Waterfront SDCC expansion trumps off-site


Remember about 6 months back when we found out there would be a $90,000 study to analyze the pros and cons of various San Diego Convention Center expansion plans? The results are in and they are a complete non-surprise: an expanded center "needs to be on the waterfront." You don't say.

If you haven't been following this years-long saga, it boils down to this: the convention center is too small for San Diego Comic-Con and other conventions, so an expansion plan has been bandied about. Two chief debates have dominated the discourse:

1) whether to actually expand the existing center (the contiguous approach) or to embrace a "campus" approach with additional space built at other locations

2) how to finance the effort

Interested parties include real estate developers, the San Diego Chargers, local hotels, a tenacious attorney named Cory Briggs, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the California Coastal Commission and others. It's all quite the lesson in how exhausting municipal politics can get. Everyone's pushing their own agenda, with arguments over hotel taxes and water views and the spoils of tourism.

So to break down the latest developments:

  • The study is "unequivocal in its conclusion that an enlarged center on the current bayfront site easily trumps a campus-like facility several blocks to the northeast when it comes to the dividends the city will reap." Easily trumps is a great phrase.
  • The mayor said the report "is persuasive enough that he plans to begin work anew on a bayfront expansion project, with a goal of putting on the ballot a hotel tax increase to finance it as early as next year." Yep, we're sticking with the hotel tax plan. The current litigation over the former hotel tax financing plan "may well be resolved within the next six months."
  • The indefatigable Cory Briggs, who is behind said litigation, has a different take. He "promises continued legal challenges as long as the city attempts to develop the waterfront with added convention facilities." And he predicted smugly (well, the article doesn't say that but I'm interpreting) that his current lawsuits "could take as long as five years to resolve." He then added villainously (more interpretation), "There's no way they can get a two-thirds vote in this town." How very Gotham City of you, Cory Briggs.
  • The campus approach would deliver $61.2 million more in conventioneer spending but the waterfront expansion would deliver 2.5 times that; the city would make back the $428 million cost of the campus approach in 7 years, but would only take 3 years to make back the $410 million cost of the waterfront expansion.

Here's what I took out of all of this: 1) I'm really glad I disappointed my parents by not going to law school because oh my god tedious and 2) I'll probably be too arthritic/deceased/off-planet to go to San Diego Comic-Con by the time this all gets resolved. Maybe this will impact our actual SDCC lives someday but that day won't come any time soon.

So much for those tantalizing proposals of a rooftop park and footbridge. Oh well, we still have the Salt Lake Comic Con lawsuit to keep us entertained. At least that court battle is staying feisty and moving at a somewhat reasonable pace.

Alamo City Comic Con documentary opens tonight

31 AUGUST 2015

Do you live in Austin or San Antonio? If so, you might want to clear your schedule tonight and head to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to see Syfytonians, a documentary about San Antonio's comic book/nerd culture and the swift rise of Alamo City Comic Con.

ACCC (11-13 September) does not get a lot of attention in the larger Con world. So here are a few facts about this Comic Con:

  • Born in 2013, it welcomed 35,000 attendees its first year and 73,000 last year. That loosely puts it in the same ballpark as more high-profile Cons like ECCC and Phoenix Comicon.
  • It has Hollywood guests (like Michael Rooker, Kristian Nairn, Ming Wa Nen, Stan Lee and Jon Bernthal) along with wrestlers and cosplayers.
  • That said, founder Alfredo "Apple" De La Fuente, who's worked for DC Comics, keeps a strong focus on comic books. In fact, every VIP package contains a piece of artwork.

In other words, it's not surprising that someone made a documentary about ACCC. That someone is Alejandro Cabrera, an ACCC attendee who looks at both the local comic book subculture and how Alamo City Comic Con has fostered a community.

Is this interesting to non-Texas nerds? I'd say yes. Not to get all Jane Goodall, but the rise of Comic Con popularity - not just SDCC and New York but the general global spread - says a lot about our social and emotional direction in the 21st century. Comic Cons are booming in Moscow, Brisbane, New Delhi, Shanghai. It's not just the mainstreaming of superheroes and nerd life, it's not just a few thousand superfans dressing up. A persistent and widespread hunger is driving the growth of Cons, which means people are finding something in them that they're not getting anywhere else.  So any film or book that examines that phenomenon should impart at least a few insights.

This particular documentary premieres tonight - but if you aren't anywhere near Texas, you'll be able to catch it online in September.

I'll be attending ACCC weekend after next, so stay tuned for more coverage and interviews. And if you're thinking of going yourself, tickets are on sale online until 4 September.

Picking your ECCC hotel room

26 AUGUST 2015

A year ago tomorrow, I booked my hotel room for Emerald City 2015. So far the ECCC site doesn't have much in the way of hotel information for 2016, but given that the badge sale is only a month away, it doesn't hurt to start thinking about where you might want to stay. Especially if this will be your first Emerald City Comicon and you're not familiar with the area.

