SDCC 2014: The Aftermath


In years past when I have done my post San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) article, I usually latch onto an issue the show highlighted which I feel affects the entire convention scene. I even had a subject all lined up to cover, the effect of exclusives on the convention scene

And then news started coming out that has changed this from a look at exclusives, to a follow up on a previous column about the SDCC harassment policy. I guess I’ll look at exclusives another time.

You can go here to read my previous column. For quick review there was a petition to have SDCC adopt a more comprehensive anti-harassment policy. SDCC’s director of marketing (Daniel Glanzer) rejected the idea as he said it would suggest to the media that SDCC had a harassment problem.

So how did the event go?

Well there was a major incident that has been reported that suggests that Glanzer will need to rethink his position.

Adrianne Curry, a Model and Actress who is also a well-known cosplayer, was attending the event with friends. One of Curry’s friends was dressed as the Marvel character Tigra. A man approached the friend from behind and tried to put his hands in the bottom of her costume. When that failed he yanked the bottom of the costume down.

Curry, who was dressed as Catwoman complete with a bullwhip, immediately went after the man. Using the whip as a weapon she drove him off. One point to be made here: this incident happened in a crowded area, but not one person stepped forward to help Curry or her friend. In fact, the only thing most did were pull out phones to take pictures

This was, of course, not the only incident reported.

So what now?

It would be easy to say that this would have happened anyway, and maybe it would have, but then again maybe not.

San Diego Comic Con is not just an event, it has its own culture. To fight against harassment, it helps to make that fight part of the culture. We’ve seen other conventions adopt detailed policies that have led to the culture of those shows embracing anti-harassment and helping police themselves.

But step one is that the convention needs to make it clear what is and is not acceptable. The vague policy of SDCC is clearly not cutting it. My hope is the Glanzer and the rest of the governing body of SDCC will wake up to the fact that they need to address this.

Until then, it is our job to keep expressing the need for these changes and doing everything in our power to move the culture in the right direction.


Fanboy News Network Episode 16

Fanboy News Network Episode 16

Comic movie and TV News

This episode

What Andy Serkis is doing on the set of the Avenger: Age of Ultron

Pre-buzz on Guardians of the Galaxy

What Dave Bautista did to get ready to play Drax

The Batman v Superman trailer at SDCC

The picture of Gal Godot as Wonder Woman

Why Gotham may not be that good an idea.

Buzz for the coming seasons of Arrow and The Flash.

The SDCC harassment failure

comiccon-150x150Once again, we find ourselves wading into the issue of harassment in geek culture. This time it hits the big arena that is San Diego Comic Con (SDCC).

The growing awareness of the issue of harassment at conventions has led to many conventions addressing this issue in increasingly clear language. I have written about this several times. We have seen good examples (such as the policies put forth by Emerald City Comicon and The Calgery Expo), bad examples (such as with Fan Expo Canada), and even tragic examples (as was the case with Aki Con).

But unlike these shows, SDCC is well known to mainstream culture. It is THE big show, sells out in 90 minutes, and getting to go is akin to getting the golden ticket.

In light of all these factors, a group called GeeksForCONsent created an online petition to urge SDCC to create a specific anti-harassment policy. Right now, what they have is a broad code of conduct that mentions harassment, but does not define what it means.

Specifically, the SDCC code of conduct is as follows:  Attendees must respect common sense rules for public behavior, personal interaction, common courtesy, and respect for private property. Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated. Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy. Persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy should immediately locate a member of security, or a staff member, so that the matter can be handled in an expeditious manner.

What GeeksForCONsent is looking for is a more clearly defined process that includes a visible reporting mechanism, signs around the convention outlining the policy, and staff training on how to handle these issues. If this sounds familiar, it is because I wrote about it here detailing Emerald City Comicons anti-harassment effort. These are also the steps that The Calgary Expo and many others adopted this year.

Unfortunately, any hope of this petition having any effect right now is stalled. We know this because the director of marketing for SDCC (Daniel Glanzer) has commented on the petition in an interview stating that he did not favor creating a more explicit and visible policy, because it may send the message that there is a harassment problem at SDCC.

I understand if you need to take a minute after reading that last sentence.

Glanzer’s stance is that he thinks that SDCC has taken sufficient steps to deal with harassment and anything else would just cause bad press. I want to go on record as disagreeing with Glanzer. While I do not think a policy needs to be point by point, I do feel it needs to be specific enough that it points out what harassment is defined as, and what mechanisms are in place for someone to report it and get help. In reading Glanzer’s, response I feel his message was that SDCC marketing and publicity was more important than making the convention a safe space. Not only do I find their position unsettling, I worry that they are sending a message to other convention organizers that they need not worry about their own harassment policies.

