Another change to badge shipping rules

23 MAY 2016

Is anyone else excited that their SDCC badge will be physically in their hands in about a month or so? Forget it - of course you are. So let me ask you this: are you anxious at all about the badge shipping process?

Like... The envelope will be abducted by nerd pirates, or that online friend is really a dastardly scalper who's going to sell your badge, or you'll have a home invasion between the badge arrival and Comic-Con? Are any of those scenarios in your head?

Probably none of those will happen, knock on wood, but many of us will need to be at least a little vigilant in terms of receiving and mailing out other people's badges. As you know, the person who paid for the badge will be the one to get it from CCI; that's what we've been told all along, anyhow. Yet this has changed for some people and it's mostly a good thing.

The change impacts only those of us who got badges in both the Preg-reg sale and the Open Reg sale. Our badges - regardless of who paid for the final badge in Open Reg - will come directly to us. Let's say your cousin got you Thursday and Sunday badges during Pre-Reg, yet you managed to get all 4 days during Open Reg and paid for that yourself. Those badges will come to you - not your cousin.

This is a nice simplification, mostly. However, if you paid for a bunch of other people's badges during Open Reg, you may have no idea which of them fall into this club. Therefore it's not a bad idea to check with your people now and verify exactly whose badges to expect in your mailbox. It'll put everyone's mind at rest and spare you a meltdown when you get one less badge than expected. Because let's be honest, there will be thousands of nervous attendee voices on social media once people start reporting the arrival of their badges. Everyone's going to wonder where theirs is and if they can really trust their buying group and why isn't their badge there yet and so on.  It'll help to iron out expectations now.

Oh, and you have until 10 June to verify your address. So if you originally weren't worried about your outdated mailing address in your Member ID account because you thought someone else would get your badge - get in there and make it current.

Are you going to the Star Trek premiere at SDCC?

22 MAY 2016

We've long suspected this will be a very Star Trek Comic-Con, and now one of our wishes has been confirmed: on Wednesday, 20 July, Star Trek Beyond will premiere at SDCC.

Specifically, behind the convention center, IMAX-style, with the cast in attendance and the San Diego Symphony offering a live performance. You can't beat that. To be clear, this is the official premiere, red carpet and all; on the one hand, that makes it especially exciting, but also makes it that much harder to attend.

If you feel confident about your chances of getting in, BUT you have a Preview night badge, you may feel torn between the two. I think you'll be okay. You should be able to ransack the Exhibit Hall from 6-7 and still get seated by showtime. At any rate, you clearly have some kind of magic powers if you get a premiere ticket and a PV badge, so you'll find a way to make it work.

Now. Because most of us won't get in - will there be any other special events celebrating the official Friday opening? Maybe. If you're a lifelong Trekkie, don't view this as your only opportunity to live long and prosper at SDCC; I'm pretty confident we'll have other events. A lot of us are hoping that Adam Nimoy brings his documentary "For the Love of Spock" and/or that the 50th anniversary Ultimate Voyage tour makes a stop; but even if those don't happen, the 50th anniversary and the new movie will get celebrated.

Stay tuned for ticket news.

ECCC is being sued for not paying volunteers

20 MAY 2016

Define "volunteer." Is it someone who works for free? At a Con, is it someone who works in exchange for admission? If that arrangement violates labor laws, but the said volunteers don't mind, should there still be a class action lawsuit? 

Well, there's one now and it's aimed at Emerald City Comicon. The suit alleges that ECCC treated its volunteers like employees but didn't pay them. Specifically, the plaintiffs say that ECCC didn't keep a record of hours worked, didn't compensate volunteers for their time and violated the minimum wage law. And if you're thinking, "Well, duh, they're volunteers," that brings into the question the legal definition of a volunteer - usually someone who works for a non-profit. (That's not ECCC. SDCC qualifies, though.) Also at stake: if you exchange your time for a badge, are you still really a volunteer or an employee who accepted an alternate form of payment?

The lawsuit targets 2014 and 2015; this year ReedPOP paid ECCC volunteers, as they generally do. This could fizzle out, or it could stir up an interesting discussion on volunteering at Cons. We know that when it comes to popular Comic Cons, there are usually more willing volunteers than shifts available. But even if prospective attendees are willing to overlook a few pesky laws, they're not the ones who cast the deciding vote. We'll see how this plays out.

Be ready for changes in NYCC ticket sale

17 MAY 2016

Are you planning on going to New York Comic Con this fall? It's a great Con on its own, and especially so if you missed out on getting an SDCC badge. (Also recommended: DragonCon.) But much like San Diego, the NYCC ticket sale has gotten very competitive - and this year it's changing quite a bit.

