Lesson #1 of San Diego Comic-Con 2010: You can’t live on breakfast from the Embassy Suites.

Or if you do, you will pay a frightful price.

It was Thursday morning at Comic-Con, the morning after Preview night and the day when things blast into high gear with a roar of thunder and a crack of ozone. It was my second morning at the Embassy Suites, the “family hotel” of the Inner Circle. With a free breakfast buffet and “manager’s receptions”—aka FREE BOOZE—every evening, not to mention giant suites that sleep 6 comfortably, the Embassy Suites is the best bargain at the con for those, like this year’s Beat, on a budget.

By only the second day in, the low-grade bacon and baked-by-Methuselah bagels were already setting off a protest march in my stomach. That left nothing but small portions of yogurt and plates of rubbery melon to set me up for a day of rugged expeditioneering over the crevasses and screes of Under the Sails and the Hilton Bayfront. According to lore, a hearty morning helping of proteins and potatoes is the only thing to help you through this endurance test.

But you need good quality rations.

This is going to be one of those “I didn’t get enough to eat,” con reports. I’m sorry. My flight was delayed on Tuesday night, and the three-hour setback was enough to throw the whole schedule off because it meant I never got to go to Ralphs and every problem I had at the con could have been solved with a trip to Ralphs. But it never happened.

By Saturday, my body had toughened up, and adjusted to this new, no-food regime. But I wasn’t alone. Oh no. Everyone was reduced to a hungry zombie state, roaming a hostile landscape, storming media lounges for bits of sustenance.

I know you all think I’m being dramatic. But by Saturday, as I waited in the lobby of the Omni to conduct an interview with director Adam Egypt Mortimer, I ran into these two fellows – let’s call them Tom and Jerry — who were there making a documentary about a well known Comics Figure. Adam arrived a bit late, apologizing for the delay, explaining that he had abandoned his lunch halfway through, and brandishing a styrofoam container full of cold French fries and a few morsels of cut-up steak. He then generously offered the three of his his leftovers…and since none of us had eaten all day we started devouring the French fries like zombies who just caught up with a red shirt.

“I can’t believe we’re eating scraps!” Jerry exclaimed.

While enjoying the bounty, Tom was more worried about their cameraman who was sitting weak and pallid on a divan. “Maybe we should give this steak to Bill. He was really complaining about being hungry,” he suggested. Indeed, their mercy mission to offer Bill the left over steak scraps was successful. I offered to share the bag of peanuts that I had been living off of since the Eisner Awards, but they bravely declined.

The bizarre fact that this reenactment of the rescue of the Donner party was taking place in the lobby of a well-stocked and civilized hotel — nearby, Erik Estrada mugged for autograph hunters, Charisma Carpenter and Lou Ferrigno wandered by, and mere yards away, comics creators hobnobbed with producers, pitching movies — was not lost on us.

As the week progressed, it was increasingly clear that comics are now living off the scraps of the Comic-Con media monster, whether it was waiting for the leftover dollars of vacationing families, or living on the trickle down of the studio system. This particular eco-system isn’t the way the whole comics industry works — some companies that just publish books are doing just fine — but in San Diego, it was unavoidable.


Lesson #2: Always remember to sample the charms of Old Con.

Have you been over to Old Con? It’s so quaint and timeless with its antique longboxes and Pow! Splat! décor. If you ever wonder what “the olden days” were like at Comic-Con, just go to halls A and B because you can find the old tribes still living in their primitive Mylar huts, almost untouched by time.

But the people who live in Old Con might just be endangered by the high-rise booths at the other end of the hall. The constant refrain among comics publishers was that sales were flat or down. The reason most often cited was that the 126K attendees had bought their tickets six months previously and weren’t interested in anything that wasn’t a big media presentation. The convention has had to spread out over the adjoining hotels to thin the crowds, and this has also thinned the number of people who want to go to Old Con to buy comics.

While no one we talked to had an out and out shit show -– and indie pacemakers Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly reported strong sales and sellouts -– as it becomes more and more expensive to travel and exhibit, it becomes harder and harder to recoup all that money. Every year, people throw down their hat and cry out in disgust, “That tears it! I’m never coming back to San Diego!” only to be seen partying at the Hyatt like a rock star 12 months later. But it’s safe to say that everyone questions their involvement every year more and more, and the questioning is getting more and more serious.

One thing we did notice –- a few publishers we talked to had disappointing sales, but most artists in Artists Alley we checked in with seemed to do very well. For instance, Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett had sold out of their copies of Boilerplate by Saturday afternoon. It’s the added value of an autograph and a conversation that seems to seal the deal in AA.

Also, it’s not entirely certain what effect the absence of Comic Relief and diminished presence of Bud Plant had on the show. Both retailers formerly offered giant booths where you could buy all kinds of cool comics and books. Comic Relief gave up their primo spot, and for reasons that weren’t explained to us, Bud Plant was much smaller. It made it far harder to make an impulse buy on some comic you’d heard about on a panel.

Also unclear is just how the continuing bad economy affected the fantasy economy — a lot, we’d guess. Nearly two years into the Great Recession, it’s possible people are just beginning to question those nerd purchases. It’s certainly why some bloggers were economizing by eating other people’s leftovers.

[Photo via The SDCC Blog]

Finally, it’s just not clear how to keep the comic in Comic-Con any more. This is the year we all just Gave Up. While everyone was proud that THE WALKING DEAD and SCOTT PILGRIM, two creator-owned properties, were the hottest things at SD10, getting attention without covering a hotel with a banner, making over elevators into vampire-themed make-out rooms, or flooding the air around hotels with floating bubble people was much harder.

Lesson #3: The “heart” of Comic-con is now the entrance to the Gaslamp, although “heart” may not be the proper body part.

The piazza at the confluence of the Hard Rock, the Omni, the Tin Fish, the Gaslamp Hilton, the trolley and the Gaslamp district is now the heart of Comic-Con where ninjas, masked wrestlers, Con Girls, alien resistance fighters, indie rockers, religious nuts and everyone else stands around and flogs their products. By Saturday, the ground was a disgusting litter of flyers, as the tight butts of the Green Hornet girls wiggled on one side by the Black Beauty, and the Scott Pilgrim Experience handed out garlic bread on the other.

Two fellows dressed as characters designed by Dean Haspiel handed out comics drawn by Dean Haspiel, and he wasn’t even there to enjoy it. Just crossing the street was an ordeal like walking around the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal, as huckster marketers swamped every hapless tourist– only instead of begging for a few American dollars, they were giving you disposable shit – candy, tattoos, stickers, whatever. Most of it was garbage.

Outside the swirl of hucksters, it was nonstop Zombie Gras as lines of professional autograph hunters camped out by the Hard Rock, pedicabs zipped around and “media types” headed over to various swanky sponsored press rooms. Someone who seemed to be knowledgeable suggested to me that the actual number of people in town for Comic-Con was closer to 160,000 – a full 35,000 people over the number of folks with actual badges. After spending a few moments at Zombie Gras, this number seemed modest. It seems that many, many folks now come to Comic-Con just to make the scene and snap up the off-site swag — there was a lot of stuff you could get without a badge.

The net effect of all the shilling was probably gross and definitely crass. Next year the pedestrian bridge over Harbor Drive will be completed and the human traffic pattern may change a bit, but the Marketing Town Square will probably still be high on my “places to avoid” list.


LESSON #4: Douchebags ruined Comic-Con.

SERIOUSLY. If I hear one more person slam Twilight for ruining Comic-Con, I will stab someone in the eye. The horrors of this douche spill -– pumping out over 100 millions gallons per day of Prada cologne and bullshit — are just being recognized. Over 100 acres a day of comics wetlands are being lost to this tragic spill, and if we don’t do something the entire coast will be eroded.

If the riot gear level security was the big complaint last year, this year the problem was the all-pervasive stink of Hollywood. All of my studio moles confirmed that this is the year that San Diego became Park City. Sure there were signs before – Kardashians, endless agency parties. But this year no one even pretended that comics were important.

I’ve already recounted how almost no one from Image could get into the AMC/Circle of Confusion party on Thursday, despite the fact that the theme was The Walking Dead, a comic they publish. I heard lots of stories like this about Hollywood’s increasing disdain for comics – Hollywood in general hates writers and people who create things, and comics have joined this tradition of disrespect, even as the fear of “the internerd” makes publicists coach their clients on how to pretend to be “geek savvy” and dress in the proper T-shirts. Helen Mirren’s Harvey Pekar moment was hilarious but it was about as genuine as the racks on those Green Hornet girls.

Comic-Con is becoming comics’ very own Barton Fink Moment.

The Douche Spill is mostly lemmings….it isn’t really FOR anything. NO ONE really thinks that the crowd of 6000 people who are dedicated enough to sleep out and get into Hall H are the ones who are going to make or break any movie. Comic-Con is for entertainment fans, not that mythical “geek” and the fact that Hollywood automatically equates people who like their products with social undesirables tells you a lot about Hollywood marketing people.

Along those lines, there isn’t a single person I talked to who thinks that SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD is going to be a huge blockbuster because it had the biggest presence at Comic-Con of anything ever. Everyone is very happy for Edgar Wright and Bryan Lee O’Malley, those pesky CREATORS, and what is by all accounts a charming, quirky movie. The giant hotel banner, multiple screenings and fucking theme park was a very innovative way to promote the film, but we’ll have to wait and see who goes to see it in a few weeks.


