San Diego Comic-Con 2008

Where to begin?

Maybe with this – there’s a slideshow here that gives a tip-of-the-iceberg taste of what this year’s show was like. The news reports said attendance over the four (five, if you count the preview on Wednesday night) days was 130,000. I’d heard the con committee was capping attendance at 125,000 – and for the first time every ticket was sold out a week in advance of the con.

Where to begin? This is a show that can no longer be described except in fleeing impressions. Maybe others can craft a coherent journal of the entire thing, but not me. In the first place, there’s no way any one person can take in but a fraction of the available activities and programs. With the exception of just a couple of panel discussions, I didn’t even try.

The convention center is huge. Over a million square feet of exhibit halls, meeting rooms, presentation areas. You can’t see one end of the exhibition hall from the other end, not because of crowds, but because of the curvature of the earth. Memory tells me they doubled the available space a few years back; the show was bursting the center’s seams. Well, it’s happening again. The facility is once more in danger of being unable to sanely and safely host the Comic Con.

No longer the compulsive collector I used to be, the largesse represented by the hundreds of comicbook, toy, book, game, movie, memorabilia and other dealers, didn’t impact me as much as it might once have. But for the true collectors, you could – as it says in the song “Alice’s Restaurant” – pretty much get anything you want. Nor was I interested in the tons of freebies being literally tossed to the throngs of attendees much like raw meat being tossed into shark-filled waters. I use the simile from experience. Big media companies – Warner Brothers, Sony, the Sci-Fi Channel, and many others – were the center of feeding frenzies, literally thousands of fans rushing into the exhibit hall the moment the doors opened, to grab free tote sacks, limited edition figurines, and assorted whatnot. Aisles literally became choked with bodies. If you had to get from point A to point B, you could not. And heaven help you if you were wheelchair-bound, or a parent with small children, attempting to navigate the hall.

Attending panel presentations wasn’t much easier, although a new system of “one way hallways” this year helped ease some of the chaos and crowding that last year made it impossible even to get to the rooms where panels were held. More often than not, this year, presentation rooms filled very quickly to capacity, and many had to be turned away at the doors.

Which may have been the case for the “Elfquest – 30 Years of Pointed Ears” panel on Sunday, I don’t know. I do know that the room was filled to capacity, which is always lovely when it’s your presentation! The panel started with a 15-minute slideshow about convention special guest Wendy Pini, a bit of history and evolution of her unique way of storytelling. That sequed into a spirited question and answer session as Wendy was joined on stage by Rawson Thurber, the writer and director for the Elfquest movie that, less than a month ago, was picked up by Warner Brothers. I’m not detailing much about the panel for two reasons. One, a lot of the discussion about the EQ movie echoed the several threads ongoing in the Elfquest forum. Drop on over and take a look. And two, as soon as I get the digital video files from a couple of people who recorded the panel, and who are now editing the thing, the entire experience will go on-line so you can watch it directly.

The echoes and vibrations of the convention are still very much being felt. Heaven only knows what next year may be like. The 2008 edition of the San Diego Comic-Con will go down in the books, at least for this attendee, as a kaleidoscopic jumble of crowds and chaos, punctuated with occasional sparkles of incomparable satisfaction.