Mamo 414: Too Big To Con

Mamo!

With San Diego Comic Con 2015 now safely behind us, we ask our annual question: what was it all for? Batman fought Superman, Suicide Squad came out, The Hunger Games continued to dominate and we sort of just don’t care any more. At what point did Comic Con cease to be a launchpad and became a temporary meatspace incarnation of something we more routinely call “the internet?”

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Matthew Price
Guest

Here’s how little the impact of this is now, we didn’t even mention Star Wars.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

Funny, as a number of articles in talking about “who won comic con?” most of them seemed to list Star Wars.

Also in why would anyone want to go to SDCC, just to see a bunch of people chatting, this was basically the answer. The panel ended and J. J. Abrams invited everyone in Hall to a live concert of Star Wars music. A huge number of Storm Troppers appeared and lead the 6,500 fans down the street to see the San Diego Symphony play. Everyone was given plastic light sabers as they went in and there is a lot of shots where the cast who were there got them all to raise them up and go along with the music. They ended it all off with a big fireworks display.

I wasn’t there but I couldn’t help but smile to all of this unfolding on Twitter. (Also funny, Kevin Smith going up next in Hall H to an almost empty hall.)

It seemed to be a really fun time had by all and this and other things that saw over the weekend make me want to visit San Diego Comic Con again. When I went back in 2011, it was a sort of thing I wanted to do at least once in my life, but I would love to go back again. I’ve already started talking to my wife about some day in the future taking our daughter there, as there is a lot of very kid-friendly things and events to do there.

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

On the CON-trary, it would be like pulling teeth (out through my rear end orifice) to get me to attend SDCC (or even our local fanEXPO for that matter). I feel the same way about Vegas, and casinos. I’m happy to watch movies about them (or in this case, Alan Tudyk’s forthcoming webseries) but I have no desire to be there in person. None whatsoever.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

Great episode, but I wished I could have jumped in to put things in perspective, as you guys were getting a lot of things wrong.

San Diego Comic Con has been at capacity of the San Diego Convention Center since 2008. That was also the first year they sold all the tickets ahead of time and none were available at the convention center. Then they started selling out earlier and earlier each year, in a few months then just a few weeks. The year I went in 2011, tickets were all sold out in a couple of hours. In the passing years, they have so many problems with ticket systems handling the load of people trying to all buy their tickets at once, that they have switched over to a lottery system. You have to sign up ahead of time and they go through rounds of selling tickets to people.

San Diego Comic Con have been negotiating with the city of San Diego to expand their convention center for several years, threatening to possibly leave, go to Las Vegas Los Angeles or Anaheim. San Diego had an multi-million dollar expansion plan in place, but because no one likes to pay extra taxes and in part because their football team has been pressuring the city for a new stadium, it fell apart. Anyways, the Comic Con wants more room to expand and likely could sell any additional tickets right away. They aren’t in any danger of no one showing up.

Unlike TIFF, SDCC has for the most part kept their tickets at the price of inflation. They are a non-profit organization and so they haven’t looked to pull in more money despite the fact that they could easily do so with rising demand. Also they work hard on shutting down scalpers on ebay, kijiji and other places online. I imagine SDCC tickets still get scalped but not much of it happens publicly online.

Last year was one of the first years in a long time that many who attend each year pointed out the event had pulled back a bit. Yes, it sold out and the place was at capacity again, but all the extra stuff outside of the convention center, taking over bars and parking lots, it seemed to lessened a bit, with few bars and parking lots that would be taken over for various events were actually empty. People wondered if Hollywood was finally pulling back a bit from Comic-Con. Only that trend didn’t continue this year and the event grew once again. Beyond all the unofficial events, Comic-Con took over several extra venues a few blocks from the conference center and had a “Comic-Con Campus”. It likely can’t keep growing forever, but it still hasn’t reached a plateau yet.

Note on Thursday and through out the weekend, there were times when the line-up to Hall H reached zero and you could just walk in. Part of it is that there is such build up, with people getting into line days ahead of time, so that people stay away. The Star Wars and Warner Brothers required a long line-up wait, but people were walking into Hall H to see Bill Murray talk about “Rock the Kasbah” (which he did mostly in character) and you could walk in to see the Hunger Games panel. Doctor Who was likely just maybe over an hour or so wait for you to get in on time. I know all of this as I follow so many people who attend SDCC that I see many tweeting and retweeting that status of the line of Hall H, to see if people can get in without too crazy of a wait.

