As every geek on the planet knows, last week was the San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest hootinerdy in pop culture and geekdom of the year. I’ve been going every year for more than a decade now, and this was their 40th anniversary. As always, it was exhausting, it was frustrating, and it was a blast.
If you head over to my site, you can find my complete photo coverage of the show, including the displays of Hasbro, Sideshow, Mattel and many others. Today I’ll briefly cover my Top Ten Best and Worst of the Con starting with my ‘bests’, but in no particular order:
1 - okay, I lied. This is my number one, no doubt about it. Regular readers know I’m a huge Batman fan, and Toynami was showing off their large scale Batwing and Batmobile. They looked about 1/8th or 1/9th scale, and they were gorgeous. They are only making 500 though, and I’m betting you could buy a 1:1 scale used car for what they’ll cost. But one can always dream!
2 - Let’s stick with Toynami for a moment, and their newly showcased Cinemaquette of Superman, as played by Christopher Reeves. Is it expensive? Oh, yes my dear, very expensive. We’re talking better than a grand, but less than two. Once the sticker shock wears off though, you can begin to appreciate the beauty of this quarter scale marvel. While the one at the con had a pretty plain base, Toynami tells me that they’ll be adding some ‘ice crystals’ jutting upward, ala the Fortress of Solitude.
3 - Jumping over to Sideshow, they had on display their new 1:1 scale Darth Vader. Damn, he looked good. Oh, I thought the helmet looked a little off, but the realism in the alternate scarred head was just outstanding.
4 - I’m going to stick with Sideshow for another one - the Premium Format Abomination. Here’s a character I don’t care about personally, but the size, mass and beauty of this PF will take anyone’s breath away. “Whoa” is always going to be the first thing out of someone’s mouth when they see this bad boy, and your kids will have nightmares about him coming to life in the middle of the night. What more could you ask for?
5 - The movie Trick R Treat, by Michael Dougherty, has been almost in theaters or on DVD for over three years now. For those of us that love great horror, it’s been a painful wait, all the more so because we’ve been teased with not one but TWO action figures based on the main character, Sam! Well, it finally comes to DVD in October (let’s keep our fingers crossed) and there was a special screening at Comic-Con. Yes, it’s a very funny, gory, original horror flick that I really enjoyed, enough so that I’ll pick up the DVD to add it to the collection. And Anna Paquin, pre True Blood, gets chased by a vampire. How prophetic is that?
6 - I didn’t make it to many panels this year, and I’ll be bitching about that a bit more in the Ten Worsts, but one panel I did make was for Lost. I’ve hit their panel every year since before the show first aired, and they’ve always done a terrific job of giving the fans a funny, enjoyable hour or so. Yea, they never give away too much, but they make up for it with some nifty presentations and funny back and forth dialog. This year was their last panel, so it was a bit sad, but I’m sure this creative team will bring us more great shows in the future. Until then, I’m going to be glued to the final season of Lost!
7 - One of my favorite Con exclusives is the Weta guns, based on the designs of Greg Broadmore. I could never afford one of the full size guns, which run in price from several hundred to several thousand, so the smaller and less expensive con exclusives were my only alternative. Ah, but Greg has heard our cries of pain! Weta will be producing full sized plastic version of their guns that will retail for less than $100 each, and they had one on display at the show. It was quite impressive, and I expect great things from this line. Finally, I’ll be able to own a Grordbort’s Raygun and not end up in divorce court because of it!
8 - While many other companies held back and were working from limited budgets, Kotobukiya really stepped up their presence. With a larger booth, more product, and a number of interactive activities (including an on site live sculpting demonstration), Kotobukiya went from a quiet, subdued exhibitor to noisy, active participant in one swoop.
9 - Before Comic-con started, I ran a poll as to what company people were most looking forward to hearing new stuff from. The clear winner, with 38% of the vote, was Sideshow (and Hot Toys, since Hot Toys displays at Sideshow’s booth). The second place company was Mattel, way back at 18%.
Before the con started, I closed the poll. Once it was complete, I started a new poll to see what most folks were NOW looking forward to. Sideshow has managed to remain in first place…so far. But Mattel has made a commanding rush toward first, now just a few percent behind the front runner. How did they do it? With an extremely good showing at the con. They had a ton of DC product on all fronts, they showed some terrific MOTUC figures, their Ghostbusters line is looking good, and they have the new much talked about Avatar license. They went from a distinct second to the potential of first by showing off great new product - simple as that. Being a big DC fan, I was extremely happy to see all the support for the license across multiple sizes and styles of figures.
10 - Another company that re-emerged for me was DC Direct. I haven’t picked up much product from them in the last couple years outside of Batman Black and White statues, but they had an excellent showing of product, including their 13″ deluxe figures. They also showed off a large Batman vs Killer Croc statue that is going to be a must have for me.
So that’s what I loved this year. Ah, but there was some suckitude as well, and here’s my ten worsts, again in no particular order:
1 - the fine folks from Elite Security continue to work their hardest to redefine the meaning of the word. Just about everyone who goes to the Con comes back with a bad, annoying or just plain ridiculous story about the security folks at the show. While some of it has to do with the individuals involved, I think most of it is simply a mis-managed company that provides little to no training, guidance or procedure to its employees. There has to be an alternative in San Diego, and the con promoters need to find it.
