San Diego Comic-Con 2018 is now behind us — but don’t worry, we’ll be doing some wrap-up this week (and maybe into next week) before we sleep the Odin sleep for offseason.
In our personal opinions, the good far outweighed the bad this year — but there’s definitely some room for improvement. So let’s take a look at the top five winners and the top five losers that emerged from San Diego Comic-Con 2018.
5 Winners of San Diego Comic-Con 2018
If there was an emerging theme from San Diego Comic-Con 2018, it was that line lengths resembled something closer to the convention circa 2011/2012 – and that’s definitely a good thing. There was not a single panel this year that required an overnight wait, for the first time in literally years. Hall H was often a walk-in and so was Ballroom 20 – and even though smaller panel rooms were more packed than usual because 135,000 attendees have to go somewhere, it was still very manageable. Even the floor, although incredibly busy at certain times, still felt less crowded than usual. With no Marvel Studios or Game of Thrones or Star Wars or Funko to have people camping out overnight, everything was just easier to get into. This was hands down the biggest change over the last several years, and while we have a feeling things will go back to the “new normal” of line lengths for 2019 when Marvel Studios and Game of Thrones likely return, for this year, it felt pretty magical.
— Staci @ WonderCon (@bohemianclassic) July 21, 2018
Taco Bell/Jack Ryan
Although our reader Shruggie Awards for Best Offsite are practically a three-way tie right now between Taco Bell, Jack Ryan, and The Good Place, we’re going to focus on the first two right now – mostly because we’ll be talking about The Good Place in just a minute. But in our opinion, the two best offsites of the week were the Jack Ryan Fan Experience and the Taco Bell Demolition Man 25th Anniversary Pop-Up.
Both offsites represent the very best of San Diego Comic-Con – on the one hand, you have an amazing, funky, themed Taco Bell restaurant that still makes total sense for the convention – offering attendees free food, cool merchandise, and the best theming of the entire con. On the other side, you have The Jack Ryan Fan Experience, which packed thousands of attendees through its gates the entire week. Once inside, there was no shortage of things to do – whether you wanted to do an escape room, a cool VR experience, get swag, participate in “missions”, or even just hang out both inside or outside the activation on some benches, it had it all. These are two sides of the same coin when it comes to the best San Diego Comic-Con “experiences” outside of the convention center, and Taco Bell and Jack Ryan offered up the best of the best for 2018.
NBCUniversal (NBC, SYFY, USA Network)
We’ve been saying for years that the NBCUniversal networks — NBC, SYFY, and USA — understand Comic-Con attendees the best, and that’s never been more obvious than in 2018.
This year, SYFY doubled down on their “It’s a Fan Thing” with “It’s a Fan Made Thing” by celebrating fanart with some of the coolest trolley wraps that we’ve seen in years. They brought ten panels – including the return of our fan-favorite SYFY’s The Great Debate, as well as Wynonna Earp, The Magicians, Deadly Class, Z Nation, Nightflyers, and more – and plenty of offsite offerings, including parties that people could actually get into, the return of Orlando Jones’ drum line (and a new cosplay awards!), a karaoke bus, prizes, swag, a human claw machine (though we did hear that had some issues), and SO much more. Everywhere you looked, SYFY was doing something amazing – and that’s a definite win for fans.
Over on the USA side of things, things were much lighter with only one panel for The Purge TV series, but they more than made up for it with the Purge City offsite. While lots of offsites give away swag, how many let you actually build your own swag pack – while also creating one of the most unique, fun, and interactive experiences at the convention this year? This was everything that an offsite at San Diego Comic-Con should be, and it made us genuinely excited for the TV series, which is kind of the point.
And then, there’s NBC. We’ll be honest: NBC typically brings whatever genre show is coming to their network, and that’s cool, but it’s nothing to get terribly excited about. Until now. This year, NBC brought what the fans really wanted: Great TV. Which in this case, was The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (and Manifest, but Warner Bros. TV technically brought that, so we’re only half-counting it). We have literally never seen bigger crowds in front of NBC’s annual Tin Fish takeover activation than this year for The Good Place neighborhood, and everyone left with a smile on their faces (and hopefully some foam shrimp as well). The biggest lines outside Indigo Ballroom for the week were for The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine – and our editor’s favorite panel of 2018 was hands-down the latter. This was the best year NBC has possibly ever had at the convention, and if this is a sign of the direction that NBC is going to start taking with Comic-Con, then we are fully on board this trolley.
