A convention is a kind of assembly of people who share the same or similar interests. When we speak of Comic-Con we must also include the smaller scale events, which resemble a sort of garage sale. During these fans gather and sell their own comics or they trade with others. In this paper, however, the focus will be on the larger version of this tradition. The comic convention in question was never only for comic book fans. As stated on the official website, “the founders of the show set out to include not only the comic books they loved, but also other aspects of the popular arts that they enjoyed and felt deserved wider recognition, including films and science fiction/fantasy literature.” (“Comic-Con International: San Diego”). And since then several panels have been welcome that celebrate not just artists, but writers, directors and actors as well from all around the world.
In this paper the author will further analyze the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con. In 2012 the convention was held from Thursday, July 12 to Sunday, July 15. In this year there were 600 separate events. These included panels that featured new releases and even workshops as well as conferences on the arts of comics. They presented films, anime and even games. There was a costume competition for cosplayers; an autograph area and finally a Portfolio Review corner, where young artists could showcase their works for the biggest publishers.
The reason behind choosing this year is the fact that there was an array of very interesting panels listed in that year’s event that caused a bit of controversy. As mentioned before, movies are also a huge part of the convention. This tradition begun when comic based movies started to gain popularity in the beginnings of the 2000s. To be precise, exactly in 2000 the first installment of the original X-Men series appeared and it was well received by the public. And five years later the first real crowd pleasing DC live-action film followed: Batman Begins (2005). The bar was then set pretty high and movies were able to not only make it big, but sometimes even exceed expectations.
As these movies managed to reach a bigger and a different audience as well, the convention started to grow. As it turned out it can be used for advertising and kick-off campaigns. In the San Diego convention, Hall H is known for receiving the biggest crowd as well as the most sensational panel available each year. Among the honorary mentions we have the Avengers panel, starring the whole cast in 2010. Its success was followed by last year’s Batman vs. Superman panel, headed by director Zack Snyder.
In 2012 panels included such comic based movies as Iron Man 3 (2013), and Man of Steel (2013). The participants could also view a panel on Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) and Guillermo Del Toro’s sci-fi world in Pacific Rim (2013). Perhaps one may raise an eyebrow when they hear that really simple action movies were featured as well. Some interesting choices include The Expendables 2 (2012), A Good Day To Die Hard (2013) and a completely independent movie like Life of Pi (2012). Again, the debate over what the convention should be about can no longer be ignored. Most forums will argue that Hollywood is taking over and the essence of this event has been lost.
Another major complaint has arrived based on the length of the panels. They last about 30 minutes. In comparison to the sometime eight hour, 30 minutes is not at all satisfying. It is clear that the magnitude of the convention disrupts the pleasure of the fans. Here, getting back to the movie panels, there has been some argument over which movies should appear. Again in 2012 a panel for the last installment of the Twilight saga was presented and had left a bad after taste. A generally teen related movie series was found to be out of place by many, but the aim of the convention has always been to bring in fans of fantasy literature as well. Despite the outrage of some attendees, this panel in particular was not so out of place, because it was a movie adaptation of a well-received fantasy novel.
The argument can go on in the background, while focus shifts onto the essential problem, that is: Getting into these panels is nearly impossible. While some complain about the panel itself, others will complain for having missed out. In a blog entry posted this January on Epic Geekdom, the writer explains the pain of missing out on other panels due to the lines outside each hall. He says, “The lines are crazy, and it has become the norm to camp out overnight outside the convention center in order to get a seat in a hall. The day gets wasted. We camped out for Hall H 2 years ago at 5am out in the cold.” He continues, “it was nice conversing with folks but I missed about 4 other panels throughout the day and when we got to the front of the line, at about 3pm (right before our 4pm panel) we were turned away. We didn’t even get to go in.” (RM Peavy.)
The system is very faulty. That year is memorable because a young girl died trying to keep her place at the panel for Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012). An article by The Wire explained the situation, “Fans said the convention center staff was about to switch the line, so the beginning became the end, and that she was running to keeping her place in line.” (Simpson). The girl crossed the road at a red light to make sure she saw her favorites and it ended her life. As previously mentioned, the wait is the major issue with the panels. Each year forums fill up with angry attendees that feel as if their time was wasted.