So in the interest of being prepared, I'm providing the link to last year's ECCC hotel selection. This will give you an idea of what's available and where the hotels are. Be aware that Group Travel Associates isn't handling hotels for Emerald City this year, so they can't book any rooms for you. And while you're welcome to call the hotels listed, you'll probably pay more than if you go through the official hotel block of rooms.

In other words, you may as well wait a few weeks until ECCC posts the 2016 hotel page. No, this isn't crazy like an SDCC hotel sale. You'll probably get the room of your choosing if you act reasonably fast. You don't have to rush but I wouldn't let months go by either.

I'll post more on the badge sale and hotels when I have it.

ECCC sale will be in late September

25 AUGUST 2016

For those of you obsessively monitoring Emerald City Comicon for news of their badge sale, they just eeked out the teensiest bit of information: the sale will happen in late September. Give us a date, ECCC.

So. Late September. Not early September, like last year. And we still don't know if the badge structure will be the same as last year's or if they'll bring back the original VIP or launch something totally different. Nor do we know if the additional day of ECCC splendor will bump up prices. I imagine it would.

I'll be posting on ECCC hotels tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Is New York Super Week a model for SDCC?

24 AUGUST 2015

New York Super Week details have been announced; it's all very tantalizing, with X-Files trivia games, a special Body Worlds event, film fests, Star Wars Rebels previews, karaoke, speed dating, comedy shows, DJ sets and so on. The crown jewel is still The Walking Dead premiering in Madison Square Garden, but the range of events should mean that most everyone finds something like they like.

I was in NY this morning when the announcement dropped, and immediately got an email and a text asking essentially, Why can't SDCC do this? Translated as: Super Week and NYCC involve separate tickets/badges - and that's a model that appeals to people who think that if they can't get a SDCC badge, they can still buy into a citywide experience of pop culture events.

Here's why I don't see that working for SDCC. Obviously everyone wants to "fix" San Diego Comic-Con; they want a magical solution so that everyone who wants a badge can get one, can stay in a downtown hotel, only waits an hour or two in line. And indeed some attendees have come up with creative ideas like on the Friends of Comic Con forum. But there are some physical limitations that no ingenuity is going to alter.

New York, for instance, is huge. It can absorb a much larger number of people than San Diego can while still offering a navigable experience within a defined area. CCI creating a larger free-range event like ReedPOP created Super Week simply won't work the same way. We already have a glut of unbadged visitors who come down just to experience the area, and they take up parking and hotels that badged attendees are fighting for. Creating a Super Week-type event would just draw even more visitors into an area that is bursting at the seams, even if it was limited to the days before or after the Con. That doesn't even broach the question of venue space.

While SDCC is indeed spreading into the city, it's still officially one event with the same number of badges. Gam3rCon and Nerd HQ are separate from SDCC - and Nerd HQ Conversation tickets are as competitive as anything SDCC offers. Even if CCI could organize a looser umbrella of events (which I don't see them doing, given their existing change management challenges) we'd still have to grapple with space limitations.

So no, I don't think the Super Week model would work that well in SDCC. What I might see working is a second San Diego event if marketed properly. Phoenix and Salt Lake have already gone to twice-a-year models, and SDCC could bank on its own branding to make a smaller winter event popular. They could market it as old-school SDCC, with a heavy focus on comic books and quintessential nerdiness, or they could go full-on Hollywood, given that many summer blockbusters start releasing in May. Yes, we have WonderCon but it doesn't have the glittering reputation that could attract SDCC badge sale washouts, who tend to stubbornly insist on San Diego or nothing. Branding is powerful. True, CCI has trademarked Los Angeles Comic-Con and some people are theorizing that WonderCon 2016 will be a way of testing the LA waters. But if we know anything, it's that attendees love San Diego. Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's the Gaslamp, maybe it's the overcast mornings that turn into sunny days that turn into perfect nights. For whatever reason, most attendees see San Diego as where the magic happens, which is why a second CCI event there, even a smaller one, could be a draw.

Let me be clear, I don't think any of this will happen. I just think it would be a more suitable option than trying to create a San Diego Super Week during SDCC, which so many attendees seem to view as a possibility.

Comic-Con art show closes 6 September

24 AUGUST 2015

You may recall that CCI has organized an "Art of Comic-Con" gallery show at the San Diego Central Library. Over 46 years of original SDCC art is on display, including works from artists like Bill Sienkiewicz, Jim Lee, Frank Miller, Gilbert Hernandez, Rick Gear, Colleen Coover, Michael Cho and other comic luminaries.

In the words of CCI, "the exhibition traces the history of Comic-Con through art and provides a sneak peek into the evolving process of creating comic art. Vistors will have the opportunity to see process drawings in a variety of mediums that were used in souvenir and program books for Comic-Con, WonderCon and APE."

The show has been extended an extra week, so you have until Sunday, 6 September, to catch it if you missed it during the Con. Or maybe you want to swing back a second time and relive some of that SDCC energy before summer is officially over.

It's Pro Badge season - are you a pro?

19 AUGUST 2015

Here's something to do over the next 2.3 months; ask CCI to give you a San Diego Comic-Con professional badge. That's right, Professional Applications are open.

