Comic Con Summary

16 JULY 2012

Well, it's over. We're all home now, exhausted and impoverished. I'm not even excited about the Dark Knight this weekend (just kidding, of course I am) because I am so burned out on anything geeky/loud/comic bookish. The loudness, especially.

So did everyone have a good time? I tracked the progress of four first-timers - two loved their entire experience, one was so disgusted that he left on Saturday and didn't go back, and one felt the Con is mildly overrated and isn't sure if he wants to go again next year. My friends who returned for the first time since 2007 (with kids) were shocked at how much had changed. They definitely won't be going back.

Anyhow. It's over. All in all, this wasn't an exceptional Comic Con. I'm glad those of you who enjoyed it, did, and I hope everyone got into the panels they wanted to see.

Speaking of panels... The Hall H line was crazy. worse than I think it's ever been on Sunday. Apparently midnight is the new seven a.m. Fringe was surprisingly emotional, with fedoras passed out, tears and an exclusive Comic Con reel. There's nothing like that last panel before the last season. Supernatural provided some good info (but no footage and no answers about Castiel's future.) Dr. Who was predictably zany, both in the question-askers and panelists.

Comic book news:  Quite possibly nothing depressed me more this weekend than hearing about all the tie-ins. Everyone from Cirque du Soleil to Coldplay to the US Army to Anthony Bourdain has a tie-in or graphic novel coming out. Yay, great comic literature! Except not.

ETA: io9 posted a way better summary of comic book news than anything I could come up with.

There seemed to be a strong nostalgia pervading the Con. One I'm too old or too young for, because I'm baffled by the widespread pining for My Little Pony and Blade Runner and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I guess this isn't a new thing, but past Con nostalgia seemed more appropos, like for Adam West's Batman and Dark Shadows and Julie Newmar. All of which happened before I and a lot of other attendees were born, but they still had that sweet and campy allure.

Good buzz awards go to: Elysium, Adventure Time, the Sandman prequel, Django Unchained, Chris Ware's Building Stories, The Hobbit, Godzilla, Punisher, the digitization of comics.

Now. I can't count how many serious conversations I overheard puzzling out "whether the Con will come back to San Diego next year." Honestly, how did this become a real dialogue? CCI is contracted to host Comic Con in San Diego through 2015. Yes, even though it's bulging at the seams. You can debate the merits of Anaheim vs Las Vegas all you want, but it's not even a real question for a few more years.

Speaking of questions (and complaints)....

Why is Comic Con so popular? Who are all these people? I love how surprised people are by the crowds and variety at the Con. I realize it's been branded by the media as a fun costumed party with famous people, and also as a collection of chubby fanboys. Then lo, you arrive and you realize people of all ages and sizes and genders and interests are swarming around, and they're slowing you down. Buying up your exclusives and blocking your panel access. It's really frustrating. I feel as territorial as anyone but I understand logically that it's not my Comic Con. (Except when it comes to the journalists who write about us with palpable disdain. Those people should be booted out on their collective ass.) However, I do think a more accurate representation of how Comic Con truly unfolds for the average attendee would kill a lot of the public interest. Morgan Spurlock's movie didn't really help in this regard.

Why doesn't CCI do something? Ha ha! Keep dreaming. CCI reminds me a lot of the TSA in that they implement these unimaginative, semi-useless strategies that are prompted only by some kind of disaster - and then a day late. But actual innovation and leadership... not happening. I've said before that they need to hire a better agency to navigate the whole shebang, but they could take some steps into the 21st Century and at least crowdsource some of the issues. We Comic Con attendees are a smart group; there are all kinds of exceptional minds attracted to the Con, with impressive skill sets, creativity and technical acumen, and together we form quite the brain trust. I think if CCI set up an interactive forum to let attendees suggest solutions to issues like registration and badge pick-up - as major companies like Dell and Ford do - we would see some helpful ideas.

It's too Hollywood. Well, television is dominating these days but I get what you're saying. I think everyone's worst fear is that Hollywood infiltrates us so completely that the sci fi/action/horror/animation angle just drops completely and we start seeing rom coms in Hall H. (I still don't get why Glee was here this year and not American Horror story.) But studios are beginning to understand that Con exposure isn't the golden marketing calf they hoped, and I think we might see more drop-outs. It would helpful to see a survey of attendee motivations - how many people are drawn to the celebrities, how many to comic books, how the groups overlap, and so on. I know everyone's hoping the Con will split into two but I don't see that happening. Especially given Hollywood's new love of turning everything into a graphic novel. (See above.)

How do you get invited to parties? If you mean the big glamorous Hollywood parties, I really have no idea. I've been invited to a few but honestly, they were excruciatingly boring. The celebrities who make an appearance do not mingle, if that's your motivation for wanting to go. But if you mean the industry parties where all the DC editors hang out, or the private hotel parties that all the cool geeks are throwing... Uh, again I have no idea. Most industry people I know (comic book industry) work at the Con. They might have dinner with a publisher at night, but most aren't out drinking till dawn. If Comic Con is tiring for you, the attendees, it is doubly exhausting for the people selling their books and working their booths. And on that note...

I was sick and overwhelmed by Friday.  Right. Comic Con is a time to pace yourself. I myself make a point to be home by midnight or 1 am at the latest (usually earlier), because I liked to be rested and energized during the day. I also take breaks. There's nothing wrong with running around all night (I used to) but remember you can do that at home. Comic Con is only a few days a year. And if you think everyone else is out at a Roman orgy getting down in superhero masks - they're not. As for the flu, bring echinacea or bee pollen or whatever you normally take to ward off illness. I've never gotten sick but I do know a lot of people pick up a Con flu. If you have low resistance in general, it's something to bear in mind for next year.

