I felt some anxiety regarding this convention. It wasn’t the Covid, although there was that too, it was just the travel to and from the convention. The airport I fly out of (Toronto Pearson) has been the news a lot lately regarding flights being cancelled, luggage going missing and all sorts of bad stuff.
It’s also been 3 years since I’ve done this convention. I normally pack and prepare a lot for the con. I decided to bring noise cancelling headset with me so I could better hear what’s playing on my laptop during the flight. That worked well. Because I was afraid of my luggage disappearing on me I figured out a way to pack 5 days worth of clothes and stuff into a carry on bag that I normally use for 3 day trips. Apparently my bag was still considered too big for carry on they still took it, but I know it made it on the same plane I was on and I didn’t have to pay extra for it.
I made it to the airport 3 hours early as suggested by Air Canada. They told all to go into this lounge area where I saw people sleeping on the floor (eek!). They called out flights and if you were on them you then go to go through security. People trying to go through security early and get to their gates were yanked and sent back by staff. I saw this happening at multiple points through the whole process. Still, there was a backlog due to there not being enough customs agents available to process everybody quickly enough to make their flights.
The most nerve-wracking part was for myself and others going to San Diego was standing in a long lineup, looking at our phones and knowing we are not going to meet our boarding time. At all. We were wondering out loud will the plane take off half empty or will they delay the flight and let us get on? Thankfully the answer was to delay the flight an hour. After getting through all the various security checkpoints I ran to my gate and got on the plane in time.
I’ll say the Airport employees were doing the absolute best they could under trying circumstances. They were even calling out boarding times and pulling out people out of lines and rushing them to the front to try and get them on their flight on time. It was the customs that real bottleneck that was holding things up.
I had opted for the Early Bird special and got a hotel room at Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, which I’ve stayed at once before. This time they put me in their Bay Tower which is around the corner from the main hotel. It has a nicer view and I liked my room quite a bit.
What I didn’t like about the hotel was the cost of a bottle of Pop was absolutely insane at $5.60. The Convention, which is also insanely overpriced is $4.50 for the same bottle. I did the customary trip to Ralph’s and bought some drinks and snacks for the rest of the week.
I had met up some friends at the hotel and we went to the convention to get our Covid clearance. I did download and use the Clear App prior to going to San Diego. We had made our way through the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina and got our Covid wristbands. It was weird wearing those wristbands for 5 days straight and I wasn’t sure if it would hold up, particularly when showering, but it did.
As I’m coming from Canada I don’t get my badge mailed to me, so I got in line up to get my badge. That went through okay but I think the process was a little better in previous years with signs and more staffing. On Preview night the con was a late in opening up (advertised 6:00pm, but it was 6:30pm when they actually opened), which annoyed the crowd quite a bit, which then annoyed the convention security and staff. In this case I do fall on the side of those that paid for tickets and were expecting the advertised opening time for 6:00pm to be correct. San Diego is an expensive convention to go to and lots of people save up all year to go to the show. I don’t think you can blame them when they expect the show to open at the time the con said it would open at.
When I got in the first thing I noticed about the exhibition floor was the red carpet was no longer there. This was hugely disappointing as I have flat feet and spending a long time on them is hard enough, having to do it on concrete is much harder. I could only be on them for an hour or so before the pain got to the point where I needed to sit down. I normally make a point to walk the entire floor and see all the booths but decided I wasn’t going to do that this year. I was glad to read (from Gary Sassaman) that the decision to not do the carpet was one the convention center made and not Comic con. They were going to spray down the convention center for Covid and that would be easier without the Carpet. Here’s hoping next year the carpet is back.
The vast majority of the con goers were wearing masks indoors as required. Of course with that many people, you’re going to have people who take off their masks or pull it down under their nose once inside. On occasion I did see convention staff tell people that masks were required to be inside. Outside the con was a different story, as a whole lot of people took off their masks once outdoors, in restaurants/bars and at their hotel. It’s not surprising to hear a lot of people got Covid after the con, despite Comic Con doing their best to prevent that.
I’ve been to a few conventions this year prior to the Comic Con and I felt safe at Comic Con. The Toronto Fan Expo in March required masks as per the government mandates that were still in effect. TCAF had no mask mandate (and couldn’t due to it being a public library) but they had signs asking people to wear masks, which most people did. I just went to Montreal Comic Con for 1 day 3 weeks ago and there was no masks mandate and few people wore them. I just heard a dealer there that was wearing a mask got yelled at by people for it. He took off his mask and did the show without it and caught Covid. I wore a fresh N95 masks from the airport, at San Diego and back again and did not catch Covid.
Stuff I learned at comic con.
– Scott Bakula has a horrible New Orleans accent (according to a New Orleans con goer on the shuttle bus).
– Jim Starlin admitted to ripping off Darkseid to create Thanos (according to people from the Kirby Museum).