Remember, this isn't registration - that comes later. This is the stage where you either apply as a first-time professional or reconfirm your status. You'll need 3 sources of verification, including one from the last 3 years, and a fair amount of either achievement or luck. If you do get blessed by CCI's panel of judges, you'll register for your badge and any guest badges in the spring.

So let's talk about who counts as a professional, because it's gotten more stringent in recent years.

Creative Pro

These are professionals who "take an active role in the creation, design, writing, editing or production of comics, animation, films, books, video games or toys." Also "those responsible for the content of websites that promote the historic or ongoing contribution of comics to art or society." Yes, that all seems very stretchy, but don't think you can slip in with a few flimsy credentials to your name. Those days are over.

Trade Pro

These would be the agents, managers, publicists, sales reps and biz dev executives of the world, who "need to attend the convention for business reasons." No support staff allowed - well, that's what they say, but I say it depends who you work for. Some people are just too important to travel without their minions.

So realistically, how hard is it to get a pro badge? Harder than it used to be. I won't torture you with tales of the years when even a homejob blog shakier than this one could get you into the Con - but it did used to be a lot easier, which some disgruntled creatives and suits are still grumbling about. I had a rather demoralizing call with an agent right after I got home from SDCC this summer, and she listed several reasonably established writers who couldn't get pro badges. Hence these cold words from CCI: "Not all applicants who meet the guidelines can be accommodated."

And if you're curious how many will be accommodated, they claim "over 13,000 complimentary badges" are given to professionals and their guests. Which isn't really that many. But that's not to discourage you from applying; if you fit the definitions, go ahead and throw your hat in the ring. It can't hurt.

The deadline is 31 October. Happy Halloween to you.

SDCC doubles down on their Salt Lake lawsuit

16 AUGUST 2015

Maybe they've quadrupled down at this point. I've lost track. At any rate, after Salt Lake Comic Con crowed about its trademark victory last month, CCI is seeking to nullify that trademark with "administrative action" and block them from a logo trademark. But don't expect to see a resolution any time soon; the pretrial conference has been scheduled for 3 October 2016, at which time the actual trial will be scheduled. To put that in our terms, we may have gone through Pre-reg and even Open Registration for 2017 by the time they duke it out in court.

A settlement is still possible; both camps have until 11 August 2016 to submit their final offers. What those offers might look like is a mystery, but we do know that CCI has suggested SLCC just stick to calling itself FanX, the name of its other event. But let's be real; besides the fact that FanX sounds like a porn channel or over the counter medication, it lacks the crucial Con branding that virtually every other event uses for marketing. BookCon, PlumberCon, Cat-Con; there's no way a ginormous pop culture convention is going to relinquish that crucial syllable.

On the other side, Salt Lake hoped to have a "bromance" - that's their word, not mine, just typing it made me shudder - with CCI as recently as earlier this year but apparently that's off the table. I could have told you that, SLCC organizers! CCI is unflinching. This was never going to end with a hug.

Friday night I saw Best of Enemies, which is a powerful testament to how destructive - and ludicrous - a grudge can be after a certain point. While SDCC vs. SLCC is obviously a very different situation, it does make me wonder who's really going to benefit in the end. It's hard to imagine SLCC actually being forced to drop "Comic Con" (or accepting that decision) in a world where so many other events have the same name; and it's hard to imagine what CCI thinks it's protecting. They're already the apex Comic Con. No other Con is as famous or in demand. Even if half the current Member ID holders decamped for SLCC, there'd still be more people clamoring for badges than SDCC could handle. Yes, other Cons are growing fast but San Diego is still the #1 dream for most attendees. I don't see that changing soon.

Maybe this will all get hashed out in court and we'll learn about additional details that are driving CCI to press on. Or maybe it's exactly what we've been told. Either way, it sounds like we'll have to wait a long time to find out.

And you thought SDCC was expensive

14 AUGUST 2015

Today kicks off D23 Expo, the famed Disney celebration that has caught the nerd world's eye this year for its inclusion of Star Wars and Marvel doings. I almost went; today's press has convinced me it would have been a fool's errand, that I would have been hopelessly outclassed by Disney veterans who understand all the tricks that a noob like me is hopelessly ignorant about. What time/day to get in line. What kind of membership is needed to ensure success. How to buy specific collectibles. How to get into certain panels. You know, like San Diego Comic-Con.

Except NOT, because of this: "At 9 a.m., the VIP Sorcerer members, those who paid $2,000 for primary access and shopping opportunities, were let onto the showroom floor. The room was buzzing with excitement and a sense of anxiety as guests wondered if their long hours of waiting would get them the limited items."

Wait, what? $2,000 for "primary access and shopping?" Comic conventions look like the Family Dollar Store in comparison. That's incredible. Even VIP Con packages tend to range from $300-500.

But attendees think it's worth it; Sorcerer members got early access to buy exclusives, front-row access to any panel, exhibit tours, snacks and a 20-minute massage voucher. One guy even put it in SDCC terms: "I'm a San Diego native, so I know how Comic-Cons get crazy. But Disney provides a hassle-free way of dealing with the lines and crowd. It's a better deal."

