In our mega-con report, we had a brief mention of the great Fables/Venture Brothers rumble at San Diego, and fuller reports and some fallout are to be found on a variety of message boards.

Over at the Fables board, things kick off with an open letter from one of the Venture fans who had camped out in the panel room during the Fables panel (which was scheduled just prior to the Ventures panel in one of the larger hall rooms), leaving little room for the Fables fans — many costumed — who were left waiting outside. The letter criticizes writer Bill Willingham for “insulting” the Venture Bros. fans instead of trying to expose them to the merits of Fables. The letter draws a somewhat testy response from Willingham. There’s also this report on what took place with getting people in and out of the panel:

The problems were compounded when the convention staff mismanaged the line. Apparently an inexperienced individual was tasked with forming the line in the backside hallway and wrapped it back and forth before crossing the second doorway creating the third column to the line which was not wanted. When the subsequent person took over, he formed a new line where it was wanted without making any attempt to accommodate the mismanaged portion of the line which was comprised of people who had arrived an hour before the panel to get in. Soon, these people were told that they were not in line and that they needed to leave. I can’t say how this shock out exactly because I was forced to take my kids to this panel and left one to hold our place while I took the other to use the bathroom and to get them some snacks. When I returned however it did not appear that many had left and the few people I had talked to were still there. At any rate, Bill Willingham somehow became aware of this fiasco and actually came out and personally apologized to this portion of the line. It was pretty clear that he had hoped to be able to address a much larger segment of his fans and it did not look like it was going to work at nearly as well as he had hoped he was clearly disappointed. I stuck it out and was able to get into the room having missed only the first few minutes of the presentation. Although, my children and I had to each sit separate. I will commend the interior staff of this panel for working diligently to accommodate as many people as possible. Unfortunately this was not the case with a certain other room I had had some experience with earlier in the show.

There’s also this heartbreaking eyewitness account:

We gave up on the line around forty minutes into the panel and after a forlorn Snow White in full costume was walking by, we had moved halfway up the line, which had wrapped around the room on three sides.

While the Fables fans who characterize The Venture Bros. as a “show that makes fun of everything” obviously aren’t very familiar with it (it’s really more of a dark, Heller-esque dissection of pop culture tropes….kinda like…Fables). given Fables’ very passionate and loyal following, you can understand their frustration.

And, in a move that seems to be very much is keeping with the thinking following this year’s scrum, Willingham hints that they are looking into moving the Fables panel to a site away from the convention next year.

Finally, the official podcast of the Fables panel is up so listeners can judge for themselves what was said.

UPDATE: CBR has their own report on the incident, with quotes from all sides.

Although I have been leaning towards the laissez faire first come, first served policy, maybe it IS time for room clearing in the bigger rooms…or separate lines that can only start two hours before a panel in the BIGGEST rooms? That would definitely separate the wheat from the chaff but leave room for other stuff.


  1. “And, in a move that seems to be very much is keeping with the thinking following this year’s scrum, Willingham hints that they are looking into moving the Fables panel to a site away from the convention next year.”

    If this comes to pass, Willingham certainly won’t be alone in taking their venue off site. As Hollywood continues to suck more and more oxygen (and floor space) from the Convention Center, it’s ironic to see Comic Con’s founding focus (comics) talk of an exodus from its long-time home.

    Oh, sure…comics will still be a presence at the Con for as long as it’s in San Diego, but it’s fascinating to hear more sectors of comics fandom declaring, in effect, “we’re outta here”.

  2. All very sad for the Fables folks, of course, but what I REALLY want to know is what announcements, if any, were made during the Venture Bros. panel

  3. I agree that clearing rooms has to be the next step. Then lines can form for the next panel 30 minutes before it starts so that staff doesn’t have to manage people waiting for the next 4 panels. Just a suggestion.

    Volunteers need to be more proactive. Especially those volunteers working the lines at the rooms. With all the breaks in line for fire codes and hallways, it is too easy for people to cut in line dishonestly or even honestly not know where the end of the line is. I realize policing your peers isn’t fun but if you sign up for a job, please do it.

    In the Venture Bros. line we had varying degrees of volunteers. Some didn’t pay attention to the line at all, others were too shy to say anything to anyone, and then a few were on the ball and got us organized. Alas, I didn’t get into the panel (again). If you have to be in line, a line well managed is better than the alternative. Kudos to the volunteers who take charge in a friendly, thoughtful way.

  4. As a die hard Fables *and* Venture Brothers fan, I was bummed I couldn’t get into either panel! I’ve been to both for the past 3 years or so, and they’ve been highlights, but Comic Con is all about choices and I had other priorities than sitting in that particular hall all day.

