Saturday, August 4, 2012

TwiHard Killed at Comic-Con

I don’t know why this has taken so long for me to comment on. As someone who goes to the Con each year (I only went on Sunday this year), when the news announced someone had been killed in front of the convention center – people wanted my input on what happened. Some people were mortified that a woman of her age would be camping out for a Twilight panel, some were unsympathetic because a grown woman shouldn’t be running across the street without looking where she is growing, and some were fascinated about her devotion.

I’m not a fan of Twilight but I’m not one of those “Twilight Ruined Comic-Con” people either. In my opinion, if you are hardcore enough to camp out for something, you deserve to do it. And if you say you’re a bigger fan than me because of it, I’m not going to argue with you. Hell, if I was 20 years younger and had a 4-day pass, I might have camped out for the 10th Anniversary Firefly panel (I would have loved to had been part of that). I understand being devoted to things you enjoy and being part of a community that bands together to support each other in camping out. I’m always a little jealous of those hardcore people in the first couple of rows who put in over a hundred hours to be close to people they admire for only one hour.

Gisela Gagliardi was 53 and hardcore about her love of Twilight. She had been to the Twilight panel at Comic Con before and attended movie premieres where she met the actor she was the biggest fan of, Robert Pattinson.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, I have to tell you how I really feel.

Gisela was running across the street that day because security was moving the line (not for the first time) and reversing the order so that people at the back were at the front. Security told the line they had an hour before they would move people so she left the line for a little while. Then 20 minutes later security came back and said they were moving now. Gisela ran across the street to keep her place in line – a move that many of the others in line would have made if they had been caught across the street when the line started moving.

Why? What’s so stressful about the line moving?

First, the line was reversing so she’d probably made peace with that. But she was camping – she had to collect all of her stuff and keep up with the line so she was still in the line. Also, even if people let you back into the line where you were before, the people behind you have moved up so have little to no space to camp out in because you no longer have enough room to lie down. All of that is a factor with the lines. When you’re in a regular line, not camping, if you lose that room, you can’t sit down, you have to remain standing while everyone around you is sitting because they have enough room to do so (that has happened to me).

Also, reversing a line is disrespectful to people in that line. In order to be fair, if security wants to move a line, they should make it clear to the people in that line that they are to get back in line in their original order or hand out tickets with numbers on them so that people get back in order.

Yes, but I still don’t understand why being in a line or going to Comic-Con in general is stressful.

Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics put it best in an email he sent to his customers July 11th (he sends out great emails that tell you how the business is doing, what special deals he’s got going, and how things are with his family which generates a sense of community for his customers): “At San Diego, scarcity begins with attendance tickets for the convention being quite difficult to obtain, and then escalates into other fan conflicts, such as availability of limited edition toys and giveaways, placement in the admission line, and the availability of seats for the most popular panels.”

The Comic-Con tells you that tickets for something will be available at 10am. So a giant glob of people arrive at the information booth, eagerly awaiting the location of those tickets while people try to disperse the crowd. Then someone finally points in the direction of where the tickets will be given away and the crowd immediately breaks into a run, trampling everything in their way. I have been in that mob. I also saw it when they finally announced where tickets where to get in line to buy the ‘Darkest Night Green Lantern’ figures and they broke out into a run, jumping over rope barriers and knocking rope barriers over as a few didn’t quite jump high enough. A couple of people fell doing that but no one seemed hurt. Then I watched a few people scream at the security people who told them to wait in the wrong location and that they’d be the first to get tickets.

The Comic-Con is vague about how you’ll be able to get scarce resources and some people hand out bad information about getting those resources and it creates crazy competition. People who work in booths are also vague but I’ve figured out over the years that it’s because the people who interface with the public have no idea what’s going on. I’ll give you a recent example. There was going to be an Iron Man 2 signing at the Marvel booth. You could get one raffle ticket from Marvel but the only way you could get 2 tickets is by signing up for a subscription to Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. I did it for the ticket and to get the free Nick Fury figure (I collect Marvel Universe figures and had to have it). But before my friend would commit, he asked who would be signing and the moron working the booth said multiple members of the cast would be down but he couldn’t say who. The Iron Man 2 panel had Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, and Jon Favreau on it so my friend signed up.

On the day of the raffle, I didn’t get a ticket but my friend won. Marvel was giving away copies of the Iron Man 2 issue of Entertainment Weekly for the signing and my friend was extremely excited. I was on the other side of the convention center when my friend texted to tell me only one member of the Iron Man 2 cast showed up for the signing, Jon Favreau. He said everyone was a little disappointed that of all the cast in attendance, only one member could come down a sign autographs for an hour. And he felt a little betrayed by the guy who said multiple cast members would be at the signing.

So what are the solutions?

No solutions would be okay with everyone but there are solutions that would keep the frustration to a minimum. With Con space at a premium, I think charging $20 a head for panels in Hall H wouldn’t keep the hardcore away but it would send the ‘just because’ people heading for the hills. That wouldn’t make the companies happy because they want packed houses to know about their projects. That $20 could go toward securing all the convention space at the Omni hotel across the street where you can put things like cast signings (move the cast across the street in a limo or bus or something) or artist’s alley. Or you can have the comic book part of Comic Con at the Omni where the people selling comic books could bring more of their inventory and there would be more space for people who love comics to actually look through a seller’s inventory. You can also have comic book signings there.

Also, for Ballroom 20 – have a before Comic-Con raffle online for tickets to panels and clear out the room between panels. That way you have no more line (except for a line of people who know they are getting in).

I know that there is always going to be some piece of garbage who didn’t want to go to the Big Bang Theory panel but entered to win a ticket so he could turn around and sell it for $50 but Comic-Con has been great about dealing VERY harshly with scalpers. If you’ve ever heard about how they dealt with people selling their 4-day passes for $500 on Craigslist, you know that Comic-Con scalpers are on the endangered species list.

Also, for people who sell popular exclusives (Hasbro exclusives are popular, Entertainment Earth exclusives aren’t), the Comic-Con should give them a list of all attendees to email. Those attendees should order and pay for their exclusives (there would be a special code to make sure only attendees can order). Then those people can only pick up their items at Comic-Con or have them delivered.

It’s a win-win for retailers and fans. Hasbro brings a limited amount of their exclusives and usually sells out of a lot of things despite the limits they place on how many of a certain item you can purchase. If Hasbro offers to pre-sell items for set limits they can not only make sure they have enough of a particular item (and make more money by not selling out of an item) but they can also eliminate the panic and long lines for items as a lot of people would probably prefer to have their items delivered instead of lugging them around in the convention hall.

I don’t know if things will change (I doubt it) but until the Con is a less stressful environment, you can’t expect the attendees to act rationally or consider their safety first.

A true TwiHard, Gisela (middle) with Robert Pattinson

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