You won't just jump into the fray and hope your place in line is good enough. This year you'll need to create a profile called Fan Verification. If you think this sounds a lot like CCI's Member ID system, you're not wrong. Here are the rules.

  • You'll need to complete your profile between this Friday, 20 May at noon EST/9 am PST and Monday, 13 June at 11:59 pm EST. This is mandatory for anyone 13 and up who wants to attend NYCC - even if someone else is buying their badge for them. But creating a profile doesn't mean you'll automatically get a badge.

  • You will, however, be notified by email 48 hours before the ticket sale. Which will be first come, first serve like usual.

  • That online sale is your only opportunity to get a NYCC ticket - no more special retailer or event sales. I know that's going to aggravate some of you.

  • Also gone: VIP tickets.

So there you have it. None of this sounds particularly onerous, and it could lead to a smoother ticket sale. No doubt some prospective attendees will miss the boat entirely - there are always a few who remain oblivious to changes - and be furious when they realize they're not going to NYCC (without resorting to StubHub, that is.) But overall it's worth remembering that while last year's NYCC sale was choppy, most people did come away with decent badges. So don't view this new Fan Verification step as an ominous sign; if you stay alert and follow the process, you'll probably count yourself among NYCC attendees this year.

ETA: If this changes anything for you, NYCC 2016 is being billed as Stan Lee's "final NYCC appearance." 

Slayer will bring "fury and intensity" to SDCC

16 MAY 2016

I don't know what YOUR plans are for Thursday, 21 July, but Slayer's House of Blues show just jumped to the top of my list. Slayer promises to bring "a night of fury and intensity that the city won't soon forget." They'll also be doing signings inside the Con on Friday at booths 501 and 2615 - and you'll get to see their new line of BMX bikes.

Tickets for the House of Blues show go on sale this Friday at 10 am PST. Don't miss out.

Hotel update & refund reminder

16 MAY 2016

Don't get excited; I don't have wonderful news to report, like a newly discovered downtown hotel.

But I do want to remind you that the deadline for hotel reservation refunds is 2 June, just a few weeks away. "But I thought the hotel reservations would have reopened by now," you might be saying. "I still don't know if I'm going to keep this room." To which I'll respond: Yes, and you'll probably keep waiting on that.

From CCI support today: "Once OnPeak has gone through the wait list for hotels, there will be another sale posted on our website. Unfortunately there is no time frame for that at the moment."

That must be some wait list! Or rather, that must be some backlog of spare hotel rooms to assign. Except there isn't, so what's the hold up? We know a lot of people need rooms. Is CCI just waiting until after the deadline to see who else will give up a room? Maybe.

At any rate, there's supposed to be another sale - and who knows what it will look like; maybe it'll be just the reopening of the reservation system like usual, or maybe CCI will surprise us with a select few package deals offering hotel rooms AND badges, as they've done a few times in the past. Either way, we all know there aren't going to be a new batch of downtown rooms for everyone.

I wish CCI had come out and said "The reservations won't reopen for a while" back in April, because it's now been over a month and I think some people have been counting on that when they could have been looking for a room on their own. But mostly likely they didn't know, since it sounds like it's OnPeak's ball game right now. And I'm guessing the majority of people have turned to Airbnb or other solutions by now. This is my first time ever (since my first year when I booked the Comfort Inn the same day of my arrival - ah, those utopian Comic-Con years) that I have not booked my room through CCI's system.

Seems crazy, but June is right around the corner. You may need to start making some hard final decisions on where you're bunking this year before the clock runs out.

ReedPOP created a Con for pretentious Millennials

11 MAY 2016

Take this whole post with a grain of salt, because I'm probably too uncool to understand the very special nature of this new Con. Write things like "unique event that will bring together a consumer experience carefully curated by the most influential minds in the world" and "creatively push ourselves to constantly elevate and re-imagine our shared horizons" and I go blind for a few seconds. Anyhow.

ReedPOP has partnered with COMPLEX, a "Millennial media platform," to create ComplexCon, a festival that will bring together pop culture, art, music, food, style, sports, sneakers and more. So... everything? "World renowned icon and renaissance man" Pharrell is involved and so is Takashi Murakami, who was inspired by the "good vibe and untamed, youthful energy they possess." (Sorry for all the quotes but I write like an 18th century spinster compared to this press release, and I want to do justice to the hyperbole.)

