I went to the San Diego Comic Con over the weekend.  This is a family tradition that’s been going on for 20 years now.  I, unfortunately, didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked because of family obligations, but I did get to attend a few panels.

First, my overall feeling for the con: crowded.  Even with on-site registration shutting down for the weekend, there were still 40,000 more people there this year than last (according to G4 TV).  And it still felt like it.  Many panels had a long line, at least 30-45 minutes waiting in it to get in.  If you weren’t at the Ballroom at 10am on Saturday, you didn’t get to see the Heroes panel.  That room holds 4200 people.  Getting through the exhibit hall was no better.  You were still getting crushed, and getting in to see some tables was nearly impossible.  You can’t just roam the hall anymore.  You have to have specific targets and hit them early, otherwise you’re not going to get what you want.  And, I think that’s just sad.  Browsing has always been one of the great things about Comic Con.  Never knowing what you’re going to find on that one obscure table…  Anyway, enough reminiscing.  It’s getting to the point though, where it’s not really worth it to go as a family.  If you’re an industry professional, or press, then there are lots of great things for you to do.  But for the average lay person….

The panels:  As I said, I was with my family, so that meant compromises had to be made.  I was able to go to a couple of my manga panels on Friday, but I had to the accomodate my husband on Saturday for his Sci-Fi panels in exchange.  The kids got dragged along.  But they had their gameboys, so they were at least quiet.

       Viz Shonen Jump:  A lot has already been reported on this panel: Viz Big omnibus volumes of Rurouni Kenshin, Dragonball, and Dragonball Z, and Bleach being added as the new serialization in the magazine.  For more about how I feel about Bleach, read here .  Something that hasn’t been mentioned much is a new Dragonball Collector, which will be a supplement coming out in October.  Included in this issue will be a one-shot manga by Toriyama-sensei called Neko Majin.  This is a short comedy series that Toriyama did that included an extended cameo by Goku.  It is these chapters that will be translated in the magazine.  Toriyama fans rejoice!

       Yen Press:  I really wanted to attend this panel because of how new the company is.  It was a small panel, happening later in the evening.  Less than half the room was filled.  But, it was a lot of fun, being in an intimate setting for once (and only time the whole con).  You can tell Kurt Hassler truly loves manga, as he was jumping in to talk about all the new releases, and was also familiar with the anime associated with them.  The exciting news from this panel came through questions from the audience about the anthology Yen Press is planning to do.  The plan at the moment seems to be for a Summer of 2008, possibly debuting at SDCC 08.  OEL manga (for lack of a better term) will still be a part of the anthology, with Sveltana’s Night School scheduled to debut.  The anthology will also probably be like a Korean anthology, with half the book reading right to left (for Japanese titles), and left to right for the other (for english/korean titles).  The paper quality is expected to be more disposable, like in the Japanese market, and although there isn’t anything scheduled like Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga, Yen Press is always actively seeking new talent.  The thing that was stressed most at this panel, is that Yen Press doesn’t want to “pigeon-holed” into anyone genre or country.  They want to just be known for putting out good books, and to grow the manga market for people not necessarily regular manga readers.  This was one of the best panels I attended with the very warm and candid way the panelists interacted with the audience.  Personally, I’m rooting for Yen.  I really want to see more of a variety in the manga market without ties to genre.  I just want to read good books, and Yen’s library so far does seem to be filled with them.

       Stargate/Stargate Atlantis:  These panels were back to back, and are always fun to attend.  They playfulness of the panelists with each other and the audience is always great.  Though, they aren’t big on giving out information.  They run a trailer at the beginning of the panel, and then just jump into questions from the audience.  I was 15 minutes late to Stargate SG-1, since it overlapped Shonen Jump, but it apparately started late and I only missed the trailer.  The two direct to DVD movies will be out in the Fall 07 and then Spring 08.  The Atlantis panel was filled with much of the same hi-jinks as SG-1, as half the panelists and most of the audience stayed for it.

       Supernatural:  We’d wanted to to go to the Heroes panel, but it was filled up by 10am (it didn’t start until 12:45pm).  So, instead we went to the panel for Supernatural.  There was only one of the stars there, Jensen Ackles, but that was enough for the fangirls, and there were a lot of them.  We were shown an extra from the second season DVD boxset about the writing of the season finale, and a special clips reel made up for the con.  Not much was given out about the next season, except that the new additions to the cast, “the girls” (they were never named) would not be riding with Dean and Sam, but would instead be more like obstacles.  One of the girls is confirmed to be a thief, neither on the side of good or evil.  The third season will be about the war with the demons that escaped from Hell in the finale.  Many of the questions asked by the audience were about either pranks pulled on set, or the classic rock soundtrack featured in the show.  The producers said there were no plans for an official CD compilation of the songs featured, but the possibility of a playlist on iTunes could be considered.