Better except for the people who can't pony up 2K, of course. Anyway, if you have your eye on the next Expo in 2017 - and who knows, Disney could own 2/3 of Hollywood by then - the Sorcerer's package has been bumped up $500 each convention and there are supposedly about 300 memberships available. So save your pennies or skip your next 10 Comic Cons.

Otherwise D23 looks a lot like your typical Con:
  • Some attendees "are frustrated knowing some people are only buying souvenirs to scalp later."
  • But others felt like their line BFFs made the weekend more magical. "She said it was the relationships she has formed in line with people she had never met before that are making it worth it."
  • Rumors and possible misinformation fuel everyone's agenda: "We don't know if we'll get the dolls, it's rumored 50 or 100 dolls will be given out today."
  • Which in turns fuels odd hours and sacrificed sleep: "I'm going to be here at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning to make sure I get those dolls." 
  • There was an "exclusive preview sale Thursday night." 
  • And of course people were camped out with blankets and coolers a day in advance - the non-Sorcerers, I'm guessing. One difference: at 10 p.m. they were allowed to go in and sleep on the floor of the convention center. How generous. 

Fandom: why is it so intense? Is it because religious people and sports fans get to go to services and games on a regular basis, while we mostly bottle up our passions with just 1 or 2 outlets a year? I don't know. But it does seem that people like not just convention content but the pursuit of it - the drama, the determination, the conquest. Or as an SDCC first-timer said to me this summer, "We want to do Hall H next year. Camping out looks fun."

As someone who will (almost) always choose a hotel bed over a sleeping bag, I don't understand that attitude at all - but it's possible soft attendees like me are being winnowed out of the Con game, a Darwinian selection where only the hardest of hardcore fans succeed at these events. It'll be interesting to see if the next Expo involves longer lines and higher-priced memberships. Maybe it won't. But it's clear that given the demands these events place on attendees, you have to be a very serious fan indeed to make it worth it.

Enter The Walking Dead season 6 sweepstakes

13 AUGUST 2015

Are you still on the fence about NYCC? Are you vacillating between "Maybe I should save the money" and "No, I definitely should go" and "I'll see what my schedule looks like" even as summer keeps passing and you need to make a decision? Maybe that's just me.

Well, this could sway you; The Walking Dead's season premiere will debut on 9 October, Friday night at Madison Square Garden as part of New York Comic Con Super Week. Exciting! Except of course that even the great capacious MSG can't contain the horde of fans desperately wishing to attend - so there's a sweepstakes.

Enter now; 10 winners are selected daily. Remember, this isn't being held in a movie theatre like an SDCC premiere but in Madison Square Garden. So your chances are kind of decent? It's hard to say, really. Radio stations and cable affiliates will also be giving away tickets, so if you really want to go, make this the new Comic-Con rabbit you're chasing.

Because this is what's nice about New York Comic Con and the creation of Super Week; even after badges/tickets sell out, there are so many events and activities on the docket that you can find some way to participate. Whether that's worth traveling for or not is your call.

D23 tickets are still available

10 AUGUST 2015

What are you doing this weekend? If you're looking to escape your "humdrum life" - which is how the San Diego Union-Tribune describes your existence - then you may want to head to Anaheim on 14-16 August for a celebration of all things Disney.

D23 Expo, expected to be "the largest Disney fan event in history" this year, will be at the Anaheim Convention Center, with performances, panels, movie previews, special guests, vendors and of course cosplay. Tickets are $74 for one day and $216 for all 3 days.

Why would this appeal to SDCC and Con attendees? Well, there's a crossover fanbase in general; but Star Wars and Avengers are expected to play a significant role as well. If you missed SDCC and are staring down the end of summer with a jangling, unsatisfied feeling in your nerd heart, this is an option - and it might be nerdier than you anticipated.

Why I have a crush on Emerald City Comicon

6 AUGUST 2015

It's that time of year when thou mayst in me behold my love for Emerald City Comicon. Yes, I know we're more than half a year away from it actually happening. But we're only mere weeks - maybe slightly longer - away from its badge sale, and last year proved that you will want to be on top of that sale like the most grimly determined SDCC combatant ever.

I say that because the Delux badges sold out in under 3 minutes last year. I got one and so did other SDCC attendees I know - and while I don't have the stats to back this up, I'm betting that our training and ride or die intensity is what helped us beat out the more laidback ECCC attendees who rolled in minutes or hours later. Not that it's a competition! They're both great Cons.

But of course it is a competition when it comes to getting the badge you want - so I'm sounding the bell now to get prepared if you're entertaining thoughts of Seattle next April.

Why you might want to go to Emerald City

  • You're a comic book fan. This convention is a Valentine wrapped in a faded Silver Age issue wrapped in an indie artist's sketch wrapped in the bag and board of your most treasured comic book. But don't worry - there's decent Hollywood talent and gaming and an entire cult of cosplay there as well.

