Sunday, August 10, 2014

Con-Man: San Diego VS Salt Lake!

Always looking to add another Con to my badge collection, this September marks my first trip to Salt Lake Comic Con in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It's one of those new age shows where celebrities past and present are advertised to bring in autograph seekers willing to shell out big bucks for a signed glossy or photo with the actor/celeb and usually provide a decent exhibition floor and Artist Alley.  This past San Diego Comic-Con, I noticed advertising for SLCC around town in the form of wrapped cars and billboard trucks.  I thought that was kinda weird but also kinda smart as there's 100's of thousands of people in town for the show and Salt Lake is only a quick flight away.  SDCC didn't think it was so cool though as they slapped SLCC with a Cease and Desist order from using the name, Comic Con.  SLCC played victim and couldn't understand why a big show like San Diego was coming after them when so many other shows are called Comic Con from Long Beach to New York.  SDCC claims that the similar names and the fact that Salt Lake advertised in San Diego, during San Diego Comic Con is confusing goers who assume the two conventions are run by the same organizations.  SLCC continued to play victim and soaked up the extra awareness but their show didn't really need it as it already welcomed 70,000 attendees in it's first year.  Sister show FanXperience netted 100,000 attendees.

Comic-Con International is a Non-Profit organization dedicated to the creative arts and puts on San Diego Comic Con, Wonder Con and APE (Alternative Press Expo).  They work year round with a staff of full time employees and volunteers to put on the best shows possible.  San Diego has been going strong since 1970 when 100 fans gathered for a one day event and has now blossomed into a near week long extravaganza of comics, literature, art, movies, television and so much more with over 1,000 panels, concerts, exhibits, premieres and the like.  In 2007, tickets for Saturday sold out for the first time and since then it's been a mad dash to get in.  The convention center already at max capacity, CCI opted not to move out of San Diego for bigger digs but instead capped attendance at 130,000 and took over local hotels and locations.  So they could have made the cash grab and just sold as many tickets as possible, but they didn't.

Meanwhile, Salt Lake has only been going on for a couple of years and like fellow new age shows Comikaze in Los Angeles and New York Comic Con, has experienced tremendous growth.  SLCC is put on by Dan Farr Productions, a For-Profit organization and if attending Seattle's Emerald City Comicon taught me anything, a show that grows too fast doesn't necessary equal a better time.  Being spread across multiple floors of the center with a staff of untrained employees and volunteers made it one of the most frustrating shows I've ever attended.  Some might say San Diego feels threatened by Salt Lake's quick growth and while SDCC can't be too precious of it's name, it certainly can be of it's achievements.  SDCC has been in the trenches for 40 some years and learned what makes a good show.  They were doing it when comics weren't mainstream, conventions were equated to socially awkward men with no lady friends and all of that other bullshit that comes with being a comics and pop culture fan.  Instead of playing victim maybe Salt Lake should just say thank you to San Diego for showing them how it's done and go on about putting on their version.

SDCC is huge.  As in, takes over most of the surrounding area huge.  Hotels, downtown, even the frigging baseball stadium.  Movie stars fly in just for the night huge.  It's crazy, it's crowded but it's Con.  It's awesome.  SLCC might pack in an extra 10,000 attendees this year but I doubt it's going to spill out much past the convention center.  Will studios rent out space to hock their latest at free offsite events?  Doubtful.  Was there ever any discussion to capping attendance to ensure a great, smooth running show in Salt Lake?  Probably not.  And for anyone who thinks attendance equates quality, you're sorely mistaken.  Remember when I said SDCC has over 1,000 panels?  SLCC is probably going to top out at 300.  Remember how I said Salt Lake is one of those shows built on celebrities signing for $30-50 bucks?  Those same stars go to San Diego and sign for free.  I personally think San Diego has nothing to worry about and more shows is always better than less so I'm glad they can co-exist.  But there's only one show that goes by Comic Con and it ain't in Utah.

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