I started writing this in the departure lounge at San Diego Airport, Gate 51, about to catch the delayed direct flight to London. I finished it almost a week after I'd gotten home again, and had recovered from the jet lag. Delays aside, that British Airways are operating such direct trips will increase the likelihood that comic book creators, publishers and fans from my home countries will make the trip to San Diego Comic-Con in the future. Yes, the British are coming. And was there for the past week.
I gave some first thoughts about the San Diego Comic-Con: Special Edition over here, and ran a number of articles and videos over the week. But the one that touched me most was listening to a panel of the people who founded San Diego Comic-Con in the first place and were here to see it emerge out of lockdown. And on the walk to the airport (yes, I walked) I also stopped for brunch with one of the earliest figures of the show, Igor Goldkind. He's not in the video below, but he did buy the ice cream with me.
Now, much of why I made it out to the show was the cost. I booked tickets back in March for about a third of what I am used to paying and got an AirBNB room on Market Street and 4th for a week for the price I would have expected to pay for one night at the Hyatt. I don't think I could quite afford the usual summer rates, though the news that Ben Templesmith has just moved to San Diego may see me try and crash on his sofa in return for a plug for his Patreon. Damn, I just gave that one away. He was at the show, after having moved to San Diego two weeks previously and he was able to call up the show and get a table easily. That may be harder in the summer.
The consensus on this, and other shows, was that while numbers of folk were down, sales were either up or steady. There seems to have been a swell of people just waiting to spend their money on a comic book convention. Also, as there was no massive sellout for the event, locals could just come on the day. A $150 set ticket for any or all three days was intended to a) help bolster some of the show's costs, which were still massive but also b) attract local attendees, who then came for all three days to get their money worth. And while the big guns weren't on display, there was a full schedule of programming, just more of it from the ground up. Hell, I was even on three panels myself. There was a masquerade with John Cera making a surprise appearance, and the town of San Diego still showed off all their superheroic colours.
Indeed, a regular cry I heard was for the next San Diego Comic-Con to try and reflect this show a little, in terms of a more relaxed and chilled approach. That will be hard – all the pre-booked tickets for 2020 will be rolling over into 2022, and it is not likely that many will want to relinquish theirs. But the locals who called for such a thing were told, in no uncertain terms, that the way to give the show more space… is to give it more space. David Glanzer of Comic-Con International appealed to them that the next time there is a local ordinance vote on whether or not to expand and extend the San Diego Convention Center, to vote Yes – or get your representative to do it. The regular San Diego Comic-Con is well past capacity now, with much of it spilling into the nearby hotels. But if the show is to grow, it needs a Hall I, J, K, and L!
It was also notable that the vaccination checks and COVID tests worked very well indeed – especially when they realised that one of the monitoring stations was being covered by the queue for the other monitoring station. And unlike some shows, no one was selling vaccine wristbands on the street for $5. It was all very well-behaved. And, as yet, no sign of any super spreading. I had to check myself on returning to the UK and it was all good.
As for what happens next year? As it stands the show is playing it by ear. They had to keep changing as new measures came into place weeks, even days before the show. The fact that I was even allowed into the show was a miracle, and my presence was even noted by officials in public statements – there were only two Brits who made it to the show. Next year? If it's still allowed? There will be many more…