Comic-Con 2013: Exit Interviews
by Matt Cohen on August 21, 2013
Comic-Con may have been a month ago, but that doesn’t mean the memories (and scars) have faded.
The high-point in the social calendar of any self respecting geek/nerd, Comic-Con is a different experience for every fan who attends. There is so much to do, so much to see, so many lines to wait in, that no two attendees have a “exact” weekend. In fact, with all the different types of folks attending, I’d even argue that Comic-Con, though shared with tens of thousands of people, is a wholly unique experience for each person there.
It’s with that in mind that I reached out to three very different Comic-Con 2013 attendees to hear their thoughts on the week that was, and Comic-Con in general.
FAN= Brendan Creecey. Brendan is a podcaster (Bagged & Boarded, Radio Brendoman, PopSickles) and the creator of a webcomic (Brax the Alien Rocker), but out of anyone I know, Brendo is the definition of a fan. Devoted, loyal and willing to wait in any line, Brendan lives to engage in the things he loves.
PRESS: Marc Bernardin. Mark is currently a senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter, and in the past, Marc has been a managing editor of Starlog magazine, a consulting editor for Fangoria magazine, and a senior editor for Entertainment Weekly and EW.com. as well as writing for Syfy’s Alphas and a blogger for sites like GQ.com, io9.com, Vulture.com, and Blastr.com. He’s also a comic book writer, having authored or co-authored Static Shock , X-Men Origins: Nightcrawler, Wolverine, The Authority, The Highwaymen and more.
PRO: Charles Soule. Writer of Superman/Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns for DC; Thunderbolts for Marvel; Strongman, 27, Strange Attractors, as well as various other comics; Charles has become one of the hottest comic book writers on the planet, sharing duties for both of the “Big Two”. When he isn’t writing every comic ever, Charles splits his time as a musician and a lawyer.
Matt Cohen: When was your first Comic-Con, and how has the convention changed in the years you’ve been attending?
Brendan Creecey: My very first Comic-Con was when I was young, like 9 or 10. I grew up in San Diego, and my brother and I had been hounding my dad to take us. I remember it was at a hotel, and the dealers’ room was very overwhelming, but I loved it. My one major memory was buying a pack of Goonies cards and being very puzzled, as some of the cards described scenes that had been cut from the movie.
My next Comic-Con experience was in 1998. I had just graduated high school. SDCC was now at the Convention Center, but it was definitely not what it is now. That was one of the first “big” years, though, as the Buffy cast was there and that was one of the first times something like that happened. Things suddenly went from “holy cow, there’s Bruce Campbell” to who knows who you would see there.
I moved away for several years after that so my next Con was in 2005. That was the first year of Hall H. I got to the Con on Saturday at like 10, immediately found free parking, bought a badge without waiting in line, and then walked right in to Hall H. That was the last time I could do any of those things. That first time in Hall H was something else. That was the year of Superman Returns, Serenity, King Kong. Tenacious D closed out the night. It was nuts. The very next year, I waited over four hours to get a badge on Saturday, and the year after that I had to get a badge from a friend because they started selling out beforehand. Things got nuts pretty quickly. I had to change my game plan. It was no longer something you could do on the spur of the moment. It was no longer something you could do for just one day and really enjoy. I’m fine with that though. I love it. Next year will be my tenth in a row.
Marc Bernardin: Man, I’m pretty sure it was 2002. Spider-Man had just come out and made cavity-creating gobs of money. I was working for Entertainment Weekly at the time, and I was pushing them to do more comics coverage. With a hit like Spider-Man, I was able to leverage that into convincing them to send me to SDCC so I could make some contacts in the comics space.
The thing I remember about my first few years was the ease of access. You could go from a TV panel in Ballroom 20 to a big movie studio presentation in Hall H, to Karen Berger unveiling Vertigo’s slate, without standing in line for anything. ANYTHING. There were very few Sophie’s Choices — you could pretty much hit everything on your to-do list without any undue hassle. That experience is gone. Even as a member of the press; there was a time when a press pass actually got you access to the things you want to write about. Now, you’ve got to negotiate for special magic passes to get you in. I can’t say it’s changed for the better. Yes, of course, things like The Avengers cast bringing down the house or Doctor Who talent wandering around the Gaslamp District happen. It’s bigger, but at what price?