  • It's manageable and comfortable in a way that SDCC can never be again. Yes, there are some lines and yes, the badge sales will probably become consecutively worse. But right now it's fairly easy to book the hotel of your choosing, get a badge and walk into the panel you want. That said, don't be lazy. You will need to move fast this year.

  • The ECCC team is dedicated to attendee satisfaction.  Their social presence is attentive and positive and they genuinely care about fan opinions and input. Witness the survey many of us got from them today. When asking for possible improvements, one of the choices was "entertainment while waiting in line." Can you imagine SDCC even thinking of that? Or sending out a survey or asking our opinions at all?

  • They're committed to retaining their friendly community feel while offering the excitement and versatility of a bigger Con. This is no easy feat; I'll say here that for all my snark, I do recognize the challenges that come with organizing such a major event. I get it. CCI probably does many heroic things behind the scenes that we attendees will never hear about. But that just makes it even more impressive that ECCC is willing to go to strenuous new lengths to keep us happy. Today's survey asked if we'd be interested in more outside activations around the city, more cosplay features like contests & photo booths, more ticketed and free events, special artist and writer workshops, more gaming, etc.

  • They were bought by ReedPOP but seem to be adhering to their promise to keep their distinct feel. I'm sure next year will be different. Maybe we'll see it as soon as the badge sale. But I have faith in organizer Jim Demonakos and so far it seems like ECCC is keeping its special personality rather than morphing into a generic Con.

  • You might not get a badge to SDCC. This is a stellar backup choice. And you can sell your badge off to anyone if you change your mind; ECCC doesn't mind.

  • You want a Comicon with a progressive energy that offers content friendly to LGBTQ and diversity issues. Gender-neutral restrooms, Cosplay is Not Consent posters, after-hours events for people of every persuasion - possibly even Otherkin - it's all here.

  • You want to see indie creators, small presses and an Artist's Alley that is truly a bazaar of creative originality.  You want to see the rising stars, writers and artists who are working for Boom and Image and IDW and others and injecting a new color and vitality into the comics industry. They're here too. 

Okay, enough of the hard sell. I really don't have a horse in this race; I just think ECCC is an incredible Con and a great and often overlooked option for people myopically focused on SDCC.

Last year's badge sale was in September. I have no idea when this year's will be but given that we're sailing through August, it's a good time to look into this Con and decide if you'd like to go. Please get over the "San Diego Comic-Con or nothing" chip on your shoulder if you have one. ECCC and other Cons are not the participation trophy of conventions. They're exciting, they offer prestigious talent and they can be a better time than SDCC depending on your interests.

I'll post more on the badge sale when it's announced.

ETA:  Which according to Transmute Jun will be definitely in September, per ECCC's Tumblr. Actual quote: "We’ll be posting more info later this month, but you can expect ECCC 2016 tickets to go on sale in September." So it sounds like we'll know more fairly soon.

Pre-reg will be in November

5 AUGUST 2015

If a month ago today you had pre-Comic-Con butterflies in your stomach, you should have gotten an email just a short while ago telling you to validate yourself for Pre-registration. This is for 2015 attendees only; not pros, not vendors, not guests, not people who stood outside and looked longingly at the convention center. Just those of us with a 2015 attendee badge.

I'll get to the process in a minute. Here's what matters: the deadline. Which is 15 September 2015.

Last year's window between validation and Pre-reg, if you're curious, was this: the validation deadline was 15 October and Pre-reg was 8 November. But that doesn't mean we'll have an October Pre-registration; it will be after Halloween per CCI. So, same timeframe as last year. A day of victory, loss and heart-racing anxiety in an otherwise blah month.

Onto the validation process. You'll log into your Member ID account, select "Registration Info" and then click the button telling you to validate your badge. You'll enter the number at the bottom of your badge. Then the system will give you a "successful validation" message and you'll close out of the system with a false sense of optimism and accomplishment.

Pre-reg is coming! Though not for a while.

Pre-registration and validating your badge

31 JULY 2015

CCI's Toucan blog announced something we already knew/guessed; the number at the bottom of your badge is critical for Pre-registration. And there's going to be another "window of validation."

For those of you who went to SDCC for the first time this summer, and thus are embarking on your first Pre-registration ever, here's how this works.

You'll get an email notifying you that you have a certain period in which to log into the system and "validate" your Member ID for Pre-registration. You'll do this by entering your badge number. Here's the email from last year:

As for Pre-registration, that functions as a lottery much like the Open Registration you took part in earlier this year. Only 2015 attendees can participate, but only a portion of badges are available. So yes, it increases your odds of going in 2016 but it's nothing to feel overly confident about since the demand still outweighs the supply.

I know everyone is all about the when of Pre-reg; it's tempting to read into this announcement as a hint that validation and the subsequent actual sale could happen earlier this year. Last year was November and the year before was February, though that delay was due to a new system being tested.

I'd say it's highly possible that Pre-reg could happen earlier this year since CCI seems fairly settled on the process. But if you're frantically trying to set up a buying group now, I'd wait. Things can shift quickly in terms of peoples' priorities. Once the official validation window hits, you can start making arrangements then.

