San Diego Comic-Con starts today. I am not there, nor have I been for seven years.
The first time I went to SDCC was 1994, as a member of Byron Preiss’s editorial team. We were gearing up to launch the Marvel novels, and we had a small booth where we promoted our stuff. The con was approaching 40,000 in attendance, and we were all wondering if it might be getting a touch too big, a position that is charmingly naïve given how the attendance has metastasized in the subsequent two decades. In ’94 there was no Gaslamp District, just a bunch of warehouses that you avoided walking around near late at night.
I went again with Byron in 1996, 1997, and 1998. By then, the Marvel novels were a big thing, and we got an endcap booth and had authors and artists signing at our booth. Running the booth kind of became my responsibility, mostly because I was the most organized person in the company. That included moving heaven and earth to manage the line for Stan Lee’s autographing in such a way that we didn’t block other booths. (The same consideration was not given to us when Kevin Smith was autographing around the corner from us, and his line totally blocked access to our booth. Security was utterly indifferent on the subject, and I have to admit that I avoided Smith’s movies for years because of the memory of how his people fucked us.)
From 1999-2007, I went on my own. At the beginning of that span, doing so was relatively painless, but those were the years when the attendance kept getting larger and I went from being able to easily get a room at the Hyatt next door to the convention center to struggling mightily to get a room in Mission Valley, half an hour away by trolley (including a ten-minute walk from hotel to trolley). There was also an inverse relationship between the ease of getting a hotel room and the amount of networking I was able to do. It was always good for promotion, but the crowds and insanity made networking impossible, and the amount of promotion that I was able to do wasn’t worth the expense and hassle.
After ’07, I swore I wouldn’t go back unless someone else was making the arrangements because they wanted me there. In 2009 and 2010, that was the case, as I spent those years going to tons of comic conventions with BOOM! Studios when I was writing their Farscape comic book.
I have fantastic memories of SDCC (getting my Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers; moderating a Farscape tenth-anniversary panel with Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Rockne S. O’Bannon, and Brian Henson; having dinner with Stan Lee, where he spent most of the meal helping Byron’s then-eight-year-old daughter play with the action figures she’d bought that day; hanging out with Julius Schwartz; meeting Megan Rothrock, who has become a dear friend; hanging out with JK Woodward; Jen Heddle and I joining the throngs seeing a screening of Serenity before its release; hanging out with Andromeda fans and Browncoats at various parties and hotel rooms and bars; mass dinners filled with cool people organized by Jeff Mariotte and Maryelizabeth Hart (now Iturralde); hanging out in the bar with Christopher Golden, Thomas Sniegoski, Meloney Chadwick, and Scott Allie; hanging out with Louis Small Jr.; being at a party with Garth Ennis; signings at the Mysterious Galaxy booth; the BOOM! drink-ups; having my signing at a Browncoats table interrupted by Joss Whedon and being totally okay with it,* and so much more) and I really would love to get back there some year, but it’s just not in the cards money- or time-wise to be worth it for me. NYCC is just as crazy, but I can commute to it, so it’s a better use of my time and energy. Dragon Con is also just as crazy, but the con genuinely wants me there.
* Especially since it resulted in this picture:
I look forward to some day returning. In the meantime, all y’all going, have a good time, remember to wear comfy shoes, and for goodness sakes, hydrate!