– DC wouldn’t do a follow up to Batman: The Cult despite it being a top seller. They wanted Bernie Wrightson to do a new Swamp Thing with Len Wein and that didn’t happen. Starlin re-did the follow up story as Punisher: POV.
– Digital lettering has certain quirks which are difficult to work around.
– If the 2000 X-men movie flopped, the Bankruptcy judge that was running Marvel was going to take rights to the Marvel characters and individually auction them off to the highest bidder.
– Little kids would write to DC Comics love advice letter columns and detail their sexual abuse by family members or members of clergy. DC felt they could do nothing about it.
– Barbara Randall Kesel is pretty awesome.
– Willy Mendez was a much bigger part of the underground comics than previously known and that hasn’t been acknowledged until Kim Munson did research her career and wrote and article giving Willy her due.
– Jimmy Palmiotti always has interesting stories to tell about dealing with Hollywood people.
– Joe Shuster may not have drawn the underground erotic art that has been credited to him.
– When Marvel was stonewalling on returning Jack Kirby’s art in the 1980s, using the argument it was custom practice that publishers kept the art, Frank Miller was behind getting DC to publish an letter saying it was their view that art belong to the artist, undercutting Marvel’s argument. This was surprising as Bill Gaines, still alive and running MAD Magazine under DC, was still adamant about publishers owning the art.
I did a little bit of shopping at the con, but not as much as years past. One of the sad things about San Diego is the Gold and Silver section is shrinking. Less and less dealers are coming to the con and those that do often don’t have what I’m looking for and also aren’t interested in discounting very much. I can’t say I blame them, San Diego is an expensive show and it’s just not a show where lots of back issue buyers show up.
Another issue I’m finding more and more is something a dealer friend told me about many years ago. Some dealers don’t acknowledge the grade ‘Good’. Books that are in Good grade get labelled Very Good and stickered with Very Good prices. Then Very Good books get labelled Fine and so forth. I bought a couple of books that were higher in grade and price than I wanted to pay, just to reward the dealer for accurately grading and pricing their books.
I took some pictures of cosplayers and recorded some videos, particularly of a cosplay knight sword fighting which looked fun for those doing it.
I also took a video of this moving Baby Yoda, which was neat. I wondered if it might have been Grant Imahara’s (from Mythbusters) as he created one to send around to hospitals for sick children before he died, but didn’t bother to ask.
Unique for me this year was attending the Eisner’s and getting to sit at a table. In the past when I attended the Eisner’s, publishers and nominated creators get to sit at tables and get a free dinner. Pro’s that didn’t fit in either category sad it chairs behind the tables. As I was an Eisner judge in 2020, but there was no in person ceremony so I never got to experience that. The same thing happened with the judges in 2021. The Eisner’s (specifically Jackie Estrada) was able to get us 20/21 judges a table to sit at and enjoy a dinner, which a nice thing to experience.
As normal with the con, it was also nice to see and catch up with old friends and make some new ones. As usual with the convention, there are people who expect to run into and don’t and those you unexpectedly end up spending a lot of time chatting with. This year I was on a panel, the 3rd time I was on a panel at San Diego. I’m having to get used to public speaking again. Way back when I was in college (1992-1995) I had to do presentations all the time and got pretty good at them by year 2, but I’ve done extremely little public speaking in the years since. My old, had to learn as this doesn’t come naturally to me, public speaking skills have atrophied quite a bit. Ah well, I’ll get better if I keep at it.
I did walk around artists alley towards the last half of Sunday. That’s always one area that Comic Con can improve. I never understood why they place it at the other end of the convention away from where all the comics books are sold. I know a lot of bigger name creators don’t bother with artist alley at San Diego because they don’t make very much money there. Most of the bigger names usually end up getting their own tables either in the self publisher area, the original art area or just sit with their publisher tables. I have no desire to return to NYCC but I have to admit their artist alley section is really good and you’ll see plenty of well known creators there making money.
Then there was the flight home. This was also a little nerve wracking at I’ve been hearing horror stories about US airports. I got to the airport 2 hours early as per Air Canada’s instructions (8am Pacific time). I have to say, San Diego was extremely quick and efficient in getting people through security. I got through everything within a half hour, the quickest in any airport ever. The flight coming in was delayed by 3 hours though. That gave me time to work on my convention pictures and panel recordings. Went I got back to Toronto it then took an hour and a half to get my luggage through, which really sucked. I was planning on going to a restaurant I normally hit that’s just outside of Toronto. It was sadly closed by the time I got there and had to settle for McDonalds 24hour drive through. I got home just before 2am (Eastern) in the morning.
In the end, I really enjoyed going to San Diego and don’t regret going at all. The event takes a lot out of you, that I’m writing this almost a week later tells you how long it takes me to recover from it. I am thinking about doing another convention later on this year but I haven’t decided which one yet.