Finally, if you lost your badge or an absent-minded roommate tossed it, I'd contact CCI now and throw yourself on their mercy. They may or may not help you out by looking up your badge number but it's worth a shot.

Overall, it's rather incredible to feel this far out from the Con and be thinking of Pre-reg when we're still in (okay, the last minutes of) July. Although - please indulge my old-timer's reminiscence - it wasn't that long ago when we all pre-registered onsite in the Sails Pavilion and never thought about SDCC again until hotel reservations opened up. It's the year-round pervasiveness of Comic-Con that's different these last few years.

Another hotel option for SDCC 2016

30 JULY 2015

If the brief flurry of excitement over Hotel Z this week got you thinking about next summer, here's another option you may want to keep in mind. That would be the Pendry San Diego, a massive hotel that's going to rise up on 5th Ave, J Street and 6th Ave and no doubt play a role in the future 120,000 future hotel nights allotted to SDCC.

When you were at Comic-Con a few weeks ago, did you walk by what looked like a mass grave site or archeological dig in the middle of the Gaslamp? That would be the womb of the future Pendry. So here's what we know about our newest SDCC hotel option.

Rooms: 317, including 36 suites.

Hotel Motto: Know Thyself.

Amenities: A rooftop pool, 2 restaurants, an "ultra-lounge," a spa and "energizing fitness facility." Also a beer hall, which sounds as if it will feature dime-a-dance girls from the 1930s. Oh, and there will be 22,000 square feet of meeting space so you know CCI is eyeing this place for future panels.

Branding: Pretentious. Pendry was raised on the confidence that service doesn't have to be sacrificed for edifice, because somewhere along the way, your experience has occasioned you to expect both. I'm not sure what this means but I do know it doesn't apply to Comic-Con attendees.

Opening Date: Ah, here's the rub. Summer or fall 2016. So it could be open for Comic-Con 2016 - but maybe not. No doubt the developers are probably anxious to accelerate and collect all that sweet SDCC revenue. But construction is always such an iffy business, so who knows?

Travel Planners Status: If the opening date is still murky by February/March, that suggests that Pendry will not be part of Hotel Day. And thus could be up for grabs for those of you desperate and diligent enough to stalk its very first reservations.

I'll post more when I have a firmer opening date forecast. For now, add this to your playbook of San Diego Comic-Con strategies if you're looking outside the system for housing next summer. Maybe it will be available, maybe not - but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Now everyone's trademarking everything

28 JULY 2015

You clearly didn't get enough trademark legalese served up to you over the weekend regarding San Diego Comic-Con vs Salt Lake Comic Con - so here's more.

Bleeding Cool reports that various other Cons are trying to trademark their names, specifically Boston Comic Con, Rhode Island Comic Con and Kansas Comic Con. (Nary a hyphen to be found, you'll note.) And that Grand Rapids Comic Con actually quit trying for a trademark after being rebuffed by the trademark office with a complicated statement that began, "In the case of Comic-Con, applicant has merely added geographically descriptive wording to a registered trademark. Adding a term to a registered mark generally does not obviate the similarity between the compared marks..."

Et cetera.

I skipped on over to Salt Lake's exhaustive page about the whole subject and found some interesting claims. Such as:

- "Comic Con" has been a "common expression since 1964," years before San Diego Comic-Con was born. Really? I'm sure they have sources for this, but that's definitely news to me. That means the characters on Mad Men could have gone to Comic Con.

- Wait, yes, they even have a newspaper illustration that says "Attend the 1967 Houston Comic-Con June 16-18!!" This is real. SDCC is not the Lucy fossil of comic conventions.

- Just to drive that home: "San Diego wasn't the first comic con. According to the history books, comic cons originated in New York and the United Kingdom at least 6 years before the first San Diego event."

Salt Lake also dug in by posting Alexa scores and some weirdness about SDCC adding 500,000 Facebook fans from Mexico City. And they included one of my favorite articles about SDCC, which goes beyond panting over celebrities and addresses the actual Con itself.

My point being: it's worth visiting their page and looking through all their historical documentation. Even if you're growing bored with this lawsuit, it's generally interesting stuff. Again, I would love to point people to SDCC's "side" of this for the sake of fairness - but there's nowhere to point.

Which is kind of what makes this all so fascinating. You have two major players committed to battle. One old, one new; one bull-headed and silent, one tireless and expressive. Neither shows any sign of wavering. It's like an old Norse legend or lost George RR Martin manuscript come to life - but in a really tedious way. Who's going to win? How will this affect other Cons? What actually happens in SDCC's most secret High Cabal meetings?

We'll probably never know that last. But this legal grudge match has to end decisively at some point or another. Let's just hope it doesn't turn into another convention center expansion and linger unresolved for years.

Booking safety hotels for SDCC 2016

27 JULY 2015

Today I did something I haven't done in several years: I booked a fully refundable downtown safety
room for San Diego Comic-Con 2016. It was a bit of a rush, to be honest - something I thought was lost forever. Years ago I would book the Horton Grand or some other not-first-choice hotel as a backup and then let go of it when I scored on Hotel Day. (And I always scored, until this year.) Then everything started getting non-refundable and I just released the whole concept of backups.

