San Diego 2011 wrap-up

Comics, Events, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
The floor of the convention center on Thursday, July 21, 2011, one of the slower days of the San Diego Comic-Con.

Another year, another San Diego Comic Con survived.  The con is definitely showing signs of straining having outgrown the San Diego Convention Center’s ability to house it. Even with several events being held off-site, many lines were longer than ever and attendees weren’t shy about telling organizers and security staff what they thought of that. Even with these faults, as always, SDCC was an absolute blast and more fun than anyone should be allowed to have in four-an-a-half days. The craziness  cranked up Wednesday for preview night and didn’t stop until the halls closed Sunday and brought an end to this year’s con. The convention floor was packed from end to end with everything a comic, sci-fi, fantasy, movie or any other type of geek could wish for.

Interestingly enough, this year was notable not only for what was at the con, but what wasn’t as well. For the past several years, the convention center’s biggest showcase, Hall H has hosted previews of upcoming blockbusters, but Hollywood’s presence was much reduced this year. There were still several large panels including a Twilight panel, one from 20th Century Fox, one featuring Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tin-Tin,” as well as one with Francis Ford Coppola. But despite these big names, the Hall H line-up paled in comparison to previous years. Some have theorized that the film industry has learned its lesson after being burned on several lavish publicity campaigns last year, including Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World,  that failed to result in box office gold.

Whatever the reason, the lack of panels focused on A-list flicks didn’t deter the crowds at all. If anything, Hall H’s sub-par offerings spread the crowds out into many other rooms (which was floated as another theory as to the con’s odd programming decisions), seeking smaller, but no less enticing distractions. Television seemed to pick up the lion’s share of the con-goers. Some of the popular TV panels in the smaller rooms had wait times of several hours to get in. The biggest of these was Thursday’s Game of Thrones panel. Despite being held in one of the larger rooms, hundreds, if not thousands of fans, were turned away after hours of waiting to get in. Many people grumbled about the choice to hold the panel in the smaller Ballroom 20 instead of Hall H, especially after Friday’s The Walking Dead panel ran into many of the same issues. Despite the lines and disappointment, this year proved that Comic-Con’s fan-base doesn’t need movies to come out in force.

The original focus of the con, comic books, weren’t forgotten either. Both Marvel and DC had redesigned booths on the show floor. Marvel’s booth featured a mock-up of spy-agency SHIELD’s offices in front of an Avengers marquee. DC had a raised stage which hosted live drawing demonstrations from many big-name artists over the course of the show. Both became immediate landmarks/traffic jams on the floor. If the booths, themselves weren’t enough, the freebies that were distributed from them assured them of a constant gathered crowd. The hottest items at the show were a set of poker chips from the Wayne Casino. (In DC’s current Flashpoint storyline, Thomas Wayne runs a casino in Gotham.) People prowled the DC booth for hours, hoping for score a coveted chip. To make matters worse for would-be collectors, a different chip was distributed everyday with a fifth chip only give out to selected individuals at DC panels over the course of the con.

Speaking of comic panels, there were no shortage of those either. DC lead the way with numerous panels devoted to talking about the company’s upcoming relaunch, which will replace all current superhero titles with 52 new ones, featuring both new and old heroes and villains. There has been much confusion among fans about this and DC made it their mission to calm as many fears and answer as many questions as possible. By the final panel on Sunday, they seemed to have succeeded for the most part.  Despite being taken to task by several readers about the lack of racial and gender diversity in the new titles, most of the audience seemed interested and willing to give the company a chance.

All and all, it was another strong year for the San Diego Comic-Con. Despite the con’s surging growth, profile and cost to attend, fans have yet to reach their breaking point. Judging by the masses of people lined up to pre-register for next year, including many who showed up as early as 1 a.m. to line-up, next year’s con is already well on its way to success as well.

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