What exactly is Comic Con?

What exactly is Comic Con?

What exactly is Comic Con?

The quite simple answer to that question is, it is a place where people who love comic books go to meet other people who love comic books. They swap, buy and play “I’ll show you mine of you show me yours”. Kind of like a swinger’s party only with less extroverts and sex. At least that’s how it was originally conceived. These days it has taken on much more and a broader influence of pop culture in general.

Comic-Con is the common name for the San Diego Comic-Con International, which takes place on an annual basis in San Diego, California. Comic-Con is an increasingly popular convention, which is aimed at fans of comic books, science fiction, horror and much more. There are many Comic Con events around the world now. The San Diego event is the largest inside the States, having been first held almost thirty five years ago. Today there are many more that stretch across, not only the United States, but also around the globe in countries like Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Romania, Russia, India and the United Arab Emirates.

It was founded way back in 1970 as the Golden State Comic Book Convention by a group of people from San Diego, which included Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger and Mike Towry. Later on, it became known as the "San Diego Comic Book Convention". On the website, its name is Comic-Con International: San Diego however, it is more commonly known simply as Comic-Con or the San Diego Comic-Con or "SDCC". It is a four-day event (Thursday-Sunday) held during the summer at the San Diego Convention Centre in southern California. On the Wednesday evening prior to the official opening of the event, there is a preview for professionals, exhibitors, and select guests pre-registered for all four days.

History & Structure

History & Structure

These days, the modern Comic-Con is a little different to the earlier shows which focused primarily on comic book collecting, science fiction and cult television shows. More recently, the convention attracts fans of many other elements of pop culture, including video games, collectible cards and Manga. It is has become the largest convention in the United States, and the third largest around the globe. The convention provides the opportunity for sellers, collectors and fans to come together to buy, sell and showcase their products. Many artists now produce Comic-Con exclusive products and variants for collectors, which of course, swiftly attract high prices on the secondary market.

As previously mentioned, it was founded back at the beginning of the 70s. Detroit, Michigan-born comics fan Shel Dorf, began holding the Detroit Triple-Fan Fairs during the mid-1960s which was one of the first commercial comics fan conventions. Upon moving to San Diego, California in 1970, he organized a one-day convention on 21st of March, 1970 known as the Golden State Comic-Minicon as a type of ‘dry run’ with a view to turning it in the much larger convention he hoped to stage. Dorf went on to become the convention manager and president at different stages over a number of years until ultimately becoming estranged from the organisation. Alf co-chaired the first convention with Krueger and became chairman in 1971.

Following the initial gathering, Dorf's first three-day San Diego comics convention, the Golden State Comic-Con drew 300 people and was held at the U.S. Grant Hotel from August 1–3, 1970. Other locations in the convention's early years included the El Cortez Hotel, the University of California, San Diego, and Golden Hall, before being moved to the San Diego Convention Centre in 1991. Richard Alf, chairman in 1971, has noted an early factor in the Con's growth was an effort "to expand the Comic-Con committee base by networking with other fandoms such as the Society for Creative Anachronism and the Mythopoeic Society, among others. (We found a lot of talent and strength through diversity)”.

By the late 1970s the show had grown to such an extent that Bob Schreck recalled visiting with his then-boss Gary Berman of Creation Conventions and reflecting, "While [Berman] kept repeating (attempting to convince himself) 'This show's not any bigger than ours!' I was quietly walking the floor stunned and in awe of just how much bigger it really was. I was blown away."
The convention is organized by a panel of thirteen board members, 16 to 20 full-time and part-time workers, and 80 volunteers who assist via committees. Comic Con International is a non-profit organization, and proceeds of the event go to funding it, as well as the Alternative Press Expo (APE) and WonderCon. The convention logo was designed by Richard Bruning and Josh Beatman in 1995. In September 2010, the convention announced that it would stay in San Diego through 2015.

According to the San Diego Convention and Visitor's Bureau the convention has an annual regional economic impact of over $160 million dollars.
From the first time it was held in 1970, through to the modern events, the numbers of attendees have increased dramatically. In its first year, there were a humble, 145 people who attended. At the most recent San Diego Comic Con conventions of the past three years, the numbers of attendees were upwards of 130,000.

Incidents

Incidents

The event has not been without controversy and incident. In the event’s ninth year, Vaughn Bodē (July 22, 1941 – July 18, 1975) was scheduled to appear. An underground cartoonist and illustrator known for his character Cheech Wizard and his artwork depicting voluptuous women, he died just days before. His death was caused by engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation.
Then in August of 1979, just after the event’s twelfth event, there was a major theft. US $12,000 in receipts stolen from the home of Con's Treasurer.

The seventeenth instalment in 1984, had to be moved forward to accommodate the Summer Olympics being held in Los Angeles that year. This Masquerade that year was hosted by Sergio Aragonés Domenech, a Spanish/Mexican cartoonist often referred to amongst fans and other cartoonists as “the world’s fastest cartoonist”. He is best known for his contributions to Mad Magazine and creator of the comic book Groo the Wanderer.

