Digressions of a Traveling Housewife.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
San Diego's Comic Con Hosts Capacity Crowds... And More
There are lots of reasons to come to San Diego in July. Escaping the Mid Atlantic's torturous heat for one. The best CONUS surfing for another. But for nerds, geeks, and sci fi freaks, July in San Diego means Comic Con has come to town.

In its 39th year, Comic Con has almost outgrown the SD Convention Center; near the bay and Seaport Village, the Convention Center hosted nearly 125,000 attendees daily during its four days. With 400 events over the long weekend, not everyone gets to see their favorite shows' panels. Last year, Jon and I were able to squat in room 20 half the day and see four events in a row, including the preview of the Heroes season premiere. This year, though, organizers clearly oversold the convention to both attendees and events, which created huge problems.

Like most good things, Comic Con has been overrun by corporations. For example, this year's Heroes event was moved to the largest venue, Hall H, which reportedly holds 6,500 people plus SRO. Because attendees camped out overnight for the preview, there was no chance of attending the third installment of Heroes at Comic Con. We got there an hour early; to get in line, I walked around the entire building, around the back by the loading dock, and halfway to Seaport Village before surrendering to the obvious. There was no way I (or most people on the forced hike) would be getting into the screening and panel. (Later on Saturday, I got a recap of the main episode from a nice young man in line ahead of us for BSG, which was also oversold. He had the grace to ask me if I really wanted him to spoil it for me; I pointed out I would have gone had I been able to get in and spoiled it for myself.)

After giving up, I rejoined Jon and went to the Futurama panel instead, which was just as rewarding and not nearly as overcrowded, and which was immediately followed by the Simpsons panel, both good alternatives to Heroes. That's probably why the event coordinators set Futurama against Heroes. Though they didn't show any previews of the next Futurama movie, they did answer questions and give the audience a good time.

Groening and his gangs are always good for a lot of laughs; the panels were a good way to start our visit. The creators did show a clip of why people shouldn't download pirated videos titled Downloading Often is Terrible (D.O.I.T.), a shaky copy of which someone posted here.

The BSG panel and screening was likewise as crowded and oversold, but this too seemed unimportant, as the show is nearly over with only half a season left to air. No great loss to me, but some young folks were crying to get in. Literally.

Sadly, Comic Con also does not offer sign-language interpreters for the hearing impaired, which I only discovered because a Spanish-speaking woman with her kids asked an "Elite" security person for assistance. I interpreted for her, but no one could interpret for her disappointed daughter. Clearly another black mark for Comic Con organizers, and one which might interest the ADA.

I was really bothered by how much they oversold the convention this year. It has grown past the Convention Center's capacity to host it, which may be their evil plan. Rumors abounded this year about moving Comic Con to Vegas or LA, and by overselling the events the coordinators may try to justify moving to a new venue. I'd hate to see that; San Diego and Comic Con are conjoined terms, in most peoples opinion, and have been for almost 4 decades. Certainly, Vegas is a terrible choice; late July in Nevada? It's 110 degrees.

The other limiting factor for Comic Con is how the organizers oversold it to the shows. For example, although Jon and I both adore the painfully funny (emphasis on pain) hit show The Office, the panel starring Rainn Wilson (who plays Dwight Schrute) seemed sorely misplaced. The show has zero connection to comics, science fiction, or fantasy. A clue to the show's presence is found in the deleted scenes of the season 2 episode "Dwight's Speech," in which Dwight blathers about his adoration of Starbuck in BSG (we presume he means Katee Sackoff's Starbuck, not Dirk Benedict's Starbuck). This slim, non-canonical connection is clearly not enough to justify an Office panel, but they were there anyway.

It seems the comics are getting pushed aside for other media, which is a shame. The comic is the thing! It's right there on the convention guide's cover. It's in the title of the convention, and the repeating pattern behind most of the panels, at least in the big rooms. Nonetheless, comic book sales were pushed to three small aisles, while movie and television corporations have taken over half the exhibitor's hall.

I predict that the overblown Comic Con will split in two, that the comics will go one way, the sci fi shows another. The comics are the inspirational source material to many corporate undertakings, but the artists' exhibits are in the back corner of the hall, hidden behind the monstrous, two-story displays of Warner Brothers and the networks.

To me, Comic Con is about finding out what's new in science fiction, fantasy, and comics. When a show is so over-exposed that every fan in the audience has a despondent twin in the parallel universe of the halls, it no longer needs Comic Con to sustain it.

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