Perhaps it is too easy to blame Hollywood. Moving from movies to TV shows, the array of options is endless. “The movie panels at Comic-Con 2012 have been overshadowed by the sheer number of television shows in attendance. With Warner Bros. Television alone bringing 14 of their series to San Diego, chances are that your favorite series will be represented – and will be revealing information about their upcoming seasons” (Ocasio). Each year at least twenty new shows debut in the fall season. The movie industry is not alone in gaining profit from the popularity of the convention. In 2012 in particular two shows started that did need panels. One was Arrow (2012-), based on the popular DC character Green Arrow. As a matter of fact, major comic book publisher DC invests more in television series, than it does in movies. Therefore it is logical that these receive a spot on the panel list.
The other shows were a science-fiction series entitled Revolution (2012-2014); and from the fantasy department, the famous Game Of Thrones (2011-) returned with a panel in Hall H. These fall into the mentioned categories of fandoms that the convention focuses on. But some unconventional choices appeared as well, among them the Big Bang Theory (2007-), Glee (2009) and last but not least Bones (2005-). There are arguments to be made on both sides, what is essential is that the lines of which fans the convention actually wants to appeal to have been blurred. These in no way adhere to the original concept that the event started with back in 1970: a small gathering for fans.
But spectrums change. The world of the geek has expanded. No longer is it embarrassing to know more about the U.S.S. Enterprise, than the Second World War. Over the past years another phenomenon added to the experience of Comic-Con which is known as cosplaying. This word appeared in the paper several times and it is time to explain it. The word is a shortened version for ‘costume-play’ and it is so recent that several dictionaries don’t even feature it. The idea is that of recreating the clothes and the accessories of a fictional character and bringing them to life. This fan obsession brings people together; so much that contests for best cosplays are now organized at almost every Comic-Con. Players bring to life characters from games, mangas, and movie adaptations as well as comic book characters. Some of these costumes are so precise that producers have offered jobs to some designers in upcoming projects. Just to draw a comparison, actor Harrison Ford revealed that his reason for never attending Comic-Con prior to 2011 was, quote “I'm not going to where people dress up as Princess Leia”. The slave outfit from Episode VI has been a crowd favorite for many years now. And along with it one can encounter at least a dozen Darth Vaders and all of his storm troopers scattered around the convention center.
It has to be mentioned that the magnitude of the convention brought on more Cons around the country, and the world as well. There is a website dedicated to listing all the upcoming conventions and the state where they will be held. The site is known as Upcomingcons.com and they invite readers to help them if they missed any. They list not just the big, but the smaller cons as well. The site description says “UpcomingCons is committed to providing the most updated comic con list anywhere. We try to list every convention we find, and we would appreciate it if you would add a con that we don't have.” The others that resemble the magnitude of the San Diego event include Emerald City Comicon in Seattle (WA), Big Apple Comic Con in New York City (NY) and Megacon in Orlando (FL). These events occur every year, but the San Diego being the first of its kind, and now the biggest of its kind, it is also the single one that everyone wants to attend.
The reader must be wondering how one can go to one of these cons and what kind of budget they should count with. The San Diego Comic-Con has a precise system set up for attendees. The convention does not sell tickets, but badges. These are physical badges that one needs to wear at all times while attending. The official website highlights that “although we strive to make attending our show as easy as possible, obtaining a Comic-Con badge can require the persistence of Superman, the patience of a Watcher, the ingenuity of Tony Stark, and the readiness of Batman. We strongly recommend that you read each section related to attending Comic-Con so that you don't miss any important deadlines for registration.” (“Attending The Show”). One can register and then get their hands on the badges during the open online-registration. These badges are quite hard to get. In previous years they held re-sales for badges that weren’t claimed, but in 2014 this is unlikely. On the website the badges for the 2015 convention are already being advertised.