Also Hall H is just a very small part of San Deigo Comic Con. Attendance each year is over 130,000 and Hall H hold around 6,500 people, with the other major halls for tv and movies holding a few thousands each. So the rest of the people are there for all sorts of different reasons beyond seeing the latest Superman vs Batman trailer. There is 3 film festivals happening: a Independent Film Festival, a Children’s Film Festival and Anime Film Festival. There is panels on creating content (film 101, comics 101, web series 101, etc), comic book portfolio reviews, there are workshops on making costumes, board game competitions, video game competitions, art shows, silent auctions, Eisner Awards (one of the comic book’s biggest award shows) and more. Then there is all the stuff going on outside the official SDCC events, as the whole city is basically taken over by geeks, more so than say the Pan Am Games have taken over Toronto. So much is going on that it is almost impossible to keep track of it all.

Also comic books might not get the big media attention and fill the giant halls, but there are still more small comic book panels going on through out the convention center than there are for tv and movies. The vast majority of creators of the comic book industry are there and for the most part the lines to see their panels are small. Seeing Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, the Fables panel (getting signatures from them afterwards and thanking them very much for their comic was great), Hernandez brothers (creators of Love & Rockets) and much more.

Saying that SDCC is all about Hall H is like saying TIFF is just about the Gala screenings because that is all that the media picks up on. It’s throwing out Midnight Madness and all the other fun programming.

Matthew Price
Guest
Matthew Fabb
Guest

Meanwhile here is a picture of the end of the Hall H line sign and SDDC volunteer at the enterance of Hall H on Thursday morning. Anyone could just walk in for the Hunger Games & Doctor Who panel at that point. This is despite the fact that people started lining up for Thursday’s Hall H panel on Tuesday morning and slept outside overnight before getting wristbands Wednesday evening.

The extremes that some people go and stories like the Verge scare a lot of people away. Except for really big panels like Star Wars and Warner Brothers, it didn’t seem like the line-up was that bad. A lot of panels had turn over.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

A side note to my post about how SDCC continues to grow is that I’ve seen a number of articles this week from people coming back from Comic Con who have point out how the sales of comics continues to drop. That the SDCC continues to attract more of a general audience who aren’t as big of comic book fans. That some of the smaller publishers will likely be dropping out next year. Even the artist alley is slowly reducing as it’s expensive to attend and they aren’t making as much as they used to.

As a comic book fan myself, this is disappointing to hear as one of the cool things about SDCC is the huge variety of comics, publishers and all sorts of stuff you normally wouldn’t see.

Matthew Price
Guest

And those things are fun, and they are the reason I attend, but they aren’t tiff in terms of the wider world. If the Hall H mega movie spectaculars disappear SDCC will still be fun for attendees but will beasically cease to exist beyond that. For fun and prizes please name the largest comic convention in the UK – oh right, you can’t, because without the high profile movie and TV events these types of things essentially don’t exist. There are massive trade shows all the time for all kinds of things (hunting, camping, home renovations, stamp collecting, comics, electronics) but they aren’t that interesting or newsworthy outside their sub cultures and this is no different. The only reason SDCC is worth talking about is Hall H, and if that experience gets compromised to the point where studios move on the Con will continue but no one outside of it will care.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

My post was mainly talking about why someone would attend SDCC, as in the podcast you talked about possibly attending it with your son but not being able to get into Hall H. Which once again, would be like saying what is the point of going to TIFF if you can’t get into Gala events. That Hall H and Gala events are just a very small part of the experience of attending SDCC or TIFF. For the major of the attendees of both, they never attend Gala movies or Hall H panels.

However, I wasn’t really addressing the questions you ask in the podcast, in that in this day and age do studios really need to attend SDCC? What would happen if they stopped attending and just released trailers and photos?

