26 JULY 2016
For the last 3 days, my inbox has been flooded with SDCC attendee emails. Lots of the usual complaints have come in (the lines! the disorganization! the unfairness!) along with some jubilation (the toys! the trailers! the celebrity eye contact!) But what's really interested me has been a consistent theme of alienation among veteran attendees.
How did you feel about it? Did you have a good time? Did you stare out the plane/car/hotel window on Sunday night and wonder if all that money and stress was worth it? Were you one of the jaded attendees who snorted derisively when someone mentioned coming back next year? It's natural to run up and down the emotional scale during the Con. But once you're home, your feelings solidify into something like a decision: if you're going to return and how much energy you want to invest in it.
Here's what I'm hearing people say about San Diego Comic-Con 2016.
Overall: This year was duller than years past. It wasn't as exciting, didn't have as many surprises, was missing that ineffable spark that makes SDCC special. The cosplayer population seems to be shrinking, as if half of them vanished through a portal to some more colorful dimension, and the Exhibit Hall was oddly manageable most days. "Where is everyone?" was on repeat.
The Activations: Attendees are getting choosier about these. Well, sometimes after the fact. I heard a lot of complaints from people who waited hours for a 6-minute experience. All in all, the general feeling seems to recognize the need for quality over quantity.
The Lines: I eliminated excessive lines from my SDCC life years ago, so I'm relying on hearsay. I heard a mix of "Sloppy line management" complaints and "Hey, these lines aren't that bad this year." Obviously that depended on the event in question. I do think the wristbands, mocked and reviled as they are, help with Hall H. Despite the reputation of SDCC lines, I met quite a few first-timers who consistently underestimated line times and missed their panels.
The Lotteries: We endure lotteries for badges and hotels; this year we endured lotteries for the Star Trek premiere, the Conan pops, and other "giveaways." And frankly, it was a waste of time. SDCC is 5 days long. Attendees spend enough time waiting around. Maybe CCI/TPTB think an online lottery wouldn't be as exciting, but making people standing in multiple lines in the hot sun starts to look like pointless cruelty after a while. Hold a drawing with raffle tickets or online submissions and let it go.
The Exclusives: If you were hoping this was the year that vendors started being fair and equitable, you hoped foolishly. A lot of the same dynamics that bedeviled every year were back - vendors and some volunteers getting first crack at exclusives, toys being made available to everyone after being sold as exclusive, annoying drawings that got people out of bed at ungodly hours for no reason. Serious collectors, you have my sympathies but I don't see this situation improving.
The Programming: I thought it was just me being a curmudgeonly grump who'd been to too many Cons but no, a few attendees said what I was thinking: the panels were a bit humdrum this year. Some of the same topics presented by the same panelists year after year. Remedial advice that's fresh only to the greenest young fledglings. Publisher and studio panels that shared "news" every real fan already knew. I remember the days when panelists would actually prepare visuals like slideshows and present an engaging experience. Now it's more common for them to sit down and just ask the audience for questions. I'm not saying all the panels were bland - I went to 2 or 3 good ones - but it's hit or miss.
The Parties: Every party I went to this year was a hotel room party hosted by comics or publishing people. Didn't hit a single splashy event. So what do I know? Nothing firsthand, but I did observe a lack of those big ticket events attendees used to sign up for - and the more formal parties got so-so reports. This is a hard thing to rate, because some attendees will pant and wag their tails over any SDCC nightlife, but overall there seems to be a realization that many of the parties are just people standing around drinking and talking - like parties anywhere. It's not like Stan Lee flies in on a unicorn and sprinkles 2017 badges over everyone.
The Trailers: These range from blah to tantalizing every year, and I think 2016 averaged out in that regard. Luke Cage, American Gods, Wonder Woman, Skull Island, and a few others all got stellar marks. Others did not. The Walking Dead trailer thrilled everyone by offering up a CGI Shiva but also reminded them of the irritating cliffhanger.
Scandals and Surprises: Nothing too unforgettable here. Quite a few comic nerds were incensed over The Killing Joke's Batman-Barbara Gordon cliched sex scene and well, the entire film. A panel on Women in Film Production was hijacked by a male staffer there to control the mic. The Blair Witch Project rose up like Lazarus in what was actually a more skilled PR move than I would have expected from that team. Not everyone likes Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. Overall, it was a yawn of a year in that department, and sorely lacking from the Hyatt bar brawls and celebrities shoving security guards that we used to get. Or maybe I missed something?
As I said, I ran into many people who felt the magic wasn't there this year. And while I always remind people that Comic-Con is what you make it, I knew what they were talking about. I still like SDCC and I think it has a lot to offer. But I've been detaching from it for a while and this year I felt myself break off from it like an iceberg. I'll still be back next year, knock on wood. But it doesn't occupy the same place in me emotionally that it used to.
