Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Weekend Preview: Comic-Con

A display of vintage comic books.
Beth Accomando
A display of vintage comic books.

Comic-Con, Gam3rcon, And Zombies, Oh My!

Comic-Con Opening Day 2012: Tips For a Good Show
Weekend Preview: Comic-Con
Comic-Con weekend is chock-full of fun festivities for anyone and everyone.

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. The pop culture extravaganza that trendy fans simply call San Diego is at last open. Comic-Con 2012 opened this morning. An estimated 140,000 people are in town to enjoy celebrity panels, zombie walks, and the occasional comic book. Joining me to talk about the opening and the business of this huge pop culture event are my guests, KPBS arts reporter, Beth Accomando, who joins us from the Convention Center. Hi. ACCOMANDO: Hi! CAVANAUGH: KPBS business reporter Erik Anderson joins me as well. ANDERSON: Hello, Maureen. CAVANAUGH: Give us a sense of what it's like down there. ACCOMANDO: Well, they had preview night last night. And today is the official opening, and it's busy. People were lined up at Hall H, people lined up for the panels on the other floors, and everybody is rushing to get their badges, and there's a lot of excitement and anticipation. People are coming in for the first time today. And there's a lot of people who are there for their first time. I've talked to a lot of people who this is their first convention. So those are the people who are really excited and whose eyes are popping open as they go in, like I can't believe this is so big! CAVANAUGH: You mentioned Hall H, that's where the twilight fans have been lining up. But you also found some fans in a much smaller line for the clever comedy crime show, Psyche. NEW SPEAKER: We're waiting for Psyche, the Psyche panel. This is the first time I've ever waited in line. Why? Because I love Psyche. And it's the first time I've been able to make it to Comi-Con I'm from Dallas, Texas, and I finally was able to come out here and join my fellow Psychofriends and I'm having a blast! NEW SPEAKER: To be honest, I was holding a space for my friends while they went and showered. This is my first ever. It's kind of nice that my first Comic-Con experience has coinsighted with the Firefly tenth anniversary panel which is a once in a lifetime experience. NEW SPEAKER: I'm here right now for the Psyche panel. It's my favorite show. I'm overwhelmed and excited. I could have spent about $400 in like five minutes. But I didn't. [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: That was three of the people that Beth talked to at Comic-Con this year. You're right, a lot of them say they are there for the first time. ACCOMANDO: Yeah. CAVANAUGH: Are there any new costumes this year? ACCOMANDO: There's a lot of Anime out there, and since I'm not running an Anime problem, a lot of them are looking new to me, but I can't quite identify the shows. But they're elaborate and beautiful. CAVANAUGH: Any hunger games costumes? ACCOMANDO: You know, I have not seen any catnesses, which isn't that there aren't any out there. But evaporate seen any of them yet. CAVANAUGH: And the cast of the TV series True Blood, and the Game of Thrones are appearing. That must be a huge draw. Do you get the sense that TV is more important than movies now? ACCOMANDO: I don't know if it's more important. I think this year this may be more of an emphasis on the TV shows because there aren't any big movie titles coming out that are having the big panel. But I do think one indication is the big building wraps out here are not for movies, except for Total Recall, they are gaming building wraps, and TV building wraps. So I think this year, a little bit more of the buzz is going toward TV and gaming. CAVANAUGH: Is this all of thissed if for San Diego? ANDERSON: Absolutely. It's a great thing. You're salivating the minute you utter the words Comic-Con. They talk about the baseball number, what's going to happen it's $180 million worth of economic impact, the direct spending is about $75 million during the convention. Raises in the neighborhood of $2.6 million of tax revenue for the City of San Diego which is why the mayor was out there saying how great it was to have Comic-Con here. And room nights. Of the hotel industry makes out, it's like fat city for the hotel industry. 120,000 room nights over this week long period. So it's a huge influx of money for the San Diego economy. CAVANAUGH: The 140,000 is an estimate. But we were talking earlier, and you said you think that's low? ANDERSON: Sure, sure. 140,000 is the people who are ticketed to go inside, either as the scores of media or paid ticket holders for Comi-Con that number is capped. It's limited by the capacity of the Convention Center. But there are a lot of people who come with. Not every ticket holder has five tickets for their family, but they bring their family. There are people who want to be a part of Comicon were not savvy enough on that one day when tickets were available online and didn't get that pass but still come anyway to take part in many of the offsite activities. And the convention itself, yeah, it's kind of in that convention area and the adjacent hotels, but it spills over into downtown. There is stuff going on all around the Gaslamp, and even further away than that that is relevant and linked to Comi-Con CAVANAUGH: Before we leave this, are you saying that if a family comes to San Diego for Comic-Con that some of the ticketed members of that family might actually spend the day at the Con, but others my go to the zoo and sea world? ANDERSON: That's exactly right. I was speaking earlier with a San Diego state university professor, and he told me that's what it is. Because this is a summertime event for San Diego, and because it