In the morning on the second day you can see them converging on the convention
center like lemmings on a cliff. Those in cars are frustrated at the lack of
parking anywhere -- except in places that have raised their prices for the occasion
or in garages ten blocks away. Those without badges are dressed as elves or
aliens; two guys walk side-by-side, each dragging a large box on wheels, a smaller
box or two in their hands. And then there are those in groups, unmarked otherwise,
often in black, hurrying to that long building they see in the distance.
That building is the San Diego Convention Center and -- pay attention! --
it's important for two reasons. One: The bottom level contains the exhibition
room (one half-mile wide by the width of a football field deep and tall), where
you will find nearly everything you could want to buy in terms of art, comics,
games, and books, as well as booths set up by BIG NAME companies to proselytize
for their wares, i.e. the newest Star Wars™ action figure playsets. Though
the large companies take center stage -- the center of the exhibition floor,
that is -- there are also a large number of small(er) companies in publishing
(comic and book), video games, and art.
Next: The second floor (and this year, for the first time, in gigantic hall
H on the ground floor) is home to all of the presentations, interviews, retrospectives,
movie rooms, and general "must-see" events. Most take place in a small
and easily navigable labyrinth of adjustable-size rooms, all with the same basic
layout: plebes in the chairs and stars at the raised podium. For the convention,
this area -- the Sails Pavilion -- is divided into a large autograph area, a
small gallery for the Art Show, several stations set up for companies to review
the portfolios of would-be comic artists, and, as always, a large hollow square
of tables the sole purpose of which is to GIVE AWAY FREE STUFF. In the center
of the second level is a large glassed-in greenhouse used for hydroponics during
extended space travel.
Although it's difficult for those of us with real jobs, I strongly recommend
attending Comic Con for the full four days. That way you won't miss any of the
panels you're interested in; although prevailing rumor has it that the convention
planners schedule the most popular panels for Friday and Saturday. And it's
good to have plenty of time to fully scour the exhibition room. But the real
reason to be at the Comic-Con at the beginning is to feel the charging of the
atmosphere, higher and higher until someone halts events because of the crowd's
rowdiness (apparently this happens a lot during the Masquerade). The energy
winds tight until early Sunday afternoon finally bleeds the pressure away in
I'll admit that's a bit poetic, but forgive my being carried away by a convention
that surrounds you with a hundred thousand like-minded individuals. As expected
there are gamers and anime fans, but what caught me a little off-guard this
year were the large panel and larger crowds dedicated to science fiction and
fantasy authors, films, animation, and tv shows. The panel for the realistic
TV dramedy Freaks and Geeks was very popular -- not surprising, since most of
the attendees were covered by one or both categories. Proudly, I might add (before
the stones start flying).
Before Comic-Con your diligent RevSF conspirators Jason von Myers, Alexandra
the Great, and I carefully mapped out the days, highlighting each interesting
panel in our direct-from-the-web Con Guide -- we suffer a lot for you folks
-- and starring those that were positively musts. We divided our forces to attain
Then, while Jason and Alex cloned themselves in order to attend all interesting
events (a plot which failed since all the clones demanded to see the same things),
I promptly ignored our careful planning and spent the majority of my time on
the exhibition level. It was here that I saw Happy Tree Friends and made myself
ill: Imagine Itchy & Scratchy without the ironic Simpsons padding. Here
I managed, purely by chance, to walk within three feet of Val Kilmer during
the two hours he was at the conference to sign autographs. Here I experienced
the promo maquettes for a new line of action figures (sadly, I forget the name)
that seem to be fantasy incarnations of the rats in The Secret of Nimh.
The area I frequented most, though, was inhabited by the independent comic
producers, both of the small and not-so-small kind. Dave Bort arranged and photocopied
his comics just for the convention. Others worked as a team at one table, or
were affiliated with a larger group spread out like a web between the countless
tables. A number of artists were creators of online comics.
One reason I abandoned the second floor to my compatriots was that I firmly
believed that the TV, film, and comics panels would be uninteresting either
because they would showcase undynamic people (e.g. producers, suits from marketing)
or the audience wouldn't provide, um, interesting questions. However, one of
my favorite experiences was the Farscape panel because of the interactions between
the people on the panel, and the way they turned any question into an interesting
story. Two other standout panels were those for MirrorMask (lovingly presented
by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean) and Shaun of the Dead, both stories about nice
British people getting into messes. One mess involves zombies, but I'm not going
to let that cat out of the bag.
What's not to recommend about the San Diego Comic-Con? I was there for four
days, got a free CD (the soundtrack for Shaun of the Dead; it's good), found
some comic books I'd been searching for (not all, though; apparently Girl Genius
is very, very popular); met two of my favorite science fiction writers (China
Miéville and Greg Bear); was able to get two of my favorite science fiction
writers to agree to be interviewed for RevolutionSF (see above); talked to a
number of new favorite comic book writers; witnessed the amazing quick-draw
comedic talent of Sergio Aragonés; and spent too much money on a Warhammer
40K collectible card game that no one is ever going to play. Except Jason and
me. Tough luck all of you who want the game; it's out of print. Ha ha ha HA!
Where else will you make such fabulous finds except at the Comic-Con International?
No, e-Bay is not the correct answer.
Unless you're looking to buy my cards there.