Are the prices going to go up? Well, they might but I don't think they'll leap up dramatically. I am of the unpopular opinion that Comic Con badges are not expensive enough; the price is pretty low for what you get and I would rather pay a higher price for a more efficient Con infrastructure. Even a higher-priced option like Expedited Entry tickets for people who don't want to wait in line to get their badges would be good. But I realize many people are hard-pressed to afford tickets now (though really, it's the hotel bill that kills most of our wallets.) And CCI really does try to keep prices low.

This is what you can count on: that there will be more complaints and controversy about San Diego Comic Con over the coming year - that registration will fail, there will be an unforeseen glitch, that CCI will spring on us some complicated new system that purports to solve a problem but actually creates four more, that people will continue to ponder the cultural and geographic direction of Comic Con in years to come. More people will try to buy a badge. More bitterness will result. And next year on July 17, we'll be filling the convention center once again - those of us who are lucky.


  1. As a first timer I was expecting something more fun and less disorganized. I missed so many panels because of false information from the staff. I was also hoping for more Kingdom Hearts stuff but no, I could only find Adventure Time stuff. I don't think I will be going back anytime soon. I will be sticking to Wondercon for awhile. Thanks for your blog it has helped a lot.

    1. Sorry you didn't have a better time. I think a lot of people feel the same way, unfortunately. I'm curious what kind of false information you got, if you're referring to the security staff or the general scheduling.

      Hopefully you got some fun out of it.

  2. I got some fun out of it. Saturday was the best because of the Transformers panel(the only one I went to). The security staff kept telling me different things and I kept going to the wrong room. Next time should I plan a little harder or what would you suggest?

    1. Next time make your own list of the panels you want to see, with their rooms and times. CCI doesn't deviate from their programming once they publish it, so if you follow their schedule, you'll be safe.

      Don't ask the security staff anything - they won't know. and yes, you do need to organize in advance somewhat because the whole scene is just too chaotic to wing it.

  3. I would love for you to expand on one part of this article. You mention you followed 4 1st timers. You said two loved it. One was disgusted and left on Saturday and didn't come back. And another felt it was over rated. You also had 2 friends that had not gone since 2007 and were surprised how much it's changed and are not coming back. I wanna hear this story. What did the 1st timers like? What did they hate? Why was one so disgusted he left? Etc....etc....etc...

    1. I could write an entirely separate blog on everything people say to me about the Con. But to summarize...

      The couple who loved it, I don't know very well. They are not comic book fans but they game, and seemed mostly into the TV/movie aspect. They were completely euphoric the entire time and thought everything was great - the panels, the stuff in the Exhibit Hall, and some special red carpet event they went to at night. (No details on what it was but I know they got to meet a famous actor.) They also were in the Hall H line that got to meet Joss Whedon, which thrilled them to no end.

      The disgusted guy said he was not expecting it to be as crowded or time-consuming as it as and thought there would be more unique content. He just didn't find much that appealed to him and found it all pretty generic. That I agree with but in his words, "there was nothing to do," and that I do disagree with. He obviously had high expectations. However, he did not attend with any friends and I think that contributed to his disgruntlement. Overall I'm guessing he and the other guy bought into the nebulous promise of Comic Con as the answer to every geek's dreams - it really does have that reputation as a cultural Mecca, and it can't always live up to it. I've noticed some people also think they can just passively sit back and the Con will be delivered to them, when really they have to take the reins and chase down the experiences they want. Otherwise it's just walking around in a crowd.

      My friends who returned with their kids were expecting the old Con. The last time they were around, the Con was a very different show. It was entirely possible to do Hall H and Ballroom 20 in the same day, and the Exhibit Hall tended to have more offbeat vendors and more rare/out of print work. Those vendors can no longer afford to come and the vendors who do come tend to bring only the work they're sure will sell - which means you usually see the same mainstream/recent stuff you can see on a display table at Barnes and Noble.

      Like me, the wife likes old/rare horror/cult movies and books, and she was surprised at how little she could scrounge up. That was one disappointment. They also couldn't find some old games they thought would be sold. They both were aghast at the lines, and did not realize how unbearable the crowds/waiting would be with their kids in tow. They were especially excited to see the Game of Thrones cast and didn't get in. All in all, they thought they would be inducting their kids into this fun nerdy tradition and instead none of them had a good time. I think the husband might come back alone but they won't return as a family. Right now they still have a bad taste in their mouths from the whole trip so it's hard to say.

      I do try to warn people about the lines and changes, but they usually think I'm being negative or exaggerating. And to be fair, the first couple I mentioned did think my warnings were pointless - they had the time of their lives. So who can say?

  4. Thanks for adding to your original post. I always want to know what 1st timers like about the con. I've gone to the Con for the last 22 years and this will be my last one. I think it's unrealistic for people who have gone a long time to complain about how the con has changed for the worse. It has changed. In some ways it's good the con has gotten more popular and gotten the mainstream attention it has always deserved.

    However, for me, the amount of fun I have just isn't worth the hassle you have to go through to get tickets and hotel rooms now. And people camping out days before a panel or having to wait in lines for up to 5 hours to get into a popular panel just isn't for me anymore. I'll try Wondercon next year. I hear it's a more enjoyable experience.