Well, you all know what’s going on this week. And here’s what I’ve gleaned:

* It’s all going to be an interactive experience!

* TV has taken over. This has been happening for a while. Looking at the Hall H schedule, there are more TV shows than ever with Game of Thrones, Dexter, Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Community, and so on. We’ve been hearing that movie studios are getting leery of the “Comic-Con Curse”—box office failure os such heavily hyped films as Snakes on a Plane, Scott Pilgrim and Cowboys and Aliens—and realize that getting buzz doesn’t mean much at the box office. While a “bad” presentation doesn’t mean much either (people yawned at Avatar’s Hall H appearance), an underwhelming dog and pony show can be a drag. Meanwhile, popular TV shows already have built-in momentum and a panel becomes a revival meeting for the faithful. It’s a no lose situation. And as noted, SXSW has begun to become the Comic-Con Alternative for studios, Disney is putting on it’s own D23 show again, there’s Movie-Con now…yeah a lot has changed.

* That said, Hall H is still pretty mega. We all know Comic-Con is a series of lotteries—to get a badge to get a hotel room, to get an exclusive. But getting into Hall H is the final, most brutal lottery—for those who have persevered every other test, getting in will take even more endurance, patience and bathroom breaks—or a friend at the studio. Friday and Saturday are just loaded, from Edgar Wright to Metallica, from Godzilla to Thor.

* The hype has become much more focused. In previous years if you were on the SDCC press list the two weeks preceding moment a daily barrage of emails about shows on Starz and video game parties. No more. Well, there are still the emails from Starz, but it’s barely a trickle compared to year’s past. Instead, companies are working their own PR lists, and avoiding the massive horde of bloggers, fringe sites and comic-crazies. Gone are the days of randomly getting invited to the Watchmen roundtable and the EW party. Comic-Con got too big for the hype, even. I knew this was bound to happen someday but now that’s it’s gone, I miss my Corey Feldman.

* Comics press dwindles. Every year the number of my friends and peers who attend gets smaller and smaller. Since you can’t make a living writing about comics, they had to get real jobs or else no one would pay for them to go. Consolidation.

* Who is the fan? Ten years ago I came up with the “Invasions Theory” for Comic-Con, looking at the different archaeological layers of fandom that had come and built their own structures, rising from crude ASCII huts to Majestic HTML 5 towers. Who is the conqueror now? We’re so past the Normans. Sloane Rangers and Chavs? Having watched the growth of Comic-Con Culture everywhere in the last few years, occasionally I take a step back and still feel baffled by it. We all know Comic-Con isn’t for comics, but who is it for? Who are these people and want do they want? Are they having a better time than me? Is it really all about sharing an intimate moment with 6000 other people and Bryan Cranston? Is it about hanging outside the Tin Fish and watching the world go by? Is it about getting a big-ass bag? The answer, of course, is all of the above, a larger than life experience ending at Dick’s Last Resort. I remember when I was a kid, thinking “I’m going to go to Comic-Con every year for the rest of my life!” but now I’ve begun to realize…someday very soon it isn’t going to be for me anymore. Maybe it already isn’t. For the first time in my life, I’m planning a farewell speech.

* I’m not the only one. A lot of comics people have given up on Comic-Con. They couldn’t get a badge, the booth was too expensive, and that was it. Good people. Essential people. Well, people I once thought were essential. Now they aren’t. It isn’t about putting the comic back in Comic-Con, it’s about comics adapting to the new world of the pop culture fest. The best reason for a comics-y type gal or guy to go to SDCC these days is to network for jobs that aren’t in comics. And for networking, it still can’t be beat. For hanging out at the table and chatting, we have Baltimore and HeroesCon and Emerald City and WonderCon and so on.

* Yes, yes Comic-Con is still the biggest and best comics show in North America. There is still tons to do if you are just there for the comics—Koike!—but you need to have a compelling reason.

* The off-sites are just as big as the exhibit hall. Nerd HQ, Tr!ckster, Gam3rCon, the Wired Cafe, Wootstock—all are now tradition. Not to mention this year’s Adult Swim Funhouse and the bigger and badder return of the Shifty Look Arcade and all that. And the now traditional parties like IGN, Capcom, DC, SyFy, EW and so on. And the Zombie Walk and the Singalong. Oh hell, you know what, it’s Comic-Con.

* See, now I’m chipper again. As long as there is a Klingon LifeStyle Presentation, it will still be San Diego to me.

* Speaking of off-site, there will be food trucks outside PetCo park again this year. Last year, I was on a quest to get a breakfast burrito, and the truck that provided my transcendent experience of ’11 seems to have vanished. But maybe I’ll find something equal to that amazing green sauce if it’s the last thing I do.


  1. Great piece Heidi. The challenge for comic book publishers is to embrace that this show is now theatre. They need to market themselves better. This in an environment where some publishers think a page in Previews is marketing. And while they don’t have the budgets that studios and networks do, there needs to be a more creative approach to how they get attention at this show. It’s hard to grab attention away from a pirate ship in the Disney booth, but there needs to me more than just signings. Viz and Tokyopop back in the day would have something like a game show with prizes or web streamed interviews on their stage in the booth.

    I once suggested to a publisher who was doing a book on Planet of the Apes to hire someone to wear a costume from the movies and hand out bananas with a sticker of their logo where the Dole sticker would normally be. It was cheap, it sounded fun (tho it would have smelled after a bit) and I think it would have gotten a lot of free press. And why let just the fans cosplay? Why don’t publishers have costumed character in their booths? I see toy companies do this all the time. It’s a creative industry – get creative with what you do at the cons.

  2. “Veni, vidi, comedi.”
    (“Been there. Done that. Had a great breakfast burrito.”)

    I last attended Comic-Con in 2002.
    Don’t need to now, because of NYCC.
    If NYCC gets too crazy, I’ll attend a great regional show.
    If those get too crazy, then I know we’ve won, and I’ll probably just blog from a bar, set up a webcam, and let comics professionals spend an hour chatting, kinda like Royko and Terkel.
    You know… Bar-Con.

  3. “* Comics press dwindles. Every year the number of my friends and peers who attend gets smaller and smaller. Since you can’t make a living writing about comics, they had to get real jobs or else no one would pay for them to go. Consolidation. ”

    The OH will be there! Although we are constantly told we aren’t ‘real’ press.

  4. Seriously though, look us up. I’ll be there with my better half Angela covering the craziness. If you click my name here you’ll see various ways to track me down and emailing or twitter is probably the easiest way to do so there.

  5. If we’re going to team up with them then first we have to have a misunderstanding and fight each other for a while, before then banding together for the common cause. GOD DON’T YOU GUYS KNOW THE RULES

  6. Thought provoking piece, Heidi. I share your melange of enthusiasm, anxiety, weariness and wonder. The truth (whether it’s a sad truth or not depends on your perspective and, perhaps, constituency) is that SDCC isn’t about comics or movies or TV or games or experiential events or what have you; it’s about the fans themselves (or, if you insist, the super-fans) and the lengths to which publishers, networks, studios, promoters, creators (known and unknown), advocates, agencies (like us), etc. will go to generate and ignite some sort of spark that will resonate among them and blaze forward beyond them. It’s become the ultimate fashion show – an affirmation of the power and influence of the “nerd do well” demo or (again, depending on your perspective) a condemnation of it.

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