SDCC: Day One

The last time I was at the San Diego Comic-Con was in 2001 when I was working at Marvel and was responsible for the company’s presence at the con. This was my first visit since and my first strictly as a civilian since 1978.

People warned me that the show had grown exponentially in the last eight years and I knew enough from the growing mass media coverage in that time to be prepared for the sheer magnitude of the show. As previously noted, I was somewhat concerned about being a very small fish in this multimedia pond.

Having completed day one, I can safely say that I survived and was not bowled over. There are throngs of people everywhere and what has changed the most seems to be the barriers that now exist between the fans and the major exhibitors. The movie studios and publishers want to drive attendance and therefore bring in big name talent or have special giveaways. At Paramount you can a get tribble or at Warner Bros. you can receive their oversized reusable bag and at DC there are, of course, Black Lantern rings. To get them, or to shake hands with talent, you now have to stand on line and therefore lines snaking out of the booths and into the aisles where the rest of the people are traveling, have snarled things worse than before.

The barriers prevent anything more than fleeting contact with the people fans have come to see. In the earlier generations, professionals and fans mixed freely in the aisles to chat and sign a few comics or just shake hands. Now, it’s a mad crush and the pros come and go on tight schedules since they leave signing at one booth to return to sign at artists’ alley or some other publisher’s booth. Fans also seem to be spending more and more time on line for panels, for giveaways, for shuttle buses, etc. Comic-Con has really come to rival Disneyland with the length and duration of these lines. I foresee the day when VIP or Priority passes will be sold that will circumvent these lines creating a new tier of fan.

Some of these lines reached absurd proportions such as the 1200 tweens who camped out for upwards of 30 hours to make certain they attended the Twilight panel today. 30 hours just chilling on the hard cement outside Hall H as opposed to actually attending the rest of the con.

While there are over 100,000 people here, in theory, it never felt like it thanks to tens of thousands of fans attending programming, leaving the exhibitors’ hall mostly manageable. It also, though, robbed the show of some energy. There wasn’t the electric feel I had in the past and no one or two things were being talked about in the aisles or bathrooms or shuttle bus.

My day was a good one with productive meetings, and better yet, seeing many old, familiar faces. I won’t name drop here but it was terrific seeing old DC colleagues, writers, artists, colorists, editors, marketing folk, etc. While a small fish, I was certainly a well recognized one with many either offering me in-person condolences or early birthday greetings.

The nightlife at cons has trended away from large groups of people going out for meals. The con has added additional evening programming while many publishers or companies have taken to throwing invitation-only soirées. I attended Thursday’s IDW party and the moment I stepped off the elevator I realized my mistake. The line to get in was long and getting longer and once you entered the sixth floor terrace, you were bombarded by too loud music from a DJ and the place was jam-packed. I managed to say hi to a few people but after thirty minutes retreated because this wasn’t a pleasant experience. As I walked out of the hotel, the line to enter remained dozens deep meaning it was only going to get more packed. As it was, once I returned to the room, there were 100 e-mails awaiting me and some work that couldn’t wait.

Friday will be my busiest day with meetings from 9 a.m. and lasting all day long.

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