Studios are increasingly playing one-upmanship with Comic-Con and the “nerd herd” – whatever the fuck that is. “Peeks for geeks” trumpeted a headline in Variety. Once again, I can’t jibe the Orange County teenagers and families pushing strollers and folks dressed as the Scarlet Witch with tastemakers who will tell all their friends about this great postcard they got at Comic-Con. All the lists of “winners and losers” don’t mention the real people with things at stake: studio marketing planners who want to impress their bosses. Comic-Con is just another pissing contest for studio heads, a blank canvas on which to paint more and bigger banners, posters, room keys, lounges, yachts and sky-writing.

It’s been my experience —and surely that of some of you reading this – that far from being tastemakers, when one of those “geek nerd herd” folks starts waving a postcard at you and telling you how great this or that fantasy zombie direct-to-DVD movie is, your general reaction is to run away in fear and turn up the sounds on 30 Rock.

Unquestionably, there are more nerds and geeks than ever before because it is socially acceptable now, but by and large Comic-Con’s marketing efforts for big name movies come down to preaching to the converted. Did Angelina Jolie showing up at Comic-Con help SALT beat INCEPTION? No. Did it enable the people who marketed Salt to say “See, we were at Comic-Con!”? Yes.

Todd VenDeWerff at the A.V. Club has an excellent post that covers whether media people even NEED TO BE AT CON ANY MORE. Certainly it’s easier to sit at home and write about what’s happening than it is to be there and write about it. The increasingly controlled and staged events that are trotted out are another factor:

I’m not trying to argue myself out of a job or anything, but I do wonder if the amount of ink spilled on Comic-Con is truly necessary. This is an event created to specifically keep people from saying, “Oh, hey, maybe this won’t be good, huh?” Aside from all of the big, obvious problems – the long lines, the inability to stop thinking like a small convention when this is one of the biggest conventions out there, the ridiculously overpriced concessions, the fact that the whole thing may move to Anaheim, LA, or Vegas — no one really talks about whether news organizations should even be sending people like me to cover this stuff. Comic-Con started out for the fans, and then Hollywood got involved and tried to make all of the attendees fans of everything it could possibly get them to consume. And now, the event is such a big deal within the entertainment media that it sometimes seems as though the studios are using it to sneak a virus out to the public at large, just another bit of marketing in the long march toward a big opening weekend, but a form of marketing that we haven’t yet built up a resistance to, like billboards or TV commercials.

So much that happens at SDCC is obviously canned. After the show a few people told us that the kid who asked Ryan Reynolds to recite the Green Lantern oath (above) was a plant — a notion supported by all the videos of the event staying up on YouTube.
Lesson #5: If you came for a spectacle, you came to the right place.

Everyone was talking about the throne in the Marvel booth, the actual Odin’s Throne set from the upcoming Thor movie. It was Disney-esque in so many ways – from its forced perspective, to the way they only opened the doors behind it at certain times—kinda like the way the Pope only opens the holy doors at the Basilica once every 25 years, for Jubilee. (Why the Pope is an X-Men fan is not clear, but it probably had something to do with Milo Manara’s X-women.) It created great spectacle and interest as people tried to sit in it, and brought the razzle dazzle of moviemaking right into the comics booth. (Marvel did something like it last year with the Iron Man armor, but this was way bigger.)

On the other hand, the movie prop associated with a DC movie – the corpse of proto Green Lantern Abin Sur in a glass case – was located in the Warner Bros. booth, not at DC. Given the level of traffic at the DC booth, adding movie props to the scrum is probably not a great idea, but what with moving to Burbank and all, it’s getting more and more likely.

Lesson #6: Protect yourself at all times


A few told me that this was a “jumping the shark” year for Comic-Con, and cited the “Hall H Stabber” as the defining moment of shark jumping. While it made for some excited tweeting, and excellent cosplay, the actual incident – as opposed to the blogging speculation about it – seems to have been quite minor, and the details have effectively been hushed up. Both the Stabber and the Stabbee must be the ONLY two people at Comic-Con who don’t have blogs, Facebook or Twitter accounts, and their identities – and even the extent of the injury that left the Stabber with a big splash of blood on his Harry Potter T-shirt – have not, to my knowledge, been expanded upon from initial police reports. As the police were eager to point out, Comic-Con remains a peace-loving, law-abiding creature, despite the crowds and tumult.

BUt you know, there is still much fun to be had, even if the purpose and execution of a successful Comic-Con evolve. DQ’s Peggy Burns for the defense:

Perhaps, I may be considered lucky, but despite all the craziness and sometimes utterly depressing fall of humanity-esque atmosphere that is witnessed, I like San Diego. I like comics. I like seeing friends. I like meeting new ones. I like meeting our fans. I like meeting the artists. I like the panels. I like the Eisners. I like the people who put on San Diego. While the floor did seem emptier than usual on Saturday and it would be great for the convention to figure out way to not sell every single pass six months beforehand, and perhaps stagger some releases of badges so that the casual fan of comics or someone who reads the press the convention generates, has at least a chance in hell to attend, we made our {modest} goal and enjoyed our time. So let’s get going.

Lesson #7: Always go to Ralphs.

ALWAYS. Crawl on bloody stumps if you must, but get yourself to Ralphs. Carrots for day, Jack Daniels for night. Motrin for the morning. So simple.


The conflicted feelings over which way to take Con — and whether it has “ruined Fandom” — is very much evident in other writings about the show. Here’s a gallery of views and voices:

Veteran retailer Chuck Rozanski is always worth reading. This year he apparently was featured in the Morgan Spurlock documentary, along with his assistant Ashley, and makes some interesting observations:

…everyone is walking around with cameras. At first blush that might not seem important, but an epiphany that struck me as I was walking through the media section (which was, once again, insanely crowded), was that the real motivation for many people to come to Comic-Con these days is to be able to post breaking news and photos to their personal social networking sites. I later confirmed my hypotheses by asking people what they were going to do with their snapshots and video streams. The irony is almost palpable when you realize that for a great many people who are in this building right now that their elevation is social status is no longer derived from actually owning cool items, but rather from being the first to be able to report that they’ve seen something cool. The media moguls seem well aware of this trend, so they are doing their very best to try and motivate fans to take as many photos as possible of their new projects, in the hope at they will then go viral on the Internet. As crazy as it may sound, this sharing of information (and the bragging rights to being able to be the first to report to their peer group) has become more important to many people than scoring free stuff.

First timer Van Jensen had a bit of Con-pocalypse:

Tangentially: Comic-Con clearly isn’t a comics show anymore, and it’s a little saddening to think that I never experienced it in that form. Now it’s an insanely crowded typhoon of promotion, with pretty well every media entity exhaling every piece of nerdery they can. And the bulk of those trapped in the typhoon are those who want to see celebrities, who want to sit on a prop Odin’s throne, who want to stab someone in the eye over the right to watch Harrison Ford talk about whatever Harrison Ford talks about nowadays.

As far as comics goes, the show is increasingly not the great sales event it once was (just ask any retailer or publisher). And it’s not a great opportunity for promotion unless you have a movie coming out (just ask me). With the show’s organizers pondering the next stage of Comic-Con’s evolution (to L.A.?), I would hope they sit down and simply ask what they want the show to be. And if they want it to remain in some significant way a comics show, they need to figure out how to make it worthwhile for the smaller publishers to handle the ever-rising cost associated with attending.

Mark Evanier marvels, as we so often do at just how well it all works:

I continue to be amazed at how little goes wrong at these conventions. I’ve been going to cons, good and bad, for four decades now and I think I know a little about how difficult they are to organize and how many disasters can occur. Even when things go wrong at Comic-Con International, the crew knows what to do, how to do it, how to keep things running smoothly. That was one thing that was often on my mind this year. Another was a new (to me) way of looking at the attendees…

BTW it’s time once again to recognize the fact that the Comic-Con staff does a fantastic job making sure everything runs smoothly every year. This time security did their job with a minimum of fuss and hassle, and just being on the floor wasn’t a struggle against a totalitarian society.

Equanimous Eric Reynolds also had a good time despite it all and even managed to find a whole steak:

That said, I kept telling folks all weekend that even though it’s in my nature to complain, I had almost nothing to complain about in regard to this year’s show (which I realize makes for a boring con postmortem). Yes, I find it weirdly condescending and annoying that every retail worker in downtown San Diego now seems to wear some generic comics-related t-shirts or capes for five days straight (especially when you know they’re being forced to do it and probably resent it every bit as much). But so be it. When I go to a nice restaurant downtown, I can promise you that I’m not so hungry to relive my day on the floor that I need Green Lantern-themed cocktails or steaks named after the wild creatures of Pandora. But I will be famished enough to forgive it.

Warren Ellis had a few thoughts on the side of Hall H that most will never see.

I’ve already linked to the Videogum guy’s moaning about how shit Comic-con is; of course, I’m secretly happy that the whiny hipsters who just started coming had a crap time, doused with the stench of entitlement. But I think they also caught onto the baffling mystery behind the whole enterprise:

Perhaps I’m not the intended audience for Comic-Con, and that’s fine, but my question, then, would be WHO IS?! I certainly understand feelings of alienation, and the thrill of finding a place where people accept you as you are, but that doesn’t really seem to be what this is about. What this is about is shoving endless promotional materials for uninspired and/or unnecessary nonsense into increasingly large branded gift bags. If you would like to know how it feels to be at Comic-Con it feels like you are a door, and people won’t stop shoving fliers under you. A door saddled with oversized garbage bags.