Thanks to "Ace," the best attendee in the world and my very own Winston Wolf - he also got me my room at the Hard Rock and my Conan tickets - that just changed. I have a backup, a good one. Since you're probably curious, it's Hotel Z at 6th and Island - a new hotel, close to the convention center. They're now reserving rooms for next July. With only 96 rooms and reasonable rates, it's selling out fast. (Be aware that I'm working other hotel room angles so I'll probably let go of this room at some point; check back with me in the spring if you fail to get a room on Hotel Day.)

If you're still licking your wounds from last Hotel Day, you might be considering your own safety room action. A few things to consider:

  • Start now and be tenacious. I visited my top 2 hotels in person at the Con to see if I could charm or cajole anyone into an advanced booking. Was I successful? Not at all. But a nice man did give me a date to start checking and a specific person to contact, rather than just letting me go through general reservations. Lesson here: even though it's still too early for most hotels to book SDCC 2016 rooms, you should find out all you can. Sometimes you'll get the right person on the phone, play to someone's sympathetic side or discover a side door. On that note...

  • Do call on the phone instead of going through the site reservation app. Possibly you hate making phone calls; I do too but a human will sometimes do for you what an algorithm can't. Get names, make any personal connection you can, and see if you can find out who to call back a few months from now. Run through all your special discounts and memberships and see if the hotel makes an exception for any of them.

  • Don't just contact hotels on the Travel Planners grid. There are quite a few other hotels in the area, even downtown. Commenter Ferd swears by the Comfort Inn Gaslamp, an easy walk to the convention center; do your research and you'll come up with a list of options.

  • There was a whole bizarre mix up last year involving lost Omni reservations through Hotwire. It all worked out fine in the end, but it does bear a lesson: if something seems to be too easy or perfect, it probably is. Do your due diligence on any opportunity you find. And check back on any reservations you make.

  • Before you panic and invest 2-3K in a non-refundable, distant room, remember Early Bird.  I realize these rooms are a shuttle's ride away but they are a sure thing (again, I recommend the Sheraton just 3 miles from the Con) and reasonably priced. And you don't have to make a decision until 2016, after you'll actually know whether or not you have a badge.

  • If you've never been to SDCC but are gunning for next summer with fire in your eyes, you're probably determined to get your room now and worry about a badge later. To which I would say... slow down, maybe. Odds are not in your favor of getting a badge. It would be a shame for you to spend thousands on a hotel room and airfare and then realize you can't even get into the convention center. Yes, there's a lot to do around the Con but it's crowded and insane and just one ginormous outdoor madhouse, if you want to know the truth. Slow your roll and go through the normal channels of the badge and hotel sales.

Good luck. And remember, it's never too early to start thinking about your next Comic-Con.

Solving the panel representation issue at Cons

25 JULY 2015

We didn't hear much about sexual harassment this past SDCC season, but the Con world is humming with a different outrage: the failure to include women on woman-oriented panels. This happened last spring when Denver Comic Con had an all-male "Women in Comics" panel and now it's happened again with GenCon offering an all-male panel on "Writing Women-Friendly Comics." The latter has since scurried to include women, but in both cases the initial explanations were similar: We didn't know who to invite or we only knew a few women and they were all busy. It was like a nerd version of Mitt Romney's Binders Full of Women.

Of course, you can see how hard it would be to find women. It's not like we're half the world or something.

Now a huffy person might counter with, But women aren't half the comics industry! Most creators are male! It's just panel math! But it's a little more complex than that. While certain nerddoms and fandoms are weighted by gender, there are certainly enough women creators that organizers can come up with participants with a little effort. Take a look at publishers like Boom, Image, IDW, Oni, Fantagraphics - female colorists, writers, pencillers, editors and more abound.

But effort is where it falls apart. Reaching out and finding a woman creator is apparently just too strenuous for some organizers, who tend to go, "I'll ask around. Wait, I only know two people who fit that category and they're both busy. Okay, I tried."

Resources for Representation

This is an age where the word culture has been elevated into a flag of homogeneity. From New York corporate offices to Hollywood studios to Portland art collectives, people tend to hire and promote people who look like them. People who "fit into our culture," people who "seem like our kind," people in the same social circles with similar political values and education and wardrobes. And sometimes that extends to asking people to sit on Con panels.

It's rarely deliberate; it's just how it shakes out. I've worked in several creative fields and it's exceedingly rare that I see anyone look beyond their network, consider clips or portfolios from strangers or track down talented outsiders. Some of it is ego ("I'm the important one so you need to come to me") but a lot of it is innate human laziness and habit.

Will that change soon? Probably not. But as someone who believes - apologies for the cliché - that life begins at the end of your comfort zone, I hope panel organizers get less comfortable about going with who they know. If you're influential enough to be on a panel at a Con, you have a responsibility in terms of representation. It's not show and tell for you and your cronies. It's content for attendees and you need to provide the richest content possible. That includes having women on panels about women, queer people on LGBTQA panels, people of color on diversity and racial dialogue panels.

