My husband and I went to Comic Con for the first time this year. I bought us 4-day passes over the Internet, thinking that we’d be able to leisurely go about attending the conference. I was so wrong. Due to other life things we couldn’t go to the the preview party on Wednesday night, so we waited until opening day on Thursday. The line to get into Comic Con basically began at my house in San Marcos as traffic was pretty bad, even at 10AM (!!!), through out the 30-mile journey. When we got to downtown San Diego, the closest parking was at the Park Ball, which is a good 20-min walk to the convention center (not so bad). When we got to the convention center we looked for the badge pick-up only to be told to get in line. Which line? This line? And so we walked along the front length of the convention center and the line didn’t end. At the corner of the convention center we asked a person in line how long he had been in line. He said he had been in line for about an hour, but that the line was moving fast. My husband was ready to punt at this point, but we thought for fun that we’d see how long this line was, so on we walked along the side of the convention center, along the back of the convention center and finally into Seaport Village! And this was the line for people who had pre-registered for the conference weeks, even months, in advance! I was baffled. At the end of line I asked the couple of young men that got in line behind us whether they had been to Comic Con before and whether it was worth standing in this line. One of them said, “Well it’s big and it keeps getting bigger every year, but I really couldn’t say.” Against my husband wishes we waited in that line. And we waited, and waited, and it was 90+ deg F, and we had no beverage. The only source of beverage appeared 30 minutes into the wait and it was a roach coach that had long ago run out of water. The selections were milk, grape juice, cranberry juice, and clamato (I kid you not about the Clamato). Sticky juice in hand, we waited in the hot sun for another hour before we got our badges. Needless to say, my husband and I got nasty sun burns (I imagine most of the goths that were in line didn’t make it as they had burst into flames and were reduced to ash shortly after passing the roach coach).
And into the show … due to the unexpected traffic and the line to pick-up badges, we were 3-hours behind the schedule we had so carefully laid out the night before. The first panel we attended was one on making plastic models yourself. It was pretty interesting, but I know I’ll never do this. After that we went on down to the convention floor. We only got through 1/3 of the way down the hall before a lecture on MMORPGs started. The floor was crowded! Being a person of relatively short stature, it was difficult to see anything and when I stood still I got body slammed by overly enthusiastic fanboys (and girls) rushing off the floor, eyes glistening with joy about the purchase they just made. Anyhow, the section I got to see was like a giant comic book flea market. There were comic books, comic book and anime toys of all sort, there were “vintage” t-shirts (actually, more like someone went around to every Goodwill and Salvation Army sale and bought all the t-shirts), and fan art on sale.
The most interesting place to me was called “Artist Alley” and this is where various artists hawk there drawings to willing buyers. Most of these artists draw fan art of their favorite comic book or sci-fi characters or they are artists who are trying to break in comic production professionally. It was interesting seeing the different mediums the artists used to make reproductions. They sold individual hand drawn sketches, drawings, and painting. Most had sketchbooks to sell which were reproduced using laser printing (both b/w and color) or printed on a press. Some sold some very nice books that ranged from spiral bound Kinko’s produced books to nice professionally printed and bound books (these were typically $25+ to purchase). And a few of the artists sold short run lithographs for quite a bit of money each. One artist had his art printed on what looked like semi-gloss photo paper. I asked him what the technology was and he said it was some sort of Kodak process. I asked if inkjet was used and gave me an indignant look and said, “I don’t think so, but it is archival if that what you’re getting at.” I took a good look at the print and I could see no evidence of the printing technology (no screen dots or banding) and the colors were bright and the area fills were perfect. Anyhow, most of the artists there were drawing away like their hands possessed a mind of their own as they did business and talked to potential customers. I ended up buying one artists book of “Queen Amaidala” drawings for $15. Apparently this guy really likes Queen Amaidala as reflected in the drawings in which she was so carefully drawn and lovingly imagined. It’s a nice keepsake.
About the rest of comic con —
The rest of the show floor was crowded with booths from various corporations from comic publishers, to video game developers, to movie studios. I looked though the ADV video booth, the Square Enix booth, and the Sony Playstation booth. The ADV booth was co-sponsered by Best Buy and from it various anime DVD’s could be purchased. The Square Enix booth was selling figurines from the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts video game series (the items listed as show exclusives had already sold out. I wanted a Bahamut figure, but they didn’t have anything small, but then again Bahamut is never anything small in any of his incarnations. They also had some very nice FFX sword minatures. Personally, I thought it would be more fun to have life size swords so we could experience the ridiculousness that characterizes FFX swords).
Basically this show has morphed into Hollywood’s testing ground for new Sci-Fi and action based blockbuster movies and TV shows. A lot of movie and TV show announcements were made. At its heart, though, this show is still about American comics and not being an American comic fan, I didn’t feel a real attachment to the show. The crowd present was a mix of everyone — young and old, male and female, and all ethnic make-ups. This was quite unexpected. The other things to note are that these people are wired, the artists print, a large portion of them are gamers, they are very much the early adopters of new technology, and they are very forward thinking in terms of pop culture. In other words, these are people that PRINT graphic arts and use computers, so of course we should care about them :).
As for the other 3-days of the show — we attempted to return on Friday to finish the convention floor, but after driving around downtown SD for two hours, we realized that there was absolutely no parking, so we punted and went home. We did not go Saturday or Sunday either as the conference logistics, or lack of, utterly defeated our will to experience the rest of the convention. Will we go again? Probably not a for while unless they take the convention to a city that is better able to handle the amount to attendees and I or my husband suddenly get into American comics.