tomorrow is the ECCC sale. Are you ready?

18 OCTOBER 2016

Remember when the ECCC team said their ticket sale would be in mid to late October and it sounded so far away? Now it's tomorrow. Are you ready?

This sale isn't a complex web of navigational tactics, unlike other Comic-Con badge sales, but there are still a few basic rules to follow:

1) Don't wait. Be ready a few minutes before noon PST when it goes live.

2) Have your money ready. You're allowed to buy 16 tickets, 4 of each type, so that could equal a fair amount of credit card space.

3) Carve some time out of your schedule in case you get stuck in the queue. The days of completing your transaction in 83 seconds are over, unless you get super lucky. I wouldn't advise trying to pull this off while you're on a conference call or surreptitiously using your phone at your retail job.

4) Don't freak out if you get stuck in the queue. You'll get your tickets, most likely.

5) Keep your eyes peeled for hotel news, which ECCC has been close-mouthed about so far. If you remember last year, when a dozen things went live all at once, they seem to have adopted a different (and calmer) course this year.

I'll be live-blogging the sale, but hopefully nothing too dramatic happens. See you tomorrow, companeros.

Emerald City Comicon Sale Countdown

9 OCTOBER 2016

Do you know what a week from Wednesday is? One of the most important dates of the year for any comic book nerd with a dream of Seattle in their heart, that's what. Emerald City Comicon tickets are finally going on sale on 19 October, noon PST.

Here's what you can do in these last days:

  • Talk to your comrades and decide how many badges you need and what kind. You can buy 4 tickets per type, 16 tickets total.
  • Have enough money on your card to cover all of that, plus any hotel deposits.
  • Find a way to block some time away from your job if you can. You might think this will be one of those easy badge sales where you click a button, snatch up your preferred ticket and check out, but last year we were put in a queue. I got in and out quickly enough, but that doesn't mean you won't spend some time in line. And trying to multi-task during a badge sale is the worst.
  • Don't stress. Even if full badges sell out immediately, you'll probably still be able to pick up all 4 days. Last year we did have a brief tech snafu where the site went down, but that wasn't on day 1 and everything recovered pretty quickly. My advice prevails: do be ready at zero hour, but don't toss and turn all night before like many of us do before SDCC Open Reg.
  • Talk yourself into going if you're still on the fence. Remember that this Con is pretty economical (full badges are just 110, hotels under 200 a night) and that ECCC offers some of the top comic book and Hollywood talent around - without the stress of SDCC. And it's in Seattle, so of course you're going to meet interesting people and dine and drink magnificently. Give yourself an early Halloween present.

And finally - sorry to cast a macabre specter over this sale - if you're an SDCC attendee, you know you can't absolutely count on going next summer. Yes, I know you have your strategies and buying group and previous volunteering to fall back on. But just in case things don't go your way for San Diego, you'll have this in your pocket.

This ECCC sale already feels a little different from previous years; we've lost their comforting Tumblr and instead have their annoyingly redesigned website. But the guests so far - Stan Lee, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Jon Bernthal, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, among others - feel both familiar and promising, and there's no reason to think that the ECCC 2017 will deviate from what we've had in the past, other than getting even better.

I'll be with you during the sale, and I'll cover any developments before then. Stay tuned.

What is the significance of Returning Registration?

5 OCTOBER 2016

In life there are tax returns, Saturn returns, and the inevitable return of your most evil ex. And even more stressful than those events is the annual return of the San Diego Comic-Con badge sale. But now we SDCC regulars who've been awaiting Pre-reg have been dubbed a return ourselves. Specifically, returning attendees who have our own badge sale called Returning Registration.

Why did they change the name from Pre-registration? Honestly, who can fathom the CCI mind. I think most of us know they've had some administrative and vendor changes. But really, Pre-reg hasn't fit as a name since the days - let's all sigh together with nostalgia - that you could buy next year's badge up in the Sails Pavilion. Since it moved online (I'm ignoring the hellish year it was in the Hyatt with that farce of a scoreboard) it's been more like Registration Part I.

