Written by: Fanboy Comics
Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon considers the pros and cons of attending the greatest con in all the land.
For most fans of geek culture, San Diego Comic-Con is a yearly event that is not to be missed. Fans travel far and wide to attend the four-day convention, which has come to encompass all things pop culture: movies, television, video games, sci-fi, toys, manga, horror, and comic books. Initiated in 1970 to celebrate the comic book industry and film/television, the convention has increasingly become home to Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large within the past decade. Despite being an initial focus of the convention, the major film and television studios have inserted their dominance over its media attention and convention hall space. These media giants brought with them a perceived imperialistic presence that created a social hierarchy, which fans of geek culture used to avoid at comic conventions. Tickets that were available for convention goers have now been set aside en masse for agents, managers, film and TV celebrities, and their entourages. With this transformation, serious concerns have surfaced with regard to overcrowding, ticket sales, and angst amongst convention patrons, who long for the days of being able to enjoy the convention for its original purpose without having to fight the crowds. This year, with pre-ordered tickets selling out at astronomical rates and booth availability for independent comic book vendors becoming more sparse, fans have been forced to deal with multiple failed attempts to purchase online tickets due to server overload.
I have had the fortune to attend the San Diego Comic-Con for the past three years, and the most recent trip doubled as my honeymoon. Each time, I greatly enjoyed my experience, relishing in the ability to sample various pop culture genres while meeting industry professionals that I admired. Throughout those years, I had no issue with purchasing my tickets, which I did online with ease without ever pre-ordering my ticket at the previous year’s convention. I did, however, take notice of the ever-expanding number of patrons who attended, which forced my friends and I to frequently remind ourselves to curb our frustration with pushing, shoving, and the occasional elbow to the face. (I’m short; it happens.) While I was first exhilarated by the attendance of high-profile celebrities and the presentation of major films and TV shows, I, along with my comic book fan brethren, soon felt lost in the crowd (literally and figuratively). In order to meet industry professionals, fans were forced to wait in lines that circled the entire convention center. Seats for less popular or less known convention panels were being held hostage by fans waiting hours in advance for major motion picture trailers, causing fans of the interim panels to miss opportunities to enjoy their favorite shows. The sense of belonging and enjoyment that used to fill the convention had been replaced with bureaucracy and separateness.
After the SDCC of 2010, I heard rumblings that the 4-day passes that included Preview Night (a three-hour period on Wednesday evening that provides a sneak peek to con goers) had already sold out during the first two days of the convention. This, to me, was absolutely ridiculous. Would more tickets go on sale? Was attending the following year an impossibility? Luckily, SDCC Int’l announced that it would sell more tickets, and I, along with MANY others, were overjoyed. What we did not anticipate were three failed attempts at purchasing online tickets. During the first two scheduled ticket sales, the SDCC servers crashed due to the sheer volume of interested fans. For the last (and most recent) online ticket sale, which occurred earlier today, fans with fast internet connections were able to avoid website warnings that the server was over capacity. Needless to say, my friends and I were not able to purchase San Diego Comic-Con tickets for 2011. Unless we are able to receive tickets through the Professional Badge application process (thanks to Fanboy Comics), we will not be attending.
Several thoughts have run through my head throughout this ticketing process. The most important questions that always surfaces: why are fans so willing to take a beating and come back for more? After two failed attempts to willingly provide SDCC Int’l with hard-earned money, why did we return to the computer and endlessly click “Refresh” for hours with the hopes of purchasing tickets? Personally, I do not know anyone who was able to purchase a ticket through the online process. And yet, having ventured through these past three ticketing adventures, I find myself at peace with not having the opportunity to attend. While I may not be able to see movie trailers in advance of their release, the internet will easily provide me with these snippits in real time, thanks to the live feed that fans and media possess during the panels. Anyone can record a video with their iPhone and upload it to the internet for easy viewing. And, all of this can be enjoyed from the comfy spot on my sofa at no cost! No pushing or shoving, no long lines, no fitting 4 or more people in a tiny hotel room. Would missing SDCC really be such a bad thing?
For those who feel similar yet long to experience the excitement of a convention, I would encourage you to research the hundreds of other conventions that populate the country. Occurring in nearly every state and focusing on various areas of pop culture, these conventions vary in size and cost and can provide you with just as much fun and excitement. Given my lack of attendance at SDCC this year, perhaps I will see you in Seattle for Emerald Con or in San Francisco for APE or WonderCon (as long as Wizard doesn’t put that out of business, too!).
Barbra Dillon is the Managing Editor of Fanboy Comics, an independent comic book publishing company based in Los Angeles, Calif. She has produced numerous short films including Something Animal and Batman of Suburbia, and served as Legal Advisor for the film Walken on Sunshine. For more interviews, blogs, and reviews by Barbra and the FBC staff, check out the Fanboy Comics website at FanboyComics.net or sign up for the e-newsletter, The Fanboy Scoop, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.