ComplexCon is in Long Beach on 5-6 November. If the terrifying robot in charge of their website is any indication, they might have some kind of brainwashing film, like LOST's room 23, to wipe this election year from your mind. That alone would be worth a ticket.

And hey, maybe this is right up your alley! My crankiness aside, this could be a fun event. You can buy sneakers, go to concerts, see innovative art, eat locally sourced loup de mer (guessing) and revel in your transcendental hipness. There's no end to the wonders ReedPOP is ready to bring you, especially involving "the brands you love."

Okay, I'm done quoting. Tickets aren't on sale yet but you can sign up on their site to get advance notice, and presumably more information on the bands, food, products and other offerings. ComplexCon, everyone! For the capitalist visionary cyborg in you.

10 weeks till San Diego Comic-Con: are you ready?

10 MAY 2016

10 weeks from tomorrow, I'll be driving through the California dawn in my favorite ritual of the year: heading to San Diego Comic-Con. Hopefully you'll be doing the same.

That means we're entering that point in spring where we're right on the precipice of SDCC madness. Pretty soon more announcements will start happening and some of us will start signing up for things like gaming tournaments and Portfolio Review and Comic Creator Connection; in July the actual programming will be announced and we'll all go a bit berzerk making our plans and vacillating between excitement and nervousness.

First-timers, as I've said before, you may be viewing SDCC as a massive spectacle that will engulf you upon entry into the convention center, with no action on your part required. You're wrong. You do need to do a certain amount of strategy and preparation going into the experience, or you'll come out of it feeling like you missed something essential.

Here's what you can start doing now.

Get your costume locked down - and your cosplay figure.

If you're still dithering over what to wear, now is the time to decide. You'll need to pull your costume together, test it, work out a plan with your cosplay group or partner if you have one, and generally ensure that a malfunction won't leave you stranded mid-Con. And if you have a special pair of Harley Quinn hotpants that you need to shed 20 pounds to get into, or a shirtless ensemble that requires decent abs, you can't put that off any longer either. 10 weeks! Either kick up your work outs now or find something else to strut around in.

Save money. 

I said this a few months ago; how many of you did it? Exactly. I'm not one to lecture in this department, being a spender of lavish proportions, but this year I did create a special SDCC fund and its existence is really liberating. Instead of feeling guilty every time you whip out a credit card on the floor, pay for things with the cash you've squirreled away. Eat excellent meals at good restaurants. Buy frivolous Star Trek makeup. Get a massage at your hotel spa. Your Comic-Con happiness will go up a level.

Plan an event.

I went over this a few posts ago, but sometimes you'll want to plan your own event instead of waiting to see if someone else will. Maybe it's a special fandom happy hour or breakfast, maybe you'll want to arrange a meetup or cosplay photo shoot; maybe you'll just want to meet a group of online friends in real life. You don't have to plan anything super-luxe. People really just enjoy getting together.

Join your hotel's reward program.

Do this if only for the free Wifi; but don't discount the possibility of future benefits from your points. It can happen. And some hotels really will go the extra mile for you if you demonstrate your loyalty. (One time I emailed a certain hotel to say I really appreciated their attentive staff; I was being completely genuine with no ulterior motive, but it did lead to an offer to help me book a room during the following SDCC. You just never know.)

Look through last year's programming.

If you're new, I can't recommend this enough. It's impossible to grasp the scale of Comic-Con programming until you scroll through it right in front of you. Come to terms with the magnitude of your options now. I've spoken to first-timers who assume they'll do a couple of panels, work the Exhibit Hall and then go off and see San Diego, then come back and do a night event. No. Once you see the enormity of the options before you, you'll probably want to gorge yourself on more screenings, panels, games, signings and parties than is physically possible.

Sell off your stuff.

I said this before too. And I doubt you did it, because selling things on Ebay, Craigslist, Offer Up and other sites is a pain. But it really is a good thing to do, because 1) it'll fatten your Paypal account or wallet 2) it clears out some display or cupboard space 3) it prompts you to go through your back issues and toys and think of items to hunt down at the Con. Again, don't bring this stuff into the Exhibit Hall and expect vendors to give you top dollar. That doesn't happen.

Develop your walking legs.

Not calling you a sloth; maybe you're already in fantastic shape. If you're not, that's okay too as long as you have the energy and stamina to do Comic-Con without collapsing. You'll walk a lot. Sometimes you'll trudge, which is even more tiring than walking. You'll sit on floors and stand in lines and walk block after block while trying to find that Indian restaurant that you were told was "not far at all." Your feet will hurt and maybe blister. But you can handle all of this gracefully if you get in decent shape now.

