27 July, 2011

I’m a Comic-con Masochist

Writer: MediaSavant

I’m not a journalist. I don’t get a press pass for Comic-con that allows me immediate access to any panel I want to go to. I’m just one of the 125,000 or so saps who get a regular badge and fight it out for seats to the panels we are interested in.

This was my 11th Comic-con. Relative to what it is today, my first one (2000) was a quaint affair, but at that time, it was still larger than any geek-ish convention I’d ever attended. I went because some of the Farscape cast and creators were there. The SciFi Channel--along with Nick and Cartoon--were really the only networks there as I recall.

There were moments at this year’s con that were so dreadful where I wondered what the hell I was doing to myself. The worst would be around the fourth hour of being in line to get into Ballroom 20—the 4,250 capacity room where they held most of the TV panels. Prior to that, we had been in a 3-hour line to buy 2012 badges. The brilliant leaders of the convention turned what used to be a 5-minute process into yet another crazy queue.

But, then, a little while later I’m in a panel and it seems to refresh me enough to go at it again.

Here’s my recollection of this year’s con:

TV takes over the convention

Comic-con started to gain its current reputation when the movie studios started coming down with the big stores. But, as has been reported, the movie line-up this year was not as strong as the last few years. But, with the exception of Sunday, the convention still put up this weaker line-up in the largest space at the convention—the cavernous Hall H.

I never even attempted to attend anything there, but I hear there were empty seats in many of the panels. The spill-off seemed to go to the TV panels. It makes sense. I believe television is something fans create a relationship with, while movies are more like one night stands. Plus, the con doesn’t turn over the rooms when panels end. So, people tend to stay in the room for quite a while after they get in. With TV, its much easier to have a string of TV panels in a row for shows you’ve at least seen once and are familiar with.

Once upon a time, it wasn’t hard to get into a TV panel. I remember attending Chuck’s first panel in ’07 in a smaller room than Ballroom 20, but not waiting that long to get in. This year, the lines for Ballroom 20 were THE WORST I’VE EVER SEEN. Friday was particularly awful. They had some of the most popular shows in the same room from True Blood to Big Bang Theory and watchable panels for Syfy shows in the middle. Audience turnover between panels was low and that accumulated the lines outside.

Below is a picture I took when I got in line. The convention center is off in the distance:

Offsite panels: Brilliant idea

Chuck’s Zachary Levi rented out some space a few blocks from the convention center, called it “Nerd HQ” and held a few small panels with a capacity of about 150 people. I attended about two of these and they were two of my most pleasant experiences of the con. Hanging out at the bar downstairs was also a great respite when the convention center was getting to me. I don’t know where this is going. If it gets any more popular than it was, getting a ticket to the small panels could turn into an exercise in frustration for the fan. The Firefly panel and Zac’s panel sold out quickly.

But, I love this alternative of having a seat in a panel that you can show up to 5 minutes before it starts.

I am now a fan of Felicia Day

My SDCC Comic-con [friend] has been a Felicia Day fan for years, but I wasn’t on the bandwagon. I got introduced to her by the Nerd HQ adding her to the panel list. I accompanied my friend to see what it was all about and found I like her a lot. (see photo from panel with host Zac Levi below) This is “old school” Comic-con to me. So many things people attend are for things they already are fans of. But, back in the days when there were fewer movie and TV panels, we would attend things just because we had a blank slot open and the description sounded vaguely interesting.

As for Felicia, before I headed back home, I purchased The Guild, her webseries, from iTunes.

Is being a marketing target validation?

If you’ve ever been into something that gets the label “cult” and none of your non-geek friends have ever heard of the things you are into, there’s something incredibly satisfying about an industry being desperate to market to you.

There’s also something oddly cool about being surrounded by Hollywood-like parties even if you can’t get into them. I was hanging out in the bar of my hotel when some incredibly attractive women came in and drew the eyes of the males at the bar. I knew a FX Network/Maxim party was happening at the hotel. I asked the bartender who had served these ladies if they might be there for Maxim. He thought “no” because there was some sort of Playboy party across the street.

There were many cool marketing ploys, but I loved the Museum of Conan Art, dedicated to Conan O'Brien:

The plane home was interesting as everyone on it seemed to have some extra swag to stuff into the overheads. I throw some of mine away, but the “Ringer” stool for sitting while you are in line could be useful in the future even if Ringer is canceled next season.

The extras that bring me back

• I’m proud to say I’ve attended all five panels that Chuck has ever had. I was part of their first standing ovation and I was part of their last. Yeah, I know you can watch that panel on line, but it’s not the same as being there.
• Some of the panels have gotten very good at entertaining. I hear the Nathan Fillion panel—which I missed—was outstanding.
• San Diego is a great town to get away to when your home town is sweltering in 100 degrees+ heat
• Every year is a little different.
• Sharing interests with other fans while in line and seeing friends I see at the con every year because we don't live in the same part of the coutnry

If I could change one thing about Comic-con, it would be…

I bet you think I’ll say something about the queues. Nope. My number one Comic-con peeve is actually…drumroll…strollers.

For the life of me, I don’t know why people bring “stroller-aged” kids to a con this size. The kids end up seeing nothing but people’s crotches anyway. The strollers end up knocking people in the shins and ankles while they happen not to be looking down. They take up space.

If they can institute a “no stroller” policy, I’d be extremely happy.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice article. Thanks for taking the time.