Here we go again–San Diego Comic-Con is back in our lives for the week, not unlike the old friend you had from college (you know, the one you’ve kind of enjoyed losing touch with) with all his baggage in tow, asking for a few bucks to tip the cabbie waiting out in front and if it was okay if he invited a few friends to come over for an impromptu party—”it’s okay, they can sleep on the floor!”
We’ve been here before, of course. We’ve had articles talking about what we’re looking forward to, how to best interact with comic book luminaries, what to expect if its your first time, etc, etc. This time, it feels a little different—this time my discussions about the con are more along the lines of, “Well, I have to go for this thing or that thing, but then I am just going to read by the pool at my hotel,” and “you’re going? I don’t think anyone I know is checking it out this year,” or, “I’m going, but I don’t really feel like it at all.”
It’s too easy to complain about how SDCC has changed—we do that every year. Whenever I tell people I am going to the show, I always hear (and always from someone who has never been), “Oh, I hear it’s totally lost it’s soul, it’s too bad it’s not really about comics anymore,” and I always roll my eyes. SDCC is totally about comics. It’s about comics and (almost) everything else. Which is totally fine—it’s just that when an event is about everything “genre” it just becomes, well, it becomes what it is today: a massive affair that tries to invite everyone to the party, crosses its fingers and hopes it bought enough toilet paper. It’s always this way—everyone complains about the lines and the crowds and the odor, yet we still somehow find ourselves there.
That being said, this year is different. This year, I (like many others) did everything right and still failed to get a ticket for my wife and a reservation for a hotel. I have since been able to address those matters, but the fact remains, I played by the rules, you know? I got up in the morning, opened a browser window with the Denver Atomic Clock in it and another one with the browser window and appropriate link pasted in the URL bar, and, at the exact second, submitted my request to get a ticket and then, months later, a hotel. For the ticket, the browser hung a bit and then displayed a browser error, which meant I lost my chance. For the hotel, I filled out the form in less than 90 seconds, and I still didn’t get any rooms.
This was infuriating. (And yes, I know, in absolute terms, this is nothing, but this is SDCC we’re talking about, none of this really matters.)
The ticket situation is always terrible, and I doubt it will ever improve. With the hotel, it is clear that the participating companies and exhibitors, who apparently can book their hotels a week before the general public, are buying up all the rooms in massive blocks. That has to be the reason everyone has such a big problem getting rooms, this shift from catering to fans to making it easier for industry professionals.
The shift from fan to professional is something that has been happening for years, but it does truly feel like this year the fan’s really getting screwed over a bit. And yes, I do find myself agreeing with many in the community that the passion that made SDCC fun has been less and less present in recent years. I remember my first SDCC and how thrilled I was to see all of these creative people hanging out together, professionals drawing with amateurs in hotel lobbies, 40 year olds arguing with teenagers about the intricacies of Spider-Man, the raucous applause for a cherished group of actors. These were special moments and I feel very lucky to have experienced them. This was my love of comics made real, where characters and stories could be celebrated with fans of all ages, where one could finally talk about all this stuff with someone who understood.
The problem with SDCC right now is that the people who have gone for awhile are burned out on the lines and the crowds and the lines and the crowds (repeat forever) and the fans who want to go either can’t get in or are turned off by the complaints from old-timers talking about how lame it is. This makes it hard to get excited about the event. And while the panels can be a lot of fun, well, you still hear horror stories of people waiting six hours in line and never getting into the panel they were waiting for. Six hours, in the often blistering sun. (Thankfully, it looks relatively mild this week!) And as cool as it is to be around other fans, you can only talk about your favorite books, TV shows, and movies with your line mates for so long, you know?
So, why go? Well, like I’ve said in the past, this is when I get to see a bunch of friends I would normally never get a chance to hang out with. It is also increasingly a place where I go to generate business — yes, I am rapidly becoming one of those people who can expense these things…I am becoming part of that problem of “too many professionals” at SDCC! But it’s true—one of our major clients came about after meeting them initially last year at the con. At a bar! Last year I spent more time in meetings than panels, which…well, it’s just where I’m at in life, I guess.
Quite a different situation from my first situation, where my wife Whitney and I met a struggling comic book artist at the Hyatt Bar who, when we told him we weren’t trying to work in comics, asked, “Wait—you’re here by choice?”
Oh, it’s not all that bad. As SDCC approaches this week, I will admit I am getting kind of excited. We’re having our iFanboy party, after all, which is a great way to start the convention. Whit and I found a hotel that, while not really close to anything, does have a nice pool where she can hide out, and we’ve got a few other events that we’re looking forward to checking out. Tellingly, while we always end up leaving San Diego vowing to stay through Monday, we’re leaving Saturday to beat the rush and, well, get some actual sleep.
During the convention, I am going to attend a few panels to ask some very pointed questions about movie casting and comic book pricing, and tweet out any news items that I think the iFanbase might find compelling. I am going to be very interested in watching what the studios present and hope we get excited about—I can’t help but think this will be a fairly skeptical audience, and I think companies are going to have to work hard to get people’s attention. I’ll walk down artist’s alley, I’ll buy some books and maybe some art, and “struggle” to find the best parties. It’s going to be exhausting, it’s going to be fun—it’s going to be Comic-Con.