Contact your friends.

Do you actually know for sure who's coming to the Con? I feel like these days we all have friends in farflung places, so start announcing your plans on social and see who else is going. Make plans to hang out. Don't decide to just text each other at the Con, because odds are you'll both be too busy to make it happen. One manageable way to make plans is to pick two options (say, Wednesday before Preview Night or Thursday evening) and have everyone keep both clear until the programming is announced, then pick the best one. Breakfast is a good way to make time for each other; I like meeting up with people either around 8 pm, before going out, or around 11 pm on quieter nights when everyone's done with their premiere, dinner, etc. The point is to plan something solid, because otherwise it probably won't happen.

Create your marketing plan.

A few years ago I wrote a ginormous opus on marketing yourself at SDCC, and it still holds true for the most part. And it applies to more and more attendees, as so many people now come to Comic-Con deliberately to network, showcase their talent and pick up career advice. If you haven't already, order new business cards, publish a new site, get your samples in order and so on. Don't just wing it; if you're in the right field, SDCC can be an advantageous place, so position yourself to pounce. Otherwise your nerves might turn you into that attendee who can't stop babbling about their half-baked project, and no one likes those people.

10 weeks, everyone. And for some of us that involves a Memorial Day camping trip, a college graduation, a wedding, a Fourth of July family reunion. This is a busy time of year. So lay the right groundwork now and be ready to roll when July comes around. It's already coming up fast.

Did you request PTO for Comic-Con?

3 MAY 2016

San Diego Comic-Con is only 2.5 months away, which means that now's the time to request vacation days if you haven't already. Especially if you have one of those workplaces where everyone has to label their time off on a shared calendar and your coworkers fill up the whole summer by Memorial Day.

So consider this a quick reminder. Those of you who've never been to San Diego, you might want to take the whole week and hit the beach, see the baby tigers at the zoo, hunt ghosts at the Whaley House or visit the exhibits at the Reuben H Fleet Science Center. (There's always a few good ones in the summer.) And if you can, take Monday off too. You'll want a day to sleep in, do your laundry, show off on Instagram or just lay around reading your new comic books.

Syfy Presents: Live from Comic-Con

2 MAY 2016

Ready to start planning your Comic-Con nights? Here's something that will be a top option for many of you.

SyFy Presents: Live from Comic-Con will be live (duh) from the Marriott Marquis on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings of the Con. 5 pm, to be precise. This show will "bring the fans all they could ask for when it comes to the news, the stars and all the fun of Comic-Con" like celebrity interviews, movie footage, party coverage, etc. (And hopefully some amazing swag.) There will also be audience interaction.

This isn't the only SDCC programming they'll offer, by the way.  If you didn't get a badge, yet continue to monitor this blog out of a masochistic desire to read about what you're missing, you'll want to tune into SyFy 17-24 July for their "7 Days of Comic-Con" specials. They sound like they're dedicating effort to creating original content, so hopefully their coverage will be a cut above the usual reels of waving celebrities, whimsical cosplayers and screaming audiences. Personally I want to see a creature feature set at SDCC, maybe involving a bloodthirsty plesiosaurus that comes out of the bay and eats the Hall H line.

Back to Live. Tickets are FREE for attendees. The details will be announced soon - and if you've lived through any of kind of SDCC event sale before, you know that tickets to anything cool (Conan O'Brien, Nerd HQ) will be gone faster than you can say, "Wait, I wanted to go to that." So stay on top of this.

If you're wondering how to balance this with your planned Conan show, I don't think you'll be able to do both on the same day, based on how long my Conan taping ran last summer. Probably the best you can do is to grab what tickets you can and then make some hard decisions if you have to.  You can also target Conan's Wednesday show - but I'll warn you that a lot of people are doing that this year so they don't have to miss any actual SDCC panels.

Oh, and first-timers - this is probably a good time to say that you can't bide your time on event options, waiting to see if something better comes along. Tickets go fast for almost everything. You probably assumed that already but I'm throwing it out there for you indecisive types.

Stay tuned!

ETA: No, I don't have a timeframe for tickets going live, other than "soon" according to the producer. I know those of you who missed out on the Team Coco/Conan ticket blitz last year are probably vowing to be vigilant about Conan and SyFy this year, which is smart. I'll post as soon as I know.

Random PSA about San Diego Comic-Con

1 MAY 2016

San Diego Comic-Con season has officially kicked off and we can all expect to see announcements picking up steam. With that in mind, I want to stress 2 dynamics to be aware of now in your Comic-Con journey, especially if this will be your first time.

