Comic chameleon

Another year, another successful Comic-Con International. Last weekend, 130,000 people packed the San Diego Convention Center, bringing a $175 million boost to the city’s economy.

Photo by Miles Sanguinetti
Photo by Miles Sanguinetti
Another year, another successful Comic-Con International. Last weekend, 130,000 people packed the San Diego Convention Center, bringing a $175 million boost to the city’s economy.

Depending on what you care about, a lot of cool stuff happened. Warner Brothers announced that the sequel to Man of Steel will be a Superman and Batman team-up movie. Some very lucky panel attendees got to see the full pilot episode of Joss Whedon’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And 20th Century Fox’s “surprise” panel included, as predicted, pretty much every member of the mammoth cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

I attended Comic-Con last year, when I still lived in Southern California. It was my last hurrah before leaving behind smog and celebrities for rain and hipsters. I’m sure many PSU students have experienced the con before, but if you haven’t, let me give you the low down.

It’s hot. There are a lot of people. If you’re remotely interested in getting into Hall H and seeing the big panels full of famous people, lining up at 4 a.m. is probably smart.

You will then wait in the longest line you have ever waited in for at least six hours before you are crammed into a tiny seat next to obese 11-year-olds, college guys in Ghostface masks or middle-aged women in catsuits. All of whom smell very badly. Then, you’ll wait through every single panel that comes before the panel you want to see.

I know many convention-goers are actual comic book fans, not just film geeks and celebrity junkies like me. But I don’t really feel like the floor is that much better. It’s hard to cut through the massive herd to inspect the severely overpriced merchandise: $8.50 for the world’s worst hamburger, $16 for a Doctor Who comic book, $35 for a picture with Counselor Troi and Geordi. Walking around like a zombie for four days? Priceless.

That’s not to say I didn’t have some great times at Comic-Con. But the amount of time I spent standing in line or being told by a friendly security guard, “You seem like a nice person. The line is six blocks long. Don’t bother,” far outweighs the time I spent actually doing things.

If you Google, you can find articles from as far back as 2005 asking the question: Has Comic-Con gotten too big? There’s no doubt the convention has physically outgrown its premises. With 600 hours of programming, they’re now holding some panels in the Hilton next door—or turning exhibitors away altogether.

That’s part of the reason the San Diego Convention Center has cut Comic-Con’s rent nearly in half. According to the San Diego Union-Tribute, they now pay just $150,000 to use the convention center, a fraction of the amount of money they rake in.

A couple years ago, concerns about the convention’s size were so major that cities like Anaheim and Las Vegas tried to convince organizers to move. But with this break on rent prices, Comic-Con has contracted to remain in San Diego through 2016. What happens after that?

I get why San Diego wants to keep Comic-Con. It goes a long way toward funding the city’s fire fighters, police and school districts. But it’s also way too big.

Going to the con was just a three-hour drive for me. My sister lives in San Diego, so I didn’t even need a hotel. But people fly in from all over the world for Comic-Con. Imagine showing up from Australia just to find out you’re probably not going to see or do nine out of 10 things on your con wish list.

I also attended WonderCon Anaheim last year. Comic-Con’s little brother was actually a lot more intimate and fun. I waited less than an hour for the Prometheus panel, and I was four rows away from Michael Fassbender. What’s not to like? Could Comic-Con ever be like that again?

There’s a plan to expand the convention center by 400,000 feet, which is part of San Diego’s push to keep Comic-Con in the city. But that won’t help with those lines. Why not expand it to two weekends? It worked well for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

I know panels can’t be duplicated for two weekends like concerts can, and that part of the reason studios and fans love Comic-Con is the thrill of big surprises and exclusive footage—most of which turns up online in a few days anyway. But since it’s already impossible to get into all the panels you want to see, why not split up the lineup? Let people choose which weekend is more appealing. That gives them a chance to see more things.

Did I mention I got conSARS for two weeks last year? That’s the nickname for the infamous illness that comes from being around all those people with not enough hand sanitizer. Comic-Con is stupid.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if my website login still works. Ticket sales for the 2014 convention are just around the corner.