(July 21-24, 2011 in San Diego, California) What started off with humble beginnings at the US Grant Hotel in 1970 has now grown into a mega convention of over 130,000 attendees.
The 2011 San Diego Comic-Con was one for the record books. Four-day passes with preview night sold out prior to the close of the 2010 convention. The remaining tickets that went on sale sold out in a matter of hours. This prompted a new policy for purchasing tickets for the 2012 convention. Roughly 4,800 tickets were sold each day to 2011 badge holders. From 8:00-11:00 a.m. Thursday-Sunday, convention attendees (many of whom camped overnight) were herded into the Hyatt ballroom to purchase tickets to next year's convention. This was the first of many lines for the majority of people throughout the convention. There were lines for everything: lines to go to the bathroom, lines to get food, lines to use an ATM, lines for signings, lines to get into ballrooms, lines for swag... I think you get the point. But, despite the lines, the magic that is Comic-Con is well worth the wait.
With the addition of movies and TV years ago, Comic-Con has continued to grow at a frenzied pace, creating a sensory overload of sights, sounds, and endless swag. Having outgrown the Convention Center, organizers are continuing to utilize several rooms at the adjacent Marriott Hotel, Hilton Bayfront, and the surrounding Gaslamp Quarter as well. Cartoon Network followed SyFy’s “Cafe Diem” lead and opened an “Adventure Time”-themed pizza parlor, while Conan O’Brien opted for a pop-up art installation. COCO MoCA showcased fan art of Conan’s Flaming C persona in an upscale gallery atmosphere complete with passed drinks and hors d'oeuvres.
Comic-Con prides itself on providing something for everyone. With a jam-packed program lasting from morning to night, there is no physical way to see everything. This year's new and improved events guide did offer a color-coded programming grid enabling convention-goers to pinpoint specific categories such as comics, animation, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.
Always a popular draw with its iconic water tower rising over the convention floor like a beacon, the Warner Bros. booth is also one of the most congested. In an effort to mitigate the throngs of people, a new wristband policy for the ever-popular autograph signings was instituted with much success. This was just one of several changes to alleviate convention floor crowding.
Now that smart phones seem to dominate the communication landscape, the 2011 convention took on a more technological edge. Several booths were equipped with QR codes, SnapTags, and the like. The introduction of the new technology provided attendees the opportunity to import and share data, created exciting new contests, and allowed vendors an additional connection with their consumers. At several booths, iPads & Samsung Galaxy tablets were used to show revolutions in the new and improved world of both gaming and digital comics. Disney’s new comic app engages younger readers in a multi-lingual world of classics, with Easter egg enhancements guaranteed to engage and entertain for hours. The best part: it encourages children to read and explore with such fan favorites as Lightning McQueen and Cinderella.
This year’s programming started off on preview night with a series of world premiere screenings. Fans were treated to several anticipated Warner Bros. television programs, including two from J.J. Abrams: Person of Interest and Alcatraz.
Thursday saw the return of the Twilight. Several people who had been camped out for the Hall H Breaking Dawn: Part 1 Q&A were treated to a surprise as cast members served breakfast to their ever-faithful fans. In Ballroom 20, USA’s Characters Welcome did just that with the casts of Burn Notice, The Fall of Sam Axe, Covert Affairs, and fan favorite Psych, followed later by Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return in Ringer and Game of Thrones, the adaptation of fantasy writer George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. DC Comics also had a strong showing at The New 52 panel, as fans both cheered and jeered the reboot of the DC Universe.
Friday marked the first appearance by Steven Spielberg, who was joined by surprise guest Peter Jackson at The Adventures of TinTin panel. Fox screened the Locke & Key pilot, which left more people yearning for the show which was cancelled before it ever aired. Conan O’Brien surprised attendees at The Green Lantern Animated Series panel, and debuted the trailer for the forthcoming The Flaming C. Ballroom 20 was jammed all day with people being entertained by the casts of The Walking Dead, everyone’s favorite geeks The Big Bang Theory, and those sexy vampires from Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Series, True Blood. But perhaps the best panel of the day: “Batman 45th Anniversary.” Sponsored by The HUB, a family friendly network which airs the original Batman series, the panel found Adam West, Burt Ward, and the ever sexy vixen Julie Newmar on stage for an entertaining look at why Batman is still relevant today.
Saturday saw Hall H fans captivated by Francis Ford Copolla’s Twixt and enthralled by the hilarious misfortune displayed on screen in the Knights of Badassdom starring fanboy fave and Firefly alum Summer Glau, True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten, and Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage. Chuck started Ballroom 20’s programming for the day, while show star Zachary Levi held the charity fundraiser “Conversations for a Cause” -- small, intimate panels with a paid entrance fee to benefit Operation Smile. There were also several screenings around town, including director Jon Favreau’s highly anticipated Cowboys & Aliens.
Sunday’s traditional “Kids Day” indulged children of all ages with special programming and attractions. Warner Bros. converted their massive booth into a Cartoon Network-themed show piece and sponsored a dance party complete with costumed characters. There were comic workshops aimed at the 'tween set, and several kid-centric panels throughout the day. One of the most unique booths at this year’s convention was sponsored by the Disney Channel’s Phineas & Ferb. Delighting children and adults alike, Disney converted an Airstream trailer into a giant replica of Perry the Platypus.
The cult following of Dr. Who and Nathan Fillion squared off on Sunday with fans happy if they were able to get into either overlapping panel, while once again, Joss Whedon’s epic musical from Buffy the Vampire Slayer concluded the convention.
Yes, it is busy. There are lines and plenty of waiting, but good things come to those who wait, and I am anxiously awaiting the 2012 convention. Luckily it will be held earlier, July 11-15th, to be exact. Until then, I will be happily satisfied at the smaller Long Beach Comic-Con in late October.
What to Watch for:
Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 video game
Plushstache wearable mustache
Hasbro Kre-o building system
Lego’s new hero collection with characters from both the DC and Marvel Universe
Angry Birds Plush Toys