Emerald City passes are on sale


Just a reminder that ECCC passes went live this morning.  You can get them here. Happy Labor Day.

ETA: Deluxe Passes (the $150 option) sold out in under 3 minutes. The Celebrity Fast Pass for $295 is still available, probably because of the price tag.

ETA: Everything else is still available but ECCC has confirmed they've "already had record breaking (for us) first day sales" and estimates that "You’ve probably got a couple months, if the current pattern holds true." Now obviously they know their numbers and I don't - but if you're dead set on attending ECCC, I wouldn't wait that long.

I have a feeling one reason the Celebrity Fast Passes haven't sold out yet is because ECCC is still considering which special guests to include. Hence people don't know if they want to pony up $300 for celebrity access yet. It'll be interesting to see how coming announcements (some this week) will influence that sale.

Some people seemed stunned and a little bitter that the Deluxe Passes went so fast - but for those of us accustomed to SDCC badge sales, this was a downright relaxing experience.

Making friends at Cons: the art of ConnectiKon

29 AUGUST 2014

A few months back, I posted about a new app called ConnectiKon. Designed to help Comic-Con attendees make friends and find events aligned with their interests, the app was a huge hit at SDCC – not only with attendees and fans but also with exhibitors and local businesses.
Here's how it works. You tell the app what city you're in, tap the keyword reflecting your interests, and see a list of users who match up. You can check them out and send them an Instant Message if you want - and you can post your own keywords too. And you can do all of this safely and privately, because you only reveal the information you feel comfortable sharing. 
Given that Labor Day Weekend is our entry into the second half of Con season, I decided to go back to creator Adam Klugman and revisit the app’s potential for other Cons. Dragon*Con kicks off this weekend, Salt Lake Comic Con is next weekend and that’s followed by Rose City Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and San Diego Comic Fest just weeks after that – all of which are prime breeding grounds for ConnectiKon users.
Adam, remind me again: what was the impetus for creating this app?
Well, we noticed that social media space was all about sharing. That’s how people use it, generally. We wanted to expand the horizons of what was possible in social media and evolve it - not technologically but through how we use it. We feel that’s the next evolution in social media: how people are using these platforms. We felt that it was time to move past using social for just sharing and virtual connections and move on to using it for real world connections.

Several studies have shown that many social media users have actually become more lonely and isolated – their virtual connections don’t satisfy their needs for real human connection. Our goal was to create an app that fostered real-world interaction.

I know the app launched right before SDCC this summer. What was the reception?
It was great. Of everyone who tried it, 70% returned to use it again, and most spent a fair amount of time on the app; the average use time was 12-15 minutes. What surprised us was that it wasn’t just attendees using it to find events and meet each other; vendors used to advertise offers and local businesses and restaurants used it for promotions. For instance, McFadden’s used it to advertise their cosplay events.

What we think is so great is that any group can find anything – Spiderman lovers can find other Spiderman lovers; Bronies can connect with other Bronies. It’s an app where you can get your arms around every community. You just have to put yourself out there.

Will it ever be available for Android?
We’re working on the Android version. Our idea is to keep tweaking and perfecting this version, then create a clone for Android. That should happen within the next 6 months.

Inquiring minds want to know: what’s your specific nerd background, besides attending Comic-Con?
I’ve been an avid comic book collector since I was 10 years old. Spiderman was my favorite growing up. I even had Spiderman #1 for a while – I found it in Hollywood in 1971 for $40. But I sold it a few years later for $80 when I needed the money. I kick myself for that to this day. I’m also a big sci-fi nerd.

Are there any unusual ways the app can be used, besides finding events?
ConnectiKon is designed to be flexible and accommodate whatever users are looking for. You post your keywords and get connected to other people who share those interests. We call it the dating app for people who aren’t looking for a date, so theoretically people can use it in many ways. I have to say that I’m looking forward to users showing me the creative ways they use it.

Based on how flexible it is, it sounds like ConnectiKon can be used at business conferences and other big events – or even just at home.
That’s true. It’s the people’s app. There’s no intermediary; you can use it to find a racquetball partner or find a date or a find a group that shares your interests. It’s about finding your crowd and connecting with them. That’s why it works at Comic-Con and that’s why we designed it with the Con in mind - because nerds are playful, tech savvy and open to new things. But it could also work at the Olympics or anywhere else your kind of people are, anywhere you have greatest opportunity to connect.

So there you have it; at just a few months old, ConnectiKon is thriving and ready to help you go to more parties, make more friends, or just locate the one vendor at the Con who has the lost collectible you're hunting. Maybe you're trying to find a Star Trek party at Dragon*Con this weekend. Maybe you're thinking about organizing a meetup for your favorite show at Rose City Comic Con next month. Whatever's on your agenda, ConnectiKon can probably help - so live up to its tagline "Do Something" and give it a try.

No appeal for the convention center expansion

27 AUGUST 2014

More dismal news on the convention center front; the San Diego City Council will not appeal the recent court ruling that killed its financing plan for the expansion.

This isn't as simple as the expansion happening or not. Other possibilities are now in play, some of which don't sound all that appealing. One option is finding alternative financing; another is exploring "a non-contiguous expansion at a different location that could include a new stadium for the Chargers."

Yes - the Chargers, the original foes of the plan, and their dream stadium are rising to the fore again. Their idea is that the stadium could be used for conventions (the ultimate Hall H) while JMI Realty likes the idea of putting exhibit space under the field. Either solution would be blocks away from the convention center. The Chargers originally threatened to leave San Diego over this very issue, so it's easy to frame this as a Jocks vs. Nerds battle - but municipal politics are always thorny.

