Comic-Con International: San Diego
This is my "Con Report" for the 2002 San Diego Comic Con. (Or Comic-Con International as they've taken to calling it the past few years. Henceforth it shall be referred to as "The Con".) My goal is to describe what it is like to go to The Con for those that haven't been able to attend and, in particular, to those thinking of attending in the future.
If you are interested in comic books or anything related, Comic-Con International is for you. While it is called a comic book convention it has grown into much, much more than that. Anime, science fiction and fantasy movies, video games, role playing games, trading card games and numerous other things are all at The Con. There is something for everyone, the hard part is finding it.
If you haven't read my standard Con Report Notes, you might want to.
The Annual Pilgrimage
I've been taking a week off from work every year for The Con for as long as I've been working. I missed the one back in 1994 because of work but that is the only one I've missed since I started going every year. Living in San Diego made it a lot easier but I've been able to make every year since I moved away but it has certainly changed the experience for me.
Since I'm not a big fan of traveling alone, I tend to go to The Con with a traveling companion. It is a lot more fun to experience The Con with someone else. An extra pair of eyes is always helpful while walking the exhibit hall floor. Back when I lived in San Diego, a friend from my college days flew out a few times for The Con. It was fun to hear his take on what he'd seen and who he'd talked to. Since it is completely impossible to see everything there is to see at The Con and it is growing every year, having someone to compare notes with at the end of the day is becoming more and more important for me. It is also convenient to have someone else walking the floor that knows what sort of things you are interested in and pointing out stuff you might have missed.
For me, the annual trip to The Con falls somewhere between an immersion into the fiction realm of the comic book universes and a research trip into the real world of the comic book industry. While there are a number of other comic book conventions, this is the one that comes closest to concentrating the entire comic book industry into one place for a few days each year. Just getting the "vibe" of the people in the exhibit hall each year can be a good way to judge how the comic book industry is doing from year to year. This year the mood on the floor seemed pretty good. There was no sign of the doom and gloom of some past years nor any inflated sense of salvation. Instead, people seemed generally content with how things were. I'm not sure what the attendance for The Con was this year but it seems to have exceeded all expectations.
What a Difference a Year Makes…
A lot has happened in the year since The Con last year. Some of it good. Some of it not so good. One of the major changes in my life since The Con last year was a somewhat major change in my diet as a result of some health issues. I was diagnosed with Celiec Disease which means that I'm am unable to eat anythign containing gluten or casien. And I mean that literally. It isn't that I shouldn't have but that my system can't digest it. While this might not sound like a big deal, it makes eating much more challenging when travelling. The problem seems to be with the fact that gluten is in wheat, oats, barley and rye (which elimiates just about all pasta bread products) and that casien is in milk (thereby eliminating all dairy products). And, just to make things a bit more interesting, gluten tends to hide in things like ketchup, soy sauce and many other places under a variety of names.
With my food restrictions in mind, I tried to select a traveling companion this year that would be understanding and perhaps even helpful when I pondered my limited options on the menu at meals. I managed to find someone with an even more severe version of the same food restrictions. That meant that I'd order after my companion and simply needed to master the phrase "I'll have the same thing". It seemed like a brilliant plan at the time.
Pre-Con and I'm Already Tired…
Some of my relatives from overseas came to visit the two weeks prior to The Con this year. Such a visit is somewhat rare due to the distances involved. This is the first time that they have some to visit me in my home town in about a decade. (Normally we see each other at another realative place.) I had a great time visiting with them but it made preparing for The Con much more of a challenge this year. I wound up spending most of the day with my relatives and then staying up late getting ready for The Con. The visit with my relatives ended the Sunday before The Con and I had to work both days between then and flying out on Wednesday morning.
One of the health issues that is a direct result of my food restrictions is that I tend to be extremely tired and lethergic if I've eaten something containing gluten or casien. (The sad thing is that it is the least unpleasant result of eating gluten or casien.) During the time my overseas relatives were in the country, I some how managed to eat a few meals that contained gluten. This compounded the long hours I was putting in getting ready for the convention and resulted in me starting the trip rather tired and worn out. Not a good situation. To make matters worse, my traveling companion was in about the same condition.
The Flight Out
At the airport and on the flight out, there were a few reminders of September 11, 2002. (Photo) Given how tired I was feeling, I just sat back and enjoyed the flight. Once we landed, we headed over to the hotel only to find that the room wouldn't be ready for a few hours. We had the hotel put our bags in storage and headed over to Horton Plaza for the first adventure in finding edible food.
Horton Paza has a number of fine places to eat and a number of them looked very tempting. Unfortunately, as much as I might like a cheeseburger I can't have one. (Well, technically I can but I'll suffer for it.) Things were looking somewhat bleak until we stopped the Mongolian BBQ place. Fortunately we were able to get them to clean the grill before cooking our food and to not use soy sauce. All in all, it was a good meal.
