Friday, July 27, 2007
Comic-Con '07 - Attention advertisers: You, too, can reach this high-quality demographic!
I'm sure somewhere in the beginning, the San Diego Comic-Con was an innocent enough affair.

Like-minded individuals who shared a love for certain flavor of pop culture gathered to trade comic books -- and found that one missing issue to complete their collections. They also discovered something new and exciting.

But like childhood memories that eventually become the reason you start seeing a therapist, the "Con" has also lost its innocence ... and might also want to consider seeking help.

Organizers of this year's event addressed a capacity crowd at the San Diego Convention Center on opening day and confessed they weren't sure what would happen when they decided to extend their programming by a day and begin on a Thursday. They were pleasantly surprised.

And if the crowds yesterday were overwhelming, imagine how that number might grow today -- a Friday, when more people can take the day off to attend. I don't even want to think about Saturday ...

While you can certainly lose yourself with a leisurely stroll through "the quiet part" of the convention center hunting for that elusive back issue from Walt Simonson's run on "Thor," the exhibitors do their best to get your attention by making some serious noise on the other end.

In fact, Comic-Con has become such an important marketplace for Hollywood studios, video game publishers and toy manufacturers, it's become the place to be if you're going to have any hope of making your project a success.

The buzz that is generated from the crowd at Comic-Con is so palpable that it can literally make or break a project. You come here with your A-game, ready to play.

In fact, 20th Century Fox Studios actually pulled out of this year's event because planners weren't sure that their film projects were ready to be shown to this particular audience.

But what if you're a studio that doesn't have a comic-book related film in the works? No problem. Even if it's not in the science fiction or fantasy genre, if you think there's even a slim chance of it having crossover appeal, bring it to the Con. You're never going to get a better gauge for how it'll play in middle America anywhere else. It's a perfect petri dish for pop-cultural audience analysis.

And sometimes, it's the most unlikely thing that gets people's attention.

If you attended, you couldn't help but notice the oversized red-and-yellow tote bags emblazoned with the Warner Bros. logo along with ads for "Smallville" on The CW and the upcoming direct-to-DVD release of the animated film "Superman: Doomsday." So popular was this premium, I overheard someone in the crowd saying that they were being sold by attendees for as much as $20!

You just know that somewhere an accountant at the studio is thinking, "if we could only have tapped that source of revenue ourselves, we wouldn't even have to had to produce the DVD in the first place!" (Warner Bros., incidentally, is a unit of Time Warner -- as is CNN.)

A marketer's dream, sure. But it can honestly feel like an unholy orgy of art and commerce at times.

I would love to tell you what I thought of the 22-minute presentation of "Beowulf" in 3D that was shown last night, but I spent too much time trying to fight my way through the crowds that I missed both of the showings. (I will say, however, the 2D trailer that was shown in a panel yesterday by the film's writer, Neil Gaiman, was GORGEOUS.)

However, along the way I did manage to pick up some Walt Simonson issues of "Thor" -- not to mention a copy of the entire "Kraven's Last Hunt" story line from "Amazing Spider-Man."

Proving it's possible to recapture your innocence if you really want to ... as long as you have cash in hand.

(After all, the studios are counting on it.)
While I've long had concerns about the lack of focus on comic books at the San Diego Comic Con, your argument is not helped by your failure to do basic fact checking. The con has been open with a full programming slate on Thursday for several years.
Also, people may want to consider a more traditional "comic-con" experience and avoid the manufactured glitz of San Diego's. The Motor City Comic Convention in Detroit is third largest in the country, but much more laid back and entertaining in my opinion.
Joe is correct, I've been attending Comic-Con for ten years now, and it's always been a four-day affair, starting on Thursday. Where I believe you became confused is in the fact that this is the first year that they added programming to Hall H, their biggest room and the location for their most high profile Hollywood panels. Attendance on Thursday has always been lightest, so there was nervousness this year about scheduling Paramount's big panel on that day. When the crowd reached capacity, the organizers expressed relief, and announced that from now on, Hall H would receive full four-day programming.
Hall H has had programming for three years running now, but yeah, this was the first year they had programming there on Thursday. Just wanted to clear that up.

And yeah, this was a total train wreck. It is a tribute to the organizational abilities of the Comic-Con staff that it didn't get to this point in an earlier year. However, all estimates point to the crowd being 130,000 at the low end and 150,000 at the high end. That's a mid-sized city descending on San Diego, folks. Something had to give, and it gave this year.

Comic-Con has finally outgrown San Diego. Perhaps the only place for them to go would be Vegas, with those mammoth facilities that support CES every year and used to support Comdex back in the tech sector's glory days. They're coming back to San Diego next year, but I suspect that the days are numbered for all that.

If you want an authentic con-going experience, check out what is happening in your local fandom and go to a local or regional con. They are all over the place.

And actually, out in CNN's neck of the woods, there is Dragon*Con which has been going on for almost as long as SDCCI has. It's smaller, more manageable, and happens in a part of Atlanta where there is ample lodging and reasonable food. I've never been but my Cartoon Geek colleague Tom Reed goes every year and he loves it.

It makes no pretense of being a "family friendly con" but jeez, folks, any parent who'd take their kid to SDCCI is no paragon of parenthood. I felt really bad for the kids who were there.
Of note, Comic Con International has signed a contract with San Diego through 2012. It's not going anywhere for a few years.
Occasional musings and gab about the world of entertainment.
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