Reporting from Comic-Con International 2016

written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)

Another year… another SDCC. With this year’s biggest pop culture convention coming to a close, the sights and sounds of San Diego’s biggest nerd party are still fresh in my mind. For me though, this will be my last SDCC for a while.

I’ve gone every year since my first and it has been one of the events I continually look forward to. It’s two-fold for my hiatus, one… the con has gotten quite large and it feels like being on borrowed luck when I get to go… also I am planning a Europe trip next year so my con vacations will be cut short, but I digress.

How was SDCC 2016? Despite the changes to the con, for the most part it was largely the same. Long lines for Hall H and Ballroom 20, long lines to pick up exclusive collectibles, parties all over the Gaslamp district. SDCC comes and goes every year, but the show doesn’t really evolve. Part of my reason I won’t go next year is also thanks to the horrendous hotel registration experience. A two-fold randomization process and a lengthy waitlist period made this one of the most stressful SDCC experiences in recent memory… but back to the con…

The biggest change was the implementation of RF badges. No longer do we just go in and out, rather you need to swipe in/swipe out. Originally, I thought this would create major congestion at all entrances. I’ve done New York Comic Con and they enforce an RF ID system for their badges… with it comes heavy congestion. As far as SDCC is concerned, I feel that since they have multiple entrances, this helped greatly with congestion. Checking in and checking out was a quick and seamless process. Security handled it quite well and CCI staff was generally available at the entrances. A bit of a boring change, but I feel that it should be noted that they did a great job managing crowds/

So, with this being such a large con; it was impossible to see everything the convention has to offer. So I had to pick and choose the events I attended. Unlike previous years, I didn’t really spend much time checking out events outside of the con. Most of my con experience was confined to panels and exploring the show floor.

I did my fair share of panels. Personal highlight was attending back-to-back CW panels for their upcoming DC Comics properties. Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, and Arrow all had their panels back to back; showing off sizzle trailers that were eventually released online. As far as Hall H goes, as a DC Comics fanboy I mostly stuck around for panels from the greater DC Cinematic Universe. Wonder Woman, Justice League, and Suicide Squad all had showings in Hall H (also eventually released online).

To be honest, the panel showings were not my personal highlight of the con… despite enjoying the panels. One panel I really wanted to attend I could not get in to… and this is thanks to a disconnect between CCI staff and security.

Kevin Smith has a long panel at the end of the day on Saturday each year. The thing was, his panel was not even full and despite still talking for more than an hour longer when I tried to enter, the security staff would not permit me. This wasn’t isolated and they barred many fans from being able to see his panel. I admit, I was late to the panel. Kevin Smith was only on the schedule to talk until 9PM, but his panels always go over and thanks to a late start he made up for it by sticking around right until he had to leave for his Hollywood Babble On live podcast recording.

There has to be some better communication between CCI staff and their security personnel. Twitter was stormed with people complaining to the SDCC twitter and the official Hall H twitter account, voicing dissatisfaction with being turned away.

Poor Kevin Smith too! Last year his panel was damn near empty when after the Star Wars panel, the Hall H crowd was invited to a surprise concert at the marina. Another year and Kevin Smith got screwed out of a full house.

The true low point as far as panels go was the premiere of The Killing Joke. While the movie was enjoyable, I could do without the first 30 minutes. Jacob Chimilar hit the nail on the head with his review. While the movie wasn’t a complete disaster, it was after the showing that everything went to shit. The controversial sex scene between Barbara Gordon and Bruce Wayne did not satisfy the fans, and for worthwhile reasons. Batgirl was reduced to a prop, her story was originally meant to give more depth to her character before the fateful shooting. The original book, while revered, did the Barbara Gordon character no favors… but the film reduced her to a sexual prop who pined for Bruce. When a fan voiced his opinion to Brian Azzarello by shouting “yeah, by using sex and pining for Bruce,” Azzarello loses his shit and responds with a “wanna say that again, pussy?” from the stage. While I can understand getting heated when a fan throws out a rude insult, Azzarello responded like a petulant man-child. While I still love the Killing Joke book, I have zero respect for Brian Azzarello. He’s a relic from a problematic past, and his outburst was such a disappointing low for my con experience.

Being surrounded by like minded nerds is always my highlight of the show. I made new friends as well as hung out with my usual con group. I partied, saw the sights, enjoyed all the amazing cosplay at the show. Overall, while this is my last SDCC for a while… it’s a satisfying note to end on. I will be back, not next year… maybe not the one after… but I will be back.