As we were finishing lunch, we got a call from an artist friend and arranged to meet him at the Ralph's grocery store where I was hoping to find some snack food to get me through the day at the convention center. We got there and searhed for gluten and casien free food while bringing our artist friend up to speed on what we could and couldn't eat.
From there we headed back to our hotel and were able to get our room. Once again we had a fairly good view of the convention center from our room. (Photo) We dug out the things we needed for Preview Night and headed over to the convention center to pick up our registration material.
Registration was handled a little bit differently this year. In past years, the badges were mailed out and you had to pick up badge holders. This year badges were not mailed out and you had to pick up both the badge and the badge holders. I have no idea why this change was made but it didn't really make any difference to us. The way the pro badges were sorted and handled at the registration booth also seemed different. Instead of having different lines for different parts of the alphabet, it seemed to be somehow arranged numerically and any line could help you out. All in all, it was well set up and seemed to run rather smoothly. Given how big The Con has gotten, this is a potential weak point that could cause serious problem if mishandled. I'm glad that the people running The Con had been able to do such a good job of keeping things working as the scale has grown.
We tried to get our media badges as well but that registration area (Photo) wasn't set up yet and wouldn't be until Preview Night started. This didn't make sense to me particularly since there were people at that registration area. I think that the problem might have been that they didn't have the database of media people that had registered but I'm not sure. Either way, it was a minor inconvenience and nothing more. The press packet contained a few things but little information that wasn't available on the website.
We hooked up with another artist friend and some other people that we knew. We were able to get exhibitor badge holders and therefore get into the exhibit hall before it actually opened. This is always one of the most interesting time to be on the floor of the exhibit hall. There is a buzz of activity as people are scrambling to get the booths set up and prepare of the onslaught on attendees. My general rule of thumb during these exhibitor only times is to stay out of people's way. The last thing exhibitors need is someone distracting them as they are trying to set up their booth.
The exhibitor only time is the best opportunity to get some photos that would otherwise be impossible to get. For example, you are never going to see Aisle 1700 practically empty during the normal exhibit hall hours. (Photo) Also, some of the booths are so big that I need to be pretty far away to get a picture of the entire booth. Getting a good photo of the entire DC booth without people between me and it during exhibit hall hours is impossible but is simple during the exhibitor only times. (Photo) (Getting a photo of the entire Marvel booth wasn't too difficult this year. (Photo) It also tends to be a good time to take some photos of the various new DC Direct action figures at the DC booth. (Link) My digital camera isn't the faster thing on the planet and it takes a few seconds between photos. It is nice to have a little time to take the photos without feeling like I'm in other people's way.
After taking some photos and looking around part of the exhibit hall, my traveling companion and I headed over to Artists Alley to figure out where our artist friends would be located this year. By this point, it was almost time for the exhibit hall to open and people were anxious to get in. (Photo) Within the span of two or three minutes, the hall when from practically empty to fairly full once the attendees were let in.
I learned a lot from doing the Con Report last year. One of the things I learned was that I needed to be much more organized this year in how I took my photos. I decided that this year I'd start at booth 1 and work my way up and down the aisles in a systematic manner and try to log the photos as I took them. So, off I went to booth 1 to start taking photos. Within a few booths, I noticed that things weren't exactly how I might have expected them to be. It seems that booths 6/7 and 8/9 had been switched for some reason. While that didn't really make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, it was going to make things a little more complicated for my Con Report.
I managed to make it down two aisles before getting a call from a writer friend and arranging to meet him in the lobby. My traveling companion and I talked with our writer friend for a bit until I got call from an old high school friend. Our writer friend had to head back to his hotel to continue writing. After talking for a bit with my old high school friend, we all headed back into the exhibit hall to wander around for the remained of Preview Night.
After the exhibit hall closed, my traveling companion and I went out to eat with our two artist friends and a friend that lives in San Diego. The artists had been warned via email that eating out would be something of an adventure and they seemed up to the challenge. My traveling companion had done some research on the web and by email to figure out what places in the Gaslamp district were likely to have gluten and casien free food. The two options that we knew would have safe food were Dick's Last Resort and Moose McGillycuddy's. We headed to Dick's Last Resort and it was way too loud for us to hold a conversation over dinner so we moved on to Moose McGillycuddy's. Unfortunately there was a huge line at Moose McGillycuddy's and at least a thirty minute wait to get seated. We decided to go to the Hock Rock Café next to Horton Plaza.
Monday morning was spent packing things up and getting ready to leave town. We headed to the airport and took a flight home.