Sean T. Collins has a “when they came for Trina Robbins I said nothing!” type epiphany right on the interweb:

I guess what I’m saying is that in retrospect, I should have stuck a big fat caveat lector atop my dismissal of the post-show pique that flares up after each year’s Con. Don’t get me wrong, I do think a lot of that stuff really is just pique (and pandering for hits). And in fairness to myself, whenever I talk to people who haven’t been to the show, I warn them that there are lots of people who are just not constitutionally suited to that level of crowd and media and visual overload, so it’s not like I’m totally head-in-the-clouds about the inhospitability of the show for some people. But I’ve been far too willing to ignore the fact that there are people with perfectly reasonable and even noble expectations for the show for whom those expectations are now going unmet.

Even movie people — like this writer from Slash/film — were disgusted by the marketing:

That Comic-Con is quickly become a marketing maelstrom is news to no one, but this year the marketing flaks were even more aggressive than usual. It was especially bad at the 5th Avenue streetcar crossing that separates the Convention Center from downtown San Diego. Perhaps because it’s such a bottleneck for foot traffic, many TV and movie marketing teams decided to camp out right at the crossing and try everything in their power to make con-goers notice them.

They would usually just hand out a small piece of marketing fluff, but more than once they continued to badger me and others even after we declined their crap. The marketers also had the bad habit of jumping right in your way as you moved back and forth from the convention center, making the already-packed crossing even more tortuous.

In the wake of this year’s marketing-fest, the very nature of nerd-dom is being debated. This fine piece in New York magazine lays out the terrain: How Fanboy Obsessions Became the Pop-Culture Norm. Over at Techland, Lev Grossman, Wil Wheaton and Douglas Wolk also argue the nature of fandom. Is Comic-Con Really Hurting Nerd Culture? asks Wheaton before concluding “No!”

Grossman, on the other hand, had a crap time:

Comic-Con is hurting nerd culture, in a broad and systemic and probably permanent way. Nerd culture is a counter-culture, and counter-cultures can die; in fact if there’s one thing late-stage capitalism is good at, it’s co-opting and killing counter-cultures. Viz. punk, the 60’s, etc.

Douglas sensibly splits the needle and suggests that everyone have a place to sit down.

My own convention was middling. I had some great moments of serendipity, got to see a few old friends, fleetingly, met a few of my idols, had some good meals towards the end of the show. Kate and Torsten did a fantastic job manning ground control, but I had a lot of on-site tech issues that left me more frustrated than anything with my own coverage. The days when one person could cover Comic-con are long gone. I mean, I can cover MY Comic-Con, but isn’t that what Twitter is for?

I have some more observations and suggestions but even though this already took a week and no one cares any more, those will have to come out tomorrow.

[Bloody Eye logo by Nathan Schreiber. Hall H stabber perp photo by Frank Patz.]


  1. I’ve always avoided the bagels at the Embassy. Looks like I made the right choice. (That said, shame no one clued you into the little corner market in the back of the Embassy Suites. Deli sandwiches, powerbars and JD only a left turn out of the Pacific Fish Market entrance.)

  2. “that covers whether media people even NEED TO BE AT CON ANY MORE. Certainly it’s easier to sit at home and write about what’s happening than it is to be there and write about it.”

    This is why it’s not true – no one else from the media stayed for Karen Berger’s Q&A at the end of the Vertigo Panel. Even the audio cut out. But I was there with my laptop and wifi. So I got to write the bit where, off book, Karen was asked about the status of Vertigo at DC, and confirmed that all DC characters were to return to the mothership.

    You’re there not for the announcements. You’re there for the off-book moments when no one else is looking and ONLY YOU ARE THERE.

  3. For someone whose pipe dream is to go to an American comic book convention, it’s both amusing and sad to read stories like these. I won’t pretend that I know anything about SDCC, but from the generally negative reports I’ve been reading, I feel for you guys. Thank you for this thought-provoking article.

  4. “I can’t believe we’re eating scraps!”

    An apt metaphor, Heidi.

    However, if we’re talking actual sustenance, the three years I attended I made sure to pack some nutritious food to carry with me at all times….which was really a life-saver. Granola bars, baby carrots, or whatever travels well. I realize now is not the time for “Handy-Dandy Con Tips”, but at the same time, it speaks to a larger issue of the Nerd Herd keeping some control over their individual Con experience…despite the chaos.

    Still…your post-Con wrap-up (and those of others)seems to suggest some kind of breaking point, or, at the very least, the desire for “something else”, whatever that is or wherever it takes place.

  5. One suggestion, regarding supermarkets. I don’t know if Ralph’s delivers, but there are online grocery stores in San Diego which do. Ask your hotel first if it’s possible, then order up your rations the night before, with delivery to your hotel room after (before?) you arrive. (But isn’t the Embassy Suites one block south of Ralph’s?)

    I know Fox had their burger eating contest during the con, and Butterfinger had some strange “Defense League” promo (which I think you stumbled past). The ultimate promo? Co-op a food van and sell food outside the convention center. Hand out promos to people waiting in line. Can you imagine how popular the In-N-Out van would be? Reserve the Petco parking lot for food vendors, and have a parallel fast food festival during the Con!

    (Or call one of the local pizza parlors and see if they’ll deliver to the Convention Center. Order a second pie and sell slices to passers-by.)

  6. A very good and sharply delivered recap of Comic-con as always. And its clear that something about Comic-con has been lost. No one would dispute that it has changed, although I’ve been going for just about ten years and while Comic-con has gotten really big and really commercial, it was really big and really commercial when I started coming. I think that was about 1998 or 1999.

    I have to say that the biggest difference to me is that when I first started coming to comic-con, there were tens of thousands of attendees coming to see comics, movies and other pop culture stuff and the media was barely writing about any of it. Now there are many more tens of thousands of people coming to see movies, comics and other pop culture stuff and the media only writes about the movies.

    There’s lots of comics at comic-con people. If you don’t like long lines, stay away from movie panels and movie marketing events and you’ll do fine. I saw a great panel with 4 comics pubs talking about how comics publishing is changing over the last 30 years, I saw the Archie Panel launch a new comics mag (and announce plans for a movie), saw lots of smart manga panels, went to a a great CBLDF party full of comics folks, I interviewed Keith Knight for a spotlight panel, sat through the 3 hour Eisner ceremony in complete delight and contentment (yes I also complained about the length) and, as I always do at comic-con, bought and talked about comics and visited the booths of lots of comics publishers and artists.

    yes, movies and the toxic seepage of Hollywood blokcbuster marketing dominates the media response to comic-con. But it’s hard to believe that comics folks go off to Comic-con and are shocked, shocked, that there’s marketing going on.

  7. I second/third/fourth the Ralph’s requirement. I flew in on Thursday and went to Ralph’s at 6 AM Friday morning. And I’m with Peggy Burns: The energy of Comicon is like nothing else. It’s a marathon, but I always manage to catch up with a lot of great people and get business done, too.

  8. We got what fandom has always supposedly wanted, which was a wider acceptance of fan culture. This has been building for some time now, when TV Guide started offering variant collectible covers for Star Trek back in the 90’s you knew the jig was up and geeks were inheriting something or other. As with any subculture, scene or decent music venue, when the floodgates open, the scene crowds with goofs and opportunists, and things change, usually for the worse. The secret is out, the trend is on, the hip restaurant you liked blows up and turns into a hellhole, the punk club starts attracting “outsiders” and having fights and gets shut down, you can’t get into the panels at Comicon. Or get tickets to Comicon. Genie won’t go back in the bottle, worms are out, egg is scrambled, it is what it is. SDCC has been around for decades. Things change. It is what it is. I stopped going in 2001 because I wasn’t having fun anymore. Now I can’t go even if I wanted to, because of the expense. It’s other people’s show now, there’s no law that says I have to be there and be catered to because I love comics and had attended for fifteen years or so. I am owed nothing. It is what it is.

    But if you do go, you really do have to eat. Nobody’s getting any younger, it shouldn’t be a Bataan death march. You’re an adult, buy some food fer chrissakes.

    Also — I think its funny that DC chose to display a corpse at their booth. They really like the death over there, don’t they?

  9. I almost passed on Con this year, but we managed to get a room without TravelPlanners (non)help. Because I decided to make this a vacation and seek out my friends, I have a lovely time.

    SDCC is looking more and more like the Country Music Awards Fan Fair. There’s tons of marketing, event planners, support staff, guard details, etc. that come in and spend money. And there are hordes of people who want to see that spectacle. It’s not any wonder why San Diego suddenly says that they luuuurves them the Comic-Con.

  10. The first thing my wife does when we get to comic-con is go to Ralph’s get a load of foodstuffs and drag it back to hotel. It always saves us. I leave the show floor to get food (joe’s crab shack, usually) and the only thing I eat on the floor (cause you don’t have to wait long and they’re pretty good) are Mrs.Fields oatmeal cookies.

  11. @Torsten – I was doing some convention-related work a couple years back and one of the things on the docket was planning a food component for the San Diego Convention Center. I was trying to get In ‘n’ Out Burger to cater. I discovered two things: the San Diego Convention Center has some of the most draconian food restrictions in the country (oh, there will be NO delivery) and In ‘n’ Out Burger won’t even cater in San Diego. Something about county regulations, IIRC.