We are at a point in geek culture when the issue of inclusion vs harassment is now a major issue. Not every convention has a good policy, but as more incidents are having light shed on them, more organizers are taking steps to address the issue. The effects of these steps are visible. Conventions that make sure they are a safe space are reaping the benefits of good will and strong attendance.  Conventions that ignore the issue are getting bad reputations and are starting to see more people staying away.

My biggest concern is that SDCC does not have as much incentive to change, since it is the big dog of conventions. Even staying with their lack luster policy they are going to sell out. The only thing that might be able to change their position externally is a lot of very bad press, or boycotts from major figures in fandom.

My hope is that someone with clout, either inside or outside the organization, can convince them that updating their policy is in everyone’s best interest.

Until then, it is up to those of us in the trenches to keep pushing this message and demanding better.


San Diego Comic Con 2013

comiccon-150x150It’s that time of year again. San Diego Comic Con was last week, and as it is the premier geek culture event of the year and we are a site that covers geek culture, I am obligated to say something about this year’s event, even though I am not able to attend.

Last year I focused on the problems of just getting to the convention, with record sell-out times. Everything I wrote about that is still relevant this year. The other area I focused on was San Diego Comic Con drifting from its original focus and becoming more of a media show, and in that arena there is more debate this year.

The crux of that complaint is that major portions of the show floor have been bought up by media companies who are pushing their various movies, TV shows, and other non-comic-book-related media. This has pushed out more comic-focused vendors and driven up the price of booth space.  To be fair, most of these media companies are focusing on product relevant to geek culture, but not exclusively. An example was a couple of years ago when there was a booth for the NBC show The Playboy Club which, let’s face it, was not geek culture. On the other hand, it was a small booth and the show did bomb.

There is also the complaint that panel time is taken up with shows that have dubious geek credentials, such as How I Met Your Mother and Psych.

But how fair are these complaints?

During the convention prominent comic writer Gail Simone went on twitter to address these concerns and ask some pointed questions.

The first point was to ask if fans were asking for more comic-focused content. If so, she pointed out that every major comic publisher and most minor ones had booths at the convention. She could not think of one that was not there. Also the majority of convention panels were comic industry focused. She said that if you took out all the other media at the convention, you would still have the largest comic convention. So is there really too much other media at San Diego Comic Con, or does it just seem that way because of what other media covers?

She does concede that small vendors and people in artist alley do get marginalized and could use more love. However, this could be said of any comic convention; it is just magnified at San Diego Comic Con.

The feedback from some of the web comic creators at the show illustrates that point. Randy Milholland, creator of Something Positive, commented throughout the show that he was not making enough money to justify the expense of traveling to the convention. He said he lost a few thousand dollars, and of course the time lost that he could have been working, so he says this will be his last year going. I have heard similar tales from Studio Fogilo, but they still attend; although I suspect more for contacts and publicity.

But I think the best summation of what is going on with San Diego Comic Con came from web reviewer Leo Thompson, who hosts the show That Sci Fi Guy. Thompson was explaining the difference between San Diego Comic Con and Dragon*Con. His conclusion is that San Diego Comic Con is a trade show, where Dragon*Con is a fan-focused convention. To build on his point, I would say that this would be like the difference between E3 and PAX in the gaming community . A lot of fans would go to E3 when it was open to the public, but it is acknowledged that it is an industry show; where PAX is very clearly focused on the actual fans.

If we assume that Thompson is right, the question becomes: is this a bad thing? My gut check is that if this were how San Diego Comic Con was openly presented, then no it is not; but right now that is not the case.

I think this bears more analysis, and I will look at it again after Dragon*con happens later this year.

In the meantime, please let me know what you think.


Some thoughts on San Diego Comic-con

San Diego Comic-con logoIt’s time for San Diego Comic-con again.That time of year. when the title of Geek Capital of the World temporarily moves from Seattle to San Diego.

I’ll admit that I don’t feel as excited about San Diego Comic-con as I use to. Last year I had such great plans about commenting on the news that came out of the convention daily, only for that news to either be rehash of what we already knew, of just hype about upcoming movies and TV shows.

I almost feel I could copy and paste my pre con post from last year and have it be almost as relevant this year.

Once again we will be treated to a focus on Movies and TV shows, many of which have no relationship to geek culture at all. A lot of cos-play will be featured and we will likely get a return of the pictures of guys acting inappropriately at female cos-players. And I am sure there will be plenty of coverage about the Twilight panel since, in theory, this will be the last panel for an upcoming movie.