2 - Usually, I hit several panels every day of the con. Not this year - the lines were simply insane. As much as I wanted to attend the panel for Big Bang Theory, Avatar or True Blood (and believe me, I really, really wanted to be there), I wasn’t going to spend two or more hours waiting to get in, only to be turned away. This is the ONE thing that will kill SDCC - attendees not being able to see the panels once they’ve made the trip.
By next year, they need to get this under control, or the sheer size of the show will cause it to collapse. Friends and I discussed this all weekend, and I’m sure it was a topic with just about every other attendee. I see two possible alternatives:
I - set up the opportunity to sign up for panels when you register. This is a process employed by other large conventions, like Oracle Open World. Your badge is coded with the panels you’ve signed up for, and there’s a card reader at the door. This one will cost them money and time, but give you the opportunity to have a guaranteed seat if you sign up early enough.
II - broadcast the key panels into other rooms, much like how they do the Masquerade on Saturday night. They could even explore broadcasting it into larger rooms in the nearby Hilton and Marriot, where they have started holding sessions already.
I know some folks would like to see them clear the rooms between each panel, but I don’t think it’s logistically possible. They used to do that when the show was half this size, and the amount of time it required was already delaying their daily schedule. I know there are more (and probably better) options than the two I came up with, but the Con folks must get on this problem for 2010 and get on it now, as it’s easily the largest risk they face.
3 - Many of the things I’ll be mentioning in the worsts all roll up to the overall effect the economy is having on the industry. It was apparent everywhere, from limited budgets to do show marketing, to some missing major players (remember Sci-Fi aka SyFy’s big booth from years past? Nope, not this year…) to rehashed product, the overall effects of the economic downturn was one of the big downers.
4 - Several companies that are normally always there were missing this year, and the one I thought was the most telling was McFarlane Toys. Todd was still there, and he did a signing or two, but the company had no real presence. Just another sad sign that the company that once set the bar in action figures that all others tried to meet is quickly becoming a non-issue.
5 - Another outcome of the bad economy was the ton of recycled or slightly less than new announcements. Products like the quarter scale Harry Potter and Voldemort from Gentle Giant have been seeing the cons for a couple years now, so while it was nice to see Voldemort join them, it didn’t mean a whole lot. Let’s see you actually get the first two out before we worry about the next one, ‘kay? It wasn’t just Gentle Giant, as lots of companies were showing the same product as last year that still hasn’t been released.
6 - As I mentioned with the panels, there were plenty of crowds all around. Wednesday night was easily the worst, with everyone packed on the floor for Preview Night, and not much in the way of panels to draw them off. The lines for exclusives were, at times, nuts, and I have another of my handy dandy suggestions.
The companies know how many exhibitors there will be, and they should be able to produce about the right number of exclusives (given a limit) for that group. Instead of putting off the exhibitors, welcome them early, selling the exclusives to them BEFORE the show opens. Don’t let them buy DURING. Set a limit, keep them to that limit, and let them make their purchases separate from the rest of us. That will shorten the lines for the regular patrons, and yet take nothing away from them, since the companies should still be able to accurately gauge (perhaps even better) how many they need to produce. As it is now, exhibitors flock to the lines right at opening, clogging up the system for the rest of the day for everyone else.
7 - Another company disappointment was Enterbay. They had a few of their current figures displayed through one of their distributors, but there was only things we’ve already seen, like Bruce Lee, Kato and Godfather. There were zero new announcements, and I think they really missed the ball on this one. I know that there’s a huge toy show over in Tokyo during this same period and that takes away a lot of the Asian company concentration, but considering the size of the American market (and potential market), I think Enterbay needs to show it a bit more attention.
8 - For me, the con exclusives were far less appealing than in past years. Of course, this is a disappointment that varies from individual to individual, but for me there was clearly less that interested me. And considering how much there is out there that does interest me (it’s not like I only collect one type of toy or figure), that probably says a lot about the overall situation.
There were still a few companies that managed to snag my dollars, like Sideshow and Mattel, but in past years I would ship home four large boxes of ‘must haves’ back home. This year, there were only two. While this made my wallet and wife happy, it made my heart sad.
9 - the missing voice actors from Futurama. They normally are there each year, and part of the funniest panel…instead, because of the dispute over their contracts for the new Futurama episodes, they were a no show. The studio has put out casting calls to replace them, but I’m hoping this is merely a negotiation ploy to try to scare them. I mean, they couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to think they could recast the voices of the main characters, and the show wouldn’t fail? Right? Right? RIGHT?
10 - the con prices. I don’t mean the price of the Con itself, but the prices of everything around it, driven by the high attendance. Three dollars for a bottle of water? Seriously? Two dollars for a cookie? Really? And don’t even get me started on the inflation rate on all the hotel rooms for this one week of the year. I already mentioned that the top issue that could kill the con was being able to get into the panels, but pricing out the average person is a damn close second.
So that’s my top 10 bests and worsts for this year - what’s yours?
If you’re looking for coverage of the goodies shown this year, be sure to head over to my site and check it out!
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