The San Diego Comic-Con story so far…

As I get ready to fly out to San Diego Comic Con (come over and say hi! It’s San Diego Convention Center, Small Press area, the Clockwork Watch Films table: O-08) I realised you probably never got the chance to read my write-up from last year. It was originally for Geek Syndicate, but the lack of Wi-Fi put paid to that. So it’ll be interesting to see if the below observations hold true for 2015…

The SDCC 2014 hangover
This wasn’t what we planned.

 The idea was to create a video blog to give you some ‘floor show’ experience from the madness that is San Diego Comic-Con. However, a painful lack of Wi-Fi/data pretty much drop-kicked that into oblivion. Sorry. So, after the fact, here are a handful of observations and random notes from our wacky trip…

  • In case it wasn’t entirely obvious, SDCC is not cheap. A small press table costs $400 (next year it will be $500) and flights to San Diego from the UK typically cost around £800 to £1,100. Then you have to think about accommodation (your best bet is to try AirBnB or a campground), transport (get somewhere within 15 minutes walk to reduce expenditure – it’s California, so generally people drive everywhere, meaning hotel and parking prices drop dramatically even within walking distance), printing and shipping costs etc.

  • In relation to the above, if you come to SDCC looking for mega sales, then dial back those expectations unless you want to go home brutally demoralised. Virtually everyone we spoke to said last year’s sales were higher than this year’s, even though the days were almost equally busy (even the usually timid Sunday was full of people). The sad fact is, most of the attendees are coming to SDCC to see their favourite movie/TV stars in Hall H or buy exclusive toys/comics. Small press is incidental, and we’d hazard a guess that around less than 5% of the 130,000+ attending fans are even slightly interested in seeing anything which they’re not already aware of. In short, SDCC is a money-pit.

  • So why should small press attend? Simply put: audience reach, contacts and networking. There’s a reason why the small press area is among the friendliest places in the show (along with Artists’ Alley), as creators swap contact details, help each other out and generally widen each other’s pool of resources, as well as form friendships. Further to that, press and professionals – in both the movies/TV and comic book sphere – are very welcoming to the small press whenever they get time to engage with them. You get the chance to meet and talk with retailers, journalists and creators who you may not ordinarily catch at another convention, and in turn there’s a greater chance of you selling to people you may not otherwise reach. On top of that, everyone is aware of Comic-Con and respects it, even if they don’t necessarily have a deep interest in attending. Using that brand recognition when selling your books during the year is remarkably effective. 

  • Unlike last year, where MTV’s Teen Wolf hosted free, if unreliable, Wi-Fi, this year there was a noticeable absence of anyone willing to provide such a service. Which only left the official convention Wi-Fi as your main option. $80 for the day, sound good? What about $150 for a few days? No? Nope.  

  • For all the talk as to whether a female Thor is a good thing or not, there was a wonderful number of cosplayers dressing as this new thunder god. Taking in mind that in previous cons we’ve rarely seen female Thors (Lokis, the occasional Sif and Valkyrie were more likely), it shows that – on a surface level at least – it was a savvy and well received move by Marvel. 

  • The idea of being drawn into a comic book remains a great pull, as we discovered with Vampire Boogie (we offered the chance to become a character in the mini-series if you purchased a physical copy). However, it didn’t come without its own irony. The first person to buy a copy was sold on the pitch of a youthful vampire using social media to save her undead life, however she admitted she didn’t own a Facebook account or actually like social media. Go figure.

  • The steampunk community is growing at a fantastic pace, with many more ‘steamers’ dressing the part. In turn, our steampunk series Clockwork Watch was very well received, even to a point where a young grandmother ditched her husband at the end of Sunday to come back in and buy a virtually sold out copy of Tick Tock IPA #2. Bless her.  

  • Despite the launch of a blockbuster movie there were surprisingly few Guardians of the Galaxy cosplayers, barring the odd (but exceptional) Rocket Raccoons. If we’re not flooded with Star Lords, Gamoras and Draxs this time next year, we’ll eat our toy Groot.

  • Jimmy Aquino is both a scholar and a gentleman, being wonderfully helpful on many fronts.  And he carries good bourbon in his hip flask. Very good bourbon.  

  • Line producer and talented photographer Nicci Freeman made a few stops by our table, dressed as a magnificent steampunk style Mad Hatter-White Rabbit. Among the many great stories she told us, a standout was how she observed a couple engaging in a full-blown argument outside the convention centre. Upon seeing the couple, a man dressed as a demon wandered up to them and suddenly burst into a stirring verse of Let It Go, the lead song from Disney’s Frozen. Naturally, the couple were too stunned to continue their fight. Comic-Con summed up in one, mad moment, ladies and gentlemen.

  • There are few things as rewarding as saying hi to someone who was going to walk by your table, and then one 60-second pitch later they buy a copy of your book. 

  • Conversely, there are few things as crushing as someone coming to your table of their own accord, you giving them a 5 minute pitch/question and answer session and them not saying a single word to you in response.

  • No one can ever deny Hall H attendees aren’t dedicated. After we staggered out of a hotel from a post 2.30am drink up, we were stunned to see a massive queue of sleeping people wrapping around a quarter of the convention centre. Tents, sleeping bags, foil wraps… these people came prepared. 

  • We may complain that not enough kids read or are interested comics, but the large number of families all cosplaying together or just attending the convention with their wide-eyed, kids was heart-warming.
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