    I suspect the Con staff may have been unprepared for the popularity of Venture Brothers, which has grown dramatically, imo. Clearing rooms may end up becoming a solution, although the logistics of that will be challenging as well I imagine.

  5. Won’t room-sweeping pretty much screw anybody who actually wants to see two things in a row in the same room?

    Maybe scheduling things in the same room back to back that have more audience overlap is a better solution.

  6. They’ve swept rooms in the past, and that caused its own issues when fans actually wanted to attend back-to-back panels. I certainly don’t think the issue here is fans of any one property, but the mechanics of panel attendance.

    The best solution we could knock together in our own brainstorming is a Disneyland-style “ticketing” method, where you pick up a ticket in advance of the panel (for the unfamiliar, at Disneyland you can, in lieu of waiting for a ride, pick up a free ticket that gives you relatively quick entry into the ride during a defined time slot later in the day). Of course, SDCC is not Disneyland, so people will camp ticket lines instead. However, if the ticket lines are separate from each other, then that means fans of one event won’t automatically be blocking fans of another event.

    Still, that also seems like a logistical nightmare. I don’t know that there’s a clean solution to this. I don’t think the issue is even “Hollywood squeezing out those comics” as much as “lots of people.”

  7. Forget panels! Just tell these fanboys and fangirls to read/watch their comic/movie/tv show and get a life instead of waiting for hours just to get 100 ft. from their idol(s).

  8. I remember the Eisner Awards being held in a hotel ballroom. (Marriott? The one next door to the convention center.)

    Just as I suggested that a movie studio (or five) rent out the Arena and host their own event, so I suggest that a publisher like DC or Marvel rent a ballroom or suite of ballrooms and host their own microcosm-con. You control the scheduling (24 hours?), you control the security, you can maintain your own green room, your own parties, the hotel gives you a nice discount on hotel rooms…

    And while we’re on the topic of Fables:
    and while I’m not a big fan (I read the cross-over and peruse the title occasionally), it is a pretty good page!

  9. Got to be another solution to this. Hollywood buys time during SDCC because comic creators/publishers built a wonderful medium that is backed by a great loyal fanbase. However, once COMICS bends over and puts their balls in mylar for Hollywood by allowing them to TAKE your con time/space then you don’t deserve a COMIC convention.

  10. While I like to think that Fables is a fairly popular book, I was pretty amazed at the HUGE line of people waiting to get in, snaking completely around the hall outside of the room. It took me a while to navigate my way in saying, “No, you don’t understand. I’m supposed to be ON the panel. There’s an empty chair up there with my name on it”. As I missed the beginning of my own panel I was wondering about all this talk of the Venture Brothers.

    So thanks for clearing that up.

    Fortunately there was a second Fables panel where snarky Venture Brothers comments went unchallenged.

  11. I don’t know, but how about completely separating comic-centric events from media-related events, as much as possible? For example, have the comics events in the afternoons and the media in the mornings–that way you would get most of the big crowds out of the way early.

  12. I was in the Venture Brothers line, just behind where security decided to end the line a little over an hour before the panel. No one told those of us behind the break to leave, so most of us waited and I managed to get in, but just barely. It was madness, but there was one security fellow who came along and managed the line really well, making sure as many people got in as possible. But I did see a lot of Fables fans realize they weren’t getting into the panel they wanted to see.

    I am embarrassed about all the rude VB fans who acted out during the panel. If you’ve gotta sit through a panel you’re not interested in, you sit down and shut up.

  13. I don’t think separating them by comics vs. media is the way to go. Some media events don’t draw as much of a crowd, and some comics events do. Sorting them by popularity would definitely help, though, to the extent that panelist schedules permit.

    Or try to line things up by interest. If you have two events that share a sizeable chunk of their audience, and have a comparably-sized audience, put them back to back. That way fewer people are camping — they’re genuinely interested in both events.

    That’s something that seems to get forgotten in all these “X fans ruined my Comic-Con” posts. Commentators often forget that people have varied interests, and while the audiences for X and Y may be substantially different, you’re bound to find some people who like both.

  14. Would it not be easy to make tickets for popular panels that you pick up at the booth?

    Thereby also ensuring that the gentlemen and ladies of the press don’t have to waste three quarters of their time in line?

  15. That’s a lot of tickets… 6000 for Hall H, hundreds for Room 6, 20… and how do you gauge popularity? (Okay… if it’s in one of those rooms, give it a ticket.) Imagine the line each day as tickets are handed out… Even if they start at 6 AM… True, you replace lots of long lines with one big long line.