My biggest cause for apathy however is not due to the content of the convention at all. It is based on the issue of attendance.

When I started going to San Diego Comic-con in the early 90s you could still show up at the convention and buy a membership at the door, or at least get a day pass. Not only are those days long gone, but now it is long odds to get any kind of membership at all. While they have not moved to a lottery system like Burning Man has, you do have to preregister into an online system just to have a shot at registering on line when the registration system goes live. This year they sold out in minutes, not hours, minutes. So basically you have several hurdles to jump to get a badge and if not, you are out of luck.

I understand this is due to a combination of the capacity at the San Diego Convention Center and the popularity of the event, but I still see it as a troubling sign. If people are frustrated in their efforts to go they may start just not bothering. Right now this may not seem like a problem, but if you go back and read my article Food of the Geeks you remember I pointed out that geek themed restaurant the AFK Tavern runs the risk of running off new clients due not having tables available to walk ins. It’s the same theory.  After a while people may start saying “Screw it I’m not going to bother, there are other conventions I can go to that aren’t sold out.” And this is what can lead to an event’s decline.

The simple answer that inevitably crops up is move to a site with more capacity. As simple as that sounds there are complications. At this time San Diego Comic-con is signed to stay at the San Diego Convention Center through 2015. Every time the question of moving to a larger venue comes up the city of San Diego fights vigorously to keep the convention.  Since last year it brought 162.8 million dollars to the local economy it’s not hard to see why. Part of this effort is a drive to expand the convention center, but as that would cost an estimated 750 million dollars it is far from a sure thing.

Anaheim and Las Vegas both are lobbying hard to try to draw the convention away as they do have venues that could accommodate a larger attendance, but they have a strike against them, and that is that they are not San Diego. The convention organizers are located in San Diego, so they have an interest in staying local.

While the attendance issue is a pressing one, there is another factor at play that could also contribute to a decline. The convention has drifted away from its original core. When news comes out of the convention, it is again the big media stories about those Movies and TV shows. Lost in the shuffle are those pesky comic books. Every year I hear stories about how it is harder and harder for comic book vendors to get booth space due to increased costs and competition for space with other better funded media vendors. The name may be Comic-con, but the focus is clearly on movies and TV.

One thing I have been hearing is that comic industry pros prefer shows like Emerald City Comicon as they still have a primary focus on comic books. And these shows are not lacking in attendance. I learned from a staff member at ECCC that this year’s attendance on Saturday was more than the entire weekends last year, and then they surpassed attendance estimations by several thousand. This has led to them securing the use of more of the Washington State Convention Centers facilities for next year.

What this adds up to is the potential for another convention to challenge San Diego Comic-con for the title of geek convention king. I for one this would be a good thing as it would give the fans more opportunities.

So here I sit waiting to see what will happen. I will of course pay close attention to what news comes out of San Diego Comic-con this year. If it is good information I will certainly write about it. If not, well I have other articles I am working on.

San Diego Comic-con; what as become of thee?

At the Game of Thrones panel at San Diego Comic-Con George RR Martian referred to the convention as the Geek Capital of the World.  I of course have already conceded that title to San Diego for that one week a year, but I am still pulling for Seattle to get it for the rest.
However despite this being true there is a sense of disappointment coming off of this year’s event. My original hope had been to make daily updates coming out of the convention, but that didn’t work because honestly there wasn’t a lot of news coming out.
And the reason goes to the heart of something bothering a lot of comic fans. San Diego Comic-con has become a media event where the comic books themselves are basically an afterthought.
So here is my post-mortem of the event.
What was the major hype this year? Twilight, True Blood, Game of Thrones, and Immortals.  Ok sure you had the Marvel Movies and Cowboys and Aliens as well, but do most people even know that Cowboys and Aliens is based on a comic?
And outside of the fanbase of the Stars, why are Castle and Burn Notice there? At least Twilight and True Blood are genre appropriate for the fanboy crowd.
As for the comic panels, Marvel seemed to be pushing their other media projects, which made sense considering the quality of the comics lately.   DC hyped the relaunch, but I don’t think I learned much that I hadn’t already learned.  In fact the DC news that interested me the most wasn’t even directly comic related, it was the upcoming Green Lantern DLC for DC Universe Online (Which I will cover in a future post.)
And the best stories coming out of the con as a whole are about bad behavior. Rhys Ifan who is playing the Lizard in the upcoming Spider-man movie showed up drunk and pushed a con security member, leading to him getting cited by the police.
Geoff Beckett of Shocker Toys was served court papers during his panel by an artist suing over an allegation of non-payment. I’m will to bet it was a boring panel up to that point.
So where does this leave San Diego Comic-con. I suppose we must resign ourselves to the fact that it is now predominately a part of the Hollywood Hype machine, and that we should feel lucky comic books are given any time at all.

