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6 Winners & 6 Losers from San Diego Comic-Con 2023

This was a weird year at San Diego Comic-Con for a lot of reasons, but in many other ways… it was also a totally normal year.

We’d like to give a shout out to the companies and people who helped make it feel like a completely normal year, and also to point out a few issues that we think missed the mark. This isn’t everything of course — we want to give a shoutout to folks like Yesterdays and their great ticketed timeslots system which we heard nothing but glowing reviews of all week, and the programming team for giving us the most normal panel schedule they possibly could, but there just isn’t room for everything.

So let’s take a look at what we think are the top six winners and top six losers from this year’s con.


Exhibit Floor

If there was one thing we were worried about heading into this year’s convention, it was how a downsized Hall H and Ballroom 20 would affect the show floor. Would it be wall-to-wall people? And the answer was… no! It was more crowded than last year, certainly, but at very few points in time did we ever feel it was unmanageable or unwieldy. It was just “normal” Comic-Con levels of crowded.

And every single vendor we’ve spoken to has essentially said they either had record-breaking years, or incredibly high ones. That means that attendees did spend more time on the show floor, and most importantly, they spent more time buying things. Particularly for smaller vendors and artists for whom San Diego Comic-Con can often make or break their year, this was a huge boost in their recovery efforts from the pandemic and two years without the con.

Thank you for supporting small business, because for us, they’re the lifeblood of this con. Hopefully you got to spend more time checking out art and merch than normal, which is always a great convention experience in our eyes.


This year, it really felt like the offsites got to shine in a way they don’t always get to, and almost all of them rose to the occasion. AMC’s Interview with the Vampire‘s The Street of Immortality was immersive, offered great swag, and we rarely heard of a standby line of more than an hour, which is practically unheard of. Paramount+’s The Lodge‘s standby line was a tiny bit longer, perhaps, but they got through a huge amount of attendees for the week, offered plenty of free drinks, and generally provided one of the most beloved experiences of the entire week. Their Paramount+ Passport bags also offered an extra experience throughout the Gaslamp and the backpacks were hugely popular. The swag at Hulu was among the most coveted and deservedly so (seriously, kudos to whoever came up with that backpack). Voodoo Ranger was a fun oasis on a pirate ship. 

We’ll talk more about Haunted Mansion in a minute, but there was no bigger surprise than how big our favorite happy haunt went for the week, in the rare offsite we had no idea was coming until it just showed up.

Kevin Smith also returned with his Mooby’s Pop-Up, a welcome break from the con where you could sit, eat, and find plenty of live shows from Smith and his friends, as well as new offerings this year like photo ops and signings.

Not only did so many of the offsites provide an awesome experience, but it also felt like offsite swag was in full swing, after a few years of complaints about offsites scaling back on that (it was perhaps the biggest complaint about last year’s Dungeons & Dragons, after all). Even Jurassic Park, which seemed to underwhelm a bit and was in an odd, too-far-away location, offered plenty of dino nuggets.

If we include parties in this list, Fandom and Jury Duty were also huge highlights of the week for those who got to attend.

It was just a really great year for offsites, with only a few real misses.


The week leading up to the con in particular, things were weird. SAG had announced they were going on strike as well, and panels were starting to get cancelled. The vibe online was… fairly toxic, and there was a lot of doom-and-gloom about what the convention might be this year.

In this weird year, the wraps on the trolleys and on buildings in the Gaslamp mattered even more than usual. Even when at times it “felt” like outlets were saying Comic-Con was coming apart at the seams (spoiler alert: it wasn’t), the wraps offered a huge dose of “normal” Comic-Con leading up to the con. It was hard to argue that there would be no Hollywood presence anywhere when there were giant wraps for Interview with the VampireYellowjacketsGood Omens 2The Boys and its various spinoffs, Daryl Dixon, Good Burger 2Star Trek, Hulu Animayhem, Abbott Elementary, InvincibleShogun, and more going up across the Gaslamp.

And not only that, but they just looked beautiful. The Interview with the Vampire wrap is perhaps my personal favorite ever, because it not only looked like a piece of art, but it added so much to the atmosphere, making it look like a theatre. And they lit it up at night! The Shogun wrap over at the Hilton Bayfront was also a welcome change from FX’s usual brand of “if it’s gross and weird, put it up!”.

We always enjoy the building wraps in the Gaslamp, but this year we appreciated them all that much more.

Haunted Mansion

We tend to know about most things heading into the convention, which is perhaps why Haunted Mansion was truly such a surprising delight. Traditionally at the convention, a company will take over the pedicabs to offer free rides, but we’d heard nothing leading into this year — until suddenly, Doom Buggy’s turned up. While that was exciting in and of itself (and AMAZING marketing! Good job, team who came up with that one!), the real fun was the Hitchhiking Ghosts.