Charles Soule: My first SDCC was back in 2009 – which wasn’t really that long ago. It was the summer after the release of my first graphic novel, Strongman, published by SLG the previous March. I decided it would make sense to go to promote the book a little bit – plus, I wasn’t going to miss a chance to attend the “big show” as a creator rather than a fan. Getting that first SDCC badge listing me as a “Professional” was a huge moment. I’ve still got it. The main change I’ve noticed (other than with respect to my own time there – my days at the con now are very different than they were back in 2009) is that the con has spilled way out into the surrounding streets. It’s not just the convention center that represents SDCC – it’s the entire Gaslamp District. It’s like the whole neighborhood becomes this gigantic pop culture playground, which is amazing. Overstimulating, sometimes, but still great.
MC: What was your average day at Comic-Con like?
BC: At first I felt like I always had to do everything, so my average day involved me scrambling around, waiting in insane lanes, and being disappointed quite often. After a couple years of that, I just learned to sit back and let things happen. Every missed thing I wanted to do could lead to some other opportunity, and that has never let me down. That’s my favorite thing about San Diego. There is always something going on somewhere, so if one thing doesn’t work out you just move on to the next. These days, a typical day involves me spending time with my friends, either on the floor or in a panel or in one of the numerous experiences outside the convention center. It usually doesn’t end until the wee hours of the morning, I get like 4 hours of sleep, then we do it again the next day. This only comes around once a year, so I will push my body a little bit, knowing it’s all worth it.
MB: Comic-Con, for me, is more about contact reinforcement than reporting — though I do a decent amount of that as well. So there’s a breakfast with a comics publisher or editor, a panel to hit in the morning and write a report of, a lunch with someone else, then another panel or two in the afternoon, then dinner with friends (hopefully). This year, attending for The Hollywood Reporter, we had a video lounge set up a few blocks from the convention center, so I would swing through there once a day, especially if talent from a TV show or movie I’m familiar with was rolling in for interviews. Then it’s party, party, party. Or, usually, one party because I’m not the young man I was in 2002.
CS: This year was my first SDCC I’ve started writing for DC and Marvel (I currently write Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns and Superman/Wonder Woman for DC, and Thunderbolts for Marvel), which meant that I had a bunch of obligations with respect to my work for those companies. They both do plenty of panels and signings, but there were also a lot of behind-the-scenes meetings and discussions. It’s not often that everyone’s in the same place at the same time (as far as creators, editors, etc.), and so there was an effort to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak. Beyond the company work, I also had a graphic novel of my own that came out in May (Strange Attractors, published by Archaia) and a new series starting in October from Oni Press called Letter 44. Oni put together a special con-exclusive variant of the first issue of that series for the show, and I did a number of signings for both that and Strange Attractors, plus panels for those projects as well. So, my day pretty much started by lingering over breakfast, since I knew it was the only time to relax I’d have all day. After that, I’d take a cab to my first appointment, and then it was literally go-go-go until the show closed. I don’t think I had a break longer than 45 minutes at any point. So, it was pretty insane, but I wouldn’t trade it – I know how lucky I am to be able to be promoting my projects at a place like SDCC, and interacting with fans and fellow creators is one of the very best parts of the job.
MC: What are your three standout experiences from this year’s convention?
BC: My number one standout experience was getting to participate in my first panel. It was a dream come true. My friend Phil and I have been doing a panel about webcomics at Long Beach Comic Con for the last four years and we finally got accepted as a panel at San Diego this year. The whole experience was amazing and people really seemed to like it. I also had a lot of fun at the Nintendo Lounge. I just got a 3DS, so I spent huge amounts of time getting Street Passes. I also really loved the Fox Animation Domination HD and Axe Cop panels. Patton Oswalt, Mandy Moore, Ken Marino, and Rob Huebel were there and were hilarious. It’s also not every day you get to see Dino Stamatopoulos (Starburns) drunkenly yell at children in the audience. On Sunday I was a little mopey because I couldn’t get into yet another Doctor Who panel, but as I walked the floor, I noticed that Mondo was finally doing their archive sale where they sell some out of print stuff, and I picked up some awesome posters. That kind of stuff happens all the time at Comic-Con. One missed opportunity, if handled the right way, can turn into something awesome.