You need to start reading the SDCC blogs now to really get a full picture of the experience you'll have in July. 

This winter I was criticized by a first-timer who let me know I hadn't prepared his group at all for things like the importance of wearing comfortable shoes or where to eat, etc. "At least now I know but it would have been nice to have that information in advance," he said loftily. And I kind of wanted to throw my drink in his face because guess what? I did cover all of that practical stuff, and so do most other Comic-Con bloggers.

The fact is, if you start Googling around a week before SDCC for advice, you'll probably pick up a few solid tips - but understanding all the ins and outs requires immersing yourself in the community for months beforehand. There's just too much information needed to rely on a single blog post. And most overarching articles won't narrow in on your specific fandom or interest, which certain blogs or forums will indeed touch on - right down to that very specific tip that's going to get you the autograph or back issue of your dreams.

I know you're all busy. I'm not saying SDCC has to become the core of your soul for the next 5 months. But if you're a first-timer, I'd recommend making a dedicated area of SDCC resources and including it in your daily digital routine. Also recommended: start a compilation of things to remember.

Let's say a cool exclusive gets announced this week. You're so dazzled you're sure you'll remember it by late July - but by then dozens of other announcements will have flowed through your brain, sweeping the memory of that exclusive out to sea. Then there's the reality that information often comes out piecemeal - you don't find out the booth # of that exclusive for another 5 weeks, or you hear about a party in early June but tickets don't go on sale till July.

Start some kind of system so nothing falls through the cracks. When SDCC rolls around, you'll be able to convert it into a kind of daily dashboard so you hit the right panels, events and booths and activations. Because - and you'll hear me say this a lot over the coming months - once you arrive at Comic-Con, the overarching grandeur will likely overwhelm you somewhat and daze you into a passive spectator. It's really easy to just drift through the crowd and feel too confused to navigate your way to room 6BCF or figure out where and when your favorite artist is signing.

I'm sorry to turn SDCC into a homework assignment. But if you don't prepare, you'll fail the final exam that is attendance. Get organized and educated now. It really isn't that laborious, and it'll save you from becoming one of those attendees who mopes through August because they could have bought their dream figure, met their favorite actor or gone to a killer party, but just didn't find out about it in time.

Don't put too much stock in your "connections."

This year I haven't unearthed too many first-timers in my physical circles, but I am in touch with quite a few by email. And I find this so interesting: many of them claim to have an inside connection who's going to elevate them above the masses.

This never used to happen. Attendees were just average Joes and Jills. Now so many people I talk to "know someone." They know a vendor, a Marvel editor, a famous writer, a senior executive. And they assure me these valuable connections are going to get them access wherever they want to go.

Maybe that'll happen, maybe not, but I will say that:

1) I've seen these connections fail people repeatedly in the badge and hotel sales.

2) The more powerful a connection is, the more people they have - just like you - asking them for favors. Simply knowing someone really isn't enough to incur their deep loyalty and have them choose you over the dozens of other people begging them for the same thing. I mean, that could happen but be aware that you have competition.

3) Quid pro quo is a beautiful thing. Sometimes favors are done out of the pure goodness of someone's heart, but it's always nice to offer to return that generosity. It's amazing how many people will pester someone repeatedly for favors - can you get me into that party? can you introduce me to Celebrity A? what about now? what about now? what about now? - and drop them otherwise. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with asking but at least be gracious about it. And if someone does get you behind the red velvet rope, say thank you. This is basic etiquette but I see egregious violations of it every year. If this post wasn't so long, I'd share an outrageous story I heard this week from a comics executive who got someone a badge, only to be screwed over. Why do people do this? I don't know, but don't be one of them.

4) Don't build your Con around a "maybe." Build a great Comic-Con agenda that's going to be beautiful whether or not your connection comes through for you.

All of which boils down to, start doing your homework now and be a good member of the community. You might think this sounds like a lot of work for a five-day event, but Comic-Con isn't just an isolated event - it can enrich your life on an ongoing basis. And the people you meet can become real friends. Maybe you don't care about that, but you do want to get the most out of your badge. Start your education now.

Change your badge shipping address by 9 May

30 APRIL 2016

Happy May Day. Did you get your email from CCI, asking you to confirm or change your shipping address? If you bought a badge for anyone, you should have.

At first I thought, "How responsible and forward-thinking of CCI, doing this so far in advance." Then I realized that badges will go out a few weeks before the Con, which means they'll ship out about (very roughly) 2 months from now. So yes, they are on track.

