The Pros and Comic-Cons
Jason and I attended Comic-Con International in San Diego for our fourth, and probably last, time recently. Allow me to cover why we keep going back and why we, most likely, will not be attending again.
San Diego Comic-Con is unlike anything you have ever witnessed. The crowds are suffocating. The lines are boggling and beyond reason. The stars are ubiquitous. The scene is entirely saturated with marketing hype. Does that sound like something only a loon or a martyr would voluntarily put themselves through even once? Yup, I’m practically a saint but you already knew that so let’s move on to analyzing the pros and cons of this affair.
First, let me explain what gives the most notable of comic conventions that distinction, starting with the exhibit floor. If you are into graphic novels, superheroes, sci-fi, anime, videogames, Legos, cosplay, cartoons, action figures, fantasy, or board games, basically anything pop culture, you will be awed and amazed at the caliber of booths and merchandise at this event. Products more mystical than a lion turtle and less likely to exist are available for purchase on an exhibit floor that seems to stretch all the way into the Delta Quadrant. Exclusives are everywhere, if you are willing to wait, sometimes for hours, to get them. Authors, artists, and actors are present to sign your finds. We bought some fantastic original art, autographed comic books, t-shirts, dresses, and even a d’k tahg letter opener this year.
Celebrities come in throngs to San Diego Comic-Con, making many of its panels more star studded than those blingy pants that we all, regretfully, wore not too long ago. We attended a DreamWorks presentation featuring both Benedict Cumberbatch (His first appearance at Comic-Con.) and Jim Parsons. Yes, the fangirl shrieking did hurt my ears and my mouth. We heard Lois Lowry and Jeff Bridges talk about The Giver, a movie I’m going to see as soon as I get a chance. During WB’s movie night, we watched premiers of the new Flash show and Gotham, an upcoming Batman origins series. Heck, WB even gave us popcorn and drinks to nibble during those maiden viewings. The cast of The Legend of Korra impressed us with their passion for the cartooning craft. We learned about zombie myths, geek fashion trends, and marketing to nerds. On that note, did you know that superfan, i.e. nerd, merchandise outsells sports fan merchandise? And that 37 of the 50 highest-grossing movies of all time stemmed from comics or other sources in the geek universe? These are the type of exciting facts that you might learn at Comic-Con. And, incidentally, my fellow nerds, I am proud of and humbled by those statistics.
Beyond just seeing icons up on stage, Jason and I met and got photos with Matt Smith, sans TARDIS. Yes, I had my arms around that raggedy man. We also encountered another doctor, Robert Picardo, from Star Trek: Voyager, my favorite hologram.
As sublime as the upside of this star-laden pop mania may sound, Comic-Con, like Vader, has a dark side. If you’ve any hesitations about crowds or compactness, Comic-Con can literally be nightmarish. At the exhibit hall’s busiest moments, the layers of humanity are so densely packed that no one can really move. It’s as if one more body added to the heap would send everyone flying into the air like popping corn.
And those marvelous panels I talked about earlier? Often not super simple to get into. In fact, the panel situation seems to get worse every time. For instance, Hall H this year, on its most popular day, required at least a 12-hour wait to secure entrance. Want to be less than 6,000 people away from your favorite actor or director? Acquiring prime seat space necessitated up to 20 hours of camping on the sidewalk. For a few people that may sound like fun but, for most of us, it seems about as appealing as hanging out forever in the Fog of Lost Souls. Jason and I almost fell into Hall-H-line purgatory with a group of our friends but, ultimately, we decided against it. No regrets there.
Getting a convenient hotel room in San Diego during Comic-Con is nearly impossible, unless you are willing to pay an arm, a leg, a quart of blood, your firstborn, and a spare kidney. That’s basically what we spent to stay at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, which is right next to the convention center. (I’m okay having a one-armed husband.) The proximity of the Bayfront, in addition to attracting ridiculous prices, does attract many celebrities though. Often, upon entering our hotel lobby, we would discover some icon being bombarded by their stalker fans. It made me feel pretty dang sane by comparison. By the way, you can find cheaper hotels during Comic-Con if you are willing to take shuttle busses back and forth to the far reaches of the city but don’t expect even the homeliest of hostels to go for the normal asking price.
So, with Comic-Con being its usual mix of awesome and awful, why was this year, of all years, potentially our last visit? Since we’ve attended this convention many times, it’s lost a little of its initial wonder. The nearness of stars and the novelty of being at the gooey core of the pop melting pot doesn’t impress as much as it used to. Even though we always have an exhilarating time, that exhilaration doesn’t quite make up for the associated expense and chaotic hassle anymore. And I don’t ever want our attitudes to match the excessive levels of jadedness that Comic-Con seems to exude. Nothing but the newest hotness appears to excite most of the attendees; it’s a bit sad and a bit too Hollywood. Also, now we have an ample supply of local cons to entertain us, ones that just keep getting bigger and better. Locally grown geek is always fresher.
Comic-Con, you’re a delicious and repulsive mass of stinky geeks, glorious swag, exclusive merchandise, smug celebrities, informative panels, elusive collectibles, and costumed fanatics. Even now, after I have avowed to be done with you, your BO-perfumed halls and perpetual propaganda still threaten to fill my heart with irrepressible nerdish delight. Who knows, maybe next year Jason and I will again find ourselves in your strange mix of Shangri-La and sarlacc. Less probable things happen every day in this genre.