In any case, it doesn't look like we'll get our expanded convention center by 2017. I still believe CCI won't pull out of San Diego entirely; I think either it will become a more dispersed experience like NYCC is doing or break into two Cons, one in LA and one in San Diego. No doubt people will be dissatisfied either way but let's hope for a positive solution.

Sorry I don't have better news for you.

Reminder: Emerald City sale goes live on Labor Day

27 AUGUST 2014

If you couldn't tell, I'll be loosely covering Emerald City Comicon doings over the next 7 months. Probably not to the smothering extent to which I post about SDCC, but I will be covering general developments.

So let's review what we know. ECCC 2015 is 27-29 March and passes go on sale Monday, 1 September. Minion applications also go live sometime in September (which I don't think is quite as competitive as becoming an SDCC volunteer.)

If you're an SDCC veteran who's decided to head to Seattle for the first time, as many nerds are doing, your stomach might clench with dread at the thought of a new online Con sale. To put this in perspective, here's how it went last year. Saturday and 3-day badges sold out in mid-January, Sunday badges sold out in mid-February and Friday in early March.

But that was last year. The law of accelerating return has seen every Con sell out faster and faster, sometimes with wild surges in interest. So I would advise acting sooner rather than later when it comes to getting your ECCC pass. I'm not trying to start a stampede - just giving you my best guess on the speed and voracity with which people will buy these passes. I don't think it will look like last year; there was a fair amount of surprised press when the 2014 3-day passes sold out, which was as good as ringing a bell and telling everyone to buy early for 2015. So while I don't think you need to panic, I wouldn't let months go by either.

Available passes

In a change from last year, the VIP program no longer exists. Instead you can buy a Celebrity Fast Pass for $295, which includes exclusive line access to celebrity/talent autographs and photo ops (and yes, you still have to pay for those). Only 500 of those are available; same goes for the Deluxe Pass for $150 which includes exclusive access to show floor.

A regular 3-day pass is a budget-friendly $85 and single day passes are available as well. See the details here.

Hotel rooms are live

I've already booked my room at the Sheraton for - wait for it - $145 a night. The other hotels have similar or even less expensive rates. Most seem to require a nonrefundable one-night deposit.

Do you want to go?

If you're asking why this Con has gotten so popular, one reason is that it's more focused on comic books; it's also relatively laidback and it has some of that exciting-but-not-frantic energy that SDCC had years ago. It's more navigable than San Diego (ignore the people online complaining about the lines and disorganization - if you've survived SDCC, this will be a cakewalk) and the organizers are interactive and fan-focused, which just isn't the case at many Cons. (Witness their Tumblr.) Passes are mailed out in advance, which is nice, and we even know the dates for 2016: 8-10 April.

But the main difference seems to be one of accessibility. Unlike SDCC, where you're constantly forced to boil down a multitude of options to one event - where you know your favorite actor on your favorite show is in the very next room but you'll never make it inside - Emerald City is still a place where if you want to experience something, you can probably do it. That's a major selling point for people deciding where to spend their Comic Con dollars.

Apply now for SDCC 2015 exhibit space

24 AUGUST 2014

It's hard to believe that a month ago today we were all at Comic-Con. It seems long in the past, doesn't it? And in fact it's already time to start preparing for 2015 - if you want to stake your claim on the Exhibit Hall floor or appear in Artist's Alley, that is.

If you'd like to be an exhibitor or showcase your work, now is the time to apply. You can find both applications here - just remember that applying doesn't guarantee you a space.

San Diego Comic-Con 2015 will be held 8-12 July, 2015.

Timeframe for SDCC badge sales

21 AUGUST 2014

After much speculation, we now know that Pre-registration will be this fall and Open Registration will be in spring of 2015 - subject to change, of course.

For you first-timers, this will be the order of sales:

Pre-registration (fall 2014)
The Early Bird Hotel Sale (winter or spring 2015)
Open Registration (spring 2015)
Hotel Sale (spring 2015)

This means there will be possibly half a year between getting your badge in Pre-reg, and booking your hotel room through Travel Planners. Given that the worst official* CCI sale of the year was when hotel reservations re-opened after the initial sale, it's likely that the Early Bird Hotel Sale will sell out quickly this year - and that many attendees who get lucky in Pre-reg will opt to book rooms on their own this fall.

* I know the parking sale was the worst sale but that was run by Ace Parking - CCI had no role in it.

Emerald City tickets go on sale 1 September

16 AUGUST 2014

If you're going to join me at Emerald City Comicon next March, be aware that tickets go on sale Monday, 1 September. It's not like an SDCC badge sale so there's no need for an anxiety attack - but given that this Con gets more popular every year, it's not a bad idea to be on point for this.

Emerald City is 27-29 March 2015. It's gotten the coveted branding of being "like San Diego was in 2004" but I'm not sure that's completely accurate; there isn't as much of a Hollywood presence here as there was then. But it does appeal to nerdier SDCC attendees (that's not redundant - many San Diego attendees don't fit the traditional comic book nerd/gamer/sci-fi fan trifecta) and attracts some top artists, along with those celebrities who tend to show up a lot on the smaller Con circuit.

Last year it had 70,000 attendees and occupied the entire Washington State Convention and Trade Center for the first time. The gaming portion had to be relocated to the nearby Sheraton. Will it be even bigger this year? My Magic 8 Ball says yes.

Hotel room rates haven't yet been posted but badge prices have. Here are your options:

Celebrity Fast Pass - $295
Includes 3-day admission, plus exclusive line access to celebrity/talent autographs and photo ops. Only 500 available.

Deluxe Pass - $150

Includes 3-day admission, exclusive access to show floor, your choice of a shirt, goodie bag, other stuff. Also limited to 500.

