It’s Comic-Con time once again. Comic-Con, held at the San Diego Convention Center in July of every year, invariably captures the interest of every media outlet in the land, and with good reason: it is, quite simply, the premiere event of its kind.
I speak as one who as of 2014 had a near-perfect Comic-Con attendance record since attending my first Con back in 1987. I won’t be attending this year’s Comic-Con (AAAAAARGH!), but will take this opportunity to answer some of the many questions I’ve been asked about the event, and debunk the silly claims I’m always hearing about it.
Admittedly, my knowledge is now three years out of date, but I believe I’m still uniquely qualified to respond to the following claims and questions about Comic-Con, starting with…
Claim: “Comic-Con is longer about comic books!”
This is a claim I hear a lot. Certainly the event has changed a lot over the years, but one thing that was always true about Comic-Con was that it was never just about comic books. From the start—my start, that is, in 1987—it encompassed every conceivable aspect of the pop-culture spectrum: movies, books, posters, T-shirts, action figures, etc. Over the years, of course, as the event has grown larger and more corporatized, the vendors and exhibitors of those items have gradually fallen off. The one constant among all this upheaval? Comic books!
Question: “Which stars did you meet?”
It’s a fact that every movie and TV star of any standing will invariably find him or herself at Comic-Con, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be rubbing shoulders with the common-folk. As with Sundance, Coachella, Cannes and every other pop culture themed celebrity playground, a policy of strict segregation exists between the beautiful people and the rest of us, with celebrities interacting with the public only via tightly regulated speaking panels and autograph sessions. Most of the rest of their time is spent in areas of the convention center that are off-limits to the general public (which explains in part why Comic-Con is always so damn crowded). If a celebrity does deign to cavort with non-famous Con-goers it’s in costume (as Sarah Michelle Gellar and others are alleged to have done).
Claim: “All comic cons are the same.”
While every municipality the world over seems to have its own comic con, they are NOT related in any way to the Big One under discussion here. Comic-Con is put on by the San Diego based nonprofit organization Comic-Con International, which puts on one other convention: the Anaheim based WonderCon, which happens around Easter of each year. As for Comic-Con, it’s distinguished from the other similarly named events by one simple element: the dash between the two words, which none of the other Comic Cons have.
Question: “Will I look out of place if I don’t wear a costume at Comic-Con?”
In all the years I attended the Con I never once donned a costume, and never once felt “out of place” for not doing so. One of the most appealing aspects of Comic-Con is its come-as-you-are vibe that encourages attendees to let their nerd flags fly in whatever manner they see fit. Certainly a lot of those attendees do choose to dress up in elaborate costumes, but just as many don’t. Both camps are welcomed equally.
Claim: “Con goers spend most of their time waiting in line.”
Well, okay: THAT claim is entirely true!
Claim: “At Comic-Con all the action is in Hall H.”
Ah, yes: the fabled Hall H, a massive, stadium-sized room located at the Southern-most end of the San Diego Convention Center. It’s where many of the big name movie and TV panels are held, and where the major media outlets lavish the majority of their coverage. There are, however, dozens of other rooms throughout the convention center where hundreds of other, less starry panels are held throughout the Con. Ignoring those panels in favor of the hoopla in Hall H is shortsighted and plain wrong.
Claim: “Comic-Con grows more crowded with each passing year.”
Once again: entirely true!
Question: “Was Comic-Con always held in the San Diego Convention Center?”
No. It used to be held at the San Diego Convention and Performing Arts Center, a nondescript building located in the middle of downtown SD. The new, much larger Convention Center where the Con is currently held was constructed in 1989, although Comic-Con didn’t actually move there until ‘91. Back then, as I recall, the Convention Center was half the size of its current incarnation, yet managed to fit in a couple different conventions together with Comic-Con, which just goes to show how massive the event has become.
Claim: “The commercialization of Comic-Con began with its coverage of the first X-MEN movie in 2000.”
I’ve heard this claim made a lot. It’s true that the X-MEN coverage of ‘00 marked some kind of turning point in Comic-Con’s media profile (X-MEN was, remember, the film that put comic book movies on the map), but in fact the commercialization of Comic-Con began much earlier. How much earlier? I’d say 1988, when BATMAN, released the following year, was first unveiled to Con goers at the SD Convention and Performing Arts center. Many people claim its presence at Comic-Con was a primary component in BATMAN’S massive success, which explains why Hollywood has been so eager to use the Con as a promotional tool in the years since.
Claim: “Comic-Con will be moving to LA in 2012.”
This, obviously, is a claim you can place with the many other predictions made about the year 2012. Nonetheless, it’s something I heard repeated so often in the years leading up to ‘12 that it was a little disconcerting when the much-prophesized move didn’t actually happen. “Comic-Con is moving” claims continue to proliferate, but as far as I know there are no plans for it to leave San Diego—which is too bad, because at its current size the SD Convention Center is too damn small to properly contain it!