This Comic-Con report was written by Brent A. Thale on July 25, 2010. Please do not use these pictures for any commercial purpose or post them on any web site without written consent from Brent A. Thale, the copyright holder.
Comic-Con 2010 exploded into action like a legion of manic, giddy, and nattily dressed caped crusaders at the majestic San Diego Convention Center in southern California July 22nd to July 25th, 2010! Comic-Con is famous for jamming an insane number of people into a midsize convention center, and this year was no exception. What seemed like hundreds of thousands of people converged on downtown San Diego beginning hours before the show even opened to eagerly pick up their show badges and gain access to the world's craziest, most chaotic, and most fun pop culture extravaganza!
When I first reached the convention center I thought the show would be a total loss for me when I saw the line to get in. I've been to Disney Land, Disney World, Disney Galaxy, and whatever, but I have never seen a line of people like the one to get into Comic-Con. I figured I would spend hours just standing in that line to get in and never take a single picture! Little did I know that the convention organizers have vast experience at shoehorning masses into SDCC, and once the line started moving I literally had to jog to keep up with it, and I entered the show floor shortly after 9AM on opening day exactly as promised! I salute the organizers of the show for taking crowd management seriously and making the best of the limited capacity of the convention center.
This was my first time at San Diego Comic-Con, I didn't know completely what to expect. The show is not completely about comic books, although they do feature very prominently on the show floor. Over the years the show has expanded to include many forms of entertainment that overlap the comic book demographic, including video games, movies, anime, costumes, and collectibles. Since I'm coming from a video game background and have been to the E3 show many times which is just about video games, it was a bit humbling to see video games taking up just one section of the show floor. In fact, Electronic Arts and Activision, the two largest publishers in the industry, had tiny booths showing just a few games each. EA had only Medal of Honor and Rock Band 3 on the show floor, with Dead Space 2 and Dragon Age 2 being demoed at an off-site hotel. Most video game publishers were present, with Ubisoft's Just Dance 2 drawing a constant crowd, Red Faction's giant mech lining them up, and I believe Star Wars: The Old Republic launched a new trailer.
However, it's not video games that are the show's trademark anyway, it's "cosplay", the custom of show attendees dressing up as their favorite comic book, movie, and video gaming characters, and wow, did they ever do that! So many fantastic costumes, too many to photograph really, but I did the best I could. Although I would estimate only about one percent of people attending the show wore nice costumes, one percent of a hundred thousand people is one thousand nice costumes! Factoring in the massive throngs of non-costumed convention-goers packing the aisles, and the fact that everyone and his dog owns a digital camera and wants to photograph everything in sight, it was quite a challenge to get all the best costumes shot. I would like to say though, that the people in costume were incredibly courteous and understanding of photographers' needs. Of the many hundreds of people I asked for photos, I wasn't refused one single time, although I can imagine how stressful it must be for these people to have endless hordes of strangers hassling them for photos every second they are on the show floor. Three cheers for Comic-Con cosplayers!
The show itself is deliciously NOT politically correct, it's so refreshing to attend a convention where pretty much anything goes and all the fun hasn't been sanitized out by corporate committees. It's quite a unique cultural gathering that somehow brings everyone who loves pop culture together, including teenagers looking for X-Men comics, babies in strollers (!!!???), role-players as steampunk vampires, jaded media types, well-endowed ladies letting it all hang out, career-trackers doing the networking thing, photographers (that's me) hoping for that perfect moment... I don't know how it works but it does. Comic-Con 2010 was by far the most enjoyable show I've attended in years, other shows (this means you E3 and Gamescom!) could learn something from the trust the show organizers have in the people who make the show what it is.
Another part of Comic-Con is shopping! There are so many things for sale, exquisite artworks, character-driven toys of all types, of course comic books, figurines, arts and crafts, out-of-print books, movies, and posters, anime, even hentai! I would strongly recommend that anyone with impulsive tendencies not attend the show or at least leave your wallet at home because it's possible to spend many thousands of dollars on incredibly desirable items that you don't need but that just seem so cool! One company was selling life-size replicas of the alien weapons from "District 9" for the low, low price of $499, another company had a near scale Terminator model for sale, pretty much anything from any cool popular property can be had for a price here, often at special rates only available to show attendees.
One whole section of the floor is row after row of comic book and fantasy artists who are there to mentor, network, or even draw custom sketches for people at the show. The amount of artistic talent at Comic-Con is amazing, with some of the most famous and successful artists in the business making themselves available to evaluate and assist people trying to get into the business. There's a whole career-oriented side of Comic-Con that I didn't really even see, it's definitely a great place to start for people looking to get into pretty much any aspect of entertainment media.
Star Wars had a big presence at the show, promoting video games, toys, tv shows, books, replicas of items seen in the films, autographs from actors (I'm told Billy Dee Williams was on hand but I didn't see him), pretty much everything except new Star Wars movies. I believe Slave Leia, from "Return of the Jedi" was the most popular costume at the show, they gathered all the Leias up and I counted fifteen in one picture! There were also many Stormtroopers of all varieties, quite a few Jedi, and even some of the rarer alien races from the Star Wars world.
Comic-Con is big enough to draw quite a few celebrities, I personally saw Bruce Campbell of "Brisco County Junior" and "Army of Darkness" fame promoting his new "Burn Notice" show, and practically the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation cast except Captain Picard was on hand for autographs. I believe William Shatner was there and Angelina Jolie may have made an appearance, but I tend to avoid celebrity photos because they tend to get annoyed easily by photographers and there is always a massive feeding frenzy of people snapping photos of anyone remotely famous, which raises a question I've long had about people's motivations for picture taking. What do people do with all the photos they snap of things at shows like Comic-Con? I know what I do with my photos, I put them in writeups like this one, but I doubt most people do that. I suspect most photos, which are almost certainly pretty bad considering most people do not even consider important issues like lighting and composition and simply snap at anything that moves, end up sitting forgotten on memory cards and hard drives somewhere until they are eventually deleted.
Anyway, speaking of photography, this year I was using a Nikon D700 camera, a 24-70 f/2.8 lens, which was used for nearly all costume photos, and also a 70-200 f/2.8 lens with 2x extender, although I found very little use for telephoto in the cramped confines of the show floor. On day one I used a Nikon SB-900 flash in a little softbox on top of a light monopod held in my left hand while shooting with my right, this gave an angled lighting look that is distinctively different from straight flash. On day two I used an Orbis ring flash adapter which gives a soft, flat look with no shadows. I appeared to be the only person using ring flash at Comic-Con, I got many questions about it, the main reason I use it is because the ceiling is so high in the convention center that it's impossible to bounce flash off anything and I don't like the look of straight flash. What did I use on days three and four? Nothing! Comic-Con sells out nearly a year in advance and I could only get tickets for the first two days of the show, so I went to the San Diego Zoo on Saturday and then flew back home.
Several people, including cabbies I spoke to, suggested that Comic-Con may only remain in San Diego a few more years due to the massive crowds completely overwhelming the city. Although San Diego was great, with very mild weather and a beautiful clean and safe downtown along the bay with cool artworks everywhere, I do agree that having so many people jammed into a small space can be quite stressful, so perhaps moving is the solution. Anyway for now, I would strongly recommend staying in one of the hotels within walking distance of the convention center because Comic-Con causes some crazy gridlock that makes it very slow to get around.
So I give Comic-Con 2010 the official BAT Cave Seal of Approval for best pop culture show in the universe! Gentledudes of Comic-Con: Keep it real, never sell out, don't ever change, keep on doin' what ya do, and see you next year for another great show!
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