Well, this year Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures and Paramount stayed away from Hall H. Marvel Studios will be at D23 instead this year and barely did much on the conference floor. As normally they have big set pieces like say the throne room from Thor. This year they just had a big poster of Ant-Man and the Ant-Man costume on display. Very lackluster and Ant-Man isn’t doing so, well so it will be interesting to see if Marvel reconsiders in the future

Sony, meanwhile released a photo of the new female Ghostbusters just before SDCC and got plenty of attention from that. So does Sony pictures need to attend or is sending out a photos or trailer enough? Certainly, they would have gotten a lot more news if they had a Ghostbuster panel. However, I guess the thing that studios have been asking what is the ROI for them to pay to fly talent down for SDCC, especially so far away from the release date.

In the absence of those three studios, more tv shows took over Hall H. Walking Dead, Fear of the Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, DC’s tv shows and more. When I went back in 2011 a lot of these tv shows were put into the smaller Ballroom 20 and the line-up to attend was a lot bigger than Hall H. However, I guess that is part of the greater trend of tv shows becoming a bigger part of pop-culture than movies.

Also for the first time, a web series had a panel in Hall H, the upcoming, Con Man from Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion. So basically any studio or network that leaves will just result in other material filling the void. As the event is so big, it would take a really huge shift to stop people from coming, meaning that other pieces of content will fill in the void left behind.

One of the biggest problems with SDCC, is that it is hard for movies and tv shows to stand out with so much news coming out over 5 days. It’s like a giant firehouse of news, panels and crazy things happening and the average person might catch one or two pieces of news or trailers. If Warner Brothers had stayed home this year, perhaps there would be more discussion with say the Fear The Walking Dead or Ash Vs The Walking Dead.

Oh and just a side note, I don’t know about the biggest comic book convention in the UK, but I’m aware that one of the biggest comic book convention in Europe is Angoulême International Comics Festival. It actually attracts a larger audience than SDCC, bringing in around 220,000. It doesn’t have any movies or tv content, just focuses purely on comics, from comic books, to graphic novels, to newspaper strips to editorial cartoons. However, in Europe and especially in France, comics are a bigger part of the overall culture than North America (not talking comic book adaptations in movies, tv and video games, but people reading comics).

However, as I mention I’m a big comic book geek, so that is why I’m aware of this while most people don’t pay attention to it. To me the biggest and most interesting news coming from SDCC is not actually the movie trailers, but comic book announcements. Things like the announcement of comic legends Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke working together on a comic called The Twilight Children. Joss Whedon announcing a new original comic called Twist that he described as “a Victorian female Batman” (announced at Hall H no less). The announcement of Bryan Konietzko (creator of The Last Air Bender) doing a new original graphic novel series called Threadworlds.

Plus a whole lot more, but I recognize that while I’m interested in these things, they aren’t huge in the world of pop-culture compared to movies and tv.

Rick
Guest

The best paragraph I have read about MvS and the reason I am excited for it is.

Dead sporting of Zack Snyder to go to all the trouble of shooting a disappointing Superman film just so he can put Ben Affleck’s Batman over. Henry Cavill’s supercilious Superman is exactly the kind of prick you can build a Rocky IV narrative around. The real hero is the human who spends months deep underground, angrily dragging around a wet tractor tire so he can bulk up enough to go punch out God.

And I hope beyond hope that Afleck reigns in Snyder and so far I am down for angry Batman.

In regards to Suicide Squad two things. I think people often overlook that kids also want the weird, the dark, the vulgar, the gross. So making a film that is weird and dark has just the same chance to pull them in especially in the current blockbuster landscape.

The second thing is that these villains are specifically supposed to be the ones that are not the top level so they are controllable. The ones with more mundane powers or issues that allow them to be manipulated easily, and it often blows up and goes wrong and someone usually ends up dead (hence the title). Boomerang is the best example of this being a guy who is just really good at throwing lethal variations of boomerangs and being a down and dirty fighter, compared to the other Flash villains like the guy with the Freeze Ray, the talking Monkey, the guy out of step with time, or the wand that controls the weather.

Dave Nandes
Guest

I find nothing appealing about the convention atmosphere, regardless of how interested I might be in the subject matter. Even something ultra niche like TAM in Vegas was off my bucket list once the annual attendance broke 1000.