3-Day Pass - $85 

Friday Pass - $35

Saturday Pass - $45

Sunday Pass - $35

Child Pass - $10

If you're in Seattle, Vancouver or Portland, you're probably already going - but it might be worth a trip for those of you in farther flung locales. It's also a good starter Con for people who've never done SDCC, and a safety option in case you wash out in the San Diego badge sale. (Not that that's going to happen to any of us, knock on wood.)

Update on SDCC-Salt Lake lawsuit

10 AUGUST 2014

Last month, during the flush of San Diego Comic-Con madness, CCI served Salt Lake Comic Con with a cease and desist order. But that's old news; this month they are suing them for monetary damages and an injunction demanding Salt Lake stop using “any combination, reproduction, counterfeit, copy or colorable imitation of the COMIC-CON marks in the marketing, promoting, advertising, offering for sale, or the sale of goods or services.”

CCI says: they did this on the principle that SLCC's name is confusing to the public and suggests an SDCC-SLCC alliance that doesn't exist. Basically, intellectual property infringement.

Salt Lake says: CCI lashed out because Salt Lake burst onto the scene last year like a boss, with their very first event attended by 78K and then over 100K at their next event. And because they drove a Salt Lake Comic Con Audi around San Diego during SDCC, which is the kind of guerilla marketing you'd expect from an audacious young upstart, but which CCI shouldn't have let bother them.

I know legal documents aren't always the most exciting reads, but the lawsuit is actually rather entertaining. I will highlight and hope that I don't get sued.

  • SDCC believes  that  in   2013, Salt    Lake   decided    to "capitalize  on  SDCC’s  creativity,   ingenuity and   hard   work   through  the  unauthorized    use    of    SDCC’s   trademarks    to    advertise    and    promote    Defendants’    own     popular    arts    convention   titled   “Salt    Lake    Comic       Con.” "           I        know         this       is           legalese        but          "Comic            Con"             seems         to          be        what         they're     referring          to        here.      See       below.

  • They     say    the    "extensive, unauthorized   use of    “Comic    Con”  (which   is   identical   to   or   confusingly    similar   to   SDCC’s COMIC-CON  marks)"     is    " intended   to suggest,   mislead   and   confuse   consumers into   believing that  the Salt Lake Comic Con convention   is   associated   with,   authorized   by,    endorsed   by   or   sponsored   by   SDCC."        They   don't     explain   why    this   argument   doesn't    apply   to  all  of   the   other Comic Cons     or    Comicons    in the   world.

  • " On   their     website    Defendants    advertise, market and    sell    merchandise      that     incorporates         SDCC’s         COMIC-CON        mark,     including         t-shirts,       sweatshirts, hats, blankets, bags, mugs,  phone cases,   flags,  key chains and much more. The    logos    affixed   by   Defendants   to such   items   prominently   display and   emphasize   the   COMIC-CON   mark, while   minimizing   any   reference to  “Salt  Lake.”     They    actually    say   "Comic   Con"   (no hyphen)  and   they   don't   look   even   close   to    the   SDCC    logo   to  my   eye.

  • Salt  Lake's    jaunty   response   toward  the   cease  and   desist   letter    seems   to   have   annoyed  CCI  as   well.   "In   a   further   effort  to   solicit   interest   in   their    convention   through   the unauthorized and   unlawful   use   of SDCC’s   intellectual    property, Defendants    invite   readers    to     propagate   their   skewed   accounting of    events,   by   “liking”   or commenting   on   various   publications   made or   driven    by   Defendants   regarding   the   dispute   in   exchange for   a    chance    to    win   a   pass   to   Defendants’   event.  Defendants    have   made   it clear in several   online publications that they do not intend to stop their unauthorized use and   infringement   of   SDCC’s   COMIC-COM   marks, but   instead   have brazenly   and   intentionally   continued    to   infringe  the COMIC-CON   mark   resulting   in   considerable   and    irreparable   harm   to SDCC."      Skewed    and  brazen!    I    hope   whoever   wrote  this   lawsuit   writes   our  badge  sale   emails.

  • They    are    concerned   that   the   "confusingly   similar  marks"   will   deprive   SDCC   "of    the    ability    to    control   the   consumer   perception  of   the   quality   of  the   goods   and  services"   and    basically   make   them   lose   control   of    their   own   reputation.    Which   is  a  legitimate  fear   or    would   be   if    Salt   Lake  actually    seemed   to   be  blurring   the    line.   I  just  don't  think  people   are  going  to  make   that   mistake.

So   let's   just  say   it,  IP   infringement    is   a  serious   matter.  But  it's   still   hard    to   see   what   Salt   Lake   is    doing   that    other   Cons    aren't,   other   than   their   stunt    with   the  Audi.   (You  can  see  it  here.   I'd  wager   it's   the  font  that  pissed  off CCI.)  They're   already   a   wildly   popular   event  and  clearly    don't  need  to   leech   off   San  Diego's  buzz;   and  their   branding  look  and  feel  is   nothing   like  SDCC's.    I   can't   imagine   this   lawsuit    doing    CCI   any   favors or   doing   anything   at   all    but   stirring   up   more  publicity   for   Salt   Lake   Comic   Con.

This   turned   out   to  be   such    a    contentious   year, didn't   it?

Expansion could be bumped to 2020

9 AUGUST 2014

This is disheartening; the expansion of the convention center, which was originally assigned to a completion date of 2017, is now being talked about in terms of 2020 or later.

We know the appellate court has officially frowned upon the financing plan/hotel tax increase - or rather, demanded that city voters sign off on it. The San Diego City Council has until 10 September to file an appeal, which could take a year or more. Other options: they could try to finance it a different way or stick to their plan but put it on a ballot, either by special election or in the 2016 election.

All in all, "the opening might not come before 2020, according to Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority." Remember when you were little and 2020 sounded like you'd be flying around on a spaceship by then? That's when the expanded convention center might be completed.