    This all makes me glad C2E2 landed in Chicago. Mind you, if somebody from Chicago wanted to stab you in the eye, they probably wouldn’t miss. Still, I’ve got a comic show I can take the train to and not deal with with some of the excess, which seems to be getting in the way.

    Then again, with what’s described, I still say move to Vegas – plentiful buffets, cheaper rooms and the attitude will get dispersed at bit as people scatter.

    The only economics I can speak to is Beaderstadt sold out of our tpb, so people were free enough with their money for my remote-viewing purposes.

  12. Despite the gloominess of my quote above, I did have a really good time in San Diego. And I’ll most likely be going every year for the foreseeable future. There were maybe 10-20 people I’ve known through e-mail and phone calls for years that I finally got to meet, and dozens of other friends I almost never see. Despite the general chaos, those bits of interpersonal connection made it well worthwhile.

    Also: While I felt like a minnow in the ocean as a creator, I did sell a lot of books to a lot of great fans and managed to line up some more comics work. Any disappointment I had probably owes more than anything to building the show up too much.

  13. I found the deli sandwiches at the Ralph’s made for a pretty decent lunch. Prices weren’t the best but it was a much better value than the crap they sell at the convention food service. I’d just stop by in the morning, get a sandwich and stick it in my laptop bag. Easy-peasy.

  14. Just to show that I’m not a complete moron, I actually packed a lot of emergency food from NYC, which I thought would at least get me through to Ralphs. But the long flight delay expended my supplies, sort of like how the big delay crossing the Salt Lakes cost the Donner Party a lot of their food.

    I purchased a BIG (and expensive) bag of peanuts from the Hilton during the Eisners which definitely came in handy for the rest of the show.

  15. I just want to pick up on Mark’s comment about the running of the show. It is extremely well run and the fact that I didn’t hear a single complaint about it goes to show you how well they’ve got it down to a fine art. Cheer, guys!

  16. I think Evan summed it up. ComiCon is not about comics anymore, comics aren’t about comics anymore, they’re about the next “cross-media” ( Oh God, how I HATE that expression!!!)properties and “creators” are looking at how to exploit their “properties”. Gone are the days that you wrote a movie, or a TV show or a comic book, now they all have to be the other.

  17. If you’re picking up a deli hero sandwich at Ralph’s, you might want to get a deli roll as well for breakfast, and eat it as you walk towards the Con (or wait in line). Or if it’s gonna be a long time before dinner, get two deli heroes… eat half of one for breakfast, then ration the other three parts throughout the day.

    Myself, I carb up at breakfast (just like the marathoners) and then buy a box of breakfast bars to snack on those throughout the day.

    Chicago actually has a decent selection of restaurants within McCormick Place. Also some great vending machines in Lakeside! Javits is varied, but expensive.

  18. To reiterate. More comic focussed and diverse programming at San Diego than anywhere else in the English speaking world.

    If you ignore Hall H and Ballroom 20, the comics world is yours.

  19. I’ve heard that you can tell a natural disaster is coming because all the pets have a sense of it and start to run away weeks before something hits.

    The same can be said for this year’s SDCC when I noticed that DC and Marvel were dumping a tone of major news announcements the week BEFORE Comic-Con.

    Their desire to get ahead of the SDCC newscycle that they knew was going to be eaten up by all Hollywood garbage was only confirmed with your post about how things actually happened at the con.

    I blame the media coverage for not focusing enough (or at all) on comics. The mainstream media are as much to blame (or more).

    Great post, as always.

  20. On the subject of food, I wish everything nearby wasn’t just overly processed carbs. During the day I couldn’t go too far so I packed it in for breakfast and existed on coffee and the occasional orange (thanks Jamie and Kieron) during the day. I was upset a little because I normally lose at least 5 pounds during the show, this year I think I managed to somehow put on a couple of pounds… and I wasn’t partying either (note to self: back to the “party diet” next year).

  21. Rich, as long as you avoid Hall H, Ballroom 20, the sidewalk in front of the convention center, the sidewalk in front of your hotel, the walk to dinner, the entire Gaslamp district, the t-shirts on the check-out girls at Ralphs, the bars after hours, the lettering on the trolley stop, the skies above and your bathroom mirror, it is perfectly possible to find nothing but comics at Comic-Con.

  22. Great summary of the CCI experience. I pretty much concentrated on getting things signed and made it to a total of “1” panel (the Straczynski spotlight – which turned out to have something special at it – the live reading of WW 601) and the Masquerade. The high points seemed to be outside the convention this year (the protests, W00tstock, etc.), Flinn’s arcard, etc. I will say that the several Mars bars (imported from the UK to promote Red Faction) that were handed out on Thursday in the Gaslamp area helped sustain me during the day while they lasted. Taking a look at Ebay for SDCC items shows just how much of the exclusives are mainly bought to go up on Ebay. Especially the ones that were up for auctions weeks before the convention even started!

  23. Rich,

    I had a very similar experience to yours, I completely avoided the media panels and “experiences” and as a result, had a very good show.

    This was my 8 year old’s first show. She loves comics (her new goal is to win an Eisner) and she got to meet a lot of artists and writers she admires. However, she also almost got trampled in front of the Lucasfilm pavilion, got elbowed in the face three times by douchebags pulling out their smartphones to take a picture of some celebrity and was called names that I had a hard time explaining.

    I wonder if its time for the organizers to consider if it’s better for fewer attendees to have a great experience than for the maximum number the fire marshall will allow to have a mediocre experience.

  24. “I wonder if its time for the organizers to consider if it’s better for fewer attendees to have a great experience than for the maximum number the fire marshall will allow to have a mediocre experience.”

    I’m sure they long ago considered it…and decided to go with “maximum number=mediocre experience” scenario.

    Let’s face it: The comics biz (fans and pros alike) have been pining for Hollywood attention ever since those early 60’s “Cast a Justice League movie” letter cols and Stan Lee’s bombastic movie-news Soapboxes (he always seemed to be *this close* to closing a deal, remember?)…so why are we all so surprised/dismayed/disillusioned that Hollywood actually showed up?

  25. Yeah, I’m with Rich on this one. The con felt different this year, but that just made it weird, not a bad comics show. It was a pretty great comics show. There was a ton of publishing news available on the floor and announced in panels — my con report doesn’t merit a mention here, but you can read a ton of it in the archived article on the right-hand column of the site — there were a lot of great cartoonists wherever you looked, and there was more decent to great programming than ever. I spent about 75 percent of my day in panels, and the interesting-sounding comics panels I couldn’t get to — Calvin interviewed Keith Knight? Arggh! — would by themselves make for a better comics and comics-only line-up than Comic-Con offered ten years ago.

    I think someone should mention there was also an absolutely stunning array of awesomely talented women creators there this year. Seriously, there was this run on I think Friday where you could spend five hours watching amazing female comics makers talk in serious, articulate fashion about their art and lives. This should have been given more attention.

    Comics has only itself to blame if the energy was off this year, but even that’s understandable as the Big Two morph even further into movie idea companies and a bunch of the small, vital companies have been squeezed out. Everyone’s still figuring it out. Image should throw its own Walking Dead party.

    Also, I envy the day so tightly and efficiently scheduled that a .5 mile walk can’t be had, but hey, everyone’s con experience is different.

  26. I agree with Rich and Merideth, there’s plenty of comics at comic-con if you stay away from the movie panels and movie programming, which you’ll find out you can’t get into anyway because the lines are endlessly long. That said however, the movie genie is not going back into the bottle. Comic-con is a big marketing venue and has been for years and that ain’t going to change. It’s not going to get small.

  27. I also agree with Tom Spurgeon, who won a much deserved Eisner Award for the Comics Reporter, at another great Comics event at SDCC: The Eisner Awards. Yes, they go on and on, but they’re about Comics and really good coics at that.

    And Tom’s also right that there seemed to great programming for women creators including spotlight panels on Jill Tamaki, Moto Hagio, Carol Tyler and Carla Speed McNeil. And like Tom, the list of great comics stuff that I missed is incredible. Gays in comics, Douglas wolk’s panel on comics criticism–Paul Pope gave a master session on inking!!!

  28. Mark,

    I agree that the equation will always skew towards the maximum, but have you read *any* reports of people who had an entirely positive experience at this year’s Comic-Con? The most positive reviews I’ve read are “I had a good show, but…”

    At some point, I feel like the studios are going to start wondering if it’s worth it. If the theme parks and gift bags and hauling talent out really make a difference.

  29. Tom — I didn’t link to your piece because I assume everyone has already read it!

    I feel a complete deja vu in this comment thread — it’s pretty much identical to last years with everyone — myself included — trotting out the same points.

    Of course there was amazing comics related content at the show. My essay is about the OVERALL experience of Comic-Con and how the comics component fits into it. But even from reading the comments it seems that avoiding the movie stuff is more of a challenge. Every comic publisher I talked to was concerned about the movie component siphoning off dollars and energy so I think talking about that is legitimate.

    As Peggy Burns wrote, the real challenge for Comic-con is allowing some level of spontaneity. I keep comparing it to the Super Bowl. No one expects to just walk up to the Super Bowl and get a ticket that morning, but you might go hangout for FanFest or a tailgate party. As the preview night sell out shows, this is a long planned vacation not a fun thing to do for unorganized slackers who are more likely to be the real tastemakers.