Here's what we all really want to know: will the ratio of badges shift between sales? It's a bit ominous that CCI's post opens with "Out with the old, in with the new" but that isn't what concerns me. Nor do I dislike waiting until "early 2017" for the sale - I appreciate not having to endure the election and Pre-reg in the same month. However, I have a hotel booked already for SDCC 2017. Attendees who were waiting to get a badge before booking a room now have to wait another 2 months.

What I think could be tough mentally is having the 2 sales - Returning and Open - in quick succession. Open Reg will allegedly occur "shortly" after Returning. So if you come up short in the first sale, you won't have much time to come to terms with it before rolling the dice a second - and final - time.

Since we have at least 3 months of SDCC nothingness ahead of us, this might be a good time to check out other Cons. Recent conversations have taught me that more and more attendees are already doing this, either because they've gone off the SDCC madness, they're worried about not getting a badge, or they're just thirsty for new Con horizons. So remember that the ECCC sale is 19 October (and I know you want to hang out with me in Seattle) and you can think about WonderCon and Silicon Valley Comic Con and other spring events too.

Plus ca change, nerds. Be ready for Returning Reg, but try to also enjoy having a few months' reprieve from this craziness.

ECCC tickets go on sale 19 October


So we found out a few things today about Emerald City Comicon :

Oh and their site is having loading problems. Mercury retrograde or massive ticket sale interest?

I'll observe a respectable mourning period for their Tumblr later (but hey, they have Google Plus! Because that's relevant) and focus on the badge types available to you and I.

  • Kid are badges are 20
  • 4-day badges are 110
  • Thursday is 20 (half day again)
  • Friday is 40
  • Saturday is 50
  • Sunday is 40
And that's it! No line-jumping, aristocratic, extra-special VIP badge for you. All 4-day people have to mingle together, supernerds and the hoi polloi alike. Limits are 4 badge per type for a total of 16.

So what does that mean in terms of getting a badge? Well, you can't spend your way in, obviously, but I still don't think it's going to be impossible to get all 4 days. Maybe the 4 day badges will sell out immediately but you should be able to get all single days if you move reasonably fast. I'll speculate more on strategies later; for now, create a fictitious dentist appointment and block that time on your calendar so you don't get called into a meeting as happened to me last year during the ECCC sale. (I just didn't show up till I had my tickets; I know my priorities.)

They also posted some comic guests and included this macabre invitation: "Join us for Stan Lee's final ECCC appearance!" I know he's probably just hanging up his dance hall shoes, but it sounded a bit ominous. You can also apply to host a panel.

But seriously, why did ECCC kill their Tumblr?

William Shatner headlined 4 Cons this weekend


How did you spend Labor Day weekend? Pick one:
  •  DragonCon
  • Salt Lake Comic Con
  • Baltimore Comic Con
  • FaxExpo Canada
  • The Star Trek event in New York
  • PAX West
  • San Francisco Comic Con
  • Floating in your pool with a beer before you close it up for fall

If you picked the last one, you're a lazy slacker compared to William Shatner, who tweeted that he was featured at 4 of the above this weekend. How did he manage it? I have no idea - the fact that he's in his eighties makes it even more incredible - but we do know that the demand for Con talent is on the rise.

This article from Forbes examines the multiplication of events and how celebrities - even YouTube and cosplay celebrities - are compensated and the ensuing rise in ticket prices. The driving cause of this madness: us. Our insatiable thirst for these events means money to be made. Is it going to peak? Will people burn out on going to Cons, and will the oft-predicted financial crisis around 2018 have any impact on our ability to keep spending on this madness? Or is Con life becoming a quasi-permanent part of our culture like sports?

I'm not sure, but I do know that we all have an embarrassment of riches to choose from when it comes to conventions. San Diego Comic-Con may still be the pick of the litter, but there are enough consolation prizes to make sure everyone has somewhere to go. You just have to appreciate your options.

And the CCI soap opera goes on


What would we do in the SDCC off-season without lawsuits, municipal battles and feisty debates to tide us over? It's only been just over a month since San Diego Comic-Con bid us farewell, but the snide and contentious debates over its future - and finances - continue. Let's examine.

There's the petition to stop Dean Spano's Measure C for a fancy new stadium. I love how people say "Comic-Con is against it!" to bolster any argument in San Diego, as if CCI is itself a city superhero whose opinions carry moral authority. In fact, the counter argument - which says the proposed "convadium" is a great idea - also quotes CCI as saying they won't leave San Diego if it happens.

