Every big event you go to has its own breed of bullshit small talk--the situational equivalent of discussing the weather. At most comic conventions, the topic of regular occurrence is about how tired everybody is. “Whoa, you look tired.” “Oh, I’m so tired.” At the San Diego Comic Con, the go-to commentary runs on some variant of “Oh, Comic Con’s gotten too big. Hollywood’s taken over it.” After a few years of being a perennial chewing-the-fat favorite, that talking point might have actually advanced a little after the New York Times’ report that several major studios won’t be exhibiting in the world-famous Hall H next month. Now, the discourse has apparently shifted to how this might be the first sign of the mainstream’s falling out with “geek culture.”
So people are upset when the studios are in Hall H, and they're upset when the studios are out of Hall H.
This will be my fourth year at SDCC. I’ve been going to cons all over the nation since 2004. This year, like the last one, I'm signing at shows in Chicago, New York, Long Beach and even Whiskey’s stomping ground of San Francisco. I find that most people who complain about any “media takeover” at Comic Con either don’t go to that many other conventions or are just commenting about it from an armchair without ever actually attending themselves.
Yes, you’ll walk past huge booth and banners for non-comics flicks like Tron and Skyline. Yes, there are panels about shows like Weeds that haven’t anything to do with comics in the slightest. Yes, the only announcements USA Today’s going to report on are coming out of panels for Sherlock Holmes 2 and Hunger Games. Yes, you might get boxed out of some panels because of Twilight squatters. Regardless, from my experience, the comic portion is still significantly bigger than any other show I’ve gone to. Seeing that might require some fans to actually just ignore things they aren’t interested in, though.
Does it irk me a little that you have a ton of people going to a show called Comic Con who wouldn’t ever touch a comic with a ten foot pole? Sure, it would if I weren’t too busy enjoying the insane amount of stuff there that doesn’t irk me. If such crowds are the price of such an overwhelming good time, then bring it on.
People gripe about SDCC's high attendance like they’d honestly prefer the alternative. I challenge anybody with such grievances to go a real, small show that doesn’t sell out every year. You’ll still have TV and movie stuff there anyway, of course, along with all the peace and quiet you could hope for (in between loud speaker announcements of record attendances that blatantly bely how numbers are clearly down from the last year.) Get a taste of how discouraging it is to be at a con where the turn-out’s so miniscule that you'll have all the room in the aisles you could want because nobody else is there walking with you. See what that's like for a weekend. After that, a comics convention that’s gainfully successful every year won't seem so terrible, no matter what the particulars were that made that success happen.
Maybe some lessons have been learned about the signal-to-noise ratio of promoting a flick to this particular audience. I was disappointed as anybody to see Scott Pilgrim perform so poorly a few weeks after Comic Con when the good vibes for it were just all-surrounding at SDCC. However, my experience at the show isn't significantly affected if there's a colossal, hotel-sized banner of Michael Cera there or not. And I sincerely doubt that there's any end in sight for the kind of big genre movies that Comic Con's so famously fostered --even if that's inevitably going to be a topic of idle discussion on the convention floor this year.