The price for the badge varies based on the day you wish to attend. There is a preview night, before the convention kicks off which costs $35. Each of the three days costs $45, and the final day still adds and extra $30. Without counting lodging and travel for most of the attendees from outside California, one is looking at $200 just to attend. Not mentioning how much one spends on additional purchases, from comic books to food, it is clear that Comic-Con is not a cheap adventure. One may decide to buy a badge just for one day, but most of the bigger panels are counted as top secret and you have to wait to see what is inside. If one chooses the wrong day out of the 3 they might be even more disappointed than the ones who are willing to wait 8 hours and later not get into the panel. The last day is really a wrap-up and no new panels are revealed, and still the ticket is not even half-off.
It is not fair, however, to draw the conclusion that Comic-Con has sold out and that the fans are not important anymore. In 2011 Morgan Spurlock directed a documentary at the San Diego convention entitled Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope. The movie focuses on two wanna-be artists, a cosplayer, a figurine collector and a comic-book vendor. The latter has a business that was doing quite badly, but he had a chance to make up for some losses with the comics sold at the convention. The cosplayer participated in a competition which she and her team won with their costumes inspired by the gaming world of Mass Effect (2007). One of the wanna-be artists actually received a job with a comic book company that gave him a chance to get his name out there. And the figurine collector raced to get a rare 12 inch edition of Marvel’s Galactus. Once he did, he enjoyed the rest of Comic-Con with a bright smile on his face. Aside from the everyday geek, the movie also features interviews with big names, such as Stan Lee, Kevin Smith and Joss Whedon. The movie makes sure that the viewer experiences the pure magic that comes with being a part of this world.
In conclusion, it seems that the magic is not lost. The convention tries to please a wider audience and it can be argued whether or not it succeeds in it. The panels include conferences of Comics Arts, new releases of comics, literature, and movies. Since it is on a larger scale, it makes sense that they want more of everything. The list of panels has and will always be a point of discussion among attendees and critics alike. Despite that, the idea of trying to bring favorites from all around the world to visit the fans cannot be considered a bad idea. The lines are the expenses are quite outrages and it is very hard to enjoy yourself if you wish to attend a panel in Hall H, as most of your day will pass in front of your eyes without having done anything. Still, in spite of the costs and the obvious downsides that come with it, not only the author of the paper, but many others still dream of making it to Comic-Con one day. The dream of the 100,000 who will attend this year is just a couple of months away from becoming a reality and others are not far behind.
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- D'Souze, Karen. "Comic-Con 2013: Has Comic-Con sold its soul to Hollywood?". San Jose Mercury News. Web. 21 Jul. 2013. <http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_23704711/comic-con-2013-has-comic-con-sold-its>
- Ford, Harrison. Interview by Conan O'Brien. Conan. Team Coco, 2010. Web. 02 Aug. 2011. <http://teamcoco.com/video/harrison-ford-interview-pt-2-08-01-11>
- Goldberg, Matt. "Comic-Con Guide for First-Time Attendees". Collider. Web. nd. <http://collider.com/comic-con-guide/>
- Kofi Outlaw. "Comic-Con 2012 Movie Preview: ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Iron Man 3′, ‘The Hobbit’ & More". Screen Rant, 2013. Web. 14 Feb. 2014. <http://screenrant.com/comic-con-2012-movie-preview-kofi-179742/>
- Mroczkowski, Jim. "Is Comic-Con Becoming A Nightmare?" iFanboy. Web. 01 Jul. 2013 <http://ifanboy.com/articles/is-comic-con-becoming-a-nightmare/>
- Ocasio, Anthony. "Comic-Con 2012 TV Panels: The Complete List". Screen Rant. Web. 19 July 2013. <http://screenrant.com/comiccon-2012-tv-panels-schedule-list-aco-178113/y>
- RM Peavy. "It’s Not You, It’s Me –The Comic-Con Break Up". Epic Geekdom. Web. 29 Jan. 2014. <http://www.epicgeekdom.com/2014/01/29/its-not-you-its-me-the-comic-con-break-up/>
- Simpson, Connor. "Camping Comic-Con 'Twilight' Fan Dies Trying to Keep Her Place in Line." The Wire. Web. 10 Jul, 2012. <http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2012/07/camping-comic-con-twilight-fan-dies-trying-keep-her-place-line/54415/>
- Spurlock, Morgan, dir. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope. Mutant Enemy, 2011. Film.