Saturday, July 20, 2013
Bucket List - 1; Me - 0. This week is SDCC 2013, the San Diego Comic Con. It has been something I've wanted to attend since long before it became the multi-media juggernaut it is currently. What started some years ago as a pretty standard convention of comic book fans -- much like the convention that Baltimore still hosts every year in late summer -- is now barely about comic books at all. It is a showcase for Hollywood films and television programs, some of which only barely qualify as comic-nerd fodder. Comic books are really an afterthought at SDCC at this point, with a lower priority than movies, TV, videogames, toys, etc. And yet I still want to go. And I probably never will.
Which is too bad, because this year would have been a great year to go. The 20th anniversary of "The X-Files." The 50th anniversary of "Doctor Who." The new seasons of "Sherlock" and "The Walking Dead." Upcoming movies about Thor and The Avengers (Marvel Comics, not Steed and Mrs. Peel.) Not to mention every comic book creator alive today who's worth mentioning, including the apparently immortal Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the Avengers and the X-Men, among others. Going would have been one heck of a way to celebrate my 60th birthday. But there's no way.
Why not? Because, as many others have already written, Comic-Con has simply gotten too big. Too big for its venue, too big for its host city, too big for its proverbial britches. The con squeezes over 130,000 people into the San Diego Convention Center. There is inadequate parking. Hotels are far away and do not have sufficient rooms. Tickets sold out in under two hours last February, despite the overworked, inadequate and supremely glitchy Comic-Con website. And if you were lucky enough to score a ticket, and a room that you can afford, and a way to get to the center, it can still take hours just to get in. Running the human gauntlet at the entry gate is apparently quite daunting. And if you are handicapped, or otherwise have special needs -- I personally have issues relating to Crohn's Disease which make bathroom access an absolute necessity -- you are in big trouble. The Center does not have adequate facilities for the crowd it hosts, and trying to navigate a wheelchair through the press of people attending can be trying at best and impossible at worst.
But say I did it. Say I somehow managed to get my Crohn's and my arthritis under sufficient control to allow me to make the trip, that I scored a ticket in the lottery that is the SDCC ticket sale, got a room at a hotel with a shuttle, etc., etc. There's still no guarantee that I'd get to see one bloody thing I'd hoped to see.
The largest hall, the one that hosts the most popular panels like those for the Avengers movie or for the Twilight films, only seats about 6,000. That sounds like a lot, until you realize that almost all of the 130,000+ attendees want in. The lines are, quite literally, over a mile long and take hours and hours of your day. With no guarantee that you even will get in, because the folks that are already in the hall, for the presentation ahead of yours, are not required to leave. So of course many attendees have adopted the strategy of getting in however they can, be it hours or days in advance, and simply staying there in their seats until the program that they really came for finally comes up on the schedule. It's ridiculous.
The convention needs bigger and better everything if it is to continue. It needs a bigger venue, better ticket policies, better policing of the panels, better handicapped and special-needs concessions, etc., etc., etc.
When I tally up the actual physical inconveniences of attending versus the geek dream idea of actually going to the con, sadly, the inconveniences win. To waste an entire day standing in line to meet (insert geek star here) only to be turned away at the door, or losing my place in line because I had to go to the bathroom and did not have the foresight to catheterize myself (and yes, some do exactly that) would break my heart. So, Bucket List or not, I just, sadly, cannot see it ever happening, short of my creating something that landed me on the SDCC VIP guest list.
At least with YouTube and the rest of the Internet, I will get to see the things I couldn't attend in person. That's something, I guess.