And so it goes. There doesn't seem to be much we can do - but with all of invested players in this game, I'm sure other options will emerge over the coming months and years.

Pre-registration will have a "validation period"

8 AUGUST 2014

If there's one thing Comic-Con registration needs, it's more complexity and another step, said no one ever. But that's exactly what we're all getting.

We knew that we needed our badge for Pre-registration. A glance at the badge led to a safe guess that it would involve the "Badge ID" printed at the bottom. But if you thought you would just have to input that during Pre-reg, you were wrong; instead there will be a separate step called "pre-registration validation" completely separate from the badge sale.

And it's going to happen soon. Over the next few weeks, you'll get an email telling you how to enter your Badge ID for this validation. It will be open for "only a short window of time."  Sometime after that, when you're safely validated, you can participate in Pre-reg. Which as I predicted before, sounds like it also will happen soon. I say this because CCI refers to this validation period as in "the weeks preceding preregistration."

Again - this only applies to those of you who wore an attendee badge around your neck two weeks ago. If you were there as an exhibitor, a volunteer, press, anything else, you can't partake in Pre-reg.

I'm going to be churlish here and say that if CCI put as much effort into improving things like lines and badge pick-up as they've directed toward this badge code stuff, there would be - well, I don't know exactly, but I'm positive things would be a lot better. Obviously this is engineered to make sure only eligible attendees get into the Pre-reg badge sale and I appreciate that. But it does seem weird that with all the top IT experts they supposedly procured these last 2 years, they can't design their system to segment badge recipients automatically.

Convention center expansion plan blocked

4 AUGUST 2014

Image courtesy of San Diego Metro

If you've been following the saga of the planned expansion for the convention center, you'll be interested to know that the California appellate court struck down the plan to fund the $520 million expansion.

Foes of the plan - led by attorney Cory Briggs - have long objected to the strategy of taxing hotel owners to pay for the expansion. The court ruled that the tax violates the state constitution. In return, mayor Kevin Faulconer said the expansion was "critically important" for the local economy, as are large events like SDCC. The additional 740,000 square feet would give the convention center "the largest amount of contiguous floor space on the West Coast." What wasn't said: how many extra attendees that will accommodate.

All along I've assumed the expansion was a done deal, prone to typical legal wranglings and power moves, but ultimately a sure thing. Now I'm not sure at all. "The appellate ruling likely means the expansion won’t happen anytime soon. Comic-Con is committed to San Diego only through 2016."

Ominous words, but I sense that CCI wants to keep the Con in San Diego - and if we know anything about CCI, it's that change isn't their native tongue. We also know they trademarked "Los Angeles Comic-Con." So I still believe we'll see a new Con hive off SDCC before we see the entire show up and move out of state. Or more, likely, we won't see any change at all.

No, I don't know the date of Pre-registration

3 AUGUST 2014

I do, however, think it will happen soon as opposed to 2015 - so stay on top of your email game. If you opted out of CCI emails, make sure you opt back in.

For those of you who are wondering what Pre-reg is, it's the first sale of 2015 Comic-Con badges and it is only open to those who had an attendee badge this summer. If you didn't go this summer, or you were there as an exhibitor / professional / some other category, you're not eligible for this sale. You can try for an attendee badge during Open Registration (which will happen after Pre-reg.)

Stay tuned.

Your last chance to get New York Comic Con tickets

2 AUGUST 2014

If you participated in the lightning-fast New York Comic Con ticket sale a few weeks back - one riddled with unhappy potential attendees - you might have flashed back to your last SDCC badge sale. It was that fast and frustrating. But NYCC is doing something I couldn't see SDCC doing in a million years: selling a limited number of tickets and Super Week cards through comic book stores. Well - some comic stores.

ReedPOP, the organizer of NYCC, has already differentiated itself by rolling out the Special Edition comic fest in June and then unleashing New York Super Week, a period of special events (galleries, concerts, readings, lectures) around the city. The latter requires a card, separate from the regular Con ticket.

If you missed out in the main sale, you now have a chance to try again on 7 August. Midtown Comics will sell both tickets for NYCC and New York Super Week; on 8 August, more tickets will be available at other stores in New York, New Jersey, Boston, Connecticut and Illinois. 4 per customer is the limit.

Please also note that though NYCC is currently being described as "sold out," Thursday badges are still available on site.


Update on injured cosplayer

1 AUGUST 2014

Here's some good news: the young cosplayer found bloody on the side of the road and hospitalized was not assaulted, according to police.

The story is still ambiguous because only the girl knows the entire story - and while she's regained consciousness in the hospital, her memory is fuzzy. But the police are considering her injuries the result of a fall, thanks to security camera footage.

We know a little more about what happened and some of the details are heartbreaking: it was her 17th birthday and her first Comic-Con, and she wound up in the hospital with skull and eye socket fractures and brain hemorrhaging. The man arrested was charged with sexual contact with a minor and "contributing to the delinquency" of a minor - and he's denying both. That would be Justin Kalior who runs Project Cosplay on YouTube. Apparently the two came to Comic-Con together.

Police are saying there could be other suspects and would like to talk to anyone who saw the girl or Kalior around the Marriott between 11 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday. If you have information, please email sdhpiwatch@portofsandiego.org.

Still a dismal story, but not quite as violent as was originally reported. It sounds like the girl has a long recovery ahead of her, so let's support her and her family in any way we can, including by honoring her privacy.

ETA: The Mary Sue has posted an update.

Comic-Con 2014: what first-timers have to say

1 AUGUST 2014

A week ago we were at Comic-Con. By now you’ve unpacked and done your laundry, probably regretted a few decisions, and made at least two or three resolutions for how you’ll do everything different next year, should the lottery gods smile upon you. There's always a slight feeling of relief when it's over, isn't there? Especially when you've logged in quite a few summers at the convention center.
For a different perspective, here’s how some first-timers experienced Comic-Con.


