David Glanzer, spokesperson for Comic-Con
Related Story: Video: Exhibitors Talk About Comic-Con
ST. JOHN: Fantasy fiction spills over into the streets tomorrow in San Diego as Comic-Con participants descend on downtown. I think they're already starting! 130,000 fans to be precise, science fiction, comic books, movies and pop culture. Coming up, we'll be talking about the spokesman about what's new. But first, here's Beth Accomando who spoke to veteran exhibitors last year to get their view from inside the booths.
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ST. JOHN: The spokesperson for Comic-Con, thank you so much for being here. It sounds like the heart and soul of Comic-Con are the comic books but they're having to compete with Hollywood. Of would you say they're still the heart and soul of this convention?
GLANZER: They really are. When the show started over 40 years ago, it was about comic books, film, and fantasy literature. There were area was what we now call pop materiality that the general public didn't necessarily look at as having artistic gravitas. People may have known who Alfred Hitchcock were, but now people not only know the directors of movies but their grosses and what not. And the same thing is true for comics. Back in the day, a lot of people didn't know who the creators were. Today, some of them are the biggest superstars.
ST. JOHN: Do you think it was work to separate off the comic books from Hollywood?
GLANZER: We have a mission statement to try to get more people to really realize this popular art that is comic art, it's much more prevalent and popular in Asia and some of the South American countries than it is in the United States. We're trying to change that to make people realize that's a very viable form of art. I think if you separate them, you may end up preaching to the choir a lot. And I think it's really important to bring new people into what's really a great art form.
ST. JOHN: We heard a woman speaking about changing her products in order to get more attention. Are there a lot of women, or did it used to be a male-dominated convention?
GLANZER: It really was until about 10, 15 years ago, it was very heavily male. Our demographics now are about 60/40. And we think that is attributed to Japanese animation and manga. A lot of them feature article stories, and they're written by women.
ST. JOHN: And they're school girls.
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GLANZER: And it's not unusual for people to read manga on a train going to work in Japan. In the United States, people still look at comics as being a children's medium. So it makes sense in these other countries they're more universally accepted, men, women, young and old.
ST. JOHN: Let's look at what's new this year. What can people who are attending it expect to see that's new and different?
GLANZER: One of the things that really seems to be making a slash this year and video games. Video games like the other areas of popular art is something that really has an amazing artistic element to it, and a science element to it too. There's technology in all of the stuff. But this year, Xbox has a huge activation at the Manchester grand Hyatt. And they're going to be debuting new games and new technology in which to play those games. I think Ubisoft has rented out the star of India and move today behind the convention center.
ST. JOHN: With that convention center, big as it is, it isn't big enough. How is it overflowing this year?
GLANZER: We really have exceeded our space there. We've been working closely with local hotels in the city, and the convention center to basically create what we call a Comic-Con campus if you will. So you will start to see a lot more activities happening outside the convention center. Whether it be at park space, hotels, and there are things that are happening around the city that aren't even officially affiliated with us that are taking over warehouses, restaurants, and things of that nature.
ST. JOHN: I heard there's one restaurant that's been completely taken over. One of the Hollywood studios has taken it over.
GLANZER: And sometimes we find out about that afterwards. There was an economic impact study that they did a few years ago. And it really didn't take any account all the other things that happened outside because there's no way to track that. My understanding is a movie studio bought a building, rented it, and brought down their people here for about a month to transform that.
ST. JOHN: $180million value to the community here.
GLANZER: Right. And I think that was a conservative number. There's so much going on that we don't know about, it would be interesting to see what those things contributed.
ST. JOHN: It feels like there isn't really a blockbuster movie this summer like Avatar, and the Twilight series. Is that going to have an effect on the fans?
GLANZER: It'll be interesting to see. We'll know on Monday what the big impact was. I think everyone goes in hoping to be the big event of the weekend. But it really is up to the fans. And we'll know on Monday what that is want
ST. JOHN: Is Superman one of the contenders?
GLANZER: I think it is, absolutely. There's a show called Ender's Game, and television is pretty big as well.
ST. JOHN: The logistics must be horrendous. How many staff do you have?
GLANZER: About 30-35 full-time staff, 13 directors, 1,000 committee department heads, and over the course of the week, we use about 3,500 volunteers. And I must be very, very honest, without each and every one of those people, this event would not happen. It's an incredible logistic Rubik's cube, and it all comes together.
