Still well within the two-months-afterwards range, here are my thoughts on attending the most recent San Diego Comic-Con.
I caught a ride down there with the Camerons, and enjoyed spending some time with them as well as Jason Brooks. We were able to stay at some available rooms in a friend’s condo, which was great in that it allowed us to split up an already insanely low rate to stay there, making the whole trip pretty cheap overall.
I managed to score a four-day pass back in October (they sold out in November, which is pretty crazy for an event in July). I wanted to check out the full experience, since this was my first time going, despite being a life-long comic fan. I especially wanted to go this year since there seem to be ever-increasing rumors of it moving in the future. The two potential spots I’ve heard thrown around the most are Anaheim / LA (which would be great since it would be closer for me) or Las Vegas (which wouldn’t be so great since I’m not a big Vegas fan), so I really wanted to get down there at some point before that happened. I’ve since heard from people who are more in the know that the most likely scenario at this point seems to be that it will remain in SD.
As for the con itself, I did really enjoy it. In some ways it was almost too much – everything about it was huge. The expo floor is exponentially larger than any event I’ve been to before, and if you really wanted to check out every single thing (company, artist, etc.) it would be a challenge to catch it all even given four days. I got the chance to attend several panels, only some of which were comics related. As far as the comics content went, I found it all really interesting yet almost frustrating at the same time. It seems like there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on right now, but buying comics has gotten to be a pretty expensive habit / hobby, so I’ve scaled back to only getting a very few titles (in addition to the stuff I buy for the kids, which I also read). I’m hoping the digital revolution will change that going forward, but so far it seems like that is off to a slow start (and still relatively expensive).
Comic-Con has also become famous (and taken some flak) for its increasing focus on stuff that isn’t necessarily directly associated with comics. I went to one Lego panel that was particularly interesting, but most of the other non-comics content revolves around other entertainment industry stuff that has a loose tie to comics at some point. I’m guessing it may have really taken off with the recent explosion in super hero movie popularity (and quality), quickly (and thankfully) followed by other movie adaptations of non-super hero comics, although for many of those (History of Violence, for example) the larger audience is probably unaware of the association. I think that partially paved the way for generally or thematically associated properties that weren’t specifically tied to or based on comics but appealed to the same sort of audience (TV series like LOST, BSG, Heroes, etc. for example). Of course, there’s always been a healthy cross-over with sci-fi, so there’s a lot of that too, and video games… the list is too long to detail here.
The most recent non-comics “thing” that became a big deal was Twilight. I think that must have been a much bigger focus last year (with the movie preview) than this year, since I saw almost nothing related to it at all while I was there. I’ve said it before, but while a lot of people (especially classic “geeks”, which is a camp that comic fans generally fit into) like to rip on Twilight, I don’t have a big problem with it. While I may not really be a fan (don’t know for sure since I’ve never read the books or watched the movies), I don’t like to get into the business of telling other people what to enjoy. It’s anyone’s right to tell a story that makes creative twists to a classic type of tale (vampires in this case), and it’s any fan’s right to enjoy or not enjoy that take.
I think the Comic-Con specific complaints about this (and other non-comics media interests in general) is that it takes focus away from the comics, which should be the heart of the show, but I can now say that according to my personal observation that is not happening. If anything, it’s exposing those fans, drawn in because of their interest in one particular brand, to a larger spectrum of geek culture (including comics) and that can really only be a good thing for those of us who are interested in seeing those other aspects survive / thrive, since it’s increasing the size of the audience.
Another aspect that cons like these are known for is the costuming. While there were certainly a decent number of people dressed up and several were quite elaborate, I’d actually say that it isn’t as popular as I was anticipating it to be. Contrasting it to Anime Expo in LA (which Christian and I attended one day of earlier in July), I think the people at AX were generally much more into this sort of thing (higher % of people dressed up, more quality, etc.)
Anyway, all that being said, I felt Comic-Con was a pretty enjoyable experience. If I were to go again in the future, (which would be much more likely if it were closer), I’d be a bit torn about going for all four days. On the one hand, it is a long time to be away from the family, so I think I’d want to make it a family trip if we did that. On the other hand, picking out one or two days to go would be difficult as well, especially if you’re looking to see some particular content or panel. The tickets sell out so long before they ever announce any of the scheduling that you pretty much have to take your chances as far as that goes. One thing I did observe in this regard that I wasn’t aware of before going is that Sunday is a much more “kid focused” day, so I think I would like to target that day specifically in the future and bring the kids.