Late Comic-Con update

Comic-Con International: San Diego’s been over for several weeks now, but we’re just now getting unburied from the pile of work and orders that accumulated while we were gone. I take wife Pam and our girls there every year, and we always stay an extra week for vacation, since we’re shelling out the airfare money. (Sidenote: We flew on Southwest Airlines this year, and booked our flights back in January before gas and ticket prices skyrocketed, thankfully. Despite all the horror stories I’ve heard about other airlines and the fees they’ve been charging for luggage, blankets, etc., Southwest was great, with no extra fees for anything, and the service was just fine. Really, really good airline.)

A quick overview: We went with a single booth this year (rather than our usual double-size booth), to save on the increasing costs of exhibiting at the con. Hotels are ridiculously overpriced, but hey, they know you’ve gotta sleep somewhere, and with too few rooms for too many people, they can charge whatever they like, especially in a big tourist town like SD. As it was, we were awfully crammed in, trying to fit our usual comics stuff, plus our new LEGO-related material into a single booth, and we’re planning to expand back to a double next year.

The show was insanely crowded, although Saturday (which is usually our busiest day at conventions) was actually our slowest, and Sunday (which is usually the slowest) was our busiest. We figured out why; all 125,000 were at the other end of the hall on Saturday, seeing the Watchmen Owlship (very cool, I might add), and attending the movie studio panels. On Sunday, with the end coming and fewer panels going on, they all converged on our end of the con (Hall A/B). What matters is the overall response, and all four (and a half) days were very busy, adding up to one of our best cons ever, in spite of the economy.

But after exhibiting at Comic-Con for 14 years now (plus an additional year as an attendee), I’ve got to say, it’s just not as much fun as it used to be. In fact, this year really ended up being mostly a business trip, lacking most of the fun from years past. A lot of the usual friendly faces we see each year weren’t there (probably due to the economy), so we didn’t get to spend time with many of the friends we’ve made over the years.

Before you think I’ve just become jaded from too many cons over the years, I had an absolutely fantastic time at this year’s New York Comicon. It’s centered more exclusively on comics than San Diego, and the vibe in NY was more like the cons of old that I’ve always enjoyed. It hasn’t grown too big (yet), and gotten away from comics as much as SD. But at the same time, NY doesn’t bring in nearly the sales (or attendees) of San Diego, and it costs about the same to attend. So from a business standpoint, San Diego still makes the most sense, for us at least.

Maybe things will change at San Diego, but it’s looking like it’ll continue to get bigger each year (although with tickets sold out for all days this year, and actual scalpers selling them outside, they’ll have to move elsewhere to get more people through the doors, or add days to the con). That’s great for business, and we’ll keep going. But it’s just not that much fun anymore, at least for me. But the weather’s sure nice!

The week after the con, we took the kids to LEGOLand California (where they’re doing brisk business selling copies of our new mag BrickJournal), plus Disneyland (which is WAY better than Disneyworld in Orlando, FL, IMHO). We had literally just walked through the Disney gates when a pesky 5.6 earthquake hit, and almost knocked me over. In all our years of visiting California, we’d never experienced a quake before. My wife Pam had just stepped into a gift shop with our daughter Lily when it hit, and stuff started flying off the shelves and hitting them on the head. The employee rushed over and herded them under a doorway until the quake ended and the building stopped swaying, and Pam was pretty freaked out the rest of that day. (I was outside, so I thought it was actually kinda cool to see the ground literally shift first left, then right, under my feet; it was sorta like the moving sidewalk you have to walk on to ride the Haunted Mansion, only much more violent.) But in thinking about what could’ve happened if it’d been a stronger quake, the novelty wore off. I’ve experienced one now, and that’s just fine, thank you; no more needed.

Disneyland shut down all the rides until they could inspect everything, but they were very nice in comping us an extra day on our tickets. We had dinner with the Disney Princesses (if you have young daughters, take them to do that at least once; you won’t believe the look on their faces when Cinderalla, Ariel, Jasmine and company come over to your table to chat). We rode the amazing new Toy Story ride at Disney’s California Adventure Park. And we even spent an entire day just sitting around the awesome kids’ pool at the Howard Johnson’s resort in Anaheim (a really great family hotel, BTW; reasonably priced, super clean, and wonderful for kids–and only a couple of minutes walk to the gate of Disneyland).

So while Comic-Con tuned out to be just another business trip this year, the week after was a blast (other than the earthquake). A good trip as usual, so I don’t mean to sound like a complainer. And I’m already looking forward to next year, albeit with a few changes in how we tackle the trip in general. See you then!