  30. Alistair – comics are still about comics. Corporate comics might not be all about comics, but a lot of people working there that are still all about comics, there are a lot of folks out there making comics because that’s the medium they wish to work in. Not everyone’s on the make, even if it appears that way sometimes.

  31. Heidi,

    I counted 220 hours of pure comics panels and events, and I’m not including the tie-in films TV and amniation panels. All of the master classes, oral histories from golden silver and bronze age creators, the legal ssiues panels, comics i the classrooms, retailer how to seminars, creator how to break in panels, etc.

    Comic-Con is whatever the individual attendee wants it to be.

    And Ralph’s IS still the place to go to refuel. ;)

  32. I haven’t been able to afford this for a few years- also had a work conflict this year- but I was getting disillusioned with it anyway. I see it as the square/cube law in action- the thing is getting too big to function, yet it somehow does anyway. I much prefer Wondercon- smaller, more manageable, more affordable, almost as many cool guests and the town doesn’t despise you for being there.
    Maybe I can make SDCC next year and eat my words….

  33. I thought this year was different, too, in that I felt the movie/TV presence whether I wanted it or not.

    There’s something weird going on here, though. When I wrote that I felt the presence of film and TV in my report for the first time, I made sure to point out:

    1) It was weird, not bad.
    2) I had a fantastic time.
    3) There was a greatish comics show to be had on a bunch of different levels: a, b, c, d, e, etc…

    And yet there were still people pull-quoting me saying I nailed why Comic-Con had been ruined or just quoting the one part where I talked about the feeling and not even quoting the part where I said it was weird instead of bad. What the hell?

    I think people have an axe to grind.

    Further, I think it’s pretty clear people in comics as a general rule have a huge complex about status, and that this gets expressed in a bunch of ways especially at Comic-Con. The closer people got to comics the more they seemed to enjoy the con; the more they let the nonsense get in the way of that, in part I think because that bs has the imprimatur of film/tv, the less they seemed to enjoy things.

    I think deep down 90 percent of comics people really do think Walking Dead is more important as an AMC TV show than it is as a outstanding high-quality serial comic. That’s not to say that this isn’t an exciting opportunity for Robert Kirkman and maybe for comics retailers, but WD is likely to always be a bigger deal in comics than it is on the small screen — it would have to do Roots numbers to do for AMC what it’s done for some comics shops.

    So, yeah, there’s all this stuff there — there’s all this stuff in the world! We just need more practice at sticking up for ourselves, and really valuing our comics experiences even if they don’t have Ryan Reynolds doing a line-reading with a child. Why do I even have to hear about that on a comics site? That’s not comics; that’s show business. Show business sucks. I mean, no wonder the film and entertainment people are already getting sick of Comic-Con. All they eat is the poisonous, make-you-dumber junk food of PR announcements and trailers for five days; they need to go Ralph’s worse than Heidi does, or at least have a cookie with Calvin Reid and Keith Knight.

  34. As a small press area publisher, I have to say that, relative to recent years, my sales increased this year and were solid–but for the first time ever, Thursday and esp. Sunday were my best sales days. On Sunday, many people seemed ready to look at comics and spend money, and it was crowded. I’ve now learned to expect Saturday sales to be a wash for me, due to the big movie presentations I suspect.

    It helps that I am pretty much chained to my table in Hall B, so I’m pretty much stay on my side of the hall. I occasionally walk around for a break with my kids, but I’m satisfied by watching the spectacle and not being drawn in by all the marketing. But if I were not working at the show as an exhibitor, I don’t think I could attend the show all four days.

    I still know what booths I want to visit so that I can purchase some comics and books–which made the loss of Comic Relief and the smaller space of Bud Plant all that sad to me. Aside from being great places to browse, they were also my main landmarks for orienting myself on the floor!

    I’ll be posting my own postmortem tomorrow….

  35. Yeah, I always avoid the movie/celebrity stuff and go straight for the comics. I’m not really into that and it just sucks so much time out of your day to try and get a glimpse of Robert Downey Jr or whoever. But seeing it *everywhere* does get to you after a while. You begin to wonder if your at Comic Con or Movie/TV Con.

    Maybe it was just me gaining a little more experience with this being my 3rd San Diego, but I found it was much easier to pick which comic panels I wanted to go to. Usually it’s a hair pulling experience to pick and choose. The panels I did record are here for those interested:

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind if Comic Con did move to LA. Then it can go ahead and BE Movie Con instead of this hybrid con. Either the San Diego crew (or Reed) can then start up a different named comics focused convention at San Diego. Even if it gets half the audience it would still be one of the largest comic conventions in NA and be more like the comic con everybody waxes nostalgia about.

  36. I posted my own wrap-up today and I couldn’t agree with you more about reporting on the con. If I do decide to make the trek next year I’m considering not working it at all. What was most fun and memorable where the times I spent with friends and the time I spent just being a fan.

  37. I started attending San Diego Con in the mid-1980s. I kept coming to the show with regularity until 1997, when I left comics-related work.

    Back in comics, I looked forward to this year’s con with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Thirteen years away is a long time. Although the show has changed, I had a wonderful time. My hat is off to the organizers and all the workers who make Comic Con International run so well.

    I’ll be back next year!

  38. Agree 100% with lessons #2 & 3.

    On Friday I ventured across the street to lunch with friends and was flabbergasted by the assault at 5th & L. I was fortunate to pass through with only (!) a Mythbusters bag and eight (seriously, 8?) Walking Dead pins thrust into my hands.

    I long ago gave up on the notion of walking through every single aisle as I used to do— but all I really need to do is walk through every aisle in the comics and artists sections. If only that were possible! Despite the new floor plan, there’s still too much of break-up of these sections by Hollywood (note: the ever-more crowded lobby is still the best travel option). It was a good idea to move more of Hollywood to the back (south) wall, but I didn’t like the way a small part of Artists’ Alley was separated, cutting down on foot traffic past artists who were smack up against the east wall.

    One’s Comic-Con must be planned, but the best moments are always the unplanned:
    • Spotting Hope Larson in front of the Fantagraphics booth when I visited for Gilbert & Natalia & Jaime Hernandez’s signing and standing quietly with my copy of Mercury (that I had with me just in case) until Hope quickly noticed and signed it.
    • Embarassing Felicia Day at a signing at The Guild booth when Sandeep Parikh noticed the June DVD I brought and showed it to the cast (note: it’s a good indie movie, see it!).
    • Discussing mathematics (i.e., the golden ratio) with Terry Moore.
    • All the great and clumsy conversations with artists and everyone at Oni Press and of course random line-mates.

    This was my 18th straight Comic-Con. Every year, it’s aggravating and exhausting. And every year, I have a wonderful time, am glad I went, and can’t wait until next year’s.

  39. “I can cover MY Comic-Con, but isn’t that what Twitter is for?”

    I don’t know about that. After spending most of my time on Twitter last year, I made a conscious decision to let myself experience the convention this year. Outside of the panels I live-blogged, I posted dozens of notes to Twitter each day last year…and a total of around 10 this year.

    The downside is that I’m also still working on my report a week after the con is over. The upside is that I had a much more enjoyable time.

  40. to understand what the ‘comic-con’ brand has become, just look at how Wizard is co-opting it in their new quest to become the SDCC touring company.

    I see about 10 announcements for some C and D (and probably E) list stars who are coming down here to the ‘Austin Comic-con’ this november for every announcement about a comics related guest.

    It’s becoming more about waiting in line to pay $40 for somebody who was somebody for a moment during your youth to sign a headshot than the quest to pick up FF 48 or get a sketch from your favorite creator.

    Still, this SDCC was probably the best comics show ever for me. I spent most of my time either in comics panels or either end of the show floor. And somehow Saturday around 4pm the whole middle of the floor died and I got an opportunity to casually see some bigger booths without being swept up in a tide of people.

  41. Evan : Yeah I know, just letting off a little steam. And I think most of them are publishing on the web :)

  42. Thanks Heidi for being on the front lines for those of us who chose to stay in their comic stores! Kate and I will be back to San Diego Comic-Con in 2019 for the 50th anniversary!

  43. Maybe if I had gone this year, we would have had The Beat Staff Meeting/Breakfast with the Beat and Ben and I would have known that Heidi had at least one decent meal (even if it meant she had to listen to us talk about Aston Villa and Everton’s struggle to get Champions League football).

    I have no doubt that there is a great comics convention hidden inside Movie Con.

    However, the 75,000+ people there who don’t care about comics crowd the building and make insane queues and fill-up restaurants and hotels.

    In the old days, I wanted to go to SD (in addition to seeing the Padres and Lucha friday night in TJ) to meet creators, network for interviews and maybe try and make connections with editors.

    Now, I can do most of those things on-line so why go to SD to conduct business.

    One day (and Thursday at that) convinced me to never go back to SD the way it is currently constituted. I didn’t bother to renew my Pro membership (even though we finally published a new issue last year) because I knew I was never going back.

    If I ever wanted to go to a convention again (which I really don’t at this point in my life), I would much rather go to Baltimore or Charlotte or Wonder Con.

    And thanks to Heidi for her wrap-up, even if it was a little late, which, to bring it back to the beginning, is like having to wait for the Beat to go to Breakfast in SD or go to a Broadway show. :>

  44. I had a GREAT time this year. How funny. I’ve gone to more than 30 of the things too so I’ve seen what it’s become. And I used to be one of the biggest whiners about the jocks taking the show from us nerds. But this year I just decided that I was going to make the Con mine again like I used to do as a 15 year old volunteer.