Then there's Measure D (you can suss out the difference between the 2 measures here but neither is for a contiguous expansion) authored by the indefatigable attorney Cory Briggs. You know Mr. Briggs, he's been the thorn in our convention center expansion side since the beginning. Now he's come up with the ominous-sounding "Citizens' Plan" as a way of "making sure the rules of the game are fair."

Alas, a city councilman disagrees, calling the measure "poorly written and misguided" and a "recipe for disaster" that could force SDCC to leave town. (The essay doesn't name Briggs, other than to mention "a lawyer who makes his living suing taxpayers" but it apparently drew blood as Briggs left a salty rebuttal in the comments.)  And again, CCI's opinion was held up as the voice of reason: "Comic-Con has stated in the past, and continues to believe, a contiguous, expanded convention center is one that will benefit the city best. It appears this ballot initiative does not favor that scenario."

We know.

The Haus That CCI Built

But the convention center expansion isn't the only CCI news these days. That would be - I can't even type this without laughing - "Barriohaus LLC" which is NOT a Mexican-German fusion restaurant as you might think. It's owned by CCI and it bought 2 office buildings and a warehouse for 6.3 million dollars in April 2015. Good thing CCI didn't waste any extra cash by mailing all badges directly to their attendees!

Strangely, this purchase was not announced on the Toucan blog, but was instead revealed through their recent audit. If you want to delve into all the details of the tax filings and rules for non-profits, there's quite a bit of cynical subtext in this article. Like snidely mentioning that president John Rogers' salary jumped from 64K in 2014 to 208K last year. But hey, that's not what we care about, right? We're wondering...

  • Is the new 32,000 square feet of space going to be used for the Comic-Con museum?
  • Will it relate to Comic-Con HQ?
  • Is SDCC more invested - beyond the literal - in San Diego now?
  • Will we devoted attendees be invited to the hauswarming party?

Life as an SDCC loyalist: there's always something to spectate. If you're local, you know all about this - but even if you're not, these debates could affect your Comic-Con future. More will be revealed, I'm sure.

ECCC tickets go on sale in mid-October

18 AUGUST 2016

It's coming: your next hotly anticipated badge sale.

Right now you might be prepping for DragonCon or NYCC, pining over your SDCC memories or just coming down from Boston Comic Con bliss. But today Emerald City Comicon announced their ticket sale will be held in mid-October - which means you have about 2 months to make your next Con decision.

I'm quite smitten with this Con and you can read last year's rhapsody of reasons here, as well as a brief Q&A. I'll summarize why you might want to go: you'll get to see major comic book talent (not just the same names and faces that get trotted out at major Cons, but emerging talent who are making the comics that matter), stunning cosplay and your favorite Hollywood actors - and you'll be able to see all of it without the frustrations and ginormous hotel bills of SDCC.

There was a time when I would have dissuaded non-comic nerds from attending ECCC, but that time has passed. I think this Con has a lot to offer almost everyone. So if you're looking for a fun Con in a great city - one many of your Comic Con friends will be at - consider this one.

And yes, it's pretty much a sure thing. Tickets have been selling faster and faster each year - here's a bit of history on its ticket sales - but last year all four single day badges were easy enough to get, even if the VIP and full badges went quickly. That said, there was a fair amount of whining from attendees about how they couldn't afford the minor price difference between a full badge and the collection of single day badges. So here's your reality sandwich:

  • Yes, Emerald City is a big deal these days and tickets will go fast. 
  • You have almost 2 months to save money, so there's no excuse for complaining that you can't scrape together 100.00 or whatever the full badge costs when the sale rolls around. Technically, you've had months to save up. I don't know why attendees act like these badge sales come as a surprise.
  • Hotel rooms are pretty gettable as well. Last year there was some fluctuation - hotels would appear sold out, then new rooms would be available - but overall if you acted fast, you got the hotel you wanted. 

The key word is fast. You don't need to panic; you do need to be diligent. The world in which you could yawn and stretch for a few weeks before getting around to your ECCC preparations is gone. If you're new to this Con, assume the same vigilance you would for any big Con. Watch the ECCC site and especially pay attention to their Tumblr. Be ready for Zero Hour. If you're a Seattle local and ECCC veteran who resents this new brisk pace, suck it up and be ready like the most zealous superfan. Or you might miss out.

