We are now two weeks into June and for most of us in the SoCal region, this means one thing; San Diego Comic-Con is coming!

We are gathering our costume pieces and working out the final kinks in our uniforms, robes, warrior garb, prosthetic and various other attachments we will be sporting for the 4 days of insanity.  In just about one month, the San Diego Convention Center will erupt in an H-Bomb of geekery.  Chaos will flood the streets in the form of zombies, mages, elves, Uruk-hai, inhabitants of Krypton and everyone from Rainbow Bright to Batman will be there.  There will be Wonder Women and Phoenix’s, Catwomen and every rendition of Harley Quinn oozing out of every street lamp in the Gaslamp District and more skin than should be legal in a public place, all in the name of costuming and the love of geek culture.

We are saving and stockpiling money for hotels, food, toys, treats, alcohol, we have already requested and had our vacation time approved; 2 days prior for set up, packing and travel and at LEAST one day after for recovery before we go back into the trenches of our “real life”.

We are reading every geek site, scanning the ComicCon International page daily for news, updates on who will be appearing, where to go and what panels to attend.  We’re working out our schedules and coordinating plans with friends to make sure each of us knows our jobs; who will stand in the Hasbro line while the other waits to see Kevin Smith and who gets to be the food runner while we all wait to get into Hall H.

We all know that San Diego, Comic Con International and the various media moguls presented there make a ton of money on us and most of us are comfortable with that, because it’s the one time a year when we can all be surrounded by like-minded folks who appreciate the effort we put into being fans and most of us are somehow involved in the Industry ourselves.  There’s a comradery during this event that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else (that I’ve seen personally).  That sense of inclusion is worth the money, the time and the exhaustion to have a chance to find the game developer who created that stupid puzzle that took you a week to get past in the game you love and to tell them how much you HATE them. (In the most adoring way possible)

But every year, it seems they make it a little more difficult, a little more expensive, there are a few more hoops to jump through and although we go, we’re excited and we love it, in the back of our minds, we’re secretly dreading it, angry with them and feel like beaten housewives who will take the blow just to get the apology roses.

This year was no exception; they added some new limitations and included a drawing for tickets, which of course created chaos and conflict.
Many angry people posted this morning about how Comic Con “International” has made outcasts of their overseas audiences and attendees by forcing a drawing as means to getting tickets.  Many countries have rules about contests like this and it limits the international audience’s ability to participate. This is just one more notch on the wall against them and I see it only getting worse.

When I first started going to ComicCon in 1999, I bought a one day pass, at the door the day we went.  We saw artists, comic book writers, authors, directors, we walked onto mock-sets for horror films, took pictures with Jason in Camp Crystal Lake, met some famous people and bought some incredible merchandise.  It was busy, a little chaotic, overwhelming and it was amazing.

Once I began working with FP as a writer, I applied for a professional pass and began attending as a Pro rather than a random person.  The only difference was which door you got to walk in and the fact that I didn’t have to pay.  Being Pro allowed me to attend early, walk around and actually TALK to the writers, artists and actors in a capacity that you just can’t do otherwise.  There was also an ease of speaking to the “elite” that you don’t get when you’re just random chick who bought a ticket at the door.  The other benefit was the allotment of guest passes you were allowed to have as a professional. We used to be allowed free passes and paid passes.  This allowed family such as husbands, children, etc. to attend with you.  The paid professional passes allowed other members of your company to attend even if they didn’t have “pro” status themselves.  We could allow our admin crew to attend, our models and our street team folks who were willing to pass out fliers and interact with guests to attend with these passes for all four days.  It really felt like the set up was designed with the success of the business in mind while respecting us as human beings with families.  I always personally appreciated this, especially after I had children because in order to attend,
I needed someone with me, or I’d never get anything done.

As the years went by however, I noticed a change, small at first, little things… then larger issues, new rules, restrictions and demands.  The system had always been set up to allow more industry members than general public and it was great because you knew the majority of the people surrounding you were IN the industry you were in and respected the environment as an actual trade show- not just a place to buy exclusive and expensive crap.  They were not only respectful of the enviornment, but there weren’t as many crazy, star-struck people rushing the stages and panels or photo ops or merchandise areas. Walking around, you knew you shared the floor with other members of an industry that we were all a part of in some capacity and loved.  The more time went by, they allowed a little more “regular guest” tickets to be purchased and tacked on a few more restrictions for professionals in the industry.

Now, 14 years after my first trip to the Con, I am watching them host raffles for ticket sales because they don’t have the capacity to handle the madness that occurs online when ticket sales go live.  This raffle is only available for general public.

As a pro, I’m not allowed to participate in hopes of getting additional passes which means I probably won’t be going this year.

As a professional, I am only allowed to go by myself.  I was given the option to purchase a single,
additional pass, for over 100 bucks if I wanted my husband to go with me.  The kids are still young enough to not require passes, but even the 10 month old will now need a badge of her own.  Why? No idea… but that’s the rules, so if I go, I go alone, with two children under three, standing in a ridiculous long line to get them badges for no apparent reason and attempt to actually do anything but sit in the corner and keep them from running in separate directions.

The face of ComicCon International has changed.  It’s a sad reality and this was proven in spades last year.  They limited the amount of professionals that could get passes, yet they doubled the amount of passes allotted to the general public.  This gave them more money, but required they place additional restrictions and do things like banning the most popular style of strollers, thereby casting out families. They claimed it wasn’t their decision, that it was the city’s requirement because the fire marshal said so.