I’m considering Hamilton Comic Con in October, as I have friends launching a graphic novel and my wife has agreed to come with the promise of Ian Ziering.

Rick
Guest

I stopped going to the big ones too and that is easier to do living on the edge of a very large city with a very large and thriving comic culture.

TCAF ensures I never need to go to FanExpo or any of the larger ones ever again. The only fun I have at those is pouring through all the complete sets and back issues especially on the last day of show when everything is on deep discount.

Sean Kelly
Guest

I haven’t listened to the episode yet, but I thought I would chime in a bit on my experiences with conventions.

I have been going to Fan Expo here in Toronto since 2009. While I won’t say that I’ve always enjoyed my experience, I will say that I like it enough to keep coming back every year.

There are a lot of negative things about Fan Expo: The huge financial commitment ($125 for a four-day pass, plus whatever money’s spent on the floor), the crowds (particularly on Saturday), and the constant line-ups.

However, there are a lot of positives as well. While the headlining celebrity guests can charge an arm and a leg for their autograph, there are also multiple free autograph sessions during the convention. There is also a huge amount of swag given away by the booths, ranging from comics to video games. I also like attending the panels, which aren’t as a huge deal at Fan Expo as they are at SDCC, but are still fun to watch.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

I took vacation time and great expense to fly to San Diego, stay in a hotel, etc, yet I’ve never gone to Fan Expo. Their crazy tier pricing rubs me the wrong way and I’ve heard so many complaints about people who attend about how badly crowded the whole thing is. SDCC might have many more times the amount of people, but with the exception of a mistake here or there, generally they do great with crowd control. Tons of people but it never really feels too crowded (or at least it didn’t when I went).

That said, Toronto Comic Arts Festival is the absolute best. They always have some amazing heavy hitters but there are so many interesting independent artists. Each year I try to pick up at least one graphic novel from someone that I hadn’t heard of before, just looks different and interesting.

Rick Vance
Guest

I have to cut back on TIFF this yead because I went do deep during TCAF (fun show to volunteer for too)

Sean Kelly
Guest

Yeah, bad crowd control is another negative.

For the past couple years Fan Expo has taken over both the North and South buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and switching between the two can be a bit of a headache at peak times.

Sean Kelly
Guest

Further comments after listening:
– I believe BATMAN V SUPERMAN was indeed launched at ComiCon shortly after MAN OF STEEL came out
– After five years of price increases, I did eventually decide that “Fan Expo is too expensive for me” last year and only went for one day. That said, I’m planning on getting a weekend pass this year.
– Conventions are different things for different people and will probably continue to be successful each year.

Robert Reineke
Guest

I know that it was only a small portion of the segment, but I couldn’t disagree more that BvS needs to be 3 hours. In less than 3 minutes, they’ve established motivations and why those two guys are going to come to blows, how long can you really drag it out before they confront one another? It wouldn’t really surprise me if the big fight comes relatively early in Act II, maybe before the 1 hour mark, with WW taking Green Arrow’s place from The Dark Knight Returns, and the second half of the film is the two main characters coming to terms and then dealing with whatever Luthor and Holly Hunter are cooking up, probably something to do with a Bizarro Zod/Doomsday.

Obviously because action set pieces take up 15 to 20 minutes these days, it will be over 2 hours, but I see nothing overly complicated plotwise in the trailer. Just stuff that we don’t know how it fits together. But, we should all know how movies work.

antho42
Guest

The ambiance of cons is what attracts people. One of my coworkers went to Comic Con just for partying– it is like a giant carnival in the USA. Also, with many fandoms, people meet and interact with with othes of their community primarily online. Cons is where they meet each other in person. In anime, panels are a big thing.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

According to the blog The Beat apparently last year one of the major studios did a study that came to the conclusion that 60,000 people attended SDCC in 2014 without a badge. That in 2015, they suspect that the number if even higher. These are people who attend the parties, events and everything going on outside of the San Diego Conference Center. I definitely think this is believable as even outside the conference, there isn’t a enough time to attend and visit everything that is going on.

Philip Poirot
Guest

SUICIDE SQUAD trailer makes a huge splash. In the same ballpark as Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Star Wars. What does that mean for it’s future??
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/suicide-squad-trailer-tops-batman-810020

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