At the end of every San Diego Comic-Con, the Comic-Con Talk Back panel is always one of the most consistently attended. Attendees, press, exhibitors, and the like can voice any questions, concerns, issues, or praise regarding every aspect of the current year’s convention. And always in attendance to listen and sometimes respond is John Rogers, President of Comic-Con International.
“Seeing as we always run over every year, let’s get started,” said Rogers after his customary introduction and reminder of one topic of discussion per-person since there is always a large line. It was almost comical when the first person at the microphone responded to Rogers’ request of one item per-person, “That said, I have a list of ten questions.” A mixture of laughter and groans throughout the crowded responded.
The woman who had said this was actually doing so mostly on behalf of other ADA persons who were either unable to or didn’t want to attend the Talk Back; the woman asking the questions was in a wheelchair herself. Much like every year, the leading topic of discussion has been related to ADA matters. As for the woman’s questions and concerns, they all seemed to stem from a lack of ADA policy “consistency” and availability in printed form. Examples ranged from the ambiguity of red seat covers that say “Reserved, Disabled Seating Only” which actually means reserved for those assisting ADA individuals, the inconsistency of checking that ADA peoples actually have Comic-Con badges, and when ADA lines are allowed into Hall H and ballrooms in relation to as she said it herself the “regular” line.
The subject of inconsistent ADA policy was reiterated several times afterward by other attendees. Of my years attending the Talk Back panel, this was the first time I heard of concerns regarding a lack of ADA policy for the convention, meaning most likely there was a good number of conflicting things said among convention staff and security.
Another popular topic was that of the lottery system used for signings and for the Funko toy booth. A majority of people seemed to show their approval of the lottery, one woman saying that it allowed her to finally get her first Comic-Con Lego exclusive in all the years she has been attending. For those who voiced their displeasure of the system, most of them said this was unfair for “true fans” of the product or franchise. One young man said that it wasn’t fair that someone who knew nothing of the property but figured that it looked like “it would be fun” should have an equal chance as someone who is a loyal fan to win. It was suggested that a hybrid be allowed, where a certain amount is allotted for the lottery and the remaining be for those willing to wait in long lines. Another man wanted the whole lottery system to be done away with, stating it only benefits companies like Funko. He would rather see the return of first come first serve lines and ticketing. Much of the room’s crowd voiced their disapproval of this.
The closure of the section of Harbor Drive in front of the San Diego Convention Center to vehicle traffic and the policy of allowing those with badges only into the area was widely popular among Talk Back attendees. Many people in fact hoped that this would be the policy going forward. To this, Rogers said, “We have very narrow info from the closure so far. For all I know, we will be receiving letters from residents and drivers saying they hated the closure.” He went on to further say that it will take some months for them to collect and analyze the data and feedback regarding the closure before they can make a decision for next year.
Some smaller but noteworthy things mentioned were praise for the daily, randomly announced wristband styles for Hall H, praise for the RFID scanners, the opinion of online training videos for convention staff and volunteers, one man insisting metal detectors be put into use to make the convention safer regardless of the added wait this would enact, and a man who voiced his displeasure in Comic-Con International’s ability to deactivate badges without beforehand giving reason or creating a dialogue. The same man who stated this also said to John Rogers that the Comic-Con President will find out more about the issue when court documents are filed soon. “A court will decide. We’ll see who wins,” said the man.
Finally, some surprising comments I heard this year were of those stating, “This has been one of the best conventions in many years!” Numerous people had said this. One woman even went as far as to say, “It feels like what the convention used to be. This could be due to numerous reasons: The closure of the section of Harbor Drive certainly created less congestion for attendees and general foot-traffic; Much of Hollywood was not in attendance this year, reportedly due to studios seeing that showing at San Diego Comic-Con didn’t mean blockbuster sales; Some attendees had said that this year had many enthusiastic staffers and security members, which therefore heightened their own convention experience; The exclusives lottery system and line management could have also played a part. For whatever reason or reasons this was due to, many people stated that this had been a great convention and hoped that it would keep just like this for next year. Whether this is replicate-able or not, it will take months for Comic-Con International employees to analyze the data and assess for next year.