San Diego Comic-Con International 2003 Report #3


I hardly even know where to begin this report. Today has been such an overwhelming experience that I am (for once...) at a loss for words. I had predicted in my reports from earlier this week that this Saturday would be a historic milestone in the evolution of the world of comics. If anything, I understated the reality. As you might be able to tell from the pictures that Pam took from the 14th floor of the Marriott hotel, the line to get into the convention today was unbelievably long. It began at the front of the convention center, and curved around the convention center complex for well over a full mile! While the convention staff did an excellent job of processing attendees through the entry system, the line was being replenished as fast as people were being let into the building, until well after 1 PM. (click on image for larger view)

The net result of all these people coming to the show is an environment, which I can only equate to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or Carnival in Rio. Massive crowds of enthusiastic people parading around in a cavernous public environment in imaginative and risqué costumes of all sorts, with tens of thousands of eager voyeurs feasting on the wonderful sights and sounds. Clearly, the beautiful creature that has been released from its chrysalis today transcends anything that has ever been seen in the history of comics fandom.

How and why has San Diego become such a unique event? Essentially through the driving vision of the convention committee. They have pushed hard for years to gain the respect and support of not only the City of San Diego, but also the media and entertainment communities of Southern California. While there have been previous successes in bringing in members of the general public, I believe that this is the first year in which the number of attendees from outside of fandom has exceeded the traditional core audience of the convention. These civilians have been drawn in to the convention by the chance to see and experience a world that we insiders have all known for many years as both special and stimulating. What is also very clear to me is that those civilians who have been here in recent years have chosen to return after their first experience, and that they have brought with them their friends and families. The net result is that this place is beyond overwhelming. Even as a veteran of 32 years of comics conventions, I am both astonished, and to a certain extent intimidated, by the degree of crowding that is currently to be experienced in even the broadest of aisles.

If that statement sounds a bit over the top, consider this: my wife, and all of my daughters, chose to leave at 3 PM, because they could no longer comfortably navigate around the convention floor. Even Aleta, who has spent many a long night experiencing the cacophony of sights and sounds at raves in Denver and Ibiza, Spain, chose to get out early. Her longtime companion, Wesley Walker, who is as fond of eye candy as any man I know, stated to me privately that the continual visual stimulation of the show was simply too much for him to absorb.

If my previous description sounds as though I have mixed emotions about today's experience, you're dead on. I love what has evolved here, but I cannot help but regret the loss of the old familiar San Diego Comics Convention. My sense of loss is tempered, however, by the realization that small, intimate, comics conventions still exist in many parts of America. With those venues still available for anyone to attend if they seek a more restrained environment in which to enjoy comics, I cannot realistically regret that San Diego has become this entirely new form of entertainment behemoth. It's is definitely not your father's comics convention, but it is an event that is so cool as to be unique in the entire world. How could that be anything but positive? Sometimes change can be difficult to accept, but in this case evolution to a new plane was the only option. Given that reality, I think that the convention committee has done a wonderful job of leading us all into the future.

Aside from simply noting the huge size of the crowds, I want to give you some feedback on the changes I've noticed from last year. The biggest single change that I've noticed this year is the absolute ascendancy of cellular telephones in the convention building. The building is now so large that families and friends can only meet through the mechanism of calls around the room. I even heard people calling their friends who they thought were at home, only to discover that they were also in the convention building! With nearly 100,000 people inside here right now, we're essentially a private small town within the confines of the City of San Diego. Way cool!

Aside from tens of thousands of cell phones, the other particular change from last year that I noticed was the very definite return of young children. While the convention committee has offered free, or reduced price, admission for children on Sunday for several years, this year a great many young people chose not to wait. The beautiful sight of the next generation of comics and popular culture fans gleefully prowling the aisles of the convention for goodies has done a great deal to enhance my sense of optimism for the future of our entire industry.

My final comment for today's report is to let you know that my experience at last night's Eisner awards was beyond description. As I mentioned yesterday, I was being presented with the 2003 Comic Book Legal Defense Fund "Defender of Liberty Award," which is presented by the CBLDF Board of Directors to the one person in the world of comics that they believe has supported free speech and expression rights to the greatest extent during the previous year. My award was presented during the middle of the Eisners by Charles Brownstein, the managing director of the CBLDF. I won't go into the details of my acceptance speech, as I gave a general outline of what I was going to say yesterday. What I can tell you, however, is that when I went up to the podium I experienced one of those transcendent moments that only comes over you a few times in your entire life. In front of a crowd of about 1,000 wonderful comics fans and creators I began extemporaneously speaking about why I fight so hard to protect the sanctity of free speech. Within seconds I found myself fighting back tears as my emotions and passion overcame me. Blessedly, however, I was able to keep speaking, and even managed to present my thoughts in a cohesive fashion. I must have done well, as the entire room stood in a standing ovation when I finished. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe that I would receive an ovation at the San Diego Comics Convention, much less from the likes of Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Sergio Aragones, and all the other wonderful comics professionals who were in attendance. Suffice it to say, I was unable to control my emotions as I walked off the stage, and was crying openly. I will never, ever, forget that moment. It may very well be the pinnacle event of my entire professional career. (click on image for larger view)

Happy collecting!
Chuck Rozanski,
President - Mile High Comics, Inc.
Advance Previews
of next weeks comics from
Marvel, DC, CrossGen & Image

Saturday Pictures

Will Eisner

Mike Mignola

Neil Gaiman

Brian Michael Bendis, with Richard and Wendy Pini

Sergio Aragones

Alex Ross

Frank Miller

Chuck accepting his Defender of Liberty Award

The line in front of the convention

BroadSword Comics 3 Kittens

Boba Fett

Defender of Liberty Award

Very warm day at the convention!

Manga Chick

Sci-Fi Guys

Batman and Family

Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and Magneto

Flash Chillin'

Two Dolls

Tape worn very well!


Aquaman and Green Lantern

Rob Zombi

Spider-Man, Punisher, Wolverine, and Arwyn

Our Busy Booth

[San Diego Comic Con 2003 Report #1] - [San Diego Comic Con 2003 Report #2]
[San Diego Comic Con 2003 Report #4]

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