To be very specific, here's how tickets sold out last year:

Day 1: When the sale went live, 4-day badges sold out in under an hour. Celebrity Fast Pass and Special Access sold out later that day.
Day 2: 3-day badges sold out.
For almost the entire next month: All 4 single day badges stayed available. Then Saturday sold out.

So I don't think you need to stress too much over getting a badge. I already bought my plane tickets and I know other people have too.

If you're intrigued but still on the fence about ECCC, read up on it, read my posts and get a feel for whether you'd find a home there. And don't worry that you don't know anyone else who's going; a lot of SDCC regulars will be there, you'll have plenty of fan meetups and other events to make friends at, and I and some other Con people will be holding a get-together that you are personally invited to. And of course, remember that having an Emerald City ticket in your pocket will go far in soothing any bad luck during SDCC Pre-reg.

Stay tuned.

Coming to terms with the reality of Hall H

7 AUGUST 2016

Now that we've had a few weeks for our San Diego Comic-Con experience to settle inside us, some of our perceptions have probably shifted a bit. Decisions like: how excited are we really for that new show or upcoming movie? Just how good, or mediocre, was that much-anticipated new graphic novel? How often have we returned to admire our most hard-won exclusive, or did we put it in a display case and forget about it?

(What doesn't get questioned as much: if we're going back in 2017. Most attendees just assume they should, even if they complained to no end about the lines and lotteries and raw deal they got in the Exhibit Hall. If that's you, consider going to another Con - but that's for another post, coming soon.)

Studios and the media are changing their perceptions too: namely of us and our box office power. Are we worth marketing to? How come we act so excited over Hall H trailers for movies that go on to tank at the box office? Why aren't we showing up and bringing all our friends?

Screen Crush noticed that Hall H isn't a surefire guarantee of big ticket sales and put together the above infographic to illustrate this reality. One number that's missing: the fewer than 7,000 seats in that auditorium. It seems a bit unfair to use the small number of Hall H viewers as some kind of cinematic bellweather - especially since, let's face it, we're an enthusiastic bunch who are then further hyped up just being at SDCC and will cheer for pretty much anything. You can't even count a full house as indicating a high level of interest in something, since any given panel probably contains attendees waiting for the panels that come after it.

In that light, it's kind of irritating that anyone even bothered to correlate box office draws with Hall H presence. Are attendees expected to have some kind of social media superpowers that can make every movie a hit? Regardless, it's true that the ensuing dismal performance of some Hall H movies has led some studios to back off. As Screen Crush says: "That's not exactly the sort of success that inspires movie studios to spend thousands of dollars on filmmaker accommodations and specially prepared trailers on top of all the money for booths, staff and the assorted swag Comic-Con attendees have come to expect as part of the San Diego experience." In other words, Hollywood is the date who took us to a fancy dinner and then got mad because we didn't put out.

This article also seems to think SDCC has 160,000 attendees so take its final point with a grain of salt, but here it is: a prediction that more and more studios will host their own events like Star Wars Celebration and D23. To which I say, possibly, but those events are hugely expensive compared to a Hall H panel - so no, I don't think Hall H and Hollywood are breaking up for good. And it's not like Comic-Con is the only place where TV makes a better showing than movies. It's been a few years now that everyone's noticed we're in a golden age of television and ongoing stories get better traction with social media and fan loyalty. So if Hollywood wants to boost their box office, maybe they should stop blaming poor marketing decisions and make better movies.

SDCC first-timer roundup Part II

31 JULY 2016

Another batch of stories from San Diego Comic-Con first-timers: what they thought, what they got and what they failed to get, and of course, what they're planning next.

James is another gamer who focused on the Nintendo lounge and the Warcraft panels and some local Halo tournament. His assessment was that SDCC is not for serious gamers but good for beginners and dabblers - from an official offering standpoint. From an unofficial standpoint, he went to some private gamer after-parties that he says made the trip worthwhile. I don't know if these were GamerCon-affiliated or not but apparently there is a thriving after-midnight gamer network that's where the real action happens.

