Below is my annual report on the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC). (Click here to go straight to the photogallery.) While I always note that working at one tiny booth in the huge convention hall during the four days of Comic-Con probably limits my ability to provide a complete, accurate overview of the show, I usually find my observations and experiences to be in agreement with the commentaries and reports of others. So with that disclaimer out of the way....
Although I saw the same sales trends that other exhibitors reported (Saturday sales took a dive as attendees decided to focus on going to presentations that took them away from the main exhibit hall), when all was said and done, the show overall turned out to be one of my best in years. However, due to the continued growing dominance of the big studios and media companies at the show, it's no longer a given that everyone at the convention and coming to my booth is interested in comics. But it was nevertheless fun seeing longtime supporters of my comic-book, Rob Hanes Adventures, and making the occasional new fan. (Issue 12, pictured below, debuted at the convention.)
This year was the San Diego Comic-Con's 40th anniversary. The convention marked its anniversary in several ways, such as through scheduled programming, and in a nicely-done history included in the souvenir program. SDCC also published in time for the convention a handsome coffee-table-sized book about the history of the show, Comic-Con: 40 Years of Artists, Writers, Fans and Friends (pictured above right), which I pre-ordered for pick-up at the convention.
I began attending SDCC back in the mid-1980s, when it was still being held at the Convention and Performing Arts Center in downtown San Diego. The convention moved to its present site, the then newly-opened San Diego Convention Center, in 1990. (I first exhibited at the show in 1993.) Back then, the "big" Hollywood names featured atthe convention were folks like Clayton Moore (Lone Ranger), Kirk Alyn (of the '40s Superman movie serials), and Noel Neill (from the Superman television show). Though it was a simple "old school" comic-book convention in those days, it always was a magnet for the biggest names in comics, science fiction and fantasy like Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison.
Over this time I also made the transition from a fan to a professional. And thanks to the show, I've made some good friends, both professional and personal, and met some of the top talents and names in the comics industry.
Obviously, the show has evolved and changed immensely. Though some have decried the changes the convention has undergone over the years, SDCC has proven resilient and flexible enough to be a "big tent" for all things pop culture and geeky, ranging from comics, to fantasy and science fiction, to film, to gaming, and costumes. While the convention's original focus on comics seems to risk being overwhelmed by its runaway success, the organizers nevertheless have found a way to keep much of the show true to its original spirit, even while attendance has soared, and the glamour of celebrity and Hollywood monopolize all the attention. If you're just about the comics—whether new, Silver Age or Golden Age comics, original art, manga, graphic novels, or meeting the professionals (or any of the many other specialized fields of fandom covered at the convention)—you can still find your bliss, and ignore the rest.