    I participated in the Tripwire panel, went to see a digital comics panel, actually GOT IN to the Venture Brothers panel, saw the Futurama press conference, got great sketches from the likes of Jimmy Robinson and Kody Chamberlain, ate almost ALL of my meals in Little Italy, took the con shuttle which had only three stops for my hotel, watched the Masquerade from the monitor under the sails with my lovely wife, caught up with old friends, and still did a few hours of Bar Con on Sunday night.

    Heck if I’d joined a pickup DND game and caught Logan’s Run in the film room it would have been no different for me than the show was twenty five years ago. (Except for the giant crowds on the floor but I just stayed in the Comics Ghetto for most of my day.)

    I mean, yeah, we used to be able to sneak into the Marvel party every year but that ship sailed in the 90’s. I don’t need to go to a Hollywood event since I can’t drink right now anyway. And I don’t need to be in Hall H to see footage that’s going to be on the net in a day or two for some movie that will suck as bad as Snakes On A Plane.

    I made this show fun again because I decided to.

  45. Damnn, this “article” reads like the many rants of my grandmother bitching that America died with the invention of the refrigerator.
    Yes, the ice man and ice box was nice, but things change. Getting old and slow sucks, but now you get to bitch about the “good old days” for the rest of your years.
    Damn youngin’s and their Hollywood talkie pictures!

  46. Okay… here’s a plan:
    Avoid Hall H and all the movie hoopla. Having reloaded Google News every fifteen minutes while the Con was in progress, I know that almost EVERY item was tied into the media circus. There were almost NO comics news seen that weekend. (Yes, the regular comics sites did a great job, but it got buried under the Internet equivalent of page 37.)

    Does the Movie/Media crowd help underwrite the comics (and other) programming? Perhaps. But having seen the highlights Heidi posted before the Con, I noticed there was a lot of great comics programming.

    Should the floor be segregated, with most of the comics booths in Halls A, B, and C?

  47. “However, the 75,000+ people there who don’t care about comics crowd the building and make insane queues and fill-up restaurants and hotels.”

    I don’t think this is all that true. No one I know slept outside, the heavy crowds were not at the comics areas, it seemed to me there were plenty of restaurants out there you could walk in without a wait. I did three times, if you include the place that lost my reservation. People have been subjecting themselves to long waits at restaurants since I’ve been going by not seeking out restaurants outside of a three-block radius, and I didn’t even see anything resembling the Spaghetti Factory soul-destroying line anywhere I looked this year, although Richard Walker’s Pancake House looked close. The insane queues were at movie stuff not comics stuff (except for the popular comics stuff).

    I think this may also reveal some of the collective psychosis at work — it would actually be much worse for the comics panels lines and just the same for the restaurants and hotels if these were all comics fans. There would be fewer people you’d want to punch in the face for saying stuff like “we’re looking for something that’s independent and quirky, but with mainstream appeal,” but that’s about it.

    About the only thing that seems noticeably different to me over the last couple of years that’s unavoidable is the little cluster of people outside the show handing out stuff. This is hardly a sea change. I used to have more people directly solicit me every time I rode the Red Line on the El than got in my face down there, although their presence was definitely annoying.

    I think the movie side of things had most of the energy, which is mostly comics’ and partly the comics media’s fault — understandable in certain ways — not theirs.

  48. I had a good time with an old friend I don’t see often and spent most of my time hitting comics panels that interested me.

    True, the big media stuff will be broadcast everywhere in minutes. They didn’t really need my coverage on the spot, but some of my readers don’t read EW and watch E! Channel.

    The movies and TV shows get plenty of mentions from me for those reasons. But panels like Keith Knight’s “Nappy Hour” get more blog attention.

  49. As far as food…
    each morning I bought a $5 footlong from Subway and packed it up. My daughter and I each ate a half in the Pro Lounge. I stuck with the FREE coffee and lemonade to drink, I brought some kool-ade pouches for my daughter to mix with a cup of water.

    For dinner I hit up various happy hours in the Gaslamp. One of the best is at Rock Bottom Brewery on fridays where you get a ticket to the FREE taco bar with each beer purchase. Rockin’ Baja Lobster and The Palm also have great happy hour specials.

  50. The single greatest change (from an exhibitor’s point of view) between this year and last year was the option to purchase prepaid parking in the Convention Center.

    Travel Planners put us out on Hotel Circle, and last year, if we weren’t up and out before six a.m., it was parking on the other side of PetCo Stadium. This year, we got up at a decent hour, ate some breakfast, drove down an uncrowded Harbor, and glided right into a parking spot directly beneath our booth – at around five minutes to nine.

    All you had to say to my brother, or Rich Henn, or Eric Shanower, or a dozen other people to get a HUGE happy smile is “prepaid parking”.

  51. James:

    Oh yeah, Eric Shanower was telling me that in the OLDEN days before prepaid parking he would often get there in the pre dawn hours and sleep in his car before the show opened. So that backs up Tom’s assertion that people aren’t sleeping in their cars any more!

  52. I have to say, Heidi – I had one of my best comic cons in years. The IDW booth had the biggest DOCTOR WHO signing queue ever, I found the Omni to be a charming place for meetings, equalled only by the CAFE DIEM, and the only two gripes I had were a) the Gas Lamp end crossing of the road and b) Friday / Saturday night meals being delayed – but then as a walk up, we couldn’t really complain.

    I bought every comic I wanted, saw every editor and creator I needed to, finally caught with Stan Sakai and ate three healthy meals a day. Breakfasts were often at the Horton Plaza and I even managed a few panels.

    Yes, movies are muscling in. But there were plenty of comics announcements. I even had a couple myself, with Harker being optioned and Agent Mom being greenlit. I believe that I was even one of those ‘Omni meetings’ you mentioned, as I waved to you when you came in, the same time as Lou and Estrada left the WIRED party – but it was very much comics on discussion. And the meeting next to us was very much comics too.

    It’s a horses for courses event – some loved it, some hated it, some did well, some did terrible. It’s just as much a media frenzy as it was my first time in 2005 – all that’s changed is the mentality of outside the con hall.

    I’ve already booked for next year. And I hope I’ll see you there. But seriously, if you’re burned out by con? Take a year off and recharge.

  53. Ah, memories of when I was the only person posting San Diego news online (back in ’86-’87 certainly, probably again for a year or two when I started reattending in ’92).

    As for food, if you’re at Ralph’s other than in the wee hours to get a sandwich, I’d recommend going past it a half block or so to hit Beach City Deli in Horton Plaza (right at ground level on the street) for a much better sandwich, salad and smoothie options, etc. On the other side of the CC, I’m very fond of the Tin Fish right across the street for lunch, or there’s Cinecafe for a sandwich (off a side street shortly into the Gaslamp).

    And the CC does have draconian food policies. Last year, when the Pro/Fan Trivia had to be cancelled after being put on the schedule, I offered to do the old Boskone/Worldcon standard “Trivia for Chocolate”. I’d be at the front of the room with a stack of quick answer trivia questions, and whoever in the audience yelled out the correct answer first would get a small piece of chocolate, such as a Hershey’s Kiss or Andes Mint, tossed to them. I offered to pay up to a quarter a piece to bring in the chocolate, but Programming told me the CC would want even more than that.

  54. Heidi,

    My wife and I spent a week in the La Jolla/SD/Escondido area after the show to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and read the daily Union-Tribune for any postgame SDCC news. Saw next to nothing on the print side, but read A LOT about city fathers and daughters proposing a half-cent tax to make up for a budget deficit on the November ballot.

    No news about the city sweetening the pot to keep Comic-Con there because — I think — they have no more money in their coffers to do so.

    Even though I was there at the end of SDCC’s “comic books are king” era and miss it terribly, I’m OK with the show as it is right now. But I can’t see it growing any further in SD without a bigger financial commitment than the city can afford to make.

    So, I’ll ask again: SD… in or out? If the latter, is it a short- or long-term move to wherever?

  55. “Richard Walker’s Pancake House looked close. The insane queues were at movie stuff not comics stuff (except for the popular comics stuff”

    Walk like 2.5 blocks to cafe 222 and get a markedly better breakfast with less of a wait. Local and part of 2 Food Network shows including ‘the best thing i ever ate’.

  56. I don’t know about the bagels, but you can get a fresh omelet made by the hotel chefs at the Embassy — and it never took us longer than 3-4 minutes to get through the lineup :) Skip the buffet line and just get everything fresh from that counter with the chefs. You can order your eggs almost any way you like.

    Grab a yogourt and a danish from the buffet to use for lunch later (a small, portable cooler bag that fits in a backpack or shoulder bag works great for this).

    The Ralph’s was a lifesaver, we just grabbed a $3-4 wrap from there on the way back to the hotel, instead of spending $15+ on dinner on our nights off.

    I’ll say one thing — the con was better this year than it was LAST year.

  57. I think there needs to be a solid article about Comic-centric cons. They do still exist. For my money and time, Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC is one of the best shows around. I’m sure the Wizardy shows are nice, but HC just rocks.

  58. Wow. Interesting read. The intro sure underscored the importance of eating well, lest an empty and rumbly stomach influences
    how you’re gonna feel the rest of the day!