Maybe you're so high from Comic-Con that you can't wait to go back - and maybe you're less thrilled; either way, remember the other Cons out there (like Dragon Con, Boston and Salt Lake coming up) and think about other ways to keep the energy going. SDCC is just 5 days out of the year, after all.
I'm still collecting first-timer reports - so if you haven't gotten yours in yet, email me at email@example.com.
I had a great time, though I thought last year was a tad more exciting. Unfortunately, Hall H lines continue to worsen. I lined up for Saturday's panels Friday at 7am and still ended up in the same spot I did last year when I arrived at 11:30am. The Marvel panel truly made it all worth it with sneak peak footage shown for four films, and the casts of five films appearing.ReplyDelete
I have heard such conflicting reports on the Hall H line this year. But I'm not surprised Saturday was brutal. Glad you thought it was worth it.Delete
Guessing the reason parties aren't as good is because everyone imstuck on the sidewalk waiting for a wristband. I will offer one compliment. They did seem to start handing them out on time. Beyond that I continue to despise them for many real reasons and this year I am going to write the letter I wanted to write from the beginning. I've given it 3 years. It remains flawed and a much bigger problem than what it was supposed to prevent. What happened to family day? Sunday is supposed to be family day. Did they just decide kids are no longer welcome. Attendees did anyway. It would be nice to see a return to focus on the next generation. Pretty much everything else you said. Yes. A friend who always loves my pix and stories asked what the highlights were this year. Well, the Silicon Valley panel was really funny but that's about it. Sigh.ReplyDelete
The Silicon Valley panel was 10 kinds of great.Delete
Sunday is still Kids Day, with panels for children. What happened, did you feel yours weren't welcome? Or did you just not care for the programming?
What was so great about Comic con before that isn't there anymore? I think it has everything. It could be improved but I don't see anything that's missing.ReplyDelete
It's a question of depth, not breadth. The Exhibit Hall had more offbeat, small vendors. Publishers brought obscure books and back issues. There was a feeling of discovering lost treasure. There were more panels for strange fandoms. And - this is personal - in years past it was easier for my friends to get badges so I was always running into people I knew. Now it's a huge sprawl of strangers and friends I know only through SDCC.Delete
It's just a difference in perspective. This was SDCC #15 for me. I've seen a lot of change. But I can understand why more recent attendees still love it to death.
When we arrived Wed night to pick up our booklets and lanyards...they were already lined up for Hall H. I heard that there was a line for another line? How can they manage that? This was our first time there. In order to get in line do we have to be prepared for like 2 nights stay or so? This would waste our half time staying there. These are die hard fans for sure!ReplyDelete
Hi Anonymous! Yes, there can be multiple Hall H lines - people might line up for Friday a few days early, but there would still be a line for Thursday, for instance.Delete
While some days are more coveted than others, you do not need to arrive multiple days in advance to get into Hall H. It does help to make advance arrangements with friends in terms of lining up for wristbands. My best advice is to monitor the situation on Twitter the day before and use your best judgement.
I can also promise you that next year (should you return) will go better. It's always more enjoyable the 2nd year when you've learned your way around and picked up a few tricks. Good luck in Pre-reg!
Are you still doing the newcomer roundup for first time attendees?ReplyDelete
Yes, it'll be up this weekend. I've been battling a vicious case of sushi food poisoning.Delete
Valerie, I think you hit the nail on the head. Not as "exciting" as previous years. But I will go a little farther than that -- there were not as many people there this year. From EVERY metric that I can think of, the crowds were smaller. The exhibition floor (you could actually walk around on the floor every day), the lobby's normally crowded space was so thin that you could drive a tank through it and not touch a soul. The Gaslamp District was a pale shadow of it's normal self. The Sails area was also dead. My theories??? Three factors for sure -- the RFID badges deterred all the "cloned" badges from scalpers. This I believe made a huge difference. Secondly, the head/humidity index was the 2nd worst I have ever seen (it was hotter in 2006 but less humid). And lastly, the terror bombings, the police shootings, the terror truck in France -- all I believe scared a lot of people away. Especially the non badge people who like to do the activities outside the convention center. I felt so bad for FX and Entertainment Weekly for their efforts -- hardly anyone attended their activities. Especially Con-X. And for most of the outside activities, they were pretty cheesy. I can't speak for the Suicide Squad/Hard Rock Hotel activity, because it didn't seem logical to wait outside (no shade) in a line two blocks long that never seem to move. And the cosplayers were almost nonexistent. Easily the lightest showing that I have ever seen at Comic-Con. Our group of six could barely find anyone to pose with us during our tenure on Saturday. I think that the veteran cosplayers are perhaps moving to WonderCon in Anaheim, where the temperatures are milder, badges are easier to obtain, and in most cases, you don't need a badge outside the convention center by the Hilton. Like you, I am a veteran of many years at Comic-Con. And I will be back next year. We hope that they will stay in San Diego through 2019 to celebrate 50 years in San Diego. And it will be 15 years of Cosplay for my wife and I there. Here's hoping!!! Gary OchsReplyDelete