Comic Fodder

The Comicon 2007 Experience

"Ever been to the San Diego Comicon?"

Somebody asked me that fateful question one day in 2003, and it started an annual vacation tradition that calls for Yours Truly to go from 105 degree Las Vegas summer to 85 degree San Diego, and smile while others around me complain about how hot it is.

At 123,000 people, the Comicon sold out every day. With the contract for the San Diego Convention Center running out in a few years, I heard a rumor that there was a proposal to expand the center by adding one more floor on top. I figure it's either that, or add floating convention space out into the harbor. The word is that selling out so fast hurt comic sales, as a lot of people did their shopping the previous three days, and there wasn't a whole lot of new foot traffic for Saturday. There were a ton of good deals for those willing to rifle through long boxes, though, as I scored several 20-cent comics for five bucks or less, as well as a bunch of more modern comics for 99 cents. This was a good event for filling in the holes in my collection.

This year brought a major change in programming: Paramount did a panel of their upcoming movies on the first day of the Con. A lot of people are used to the way things always go, and did not even bother to look at their programming guide, figuring the big stuff would be coming later. There was some doubt that they would be able to fill up the room, but there were 6,000 of us at least, and it means that Day One next year will have some major programming. Sneak peeks included Beowulf, the Spiderwick Chronicles, Stardust, Hot Rod, an the announcement that Leonard Nimoy would be playing Spock one last time, along with Zachary Quinto, in the next Star Trek film.

A video feed showed us the director and cast of the next Indiana Jones movie, but the whole feed was shown just a few minutes later in the G4 channel, so I'm not sure what good a "Comicon exclusive" does any more, since the rest of the world finds out five minutes later. The true scene-stealer was the first preview of Iron Man, with a surprise appearance by director Favreau. Made for Comicon viewers only, some idiots have already tried posting it on the web, and Paramount is trying to find them and smash them as quickly as they are posted. The bottom line though, is Iron Man looks excellent, and should do Spider-Man proportions when it hits the big screens next year.

This year was bittersweet, as it marked the official end of a hidden gem of the Con: the final Annual Big 5 War Collectors Group dinner and auction. Started many years ago by Chris Pedrin and coordinated after that by Mick Rabin, writers and artists who worked on DC's five war books gathered with fans for a nice dinner. Take your favorite actor or musician of all time and imagine yourself sitting across from him or her, eating dinner and making small talk. Does the mere thought make you drool? This is what it was like for fans of the war comics genre. We were also able to bid on donated art, the proceeds of which went to pay the way for the special guests to come to the next year's dinner. Many of these guys could not afford the expense on their own. Nothing is more fun than watching some of the guests see a piece of art they like from a fellow artist, and start a bidding war with a fan to get their hands on it!

Mainstays of the group included Ric Estrada, Sam Glanzman, Russ Heath, George Pratt, and Thomas Yeates. As much fun as it was for us fans, we found out that a lot of the old guard appreciated it just as much. Many had never been to a convention before this dinner started; they had realized that people bought the books, but they had never before had this kind of interaction with the fans. While today's superstar artist might get a big head and consider all the attention standard fare, these guys all expressed amazement and humble gratitude that there were so many of us who appreciated their work and remained fans. Most of them are into their elder years, and can only travel with great difficulty, so the time for these gatherings has reached an end, but only after many fond memories.

If you want to go to the Con, planning should start approximately a year ahead of time. Here are some tips:
1) Book a nearby hotel as soon as humanly possible. It is impossible to stress this too much.
2) Bring as much cash as you can. They have ATMs, but the fees are a killer, so avoid it whenever possible. Some booths cannot accept credit, and almost nobody accepts a personal check these days. Many of those who do accept credit have to charge a tax of 8%, so cash avoids that cost as well.
3) Read the event guide thoroughly. There are so many things going on, you will have to pick and choose which events you want to witness. For example, I went to a still-relatively-hidden gem on Saturday called the Quick Draw. Sort of like Whose Line Is It, but with host Mark Evanier shouting out implausible things for the artists to draw as quickly as they can. There is usually a third or fourth artist, but the mainstays are Sergio Aragones and Scott Shaw, and they are always quick, amusing, and entertaining. Okay, but after that, I went to the Heroes panel, scheduled to start at 12:45. I went straight from the Quick Draw to the other hall, where, forty minutes before they even let people into the room, officials were closing down the waiting line, because toO many thousands were already lined up, waiting. You're going to have to pick and choose, folks.
4) Bring a backpack or carry-case. The bag they hand you is not good for carting around all week, and can snap if you fill it with too much. Trust me on that one!
5) Bring an extra, empty satchel or suitcase in your luggage if you want to buy things. For comic lovers like me, buying one or two hundred comics is not out of the question. If you pack with only enough room to carry the stuff you brought in for the week, you'll have to visit a store and get something else to carry your bounty onto the airplane. They have shipping at the Con, so you won't have to worry about the luggage handlers at the airport bending your new art.
6) If you don't care about the panels and don't need many more comics, bring your camera. Between the fans who dress up and the impressive displays from the companies, you'll have hundreds of great pictures to show everybody else who couldn't come.

My personal score for this year? The three finalists from last year's Sci-fi hit show, Who Wants to be a Superhero? were there, and I took a picture with all three of them and got their autographs. Got a favorite moment from this year's convention? Share it with us by posting below.

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Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

Travis,

Great advice and information that I hope to put to good use attending next year's Comic-Con.

Jeff Wetherington
The Comic Guide at Athena Guides
http://comics.athenaguides.com/

-- Posted by: Jeff Wetherington at July 31, 2007 11:38 AM