    Am disappointed though, that The Beat found no time to report on the Howard Cruse’s Spotlight panel on Thurs— nor on the ones on Berke Breathed or Milo Manara on the following days— nor on the Comic Arts Conference panel on “Comics Theory”— nor even that DC Comics 75th Anniversary panel one. As one who also stood in line to sit in Odin’s Throne in the MARVEL booth, I missed a couple of the above… and I thought that I get some coverage of them here. You know, those non-movie, non-tv, purely COMICS-related stuff that “the news blog of Comics Culture” would find time to report on?

    Food reportage RUINED The Beat.

    As for me, I had fun; as usual, keeping to my familiar ‘parts’ of the Comic-Con ‘elephant’, and enjoyed SDCC ’10.

    (Now to wait for Heidi’s reporting of NYCC ’10. Wonder what the narrative ‘thread’ for that wrap-up will be? Fortunately, the hometown bagels are there for the more positive mindset upon entering Javits…)

  59. The way the frustration about about Heidi’s inability to feed herself properly is tied into the experience of what Comic-con is now just comes off as silly. Even if this were one’s first time traveling to the event. Really now, you were an adult in downtown San Diego with friends and connections, not in a third world country.

    Amid the SDCC bashing here and elsewhere, the lamenting about the old guard of comic retailers declining sales or bowing out of setting up at the show has been unbalanced when it comes to Comic-con post-mortems. The truth of the shrinking profits has little to do with the Hollywood machine at the con and more accurately tied to the same problem they all have year round. Less people are buying what they peddle where ever they may set up shop. Additionally, I have little sympathy for a retailer who thinks it’s smart to continue to set up 100 feet or more of commonplace comic trades and hardcovers at the show when most of us are savvy enough to know we can order most of the same product at anytime online, obtain deep discounts, pay zero tax and in many cases have the books shipped free to our home from dozens of legitimate retail sources.

    If Chuck Rozanski thinks many comics fans still come to comic-con to load up on his offering of the world’s supply of Marvel Masterworks and then needs to figure out how to ship the heavy pile home year after year in a shrinking marketplace then he’s the one way out of touch and making a poor business decision. And remember, it’s a down economy…who’s in a hurry to load up on over-priced golden and silver age comics these days? It’s too convenient for these retailers to blame the venue when they don’t understand how to adapt to the retail environment itself and the evolving shopping habits of the consumer. It’s a bigger and more complex story than just saying poor Mile High Comics made less money at Comic-con again this year. Must be the con’s fault for letting in the great unwashed with their cameras and strollers.

  60. “It’s too convenient for these retailers to blame the venue when they don’t understand how to adapt to the retail environment itself and the evolving shopping habits of the consumer.”

    Excellent point. It seems the age of Inventory Behemoths like Bud Plant is passing in favor of more convenient and budget-friendly retailers. The Con is no longer the place where you can see this gold mine of stuff in one place, much less the place you can get a decent discount on it.

  61. That’s not a good point; that’s a stupid-ass point. Rozanski had such a good year he had to buy another cash register mid-con to handle the flow of customers.

    It could be that the con has changed so that no large retailer can set up a large booth profitably, just as we’re no longer in the days of curtained porn comic sales areas, but it’s not a slam dunk to suggest it from the evidence on hand. Bud Plant went smaller, but Rozanski had a busy year, you can’t include Comic Relief in this analysis because there are outside factors involved, and the most inventory-heavy publishers related to sales had their best years in five or six years.

    Most of the suggestions for a large, inventory-heavy retailer have been fully cognizant of the idea that it’s difficult but that it’s worth doing via soft-power inticements or even discounting the space because of the long-term value involved, the same way it’s good to have small press areas and artist’s alley instead of filling that space with Tron rides.

  62. I chatted briefly with Bud Plant right at the close of the show, and he told me that because of the smaller footprint, this show was a profitable one for him. The older stuff moved more slowly – but they did a brisk business with the art/pop culture books. I spent more money at his booth than anywhere else (which is telling in two ways: I didn’t have TIME to shop many places, but when I chose, it was deliberate), and yes, it was on things that I might have been able to get elsewhere, or on line, but half the point (for me) of a dealer like Bud HAVING the stuff at Comicon is the “Oh, hey, wow – I didn’t know about that” impulse buy. Same with stuff by artists like Gary Gianni – where else but Comicon would I have noticed that he’d self-published a gorgeous run of Prince Valiant as a self-contained graphic novel?

  63. James, that’s exactly it. Bud knows his business — if he went small, he did so for a good reason. I just hope that CCI will consider employing its various means of influence towards the aim of attracting a booth or two that will complement booths like Bud’s and Chuck’s. And Stuart’s. I hope Bud is receiving that kind of assistance already! Another strategy could be granting a temporary license to someone and making a booth/store out of special guests and Eisner nominated material, maybe with a specific t-shirt license as an inducement.

    That’s fascinating and really smart about the parking places.

  64. “That’s not a good point; that’s a stupid-ass point. Rozanski had such a good year he had to buy another cash register mid-con to handle the flow of customers.”

    Check your facts; Chuck had to buy another register because his employees screwed up and left the extra register behind at his warehouse. He knew he’d need, it but was unprepared (albeit by mistake).

    If Chuck’s numbers are accurate, his con profits could have been vastly turned around by selling one or two of his remaining Edgar Church pieces, but based on what he’s saying he took in, I assume he sold little to none of those.

    Q: Why?
    A: Because that buyer isn’t at SDCC anymore. Is that news to anyone?

    And if Chuck’s year was so great, why is he grousing and only breaking even on the last day (when he sells everything at half off so he doesn’t have to incur the cost of shipping it home)?? And why would extending the length of the show (as he’s proposed) make it a better show? The guy is an enthusiastic over-sharer but out of touch.

    “Stupid-ass” is thinking that buying a shitload of easy-to-get, in-print trade inventory from Diamond and mixing it with the stuff you haven’t sold from your website in the hopes that SDCC buyers are either stupid or so swept up in the euphoria of the moment that they will pay 35% more for this common product than they would from Amazon. Product they then have to hump back home, probably at extra expense unless they live within driving distance.

    Does anyone besides Chuck think buyers go to San Diego to overpay for trades they could buy elsewhere for less? Yeah, that’s a rock-solid business model, just like all the toy booths full of old, overpriced McFarlane figures that no one wants anymore.

    What are these people doing at SDCC, and worse, why are they complaining about sales when their product mix clearly does not appeal to the attendees? How is that the fault of the show, the studio exhibitors or the location?

    What is changing at the con is that the experience is uniquely specific to the show – and that includes the buying experience. Consumers are largely looking for things that are exclusive to the show or elusive outside the show.

    For instance, I checked back at the D&Q booth every day to get the new Palookaville because I couldn’t have gotten or read it before the show. If I had it already, I wouldn’t have bothered. D&Q offered no special price, Seth wasn’t there to sign it, and if I hadn’t been dying to read it I could’ve saved money waiting and getting it from my LCS.

    Most of the stuff I got from Stuart Ng can’t be easily found in the US, so I buy from him because that’s fairly exotic stuff. But Marvel Team-Up Essentials are everywhere – hardly SDCC sales gold.

    Furthermore, if I was made aware of something new at the Con that I wanted, I checked to see if I could get it online for less before I bought it there. We kids (like this 47-year-old) all have these wacky “cell phones” that make it easy for us to access the “internet” and the knowledge we glean there can “save” us “money”. It costs a lot to ship stuff across the country, especially heavy books that Amazon will sell to me for less, pack and ship to my house at no charge in two days.

    No one is bitching that Mattel, Super 7, Tokidoki and other sellers that had show exclusives were sucking up all the cash. I wonder why? Because the folks who are complaining about the show realized they failed to create some kind of excitement themselves. At least they’ve shut up about Twilight, but if Twilight was there in force, I have no doubt there would be finger-pointing in that direction as well.

    It’s insane to suggest that the event do anything other than get people in the same room as the vendors and run the show with as few hiccups as possible, which they do with frightening precision. If sellers want or expect SDCC to drive people to buy at their tables, they are living in a fantasyland.

  65. I don’t lug books to conventions for signatures. It’s dead weight, and I don’t want to lug a book around the convention center all day long, especially when I’ll probably be buying other books during the day.

    Instead, I’ll check the Internet (usually and search for back issues by convention guests. It’s cheap, lightweight, and forces me to read something I normally wouldn’t (like Spider-Man #600).

    While I like the idea of 3-for-2 graphic novel bins, my experience is that it is hard to find three GNs I want. Usually the selection is the same among retailers at a show.

    Instead, I want the unusual. Stuff that’s out of the ordinary, or hard to find. Like a complete run of Marvel Age, or Graphitti editions from the 1980s, or PSA comics, or copies of FOOM and RBCC, or…

  66. Maybe the people who write about the Con for a living are complaining, but as someone who actually spent time waiting in a few autograph lines here and there talking to the people around them, the fans were having a great time!

  67. I knew that — I don’t care why he needed the new register. If he wasn’t selling past the point some nameless ding-dong on the Internet could justify writing 11,000 shrieking paragraphs about how badly he wasn’t selling and how his whole model was such a disaster, he wouldn’t have needed the register he left behind. He was selling. He grossed 80K. Please God in my life let me screw up as bad as grossing 80K in four days at Comic-Con. After buying stock and travel expenses (where I’m betting there’s some money to be made back — unless you hate everything about Chuck Rozanski except his immaculate travel planning skills), he broke even. That’s true of a lot of people in San Diego — a lot of people lose money. As I mentioned before, the inventory-heavy publishers I spoke to did well, too. Did they do as well as the studio that promoted Tron? Maybe not, if Tron opens big and they can tie it back to CCI. Should the entire con be Tron?

