I know I’m not alone when I say this, but I’ve really missed conventions! While this is our 2nd show since conventions started to re-launch, it’s the first comic-based convention I’ve been to since my new hobby took root. So, I was excited to dig through some boxes, fill gaps in various comic runs, and connect with some awesome creators!
Arriving at the show on Friday, there were the tell-tale lines of Comic-Con, but the biggest one was the line for vaccine/negative test verification. The Special Edition of SDCC had very similar requirements to PAX West, asking for either proof of verification or a recent negative test to secure a wristband and enter the show. The hall also had frequent announcement over the PA system reminding attendees (who weren’t eating or drinking) to ensure their noses and mouths were covered at all times. Aside from that, and the convenient sanitizing spray that SDCC included with each guest bag, attendees were happy to try and make the show feel as “normal” as possible.
Granted, attendance was much lower than the bombastic, 120,000+ geeks converging onto the San Diego Convention Center, as we’re used to seeing every July. Instead, the show saw closer to 40,00-50,000, with plenty of space for cosplay photos and meet-and-greets happening in the middle of broad walkways.
A number of attendees I chatted with confirmed that the relaxed pace was a welcome change. There were quite a few San Diego natives who had never been to Comic-Con before who decided to take advantage of the smaller show – being able to walk up and purchase tickets the same day for entry…a feat that’s been impossible for a good decade at least!
“It feels like 1997 all over again.” A passing attendee commented.
Of course, while the extra space helped attendees feel more at ease, vendors understandably balked at the cost of securing a table or booth while serving less than half the usual crowd. “It’s definitely been a bit tougher this year.” A vendor that wished to remain anonymous shared. “It’s hard to justify the cost of the table in a good year, but at the same time I know there are lots of people who have been waiting for cons to pick back up again, and I wanted to be here for them.”
One vendor who had a great weekend was TeeTurtle. Stopping by the booth yesterday afternoon in the final hours of the show, the inside looked like a bomb had gone off. “When we started on Friday, every square inch under these tables was packed with stuff.” The sales attendant said, still seeming to recover himself from the long weekend. “Now, this is all that’s left.” He said with a smile, gesturing to the barren middle tables with maybe a few dozen shirts left.
One thing that also seemed pretty apparent in my frequent tours around the show floor was an increased interest in, well…comics! With quarantine driving many people inside, and stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits putting some extra money in Americans’ pockets, the comic book industry received quite a bit of attention in the Summer through Fall of 2020. This, coupled with an increasingly aggressive strategy from Disney in putting out new series and content with Disney+, and the return of MCU’s regular release schedule, has more folks entering the comic mainstream.
While Spider-Man has always been a Comic-Con favorite, there was also a lot of interest from speculators in Dr. Strange over the weekend, as well as Black Cat issues, Secret Wars/Secret Invasion runs, and lots of hunting around for Warlock keys.
Of course, the Small Press area has always been one near and dear to my heart as well. I caught up with our friends from Lawdog Comics, who were there promoting their central titles including the supernatural thriller, Dead Man’s Hand as well as a series from the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself: Chronicles of the White Company. Jim Heffron and I discussed the importance of creators maintaining their intellectual property…a conversation that echoed a few of the points Kyle Higgins shared with us not too long ago. “It’s an exciting time because of the sheer volume of outlets for content creation. But at the same time, it’s a double edged sword – there’s almost too much content to consume. How do you make sure your content stands out?” Jim drove home the importance of maintaining control over one’s intellectual property. Once you let go, it’s almost impossible to get it back!
A big part of Comic-Con’s draw is the guests, as well as programming that promises sneak peeks at the latest and greatest in pop culture. Unfortunately there wasn’t too much of that this year. The biggest activation/setup outside of the hall was for the upcoming series La Brea from NBC, and that was limited in scope. Instead, further reinforcing the Comic-Con feel of old, there were many smaller panels that centered around great storytelling in tabletop RPGs, cosplay tips and more. Spaces that may have formerly gone to A-list comic artists and publishers instead were ceded to the passionate fans and subject matter experts ready to share their knowledge with the broader community.
There was plenty of tabletop goodness to enjoy on the show floor as well, not the least of which being CMON’s impressive displays. The board game publisher that is well known for titles like Zombicide was showcasing the upcoming Marvel Zombies Kickstarter, which is due to land early next year. As a draw for the higher-end backers, a massive Galactus statue with an interchangeable head and arm was on display. The rep indicated that a $400-500 pledge would be required to secure the monstrous piece, a price that many on our Twitter page appear to be ready to pay…
Of course, a major part of any convention is the cosplay. Throughout the hall I saw committed cosplayers from every corner of geekdom: gaming, D&D, comics, TV & film…you name it! There were some seriously awesome cosplays out there, and many thanks to the con-goers who let us take their picture!
Overall, I had a blast at Comic-Con this weekend. It may not have been the bustling show that it usually is, but this was a manageable step towards what things could be again in the not-too-distant-future (we hope)!
Stay safe out there, geeks! Until next time…