    Hey… here’s a crazy idea… Move the big, huge, mega events to Hall H on WEDNESDAY morning. It’s ready to go, Con security can concentrate on Hall H instead of the entire convention center, parts of the convention center can be used to herd attendees (run the line down the concourse?), and, with the extra scheduling, time can be allocated for Hall clearance. If you’re in an event and want to stay for the next? Leave and get in line. If there’s space, lucky you. If not, someone else got to experience something cool just like you just did. (Besides, the panel you missed… it’s gonna be on the web pretty soon…)

  16. “it’s really more of a dark, Heller-esque dissection of pop culture tropes….kinda like…Fables”

    Can’t… breathe… too… busy… laughing…

  17. As a fan of both Venture Brothers and Fables.. that’s quite sad to hear. Goes without saying that something needs to change at Comic Con. Man, and I thought a couple of smaller cons I’d been to had bad line management. It really is bigger, everything multiplied, like everything’s multiplied many times, including bad lines and management.

  18. I read either here or on Bleeding Cool, in relation to the whole Twilight bruhaha, that someone asked the con organizers about just moving the Twilight panel to being the first one of the show, thus clearing those only at the con for that early. The response was that it wasn’t possible, because the studios basically tell SDCC when their people are available and when the panel will be. Now, I think Hollywood needs those panels a lot more then SDCC does, but it sounds like trying to rearrange schedules in a logical way isn’t going to happen.

  19. Through all of this, I have not heard one word about Boondock Saints II.

    Wanting to see both Fables and Venture, and knowing how both panels have steadily grown over the last three years (Venture never exactly small, and always paired with other adult swim shows), I went to jump in line at 3:15. Fifteen minutes before the BDSII began the line was already wrapped around 180 degrees. While the line was mixed with all enthusiasts, the first grouping was solidly there for BDSII. 3:35 and the line hadn’t moved with green and orange shirts scrambling. Ultimately caring about Fables more, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I said screw it and started a slow trek to Indigo.

    The organizers had been gambling, with moderate success, all week by alternating media panels. In this case movie-comic-tv/cartoon. Inho the problem here arose not so much with Fables/Venture, but with the cult BdS/Venture fan base crossover.

    Fables was horribly sandwiched. I’m sure there was some logic putting Venture last… but damn, just imagine if the the two had been flipped. Hindsight etc, etc, blah, blah.

    2cents and observations

  20. I like the “tickets” idea for panels that could CONCEIVABLY be filled to capacity: hand them out at the sponsoring booths prior to the scheduled time, first-come/first-serve until all seats are accounted for. DC could hand out the tix for their panels, ADULT SWIM theirs, MARVEL, DH… and so on down the sponsorship line. And then, why stop there: make ALL those Studio presentations done likewise: WB, FOX, DISNEY, PARAMOUNT, SONY, NEW LINE, etc handing out their Hall H “Golden Tickets” to the fortune 6.5K few. I could picture panels in Rooms 6A/6BCF/6DE and Ballroom 20 being set up this way. [As for assigning which panel gets which Room for it to be held in— that’s a separate issue altogther.]

    There’s already an existing model for this— the limited tix for Sat’s Masquerade Ball for Balloom 20 seats, and those line ticket drawings for some of the Autograph sessions under the Sails Pavillion (like those for the Mythbuster people and the Dr. Who cast/crew). DH instituted a raffle method for a couple of their in-booth signings a couple of years ago, and it seems to be working out okay for them…

    Of course, having those ticket giveaways on the already-crowded Exhibit Hall can only result in even MORE clusterf*cking when they hand them out—- if you thought those aisles were crowded when WB was giving those ginormous bags, just imagine how’d it be like when they give out Hall H tix for the BATMAN 3 presentation… or when MARVEL gives those AVENGERS
    ones… or NEW LINE their latest TWILIGHT film offering. Ah, the Humanity!

    Just an idea.

  21. Oh, and I’ve just read through that CBR link for Willingham’s comments…
    and find it quite funny how close he comes to espousing an ENTITLEMENT
    attitude towards SDCC in giving him HIS panel, HIS Room, HIS fans, and HIS needs being fulfilled.

    (But I enjoy reading FABLES: it’s the best comicbook version of Terry Pratchett’s DISCWORLD real-world Fairy Tales that DC will ever publish! ;) )

  22. Willingham has a right to be angry- he was inadvertently put in the position of selling CHE t-shirts to the Jon Birch society. The FABLES panel is a major promotional event for him and he spends a lot of time and effort putting it together, which was then wasted by preaching to an audience which has never even heard of his product.
    Assigning blame is besides the point, CCI really screwed up by underestimating the demand for Venture Brothers (putting them in the room used for the GL: Blackest Night panel would have sufficed them) and the underlings charged with maintaining order (vols and (d)Elite) don’t have the experience or skill sets to manage a demand they were not, nor should have not, expected.
    That said, I’m not sure tickets or ‘no-lines-’til-30-minutes-prior’ policies would have worked. They sound great on paper but would likely lead to excessive scalping (how much would a Twilight Mom pay to NOT have to sit in line for 36 hours? Into the hundreds, at least- with not a cent going to pay CCI to put on the show). And telling people not to line up means they’ll line up- somewhere else. And then you have to deal with THAT.
    I like the idea of clearing rooms- but then you’d have to cut down the number of panels to a room in order to make time for the clearing.
    At least for FABLES, next year it should be scheduled for the beginning or end of a day.
    And so many people think all these problems will go away by moving.