    So: is Chuck-Ro the greatest businessman of all time? No. Should the con float his apparently astounding travel expenses next year? No. Does his breaking even or not making as much money as some asserted super-corporations made (which I doubt; all the big corporation people did this year was bitch about the expense of coming to San Diego — if any of those people were making some sort of profit I doubt there’d be as big a push for Los Angeles or Anaheim) mean the entire category goes under the bus? Don’t be stupid-ass. Does it mean that CCI shouldn’t consider recruiting a retailer to sell new work at the show with things like the promise of prime real estate and some under-the-table help with hotel rooms? I don’t think it should mean that.

    Seriously, did a pile of Chuck Ro’s Seth Fisher Green Lantern trades fall on and kill your dog?

  68. I’m not even sure what your point is Tom, or if I’m the “nameless internet ding-dong” you refer to, but if I am, who are you but an internet ding dong with a name? I’m pretty sure the known vs unknown equation doesn’t makes either of our opinions more or less valid, but name calling is childish stuff.

    Moving on…

    I have no quarrel with Chuck, but he’s made some specific public statements (as he does about nearly every other aspect of his life) concerning “what’s wrong with SDCC” and my observations were on those comments, his booth at the con and my perspective on why retailers like Chuck are bitching about con sales, the cost of going, and/or anything else that affects their ability to make the most out of the show without crying like a little girl with a skinned knee afterwards.

    I’m not sure spending 60K to make $20K is a great idea for the amount of effort involved, but apparently Chuck agrees with me as he seems disappointed in his sales. Your mileage on the same investment may vary, but if you are willing to make it, it’s there for the taking apparently.

    I’m not sure who you are talking about when you say “the big corporation people” and their “bitch about the expense of coming to San Diego”, but if you are talking about the movie & gaming studios, well of course they’d like it be in LA because it’s in their backyard and they’ll still be able to go their favorite restaurants and sleep in their own beds away from the nerds. But you’ll notice it hasn’t stopped them from coming. Why’s that? Because they seem to be getting results – otherwise they wouldn’t spend the money. The way they measure success at the con is a lot more ethereal and harder to quantify than any back issue dealer’s bottom line. And I bet Comicon is a better bang for the buck than, say, a huge Billboard on Sunset that’s only there to stroke some star / director / producer’s ego.

    That said unlike some overly-sentimental dinosaurs, if the show doesn’t continue to pay, these “big corporations” will (wisely) stop investing in it, as any business person with common sense would.

    But back to dealers, who don’t always fall into the latter category.

    Table rates are surprisingly low for a con that has the attendance of SDCC- if that isn’t a workable equation for sellers they should be glad to give up the space to someone who wants it and CAN make it work for them.

    I assume you are referring to comics when you are talking about “the entire category goes under the bus.” I doubt comics will ever leave SDCC – the growing movie presence at SDCC came out of comics after all and it’s the cross-pollination of different art forms at SDCC that make it a unique event.

    “Does it mean that CCI shouldn’t consider recruiting a retailer to sell new work at the show with things like the promise of prime real estate and some under-the-table help with hotel rooms? I don’t think it should mean that.”

    I’m sorry but this is hard to decipher; are you implying that the Con owes back issue dealers (or any dealers) special treatment? Why? If that’s the case then maybe they should subsidize the ninny hack artist that shows up every year with one horrible torture print he spent the whole year developing and which he sells none of even after making it down more and more with each passing day.

    The con doesn’t owe any retailer special treatment or the promise of assistance – and can you imagine what a firestorm would be unleashed if they did? There’s a fair system in place already.

    And really, why would they try to force a shift in a natural evolution? Tens of thousands of happy con-goers have voted with their dollars and I have no doubt next year will sell out faster than this year did.

    Don’t be afraid of change, roll with it or get out of the fucking way. Why be Blockbuster when you could be Netflix? The world has changed drastically. Pining for “old con” won’t change the way attendees have decided to interact with SDCC and those with booths.

    Every seller has the opportunity to have their entire inventory available to the world 24/7. It’s hard to fathom why they even want to take on the expense of SDCC with that opportunity. Most decent sized cities have regular cons with more back issue dealers than SDCC. The customer is still being served, just not at SDCC in the way they used to be.

    Back issue sales and garage sale booths at SDCC are more than a little antiquated, but if the sales are there or those sellers want to keep coming even if they aren’t, that’s fine, it’s a free country.

    SDCC isn’t kicking them out, so is bitching about a very real shift in the way people buy a productive exercise? No, it’s like burying your head in the sand and complaining your mouth is full of dirt. What about finding a new way to make SDCC worth your while or, if you can’t, step aside into the Dodo line so others can do their thing?

    “Don’t be stupid-ass.”? Really?

  69. Bitterfanboy: I saw Heidi at the Embassy Suites bat having dinner Wednesday night, and she looked attractive, sarcastic and well-fed as ever. I think the fiancee life really agrees with her…

    As to what Chuck Rozanski does at SDCC, I’m just amazed that he can still justify shipping that much product with so many of his fellow retailers and publishers going smaller (Bud Plant) or not there at all (First Second, IDW).

    Which goes to the point that Geembeast and my pal James Owen made. Speaking for me, other than plundering the Top Shelf booth and Three Fingers Press (Rich Koslowski’s indy pub label) as I usually do at the big show, I spent $122 in the Dealers Area on 7 things from targeted retailers:

    Fleck Productions Flash Gordon/Al Williamson book.

    LaLa Records Exclusive Soundtrack CDs of Batman and Millenium.

    From Chronicle Books, my pal Jeffrey Brown’s newest book Cats Are Weird and card sets from Cats Are Weird and Ugly Doll (for my grandson).

    A small makeup bag for my wife shaped like Sabbath from the Emily The Strange folks.

    And if Allen Spiegel had a new Dave McKean book that was less than $75, I probably would’ve bought it too, but didn’t see one.

    I can’t speak for Chuck’s retailing decisions — nonetheless by all accounts I’ve been told he’s a great guy — but his location at SDCC is always impressive as are his sales. That said, I can’t justify buying anything from him no matter how cheap it is, due to the expense of shipping extra things home in suitcases that cost me $25-50 depending on the airline just to haul them home, not to mention extra $$$$ if that bag is more than 50 pounds.

    The SDCC math doesn’t work. Here’ something that does: Last November, Sandy and I tried a free month of Amazon Prime, just to see how much we’d save in time and money by buying stuff online. Best $75 we’ve spent in a long time that paid for itself just in the first month we subscribed, not to mention the savings on most GNs and Blu-Rays.

    Which leads me to Tom’s good point about retailers at Comic-Con: Without comics retailers selling comics at Comic-Con, all you’ll have left are artist alley small pressers and publishers, big and small. And, I’m afraid, much of what’s left of the old-school feel of Comic-Con will evaporate with it.

    I felt comfortable diving into the compounds of Rory Root’s Comic Relief and Bud Plant that took up aisles all to themselves, as did some many others, for exclusives not found anywhere else. That was the old reality.

    Hollyweird and digital comics are the new realities, and it’s time we get used to them. But I’m perfectly OK with helping retailers if it enables CCI to retain some tiny shred of its old-school feel.

    It just makes sense.

  70. Wayne- And in all seriousness, I can only hope to someday bump into Heidi at some hotel bar at CC and would gladly offer to buy cocktails and food just to enjoy her company and stories for a short time.

  71. James: Thanks muchly for the correction. I thought they had made a point in recent years NOT showing at SD. Your point and Geembeast’s about visiting specific booths resonated with my experiences as a shopper and my past life as a “booth bunny” for Top Shelf Productions at various comics shows. In some ways, being at shows was the best and only way to connect with fans who couldn’t find our stuff in stores, something you understand all too well. That’s changed somewhat with other ways of buying books — digital comics, Web sites and Amazon — but people still have to feel and experience the book first.

    At least, that’s the way this oldtimer who’s used to hand-selling and being sold books the very same way sees it.

    Again, you were a rock star at your booth, so I didn’t want to dilute your good karma. Next year for sure!

    Bitterfanboy: Having sat next to her for dinner, Ms. Heidi is a scream. No need for you to buy her food and drinks, however. Let her entourage take care of that… ;)

  72. Hey Wayne, First Second was there as well — I know I saw Gina and Mark Siegel at various points.

    This discussion has gotten sort of personal and amorphous but seems to be revolving around the relationship between the “spectacle” part of the show and the “bazaar” part of the show. To continue the Disneyland analogy, the rides bring you in but it’s the salt water taffy shop on Main Street that really makes the big bucks.

    We don’t hear Mattel, WETA or StrangeCo complaining about their SDCC sales here. Based on the amount of exclusive merch that specialty retailers bring to the show it’s obviously one of the biggest cash cows on their circuit.

    The common wisdom among comics folks used to be that even with all the costs and tumult, SDCC was still the biggest money maker on the tour. This year people were expressing more worries about whether this would remain the case given the competition for the attendee dollar from everything from a hotel room to toys. These thoughts may have been idle fretting or they may have been the beginnings of some new evolution of one of the top ten consumer conventions in the US.

    This thread has jumped the shark.