Ken Leighton 12:30 p.m., Oct. 21
I'm not going to complain about the name, though it's getting more difficult each year to find the actual comics amidst the aisles of fantasy corsets and Hollywood presentations. I'm not going to complain about the overwhelming mass of people, though navigating through the San Diego Convention Center proves a task most difficult. My complaints are overshadowed by this simple truth: Comic-Con is good for San Diego and its residents.
I've taken my almost-five year old daughter Scottie to the Con for the past three years. This year, showcasing my lunacy, I decided to take my six-month-old daughter along. We can't really afford the babysitting, you see, and my wife Colleen was at work. Truth. Heading down from Oceanside and sitting in traffic for over an hour, I decided to take advantage of our city's fine trolley system. We were unable to park at Fashion Valley since the mall puts up large NO COMIC-CON PARKING signs, threatening towing and disintegration. We made our way to Mission Valley, boarded a tram sporting a large ad for Marvel's upcoming AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. television show, and sped toward downtown.
Upon our exit, signs greeted us written in Dothraki, the language of the horse lords from HBO's GAME OF THRONES. You see? I'd gone into the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) ages ago with the mindset that distributors use the event as a giant marketing tool. As long as you know you're paying for a company to market to you, and you're okay with it, you'll have a better time.
I'll always prefer smaller, more comic-centric shows like Wondercon in Anaheim or Frank and Son collectibles and Stan Lee's Comickaze in Los Angeles. SDCC doesn't belong to my ilk and me anymore, it belongs to the world. I wouldn't mind that if there weren't those attendees who pretend to be hip geeks and lifelong fans or worse, people who attend but pretend they're too cool for it.
SWINGERS made swing music popular for a few years. I grew up with Basie, so I was happy when it fell out of popular flavor. And sad. Because it's fantastic music. Superheroes have more staying power due to the box office bottom line, but not because of the comics themselves. Marvel's THE AVENGERS grossed $1.511 billion, while issues of the Avengers comic book peaked in sales during the 80s at around 277,000 copies. Hollywood starts the word-of-mouth rolling in San Diego.
This year the Con was warm and welcoming, for the most part. You're knee-deep in geekdom the moment you arrive due to the presence of SDCC outside of the Convention Center. Much like the replica of Flynn's Arcade in past years (at a building down the street from the Hotel Solamar), experiential marketing was ubiquitous. Zombies walked the streets hawking the Walking Dead Zombie Run at Petco Park, a building on J across from Bub's at the Ballpark was "destroyed" by Godzilla's rampage, and a length of field next to the tracks became an Ender's Game battleground. Comic-Con, literally bursting out of the Convention Center, and into the Gaslamp. And into local businesses.
So I complain, and many SD residents complain about the noise, the traffic, and the weirdos roaming sixth avenue (but they do that year round, right?). But Colleen (now having attained her Master's degree in nonprofit leadership and management from our own USD) informed me of the Transient Occupancy Tax. The TOT collects funds from hotels, vacation rentals, bed and breakfasts, and transient guests to the city. Many of whom descend upon the city, fill our hotel rooms, and spend, spend, spend. In fiscal year 2012 the City of San Diego collected $151 million in TOT dollars. This money funds many programs dear to my wife and me, including the City's Commission for Arts and Culture.
For every Spider-Man I passed, every celebrity sighted, I remembered the money that will go to assist my daughters' educations, their community's services, and their city's economic development. So I let Scottie drag me around the Convention Center floor to spend equal time with My Little Pony statues and Hobbit paraphernalia. Because it's good for San Diego. And yes, for me too. A little... a little.