Abbas. While he knew to expect lines for the big panels, the fact that there were lines for the exhibitor booths, for the toys, for the outside events, and even to pick up his pre-paid SDCC shirt was less expected. And the panel lines were “a huge shock. Yes, you read about them over and over again but you never quite expect the enormity of it all.”
While he successfully attended Ballroom 20 on Thursday (with an arrival time of 7 am), Saturday for Hall H was a different story. He arrived at 4 am and discovered that all 6500 wristbands had been handed out and there were another 2000 people in front of him without a wristband. So he did the wise thing and went to breakfast. His overall conclusion is that the number of attendees need to be reduced or there should be lotteries for attending panels. He was also surprised at the number of times a staffer directed him to the wrong place and was disappointed that he had to “work” for freebies by watching a demo or sending a tweet, etc. I’ve heard a number of people complain about this.
On the positive side, he was impressed by the good energy among attendees and the civility that tends to prevail even when we’re all feeling hot, crowded and tired of waiting. “The level of courtesy and patience was amazingly high.” He also loved watching the cosplay.

Final tally: “While the experience did not match my expectations, it was still a fun thing to do.”

Fred. His first response was a common one: “All of my planning went out the window when I actually was in the thick of things.  I had to rearrange my schedule on the fly in response to the crush of humanity in the lines.” Yep, that happens. He did make some panels, including The Last Ship, Falling Skies, and the NASA one. He didn’t try for the big room panels based on my comments but says he preferred watching them at home anyhow because the sacrifices to see them live wouldn’t have been worth it. I feel slightly guilty about this.
As a comic book nerd, Fred “really enjoyed the comic publishers' booths.  It was fun to meet some of my favorite artists and pick up a few of their SDCC exclusive variants of the books that I collect.” That said, his exclusives experience was less ideal. “I didn't like how the purchasing procedure for the Lego exclusives seems to be rigged by the vendors.  I saw vendors briefing their "employees" that they had hired to be place holders in the line. So by the time the sale went live, the exclusives were already sold out each day. I later saw these same vendors on the exhibition hall floor selling the exclusives at double and even triple the original price.” Again, this is something I’ve heard from multiple people.
Final tally: “Besides the Lego fiasco, I enjoyed SDCC very much.  I met a lot of great people whom I hope to see again next year.”

Kristen. Interestingly she is a non-nerd who was dragged into this by friends. (I always wonder about those people who don’t even care they have a Comic-Con badge and so I'm glad one has reached out to me.)  I’m happy to report she converted to our ways on the spot; the siren’s song of weird toys and flashy footage and new video games pulled her in.
She made it into Hall H on Saturday but one of the people in her room didn’t get a wristband in time and got shut out, which caused a riff in their group and cast a shadow over the weekend. That can happen when you’re with a group of friends. They stayed in Hall H all the way through Gotham; she was very into the Batman vs Superman footage and though she’s “not a sci-fi person at all” she was intrigued by Jupiter Ascending. I don’t know, Kristen, I’m sensing the seed of sci-fi fandom in you. Just let it happen.
Final tally: “I’m glad I went.”

Ferd and Gail. Overall they had the most positive experience of all my attendees. They got many of their exclusives and hit many panels, including Battlestar Galactica, Under the Dome, Scorpion (which they rated highly), Reign, iZombie (another favorite), Inside the Writers Room, The Whedonverse, and Rulers of the Realm. They also met Jane Espenson, a major SDCC goal, attended Evangeline Lilly’s signing and got autographs from George RR Martin and Anne Rice, along with others.
They couldn’t do everything; while the lines for the Game of Thrones panel was predictably insurmountable, the outside events like the Gotham zipline and the GOT Survive the Realm had too-long lines as well. Ferd wanted to attend the creative how-to panels but there wasn’t time. Next year, Ferd. Their tip for other attendees: they brought along lightweight (12 oz) tripod camp stools that “really came in handy” during long waits in line.

Final tally: “It was awesome fun!”
Tanner. Tanner got a badge as a gift from his grandparents after wanting to go to SDCC for years. He and his friend had "an amazing time" but "got into trouble at one point" - he didn't elaborate. Apparently he didn't wind up in Comic-Con jail or anything because he managed to get into the Sons of Anarchy panel on Sunday and he also scored some free video games. The girls were also hotter than he expected. Glad the women of SDCC exceeded your expectations, Tanner. Maybe you can put together a calendar next year.
Final tally: "Definitely going next year."

Nina. She came with her boyfriend. They did two separate shows, as couples sometimes do; he vanished into the flashy world of gaming panels and tournaments and she went to the cosplay panels and the voice acting panels. She expected “more real opportunities” to “meet people” and find out how to break into the industry. “These panels give advice but that is as far as it goes. I didn’t find out anything I didn’t already know.” Fair enough. While I do think the creative tracks offer value at SDCC, they aren't the place to be discovered. To make connections, you need to be at the right bars and parties. (And not reek of desperation and professional failure.)
Unfortunately her own costume failed her, so she was unable to carry out her first major cosplay adventure as planned. I can see where that would be a huge disappointment. Left to her own devices, she found a few TV panels to go to but they were all inaccessible. She and her boyfriend did make the Fight Club panel and she was bored.
Final tally: “It wasn’t very helpful.” She doesn’t know if she’ll be back.

