San Diego Comic-Con! Now that was a comic book convention.
When I write, I like to go into detail, get a bit wordy and try and paint a picture for the reader so they can, in some small way, see what I’m seeing or feel what I’m feeling. As I started to write a wrap report this afternoon, I found myself honestly reduced to a single word… “WOW”.
This show was so much more than I expected and so very different than I envisioned it. As it was my first trip to the show of shows, I thought it would be an out of control monster that forced a comic fan to swim through the masses rather than take time to see what was taking place in each section of the show floor. I thought a certain amount of control over what you could see and do would be dictated by the size of the audience. That absolutely wasn’t the case. There were crowds and they were some of the largest I’ve ever encounter dealing with comics, but the show itself felt a lot more intimate and personal than I was expecting. Considering I was there as a general comic fan and not press, I was honestly surprised by the endless fun I had.
By the end of this four day marathon comic experience, I found that I had actually spent more time with friends than expected, seen more sights and generally experienced this show more than I thought would have been possible. I loved that, even on the busiest days, I was always able to find a spot to myself to sit for a moment and observe everything taking place.
I really like the fact that this show runs over four full days. It allowed me to get a feel for this behemoth then do what I wanted to do. Sure, there were panels you had to plan well in advance to see, but there were also the smaller gatherings that always seemed to present an extra seat or two accommodating the last minute visitor. Take for example my stumbling into a three minute screening put on by 5 Second Films. Well worth stumbling upon, totally unplanned and completely enjoyed.
In many ways, I found this show more comfortable than some mid-sized shows as it was designed based on years of experience handling large crowds. Sure you had to walk a certain direction in certain spots, but I didn’t feel trapped or limited based on the number of people present. Here, there was no fire marshal shutting things down at peak moments, not because there wasn’t a crush but rather because the show organizers understood how to handle that crush.
Food was always just a few steps away (whether it be the traditional con fare on the show floor or a quick hop a block over in the Gaslamp district) and overall it was surprisingly good. I was also thrilled to learn that there always seemed to be an available spot to recharge my phone, read a new comic find or post an update here on the blog. Along the way, I met some great fans and had some amazing conversations with publishers, old and new.
San Diego is a buiness con. If you are in the comic business, this really is a place where deals are made. Before arriving, I thought in all the mad rush the best you could hope for was a post-con phone call to add detail to an introduction. It turned out that there was time on the show floor to talk. That was a pleasant surprise.
In retrospect, I really don’t have a lot negative to say. The myth that comics are an afterthought at this show is just that… a myth. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Sure they may be on equal footing with the media properties, but that footing is quite equal. It’s a show that covers a lot of ground, but has the room to cover it all well. I did not leave feeling that San Diego Comic-Con forgot its history or its original basis in comics. I left wanting to read more books, experience more series and felt invigorated to do more for an industry that I choose to take part in every day. I left with a growing respect for comics and the impact they can have as a narrative form.
This is truly the ultimate con experience. From randomly bumping into television and film stars to luminaries from the comic world, if you haven’t been to San Diego it honestly is a trip you must take… at least once. I plan to return again and again.
As we close down this blog for 2009, I invite you to imagine this group of convention musicians playing a round of “Happy Trails” and say, quite simply, let’s do it all again in 2010!