Basically: NBCUniversal get Comic-Con. They really get it. Everyone else should just follow their lead.
With all of the biggest booths (Funko, Hasbro, LEGO, and UCC Distributing) moving to an online lottery this year – and no Marvel Studios or Game of Thrones to create mass lines for Hall H – attendees had to go somewhere. And that meant that for many small-to-medium sized booths and panels, it was their time to shine. Almost every vendor we spoke to at the convention told us they had a better Thursday and Friday than they’ve ever had, and most believe it’s because since attendees weren’t heading straight for Funko or Hasbro or LEGO, they were hitting up what would have normally been their #3, #4, or #5 choice booths first instead.
That’s also a win for attendees, though, as it meant that you were able to check out a lot of other things that you might have otherwise missed. And there was A WHOLE LOT of awesome things to see and buy this year. We adore that ABC had a booth with exclusives this year (and autographs!). We love Claire Hummel’s Comic-Con merit badges. We love so many artists, including Patrick Ballesteros, Justin Harder of CLAUS Studios, The Ninjabot, and more. Hopefully you got some extra time to check out some more of those booths this year.
The same thing happened with panels – more smaller rooms were full than ever before, which means that attendees were looking into some of the amazing programming that Comic-Con International puts on that often falls to the back-burner when you’re spending an entire day waiting for Hall H.
It may sound cliche, but year after year, the thing that makes San Diego Comic-Con truly great is the people. Catching up with old friends, making new ones, bonding with strangers in line – those are the memories that will last a lot longer than some Hall H footage (though don’t get us wrong, we love that stuff too).
We wanted to give an especially loud shout out to the 99% of you who rock. Comic-Con has always felt more like a community, where we look out for each other and have each other’s back. It’s an inspiring thing, and one we hope never changes.
5 Losers of San Diego Comic-Con 2018
Indigo Ballroom Load-Up Procedure
I’ll repeat what I said on the podcast: What the fuck happened over at Indigo Ballroom this year? The old process at Indigo Ballroom was a relatively painless load-up procedure, where you could essentially just walk in. If there was a line, you would wait outside, and then between panels, they would take you inside as a group, for a process that took maybe five-ten minutes total. Quick, easy, efficient.
We’re told the new process may have started last year, but if so, it was compounded for 2018 by the fact that some of the best panels of the week with some of the biggest lines were in that room (including Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Steven Universe, and The Good Place). Now, the process is to essentially take small groups of 10-20 inside, up the escalators, through a bag-check, and into the room – before the handler goes back down the escalators and collects a new group of 10-20 people. That meant that with a capacity of about 2,600 or so seats in the room, when they started loading roughly an hour and a half before the first panel of the day, they still weren’t finished loading when the panel started. It was slow, torturous, and left many open seats during panels or got people into rooms halfway through panels when there was simply no need. They tried a bag check in Hall H on Thursday but quickly abandoned it when they realized it was going to slow things to a crawl, but at Indigo, no such decision was made. If the reason for the slow load-up at Indigo was indeed the bag check, then perhaps we need to abandon it there as well. After all, if there’s no bag check to get inside the hotel in general or into the convention center, are we really any safer? If we still feel the need for a bag check, why not have security guards checking bags in and out of the outside load-up area prior to doors, like many other venues do? If it’s that hotel guests need to use the escalators, then surely taking over the escalators for a quick 5-10 minutes is better than taking it over every three minutes with a new group.
This was not just bad, it was idiotic. Big thumbs down.
Ballroom 20 Bathroom Pass Procedure
Along that same vein… someone didn’t think the new bathroom pass procedure all the way through for Ballroom 20. It didn’t fully materialize as a problem until the room was packed on Saturday, but it was definitely a problem. The new process is that you now scan your badge to get in and out while still grabbing a printed pass for the current panel. As always, you need to return during the panel you left.