If for some reason you've had a domicile upheaval in your life, and have no idea where you'll be picking up your mail this summer, you have just over a week to find a settled-down person who will let you list their address and graciously receive these on your behalf. Don't gamble on this; it is your physical, glorious Comic-Con badge we're talking about.

If you didn't get an email and you think you should have, give CCI a jingle. Please check over all the names listed, too. Two people I bought for were omitted from my email and while I'm sure it'll get sorted out, it's still something to stay on top of. (And of course, because it's all part of the Comic-Con experience, when I emailed CCI, I got a response telling me that the hotel sale would be held April 5.)

As of tomorrow, I will officially launch SDCC season here and start posting more tips on preparing for you starry-eyed first-timers. I know some of you still don't have hotel rooms and are waiting for reservations to open back up; plenty of attendees have unfinished business for sure. Try not to worry, because chances are it'll all get worked out. Overall, if you have a badge for San Diego Comic-Con, it's time to get excited.

ETA: To clarify, when I say "bought," that applies in the literal sense. It doesn't necessarily mean the person who helmed the laptop and entered in the actual information, or the person whose code got them into the session. For instance, even though I wasn't involved in one particular registration session, the person used my credit card and official address, etc, so I bought the badges. I am the one who got the email asking me to confirm my shipping address and I am the one who will receive the badges in the mail.

I know that many of us make Byzantine arrangements during badge sales, so I wanted to clarify that. It's entirely possible that your sister's code got picked, you monitored the session and inputted the information, and your best friend's credit card paid for it all. Your best friend will get the badges.

We may be facing a Foxless Comic-Con

28 APRIL 2016

Remember last year's furor over Marvel "skipping" San Diego Comic-Con? (For those of you who are new to our ways: when people speak of a brand sitting out or skipping SDCC, they're usually referring to its big splashy Hollywood panels, not comics and action figures, etc.)

Well, now Fox is allegedly too delicate to come join us this summer and the reason is piracy.  "The studio feels it cannot prevent the piracy of custom trailers and exclusive footage routinely screened for fans in attendance." No, not that! Why, the very idea of a Hall H trailer making its way onto YouTube.

So that's the problem; studios are outraged by their "carefully prepared" SDCC trailers leaking into the public, as happened with Suicide Squad and Deadpool. And CCI is disappointed too; David Glanzer says, "This leak not only violates the trust of Comic-Con and the studios but each of the attendees who respect the bond we have long held." Raise your hand if you feel violated.

I guess we'll just see about all of this. With SDCC coming up fast, studio panel and marketing plans are indeed solidifying so we should have a firmer idea soon of who will and won't dazzle us. (Rumor has it Disney will be gone too or at least scale back.) The Fox panel is always hotly anticipated and I know plenty of attendees will be bummed at its absence. Smaller plans will still proceed, it sounds like, but if you were yearning to see 131 seconds of Assassin's Creed footage, you may be out of luck. No word yet on if you'll be able to bounce around its huge obstacle course again.

The Killing Joke trailer is out

27 APRIL 2016

The good news: The Killing Joke looks as good as we hoped it would be. The announcement of new material (mainly pertaining to Barbara Gordon) made a few people twitchy, and the animation has its detractors, but it looks like the sound and overall feel of the film will align with the book.

The bad news: This is going to be ridiculously popular at SDCC, and probably not as easy to get into as most of the nighttime screenings and premieres. This will definitely be an anchor panel/event for me and probably tons of other attendees.

Three months from today, San Diego Comic-Con will already be over. That's kind of unsettling, right?

Emerald City Comicon is 2-5 March 2017

25 APRIL 2016

ECCC sure does like to bounce its dates around. We're back to March for 2017 and it's early March: specifically the 2nd - 5th. If you're curious how that stacks up against other Cons, WonderCon is 31 March - 2 April (back in Anaheim) and Silicon Valley Comic Con is TBA.

Oh and if you're curious about the Comic Con shuffle that seems to be going on in California, the official reason that WonderCon is headed back to Anaheim is just a scheduling thing, nothing more. And LA is still hungrily eyeing both WonderCon for the future AND San Diego Comic-Con for when its contract expires after 2018: Mayor Garcetti says that certain changes are afoot that will make LA especially appealing to CCI - and us.

What changes? "Redoing the entire convention center" for one (which presumably won't involve a city-wide battle involving feisty DAs, calculating developers, football teams and hotel taxes) and "new hotels, new attractions" like Harry Potter. I think LA already has plenty to offer, but his point is probably that LA will be able to accommodate our incessant demands for restaurants, transportation, ginormous auditoriums, overnight lines and hotel rooms that aren't $1000 a night.

