The Overwhelming Comic-Con
Comic Character Collectibles
By JC Vaughn
While our schedule at Gemstone Publishing may change from year to year, we know that one of the fixtures on it will be a trip to Comic-Con International: San Diego. While the New York Comic Con has most likely topped it in attendance, nothing in North America matches the degree to which the show takes over the entire downtown area.
After getting a start at the U.S. Grant hotel, a long tenure at the fabled El Cortez hotel, and then outgrowing two convention centers (including the present one), Comic-Con has spread out into the town. Panels and other activities are regularly held at the hotels on either side of the convention center, a blood drive is held in a third, and various destinations around town hold more events.
Inside the convention center itself, on the main floor are the big booths for comic book publishers DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, IDW, BOOM! Studios, and others, along with large ones for Nickelodeon, Star Wars, Warner Bros., and many other entities. Even for seasoned pros, the effect of entering the hall is an experience. It is filled with eye-catching displays and the activities of searching, selling, and buying.
It would be a disservice not to pause for a moment and reflect on the vastness of the hall itself. It is huge. HUGE. There’s an entire area devoted to Golden Age and Silver Age comic books. There are a number of vendors selling original comic book, comic strip and science art. T-shirts, prop replicas, vintage toys, new toys, statues, costume jewelry, and many other collectibles are well represented as well. There are comic book artists and other creators set up, too.
If this is the sense that hits experienced attendees – and I’ve hit the last 23 of these San Diego shows – how does the experience impact first timers?
“I’ve been in San Diego before and enjoyed the beautiful weather, the cool breezes, and the blue water, but until now I hadn’t been to Comic-Con. The convention hall is nicely situated amongst hotels, putting it within easy walking distance for the thousands of out of towners that come to the con,” said Amanda Sheriff, author of “The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Movie Posters” and who also edits and writes the Scoop email newsletter. Sheriff is also at work on “The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Concert Posters,” due out this winter.
“Once inside it’s hard not to be awed by everything around you. From the bigwigs to the independents, comic book publishers abound. They have huge banners depicting their gallant heroes and nefarious villains in towering fashion. Some booths are complicated pieces of construction, turning their slice of the con floor into its own world. On Wednesday, row after row of vendors and exhibitors are putting the final touches on booths that will surely wow audiences,” she said.
“I’ve been to comic conventions and similar shows before. Big ones, even. I’ve done New York Comic Con, I’ve done Otakon. But my decade-plus of con-going did not prepare me for this,” said Carrie Wood, editor and lead author of “The Overstreet Guide To Cosplay”. She is presently preparing “The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Video Games”, due out this fall.
“There’s something very different about San Diego Comic-Con. The energy was absolutely palpable from the time we stepped off the plane this morning. The convention center itself seems like just one small part of the event, which has clearly taken over the entire city. And everyone who’s not going to the show still seems to really enjoy it; our hotel staff were all decked out in Batman and Superman shirts,” she said.
Even if you haven’t been to Comic-Con, chances are these days that if you’re even watching Good Morning, America or the Today Show that you know this is the place for big announcements for movie and TV franchises. Studios and comic book publishers present the big names in acting and directing for fans willing to spend hours, and in some cases days, in line to see them on stage.
There are also plenty of small or at least smaller panels to attend as well, many focused on key elements of collecting various niches or meeting the people in the industry.
“One panel I attended was focused on Dark Horse’s line of comics based on Joss Whedon’s projects,” Sheriff said. Whedon, the creator of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “The Doll House,” “Angel and Firefly,” also directed both of Marvel’s Avengers films. “I also went to one about the need for diversity in comics and ways that that situation can improve.”
Not only are there a lot of panels, there are many scheduled at the same times. The convention greatly improved their app – there are still some bugs – so fans could plot out ahead of time or even during the show what their next moves would be. It helped a lot, but one can still end up running from panel to panel or line to line to keep up.
“I’m not sure if I truly understood the meaning of the word ‘exhausted’ until this afternoon,” Wood said on just the show’s second day. “I’m not surprised by how tired I am, but I did have one surprise today, which was how much free stuff there is to be had at the show if you know how to play your cards right. People always told me how expensive SDCC can be, but some of my best souvenirs have been totally free. I got a Splatoon pin for playing the game at the Nintendo booth, and I even won a Pokemon DVD set at a panel. So that’s been pretty cool.”
After hitting the panels, Sheriff said she went to the Artist Alley area to meet comic book creators.
“It was nice to see that so many artists had long lines of fans looking to get sketches and signatures. Many people talk about how Comic-Con has become so media-movie-TV focused, but spending time in Artist’s Alley, hearing people telling artists and writers how their work inspires them, proves that it’s still about the comics,” she said.
J.C. Vaughn is Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing. Amanda Sheriff and Carrie Wood contributed to this piece.