       The Film Crew:  This was a big surprise for us, and we weren’t going to miss it.  We only had to stand in line for 20 minutes.  The Film Crew is a new venture by the guys who did Mystery Science Theater 3000, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, doing what they do best: ridiculing bad movies.  They are working with Shout! Factory to get the movies.  Seeing these guys in person was a real treat.  We are big MST3K fans, but never got to see them when it was big.  They are really fun to watch and listen to, just getting on stage with introductions!  We got to see clips from the next three movies set to come out in Aug, Sept and Oct.  And then questions were taken from the audience.  Not a lot of the questions were about MST3K.  People seemed to be more interested in finding out about the new movies.  A request was specifically made to see if they could get Night of the Lepus, a bad horror movie from the 70’s that they were suprisingly unfamiliar with.  A promise was made to look into the possibility.  The movies they are doing first are all public domain, or at least no one want to claim them.  The first four movies they’ve done are all orphans, but if the DVDs sell well, they might see about trying to get licenses.  There were also some questions on Mike Nelson’s Rifftrax, and comments on Kevin Murphy’s books, and Bill Corbett’s projects (he an actual Hollywood writer!  Who knew?)

       Sunday:  There were very few panels of interest on Sunday.  We spent that day trying to get through the last third of the exhibit hall, and picking up the last of anything we wanted to buy.  I finally got my Viz bag (they give these out every year).  This year it was purple, with Death Note featured on one side, and MAR on the other.  I would have liked to have gone to the CMX panel, but the rest of the family was tired, and just wanted to go home.  Maybe next year.  The kids are starting to show an interest in the Kid’s workshops on Sunday, so splitting up might work out better next time.

Exhibit Hall:  It was crowded of course, but not quite as bad as it was last year, when you couldn’t even move through the aisles.  This year they seemed to keep the crowd controlled better.  But the vendors were still a disappointment.  I had a nice long list of things I wanted to find at the con.  The best I could get was a few comics, a couple of Viz manga (to get my bag), and the toy exclusives.  Once though, I would have been able to find everything and more!  All the Dog and Pony Show boothes just took up too much space, and made it difficult to get through with the lines and crowds they created.  The con exclusives are becoming the only motivation for collectors to come anymore.  You can find everything else you want on line.  I was really disappointed with the Tokyopop booth.  They had a huge space, one third dedicated to computers for signing up for the webite, another third for tables for autographs, and the last third was for their manga “store”, that didn’t have any of the titles I was looking for.  This is something that has really bugged me about Tokyopop.  They don’t make all their titles available , only those they think will sell or want to push.  The store isn’t even run by Tokyopop, but a local seller that carries Tokyopop books, so there’s no way they could have everything.  They also didn’t have any samplers on hand to give out.  I checked them all three days.  Nothing.  Nearly every other manga publisher had samplers.  Even Square Enix, at the game booth had a manga sampler!  Viz had 6 different samplers for all their lines!  With all the books Tokyopop puts out, they would do better to market some of these titles then just push their website.  A sampler of the RSoM winners, of their OEL manga.  There is so much they could do, but it all just wasted potential.

My final thoughts:  San Diego Comic Con has gotten too big.  It’s more of a media circus than a comic convention.  I saw a “debate” on the G4 from comic con, and the person saying that Hollywood hasn’t ruined comic con didn’t know want she was talking about.  She brought up the success of comic movies, but doesn’t mention (or realize) that most movie goers won’t be picking the source material because it differs so from what movie.  There are a few solutions to these problems.  One, as mentioned on G4 as well, is to split the con.  Summer for the media events, and Winter for the comics.  Another solution is moving the con, but I don’t see this as very viable.  There are very few places that could handle a con it’s size.  Las Vegas is about the only place that could hold 140,000+ people, but San Diego offers a lot more for families that Vegas could.  The third is of my own design, and that’s to move the comic vendors back to where they started, the old Convention Center in the the Civic Center.  It’s only a few blocks from the new Convention Center, could easily be reached by shuttle, and could no doubt fit all the comic vendors (as few as they are any more).  Or even the Fantasy artists, artist alley and small press could move there.  Just, something has to give if SDCC is going to survive.  Gaming has already been moved out to a local hotel.  It may be time to take more drastic measures.

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