Which brings us to Comic Book Women, who put out a press release after the GenCon dustup. Comic Book Women started at ECCC this March, and now the organization serves as an advocacy group for women in the comic book industry. They made it clear this weekend that they can offer candidates for any organizers who need a female professional guest or panelist.

Gail Simone gave them her endorsement: "I get asked to be at a lot of cons. Last year, I turned down over 120 events all around the world, even though I accepted as many as I thought I possibly could. Having Comic Book Women as a resource to offer to convention organizers will be really helpful. Our hope is that we can add a wider range of voices to the many great conversations about comics at these conventions."

And ultimately that's the end game here: helping organizers find relevant and appropriate talent. This shouldn't be viewed as an exercise in political correctness, but rather a tool to open up a more engaging and accurate dialogue. That's one reason we go to Cons, right? To learn, think, explore, discover? To that end, having a wider assortment of panelists with a varied range of experiences is a great thing.

So if you're putting together a panel, event or anthology in the near future, you may want to make a note of these resources:

Comic Book Women will work to find female guests "who can speak on all aspects of the comic book process."
Cartoonists of Color offers a resource for anyone looking for a cartoonist of color for a project or panels on racial diversity.
Prism Comics can suggest LGBTQ creators for events and projects.

It's a start. The Internet made a minor fuss over the fact that San Diego Comic-Con was 50/50 male/female this year; that seemed like a yawn of a statistic to me but then I remembered the number of comic shops that assume I'm there for the manga, the number of Con attendees that try to cut in front of me at a booth because they assume I'm just the girlfriend of the guy paying for his comics rather than waiting to pay myself. Our world still has some cobwebs and stereotypes clinging to it. It's probably going to take groups like Comic Book Women to brush them away for good.



SDCC fires back at SLCC

24 JULY 2015


If you were wondering what CCI had to say about Salt Lake Comic Con's victory lap yesterday, the answer is quite a lot - delivered in their characteristically stiff and inimitable manner, of course. I realized today I've grown rather fond of the stilted statements and emails that emerge from the CCI office. If their communication team is ever replaced by a league of silver-tongued poets, I'm going to have to protest.

Anyhow. San Diego Comic-Con is unfazed by Salt Lake Comic Con's trademark win; they countered with a whole bunch of legal details no doubt intended to chill SLCC's flush of triumph. Paraphrasing wouldn't do it justice so here it is from Bleeding Cool:

 "We were less surprised by the registration than we were of the organizers’ take on it. As there is no opposition process for a Supplemental Registration we of course were not able to oppose it, however we are engaging this matter as part of the normal course of protecting our already granted and incontestable trademarks.”

That's from David Glanzer, CCI's fearless spokesperson. But their attorney Peter Hahn really dishes it out: 

 "The issuance of a Supplemental Register Registration has no effect on San Diego Comic Convention’s exclusive rights afforded by its Principle Register Registrations for various marks including the mark ‘Comic-Con.’ Contrary to Dan Farr Production’s statement, the Supplemental Registration will have no effect on the on-going infringement litigation in San Diego. San Diego Comic Convention will continue to protect its incontestable rights in the Comic-Con mark until Dan Farr Productions discontinues infringement of the Comic-Con mark—even if that means having the Court force Dan Farr Productions to comply with the law.”

Good grief. This is like listening to a spurned lover carry on months after anyone else would have let it go. One hypothetical silver lining: maybe an enterprising filmmaker will make a documentary about this and enter it in the SDCC 2016 IFF. I will throw the after-party myself if that happens.

US Trademark office legitimizes SLCC

23 JULY 2015

If you've been following the legal skirmish between CCI and Salt Lake Comic Con, here's a fresh development: Salt Lake Comic Con got its name trademarked by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This is good news for SLCC and probably a bitter pill for SDCC.

Why this is relevant: "The trademark specifies that no claim is made to the exclusive right to use 'comic con' apart from the mark as shown." Apparently USTPO already ruled that "comic con" was "nondescript" (which as someone who owns a domain called comicconguide.com, I enjoyed hearing); this trademark further solidifies SLCC's legal claim to use those words in its name.

If you're not familiar with the history of this lawsuit, it started with SLCC driving a flashy car with an SLCC decal around SDCC last year. (It feels like this has been dragging on for at least 3 years but it really was that recent.) A highly perturbed CCI fired off a cease and desist letter which led to a lawsuit and countersuit.

SDCC's claim: intellectual property infringement, SLCC is too confusingly similar to SDCC in terms of a name, and other branding crimes. SLCC's view: there are a jillion events called "Comic Con" and "Comicon" and "Comic-Con" already so why target them? You can read SLCC's summary of the situation here; in the interest of fairness, I'd point you to SDCC's summary but - shockingly - they aren't sharing much about it.

So that's the situation. SLCC founder Dan Farr provided a telling quote: “Now hopefully we (and many others around the country) can fully focus on producing exciting comic book related fan events called comic cons. Maybe, in some small way, we have played the role of heroes in this battle.”

That would suggest the "battle" is over - but is it?