Having now been to my first Comic-con International conference in San Diego, I have come up with a new official T-shirt for the event. It will say on the front, "What is this line for?"
That was the question on everyone's lips. No matter where you went, either in the exhibit hall or in the meeting room area or outside, there were lines everywhere. There were lines for giveaways. There were lines to get in rooms. There were lines for autographs. There were even lines to get tickets to have a preferential place in a line later. One line, for the largest theater that had the hottest programming, was over a mile and a quarter long, with people lined up overnight to get in. There were so many lines it was often unclear what lines were for. Five people could likely start a line randomly by simply standing in line at some random spot and people would start getting in behind them.
I have decided that the origin of the word Comic-Con is not actually from Comic-Convention but in fact is actually a corruption of COMECON. It is an organization that has embraced the old Soviet economy with both arms. It has bent over backwards to absolutely ensure that no allocation of scarce resources will be based on price -- thus the incredibly complicated process for even obtaining a ticket to the event in the first place. So all goods are free (or in the case of a 4-day ticket, very inexpensive) and allocation of scarce resources is entirely by queue.
A one-day pass to see the exhibit hall and people-watch the Cosplay is well worth the price, both in money and more importantly in time. My son and I had a great time. But any attempt to enjoy any of the programming content will require at least 1 hour of line-standing for every 1 hour of program time. And if the program has any recognizable person's name in it, or if the title includes the words "Star Wars, Star Trek, or Firefly", then you can count on at least 3 hours of waiting for every one hour of programming.
As an example, my son and I showed up 1-1/2 hours early for an afternoon program called something like "Star Wars vs. Firefly." We were about 50th in a line that eventually ran to about 600 people. We thought we were in good shape. Foolish mortals. It turns out people showed up at 7 and 8 in the morning for the first program of the day in that room, and then never left, solely to get to the 1:30 Star Wars/Firefly program. None of us in line outside the door at 1:30 got in.
I am not going to argue resource allocation methodologies here -- this is a private event and they are welcome to do it any way they wish. And since their target audience tends to be young and perhaps under-employed, then I can see how an allocation methodology based on investing one's time rather than money would be appealing to that audience. Again, a day at the trade show and people watching the Cosplay is worth it. As for the rest, if you are someone who will wait in line an hour to save 10 cents on gas, you will probably love it. If you are someone who thought the FastPass system was the greatest thing ever implemented by Disney, they you should likely give the programming a miss.
A few other notes:
- One of the shorter lines was for autographs from Stan Lee, which goes to show how far Comic-Con has evolved from its roots
- Building on the previous observation, I saw only one or two booths on the entire (huge) exhibit floor actually selling vintage comic books
- The Cosplay is everywhere but the best place to see it is just outside the hall where the photographers are taking pictures of folks coming in. This is one area Comic-Con is really missing an opportunity. If I were them I would create a red carpet ala the Oscars for Cosplayers to come in and everyone else to watch. Put in some grandstands and big screens, maybe even with live commentary or voting
- The masquerade is very miss-able. A costume competition but it is run in a tedious manner and the Cosplay on the exhibit floor is better.
- Fortunately I have a lot of nerds in my clan so I came away with good gifts. My son got an autographed Summer Glau photo, my daughter an autographed Benedict Cumberbatch photo, and my niece an autograph of the most current Doctor Who (sorry, my first Doctor was Tom Baker and I can't keep track of the new ones). My son also scored a Disney Princess calendar drawn in that, ahem, fantasy style made famous in publications like Heavy Metal. It is sure to horrify my wife and daughter, which I assume was half the point.