As you took your spin around the Gaslamp, the Doom Buggy’s would stop, to pick up some Hitchhiking Ghosts to finish the ride with you. Absolutely genius. And the ghosts also wandered the Gaslamp — we caught them pressing buttons on floors at the Omni on more than one occasion, so they could poke their heads in when the elevator would stop, offering a happy haunt for a few moments. The performers stayed in character the entire time and seemed delighted to interact with attendees.

That’s to say nothing of the extra chills and scares Haunted Mansion offered up. Several attendees were lucky enough to make it into a screening of the upcoming film (which is out tonight) and an afterparty. For those who didn’t get a chance for that, there was also an offsite experience, which was essentially a themed photo op and a poster, but the lines were short, the theming was on point, and you really can’t ask for more than that at San Diego Comic-Con.

Truly just the best surprise of the con for us. Thanks for haunting us, Disney.


No studio went bigger or did more at the convention than Paramount+. It “felt” at least like they had the most wraps leading up to the convention, with wraps which included YellowjacketsLioness: Special OpsStar Trek, and more.

We haven’t run the numbers, but it also felt like The Lodge offsite got through the most amount of attendees throughout the week, offering a cool place to hang out with either a timed ticket (we love a good pre-con reservation system!) or in standby (which we hear typically was only about a 90 minute wait most days). It offered tons of free drinks and photo ops, games, and more for a wide variety of Paramount+ properties, so if you weren’t into SpongeBob SquarePants but were into Yellowjackets, there was still plenty of fun to be found around every corner.

Their Paramount Passport desk outside The Lodge also offered a great chance to extend the experience, as those who downloaded the app and made their way to various checkpoints around the Gaslamp were ultimately rewarded with a backpack and branded swag.

On the show floor, the late addition of the Ghosts booth was hugely popular all week, offering a cool, quick photo op (though it was so popular the wait was definitely not quick) and a fun t-shirt.

And then there were also plenty of panels, including Ghosts (with also gave a fun free poster during the panel) and Star Trek (which did things differently, and was the one major issue, but we’ll get into that momentarily).

Basically, in a year where it felt like some studios were scaling back, it felt like Paramount+ scaled up instead. And we’re so grateful for that.

International Representation

It really felt like Comic-Con International put a focus on the last word in that name this year — with tons of great international representation this year that was both well received and tons of fun. The Junji Ito exhibit was a great experience all week, and his panels and especially his signings were packed. The manga creator’s lines for autograph drawings in Sails rivaled almost every other ticket draw all week.

Vinland Saga creator Makoto Yukimura’s panels and signings were also packed, as he made his U.S. debut.

The Sand Land premiere was also at capacity, and fans found more experiences at the Bandai booth as well.

Both Project K and Voltes V were well received and well attended, and both offered fans a great experience that doesn’t necessarily always get the spotlight at the con that they should.

Basically, it was just a really great year to give the spotlight to projects and creators from around the globe.



The biggest loser by far this year was security and line management. There seems to be a huge amount of institutional knowledge lost on both since 2019, and the result is that most security and line management folks just… don’t know what they’re doing, or don’t care. There are of course exceptions to this, and we want to give a shoutout to those hard-working staff, volunteers, and beyond who are fighting to keep things running smoothly all week.

But unfortunately, they seem to be in the minority. All week long, we heard security misdirecting people. Comic-Con works as well as it does in part because they do the same things every year, so you know where to go to line up for XYZ. For my own experience, I know that in the mornings, I go outside to line up at Ballroom 20. For the last two years, they’ve let about 20 folks who initially enter start inside for whatever reason (“by mistake” is the excuse I’ve heard twice now), then they send folks outside until later. I tried to get outside, and was told no, I couldn’t go that way. So I went further down the hall and asked several more security to be let outside to the area I knew I needed to be in (because hey, I’ve done this for awhile!) until finally one let me. Others in my line were told the same. Finally, the staffer who had worked the line for years got the security guards straightened out, but it was just needless confusion. That’s a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but it just speaks to how untrained many of the current security and line management folks are.

We heard security literally calling people “losers” at one point on the show floor, and saw tons of unbadged folks up on the sidewalk by the convention center. One security guard we overheard, when asked where a booth was, told the attendee, “Just walk up and down every aisle until you find it.” Oof. But at least that security guard gave an answer at all, as we saw other security guards asked questions who simply shrugged and walked away.

