Where were we?
Oh, that’s right. Waiting in line to cross the street just to get in to San Diego Comic Con.
The beautiful thing about the Con being so big though is that no matter where you go in a one mile radius there are people in costume, or people advertising something. Even God sends reps to San Diego Comic Con. Just across the street, exactly where we were standing on that first day, the Bible Brigade had their placards and banners. Nothing too original obviously just your usual ‘Repent and Be Saved’ or ‘He gave his life for us’ type thing. They were there for the whole five days but I never did find out why. Not too sure how offensive Superman is in terms of Christianity. Someone later suggested to me that it was nothing to do with that. Churches are businesses in America and just like any other business they need the PR.
In which case they need to get a better PR company. I could have come up with better and more apt slogans inside five minutes but there wasn’t a ‘Jesus: The Origin of Superpowers’ to be seen.
Actually I liked it better the next day when the counter banners came out and the geeks arrived with cardboard, hand-written placards saying things like:
‘Kneel before Zod’ or ‘Galactus is nigh’ and my favourite
‘Keep Calm and Cthulhu Fthagn’
Ah well. Can’t stand around all day debating the existence of your deities. The line was moving and it was time to hit the Con itself.
Which is vast. I’m sure there’s another Douglas Adams quote I could be using but the comic con takes place in the San Diego Convention Center (American spelling there) and the ground floor alone is the size of 12 American football fields. This is where the New Gods are worshipped. You wander around in a daze for the first half hour – there is just so much to take in. The advertising is enormous, everything is enormous and it is all there for one reason and one reason only – Money, perhaps the oldest God of them all.
Bamboozled, we just milled around for a while. The amount of comics on offer was simply staggering. I even managed to clap eyes on the first issue of Superman. Torn and discoloured, sure, but still for sale. No price tag.
In a conversation with one of the stall holders we discovered that the smallest table at San Diego Comic Con, a space no larger than two passport photo booths joined together, costs in the region of $5,000 for the five days. That’s a lot of merchandise to shift before you start to make a dollar. To give the uninitiated a frame of reference we attend the biggest cons in the UK and we use the smallest space available. The same amount of space in this country would cost you £300. But of course you would have a tenth of the traffic.
#1 Don’t buy anything on the first day.
Friday is the official first day of the con. The dealers are there and all of their merchandise is there. At its highest price. No buying on Friday.
Saturday is the maddest day at the Con. The biggest crowd and the most merch sold. No one is going to be desperate to do a deal on Fantastic Four #17 on Saturday because they are busy and making money.
Sunday – If it’s something rare you are looking for this is your buying day. A dealer sitting with a gem might have had a bad Con or a good Con. If bad, then you might save yourself a small fortune. If good, then he would never have sold anything at the lower rate anyway. At no point ever assume you know more about comics than the guys selling them – you don’t.
As always it is a trade off. Come back on Sunday and it might be gone.
#2 Don’t blame me.
But the majority of visitors to the Con aren’t there to buy Fantastic Four #17. They are there because they love comics, or comic book movies or Sci-fi TV shows. The ground floor of the center is called the exhibitors hall and exhibitors are artists, or small publications or large TV companies but they are also the fans themselves. This is where the cosplay happens. You will bump into people, it’s too crowded to avoid doing that, but the people you bump into will be dressed as Iron Man, or Wonder Woman or…actually I couldn’t tell what half of them were dressed as – but Amy Pond is a big hit in the US.
Aside from the slave Leias (many of whom were male) the rule seems to be that a maximum amount of flesh be displayed when selling something. What these girls were selling I did not stop to discover…
But I’ll take two of whatever it is.
Of course there is your more ‘normal’ cosplay as well.
And no one pays these guys to do this. The opposite in fact. They take the time to dye their hair, paint their faces, source gimp masks and then they spend their own money to travel across the country, stay in a hotel etc. Why?
I’ll come to that. The exhibitors floor might be the size of 12 football fields but it isn’t even half of the Con. The main attraction takes place upstairs in the halls – the main hall being Hall H, which holds 6,500 people and is full from dawn to dusk.
Remember what I said about standing in line – and all that training at Newark airport?
#3 The training is nothing.
The Halls are where the panels are held. Robert Downey Jr will appear in one of the halls to show thirty seconds of Iron Man 3 footage and answer some questions. To get into that panel you are going to have to queue for 12 hours.
Newark airport is to Comic Con as paintballing is to actual war. The line for Hall H on Friday started on Wednesday.
Which is insane, I know. But the rules of Hall H don’t allow for anything else because once you are in, you are in. So if you want to see Robert Downey Jr at 4pm the only way you can make sure this happens is to be in the Twilight Panel at 9am and not move.
Let me say that again.
You can’t leave.
Not if you want to see your heroes in the flesh.
But when it all comes down to it – you don’t actually get to see your heroes in the flesh. Yes, technically you are in the same room but that room has its own postcode. 6,500 people.
If you want them to be recognizable you watch them on the screen and the irony of that is crushing.
The Twilight panel is on first for a reason, because their fans are so, well…fanatical. They would stay there all week and no one else would get to see anything since Hall H is never cleared. Once the panel is over you are given a ticket that entitles you to a ‘free gift’ and that is dispensed in a place called ‘The fulfilment Room’ which is half a mile away.
And are they fulfilled?
They seem to be but I can’t help thinking that the real fulfilment comes not from the panels, or buying comics, or toys. Yes, the thirty seconds of Superman footage might be exciting, but the true satisfaction comes from being there amongst your own. Unless you are on your way to a Halloween party there is no other place on earth where dressing up as The Joker and getting out the lipstick is perfectly acceptable, even normal.
If the Starship Enterprise got thrown back in time and they had to come down to Earth (which happens frequently) they could land in San Diego and no one would bat an eyelid. Not only would Leonard Nimoy not look out of place, he’d probably lose the Spock cosplay category.
#4 All alien invasions to commence in San Diego in June.… to be continued.