So I Went to a Little Thing Called San Diego Comic Con 2016 - Part 1
I’ve been going to DragonCon for eleven years. After the first time, I was hooked. In fact, I remember asking about all the other cosplay conventions during my first convention because I knew I’d be back. That was when I’d first heard of San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). I’m in Atlanta and San Diego is a long trip, so I wasn’t ready to commit to that expense. Since then, the SDCC has grown and become a monster-convention, just like DragonCon has. The difference between them? San Diego Comic Con is all about Hollywood, big names, and money. The vendors are top tier – i.e. major toy manufacturing companies that sell exclusive items only at SDCC. There are also artists, art companies, t-shirt companies, etc with merchandise you can only buy from them at SDCC. That doesn’t mean you can’t get them elsewhere, because you can. It’s just at a marked-up price.
SDCC is high profile everything from actors to vendors. The displays are ridiculous. You can see the amount of money that went into making impressive showcases dedicated to marketing their properties. Big screens, big lights, big productions around everything. I mentioned that SDCC is very Hollywood and it is – SDCC premiers a ton of television and movie footage. They make announcements about upcoming projects, introduce new and established stars, and make everything look glamorous, even when it’s not. SDCC looks fun, especially when you see all the footage and photos for the event, but underneath, it’s just a convention with a shit-ton of mass media popularity.
I know it sounds like I didn’t have a great time, but that isn’t true. I had a fantastic time. There were some logistical hiccups, which are to be expected the first time you attend a convention in a new city. I was completely unfamiliar with the layout and had a lot to learn about navigating the convention, food, hotels, weather, shuttle service, lines, panels, etc. It’s a lot to try to understand in a short period of time and it’s overwhelming.
And now, on the other end of the SDCC experience, it’s still a lot to process. I’m still trying to figure out how to write it all up, but I’ll give it a try.
Day zero is a term I’ve only recently learned from a fellow con-goer. It’s the day before the official convention starts, usually the day people come in from out of town and are looking for things to do. We arrived on Day Zero at 9am PST, despite hopping on a plane at 8am EST (damn time zones).
SDCC’s Day Zero is Preview Night, where they open the dealer’s hall to folks who are trying to get those ComicCon exclusives. I like to refer to Preview Night as “Stand in Line Night” because that’s what we did for about 3 hours. We stood in line waiting to be allowed into the building, then once we were in, we stood in line to buy some stuff from then Blue Fin booth. They sell Gunpla stuff, the not so new obsession of my significant other (SO). As there was a 1 kit per person limit, I bought a second set of everything he wanted. Then we made our way to the Hasbro booth which had closed the line for the day.
That’s right. They closed the line. Many places did that. So here is where I talk about how utterly commercial conventions are. Many people just go for the dealer’s room. As this is my fifth convention this year, I’m over the damn dealer’s rooms. And this one had a TON of stuff. It was the biggest dealer’s room I’ve ever seen and as I mentioned before, the vendors are top notch. These are not independent store owners re-selling things they bought elsewhere. These are the huge corporate monsters that either manufacture or own the manufacturers of the items. These sellers are the source and every other booth at other conventions are resellers. It was definitely an interesting experience that pretty much turned me off buying things at SDCC – except for that cat holding a cupcake. I really should have bought that because it was sooooooo cute and made me smile.
There was a little cosplay on Wednesday night, but I can understand not going all out. If I had put on a costume Wednesday, I probably would have lost it – mainly because I was tired from traveling and being in a new place. Overall, though, it was good. I will admit that I could have avoided preview night and been ok.
Thursday I woke up at 5am because that’s 8am EST. Fucking time zones. I was on the fence about cosplaying because of the logistics. I do my most elaborate cosplays at conventions where I’m staying on site. At SDCC, I had a 25-minute bus ride to a spot near the convention and then a 5-minute walk from the drop point to the actual convention center…which isn’t bad if the weather is nice. All that is to say that it was hotter and much more humid than I expected. Hell, hotter than anyone expected. Everyone I spoke with said that this was hotter than normal, so lucky me! Fortunately, my Luke Cage costume, while a little warm, is mostly comfortable. I also wear a sweatband under the costume’s silver headband that is not a damn tiara.