The future: it's happening. And hopefully it won't be as brutal as our present when it comes to online sales and the general limitations of SDCC.

Everyone can see Hall H panels.... kind of

13 APRIL 2016

Today unleashed one of those announcements that was so deeply SDCC; exciting news laced with a disappointing caveat. Here it is if you missed it: that very special Con streaming service we've all anticipated WILL include Hall H panels - but not live.

Are you excited about this? Do you care terribly if the streaming is delayed and not in the moment? If the footage and trailers are missing, is it still worth it? Or will you head for YouTube to see someone's sneaky recording?

From Seth Laderman of Comic-Con HQ: "We're not going to be live streaming anything because we really don't want to take away that experience of people who are the first to see and be there for it, but we can put things up shortly after."

At first glance, I can agree with that. Ride or die attendees who sacrifice meals and comfortable beds to wait for Hall H panels should definitely be rewarded. But... isn't the experience of being there live enough? Hearing the deafening applause and hollers and watching those exciting trailers? Why do you need to exclude people at home to make that feeling more special?

(And let's be honest - for many attendees, the waiting in line IS an enjoyable part of the experience. They can bond with their friends, people love meeting the attendees around them, and it can be a welcome opportunity to just plunk down and relax for a while.)

io9 takes another stance, saying that if the panels are streamed live, "standing in line (and paying money for tickets and hotels) starts to feel like a waste.)" Anyone who's experienced that incredible rush of Hall H energy will probably disagree with that, I would think. But what do I know? I've been skipping Hall H for a few years now so I'll wait to hear what its devotees think.

Comic-Con HQ's free beta goes live on 7 May; maybe that will take away some of the lingering sting of the hotel disaster. Because there's no doubt about it - we are definitely entering San Diego Comic-Con season.

SDCC hotel deposit deadline extended to 14 April

12 APRIL 2016

As those of us who got a hotel last week know, we were supposed to pay the 2 night deposit this past weekend. Leaving aside the question of picking a date when On Peak is closed, it sparked a bit of a scramble for people trying to trade reservations - which gets more complicated after the deposit is paid.

The deadline is now 14 April - 11:59 pm PT. So it's kind of good that people can still keep working their connections (or pleading for help); on the other hand, there don't seem to be many rooms to trade, and there's a definite sense that the "good" rooms up for grabs were allocated immediately.

Which brings us to this reality: hotel reservations won't open back up until after the deposit deadline passes and On Peak knows for sure what's still available. So those of you who are waiting for that day are probably feeling the delay right in your nerves.

I've already let go of my luxurious 5-star room at Town & Country; rest assured that other people who booked safety rooms and then got airport/Hotel Circle/ Mission Valley rooms in the sale are doing the same. If you're utterly homeless right now, I think you will find some rooms when reservations reopen. They probably won't be great but you can put a roof over your head. So don't give in to your despair just yet.

One thing you can do right now: pair up with other homeless nerds. Again, I know this isn't anyone's dream stay at Comic-Con but if you can find someone right now who also needs a room (and seems civilized and clean) you can afford a better room together or just save money. I know of 2 couples who just paired up so they could afford a room at the Marriott Marquis. Given how little time we spend in our rooms, this really isn't the worst thing. And if you're headed to SDCC alone, it provides you with an automatic pal.

Stay tuned.

I'm not at Emerald City - but I hope you are

8 APRIL 2016

I've been hyping Emerald City Comicon for months (well years, really) so it's probably a surprise to hear that I'm not there. I almost was forced to cancel 2 weeks ago, then everything cleared, then a few days ago I realized I couldn't go at all. It's especially annoying given that I sacrificed Silicon Valley and then WonderCon because of ECCC.

I'm pretty devastated, so I hope you're all having fun on my behalf. Please share your stories with me, the good and the bad. (Like this Funko booth story.) I wish I was in Seattle right now, so I'm going to live vicariously through you.

I hope you have a magical time and I hope to see you all there next year.

Update on the SLCC vs SDCC lawsuit

8 APRIL 2016

If you've been wondering about the status of CCI's lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con, I talked to SLCC founder Bryan Brandenburg today. He said they are "close" to settling and it could happen in the next 2 months, but they're still prepared to take it to the end.

"The settlement agreement boils down to 1 or 2 issues," he said. "We either settle on reasonable terms or we go to trial."

In other words, no resolution yet - and it doesn't sound like CCI has softened at all. But we kind of expected that.