Ephram says he is a serious gamer and that he had a grand time. However, he was mainly there to work with some co-creators in getting their indie comic off the ground and spent most of his time in hotel rooms and bars having discussions. Verdict on that: he doesn't know if they made any real progress or not yet but is still glad he went.

Tamara had an experience that is pretty typical; she wanted to go to SDCC for years, but didn't have friends or significant others who shared her interests, so she talked some friends and coworkers into going - and they didn't care for it, which impacted her fun. I feel like this is something that doesn't get emphasized enough, that your companions can make or break your Comic-Con experience if you insist on trying to do everything together. At any rate, she did enjoy the things she got to do on her Thursday/Sunday badge and is considering going back alone in 2017. I'm going to do a post on this, because I think too many people are afraid to do SDCC alone.

Scuffy identifies as a collector. I expected a litany of complaints about Funko, Hasbro, and their ilk, but he claims to have procured almost everything he wanted. What he did complain about: the staff and their rudeness (not clear if he meant volunteers, security, booth staff or what) and the general inefficiency, like being made to enter through inconvenient doors or being prevented from walking up to the front section of Ballroom 20 even though other attendees were allowed to walk up a minute later. This bothered him to an extent that may mean SDCC is not the right event for him.

C.H. had no expectations walking in. "It was more than I could have imagined. I've been to Rose City and some anime conventions but this was bigger and more exciting. The number of actors there was like nothing I'd ever seen. But most of it seems to happen at a distance so I went in on Thursday thinking so many things would happen and by the time we left it seemed like none of it had happened." She or he wants to go back and do it differently.

David is a comic book nerd, artist and teacher who went to SDCC in college and came back this year to pick up ideas on using comics as an educational tool. He said the education-oriented library panels were a mixed bag but he did get the inspiration and ideas he was looking for, and also met some of his comic book heroes. Unlike most people I talk to who attend after a long absence, he accepted the changes in SDCC and feels it has more to offer than ever.

Enrique is the only first-timer who mentioned finding Comic-Con romance. That was the defining experience of SDCC for him; he met a girl at a fan event and they fell in rapt attendee love. Go, Enrique. Other than that: "I was expecting more from the exclusives and the dealers. It seemed like a big swap meet. Some of the casts in panels barely said a word and that was a letdown after waiting all night to get in." He'll go back but only with his brother.

Here's what first-timers taught me this year; that you can luck into a badge and not be prepared for the logistical reality of SDCC; that high or wrong expectations often prevail, warping attendee enjoyment; that everyone wants something different from their Con (socializing, toys, panels) and it's hard to predict whether the Con will deliver up a good catch or not. Since you can't tell someone to prepare if they're not connecting to the community, it seems that the first Comic-Con is itself a sacrificial learning experience - and there's no telling if these first-timers will get a second Con to apply their knowledge.

San Diego Comic-Con 2016 by the numbers

31 JULY 2016

Visit San Diego put together an infographic about SDCC if you're curious about our spendiness and economic impact.

Other numbers that didn't make it into the infographic: 3500 registered media were in attendance, and the convention center had 230 full-time staff, 229 part-time staff and 95 temp staff working; that doesn't include partners' staff, external laborers, and of course the exhibitors and vendors. And last year we left almost 2 tons of food uneaten, which fed 3000 locals.

Always nice to know we're not just a swarm of locusts that annually descends on San Diego and devours every action figure and burrito in sight.

First-timers review SDCC

29 JULY 2016

All week I've been getting reports from first-timers (and veterans) on what they thought about San Diego Comic-Con. Overall, there is no overall, because their feelings and experiences diverged wildly. As you will see.

Jorge is only sort of a first-timer; two years ago he borrowed a friend's badge to go through the Con on Sunday. But that doesn't really count, so this was his first full-fledged Con. He went on his own while his girlfriend stayed at the hotel, so he didn't stick around at night. As a gamer, he didn't think the demos and gaming panels were that interesting and that SDCC isn't much of a gamer's destination. (He didn't do GamerCon.) But he did like "the culture" and thinks that if he goes back next year, he'll adjust his expectations to do things beyond gaming. His favorite activation was the Abigail.

