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The 5 Best and Worst Things from San Diego Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con InternationalNow that I’ve had a few days to flip through all the photos, re-read my notes and digest the whirlwind that was the San Diego Comic-Con this year, I think I’m ready to make a list of the best things from this year’s con.

1) Comic book news: Without the gigantic movie panels this year, genuine comic book news wasn’t constantly overshadowed. There was plenty of it to be had as well. The biggest announcements for me were that DC’s awesome Fables series will be getting a spin-off. The book entitled, The Fairest, will focus on the adventures of some of the female cast members.The series begins with an arc about Sleeping Beauty, who has been snoozing away for about 30-issues now, I think. The only item to outstrip that was the news that Brian K. Vaughan will be returning to comics. The award-winning writer of Runaways, Y the Last Man, Pride of Baghdad has been absent from comics since his creator-owned series Ex Machina wrapped up last year. BKV will be coming out with a series from Image comics called, Saga.

2) The Walking Dead board game: The first thing I did when the doors opened on preview night was to head directly to the Image/Skybound booth to pick up the new Walking Dead board game. The game won’t be widely released until the fall, but there were an extremely limited number of copies of the game available for sale each day. Luckily, I managed to snag a copy. I haven’t had the chance to play it yet, but it looks like a heck of a lot of fun. My only complaint so far is the lack of Michonne as a character. They seem to be going with characters from earlier in the series. Still, Michonne is the best out of the entire cast and I had high hopes to play as her.

3) Kids: It’s easy as a long-time comic book fan to get jaded. We’ve seen it all before and it can be tough to reach us. But one glimpse of the joy on a child’s face as he sees a Batman-costume is enough bring a smile to all but the stoniest-hearted fanboys. It’s great to see the convention doing so much to become kid-friendlier. Comics are a struggling industry and they need to reach out to everyone, but especially the youth of today since they’re going to be the fans of tomorrow. If a love of comics can be instilled early, they may become readers for life. It worked on me!

4) Artists’ Alley: The section of the floor reserved for artists, both famed and unknown, was never busier. It’s a great place to get sketches from prominent artists and meet up-and-comers at the same time. I kept going back there to chat with various artists and check out their wares. Well, that and to drool over a page of Jamal Ingle’s original art from the recent Static Shock Special comic. So very sweet, but also so very expensive….

5) Tr!ckster: The new gallery/bar/music venue right across the street from the convention center was the place to be this year. They offered everything from signed art to exclusive prints to small-scale instructional symposiums with big name creators. There were also numerous creators found just hanging around in the evenings. I bumped into one of my favorite writers/artists, Matt Wagner, having a drink there. Despite a few flaws in the execution (what was up with closing the art shop section early Saturday night?), I was very surprised to see such an impressive showing from them in their first year. I can’t wait to see what they do next time around.

And now for the not so good things…

1) Lines: This is nothing new, but the scale of things this year was worse than ever. It used to be there were only a few panels that were difficult to get into. These were usually the highest profile ones and held in the largest rooms. The problem was much more widespread this year. Many fans waited more than three hours in the sun only to find themselves shut out of the Game of Thrones panel or the Walking Dead panel. For some reason, several of the convention’s most popular panels weren’t held in the largest room, which resulted in many disappointed fans. This may simply be another symptom of SDCC outgrowing the convention hall’s capacity. If that’s the case, it’s going to be a rough few years until the proposed expansion of the convention center is completed.

2) Passes for next year: Badges for the 2012 SDCC were on sale this year, but were in limited supply each day to prevent them from selling out. This prompted people to begin lining up at the registration area in the Hyatt as early as 1 a.m. in order to secure their spot for next year. Many people were forced to miss time at the this year’s con, so they could try and obtain passes for next year, which is not a choice attendees should be forced to make. But after the series of spectacular failures that marked online ticket sales this year, people were desperate to avoid purchasing them online again. Even those lucky enough to purchase passes found out that prices for a four-day pass with preview night found that prices had been raised by $70 to $175. Prices have been steadily increasing over the past few years, but a 60% price hike in one year is a bitter pill to swallow for fans.

3) Security: The security officers at the convention are necessary and usually they’re fairly unobtrusive. But this year they were particularly ill-tempered. A friend of mine was not only refused admittance, but she actually had her badge taken from her by the security, who refused to return it unless she showed them her ID. I don’t think it’s their job to harass paying customers that are just there to have a good time.

4) Diversity: DC was trying to put its best foot forward during the con while showcasing the slate of 52 new titles set to launch in September. They did a solid job of calming the fears of fans and answering questions, with one sizable exception. DC was asked several times during their various panels about the perceived lack of diversity at DC, both on the creative side and in the characters themselves. It almost became an ongoing theme at the DC panels due to the efforts of one persistent fan dressed as Batgirl. However, she was not alone, as I saw multiple variations of the question asked in the final DC panel I attended on Sunday. The company continued to not have an answer for this question, which isn’t new. They tried dismissing the question or laughing it off (Grant Morrison suggested he would look great in a dress). By Sunday, DC’s co-publisher Dan Dido seemed sick of hearing it, simply saying that he stood by DC’s efforts and asking if competitor Marvel was facing the same questions. I applaud this young lady and all of those who tried to put some pressure on DC to step up. While Dido is correct that it’s an industry-wide problem, not exclusive to DC. They’ve said that this relaunch is designed to try and attract new readers and I think a great way of expanding their audience would be expanding the diversity of both their heroes and creative staff. Unfortunately, DC doesn’t seem to agree.

And the absolute worst thing about the San Diego Comic-Con? 5) There’re still 350 days until I get to do it again…

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