So what did we think of San Diego Comic-Con 2015? Let's break it down.
The lines were easier than they’ve ever been in recent history. Even Hall H had walk-in panels, and the wristbands allowed people more freedom to leave if they wanted it. Picking up your badge: not as onerous. I’ll say here that I did hear complaints from mostly first-timers about being shut out of panels after failing to anticipate their multiple-hour waits, so bear in mind you’re hearing my fatalistic veteran’s perspective. But overall I think a lot of us would agree that one of the worst aspects of SDCC was not that bad this year.
I can’t really speak to this. I did see someone break down in sobs over some kind of exclusives line kerfuffle. I also failed to procure a collectible for one of my best friends, but only because she didn’t ask until Saturday. And as I mentioned earlier, I waited in a Preview Night line only to be told they took cash only. I saw the usual lines and disgruntled faces around Mattel and Hasbro. But most people I know got what they wanted, or just skipped the whole ordeal. The fact is, it’s pretty rare for any SDCC exclusive to stay exclusive – even when they wash up on Ebay at inflated prices, those prices tend to drop quickly – so I think a lot of attendees aren’t as life-or-death about it at this point.
This year I was hit with an immediate ennui walking through the aisles. I waited for that accelerating thrill to course through my veins – and it didn’t. Partly this is because I know I can buy almost anything there somewhere else – and partly because I have been to so many Comic-Cons at this point that finding fresh offerings is rare. You could say that’s just me, but my overall feeling is that PN is not as much of a get as it used to be. If you’re an exclusives fanatic, PN is probably a major deal for you. If you like PN because of the ease of picking up your badge, well, the other days are pretty easy for getting your badge as well. If you like it because it’s not as crowded as other days – it’s gotten pretty crowded. That said, I will probably scream with outrage if I fail to get a Preview Night badge next year.
The Exhibit Hall.
Let’s start with the temperature. Last summer it was humid and rather repellent at times. This year the ventilation seemed much better and even the crowded areas were more comfortable. As for the booths – as I said above, I’m a jaded attendee at this point who’s seen a thousand vendors selling lanyards, spooky dolls, vintage Godzillas, woolly mammoth paintings, Daryl Dixon tank tops, ancient Weird Tales back issues and 50% off graphic novels. So what do I know? You probably loved it. I did cart home an incredible pile of books, so I’m not complaining. And I did think some of the photo ops were great.
I think CCI continues to provide an ideal mix of panels. I luxuriated in the abundance of science and comic book panels. Plenty of you probably enjoyed the collectors’ panels or TV pilots or trivia games. Hall H was epic this year. The selection was top notch. The actual content provided? Mostly it was killer – from where I stood anyway – but an exception was a lot of the big Hollywood panels. This is an unfortunate trend of the last few years; some of the biggest name panels deliver up the barest bones content. They don’t make any interesting announcements. They don’t put together any behind-the-scenes reels or sneak peeks. The cast seems disengaged and counting the minutes till they can walk off the stage. It all feels obligatory and flat, and frankly is a bit of a pisser for fans who just traveled through 11 circles of hell to see that panel.
I realize the numbers have been run and SDCC marketing doesn’t drive the ROI once thought. Hollywood isn’t quite as generous with us as it used to be. But dialing in perfunctory panels doesn’t solidify fanbases. It alienates them. And when someone does bring the thunder – like Star Wars – that just shifts loyalties even more.
Oh, was there some? I missed it. You hardier types who endured the lines for certain panels probably picked up t-shirts in the Premium room, but most of us left most panels empty-handed.
Some were good, some were a snoozer. Some wanted attendees to jump through too many marketing hoops, like when I walked up to Adult Swim (there was no line) and they stopped me and said I had to get out my phone and register online first before I could take the 2 steps inside. Some seemed to close quite early or maintain inconvenient hours. Given the massive crowds in the area, it seems odd to invest in erecting an activation and then keep it dark for most of the day or night. A lot of attendees who waited for GOT said it wasn’t worth it; I couldn’t find anyone who did the AHS Hotel one (and why didn’t AHS rent a few rooms in an actual hotel and do something there?) and the Fear the Walking Dead seemed good, but many people didn’t know about it. Assassin’s Creed looked fun.
I skipped pretty much every “official” party so I can’t talk here. Reactions seemed mixed. I think a lot of this comes down to the ability of you and your friends to create fun wherever you are – which is a summation of SDCC in general. If you wait for a party to electrify you, you’ll probably be standing around awkwardly and wondering why all the Comic-Con coverage makes the parties sound like a nerd Sodom and Gomorrah when they’re more like a boarding school mixer for introverts.
Overall I thought Comic-Con went smoothly. “Smooth” may not be what most of you were looking for and if you don’t have past Cons for comparison, you might disagree. But while many of the usual inefficiencies prevailed, mostly the massive beast that is the Con moved and roared as it was supposed to.
If you didn’t get out of it what you hoped, my advice is what it’s always been:
- Be more proactive about creating your SDCC fulfillment instead of waiting for it to be dished up. The Con is too big and too busy for you to be a passive recipient. You have to decide what you want, find out where it is and do what you have to do to conquer it.
- Consider if SDCC really is for you. Maybe another Con is a better choice. Despite all the “Nerd Prom/Vegas/Mardi Gras” appellations associated with SDCC, many nerds and fans don’t find it that enthralling. Knowing that it’s not for you is a gift, because you can spare yourself the spending and stress the rest of us zealots go through.
One thing that’s changed is the personal significance of each Con. There was a time when if you didn’t particularly care for the panels or fought with your roommate or had some kind of major miss, you could shrug it off and look forward to next year. With the odds going increasingly dire in each badge sale, none of us can know for sure that we’ll be there in 2016 or the year after that. That does lend a heightened emotional value to this or any Comic-Con – an awareness this could be your last immersion in its glory for some time.