ST. JOHN: Are you having as much participation from the Hollywood studios as in the past this year?
GLANZER: We are. And the studios are very smart. If they don't have a project that they think will be something our fans will really embrace, they're not going to bring it. And that's smart because nobody really wants to be sold to. We always tell them share what you have. It can be disastrous to bring something that is just a marketing tool. So sometimes a studio will sit out a year but will come back.
ST. JOHN: Anyone sitting out this year?
GLANZER: Actually no, but I know that one of the hotels that is typically wrapped is not wrapped this year. But television has taken over some of those buildings as well. So there's always an ebb and flow. Nothing that's trend-worthy, if you will. It just depends upon the year.
ST. JOHN: So let's talk about the panels. There's so many of them, it's really hard to pick which ones to go to.
GLANZER: I would say go to the event center, or look at the event schedule on-site, and plan. We have over 600 hours of programming, from breaking into the comic book business, film-making classes, costume, and things of that nature. We also ask people to expand their horizons. Go to a panel that you might not normally go to. You might be surprised at what you see and learn. And they're typically the premiere people within those industries. So it's really like a master class.
ST. JOHN: Any big names?
GLANZER: We have a lot of big names not only in comics but toys and games and movies. I don't know if the studios have announced all that. And I'm not sure. I don't want to scoop them. One of my favorites is Sergio Aragones, he is just fantastic. He does a lot of the MADD drawings and what not. There are some really amazingly talented people, and he has a panel called quick draw. He is probably the fastest drawer in comics. It's terribly fun. And there are people who -- I don't know if it's street cred or what, but people -- nobody likes to wait in line, but there are people who really seem to enjoy it.
ST. JOHN: A lot of stuff goes on in the lines.
GLANZER: It really does! And I will admit to being -- in the early 80, I was one of those people who slept on Hollywood boulevard waiting for the empire strikes back to come out. At my age now, I couldn't possibly do that. But these are young kids who really enjoy that, and sometimes they make quite good friends.
ST. JOHN: So you find people who are mad about the same things as you in the line.
GLANZER: That's exactly it. And it's a safe environment to be who you want to be and who you are and you make lifelong friends.
ST. JOHN: Any tips for people who don't have tickets?
GLANZER: Up until this weekend, there may be still some this week. We made a lot of passes to local television stations and radio stations because a lot of locals may not have been able to get in.
ST. JOHN: And there's a lot going on around the convention center.
GLANZER: There is. Exactly. There's some activations that happen. Some of them require badge, some don't. And if you want to explore it, I would probably talk to somebody who may be has been downtown, but it's also very crowded outside the facility now too. Last year, I was able to get out for a couple of minutes and was amazed how many people were down there.
ST. JOHN: Even just being around the convention center, although parking will be awful. It'll be a site to see.
GLANZER: It will be. And I would probably ask people to do what I do, and that is watch television. There's a lot of stuff that we don't have the ability to do. So I get a recap, whether it be on a radio station or a television and find out oh, that's going on!
ST. JOHN: You've got a blog, right? How would that help somebody figure out what the heck to do?
GLANZER: Well, one of the great things about that, it's new this year. And we've offered tips leading up to the show. It's everything simple as wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated to making sure that you find -- if you're going with friends that you pick a time and a place to meet because it's easy to get wrapped up in being one panel to another panel to another panel. So plan ahead. I think if there's one mantra for the weekend, it's plan. &%F0
ST. JOHN: And what is the status of the contract with the convention center of San Diego?
GLANZER: We were able to extend our contract to 2016. So we'll be in San Diego at least until then. Our challenge is we've outgrown the convention center. Now, we've been able to expand it with hotels and what not. Right now it seems to work. We're hoping that it will continue to work until at least 2016. There's talk of an expansion. If it goes through, it'll be good not only for the city but clearly for Comic-Con and other large conventions.
ST. JOHN: And when do the tickets for next year go on sale?
GLANZER: We really don't know yet. We will announce after the show.
ST. JOHN: Okay. Comic-Con kicks off tonight with a preview and officially runs Thursday through Sunday at the San Diego convention center. Thank you so much for coming in.
GLANZER: My pleasure. Thank you.