Thursday was the day that the Luke Cage cast would be there, signing autographs and hosting a panel. I was able to see the autograph session held in the dealer’s room on the Marvel stage. That event was one of the highlights of my trip. First, I got to see the cast, which was amazing. I was so far away, but as the event continued, I worked my way closer and closer until I could get semi-decent pictures of them on the stage. I was the only person cosplaying Luke Cage, which was confusing for me, because this show has been a big deal for a while. Regardless, it paid off because I caught the attention of the booth attendees who invited me up on stage to meet the cast. Mike Coulter recognized my costume and took a selfie with me. It was a terrible pic. We had a light behind us and my selfie game is weak as hell anyway – you can tell by the lack of selfies I tweet. Everyone in the cast was so kind and I got a cool poster signed by all of them. It was all very surreal.
I couldn’t make the Luke Cage panel as a friend of mine, Valerie Complex, hosted Fandom Diversified: Changing Dynamics of Nerd Media, a panel on inclusion in nerd media. It is always interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on inclusion. We all know that representation is important and it’s great to see content creators not just creating the content they want to see, but creating spaces for that content to be visible. Podcaster Cory Vincent and cosplayer Amethyst Leon specifically addressed the importance of inclusion and respect in their forums. Jamie Broadnax of Black Girl Nerds discussed how she decided to create a space showcasing the voices of Black girls in nerd culture (hence the name). Jen Yamato joined in on the need for representation and Rob Salkowitz chimed in on the lack of people of color tapped to write the stories about POCs.
My biggest take away from this panel is the question of access and how there comes a point where access is denied. You can’t influence the messaging and the media if you can’t get in the door. All the panelists touched on this in some way and talked about how problematic it is. POC voices, specifically Black voices are underrepresented because we aren’t valued. Our perspective is seen as less. Our contribution is perceived as less. Because of that, no matter how hard we work, or how great our product is, people, specifically white people think it is subpar because it was produced by Black people. As a result, we aren’t invited to the table, and our spot is given to a white person who lacks experience but “deserves” a chance. One of the stories that came out was how one of the reporters at the Luke Cage press session didn’t know who Alfie Woodard was. Alfie Woodard is a Black actress who’s been acting for almost 40 years. She was just in Captain America 3: Civil War this year, yet a press reporter for a geek outlet had no idea who she was. The reason that the reporter didn’t know? Poor planning. Sloppy work. Didn’t care enough to learn who they’d be interviewing. Yet reporters who are Black had to fight to get access to the press room, like there is some limit on the number of Black press outlets allowed in that space. When you have news outlets that don’t value Black people, Black voices, Black perspectives, or Black work, it has a negative impact on Black representation. There’s every possibility that coverage of the Luke Cage event will be diminished because the media person sent to document it was too ignorant to learn about the show and its actors. It’s a huge problem that the panel covered well.
This was my only panel for the day so I hung out afterwards, met all the panelists, and then wandered around for a bit more. I was also hungry, which led us to the Gaslamp District for dinner. I guess I should mention that the Gaslamp District is full of bars and restaurants. And pokéstops. Did I mention that I played Pokémon Go the entire day – when I could get a signal? The San Diego Pokémon were awesome. I got a punchy rock, a skull head, a fire horse, a little blue man, a two-headed puffy bird, a mohawk puppy, and a brick rat. Downtown San Diego was the shit for new Pokémon. We actually went hunting before and after dinner. My last picture of the day was people waiting in line overnight to get into Hall H, the main convention hall for superstar content.
And that wraps up days zero and one of my first SDCC. I’ll write up days two and three a little later cuz this was a lot.
I’ve thrown a couple of photo galleries from the first couple of days in the post. Enjoy!