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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

40th San Diego Comic-Con International opens at San Diego Convention Center

According to the official Comic-Con site ( mission statement, "Comic-Con International: San Diego is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture". That's the official description. But as anyone who's ever been to the yearly event knows, the convention is a mecca for fans (or self-described nerds) who geek out over comic books, science fiction, super heroes and fantasy role play. I think I've left something out, but you get the picture.

The convention is held at the San Diego Convention Center. However, it was originally located in the basement of a now destroyed downtown hotel. It was designed by a group of devotees (Shel Dorf, Richard Alf, Ken Krueger, Mike Towry, Barry Alfonso, Bob Sourk, and Greg Bear) to primarily showcase comic books and science fiction/fantasy related film, and television. The event drew a few hundred attendees or so. Since it's humble beginnings the convention has grown to include a larger range of pop culture and entertainment elements across virtually all genres, including horror, animation, anime, manga, toys, collectible card games, video games, webcomics, and fantasy novels. Because of its ability to draw huge crowds, the event holds several Guinness World Records including the largest annual comic and pop culture festival in the world.

What keeps drawing the crowd is a variety of panels, seminars, and workshops with comic book professionals. In addition there are previews of upcoming feature films, and sessions with TV shows, and top comic book and video game companies. And when the day is done there are evening events such as the annual Masquerade costume contest and the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival, which showcases shorts and feature-length movies looking for distribution deals.

Traditional events include screening rooms devoted to Japanese animation, gaming, an "Oddball Comics" slide show and animation expert Jerry Beck's program featuring TV's "worst cartoons ever", as well as over 350 hours of other programming on all aspects of comic books and pop culture. And lets not forget the large floorspace for exhibitors for media companies, TV networks, as well as comic-book dealers and collectibles merchants. Like other comic conventions, Comic-Con includes an autograph area, as well as the Artists' Alley where artists can sign autographs and comic industry professionals present scholarly studies on comics as a medium. Cool, right?

Additionally, there are at least 17 separate rooms in the convention center used for panels and screenings, ranging in size from a meeting room with 280 seats to Hall H, which seats over 6,100. Examples of the wide variety of TV shows promoted include Bones, MythBusters, Psych, Supernatural, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Torchwood, and Doctor Who. On the downside, concerns have been raised that the event is possibly too large to continue taking place at the San Diego Convention Center. Last year capacity attendance at Comic-Con caused crowding issues, particularly on Saturday when they had to to halt registration in order to accommodate the crowds. In response, Comic-Con has introduced a new three-day membership that does not include Saturday. Nevertheless, Saturday, as well as Friday and Sunday have sold out for the first time ever. Additionally, both the four-day and three-day memberships sold out for the first time.

This year's official Comic-con guests scheduled to appear include Sergio Aragonés, Alison Bechdel, Ray Bradbury, Dan Brereton, Daryl Cagle, Cecil Castellucci, Darwyn Cooke, Guy Delisle, Paul Dini, Roman Dirge, Cory Doctorow, Ann Eisner, Warren Ellis, Mark Evanier, Renee French, Gary Friedrich, Christos N. Gage, Neil Gaiman, Rick Geary, George Gladir, Laurell K. Hamilton, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Adam Hughes, Joe Jusko, Miriam Katin, Scott Kurtz, Joe Matt, David Morrell, Mike Ploog, Paul Pope, Lily Renée, George A. Romero, Rowena, Dave Stevens, J. Michael Straczynski, Ben Templesmith, Roy Thomas, Morrie Turner, Mark Verheiden, Matt Wagner, J. H. Williams III, Kent Williams, F. Paul Wilson, and Brian Wood.

If you happen to be one of the lucky ones to score a pass (any pass) to this years Comic-con I hope you realize how fortunate you are. And celebrate your coveted prize as any true devoted would - wear a costume of you favorite character, attending as many panels as possible, collect the signatures of yesterday's stars, and basque in the glory that is the greatest nerd fest in the world. Do it for the fans. You owe them that much.

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