It just wasn’t fun anymore. Oh sure, I could go if I wanted to. I still count as an industry pro, I can get in for free. I just re-updated my pro-status for Wondercon back in March and that also counts for SDCC. I think I get in free to both conventions for the next 3 or 5 years now. I could be there right this second… I just don’t want to be.
I just got off the phone with a friend who is down there right now. He’s also a pro so he doesn’t have to pay for this mess, but he went today specifically because he didn’t want to fight the crowds. Too bad, there are no more days that aren’t crowded. Every day is Saturday now. I talked to some people who went down last night for Preview Night and said it was packed. I don’t miss not going a bit.
Comicon’s issue is that it’s too big for it’s own good. It’s outgrown it’s facility, it’s outgrown the city and it keeps trying to get bigger, but in doing so, it’s pissed off tons of people. There are a lot of eating establishments in the surrounding area who are now closing early on convention nights, just because the fans and the convention have been rude to them. You’d think that the city would love it, all that extra money rolling in for a week every year. The city increases in population by over 50%. However, it’s just not built for that. The streets aren’t wide enough to handle the traffic. There aren’t enough hotel rooms around the convention center. One of my friends this year, 14 minutes after hotel registration officially began, could not find a hotel room anywhere remotely close to the convention center for less than $350 a night. That’s 14 minutes. The hotels make out like bandits. They know they have a captive audience and can charge anything they want. They absolutely do raise their rates for Comicon every year.
The convention itself has seriously outgrown the San Diego convention center. The fire marshal has set an absolute upper limit around 130,000 people at the convention at any one time. The con used to sell out on Friday and Saturday pretty early on. This year, they sold out the entire convention, every single ticket they could sell for any day, in less than 10 minutes.
Why? Because SDCC has turned into a massive media con. All of the movie studios and the TV networks show up in force to promote their newest movies and TV shows. All of the video game companies, which once put their efforts toward E3, back when it was open to the public, now go to SDCC. Comics make up only a minuscule percentage of what goes on at SDCC, it’s all media driven.
I really don’t think that Comicon, as it stands now, is going to last that much longer. I give it another 4-5 years at most before the Hollywood elite, realizing that the geek crowd doesn’t mean as much as they thought it did, goes back to Hollywood and leaves the comic fans alone. That’s really been the growing trend, lots of big media companies are realizing that they’re spending a lot of money going to Comicon without much to show for it. Last year, Warner Bros., Disney, Dreamworks and Marvel all failed to show up. Who knows what’s going on this year but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear similar news. I think the worst problems with the media whoring is that shows that have nothing whatsoever to do with any of the various fandoms traditionally represented at Comicon are setting up tables. Twilight? I guess you could make something of a case for it, but Glee? Seriously?
While I really miss the SDCC that it used to be, I can’t say I regret skipping the convention that it’s become. We realized that by about mid-Friday, knowing what was coming on Saturday, we were always ready to throw in the towel and go home. We dreaded Saturday because it was so crowded, you couldn’t get into anything, you couldn’t see anything, you were just swept along in an endless torrent of human bodies. It stopped being fun so we stopped going. Now, we’ve had a good time going to Wondercon and one of these years, we’ll probably make the trek to Dragoncon. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Someone asked me what it would take to get me back to SDCC again. It’s quite simple. Once they leave San Diego and find a place much, much larger, I’ll go back. Or, as seems more likely the scenario now, once Hollywood tires of Comicon and the population drops into the 50-60k range again, I’ll go back. However, at current volume, in current location, there’s nothing they can do to get me through the doors. It’s a mess, a victim of it’s own success.