Checking in After San Diego

I’m finally home after three weeks of travels, having just returned from Comic Con International in San Diego. I’d like to blog about the con a bit more soon, though I suspect I’ll be playing catch-up and contacting potential interviewees for awhile. Here are three items of particular note, at least:

First, this year’s theme seemed to be “waiting in line.” I know that you’ve had to schedule line-waiting time into things for awhile now, but this year was particularly ridiculous, especially because the big events of 2007 were TV-related but the absolute biggest ballroom tends to go to movie-related panels and showings (neither of which, you’ll note, necessarily have anything to do with “comics”). I arrived over an hour early to wait in line for the first event of the day Saturday, a screening of the new Bionic Woman pilot, and I was roughly 5,000th in a line that snaked outside the convention center.

Once I got into Ballroom 20 (which seats about 6,000), I couldn’t leave for anything longer than a bathroom break, as a sizable line remained waiting outside. Many people waited hours, through three panels or more, just hoping to get in in time for what they most wanted to see. The Heroes cast was the big draw early in the day—I’d estimate that maybe half the room cleared after the event, and even the con organizers made an announcement recognizing that plenty were just sitting through the other panels so they could be there for this third panel—though plenty still wanted to elbow in early to see Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly).

This was funny timing for me, as I just had a conversation with Greg (whose last name unfortunately escapes me), an academic attending a conference in Paris about the “line culture” (his term) associated with Harry Potter. It’s not just new Potter books that people line up for, of course, but also the iPhone, the Wii, and the Star Wars prequels. I’m not sure if the people who line up early for those launch events are the same ones who show up hours early to sit in lines at Comic Con, but I think that the “line culture” is potentially a useful metaphor for fan culture. A sufficiently long line sort of demonstrates the diversity of the people waiting in it, falling in a broad spectrum of devotion/enthusiasm/involvement (including those who show up late and kind of say, “Whoa, I didn’t realize there would be a line). And while you can’t generalize about everyone in a line or a “fan group” because of this great diversity, a certain overall character might seem to emerge to outside observers; see, for example, the lines/fandoms associated with the Wii versus the PS3 (with a relevant comic and forum discussion at XKCD).

The second thing that the con got me thinking about a lot is just how many people were there looking for toys more than anything else, which (as I’ve noted recently) I’ve generally ignored in my research. It’s somewhat hard to find toy collectors who want to be interviewed, however, as there are relatively panels specifically about toys, and people in the exhibition room kind of don’t appreciate being asked for interviews while they’re trying to shop and navigate the sea of people.

And finally, I had the pleasure of doing an internet radio interview with Joel and Don of Old School Pizzazz. I’m not sure if it will be posted on Deadlybuda.com or Dedlly.com, but I’ll update this entry as I know more (and once I hear the interview, I’ll probably blog about everything that sounds awkward and wrong out of my mouth in retrospect).

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