Wednesday, July 18, 2012
San Diego Comic-Con 2012 - Part 1
This was my fourth trip to "Nerd Prom," and, if you'd asked me before I left, I would've told you that is was to be my last. That was based on just how damn hard it had become to go to the damn thing. It wasn't long ago that tickets would go on sale in September or so, and would sell for several months. Usually you had to act fast, but you didn't have to feel like the pressure was on.
Lord, how that has changed. This year, for some reason, they held off putting tickets on sale until early March, and created a feeding frenzy. The entire convention was sold out in minutes. My friends Ken G, Sean H, and myself managed to snag four-day passes with preview night, and I felt on top of the world. It felt like things were going right. Still, there was a sense, a palpable sense, that something had gone wrong. Why wait so damn long to sell these tickets? Had they oversold the advanced tickets at the 2011 convention? Were they attempting to create a immediate sellout for publicity?
I felt somewhat ill-used. That, however, was nothing compared to the disaster that was the hotel lottery.
Hotel space has always been, and will probably always be, a problem for SDCC. It's been difficult every, single year I've gone. There are, simply, nowhere near enough rooms in downtown San Diego to accommodate the 150,000 people who come to this convention. This year, however, it went over the hill into a nightmare. I played the game, along with my two partners, we sent in a ranked list of 20 hotels. Sean got a room at the Town and Country Resort in Mission Valley, some five miles from the convention center. A hotel that wasn't even on his list. Ken and I got, "sorry, nothing for you" e-mails.
Now, to be clear, of course we put the headquarters hotels near the top of our lists. The Hilton Bayfront, the Marriott Hotel and Marina, etc. Yet, we also included places further out, The Doubletree downtown, which served well the first two times I went. It is unfathomable, to me, that there isn't something wrong with this process. I sent in my list within two minutes of hotel booking opening, then I hear tell on line of people who got the Bayfront from a request sent in 20 minutes later. All I can guess is that there is a manual process in place that makes the whole thing utterly random. Which would be fine, if they just said, "it's random," except they present the process as one of "first come, first served." which is clearly not what happened.
Yet, I say the experience renewed my vigor to return. Yes it did. I want to go back more than ever, despite the fact that I had about an hour shuttle ride, each way, to get things back to the hotel, then to return to the Gaslamp Quarter for the evening. Pain. In. The. Ass.
But, here's the deal; I discovered this year how much better it is to not fight to get into Hall H, or Ballroom 20, for every big movie or TV panel presented. I get that most of the attendees are enamored with seeing their favorite stars "live" on a huge TV about the length of a football field away. I get it, but what I realized, dramatically, this year is how much interesting and cool stuff is available in the smaller rooms.
I didn't even go to the major comic book panels. I eschewed DC and Marvel to take in panels celebrating 100 years of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, I skipped the 45th panel where Image Comics tried to explain why every one of their titles ends up late to hear Mark Tyler Nobleman, the author of a new biography of Bill Finger, who is the utterly un-acknowledged co-creator of Batman. (Screw you, Bob Kane...seriously). I forgot about waiting in a line for hours to spend an hour listening to comic artist Darwyn Cooke talk about his continuing adaptations of Donald Westlake's Parker novels. I listened to Mark Waid speak about his attempts to set up a new method for digital comic book distribution, as well as share his encyclopedic knowledge of comic history with Larry Tye, author of what sounds to be a really brilliant "biography" of Superman. I heard information and opinions about the ongoing Jack Kirby/Marvel lawsuit, and well and the Simon and Schuster/DC comics case, regarding ownership of these characters.
Some opinions more lucid than others, but...whatever.
I was INSPIRED. I've long wanted to write a play about the early years of the comic industry, and this trip just made it clear how much I want to do that. that's not somethign that would've happened standing in a sweaty line to see a tiny little dot that was Matt Damon.
I don't begrudge anyone for wanting to come to Comic-Con (well, maybe the douchebag rubberneckers who are just out to see the freaks...just go home, OK?), but this was an exemplary year, in terms of me feeling like I was sharing something with creators that went far beyond a marketing opportunity. That made this year special, and I couldn't be happier. Or more excited to go again.
Although, I am still very, very sad I didn't make it into Ballroom 20 for the Firefly Cast reunion.
Once I get photos off my camera, and go over my stuff, I'll have another entry to cover specific things I saw and experienced.