However, after The Simpsons panel, a large amount of people needed to use the bathroom or grab some food since it was lunchtime. That’s when the problem with the new process emerged. The line to get out stretched from the back of the room where the exit is all the way to the front of the room and turned the corner to reach the stage. Why? Because there was only one scanner at the exit, and one at the entrance. Those of us who thought we were being smart waited until the line went down, sometime during the next panel, before heading out to use the bathroom or get food. Unfortunately we (meaning me… James) didn’t think that all the way through. There was a line to get back in now too. A longer line since everyone was trying to get back in at the same time, before the panel ended. Now there’s a long line in the hallway between Ballroom 20 and Sails, and it’s creating a mess. It stretched from the back where the entrance is to the hallway at the front of the convention center, plus they were also using the chutes set up for the morning signing lines.
As we said, this just wasn’t thought through properly. For most of the weekend it wasn’t an issue. But once there was a full room that almost no one planned to leave for most of the day, the problem began. Attendees shouldn’t have to miss up to an hour of programming just because they needed to pee. The easiest solution is to put at least one more scanner at the entrance and exit. But whatever the solution is, this is a problem that needs to be fixed as it can happen in any room that now has scanning as part of its exit/entrance procedure. – James Riley
— SDCC Unofficial Blog (@SD_Comic_Con) July 21, 2018
Lottery Winners Lack of “Decline” Button
There are lots of pluses and minuses to the new lottery system, though as a whole, we’re more in favor of it than opposed. We think it’s a big reason lines weren’t as bad this year, and we heard from many “winners” how seamless the process felt. Even those who lost often expressed that they appreciated knowing ahead of time. However, there’s one really big change that Comic-Con International really needs to implement: a “decline” button.
While I’m sure in theory, CCI decided that by allowing attendees to enter only for the items and time slots they were interested in, that would solve the need for a decline button at all – but that’s not really how Comic-Con works. You don’t have your schedule nailed down weeks in attendance – or, often, even a week in advance – so knowing exactly what time slots work for you so far out is difficult. The vast majority of the signings didn’t even list a time at all, and you simply had to show up that morning to claim your wristband and find out what time your actual signing was. For many exclusives and signings, that meant lots of no-shows. We’ve heard the Lucifer signing was only eight minutes long, because so many people didn’t turn up. LEGO was allowing individuals with Sunday tickets to purchase other items, presumably because they had leftover inventory that was never claimed. By adding a “decline” button, CCI could have re-allocated those “wins” to other people – and made someone else’s day instead of simply allowing it to go unclaimed.
Fingers crossed there are some tweaks made to the process for 2019.
While the vast majority of San Diego Comic-Con attendees are amazing individuals, there’s unfortunately the 1% who can sometimes threaten to ruin the weekend. We heard several stories this week of booths being robbed or having items stolen, which isn’t cool. Toddland had their “Front of the Line” sign which was signed by the cast of Bob’s Burgers stolen. Upper Deck had artwork taken from the wall of their booth. We heard of other booths losing statues, signed items, and more.
And whoever stole our entire cast signed front of line sign, return. No questions asked. It’s for ALL the fans to enjoy. I don’t know why you would steal that from us.😔
— toddland #stayrad® (@toddlandstore) July 21, 2018
We had a great time at @Comic_Con! Huge thank you to everyone who stopped by and picked up a print or even just said hello.
However, to the person who stole a ID Gallery framed comic art piece from Upper Deck’s booth, we will find you. We know people. pic.twitter.com/DwAnbGeA8n
— Upper Deck Entertainment (@UpperDeckEnt) July 23, 2018
Offsites With Short Hours
You can tell that this was overall a great year at San Diego Comic-Con when we’re ending our “worst” list with basically a plea for more Comic-Con.
So many offsites typically keep hours that are identical to the convention center floor, which means that when the show floor opens at 7PM, there’s not much to do. We love offsites like LAIKA that open a few days ahead of the convention, sometimes run a few days after the convention, and are open into the night. It makes it so much easier to check out your activation, and LAIKA had lines out the door every day leading up to San Diego Comic-Con, so trust us – there’s an audience there for extended hours.
Along that same vein, the party doesn’t end on Sunday at 5PM. This year, we saw many offsites packing up by 3PM on Sunday, and while we understand that everyone wants to get home, there are thousands of attendees still in town on Sunday night, looking for something to do to keep the Comic-Con party going. We know, because they tweeted us asking what there is to do, and the answer was “not much”. But, if nothing else, we’re moving our own party to Sunday night for 2019 – so we’ll help you keep the Comic-Con flame burning just a little longer.
What did you think was good and bad about San Diego Comic-Con 2018? Let us know in the comments.