I’m not going to deny it: I had an absolutely great time at this year’s Comic-Con. I saw some fascinating panels (and moderated a few), I found some books I’ve been looking for forever, I bought some fantastic original art, and I was convinced, contra Lev’s essay, that nerd culture is the healthiest it’s ever been, both in numbers and in general attitude. (I also don’t think nerd culture is a counter-culture–it’s enthusiastic rather than oppositional–but that’s an argument for another time.)
But Comic-Con is also an experience full of stressors and irritants. If I were actually in a position to do something about them (I’m not), here are six things I might do to make the show more enjoyable for people, like me, whose interest in it is primarily on the comics side.
1. Organize the show floor around comics. If there’s one complaint I heard over and over from the comics side of the show, it’s that getting to the small-press tables and individual artists’ areas involved like half an hour of advanced parkour. Artists’ Alley was all the way at one end of the hall this year, against a wall, meaning that there was no way for it to get any pass-through foot traffic. The movie studios and game companies are going to come whether or not they get center-of-the-floor space, and some of them could probably make much better use of wall space. Wouldn’t it make sense to move the small-press area and Artists’ Alley to the middle of the show floor? Put them by the rest of the comics, and let people pass through them if they want to get to the stuff with screens and noises.
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2. Make sure locals can attend. There’s very little that feels particularly San Diego-y about Comic-Con these days, and that has a lot to do with the fact that it’s no longer possible for people who live in the area to decide a few days beforehand that they might like to check it out. Instead, the rest of America descends on the city like a horde of OMACs, then leaves. One way to give the convention a bit of local presence might be to do what some sold-out music festivals do: put aside a block of tickets to sell to local residents only, and make them available through a physical retail outlet (like a local comic book store) a few weeks before the event.
(More on Techland: Is Comic-Con Really Hurting Nerd Culture?)
3. Give people a place to sit and hang out. I know, I know: every square foot on the show floor that’s not being monetized ends up reflected in everyone else’s costs. But a little oasis or two would do the general mood a lot of good, and the more a convention succeeds as a social space the better an experience its attendees have. As it stands, the only real option for a bit of non-trampled peace and quiet is to go out into the lobby, find a bit of wall space, and hope a security guard doesn’t immediately tell you you’re not allowed to sit down.
4. Reduce noise pollution. The convention floor is loud enough already; having video screens blaring combat-game noises and bassy movie trailers into the walking areas makes it deeply unpleasant to stay there for long. One imposed guideline might help, and I doubt that it’d drive any potential booth-renters away: indicate that all speakers and video screens must point into exhibitors’ booths, rather than out of them.
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5. Split the Eisners in half. I love the Eisner Awards–they’re a big part of comics culture. I even liveblogged them this year. But the awards ceremony itself has ballooned into a three-hour-plus trudge, at a time when lots of people who care about comics would rather be somewhere else; it would probably be better able to confer prestige on its winners if it were something people wanted to attend, rather than feeling obligated to sit through. In 1991, there were Eisners presented in ten categories, plus two Hall of Famers inducted. This year, there were 29 categories, plus the Hall of Fame, the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award, the Bill Finger Award for Achievement in Comic Book Writing, the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award, and the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. All that extra stuff could easily be broken out into a separate presentation, earlier in the day. And including a retailer award in the Eisners ceremony is like turning over 20 minutes of the Oscars to an award for the best movie theater.
(More on Techland: Comic-Con: Eisner Awards Liveblog)
6. Get an anchor retailer on the floor. Maybe a few anchor retailers. Another thing that comics people kept mentioning was missing this year was Comic Relief’s booth–traditionally the place where Comic-Con attendees could easily find a lot of books by the show’s guests, current best-sellers, and odd little volumes that they probably wouldn’t see at their local retailers. Comic Relief didn’t come this year, and no other retailer stepped up to fill that role (Mile High Comics was in its usual position, but it’s very much focused on a particular cross-section of comics). I do understand that it’s hellaciously expensive to rent space for a big booth like that, but I also think it’s in Comic-Con’s long-term interest to make sure attendees who want to buy stuff are going to be able to find it.
Want more Emanata? See all of Douglas’ columns here.
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