We also overheard that many of the security didn’t show up, or those who did, didn’t turn up to training. We don’t know that for sure, but if so, it…. explains some things. We want carpet back, yes, but honestly, Comic-Con should possibly look into spending that money on better security next year, because this is a situation that isn’t going to improve on its own any time soon, and could have some downright scary implications.

And on a similar note, line management for several of the big booths definitely could have been better. While some booths had major wins with great systems (thank you, Yesterdays and Doctor Who for your timed tickets!), others like MetaZoo, 100% Soft, and Jazwares immediately seemed to find their lines capped and with frustrating experiences for many.

Panel Swag Management

The low point of the entire week was possibly the Star Trek Universe panel telling 6,000 people in Hall H that the booth would have free posters to give out. Which, y’know, led to 6,000 people heading to the booth to get their free poster right now.

It resulted in some really terrifying, tense moments on the show floor, as thousands descended upon the booth. We’re not sure who had that terrible idea, but it was not a smart one.

But that was far from the only panel swag mishap during the week, as we also hear that an entire section (or possibly sections, plural) weren’t given tickets for the free posters for the Good Omens 2 screening.

For those who were lucky enough to receive a ticket for the week, we wonder every year why the “Programming Premiums Room” has to be all the way at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. It’s quite a hike from the convention center for most, and as the line to get in is around the back of the hotel rather than the front, there’s also always confusion about where to even get in line. We miss the years when it was in the Marriott. This is more of a minor complaint compared to the mismanagement for Star Trek (which absolutely should have been a ticketed giveaway or given out directly in the panel ala as the Ghosts posters were) and Good Omens 2 (which we can’t explain, but which we know was very disappointing for many), but still. Our feet are tired enough, Comic-Con.

Funko Fundays Food

Funko raised the ticket prices significantly (up to $258.23) on their Funko Fundays event this year. While they provide a fun show and plenty of swag, it’s definitely not crazy to expect food that is at least decent quality.

Instead, what people received was basically a gross chicken sandwich (with slivers of chicken) with a smear of sauce (that some didn’t even get!). We’ve heard online that some even got food poisoning from it. It was Fyre Festival levels of bad, and completely inexcusable. We’re pretty sure they were going for the “Camp” feel to match their Camp Fundays vibe, but it was a total fail. If we’re paying $250+ per ticket, you can afford to not give people food poisoning.

Do better, Funko.

Where was Barbie?!

If there was one thing we were pretty sure of heading into San Diego Comic-Con news season, it was that Warner Bros. or Mattel would do something for Barbie at the con. There was no way we’d get a convention devoid of pink.

And yet…

Look, we get it. The movie launched the Thursday night of the con, meaning that the marketing budget was likely spent, and that’s traditionally a time too late to really promote something at the convention. But given the Mattel connection, we’re shocked they didn’t at least send a street team out. Barbie was possibly the most popular cosplay of the con, and shoutout to those amazing costumes all week, so the appetite for it at the con was definitely there.

Plus, there’s the Mattel of it all. When Mattel started their announcements so late, we thought for sure it was to time one to the release of Barbie. Instead, they were just… very late on their announcements, for no apparent reason at all. While the company doesn’t traditionally do Barbie exclusives at the con, they have before in the past (Star Trek Girl Barbie, anyone?), and if ever there was a year to do it, it was this year.

Truly the most “What were you thinking?!” decision of the week.

Again, shoutout to the amazing cosplayers all week, and to XLE Productions for their beloved Malibu Dream House offsite, which brought the (unofficial) Barbie vibes we all wanted.

A24’s Talk to Me Screening

The long and the short of this one is that it had no business being in the Online Exclusives Portal. We’re not sure whether it was A24 or Comic-Con International’s decision to include it, or where the breakdown in communication happened, but the result was that the evening was a frustrating experience for many.

The A24 marketing company we spoke with says that the screening was always intended to be first-come-first-serve — which clashes with how the Online Exclusives Portal traditionally works. Normally if you win the lottery, it’s “yours” and you simply pick up your wristband and get to attend. This year, they gave wristbands essentially to anyone who asked, which meant some who won never got a wristband. There was also confusion over shuttles, lines, and more.

Again, we’re not sure where the breakdown in communication happened, and while we appreciate that A24 tried to offer a late night option for attendees, they should have simply done so as a normal screening without involving the portal at all, which comes with certain expectations that A24 simply did not meet.

It was just a major miss all around.

No Carpet

Yes, we might sound like a broken record, but the lack of carpet really does just wear you down, especially in a year where many spent more time than usual on the show floor. You can read our article on carpet over here (including the convention center’s recycling efforts).

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