Pipeline: Pipeline San Diego 2006 - Day One

Fri, July 21st, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

CBR News Coverage of Comic-Con International, 2006 is sponsored by:

SO BUSY, SO TIRED

The con is more tiring than ever. It's also much more challenging, which leads to frustrating and insane situations.

Take, for instance, this morning's fine bit of crowd control by the security staff. I got there about fifteen minutes after the doors opened. I walked in the front door with other people who had their badges already. There was plenty of room in the open area outside the exhibit floor. There were no surging crowds. Yet, we were all told to head up the escalator to enter from upstairs. I've seen this done at cons before -- they prefer to have everyone en masse enter through the back of the hall instead of the front. OK, I could deal with that. But that wasn't what happened. Once upstairs, we were diverted along the back of the hall to the far end of the convention center, which wrapped back around to the front end. Then, we were sent down the escalator across from the escalator we just went up. At that point, we were let inside.

Why did we take that huge circular detour? There's no reason for it whatsoever. There wasn't even a crowd of people walking in that gigantic purposeless circle. It was just a couple dozen confused people, wondering why we were walking in circles for no good reason. It may have been a leftover from when the hall was opened a little bit earlier, but they should have spread word to the security staff that it was clear to let people in the front door. Ridiculous.

The crowds are nuts this year. Preview Night was bad. Today was worse. It felt like Saturday in there today. I showed up for the Marvel Civil War panel in the afternoon about fifteen minutes ahead of the panel's scheduled time. They had formed a line outside the room. I was standing about 50-75 people from the door. We never made it in -- the doors shut and the room was closed as full, including standing room. Good for Marvel, but bad for the 100-200 people locked out.

It's THURSDAY. Why are panel rooms filling up so quickly?

With a tiny bit of dread, I showed up for the ANIMANIACS/PINKY AND THE BRAIN DVD session a half hour early. The line was 50 people deep already. Thankfully, the panel before was for monster movie fans, so I wasn't too worried about the room not emptying out in time for the Warner Bros. folks. Still, the line was in competition with the line for a Lion's Gate presentation. Security started yelling and attempting to control the lines. They pulled it off, but not before they put those of us near the head of the line into a new line behind those who showed up afterwards and wound up forming another new line by security request thirty seconds earlier. It was a bit worrisome, but I got into the panel, anyway.

Con attendance last year was somewhere around the 100,000 mark. Some suggested that it might blossom close to 125,000 people this year. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised. It's getting tougher and tougher to walk anywhere in that con hall anymore. The panels are filling up quickly. Lines are forming everywhere and earlier. The official con t-shirts were already sold out of one size (I thinkwomen's medium) by the mid-afternoon.

We're quickly and sadly moving past the point where this convention is manageable, or even enjoyable. There's just too many people in too small a space.

And this is a space with 460,000 square feet, according to materials handed out to the press --

-- on a Thursday, the slowest day of the convention. I can't imagine what it's going to be like on the con floor Saturday, or trying to find a place to grab dinner on Saturday night. It's frightening.

I sound like a veteran of Comic-Con when I yearn for "the good old days," but those days only bring me back to seven years ago, when the convention hall was about a quarter of the size. I can only imagine what people like Scott Shaw! and Mark Evanier -- who've seen it all -- think of the con. Sure, you can make of the convention what you wish. If you want it to just be a comics convention, you can just look at those exhibitors and go to those panels. If you want to see animation or science fiction or genre movies, you can make this a movie convention or an animation convention, etc.

The problem is, you can't be all things to all people and still be successful. This con will eventually be a victim of its own success, if it isn't already.

Maybe tomorrow I'll talk a bit about the need for fresh blood at the comics end of the convention. I'm starting to feel sorry for some of the small press guys who show up every year to boost sales on that self-published book of theirs that's been occupying space in their garage for the last ten years. Time to move on, people. Not even Hollywood can save you now.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES ON THE SCENE

  • I saw my first Storm Trooper this morning before 9:00 on my way to breakfast.

  • Overheard at the con today, from a retailer, at a full shout: "We got exact change! WHOO!"

  • The worst booths to hang out at are the ones that attract the large Samoan wrestler types. It's tough to get past them.

  • Scott Shaw! is showing off the designs he did for the McFarlane line of Hanna-Barbera figures. They're great -- I can't wait to see the 3-D models for the Captain Caveman number he put together. He was highly complimentary of McFarlane's company for the toy line and the way they've treated him.

  • I saw one bootleg video dealer who went so far as to include images from Marvel and DC comics as his cover art. He found a way to violate trademarks and copyrights on two levels at once! Now that's showing some guts.

  • I played with the Wacom Cintiq at the Wacom booth today. It's beautiful, more than 20 inches across, and it works with both Mac OS X and Windows. I'll have more on that another time.

  • The Tony Hawk booth is dressing up its Booth Babes in motion capture suits like they used to record Hawk's movements for the video game.

  • Overheard at the con today: "I met a porn star! I met a porn star! She was hitting on me."

  • I have a picture of a woman dressed in a Red Sonja costume taking a picture of a guy in a Spider-Man costume. Only at Comic-Con. . .

  • Stan Lee's "Who Wants To Be A Superhero?" is giving out promotional capes to attendees.

  • Saw Storm Troopers lined up for maneuvers outside the con hall just after breakfast. They were joined by a guy dressed up as a giant sandwich, and another in a costume that, er, was a bit white ball with a tail.

  • Larry Young quoted Chaucer to me today, before fessing up that it came from A KNIGHT'S TALE. "I give the truth scope," I believe he said.

  • Saw Sergio Aragones outside the hotel talking to a random goth girl. I couldn't hear a thing he was saying through the glass, but it cracked me up. You can tell from his gestures that he was innocently curious about her style of dress and hair style. His gestures above his head to mimic her high black hair and towards his legs (like he was rolling up his pant legs) to point to her short skirt were priceless. I somehow imagine he stored all that information up in his head to use in a comic someday soon. I wonder if we'll see her in pen and ink at the Quick Draw panel on Saturday.

  • I am again wearing the pedometer to Comic-Con this year. It read 3.88 miles at the end of the day today. It was 1.5 miles yesterday. Those numbers are low compared to last year, but my hotel is also a quarter mile closer this time around.

  • They're making a new REVENGE OF THE NERDS movie. They're casting for it here at Comic-Con. This is, indeed, what they think of us.

  • Those $2.50 cans of convention hall soda don't taste any better than the ones I pay $2.50 for a twelve pack for back home.

  • Spent fifteen minutes standing on the curb outside the convention center at the end of the day due to a freight train that didn't know what direction it was going. It changed direction three times before backing away from where it was heading in the first place. Very bizarre. You should have seen the backup of people on the sidewalk, who were just leaving the con hall as it closed and were unable to make it back to their hotels due to that. Without the cross-traffic of pedestrians, car traffic moved freely down that street for the first time I've ever seen.

Coming up tomorrow: I do not know. Given what I saw today, I don't know what panels I might be able to get into. Scott McCloud has a presentation at 1:00. I'm interested in that ACTOR finance panel at the end of the day. There's a Kirby tribute and a Kirkman spotlight. Bruce Timm gets an appreciation for the past 20 years of spectacular work at Warner Bros. And the comics blogosphere gazes at its navel again in the outer reaches of Room 24.

But for now, I must sleep. In the words of Yakko Warner, "Good night, everybody!"

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