Amber.  Amber and her husband possibly set a Comic-Con record: they spent less than an hour in line the whole weekend. Their secrets included skipping Hall H and Ballroom 20 and exclusives and magically getting their Friday badges at 8:30 in only 15 minutes. (That's one thing that has improved; with the higher number of people attending Preview Night, Friday, Saturday and Sunday badge lines are much better than they used to be.) That said, they did hit a huge number of panels and had a generally well-rounded Comic-Con experience. That included a post-Eisner party, the Masquerade, the Nerd HQ Orphan Black panel and the Playback Room at the Omni to watch some of the biggest panels there. Their one disappointment was the Game of Thrones: Survive the Realm experience, the lines for which ultimately proved impossible.

All in all they had a great time, made friends, and called the Con-goers "overall such a happy, considerate crowd." True, that. Also noted: "We couldn't have made it without Twitter and our back-up battery for our mobile devices." Next year they intend to buy Thursday if possible, submit faster for the hotel lottery, and hit the popular outside events on Thursday when the lines aren't quite as long. And take Monday off work because "Comic-Con felt like a cross between Disneyland and Vegas to me, and we were exhausted when we got home."

Final tally: "We had a BLAST!"

So, no real surprises here. Some people had a great time, some people didn’t. Again, Comic-Con isn’t for everyone. And despite all of the warnings about the lines, there was no way to fully grasp their extremity until viewed in person. I think it's like seeing a dinosaur in person - it's not an experience you can be adequately prepared for.

And that wraps up 2014. I’m now shifting to an off-season posting schedule. Thanks for reading and I hope that whether you stayed home or saw the show, you got something out of Comic-Con this summer. I’ll be back with updates on Pre-registration and any other news that washes up. Until then, stay nerdy - and try not to miss me.

Interview with MC Frontalot

30 JULY 2014

If you were at the Merrow last Friday night, you got to see MC Frontalot give an amazing show. If you didn't get to see it, you missed out - but you can find out what he's doing right now. His sixth album, Question Bedtime, will be released by Level Up on 26 August, with guests that include Open Mike Eagle, Kid Koala, Paul F Tompkins, Kyle Kinane, mc chris and others. And yes, that is the artwork of legendary comic book artist Bill Sienkiewicz on the album cover above.

I caught up with him at Comic-Con to talk about his new album and dissect the essential nerdiness at the core of the #1 Nerdcore rapper in the world.

So you're the progenitor of Nerdcore. How did that get started?

The original idea was that it's difficult to present yourself as a rapper unless you're cool. Pop stars in general are usually pretty cool but rappers are especially cool. So I was sitting there rapping into my computer and it occurred to me that if I inverted the whole notion of how cool I was supposed to be, that it would make it acceptable that I was recording these things into my computer. I was doing it for years as a hobby before it turned into a career. In the beginning I didn't have to put myself out there much - I could use my nerd skills to do it without being a rapper in real life. I could make MP3s and had control of a web server and I could put up an image gallery on the frontalot.com page. It was all real rappers with their faces blurred out, pretending it was me.

The whole thing was supposed to be this sleight of hand – that's why I'm MC Frontalot. It's impossible to pin me down. But then other people started calling what they were doing nerdcore and the press started taking an interest and the press doesn’t like you to be an anonymous person online. They want to know how old you are and where you went to high school and what you look like. So I had to abandon all the anonymity. But I eventually made my peace with it and once I got the band together around 2004, I started doing it live enough that I was no longer embarrassed to get on stage.

Then the whole thing seemed great. The fan base built up over the years and it's been a full-time gig since 2006.

So what breed of nerd are you?

I started life as a big reader - fantasy and sci-fi when I was little but I became more visual as I got older and got deep into comic books. Then video games got very fancy and honestly those absorb more of my attention than literature does these days.

In addition to being a musician and rapper, do you practice other art forms?

I’ve always been a cartoonist but I’m not terribly good at it. I post web comics for my fans and this weekend I'm a guest at the Dumbrella booth.

Who are some of your favorite comic creators?

Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Julie Doucet, Hernandez Brothers, others.

Tell us about your new album.

It's all fairytale songs. I got a cover out of Bill Sienkiewicz which I'm extremely excited about - he's one of my favorite illustrators of all time. 

It's sort of a children's record and it sort of isn't. Like it's maybe slightly too scary and definitely way too complex for little kids. I don't know that there's an upper limit on being interested in it unless you felt for some reason you're too old to be interested in fairy tales.

Nerds aren't like that.

Yeah, nerds aren't like that.

It's weird  - it occupies this strange space between entertainment that is kid-appropriate but not kid-targeted. I was talking about this with my keyboardist; he said "yeah, it's for alternative tweens - it's 'altweenative.'" And I was like, "Wow, that is the shittiest word I've heard all night. I'm going to tell that word to the press and blame it on you." So it's altweenative and that's his fault, my keyboardist G Minor 7.

Awesome word. How is your new album different from your previous Nerdcore hiphop work?

This album is the first one that's a complete departure. The first five albums have songs on all kinds of topics like getting old or having trouble going to sleep. They always have stuff on my weird little core obsessions – there's a song about text adventures and a song about data encryption, a song about cryptozoology - stuff that's easy to identify as Nerdcore. And there's been five albums that have been very easy to identify as Nerdcore. This one, I don't know if it will be. There's nothing about computers or technology and the songs aren't set in the present day - they're all set to these really old stories.

But they're sort of magical and definitely very imaginative and I hope my audience will dig it. The seed of it is me at 11 years old in middle school in the library going through these old fairy tale compilations and bugging the librarian about missing volumes. I tried to make a record about my obsession. Maybe it is a Nerdcore record. And maybe it is a children's record - there's no cussing on it.
I don’t really have a handle on what the record is but I’m excited that I did something entirely different.

<Editorial note: I've heard the album and it is magnificent.>

How do you feel about your fans defining your work? For instance, when they see something in your work that you didn't intend?

