This past weekend, 140,000 nerds, geeks, and misfits of all stripes (including some literal stripes, in the case of the furries) gathered in downtown San Diego to, theoretically, celebrate all things pop culture. In reality, that mostly meant standing in lines to get advertised at and spending money on Funko Pops.
Of course, I was there, getting advertised at (despite not standing in any lines) and not spending money on Funko Pops. I’ve attended on and off since 2002, so I’m old hat at this. And this year, when I walked onto the floor, I had a curious reaction — “Oh. This again.” Nothing had changed. It’s the same floor, year after year. Only the giant LEGO statues change.
Not that I didn’t find things to do. I certainly partook of the 50%-off trade booths to fill in some holes in my collection. I also love wandering around the comic publisher section and seeing things I wouldn’t otherwise have. This year, I grabbed a signed copy of Ryan North’s Choose-Your-Own-Adventure version of Hamlet, To Be or Not To Be, as well as Nate Powell’s latest, Come Again, simply because it looked cool and he was signing as I walked by. Once you’ve decided you’ve spent enough money, though, it’s basically like going to Vegas and not gambling. The panels aren’t super exciting, either; there are some smart people presenting fun things, but it always descends into attendees asking rambling non-questions at the Q&A.
There’s a reason that the comic pros mostly hang out at the bar by the Marriott pool, doing work and getting drunk until they’re inevitably summoned back to the floor for yet another signing or panel.
Now that I’m (somewhat) in the industry, it’s that summer camp aspect that I enjoy the most. Hanging out with friends, meeting cool new people, seeing people I don’t normally get to see, listening to animation pros telling horror stories in the hotel bars after the floor closes. It’s the personal connection that appeals to me. Not even just the networking aspect — that’s part of it, certainly, but these are my people. Maybe that’s why I’m no longer enthralled by the floor or the panels. I’m no longer just a fan. Now that I actually have credits on produced material, I’ve moved into the professional sphere, and thus it’s more satisfying for me to talk to others in my circle. So while the fanboy stuff no longer appeals to me, the creator side certainly does. Something for everyone!
Including germs. Boy, did I catch a nasty con flu this year. What is it about nerds that makes them such potent incubators of disease?
One final thought. A lot of people complain that the con isn’t like it used to be, which is fair. However, as far as I’m concerned, there’s one last, important bastion against the Hollywoodification of SDCC: that one hentai booth. You know which one I’m talking about, the one that always has that corner endcap near Artists Alley. As long as it’s still financially worthwhile for them to pay the booth fee, it’s still Comic Con. As long as someone there still openly caters to the most ostracized among us, it’s still Comic Con. As long as people of any gender, sexuality, race, creed, and nationality can purchase naked anime girl body pillows or mouse pads where the wrist rests are the girls’ boobs, it’s still Comic Con.
As goes the hentai booth, so goes the con. And that’s why I love it.