San Diego Comic-Con is here once again. By the time you’re reading this, the throngs will be lined up outside Hall H, the celebrities will land at the Marina Hilton helipad and cosplayers of all persuasions will be touching up the last minute details of their looks. Common wisdom dictates that as the show grows, the quality dips. To that I say, “Don’t be so glib.”
My first time at “the Con” came when I was 18. Working for Geoffrey’s Comics in Gardena, the store decided to spend the thousands of dollars at a chance to sell to people from all over the world. We did OKenough. My days consisted of ferrying ice across the convention floor, standing up for 10 hours and longingly staring at the massage booth that had set up next to us. But in my spare time I got to roam the floor, sometimes before the doors opened to the pubic. In those moments I got to chat up creators big and small, peek over Neal Adam’s shoulder as he drew his first Batman book in years and worked out some choice retailer-to-retailer deals.
This year will be my return to San Diego Comic-Con after a four-year hiatus that included a failed career, a marriage proposal and subsequent wedding and a dive into the world of comic book store investment. The last time I went, in 2011, the Con was definitely packed, with a lot of big names rushing to make an impression. “The Walking Dead” was promoting the launch of its TV show with a single, regular-sized booth, no larger than the one I worked when I was 18 (more on that later). A couple years ago their booth space was the field at Petco Park, where people were invited to run a zombie obstacle course. Things change — that’s the nature of the show.
In the years since my last attendance, a lot of tangentially related media has crept in to the show. It is now common practice for fall shows to make their first big splash, in some instances screening their pilot episodes for the massive crowds in the convention halls, with varying success. Big superhero movies get their push, while mainstays like Artist’s Alley face an uncertain future. However, some major players are choosing to skip Comic-Con — Marvel included (blasphemy) — either to promote elsewhere or because or lack of success in years prior.
The show is ever-evolving, and with it come pros and cons. A celebrity sighting is always nice, especially if you can spot them in costume — Adam Savage of “Mythbusters,” I’m looking at you (I hope). And while the bottleneck at the middle of the floor seems to grow in size and force every year, you can still find rarities, Con exclusives, artists, weirdos, legends and still have time left over to eat an overpriced cookie next to a Klingon.
Back when the show started, attendees and retailers each would sleep in the lobby of the Cortez hotel in downtown San Diego. You could chat up the creators of Spider-Man, and if you were lucky, they’d invite you out to dinner. You can still schmooze today, provided you know where to go, or if you can make it past the velvet rope events that seem to proliferate more and more each year.
I’m anxious to return to the show. I’ll be on the convention floor when you read this. And despite the grumbles, despite a little more work to find “actual comics,” it’ll still be fun. Don’t let anyone tell you different.