By Nick Eskey
San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone. As in every year, to officially close convention, we are gathered before John Rogers, Comic-Con International President, for the ever so important “Talk Back” panel. It is here that attendees can voice their concerns, suggestions, or applause this year’s convention, so that John can hear them personally.
Comic-Con’s president introduced himself, and thanked staff, security, volunteers, exhibitors, and others before opening up the microphone to the waiting crowd. And as usual, the crowd extended nearly to the back of the room.
Some of the concerns brought up dealt with the constant concern for lines. Lines for merchandising and booths have become a recent issue. One attendee brought up the issues he was having with the “Funko” booth. “The line was so disorganized, and constantly closed throughout the day. There was even one day where they stopped selling all together as of 4pm.” I have had my personal experience with Funko. To get even a chance to stand in line to buy, you either have to be the first one in the hall, or lucky to be passing by when they open up. Over the weekend, they started passing out line tickets. As people first entered the exhibit hall, they would have to get a ticket, get to the line, and then wait in line to eventually buy. This added step seemed to compound issues, as the ticket passers didn’t announce they were passing tickets, and only mentioned something if you got within arms distance. Those that raced by to get to the booth received the news there that they needed a ticket.
Another cause for concern was how exhibitors were still getting into lines by switching out for a regular attendee pass. “I was upset when I saw an exhibitor in the autograph line that I couldn’t even get into,” said one woman. “This has been an ongoing issue for a while on how exhibitors are ‘magically’ producing regular passes,” responded Rogerss. “Unfortunately there’s nothing we can do about it.”
To address the crowds on the sales floor, one man proposed the use of directional lines on the floor. “As you might have noticed, we are such things when large signings are taking place,” said John. The man wished the lines though to happen throughout the convention. Many a person in the room grumbled at this. “I’m pretty sure no one would like anymore rules to complicate things,” added John Rogers.
Reiterated by many was the lack of communication from the different security companies employed by Comic-Con. “One guard had my attendant sit far away from me in Hall H. And other guards were giving me issues over where my attendant was… I need my attendant in eyesight at all times. I don’t know why that guard would have me sit away from him.” Another attendee said that one guard was handing out passes, where there were others just standing around. When he asked why there weren’t helping, they said “oh that’s not our department.”
Now, for the most reoccurring issue: those with disabilities and the services available to them. Many of the attendees with these concerns had actually positive things to say about this year’s services. But the lines for Hall H were still major issue. “On Friday, the general line went in forty-five minutes before the ADA line… I felt like we were forgotten,” said one woman with disabilities. “When we finally got in, many of the red seats marked off for disabled were already taken.”
Another Hall H issue was that the ADA lines were uncovered. “There are many of us that can’t stand in the sun as part of our disability,” said one woman. The same issue was brought up over and over again.
New this year was the addition of wristbands for the ADA line, to help gauge the number of available spot. For the most part, it was met with positive feelings. A few issues did arise though when it came with the actual issuing of said wristbands. “Security would come out and say that there might not be enough bands. Then maybe an hour later they would come out and say there’s six. Another hour later and they’d have four more. Is it that hard to just count the spot and let us know?”
John Rogers responded, “We haven’t come up with a better system to figure out how many spaces we have left till wristbands have been passed out… It’s actually difficult to keep a working number and go off of that.” The woman then asked about making three lines then, or doing a straw pull for wristbands. “We’ll think of that,” said John.
There’s also the issue of those with disabilities and the use of elevators. “The wait for the elevator was extremely long,” said an attendee. “By the time I got to the autograph area, they had caped the line.” For this year’s convention, they’ve had those with ambulatory disabilities use the elevators as opposed to the escalators. “It was a decision we made to be fair to everyone,” replied John. “We were seeing those with ambulatory issues being rushed around by other attendees for the escalators.”
One woman suggested that Comic-Con should have those claiming they have disabilities to show proof, so as to not be accessible to services if they are not. This elicited a quick response from the president. “By California state law, the only ones that can ask for proof of disability is the police.” The woman couldn’t believe that, but many from the crowd agreed with John. “That’s how Disney got in trouble recently at their park,” he added.
The biggest upset was when one woman said, “I was told by Disabled Services that this was the last year my attendant could get a complementary pass. And if they couldn’t get one through the lottery, ‘then they would be out of luck.’ I need my attendant. If he can’t come, I can’t come either. And I’ve been coming for twenty years. I don’t mind if he needs to buy one now, but then please put into place a system that he is guaranteed purchase.”
This seemed to catch John Rogers off guard. “Attendant badges are always complementary, so I don’t know why they would say that to you,” he said. Half a dozen in the line confirmed that they also were told the same thing. John looked at the line and said “We will fix that.”
This panel went on for an hour and a half; one of the longest Talk Backs to happen, with most of the issues dealing with Disabled services. Though it seems the guard issue has lessened this year as compared to others in the past, the concerns with ADA have not. If anything, they seem to be growing. When it comes to something like Comic-Con, it’s important that the whole experience is accessible to all fans that wish to partake. As the convention will remain in San Diego for at least a little while longer, let’s see if they can better address these issues.