San Diego Comic Con 2016 Trip Report

Your muggle friends will never know the thrill of scoring SDCC tickets. They’ll never know the heartbreak of hotelpocalypse. Sometimes, when you’re obsessively checking for ticket updates for events, even you wonder if it’s worth all the hassle. But when you show up on site and see the energy outside the convention center, you’re reminded that San Diego Comic Con is still in a league of its own...

The Entertainment Panels

It was generally predicted that Hall H and Ballroom 20 lines wouldn’t be too bad on Thursday. And indeed, I was able to just walk in to a couple of movies.

Trolls actually seemed kind of interesting. I admit I’m a bit intrigued. The animation of the trolls has a bit of charm to it, and of course Anna K and JT can handle themselves in any musical production.

I’d never heard of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets before, but it has an interesting premise, and the very early footage didn’t look too bad. It's set in a space station where many different species have organized, and it's based on a comic book. It’s directed by Luc Besson of The Fifth Element and Lucy fame.

I don’t watch The Strain, but decided to check out their presentation since I had some free time. The music video was hilarious.

The Agents of SHIELD panel was amusing, but they didn’t show any footage from the upcoming season. Come on, where’s the sneak peeks!

Final Fantasy 15: Kingsglaive had a couple of the actors and the director at the panel. If you follow my posts you know I’m a Final Fantasy fan. The movie releases this month. The visuals look stunning, and I really hope this manages to avoid the same fate as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

The Other Panels

There were a fair number of reruns for this year’s comic panels, albeit some new ones as well. I don’t have a big problem with this since I never have time to hit all the smaller panels I want anyway, so it’s nice that I can check them out again the year after.

Last year I attended Comics on the iPad presented by Hi-Fi’s Brian and Kristy Miller. This year I attended the companion panel, Digital Color for Comics. I’ve attended quite a few comic how to panels from many different cons, and these are some of the clearest presentations I’ve seen. They also do a live demo and the tag team setup makes it a lot more lively than one person droning continuously.

I also dropped by Comic Book Law School for a copyrights discussion. I’ve gone a few times now, and even though the topic is always the same, it’s such an audience driven thing and it always goes off book immediately, in fascinating ways. Well, it’s fascinating if you think copyright law is fascinating. I’ll plead the fifth now.

These two seem to be repeated every year, so if you’re interested in the subject matter I think it’s definitely worth checking out next year.

The world building panels always look so interesting on paper, but I’m generally underwhelmed during the actual panel. I’ve attended several of these from different cons, and they all have a tendency to focus on the “why” - “I wanted a more diverse cast so I created an Indian character” - and less of the “how” of world building. The latter is what I’m more interested in - “how did you use the elements in your world to create the conflict,” for example.

Around the Exhibit Hall

This was pretty much the same as years past. There’s the usual mix of big studio exhibitors, big comic exhibitors, comic vendors, indie comics, and artist alley. Simply due to the size of the exhibit hall, there’s more of them and bigger booths, but they're pretty similar to other major conventions. Except bigger. And more. Have I mentioned that the exhibit floor is very large?

Note to future self: Unless you’re trying to see the stars of the shows, avoid the WB and Fox booths at all times when they’re hosting celebrity autographs. In fact, stay clear at least half an hour before the signing starts.

The Offsites

There were a lot of them this year. You could probably spend all four days at offsites.

Petco Park seemed a little weaker this year. There were some companies with gaming and other stuff, but overall seemed a bit more laid back. It’s starting to feel more like a county fair atmosphere and less like a comic con atmosphere, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The best part was the food trucks for when you need a quick bite and get tired of concessions food.

Square Enix Experience seemed interesting, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to wait in line for any of them. They changed their rides from last year, which is a nice touch. Deus Ex, Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy 15 were the featured exhibits time this around.

Con-X was just a bit too far from the rest of the events to make it easy to just swing by. Also, the location for the event is WRONG in the app. By the time I made it to the right place, it was late and things had mostly died down for the evening, and I didn’t get a chance to go back and check it out again during the afternoon.

Comic Con HQ surprised me. It was pretty well organized, had good swag, and ran live shows throughout the con. The hosts managed to maintain their energy even through several days of the hot sun, so kudos to them. I just don’t know if the original content is going to be worth a subscription when I’m already so backlogged on my other tv and movie watching...

I didn’t get a chance to check out Suicide Squad or the hall of faces from Game of Thrones. From the grapevine, I hear I made the right call.

I didn’t get a chance to check out Amazon's The Man in the High Castle or NerdHQ. From the grapevine, I hear I missed some good ones. Well, you win some, you lose some.

Random Musings

Between all the off sites and the official panels, there were a lot of opportunities to see your favorite show. That really made it easier to check out a lot of different things... or follow your favorite show from panel to panel if you’re a superfan.

The withdrawal of the major studios for Hall H didn't really impact me a ton. In fact, it allowed some of the smaller productions to get some air time.

The exhibit floor and the internal lines felt a bit less crowded this year. Did the sheer number of offsites draw off more people, or did the RFID reader succeed in weeding out counterfeit badges?

Was it just me, or were the attendees friendlier this year? Maybe I got lucky.

I didn’t run into this myself, but I heard a lot of people had problems with line management - especially around Hall H - and security staff in general. I try to avoid massive lines, so I can’t say I experienced anything particularly noteworthy here. Every year after con, there are renewed calls to do something about Hall H. I agree things could be better, but it’s also not as simple as “just institute a lottery.”

Why is the comic con app so bad? Ok, it’s not as bad as a few years ago when it wouldn’t even load on older phones, but I generally still find that it has a lot of rough edges. In fact, the website isn’t very usable either. And SDCC isn’t the only one guilty in this. I find it odd given comic con’s nerd base.

I didn’t see as much cosplay this year, so I was extra amused when I saw a blue blazer red hat Agent Carter sitting a row behind military uniform Agent Carter in a panel room. I wish I’d gotten a picture.

Have the other cons caught up to SDCC? I say no. It’s difficult to explain what makes San Diego unique, but here’s the way I like to describe it:

Well that's a quick SDCC recap. See you next year! And may the ticket lottery be ever in your favor.

by Yosen
I'm a software developer for both mobile and web programming. Also: tech consultant for fiction, writer, pop culture aficionado, STEM education, music and digital arts.