Well, authorial intent only gets you so far. Every piece of art only truly exists in the mental landscape of whomever is consuming it. That's always their prerogative to decide what it means. But when they say "MC Frontalot definitely meant this" - we could have a debate but I'm going to have the most authority. It doesn't bug me, though. I like it when people find stuff I didn't intend that they think fits really well with the stuff I did intend.

I have a song called Origins of Species from the second record about my unhappiness with Intelligent Design becoming popular. The song is in the voice of this reverend, Reverend Frontaloud who's telling everyone how we're going to defeat the secularists. Someone stuck it on YouTube and half the commenters didn't understand the satire - they thought I was tearing down atheism and the other half said "You guys are idiots! MC Frontalot hates religion!"

And neither of those are true. I was trying to create a critique of Intelligent Design with some sympathy for people where I feel their brains have been infected by these ideas and it's not really their fault - your belief structure gets built when you're little. And you lean on other people and your culture to tell you what's right and wrong. I don't begrudge people who like to live that way. But I am mad at people who invent fraudulent ideas like creationism equals science. They're doing a disservice to people of faith. So that's one example of people thinking I intended something I didn't.

What's your favorite thing about Comic-Con?

Just kidding. My favorite thing about Comic-Con is getting to see some of my buddies and all the other creator folks who have to come here for work. In the evening I get to run around and sometimes I get invited to fancy nerd parties and I can fanboy out on whoever. I also meet people like fantastic illustrators – I’m always shopping for my next album cover.
Question Bedtime releases 26 August. 

Tour dates:
US: 19 August-20 Sept
UK: 24 September– Late October
Australia: Late October - Early November

What can we do better?

30 JULY 2014

Comic-Con was a good one for me this year, but there's no denying it ended on a dark note for many in the community. Three incidents have been the topic of much conversation:

  1. The ZombieWalk accident in which a woman was hospitalized with a broken arm
  2. A brutal incident where an underage cosplayer wound up hospitalized with bleeding on the brain
  3. Immense anger around Hall H lines and accusations of line-jumping and special treatment

I realize that to an outsider, the last one may sound trivial compared to the other two. But it's stirred up a lot of enmity among dedicated Hall H nerds and serves as an example of how SDCC is cracking at the seams. In any case, in the absence of perfect solutions, probably the best thing we can do is ask ourselves as a community: what can we do better?

The cosplayer incident has caused a lot of people to throw shade at CCI for their failure to institute a stronger anti-harassment policy this summer. While I feel CCI should have made more of an effort in that direction, I don't think we can lay this crime at their feet. All the posters and policies in the world probably wouldn't have stopped this assault from happening. (ETA: It wasn't an assault as reported but an accident - but police have arrested a suspect for other reasons.)

What we can take from this are 2 things. One, some people really do have a frightening attitude toward cosplayers (or sexually attractive women in general.) It doesn't matter if they're a small minority - it only takes 1 person to grope, harass, follow or worse. Let's stop trivializing women's complaints. Two, it's important to be cautious in regard to who we trust. Let me be clear, I'm not blaming the victim in any way. But when the arrest report was published, and people saw the arrest took place at the Marriott Marquis, there were way too many reactions of, "No way was it another attendee!"

People seemed shocked at the idea that our friendly little community might harbor a few monsters. Whether it was an attendee or not, we all need to realize that there are 130,000 of us. It's easy to become instant friends with the people next to you in line or bond with strangers in the elevator. That kinship is one of the main things people love about the Con.

But given our numbers, it's statistically likely that we have sociopaths and criminals in our midst. Another attendee grabbed my chest in my hotel bar. Do you think he cared that I was a fellow nerd, someone in his community? No, he saw a woman rejecting him and he lashed out. Comic-Con isn't a magical safety zone where only good people can enter on their best behavior. So let's take this as a reminder to not place too much trust in the strangers around us. And if you do see anyone acting offensively, speak up.

As for lines - we all know how bad it was this year. I feel somewhat guilty because the advice I gave on when to get in line proved woefully inadequate. But I also wonder how complicit I and other outlets are in creating this level of insanity. When we all tell the world how horrible Hall H lines are, and how early you have to get there, are we in fact making it worse? Are we helping people get into their dream panels - or are we acting as carnival barkers, driving people to create the thing we complain about? I would feel as if I was lying by omission if I didn't warn people about the lines. At the same time, I know I'm feeding that panic.

I don't know the solution here. Tickets and room-clearing are one, but right now we have to deal with the situation as it is. I never thought anything could top the Twilight fans and their multi-day campouts but the arguments and bitterness over this year's lines were truly depressing. As someone who simply gave up on Hall H years ago, it's easy for me to ignore this but I know that many of you live and die for Hall H panels. At the very least CCI should provide a fair and orderly mechanism for lining up. The feuds and blaming that followed this weekend have been destructively ugly.

All in all, I believe SDCC is still a mostly safe place. People get assaulted everywhere, after all. But before the community is poisoned by arguments and distrust, we need to find whatever solutions we can, whether it's amongst ourselves or by asking CCI to do better.

What you didn't like about Comic-Con

29 JULY 2014

Stories from my first-timers are still coming in so those won't be up for a day or two. In the meantime, I'm going to answer a few questions and observations from disgruntled attendees who were clearly surprised by Comic-Con and what they found there. The lines. The unfairness. The failure to dazzle. Everyone has expectations and sometimes those expectations go down in flames.

Why do they let so many people in? It's too crowded. No kidding. First off, while everyone would like more breathing room in the convention center, it always seems to come at the assumption that other people would be losing their badges in return - not them. Fewer people = a smaller chance you'll get a badge.