carries an international profile, it's known through media, around the world. You see a lot of reasons and a lot of fans come in to do Comic-Con and something else, to do Comic-Con and have a little vacation. Maybe it's before, maybe it's after. But it's linked. And he says you have all this direct spending, it's all valuable, but there is a value that's more difficult to measure. It's having that marquee exposure and what it could potentially mean for the city down the road. NEW SPEAKER: How does the City of San Diego take advantage of the next three years in the marquee value of this event to market other conventions? Because if you can host a great of very passionate people who dress up in downtown and manage security, manage safety, keep them entertained, if you have a ten thousand person physicians convention or a 20,000 person or 30,000 person business convention, that should be a great selling point for managing high degrees of complexity. San Diego as a city and Convention Center, the visitors' bureau needs to do that more aggressively to pull things from traditional convention cities like Dallas or New York or Las Vegas. ANDERSON: One thing he pointed out to me which I hadn't thought of, the City of San Diego has to provide security for all these people. They want everybody to have a safe experience. But not only does that safety team have to provide security for the city, they also have to work with all these other security details because all these star panels, these big Hollywood stars who come in for the weekend are for a panel, they have their own security requirement, their own security team. They want to be safe too. So it is very complex. It's very involved, and so far San Diego has done a pretty good job of pulling it off. CAVANAUGH: For the people who don't have tickets to actually go to the convention, what are some of the things they might enjoy outside of Comic-Con but still get that Comic-Con feel? ACCOMANDO: There's a lot of stuff going on outside. For one thing, adventure time cartoon network show has taken over the children's museum. Of there's a lot of activities across the street from the Convention Center, a couple of art galleries. There's stuff going on as far away as Adams avenue, you've got art lab, where there are a number of the artist who is have booths down here are also showing work there. And there's stuff like gamer-con. CAVANAUGH: Tell us about that. ACCOMANDO: It's in its third year, and it's basically a place where people who don't have tickets or people who are badged at Comic-Con can come and enjoy gaming of all kinds. It goes from 8-bit gaming to board games to state of the art -- the latest stuff that's out. CAVANAUGH: You spoke with one of the founders last night. You sent us a clip of that. NEW SPEAKER: A lot of people show up with their laniards on from Comic-Con, and that's why we invented the button system. We'll give them something they can stick on that, and it is people who have no interest in what Comic-Con has become with the Hollywood scene and things like that, and all they want to do is game. When I started going to Comicon people were playing games in the upstairs hallways. That's not possible anymore, it's too crowded. So we give them a place for that. I think we are the only satellite con that is in the third year. Other ones have trieded over the year, they have been a flash in the pan. They were once and gone. There's a couple others that are now in their second year. But I think Comic-Con has grown to the point that it can support satellites. It's a big enough planet itself that things can orbit around it. And with the number of people who are expressing interest in this, we're hoping for the day five years from now that we cannot be the same week as Comic-Con because there won't be enough hotels downtown to support both. CAVANAUGH: Beth, I would be remiss if I did not ask, first I want to ask about celebrities. Who's coming here? ACCOMANDO: Well, the person I'm looking forward to is Jacky chan is supposed to be here on a panel for his latest action film. And there's actually the extendibles 2 panel is after that with John Claude van dam and Arnold Schwarzenegger. CAVANAUGH: And Sly! ACCOMANDO: All these action stars, I have this fantasy in my head that they're, like, meeting up and possibly coming up with an even crazier idea too. [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: And it wouldn't be Comi=Con you, Beth, without the zombies. ACCOMANDO: I would suggest anybody who's down there, grab a panel with max Brooks. He is great, and he takes his zombies very seriously. And there is also going to be the San Diego zombie walk, and this is a protest March for zombie rights. So I think that's an important news event to cover. [ LAUGHTER ] you had a cover from max brooks. NEW SPEAKER: We think that the zombie craze is very tied to the times we're living in. The last time you had a zombie craze was the 1970s, and that was a time of anxiety, when people really did feel like the system was breaking down. Politically, economically, socially, even environmentally. There really was this feeling that it's not working anymore. And people were really scared. And they wanted to explore their apocalyptic fears. But they didn't want it to be too real. If you do a movie about nuclear war, good luck getting people to watch it. When I was a kid, and they had the Day After, and they literally sent notes out to the kids, parents, don't let your kids watch this. But when you do a zombie movie or a book or comic or whatever, you can have the same apocalyptic fantasies, society breaking down, government failing, people turning on each other. But if it's a zombie, you can still sleep at night. CAVANAUGH: I want to thank my guests. Have a good time! ACCOMANDO: Always do!

