Monday, August 04, 2008

Steve's Comic-Con Contemplation: Part Three

To read Part Two of my Comic-Con report, click here.
To go back to Part One, click here.

Like most comics professionals, I have mixed feelings about the San Diego Comic-Con. I feel inexorably drawn to it each summer, as though to not go would be a huge blunder. As if I might miss out on that golden schmoozing opportunity that will propel my career to the next level.

On one hand, it seems like every year is exactly the same, and I wonder what the point is. On the other hand, the Con (and the city of San Diego, itself) just keeps growing and becoming more stimulating.

It is simultaneously irritating and exciting how comics have become more of an accepted part of the mainstream entertainment media. Irritating because it really feels like Hollywood and the toy companies have taken over Comic-Con completely (where are the comics?!?), exciting for the possibilities all that implies. Somebody is spending money on this stuff.

This year, Don and I stayed at the brand-new Hard Rock Hotel, right across from the convention center.

It’s a very cool hotel, with a hip, modern d├ęcor, and they give you your choice of music to be played in your room upon arrival. They also have some nice restaurants & clubs to hang out in. This is my segue into a mini-rant:

Part of the “Hollywoodization” of Comic-Con is that now San Diego is flooded with “industry” types and even some movie stars. That means that there are cooler, more exclusive parties going on. As it happened, on Friday night there were a couple such parties happening at the Hard Rock. The William Morris Agency took over the bar by the pool, and someone else took over the “Sweetwater Saloon” downstairs after 6PM. That meant that we were kicked out before that and were then, unable to use any of the facilities. Now, I think this is kind of outrageous, seeing as Don and I were paying guests of the hotel. I feel bad for any guests who happened to be there who were not affiliated with Comic-Con at all. They must have been pissed.

I probably wouldn’t have minded—if only I’d been invited to the William Morris party! End of rant.

The first year I attended Comic-Con was in 1987. Boy, have things changed. Back then, there was no giant convention center, the con was held at the little ol’ Civic Center. There were almost none of the high-rise buildings over the skyline. Downtown was full of pawnshops, bail bonds offices & tattoo parlors. The Gas Lamp District was a slum.

Today there is a lot more to do: better nightlife, better restaurants. And the streets are safer. But, there were things about the old Comic-Con that I miss. Especially the expense account dinners! Back in the 80s and early 90s, the Marvel & DC editors were pretty liberal with their expense accounts. Probably why Marvel had to file for bankruptcy! Yes, those were the days! It was easy for me to find a good, free meal! It happens rarely now. There were fewer parties back then also, so it was easier to find out where you were “supposed” to be each night!

We also used to go en-masse to the beaches at Coronado or La Jolla, or go Jet-Skiing with Jim Lee. That was fun. Or a bunch of us would take the trolley down to Tijuana for cheap beer. I don’t really feel like doing that anymore, but it was a cool diversion when I was an under-aged 19 or 20!

Yes, that's me.

Marcus McLaurin, Me (with the hair), Tom Morgan

Klaus Janson (washboard abs, anyone?)

Sara (Tuchinsky) Kocher

Sorry, no pictures of TJ. Today, it’s all more difficult, more expensive and more confusing. That is, unless you are Jim Lee. Then, you probably still get your meals comped and know where all the cool parties are.

You see? advantages & disadvantages.

In recent years, I’ve attended smaller conventions to promote my comics, and I’m reminded how the Comic-Con once was (only without the expense account dinners!). In some ways, these little conventions feel like a huge step backwards. But, it must be said that the fans in the smaller conventions are more enthusiastic about the comics. And when the convention is held in a city farther away from New York & LA, the fans are more appreciative that you’ve made the effort to show up. In San Diego there’s too much other stuff to draw people’s attention. If people are lining up for the Heroes panel for hours, or to get free Star Trek posters, then they aren’t browsing the comics. There is something to be said for the smaller conventions.

Of course, at the smaller cons, you won’t get to see this…

Katee Sackhoff

…Then again, neither did I! I didn’t even attempt to get in to the Battlestar Galactica panel. Luckily, you can see the whole thing online here. It’s pretty cool. I just wish Kevin Smith would realize that it’s unnecessary to drop an “f-bomb” every other sentence. Hey Kev, do the words “family entertainment” mean anything to you at all, or are you just 12 years old?

By the way, that reminds me, if you’ve been attending Comic-Con for a while, have you noticed that there are fewer porn stars exhibiting lately? That’s a relief. I always thought that if those porn-industry people want to exhibit at Comic-Con, they should set up a whole “Red Light District,” that only adults would be allowed to enter. Ghettoizing the so-called “adult” exhibitors needn’t be a negative thing. They could really play it up with red lights, stripper-poles, dry ice & stuff. They could include all the guys who sell leather bondage crap & “mature” art. You know, make it something really special! Most importantly, keep it segregated from the kids and let Comic-Con be family-friendly, as it ought to be. If only I was King of the Universe...

I’m all over the place, so this is a good time to stop and say: To be Concluded!

For Part Four of my Comic-Con report, click here


Don Hudson said...

Just a few comments... The con has too much money flowing thru it's veins. I forgot how cute Sara was then and you have some excellent comicbook credentials! I wish the place was not so exclusive now.

Steve Buccellato said...

I think she looks the same, Don. But then--so do YOU!!!! What up with that?

Sara Kocher said...

Don, are you past-tensing me? Oh, that's fightin' grammar, that is!

Steve, back in the day, Don and I had a really special sketch done at the Con. It looked pretty damn good then, but not so much now. Sorry you were down in Tijuana partying with Jim Lee at the time...

SDCC sure has changed, and so has the city. I keep thinking I'd like to drop in and see the show now, almost 20 years later. Maybe next year?

Steve Buccellato said...

Actually, Sara, the Jet-skiing was with Jim Lee. I don't have any pictures of him though, so you and Klaus's abs will have to suffice! :)

My most memorable TJ trip included Lou Bank, Fabian Nicieza (I think), and maybe...Mike Rockwitz? Does anyone else remember this phrase, "how much is this fine monkey upon a surf board?"

Lou Bank said...

I remember asking the question about a thousand times, but have no recollection of the answer whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to read your "family entertainment" comment. Sadly, I think many comic conventions--and comics, too--have forgotten that. Or just flat don't care.