  23. Honestly I think the only way to really do it is the way it is now. Yes, it has it’s cluster elements and it’s survival of those with the most time to waste… but the arbitrariness of it is, I think, the most fair to a con attendance of that size. Trying to clear the room after each panel and get a totally new audience in would (mostly for the larger panel rooms) take a LOT of time and ultimately cut down the number of panels in a day. Organizing multiple lines for each event would be a foot traffic nightmare (cause some diehard fan is starting that line for the mega-popular hit TV show panel first thing in the morning)

    The ticket thing I think would just create the cluster in another area. Plus it would mean most would not be able to do multiple panels in one a day if say in the morning of the show you had to try and run between line ups at different booths (DC, MARVEL, ADULT SWIM, etc). Plus there is NO WAY the main floor could accommodate the foot traffic created by lines of people trying to get tickets. I was by the BBC booth as they handed out tickets in the morning for some signings and it was a nightmare… for them and all the booths close by… and they were only giving away 100 spots. I couldn’t imagine trying to hand out a potential 6000 tickets for a Hall H event. Even if their was an off site “ticket zone” Their are almost 100 panels on Fri/Sat alone… how do you hand out that many tickets to that many things in advance (maybe online pre-registration for panels… but that would just suck… how crappy would your con be if you new way in advance you were already locked out of a number of things you wanted to see)

    What is there now certainly isn’t perfect and doesn’t allow for everyone to see all that they want… but I think the “random chance… get their first if you REALLY want to see it” is as fair as it can be for 120,000 people.

  24. While scheduling doesn’t happen until a few weeks before the show, here’s a scenario:

    Only events in Hall 6, Hall 20, Hall H, and other large venues get tickets. (This is to better manage crowd control. Smaller rooms will have smaller crowds waiting.)

    People register in advance for the Con. They answer a simple questionnaire in which each attendee lists what they’re interested in, and CCI:SD then sends them email or SMS updates.

    Once the schedule has been arranged, registered attendees can then log on and reserve tickets (two per event, two event maximum, with the full memberships getting a three-event maximum). Attendees are also encouraged to fill out a questionnaire where they tag all the panels they are interested in. (This survey data can then be used to anticipate crowd numbers.) Just like Book Expo America, CCI:SD can offer an online planner, allowing attendees to tag booths, events, parties, etc. CCI:SD uses this (anonymous) data to plan accordingly. SMS and Twitter updates can then be sent to everyone who has tagged an event which has been cancelled or rescheduled.

    Wednesday night, the 4+ers can approach the event box office and fix any conflicts which may result from re-scheduling of events.

    Thursday morning, at 4 AM, the box office goes live online for the day. People enter their registration barcode number and select events. A few kiosks are available in the lobby outside Halls F and G. The two actual Box Offices at the Center can be manned for customer service, starting at 6 AM. Kiosks print simple paper receipts (like an ATM), online users are reminded to print out a copy. (A receipt-only kiosk can also be made available for attendees.)

    Lines form two hours before the ticketed event. One line is for ticket holders, one line is for standbys. If an event has been “sold out”, the standby line will be notified and posted, so that attendees can make an educated choice.

    Ticketed attendees in line have their barcodes scanned while waiting in line. The guest (the second ticket) is also scanned, and checked and entered into the Event database. Once seating begins, the ticketed attendees are scanned again to prevent line-jumpers. (They are tagged in the Event database, two infractions in one day exiles them from all ticketed events for that day. Slang: “laser-tagged”.) Five minutes after the panel begins, the attendance is checked, no-shows are cancelled, and if the fire code allows, standby attendees are then allowed to enter (getting scanned as well).

    This system works for press as well, with the event hosts creating VIP lists for friends, family, press, employees, and lickspittles. Scan the tag, compare the tag to the list. The person working the VIP tag is directly connected to event host, allowing for immediate conflict resolution.

    Attendees are allowed to tag their CCI:SD data as private. After the event, the panel marketeers can then use the barcode data for booth exclusives (your tag is your ticket). The company can also use that data for emails, online promotions, and other marketing initiatives.

    1990s technology. A dedicated secured Wi-Fi network is required (better to set up a cell-phone based system). The system can also be used by security on convention staff for other uses.