Let the festivities begin! Comic-Con International 2012 began yesterday and runs through Sunday. Ticket, or no ticket, there is plenty of fun to be had in the convention center or around town.

For those who couldn’t get a ticket this year, some of your many options include…

Gam3rcon is a convention in downtown San Diego that, according to its website, “celebrates all things gaming” and is running the same dates as Comic-Con, July 11-15. This convention offers games, panel discussions, art exhibitions, theatre performances, and rooftop parties at the 10th Avenue Theatre in downtown San Diego. Gam3rcon’s festivities don’t start until noon each day, so attendees can stay up late enjoying the San Diego nightlife and/or the convention’s rooftop parties. Highlights include the Video Game Arena, featuring free play and tournaments, the rooftop comedy night, featuring Andre Meadows & Friends, MC'd by Eliza Jane Schneider, and G33k Theatre’s showings of “Gam3rs: The Play” (Jul 11, 3 pm; Jul 12, 7 pm; Jul 14, 7 pm – Free with any Gam3rcon membership), “Spider Baby: The Musical” (July 12th, 10pm; July 14th, 10pm; July 15th, 7pm - $10 for Gam3rCon attendees and $20 for general public, which includes a day pass to Gam3rCon), and "I Wish My Life Was An RPG” (Jul 13, 7:30 pm). All events have limited seating. Seats may be reserved for “Spider Baby” at 619-900-4492.


For those interested in comic art there are many choices including, “Unmasked! Comic Art in San Diego Revealed” an exhibit of art by San Diego area comic artists (Jul 7 – 31, Tue – Sat 12 -7, Sun 12 -5, Cost: Free, Where: Artlab Studios, 3536 Adams Ave).

“Darkness and Light: Art Inspired by Heroes & Villains, Hope & Heroism,” features some of today’s top contemporary artists and showcases a collection of original artwork inspired by DC Comics’ Justice League characters paired with real world photography that depicts the everyday heroes fighting hunger in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya (Jul 9 – 15, Cost: Free, Where: Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts 363 Fifth Avenue Suite 102).

“TR!CKSTER SYMPOSIA” is a series of critically-acclaimed workshop gatherings that focus on process, theory, and technique in storytelling across a variety of media. In addition to the Symposia, there is animation and live-action short film screenings, signings, drawing events, rooftop terrace with full restaurant menu, DJs, and live music. (Jul 11, 3 pm – 1 am; Jul 12 – 14, 11 am – 1 am, Cost: Free, but there is a $40 fee for individual symposia, Where: WINE STEALS/PROPER, 795 J. Street).

Two free events that stand out as a good time are the screening of "FDR: American Badass,” a comedy version of history akin to the more serious “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer”: (Jul 13, 10 pm, Cost: Free RSVP Here, Where: Gaslamp Stadium 15 Pacific Theatres, 701 Fifth Avenue) and the ”Inept International Film Adaptation Showcase,” which Highlights “attempts by foreign film markets to cash in on major Hollywood film and comic-books that, more often than not, fail miserably. Think Turkish Star Wars, Indian Superman” (Jul 14, 8 pm, Cost: Free ($5 suggested donation), popcorn and refreshments on hand, Where: Space 4 Art, 325 15th Street). (Event will be overbooked. First come, first served.)

For fans of the undead/walking dead or those suffering from the affliction, there are two events that fit right in your zombie wheelhouse.


The “San Diego Zombie Walk,” a march for undead rights, stages a walk through the Gaslamp in protest of discrimination against the undead. Of course this event happens on Friday the 13th and begins at 5:30 pm (Cost: Free (Come in zombie costume/makeup, bring protest sign), Where: Walk starts at 4th and Broadway (do not arrive before 4:30 pm). 300 marchers will win tickets to the Con of the Dead Party taking place that same evening.

“The Walking Dead Escape: Live the Apocalypse.” Become a survivor and try to make your way through a walking dead infestation of Petco Park, or be a spectator of this zombie apocalypse. (July 12, 6pm-9pm; July 13, 1pm-9pm; July 14, 11am-6pm, Cost: Survivors: $75/Spectators: $15, Where: Petco Park, 100 Park Boulevard).

Special thanks to Susan Myrland and to James Hay of ConDor for their help researching what’s hot in San Diego, during the Comic-Con extravaganza. And to all those that join the adventure this weekend – enjoy!

Corrected: October 2, 2023 at 4:23 AM PDT
Video by Katie Euphrat