San Diego Comic-con; It has begun

Day one of San Diego comic-con and here is what we know.
First off I can admit it when I am wrong. When I was first going over the changes coming to Superman in September I speculated that they were moving away from the Siegel owned portions. Turns out I was wrong, they are in fact moving closer to them. Just before the convention DC announced that in Action #1they would present Superman at the beginning of his career “Five years ago” when his powers were still developing. In other words he will be powered down to the original power levels from the original Action #1. Additionally his costume will be a t-shirt jeans and a small cape.  In Superman #1 it will be “present day” and he will have his full powers. The armor costume I mentioned previously will be homage to his Kryptonian heritage.
They also unveiled Lois Lane’s new boyfriend. They really want to drive home the idea that Clark and Lois are not a couple.
The stated goal with the Superman reboot is to make him more relatable. They are going to do this by emphasizing his alien nature and his sense of isolation.
Let me repeat that.
They are going to make Superman more relatable being emphasizing his alien nature and his sense of isolation.
Moving on.
Wally West; The Flash through most of the 80’s and 90’s will be nowhere to be seen despite many fans being more familiar with him then his predecessor and current Flash Barry Allen. This is stated as being needed to preserve Barry’s uniqueness.
At one point they were going to have Wonder Woman in long pants. They have changed their mind and the new costume is closer to the classic one.
A big question surrounds the character of Booster Gold. The explanation for the reboot is rooted in the time travel related story Flashpoint. In Flashpoint Booster, a time traveling superhero, is aware that reality has been changed and is trying to fix it. This has lead fans to ask if he will be aware of the differences in reality port reboot. No answer has been given.
As expected, Twilight fans camped out overnight to get seats for the Twilight panel. Some fans tried to start their camp out on Sunday and were told to come back Monday instead. They did. As a reward, several supporting actors from the series brought muffins to pass out to the lineup.
The convention wised up this year and had Twilight be the first panel on the first day so that the twi-hards wouldn’t clog up the hall waiting.
And as I said yesterday, tonight Comic-con will have the Premier of Captain America: The First Avenger. Apparently the reason they didn’t release over the 4th of July was to be able to premier at Comic-Con.
I’m looking forward to what we learn tomorrow.

San Diego Comic-con; Let the games begin

Back on July 1st I set out to make Seattle the Geek Capital of the World 51 weeks of the year. Today marks the start of the other week. That’s right today is the beginning of Comic-Con International, better known as the San Diego Comic-Con.
Found in 1970 the San Diego Comic-con is the premier pop culture event of the year. The unofficial motto of presenters and exhibitors is “go big or go home.” As a former exhibitor I can tell you that unless you have attended it is almost impossible to grasp the scope of this event, and it has grown in the years since my last attendance in 2004.
Starting tonight a lot of fanboy news is going to be coming out. I am going to do my best to comment on the highlights. Even now, with show not even open yet we have a lot of information.
  • Tomorrow night will see Captain America: The First Avenger premier a day early. Star Chris Evens will be there to kick off the event.
  • The official World Premier of Cowboys and Aliens will take place at the convention.
  • IDW will have a special offer called Sparkles for Blood. Attendees will be able to trade in a copy of any of the Twilight books for a new 30 days of night graphic novel. There stated goal is to return vampires to what they were always meant to be: bloody and terrifying monsters.
  • A group of fans have vowed to stage a protest of DC Comics upcoming relaunch. It will be interesting to see if that actually happens.
And trends from years past will be repeated.
  • DC comics will be a focus as they prepare for the relaunch in September.
  • Marvel will be pushing their movies and valiantly trying to steal the comic news press away from DC.
  • Several TV shows will have panels. Half of which have nothing to do with comics, Sci-fi, or fantasy, but want to be at Comic-con anyway.
  • Twilight fans will swamp the con again in hopes of seeing the stars.
  • Cos-players will hit the floor looking to be noticed. There will be far too many Batmen, Harley Quinns and Slave girl Leias.
  • And the convention hall will once again reach maximum capacity, leading people to beg the convention to move to a bigger site like Anaheim or Las Vegas.
So let the good times roll and let’s see what this year brings.