San Diego Comic Con: An Overcrowded But Overall Fun Affair

Over last weekend, a handful of WWAC writers attended the 2017 San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). SDCC started in 1970 at the US Grant Hotel; back then, it had only 300 attendees, took place in the hotel basement, and was meant to showcase the comic book, fantasy, and sci-fi genres that often went overlooked and under-appreciated. Over four decades later, and with properties like Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and the MCU and DCEU films pushing all things geek into the mainstream, SDCC has become a massive pop culture event — the largest festival of its kind in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

As the nexus of pop culture, celebrity sightings, and advertising, it’s become increasingly difficult to get SDCC tickets, nab a downtown hotel room, and get a seat in the infamous Hall H (and in the increasingly popular Ballroom 20). Some of the WWAC crew were first-time attendees, some SDCC veterans. We each had our own takeaways of what we enjoyed, what we hated, and how we felt about how large the event has become. Here’s our breakdown:

SDCC’s Sails Pavilion on a Saturday.

For any first/second timers, what were you expecting out of SDCC?

Clara Mae: This was my second time attending but the first time as a press person and I think I had all the expectations that the general public has: that it would be glamorous and overwhelming and that I’d maybe run into some favorite celebs. I kind of naively thought that I’d be able to time manage better and see more stuff since it was my second year.

Corinne McCreery: This was my second time as well, but my first time was seven years ago, and it astonishes me just how much has changed in that short time. SDCC was vast when I last attended, but it hadn’t completely taken over downtown as it does now. You had a couple restaurants and hotels downtown that were decorated, but now everything within a three block radius is all nerdy all the time. Funnily enough, it was while I sat in Ballroom 20 all day Saturday, sitting through panels I didn’t want to watch to get to the ones I did, that my fiancé had the “run into favorite celebs” moments. He got a selfie with Charlie Cox (Daredevil) and was within arm’s distance of Jim Lee and Mike Colter (Luke Cage).

What was your favorite part about the convention? What did you think worked really well?

Clara: Listen, this is a huge, overpacked, sweaty con, so for me, it has to be the people. I loved meeting up with the other writers and editors of WWAC, first and foremost. Being able to speak to them in person, and being able to meet other online mutuals easily made the weekend for me. Having dinner with people, hanging out at the pool with them, experiencing the booths with them — the Alien: Covenant Experience with fellow writer Rosie! — was aces. Our table at the Eisners, with Carolyn Cocca and Taneka Stotts, was also a highlight for me.

The WWAC writers at the Eisners: Corinne, Clara, Megan, Jazmine, and Rosie.

Other than that, I attended some excellent panels about the women working in TV/film and animation that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the “Women of Film Twitter” panel that took place in the gorgeous little Horton Theater venue, which has AC, comfy chairs, and is a few blocks away from the crush of people. I also thought the Interactive Zone and FXhibition Lawn were nice, with plenty of shaded seating and decent food, and on the last day we got to snap a few pics on fake Luke Cage and Legion sets for only a ten minute or so wait.

Corinne: For me, it was all about the experiences of being press. This was my first con where that was my primary role and I went in feet first. Being able to say I interviewed Batman is something that will probably always be surreal. I also got to meet several people who have shaped me as a person, from Dan Jurgens and Louise Simonson, who are both partially responsible for my comic habit to begin with, to Sterling Gates and Eric Carrasco who are writers on my favorite character who I deeply admire. The most heartwarming moment of the con for me is when both Sterling and Eric tweeted that meeting me was a highlight of their con.

And the time I got to spend with the WWAC peeps was amazing and magical. You’re all delightful and I’m proud to call you friends and colleagues.

Let’s talk about how massive and mainstream this convention has gotten. What could be improved? What didn’t work for you?

Marissa Louise: I would do anything to get a pro door. Just please, one lane, one door exclusively for pros so I don’t have to get caught up in those awful bottlenecks.

Corinne: GOD YES. Also, a way for press to get into single panels so that they can cover more things of relevance to them. Nobody is going to come to our site for American Dad coverage, but I still had to sit through that mess to get to Star Trek: Discovery and the DCTV block.

Clara: Um yes, thirded on the doors. Why are not all the doors open in the morning to prevent bottlenecking? Why is an entire section of doors cordoned off when the exhibit hall closes so there’s this mass exodus of people smooshed right in front of where all the shuttles pick up?

Also second Corinne’s press comment. Every year there’s the “Women Who Kick Ass” panel that I’d love to cover for our readers, but the fact that it’s sandwiched between major Hall H panels makes it’s very difficult to attend.

Also, I know this is largely in the hands of the studios, but would it really be so terrible if they allowed live streaming of Hall H panels to nearby Petco Park, or elsewhere? They release the trailers online almost simultaneously now anyway, and Petco Park seats about 40,000 people versus Hall H’s 6,000. They would still get people sleeping in lines for Hall H for those who want the more intimate experience, but live streaming those panels would make everything feel so much more accessible and welcoming for the other 95% of badge holders who don’t get to fit into Hall H!

The Gaslamp District on a Saturday during SDCC.

What have you learned (as in tips/tricks) about SDCC?

Corinne: I networked in the press rooms I attended to collect contacts for future press events down the road, for one. Smaller cons and my one trip to SDCC prepared me for most of what I needed. I brought not one but two portable power banks, I bought a 2DS the day before I left to kill time in lines, we brought cheap $10 chairs to camp for Ballroom 20 and then bequeathed them to people in the Hall H line. I brought enough granola bars and pop tarts and soda to feed a small army. My two biggest regrets are not asking for the day before and after off from my day job, and not getting a hotel closer to downtown. I spent $200 on Lyft this weekend.

Clara: Choose a hotel with a continental breakfast and hoard bananas and oranges like your life depends on it. Carry a travel sized sunscreen spray. Wander the exhibit floor often if you want to have random celebrity sightings. Definitely wander down to Seaport Village, buy some cookies and gelato, and relax and accept there’s no way you’ll see everything you want to see.

Now the big question: would you go back? Why or why not? If no, what would they have to change to convince you to return?

Marissa: It’s a singularly weird experience. I’m happy to attend. I also definitely like being there for half the time though.

Corinne: In a heartbeat. I live in California, so it’s not difficult or really even expensive to get there. I’m already planning on trying to do it again next year.

Clara: Yes. The crowds and general public I have trouble dealing with, but I would be more than happy to meet up with the artists, pros, and press people and have those one-on-one connections.

Gretchen Smail

Gretchen Smail

Part time Bay Area journalist, full time loungewear enthusiast