SDCC 2013: A Hesitant Return

mike and grantHere 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.)

Mike and the iFanboy Team

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?


Meeting the guys at the very first iFanboy party.

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.


Mike Romo is an actor in LA. He’s remembering hand sanitizer this time! Make sure to come by and say hello at the iFanboy party!  Email/Facebook/Twitter.



  1. I have never been to SDCC but the problems remind me of those that E3 had before it became an “industry only” event. Where it just became so huge and the crowds and lines became a distraction from the news and message that the publishers were trying to promote.

    What would you think about SDCC becoming just for media companies only? Would movie and tv shows and publishers even want to still go without the attraction of the fans? Or are fans even needed in the room when there are millions watching panels at home and thousands of reporters from every blog and website still at event?

    There would still be comic book conventions in every major city in the country that would be open to the public.

  2. Great article Mkie, I appreciate that it was “Yeah, SDCC has changed but there’s still some fun to be had”. I mean this is the Con to end all cons right? What does it say when we all just write it off? I’ve never been so I could probably never understand all the problems and gripes people have, but I have to hope it’s not without saving. Myself, I’ve gone to the Gem City Comic Con in Ohio the past 2 years in a row. I always spend more money than I mean to but I have such a blast and memories from those weekends. My favorite thing is just being in a room of 200+ people and having the chance to talk to any of them about comics, and nobody thinks I’m weird/strange/geeky (automatically, anyway). It’s just nice for me, I don’t get to feel that way most of the year. Hopefully, the people at SDCC are experiencing something like that this week.

  3. Hmmmmm….not sure I want to go anymore now, Lol. Maybe it is better to stay home and watch the interviews and announcements online.

  4. Sounds like all the conversations I have about whether or not to go to Glastonbury each year!

  5. It also doesn’t help that there are decent comic book conventions in most every region of the country now. You don’t have to go to SDCC to see creators you like – you’ve got Emerald City, C2E2, NYCC. Heck, even Cincinnati draws the likes of George Perez, Art Adams and the Walking Dead cast. I’ve even heard long-time creator attendees saying they might be done this year or next. So, other than to say “I went”, and to potentially run into the BIG Hollywood stars, what does SDCC still have for the comic fan that they can’t get elsewhere?

    • I went to a small convention, Big Wow, in San Jose recently that had Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo and Tony Daniel. I was initially surprised to see such well big name creators attending. The lines were short too, I waited less than 5 mins to meet Tony Daniel and just walked up to Azzarello and Bermejo.

  6. Went to a small con last year in Dublin (D.I.C.E.) and met John Layman, Declan Shalvey, Jeff Parker, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick and even had a lengthy conversation with Kieron Gillen about Phonogram all in the space of 3-4 hours. The ambience was great and was was all about comics… purely. It got me thinking selfishly hoping that it doesn’t get as big as SDCC or the other big cons. This year’s still gonna be great cause Snyder/Capullo/Jock and a lot of big names are coming. I’m really greatful for the comic shop that’s hosting it.