Written by: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
“That’s blasphemy! Those are fighting words, Laura!” says the fictional Marvel fan I made up. Before you throw your arms wildly in the air and shout your disapproval at the top of your lungs, let me say that this is not an attack on Marvel. No, this is only a personal observation I’ve made in the last few years concerning the DC and Marvel booth at San Diego Comic-Con. The verdict? The DC booth rocks!
Okay, I admit I’m a DC fangirl. I can go on and on as to why this is the case, but I won’t waste your time. What I will say is that while I didn’t read comics at an early age, I did grow up watching Batman and Superman. When I did pick up comics, it was mainly DC until I discovered Image. This is not to say I don’t like Marvel. I grew up watching Spider-Man and X-Men too. Peter Parker? Genius! Gambit? My favorite! I’ve even read a few Marvel comics. And when it comes down to film, hands down Marvel is king! Though DC takes the torch for great live-action TV shows. So in the end, I don’t hate Marvel superheroes. I’m just more partial to DC ones. And no, DC isn’t perfect, but neither is Marvel.
With that said, let me tell you why I believe the DC booth is so much better than the Marvel one at SDCC. If you strip away the Hollywood glam of both DC and Marvel, what do you get? Superheroes and comic books. More specifically, you get a celebration of the comic medium and its creation of timeless superheroes. I mean, that’s what San Diego Comic-Con—or any comic-con for that matter—is all about, right?
I think that somewhere along the way, Marvel greatly strayed away from this concept. Or at least its booth has. I’m going to be blunt. I HATE the Marvel booth! And I hate getting anywhere near it. Every time I pass by, it’s full of chaos and mayhem. Here’s the typical layout of the booth from 2014, photo courtesy of Marvel.com:
It’s difficult to see, but it’s looking a bit bare, huh? For the most part, it has one huge stage backed up by big screens. To the left there is a small table for comic creator signings. Up front, there’s another table for passing out free swag. If they have much else to offer, I don’t remember it. Honestly, I’m barely at the Marvel booth. For one thing, it’s because I can never get inside the booth. It’s always filled with people taking pictures of something on stage, or people with their arms outstretched for swag. Second, there’s nothing of interest for me to look at. But then again, how would I know? I repeat, I CAN’T GET INSIDE THE BOOTH! Seriously, go Google “Marvel booth San Diego Comic Con” and you’ll understand what I mean.
So what exactly does the Marvel booth offer? Celebrity signings, free swag, and merchandise. There’s probably more to the booth, but that’s how I would summarize it. There ARE creator signings, but they feel downplayed and that’s kind of my sad point. Though I will say Marvel hosts live game shows, contests, game demos, and giveaways, which explains the endless crowds and lines. It also had a photo booth sitting off to the side this year.
At this year’s SDCC, I happened to be walking by the booth during an Ant-Man movie signing. I saw Paul Rudd projected on the screen. Don’t get me wrong, I love Paul Rudd! I even said, “Omigod, it’s Paul Rudd!” But that was quickly followed by me thinking, “Oh crap, I have to get out of this crowd. Stop pushing! Why won’t anyone move?” and then hysterically shouting to my boyfriend, “I’m going ahead! I’ve got to get to Gotham! Meet me at Gotham!!!” Fun fact: I may have been scurrying away to the DC booth, but I literally meant the Gotham TV sign.
On another SDCC day, I was swallowed up by the Marvel crowd again. The TV screen projected an Avengers: Age of Ultron signing, with the camera zoomed up on Chris Hemsworth. Looking all around me, it was like a horrific walker scene from HBO’s The Walking Dead.
Overall, the Marvel booth feels cinematically self-involved. Yes, I love the films. Marvel makes very damn good ones! And yes, I drool over actors. Who wouldn’t? But where were the superheroes? Where was the excitement over the creators? The stories? I wanted to see THAT. This year, it was even selling exclusive merchandise. While I’m conflicted because cool merchandise is addicting, I don’t really buy into Marvel marketing itself in this way. Show me who you really are Marvel, and not what Hollywood has made you become!
Now onto the DC booth. I love the DC booth and yes, I’m bias. But I COULD have been a Marvel fan and would still like the DC booth more. This is because DC stays true to its superheroes and to the creators that shaped them. There is a lot to experience at the booth, even if you’re not an avid comic book reader.
First, there is much to look at. This year being the Batman 75th Anniversary, there was an exhibit of Batman costumes, cowls, and even a statue from past Batman films. I enjoy displays like these because they center on the idea of Batman and not the actors themselves. Additionally, most of the free swag followed a theme, coming in the form of Batman masks, a Gotham TV show lanyard, and more. You get the point. The last time I enjoyed the Marvel booth was when it had its Iron Man suit exhibit.
There were also glass cases containing DC collectibles and other action figures. You couldn’t buy any of it there, but there was plenty to gawk at, take pictures of, and appreciate. There’s even a gaming area to demo new games.
There were no celebrities on deck at DC. No Henry Cavill. No Ben Affleck. None of this Superman v. Batman film crap. None of it. And it was amazing! Okay, there was Kevin Conroy, but he basically IS Batman and doesn’t count. I only mean that DC was centered on something bigger than celebrities.
Like Marvel, DC has a stage and TV screens. It’s smaller, but I find it more enjoyable. On the screen, they’d project upcoming trailers like video games and TV shows. On stage, they’d occasionally have an artist spotlight, where an artist would sketch for all to see on the screen and talk to the crowd. It’s intimate and allows you to value an artist’s creative abilities. Take a look at Chris Burnham below:
DC certainly has dumb things on stage too, such as the fashion show on Harley Quinn-inspired clothing being sold exclusively at Hot Topic, but I’m going to forget I witnessed such a thing.
Now what’s my all-time favorite part of the DC booth? The creator signings! DC has two separate signing tables going on at the same time and on opposite ends. Every hour there are 2-6 creators signing. It’s like Pokemon as you wonder how you can possibly catch them all! If you don’t know who’s signing, the TV screens will project a video of the creators currently “Signing Now.”
I like that the creators are easily accessible, whether you’re getting a signing or not. Anyone can simply walk by say, a Jim Lee signing, and see him up close even if you’re not interested in who he is. No one’s ever really pushing and whipping out cameras like a mob. Personally, I think there’s something for everybody at the DC booth. Sure, DC gets crowded, but in the most positive and manageable way possible.
In general, the Marvel booth appears impenetrable. It’s like one big theatrical show, relying on its celebrities and giveaways to sway its crowd. In comparison, the DC booth comes off as a well-rounded community that embraces its superheroes, comics, creators, and fans.
To reiterate, I am in no way trying to insult Marvel. I am positive someone out there can make the case that the Marvel booth at SDCC is way better than the DC one. Well I am all ears. Let’s hear it!
Author: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
Laura is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently resides in Southern California. She drinks too much milk tea, talks too much about Green Lantern, and would marry Barry Allen if he were real.