San Diego Comic-Con 2010 Analysis

Day #1 – Thursday, July 22, 2010

The drive down to San Diego this morning was as high-tension as any car chase that might be in a film promoted at Comic-Con.

We hit the road around an hour later than planned and had roughly 90 minutes to make an 84 mile drive.  This might not be a problem under normal circumstances, but it was in the dead of rush hour in Los Angeles and we had to cross town, along with all of Orange County before rolling into a train station in northern San Diego.

It can only be attributed to divine influence that the car pool lane would be clear on I-405/I-5 for nearly the entire drive.  There was one scare of a traffic jam in Huntington Beach, but other than that we kept pinching ourselves to see if we were merely dreaming about such good fortune with the traffic.

After a thirty minute Coaster train ride into downtown San Diego, I made my first trip to a Ralph’s grocery store, picking up what would later be an amazing deli sandwich for lunch.  Given that I was carrying my luggage to the convention center, I’d grown tired before even starting the convention itself.  However, a first glimpse of the convention center building led to a little boast of energy as excitement over the coming days was allowed to finally set in.

This was my fourth visit to Comic-Con, but it was unique in that I was able to see glimpses of it through my cousin’s eyes as he represented both a first-time convention goer and also a member of the confounding teen demographic.  He’s only gotten into comic books very recently and has much to learn in regards to certain creators and the history of the medium.  He’s enthusiastic though.  In terms of interests at the convention though, I was surprised to see how he and his peers gravitated heavily to the video games.  This makes sense though, given the boom in revenue for that industry in the past 10-15 years.

This year, the convention spread out some events into hotels around the convention center, so it was slightly less jammed inside the main showroom floor and in the panels.  I say ‘slightly’ though, since it was still 90% of the madness.

One constant complaint is that the convention is no longer only about comics.  This is true to some extent, but the convention did some things this year to force attendees to pass through some of the comics dealers and artist booths.  Essentially, if you want to enter the convention hall, you’re going to pass through a few rows of merchandise dealers or up-and-coming artists.

Dinner was a sorry mass of barbecue chicken pizza at a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria amid the San Diego downtown.  Heading down to our hotel later via the San Diego trolley, I was worried that I might have booked a room in a seedy part of town, but the stop itself seemed fine, if uneventful.  The Holiday Inn National City was a bit dated, but had comfortable rooms.


Day #2 – Friday, July 23, 2010

It was a surprise at the beginning of the day that there was no line to get into Hall H at the convention.  Normally, it takes a couple of hours to get inside, since this is the hall where the major movie presentations take place.  When I stumbled into the cavernous, darkened room, Nicolas Cage was in the middle of a panel for his new 3-D film “Drive Angry.”   The film looked somewhat amusing, but it didn’t stir a strong reaction from the half-empty crowd.

I’d come into the hall to see the presentation for a lower-budget film named “Skyline” that an acquaintance had worked on.  The film had recently been picked up for distribution by Universal Pictures and suddenly had a massive advertisement campaign behind it.  In fact, it had its own mural painted onto a hotel nearby the convention center.  The morning of its panel, there were also floating bodies released into the sky that were apparently cast from the body of the acquaintance.

In mid-afternoon, a friend of a friend had an academic presentation on “..the linearity of reading panels and the iconicity of images create various false assumptions about the conveyance of meaning across sequential images’ depictions of space and time.”  I helped out a bit at the panel from the audience and it was an interesting talk.

Next up, I was surprised by how sparsely-populated the spotlight panel on “X-Men” writing legend Chris Claremont was.  He had some amusing answers to various questions, including answering a question about what he thought of film director Joss Whedon’s two year run writing the “X-Men.”  His answer:  “Joss is a good film director.”  Claremont also suggested to an audience member struggling with writer’s block that he “…get a mortgage” in order to get past the condition.

Ronnie Del Carmen, the story supervisor on Pixar’s “Up,” gave a memorable panel on the Pixar story development process.  The main insight from that was the patience that Pixar has in developing a story and the large numbers of people who give feedback or input at various stages.  Story can’t be rushed or have problems left unsolved.

Dinner was at a diner of sorts in downtown San Diego.  While a friend commented that he liked how the restaurant had modified their menus to feature comic book characters, I cynically suggested that perhaps the alternative menus were used as a means of raising prices for the weekend.

While I can applaud the city of San Diego for embracing the convention this year, perhaps out of worry that they may lose the convention to Los Angeles, I do wonder about some of the choices that city managers made.  The decision to change the city’s trolley signs into unreadable – for most – Klingon, was not a great idea when so many people using the trolley system during the convention were not from the area.


Day #3 – Saturday, July 24, 2010

My first panel of day #3 at Comic-Con was the annual Cup-o-Joe event that Marvel Comics hosts with their editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. There weren’t any real major revelations though, outside of a vague announcement that Marvel would be bringing some of the CrossGen Comics library back into print. That company had created some innovated comics back in the early 2000s, but were run like a start-up by a tech millionaire whose innovative new ideas didn’t quite pan out in terms of a sustainable business model. Many of the creative staff went on to work at Marvel Comics, producing what are now some of the best-selling comics there, but the properties from CrossGen ended up being acquired by Disney in bankruptcy. A new years later, Disney purchased Marvel Comics and now the libraries can be merged.

Another annual panel that I caught was a spotlight on J. Michael Straczynski, who did a great job commanding the crowd. He opened with a live reading of a new issue of “Wonder Woman” that he wrote, using a cast of voice talents. While that was interesting, I’d have rather he use to time for questions-and-answers given that he had such a witty banter with the audience when the panel changed to that format after the reading.

Some friends and I were waiting for the Troma Films presentation in the evening when we learned that there had been a stabbing of some sort in the convention’s massive Hall H, just prior to Harrison Ford appearing at the “Cowboys and Aliens” presentation.

Later in the evening, we learned that the ‘stabbing’ was more of a scratch via a pen near a man’s eye after a couple of friends got into a dispute over switching seats. It sounded more sensation than it turned out to be, with some news reports initially implying that a man had been stabbed in the eye with a pen.

While waiting for the Troma presentation to begin, some friends and I chatted with a couple of people who had worked on the effects for the upcoming film “Creep Van.”

Troma’s presentation was easily the wildest that I’ve ever attended at a Comic-Con. It was a disaster in some respects, with technical difficulties making it very hard to show clips during the first 30 minutes or so. That said, they took the problems in stride and made comedy gold out of the disaster. The crowd of Troma fans howled with laughter when a director on the panel remarked how the presentation’s disorganization was “Typical Troma.”

The evening’s trolley ride back to the hotel quickly turned into a fiasco after waiting 30 minutes – in the process having a bus that we could have taken pull away from us – for a train that ended up being mislabeled. We ended up with a group of others in the same predicament at a barren trolley station in a less-than-desirable neighborhood.

While waiting for a trolley to take us back to the station, where we’d have to again wait for another train, I noticed a woman who appeared to be trying to break into a newspaper dispenser. After a few seconds loudly handling the dispense, she seemed to notice me and froze. I froze too, before turning away. The loud handling resumed.

D.S. Christensen
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