OPINION: The best parts of San Diego Comic-Con that don’t get press

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The San Diego Comic-Con gets a bad rap, especially from those who attend it (or at least try to) each and every year. Despite what you may have read, the Con is much more than press releases from movie studios and not showering. If you mapped the hobbies/areas-of-interest covered by SDCC, you would have a 52-dimensional Venn diagram that Grant Morrison would describe as “too convoluted to wrap my head around”. Somewhere in that diagram is what you are into, whoever you are. If you want to camp out all night to see a preview of Twilight, fine (although you might be a little late), but let me show you what else there is to see at the Con, after the jump.

I am large, I contain multitudes

A lot of people complain about the San Diego Comic-Con–the lines, the food, the great unwashed masses, the lines, all the stuff that’s not comics… And all that’s true, but having attended SDCC each of the last 13 or so years, I still love it. Yes, over the years the Con has grown crowded and unwieldy, but I can’t quite agree with those who say it’s “too big”. The convention you are looking for is in there. You just have to dig for it.

I’ll start with my favorite, underappreciated panel of the Con, “Quick Draw”, which is improv comedy crossed with Pictionary starring professional artists. My greatest Con memory is being doubled over with laughter, watching Jeff Smith (“Bone”) draw a tasteful picture of a topless Connie Chung crossed with an octopus. You kinda had to be there, but that’s the point. You should have been there. You may be able to track down some video of one of these on YouTube, but remember that this is a live performance that thrives on audience feedback. In other words, something that can only happen where you have a critical mass of nerds.

Another panel you’ve just got to see is “Cartoon Voices” parts 1 & 2. Two different all-star panels of voice actors gather on Saturday and Sunday to talk about their favorite experiences producing your favorite cartoons and video games. Then they perform a old time radio play that they’ve never read before. No action movie trailer preview compares to watching/listening to the voices of Bender, Wakko Warner and Goofy ham it up through a Superman script. It’s another live experience that you can get at Con that you won’t read about on comic sites that focus (as they should) on news and reveals, nor will you see anything about it in the mainstream media which focuses on the occasional stabbing and “can you believe what this guy is wearing?”

I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown

Why not learn a little something at SDCC? You can attend “Comic-Con Film School”, a series of presentations that will take you from “Preproduction and Screenwriting” through “Working with Actors” clear to “Distribution”. Another series, called “Comic-Con How To”, has working professionals explaining how to craft a story, how to use digital inking techniques, how to promote yourself and your art, or any of several diverse other topics. There are two panels about costuming and three covering intellectual property law. There’s some serious work getting done in San Diego; it’s not all bronies and booth babes.

Fetching the rest of the herd around to enjoy them a while

Another angle of Con that gets overlooked is the focus on fandom. It’s not just about consuming the media that you are a fan of. It’s also about hanging out with the other fans. There are a few panels for steampunks. If you’re a Browncoat or a die-hard Tolkien fan, there are gatherings for you. There’s also the venerable Klingon Lifestyle Presentation. The origin of the Con is “by fans, for fans”. If you’re not into any these, then search further into the schedule and you’ll find something that fits. You’ll either find other people who are as obsessed with whatever media niche you are, or you’ll discover some new niches to obsess over.
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

There’s plenty of kid stuff, too. Yes, you may have to shade your child’s eyes from the more gruesome zombies or the binder of special-interest tentacle drawings that has been left open, but there are also all-ages publishers on the floor showing books like Owly, Princeless or Beanworld. And the Lego booth! You could leave your kid at the Lego booth all day. [Please do not leave your kid at the Lego booth unattended. Please.] On Sunday especially, there are panels which teach young artists to draw their own comics. The only thing better than seeing your kid’s amazement at seeing a professional artist draw their favorite character is when they realize that comics are something that they can do themselves and their imaginations grow three sizes.

And the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known!

That’s a glimpse into the Comic Con I’ve been going to. It’s not quite the Con that you’ll attend, but hopefully you’ll find the right one for you.