Fast forward a few year to 2006, which saw the event attract around 123,000 people however, not all tickets were sold on the Saturday of the convention and attendance was not at full occupancy. Despite this, there was slight controversy as many potential attendees were denied entry for part of the day.

Over the coming years, all passes were sold out, sometimes months in advance. With numbers soaring, there were a few isolated occasions of apparent violence. In 2010, during the event’s 43rd staging of the convention, it was claimed that somebody had been stabbed. However, according to vulture.com the incident was later downgraded to a "severe scratching".
Two years later in 2012, a person intending to attend the event was killed after being mowed down at a crossing in the lead up to the convention, before in 2013, Comic Con’s 46th event saw a young woman attempt to jump off the balcony of a local high-rise building before her death was prevented by nearby professional stuntmen.

During this year’s convention, there was more than one incident. Several people watching and marching in the ZombieWalk parade staged on the Saturday of the event were hit by a car driving through the intersection. A 64-year-old woman sustained serious injuries to her arm whilst two others had minor injuries.

Then, a teenage cosplayer was initially thought to have been sexually assaulted early on the Sunday morning. A suspect was arrested later that day at the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina. Although police later stated that the teenage girl was injured in a fall, the arrested individual was charged, according to NBC San Diego, with "sexual contact with a minor and providing her alcohol".

Overcrowding

Overcrowding

Capacity attendance at Comic-Con in 2006 and 2007 has caused crowding issues. Concerns have been raised that the event is possibly too big for the San Diego Convention Centre, Comic-Con's home through to at least 2015. After the issues with 2006 and potential attendees being denied for safety reasons, in response, for 2007, Comic-Con introduced a new three-day membership that did not include Saturday. Nevertheless, the 2007 show went on to sell out Saturday, as well as Friday and Sunday for the first time. In addition, both the four-day and three-day memberships sold out for the first time. For 2008, the three-day memberships were abandoned and the convention decided to sell memberships only in advance, with no on-site registration. In 2008, all memberships were sold out before the convention for the first time ever. This sell-out has given rise to the new phenomenon of Comic-Con memberships being scalped for ridiculously exorbitant prices on websites such as eBay and Craigslist.

According to an article, "Charting Comic-Con's Hulk-like growth" written by Elizabeth Malloy in April of 2008, David Glanzer, Comic-Con's director of marketing and public relations, commented on the organization's desire to remain in San Diego. “We've been approached by other cities, [but] I don't think anybody wants to leave San Diego,” he said. “I certainly don't. It's a perfect fit for us. It's expensive, whether it be paying for the street signs that tell you what streets are closed, or for any police or the hall or any of the myriad things, it's expensive. But it's a great city. There's been some talk of expansion of the centre, which we would certainly welcome. Hopefully if everything lines up, we will be here for many more years”.

Mark Evanier on his blog News from ME mentioned that as of 9th of November, 2009, all 4-day passes for the 2010 show had already been sold out. On February 23, 2010, The Orange County Register reported that the larger Anaheim Convention Centre in Anaheim would be making a bid to become the new home of Comic-Con starting in 2013. On September 30, 2010 Comic Con announced their decision to stay up to 2015. The North County Times reported on July 26, 2010 that 4-day passes with access to Preview night for the 2011 Convention had sold out two hours before the 2010 convention closed. Comic-Con International announced that 4-day passes for the 2014 convention from July 24th to 27th would no longer be available which meant that instead, only single day passes would be sold. Due to this ever-increasing issue concerning overcrowding, organisers of the event decided that event attendance would be capped and it has been this way since 2007.

As of October 2013, a proposed expansion to the San Diego Convention Centre worth $520 million was approved by the California Coastal Commission. The proposed expansion aims to increase the available space within the convention centre and now has a target completion date of sometime during the early months of 2016. The expansion will add approximately 225,000 square feet of exhibit space, an additional thirty five percent, and a brand-new 80,000 square foot ballroom, which will be twenty percent larger than Hall H. The plan also adds a second tower to the Hilton Bayfront hotel, adding 500 rooms adjacent to the Convention Centre. Due to the proposed expansion of the convention centre, Comic Con extended its contract for San Diego to 2016.

An unforgettable experience

An unforgettable experience

The convention is indeed an unforgettable experience for those with a keen interest in pop culture that is catered for during the event however, clearly with the popularity and reason mentioned above, attendees may require a little patience at times.

Tickets for Comic-Con permit attendance to all the event and program rooms although they do not guarantee admittance as in some areas there is a limited capacity. As a result, the convention regularly draws huge queues each morning, as potential guests attempt to gain entry to the most popular screenings and interviews.

The convention attracts many special guest stars, including film directors and actors, and is therefore a great opportunity for autographs and celebrity photos. Each year, the show is packed with surprises, such as new films being announced, preview clips being shown exclusively, and a number of competitions and exclusive sales. For fans of the genre, Comic-Con continues to provide attendees with memories that don’t fade in a hurry.