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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 07/21/2010

Has COMIC-CON outgrown San Diego? 9 big-time guests tell us where to go

By Michael Cavna

Let the pilgrimage to the land of "Scott Pilgrim" begin.

Ten of thousands of people will descend upon San Diego today for the 41st Comic-Con International -- the largest such convention in the world and the granddaddy of all geekdom. Some 125,000 fans seeking to achieve bayside nerdvana will attend the Big Con over four-and-a-half days, beginning with this evening's Preview Night.

And between now and Sunday, the oft-costumed throngs yearning for a glimpse of Stan Lee, Jim Lee or Angelina Jolie will endure the long and wending lines that for some years now have been a fact of life and limb at the Con. If you dare hope to see Thor in the great Hall H, you know the price to pay can be an ungodly wait.


Comic Riffs keenly remembers the first words out of Tim Burton's mouth during our interview with him at last year's Comic-Con. The man who'd directed "Batman" some two decades earlier -- so really, he partly had only himself to blame, haha -- hadn't been to the nerdopolis in some years. As he gazed at the splendor that is a packed-to-the-rafters San Diego Convention Center, he said simply: "I can't believe just how big it's gotten." (This was the day after he introduced Johnny Depp to a hall more than 5,000 squealing and pealing fans.)

This year, many attendees will hear that same "just-how-big" sentiment often -- right about the time they're also thinking: Is this nearly the end of the line for Comic-Con's run in San Diego?

The drumbeat has grown louder in recent months for Comic-Con to seriously consider relocating elsewhere in Southern California -- Los Angeles or Anaheim are wooing the sexy and successful 41-year-old -- if not Las Vegas, because really: What the colorful Strip really needs is an annual influx of blue-faced Na'vi nerds and pancake-faced Jokers. The argument, of course, is that any of those three sites would be better able to house the Comic-Con sprawl and tourist demands than the event's San Diego cradle. (The event now sells out many months in advance -- and limited close-by hotel space and not-so-limited hotel rates are prohibitive, some San Diego attendees say.)

The "Should-it-stay-or-go?" battle has taken to Facebook, of course. One of the main "Keep Comic-Con in San Diego" pages has more than 12,000 "fans." (Administrators for that site have told Comic Riffs they wait week to week, hoping to hear good news from official representatives of the Con.) And the brimming-with-swagger site "2013: Los Angeles Welcomes Comic-Con" has nearly 3,000 "fans" (a relocation that many in Hollywood would surely support, if only for convenience's sake).

So as the Big Question lingers in the seaside air that wafts this week with the distinct aroma of anticipation, perspiration and concession-stand "nerd nachos," Comic Riffs decided to bring in some big guns. We ask nine big-time Con guests for 2010 -- including some Friends of Comic Riffs -- whether they think Comic-Con should stay or go. Here are their thoughtful answers:


(The Marvel mastermind is a veteran of 30 San Diego Comic-Cons)

"The 'problem' is that Comic-Con is so damned successful. People who are there seem to have a wonderful time. The very size of it makes it exciting. Wherever you look, there's something exciting. The attendees are always looking around for a familiar face. It's either 'There's a movie star!' Or, 'There's a TV star!' Or, 'There's the guy who drew the Green Lantern!' It means so much to the fans. It makes them feel like they're where it's happening. It's like Woodstock. The only complaint is that you have to wait in a long line just to get in. But: How can you make the venue larger? You could go to Anaheim or Vegas or L.A. -- it's sort of outgrown the pace they have it in -- but I like San Diego because: The fact that it IS so crowded gives everybody the feeling that they are in the right place at the right time."

(DC Comics honcho)

"To me, San Diego and Comic-Con are synonymous."


(The MAD magazine legend has attended 34 prior San Diego Comic-Cons)

"I like it much more because it has so grown so large. We used to meet all the same people, all the same friends, each year. Now it's opened up to many types of people, not just the [die-hard fans]. I like the crowds at San Diego because you are introduced to new fans."

(MAD magazine artist)

"I would prefer to see Comic-Con get fixed. [The City of] Diego has not been receptive to Comic-Con for at least seven or eight years. They need to do whatever they can to get it fixed, but i don't see how that can happen in San Diego. It's only four days out of the year -- you can't build six major new hotels for four days of business -- so you would need enough convention traffic the rest of the year. I love San Diego, and it would be great if they could fix the [overcrowding]. But I'd much rather have the convention be a better experience."


("The Knight Life" and "K Chronicles")

"I'm nostalgic for the way it used to be in San Diego. I liked the sleaziness of downtown. I think that it was amazing then. There were raves and a weird kind of warehouse thing we used to go to that had a boxing ring. It was all rundown and weird. That's what I liked. But I do like how big it's gotten. And I still think you can find what you're into out of the showroom floor."

(Golden Age comics pioneer)

"I would like to put the brakes on it and have it not grow. It's too large as it is. It's overreaching. I know a lot of people who just don't go because the Convention Center is too hectic and it's too jammed. If it stays there, then there's a point where it has to stop growing and getting bigger. That said, I like San Diego as a city -- I love the weather there."

("The Cleveland Show's" voice actor extraordinaire)

"Why have it just once a year? I think Comic-Con should move around San Diego and L.A. and Vegas -- trade off and have it every few months. It would be fine in all those places."

(Unofficial "Queen of the Con" and bestselling author of "Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek")

"Damn, how many [expletive] people are there that an entire city can't hold us? I'd prefer it stay in San Diego. But I only have one request: Please, not Vegas. Vegas is a sensory overload for me."

("Bloom County" and "Pete & Pickles")

"Vegas, please. I'm advocating for all the hookers. All those fanboys would be like manna dropping from heaven. Honestly, some of those folks in the Storm Trooper suits REALLY need a little action. Now that I've said that, I should mention that I'll be appearing for my Comic Con speech in a storm troopers costume. I take it back."

NOTE: Now through Sunday, look for our frequent Comic-Con updates on Comic Riffs

By Michael Cavna  | July 21, 2010; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Geek Buzz, Interviews With Cartoonists, San Diego Comic-Con  | Tags:  Berkeley Breathed, Comic-Con International, Dan DiDio, Jerry Robinson, Keith Knight, Kevin Michael Richardson, Olivia Munn, San Diego Comic-Con 2010, Sergio Aragones, Stan Lee, Tom Richmond  
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