Will went for work, so he experienced the backstage, back hall parts of the Con most attendees don't see. His impression: the Con is a lot of sitting around/hurry up and wait when you're there at the behest of a studio, and the fans are crazy when it comes to celebrities. He had free time on Friday to go into the Exhibit Hall and enjoyed that but thought it was too crowded; he also complained about the smell. Attendees don't like that either, Will. Despite his negative impression, he said he would be interested in attending on his own when he wasn't working.

Anonymous did just that this year; after leaving his job at a certain well-known publisher, he did the Con as a free-range attendee for the first time and loved it. "Everyone who goes to Comic-Con should have to work at a booth so they see what it's like and how rude people are." Freed from his employment shackles, he went to panels (mostly animation in Indigo on Friday) and collected Rick and Morty loot. While he mostly resented SDCC as a booth babe, he had a great time this year.

Ailie had a different story. She was one of the unfortunate few who just could not, would not and did not like San Diego Comic-Con. Top complaint was the crowds (which actually weren't nearly as bad this year) and the fact that she was only able to see about 1/3 of everything on her agenda, due to line times, panels being full, travel time, etc. She also thought the Exhibit Hall was "shabby" and "cheap" which hey, is a selling point for some of us. But fair enough: Comic-Con isn't for everyone.

Melissa came with her husband, a former D&D nerd who now is "out of the community." So they mostly came to gratify her fan thirsts, namely for iZombie, Supernatural and Wynonna Earp; she had to miss the Orphan Black panels (SDCC and Nerd HQ) but still felt satisfied. "If you know what you want to do and schedule everything around making that happen, you can see whatever you want at San Diego Comic-Con." She was also introduced to the Her Universe fashion world and liked that a lot. She intends to cosplay next year.

Justin is a Trump supporter and did not appreciate all the Trump-bashing that went on. He thinks the panelists should have kept their election feelings to themselves. What he did like: Marvel. "That was hands down what I waited for and it was worth it." He felt there wasn't much to do at night, but also came to San Diego alone which could have played into his social isolation.

Mike and Ty tried for 4 years to get badges before getting Thursday-Sunday badges. They were the most enthusiastic of the first-timers I met and loved pretty much everything they saw. Even standing in the Star Trek premiere line for six hours and getting nothing didn't dim their Comic-Com ardor. Their advice? "You have to put yourself out there and keep asking and not going home and you'll go to things not many people go to." Comic-Con: the secret menu.

That's the first batch; I'll share more later and also maybe post some of the reviews I got from 2nd and 3rd timers and older veterans. People had a lot of feelings about SDCC this year.

But back to the first-timers. As someone who celebrated #15 this year (where is my cake), it was gratifying to hear what the new arrivals thought. I do notice a drop in the this is life-changing and I am always coming back no matter what reactions I used to hear. Probably that's because SDCC involves more frustrations these days (lines, badge and hotel sales, general logistics) which tend to cloud the magic. But most everyone in my world is already talking about Pre-reg - and it's a safe best most of us will be using all the sorcery we know to go back next summer.

San Diego Comic-Con 2016: what did we think?

26 JULY 2016

For the last 3 days, my inbox has been flooded with SDCC attendee emails. Lots of the usual complaints have come in (the lines! the disorganization! the unfairness!) along with some jubilation (the toys! the trailers! the celebrity eye contact!) But what's really interested me has been a consistent theme of alienation among veteran attendees.

How did you feel about it? Did you have a good time? Did you stare out the plane/car/hotel window on Sunday night and wonder if all that money and stress was worth it? Were you one of the jaded attendees who snorted derisively when someone mentioned coming back next year? It's natural to run up and down the emotional scale during the Con. But once you're home, your feelings solidify into something like a decision: if you're going to return and how much energy you want to invest in it.

Here's what I'm hearing people say about San Diego Comic-Con 2016.

Overall: This year was duller than years past. It wasn't as exciting, didn't have as many surprises, was missing that ineffable spark that makes SDCC special. The cosplayer population seems to be shrinking, as if half of them vanished through a portal to some more colorful dimension, and the Exhibit Hall was oddly manageable most days. "Where is everyone?" was on repeat.

The Activations: Attendees are getting choosier about these. Well, sometimes after the fact. I heard a lot of complaints from people who waited hours for a 6-minute experience. All in all, the general feeling seems to recognize the need for quality over quantity.