MB: 1. Seeing the Agents of SHIELD pilot at the panel presentation — there’s something magical about sharing that with 4,000 people, especially something that you’d normally see in the privacy of your own home. 2. Getting swept up in a Joss Whedon dance party at Nerd HQ. The man just goes for it. What he might lack in skill and/or rhythm he more than makes up for with emotional content and commitment. No one has more fun dancing than Joss. And that’s what dancing is all about. 3. Watching three deaf kids have the best time ever. I stumbled into them on Thursday on the convention floor. Three teenagers of various Benetton-friendly ethnicities. They had these big-ass grins on their faces, like they’d been waiting for this since forever. And they were signing furiously at each other. And that’s what being a fan is all about: love something unabashedly, find people to share that love with, love it together. I wish I loved anything as much as those kids loved whatever they were signing about.
CS: The first day of the show was my birthday, so just getting to see tons of friends and having them buy me too many shots of nice bourbon was certainly memorable. I was fortunate to be invited to attend a DC/Warner Brothers party one evening, and I was sitting in a sort of cabana at that event with some other Green Lantern group writers when Samuel L. Jackson walked in and asked us how we were doing. I’m not a celeb-focused guy, but that was pretty surreal in a great way. I was doing a signing for Strange Attractors, when a gentleman came by who had seen the book. He knew one of the main characters was an older professor-type, and he asked me if I thought it would be a good role for Harrison Ford. I said, “…yes?” He thanked me, introduced himself as someone from Ford’s agency and left. So, that was something. Classic SDCC-type interaction.
MC: Looking to the future, what improvements could be made to the convention, if any?
BC: My friend Anthony told me they had a fastpass system for panels at D23. If they could figure out how to make something like that work at Comic-Con, that would be amazing. Maybe just stop the campers, I don’t know. But on the other hand, if you want to get into something that bad that that is what you’re willing to do, more power to you. I just think it’s a bummer that people think they have to do that. But I get it. So I would go after the Exclusives resellers. Come up with some kind of tracking system or something; if you get caught flipping an exclusive, you don’t get to buy them anymore. Makes sense to me.
MB: Fewer impossible choices. This year, fans had to choose between the Game of Thrones panel, SHIELD, and The Walking Dead. Now, I know the programmers did that to help spread out the crowd, thereby making it possible for more people to actually see SOMETHING. I get it. But if you’re a fan who’s dropping thousands of dollars to make the pilgrimage to San Diego, you should be able to see as much as you possibly can. And it’s an annual refrain, but I’d love it if press passes meant more than just free admission — that if they actually got the bearer into the things they were assigned to cover. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle, I know, but if we could lure him back into the general vicinity with some pie, that’d be better than it is now.
CS: I actually think it’s run about as well as it could be, considering the amount of people who come to see it, and all the competing considerations between the film companies, the video games and the comic book folks. I do wish that Artist’s Alley wasn’t stuck off to one side of the show – I bet plenty of people who come to SDCC never even make it over there – but that’s a quibble. All in all, it’s a pretty awesome event.
MC: If you could see ANY Comic-Con panel in the world, featuring people living or dead, what would it be?
BC: Steven King, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and H.P. Lovecraft. I don’t know. I really just want to get into a Game of Thrones or Doctor Who panel before I die. I’ve spent an absurd number of hours in line for those panels over the years, only to come up empty. Some day.
MB: J.R.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Stan Lee and a big-ass bottle of scotch. Architects of the Imagination. How awesome would that be?
CS: I never get to see panels at SDCC except the ones I’m on, because I just don’t have time to wait in the lines to attend them. That said, you can bet that next summer there’s going to be one hell of a Star Wars panel in anticipation of Episode 7. I’d love to somehow get into Hall H for that.