Well, I called the Fire Marshall’s office last year and asked them and guess what? Their official statement to me was that Comic Con International offered the restriction as means for gaining additional sales so more tickets could be sold.

It’s no secret that the geek culture has a subsection that are typically child haters or at the very least, very put out by people with children. This proved to me that money is the only real goal anymore.

The information regarding the banning of “side-by-side” strollers ended up on a few mom-blog pages and women-based, geek culture sites and everyone was up in arms. Parents were livid and it kept many people (including my family for the first time in almost a decade) away, but no one in the CCI camp seemed to care and wouldn’t acknowledge it.  I sent a handful of emails to their staff asking for a statement and asking what they were planning to offer as recompense to families who paid for passes but showed up with the wrong stroller because the notice was in a back-end FAQ page that I can guarantee most people wouldn’t read. No response.

Of course, there are tens of thousands of people waiting to get in, so it didn’t hit them financially to cut out an entire demographic from their guest list, it was just a really shady thing to do to families and a seemingly short-sighted plan considering the vast majority of the companies being represented are speaking to an audience between the ages of 6 and 18.

Even up to about four years ago, I saw countless numbers of families, babies in strollers, mamas and daddys with their toddlers dressed up like various characters taking pictures with their heroes, buying tons of merchandise and most of them were writers or artists themselves.  They were allowing people to build a life-long love of the culture, allowing industry families to take part in the magic they were creating and share that magic with their children.  Alongside that, it literally created a lifetime customer out of those children which would inevitably bring them thousands and thousands of dollars over the course of the person’s life.  All gone, all because they’d rather have more general public paying hundreds of dollars for tickets, food and random crap.

The worst issue in my opinion is actually NOT the stroller issue.

Its the one created by the increase in GP tickets and it is the flood of psycho collectors that camp by the doors days in advance to buy as many dolls as possible from Mattel and Hasbro booths, just so they can flip them on Ebay for three times the amount they just paid for them.  Collecting is fun, but it carries with it a disgusting cloud of nastiness along with it.  Men and women fighting to get to the front of the line just to buy a $12 doll, pushing children out of their way with no regard for anyone else’s physical safety or mental well being, demanding the maximum number of items they can purchase just so they can make a buck on the back end with no respect for whoever else may want one.  It’s ruthless, cruel and those people are generally hateful, socially inept individuals who have no respect for others.

Last year, a few new Comic Con exclusives were being released by Mattel for Monster High.  The rush to get these dolls was completely out of control and they sold out in less than 15 minutes the first day.  The booth was not prepared for the demand and they got rushed.  No one got hurt, but many people posted, tweeted and later blogged about all the jerks who pushed them out of line then bought as many as they would let them until they were sold out.  People were walking out with pallets full of toys, passing sad children and genuine fans, with their noses in the air, gloating about how THEY got what they came for and they could now go home.  The scene was one that had never been so bad at Comic Con and everyone wondered why.  Well, I don’t wonder… it’s pretty clear to me.  As long as they continue to turn this event into a money making machine and turn away from members of the industry, alienating their audience and making people jump through a million hoops to get in the door, it’s only going to get worse.

Last year a fan was killed because she and a crowd of people rushed into the street trying to get in line early for a Twilight panel. The year before, an angry kid stabbed another guest in the eye with a pencil after having his place in line cut by the guy behind him in line for Hall H. Both of these issues occurred with general public fans, not industry professionals.

At this point, I wonder if it’s even safe to take kids anymore.

I can’t attempt to share such an incredible experience with my family when I have to worry about the wall to wall ocean of people who are now of questionable character and motive.

How sad is that?  My, and many other families will likely lose out simply because Comic Con International would rather make money than create an experience with integrity and they’d rather allow general public to attend and turn it into an extended media circus than an industry trade show as it was intended.  Yes, I know… it’s not really a “trade show” anymore.  It’s a public event meant to inspire and teach people about comics, it’s not about money or profit or people collecting toys and crap… At least, according to their company’s mission statement:

“Comic-Con International: San Diego is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”

But we all know that isn’t entirely true and their intentions aren’t completely benevolent, or it would be about education and exploration in a child-friendly environment and each year the more they move away from the “trade show” feeling and more into a public, money making monster of a machine, the less that mission statement carries with it any thread of truth.

All that being said however, the real question is… Will I go anyway?

The answer is a resounding YES. Heck YES.

Beat me, tease me, take my money and leave me feeling used… But yes. I hang my head in shame and give them my money each year, in spite of every good reason not to.

Why? Because there is nothing else like it. Nowhere else that can give you the total experience of complete immersion in a universe full of my favorite games, movies, art, television and then offer me the creators of that magic from the authors to directors to actors and artists all under one roof in a place where we can all come together as fans, sharing an experience. The feeling is electric.

It’s empowering and inspiring as a parent, a writer and an artist.

The passion and excitement roars at deafening volumes and it’s all for the love of the art.  Yes, there’s the love of money behind it and yes, that love of money is growing and I see it slowly overtaking the love of the art, but for now- I can still walk in and pretend I don’t see it.  For now, I can still be star-struck and lost in the wonder of it all and I want to share that with my kids and let them experience that same sense of awe that I do.

Even though the elements are changing and in some of the ways I mentioned above, they’re changing for the worse… but there is still only one San Diego Comic Con and I will continue to do what I can to get in and share that very personal experience with my family and 130,000 of like-minded, comic loving, super hero, Dr Who obsessed geeks.

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