Breaking down the 2016 hotel sale fails

7 APRIL 2016

Today was a painful day on many levels. But let's be clear - it wasn't anything as simple as bad luck as in, "Well, there's too many attendees and not enough rooms, what can you do!" Here are the ways this sale failed us, and what could be improved.

Anyone could participate in the sale.

This is so, so unfair. If someone gets a badge and possibly invests in plane fare, they should be prioritized for a room over someone who just wants to come network or hit up the outside events. And the current system allows you to sway the odds in your favor by submitting a ton of fake names on different browsers. A real lottery where everyone had an equal shot would be restricted to Member IDs with registration records.

We were misinformed on the process - and it handicapped some of us.

"All users will be given access to the hotel reservations form from the waiting room in RANDOM ORDER and requests will be processed based upon this order." It's pretty obvious by now that didn't happen; that the double randomization was more in play. People who got in twenty minutes into the sale were landing at the Marriott Marquis and people who were in after thirty seconds got nothing.

Why this matters: because many people after a certain point figured that all of the rooms were gone at that point (like in previous years, when a 9:17 PST timestamp meant you got nothing) and so they shut down their browsers and moved on. My friend's wife got in pretty quick and he didn't so after ten minutes, they decided there wasn't any point in waiting. Wrong! They both would have had an equal shot.

The miscommunications and conflicting messages just increased our frenzy.

Some On Peak members told us that it was totally randomized; others said no, it was about the moment you entered the room; others said no, it was about submission time. Various official tweets and email statements underscored all of these contradictions. It gave some people false hope, unsettled others and stirred up unnecessary debates and research.

The ratio of  "totally rejected" to "got something" was higher than ever.

Okay, I don't have authentic stats to back this up. But by mid-afternoon, only a third of people reported receiving an email in Leonard's Twitter poll.  Out of a group of 17 people I monitored, only 4 of us had gotten an email. We all got something. Then there was a lull and  an onslaught of rejection emails hit and it seemed that almost everyone who'd gotten something had already been notified. That is a horrifying imbalance. I hope the number of people who got totally shut out is smaller than it seems - but regardless of what that ratio is, it's clear something has got to change.

So what could be improved?

Restricting the badge sale. Obviously. It's amazing to me that it's gotten so much harder for even pros to get into SDCC in recent years - and yet they let total randos into this sale. They can restrict it (by volunteer, guest, pro, exhibitor staff, attendee, whatever) and they should.

Communicating accurately and clearly. I'm not blaming CCI for this one - I'm guessing they got the same mixed messages from On Peak that we did. But On Peak should have trained its customer-facing staff better, distributed talking points and made the process clear. This is not difficult. It just isn't. There's either a lack of good management, a lack of respect for attendees, or both.

Some kind of finely honed Machiavellian arm-twisting and blackmailing. Only partially kidding. Despite that much-lauded agreement we heard about between CCI and local hotels, it's obvious that downtown hotels are withholding more rooms to sell at market rates. It used to be much, much easier to get into a downtown room. The Unofficial SDCC Blog did a good post on this, but even so, you can look at those room numbers and compare them to the tiny number of attendees who get into them and get very depressed.

As far as what to do - there are fewer rooms to trade this year, unfortunately. People like me who were ready to offer up our safety rooms are now clinging to them for dear life. (I already have a line of people waiting to take Hotel Z off my hands.) However, people will be letting go of rooms over the next few days, so be astute and ask around; and be ready for when hotel reservations open back up.

And while this might not be your dream, consider looking for roommates. Yeah, I know, sharing a room with a stranger, how uncomfortable. But it's an option and people do need roommates. Also consider trimming a night off your stay, on either end. If you got Thursday, Friday, Sunday, cut off Sunday, do the outside events Saturday, and go home happy.

And finally - I have 4 nights at Town and Country that I won't be using. I know that's not your dream either but it's an option. No one's asked me for it yet.

Hopefully tomorrow we'll have a clearer idea of who needs rooms and how we can help them.

ETA: It looks like dupes may have been a problem as well - if a phone number or address matched another entry, it was discarded. This is a theory based on what a few people have been told; I don't think it's official yet. If it's true, it's completely ridiculous - people who live together at home, like parent and a college student or adult child, may want separate rooms at the Con. Two housemates may want separate rooms. And then there are the many attendees who know they're about to move - maybe they're graduating, maybe they're job-hunting, maybe they hate their apartment - and so they put down a friend's place as a more permanent address. 

It's clear we need an explanation from On Peak of how the sale was handled, and they need to listen to our grievances and address them.