Yes, the convention center is being expanded but it's not going to double the space, as people keep saying. We don't know the number of extra attendees that could be accommodated. We do know the plan is to add 740,000 square feet to the 2.6-million-square-foot center IRT exhibition and ballroom space, along with a 5-acre rooftop park and a 500-room expansion of the Hilton Bayfront. That's all well and good but it's not going to admit an extra 80K people.

Why doesn't it just move to Vegas? Every year talk of Vegas comes up. But they have virtually no reason to fill their hotel rooms with our stingy selves instead of gamblers and business people who will pump cash into their economy. According to the NYT, we only spend $603 per person at Comic-Con. San Diego, on the other hand, adores us and wants to hang onto us. And CCI is very much a Cali organization.

The system is rigged against people with single day badges.  I know. My dream is that they keep the Town & Country open Weds-Saturday and let everyone get their badges a day in advance. I don't understand why they can't make this happen.

Where are all the comic books? Back in 2006, I'm guessing. It's been 80% Hollywood for quite a while now. Everyone knows that if you need space on the floor, you head over to the comic book area - it's nice and spacious over there. You can still pick up books and get them signed at Fantagraphics, Last Gasp, Drawn and Quarterly, Top Cow, Image, Boom! and such but it's not the place to hunt for back issues or discover indie artists and writers. 

The lines make it impossible to see anything. It's true that investing in one line comes at the expense of other panels - along with sleeping and eating sometimes - which means you really need to decide whether it's worth it. And ultimately, whether Comic-Con is worth it. I'm always accused of "negativity" on this blog but I am just trying to realistically prepare people for what awaits them. If you think SDCC is going to be a four-day dream of panels of all your favorites shows and movies, you're going to be very chagrined when you realize you can fit in maybe one panel or one day of panels, half of which won't be to your taste.

The staff was rude. Some of them are. Some are pretty nice. I've already heard a few "a security guard ruined my show" stories and I'm always sympathetic but at the end of the day, there's not much redress here. That's why I always advise attendees to suck it up and be as charming as possible. I'm not a particularly obedient person and I quite understand the impulse to tell off a fascist guard - but it is always, always better to take the long view, swallow your gall and preserve your SDCC freedom. You won't achieve anything by challenging them in a belligerent way. You have to be smooth about it.

The entire set-up is unfair. There are a lot of small (and considerable) injustices. One set of doors opened first so those people got in ahead of you and got your exclusive. People with inside knowledge or access seem to be beating out normal attendees. Parties are advertised that then shut everyone out. Part of this is the chaos and size of the Con and part of it is The Powers That Be not particularly caring.

I wasn't impressed. Great, now you know not to come back. I don't mean that sarcastically. It's good to know that SDCC isn't for you. Despite the ravenous demand for badges, many, many people have walked away from San Diego Comic-Con over the last six years because it just doesn't do it for them anymore. It's a valid feeling. For me SDCC is currently more about the experience - finding weird things like shirts with Vampira and the dead Shining twins on them and the occasional rare comic book, seeing friends and hearing artists talk about their work. I'm done bemoaning the lack of comics and have accepted what SDCC is. I'll be at Emerald City and other Cons to get a taste of what it used to be. I suggest everyone look elsewhere too if San Diego was a vast disappointment.

At some point, you have to accept that the halcyon days of SDCC are gone and they're not coming back. We just have to make the best of what's out there. That said, I'm sorry for all of you who had a bad experience this year. Remember, Cons are going to keep mutating and we shouldn't think the current state of San Diego will last forever. In a few years, it may break into 2 Cons, look wildly different, or fall into the shadow of a more popular competitor. Anything's possible for our future.

Help solve a horrific Comic-Con crime

29 JULY 2014

A young cosplayer was found on the side of the road, unconscious and covered in blood, during Comic-Con. Please help if you saw this girl or have any information at all that can help her family and the police. Thank you.

ETA: The Harbor Police have released a press release that indicates someone has been arrested. Let's give the victim lots of support and compassion from the community in her recovery.

Why you should consider Salt Lake Comic Con

29 JULY 2014

I spend a fair amount of time talking about other Cons on here, namely because I think people get too rabid about doing San Diego and San Diego only. I've also talked about the growth of other Cons, which have accelerated at astounding rates. However, Salt Lake Comic Con (note the careful omission of the dash, CCI) is in a league of its own. I can't even say it grew fast - instead it exploded into the scene as a full contender less than a year ago, like the Alien chest-burster.

Here's why you should consider going to Salt Lake:
  • It debuted last September 2013 with 70-80K attendance. That is a huge number for a first year.
  • It then hosted an April 2014 event called "Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Experience" which had over 100K attendance.
  • CCI has served them with a cease and desist order for using "Comic Con" in their name, despite so many other other Cons (New York Comic Con, Emerald City Comicon, Phoenix Comicon) doing the same. Why so spooked, CCI? 
They have far too many badge price options for me to address here, but I like that they have a VIP pass. I'll be curious to see if that stays feasible in the coming years. They also have a range of events and celebrities, which I'll let you be the judge of. But it's probably their corporate sponsorship and ambitious tagline -"One Event to Rule Them All" - that's making CCI nervous. This is clearly not a grassroots Con but a well-orchestrated event with media firepower behind it.

As for the SDCC vs SLCC battle, it's hovering somewhere between hilarious and pathetic. By serving SLCC with that letter during their own Con, CCI only guaranteed maximum publicity for Salt Lake and derision for themselves. (Between this and the media-illiterate handling of the harassment issue, they have got to get better leadership.) At any rate, SLCC has set up an entire page that includes the letter, media coverage, the trademark and a list of all other Cons with "Comic Con" in their name. Read it and judge.

Two days after SDCC ended, I know many of you feel left out of the fun. This is an option that you should consider. Emerald City isn't until next spring but Salt Lake is just a few weeks away. Take a look and think about ending your summer on a high note.