The Lines: I eliminated excessive lines from my SDCC life years ago, so I'm relying on hearsay. I heard a mix of "Sloppy line management" complaints and "Hey, these lines aren't that bad this year." Obviously that depended on the event in question. I do think the wristbands, mocked and reviled as they are, help with Hall H. Despite the reputation of SDCC lines, I met quite a few first-timers who consistently underestimated line times and missed their panels.


The Lotteries: We endure lotteries for badges and hotels; this year we endured lotteries for the Star Trek premiere, the Conan pops, and other "giveaways." And frankly, it was a waste of time. SDCC is 5 days long. Attendees spend enough time waiting around. Maybe CCI/TPTB think an online lottery wouldn't be as exciting, but making people standing in multiple lines in the hot sun starts to look like pointless cruelty after a while. Hold a drawing with raffle tickets or online submissions and let it go.

The Exclusives: If you were hoping this was the year that vendors started being fair and equitable, you hoped foolishly. A lot of the same dynamics that bedeviled every year were back - vendors and some volunteers getting first crack at exclusives, toys being made available to everyone after being sold as exclusive, annoying drawings that got people out of bed at ungodly hours for no reason. Serious collectors, you have my sympathies but I don't see this situation improving.

The Programming: I thought it was just me being a curmudgeonly grump who'd been to too many Cons but no, a few attendees said what I was thinking: the panels were a bit humdrum this year. Some of the same topics presented by the same panelists year after year. Remedial advice that's fresh only to the greenest young fledglings. Publisher and studio panels that shared "news" every real fan already knew. I remember the days when panelists would actually prepare visuals like slideshows and present an engaging experience. Now it's more common for them to sit down and just ask the audience for questions. I'm not saying all the panels were bland - I went to 2 or 3 good ones - but it's hit or miss.

The Parties: Every party I went to this year was a hotel room party hosted by comics or publishing people. Didn't hit a single splashy event. So what do I know? Nothing firsthand, but I did observe a lack of those big ticket events attendees used to sign up for - and the more formal parties got so-so reports. This is a hard thing to rate, because some attendees will pant and wag their tails over any SDCC nightlife, but overall there seems to be a realization that many of the parties are just people standing around drinking and talking - like parties anywhere. It's not like Stan Lee flies in on a unicorn and sprinkles 2017 badges over everyone.

The Trailers: These range from blah to tantalizing every year, and I think 2016 averaged out in that regard. Luke Cage, American Gods, Wonder Woman, Skull Island, and a few others all got stellar marks. Others did not. The Walking Dead trailer thrilled everyone by offering up a CGI Shiva but also reminded them of the irritating cliffhanger.

The Comics: We got some welcome news this year, like Love and Rockets returning as an ongoing comic book, Roxane Gay writing a Black Panther companion title, Boom giving us a roller derby comic in November, Dark Horse bringing us Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood and Bait by Chuck Palahniuk. We also found out that The Watchmen/Rebirth story isn't happening tomorrow, and Robert Kirkman announced he'd changed the ending of The Walking Dead again.

Scandals and Surprises: Nothing too unforgettable here. Quite a few comic nerds were incensed over The Killing Joke's Batman-Barbara Gordon cliched sex scene and well, the entire film. A panel on Women in Film Production was hijacked by a male staffer there to control the mic. The Blair Witch Project rose up like Lazarus in what was actually a more skilled PR move than I would have expected from that team. Not everyone likes Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. Overall, it was a yawn of a year in that department, and sorely lacking from the Hyatt bar brawls and celebrities shoving security guards that we used to get. Or maybe I missed something?

As I said, I ran into many people who felt the magic wasn't there this year. And while I always remind people that Comic-Con is what you make it, I knew what they were talking about. I still like SDCC and I think it has a lot to offer. But I've been detaching from it for a while and this year I felt myself break off from it like an iceberg. I'll still be back next year, knock on wood. But it doesn't occupy the same place in me emotionally that it used to.

Maybe you're so high from Comic-Con that you can't wait to go back - and maybe you're less thrilled; either way, remember the other Cons out there (like Dragon Con, Boston and Salt Lake coming up) and think about other ways to keep the energy going. SDCC is just 5 days out of the year, after all.

I'm still collecting first-timer reports - so if you haven't gotten yours in yet, email me at