It’s San Diego Comic-Con weekend. For thousands of pop culture, movie and comic book fans, it’s one big party and the opportunity to attend panels featuring their favorite actors, artists, and web personalities.
I remember the first time I went to Comic-Con, four years ago. At the time I was freelancing for a well respected comic book web site and as a reward, our editor secured passes for most of the staff. This was before the full development of Marvel movies and before Marvel Comics became a property of the Disney Corporation.
The convention has gotten so big and popular over the last few years, with the involvement of Hollywood studios, that there were rumors of it moving to a bigger venue in Los Angeles, to be more akin to its now fully developed Hollywood tie-ins, before organizers and San Diego civic leaders intervened.
After all, the economic impact on the region cannot be overstated: $162.8 million, according to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. Simply put, this little gathering of “geeks” and “nerds” which was once the domain of society’s lowest literary art form (at least as seen by snobs, outsiders and the uninitiated) has now become the annual mecca of pop culture, the ying and the yang of a generation gleaned on everything from Transformers to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
All one has to do is get within feet of the San Diego Convention Center on Comic-Con to understand how significant and overwhelming the event has become: It is a cornucopia of fans dressed in colorful costumes representing their favorite fantasy themed or comic book properties, mixed in with billboards, slogans, and every advertising gimmick the studios can muster to lure fans to spend money in their latest projects. The symbiotic relationship between marketers and fan may seem like a new phenomenon, unless you speak to long time fans who have been attending since the days of author Ray Bradbury.
There is one inherent problem with Comic-Con: Lost amidst the bombastic nature of its cosplayers and attendees, is the simple fact that the event has become too big. Lines for panels of A-list celebrities like Kevin Smith or the cast of The Big Bang Theory would put your favorite theme park or the latest Hollywood blockbuster opening to shame. Things are so out of control that the last time I was there, the panels had spilled out into adjacent or nearby hotel show rooms, the better equipped to handle the masses descending on the Convention Center floor.
Yet, has San Diego Comic-Con lost touch with the common fan? For every satisfied attendee with a shiny seemingly magical 3-day pass, there are hundreds of fans who lament that the event is sold out within days, if not hours every year. Comic-Con is no longer an equitable affair. There needs to be reform in the way ticketing is handled, to accommodate the demand. Since passes for the convention are “non transferable” it is not easy to show up and claim a pass at the door, and even press passes are hard to come by.
Perhaps the organizers should look into implementing a system similar to sporting events like the Super Bowl and season ticket holders, whereby the loyal fans who make the trip out every year, and those who attend similarly themed events throughout the region can be rewarded by having early access to passes.
I believe that it’s OK for the studios to try and peddle their wares to a captive audience. There is enough crossover with properties now, like comic book themed movies and TV shows to sanction such behavior (though I still wonder what the author of has to do with comic books) but I do think that the event should still be made available for all to enjoy, we all deserve the chance to represent our favorite fantasy-themed superhero or to go to a panel featuring the cast of our favorite shows.
The show runs from July 11-15 at the San Diego Convention Center.