This time of year is always a bit awkward for me. Because every year, around this time, the biggest gathering of comic book fans and professionals descends on San Diego while I'm sitting at home here in Ohio. It's a choice on my part. I've never felt I could justify the expense of going out there for a week. Technically, I probably could afford it right now, but that's just an awful lot of money which I think would be better put to use getting me out of debt.
So this year, as so many before, I'm staying home.
I'd been hearing about the show since at least the 1980s, but it wasn't until about fifteen years ago that I got my first "real" glimpse of it. Some exhibitor -- and I can't remember who; Wizard maybe? -- put a webcam on their booth table and streamed a live feed throughout the con. Of course, this was the mid-1990s, so there was no audio and it only snapped a picture once every ten seconds or so. But that was the first time I got a sense of the excitement of being there, as opposed to seeing a handful of still shots in magazines a month or two later.
Then, I think it was four years ago, the G4 network started doing programming from the show. The first one was a half hour program following three groups who were attending the show. They were just given cameras and told to film what they could and provide some commentary from time to time. It, obviously, aired after the event. As the groups were all exhibitors in some capacity, they had extra long hours and there was a lot of "this is exhausting" scenes in the final edit.
It was the year afterwards when G4 sent an actual reporter to the show, and I think they devoted an hour to the program. This, too, was edited after the show and aired as a summary. It was a little more even-handed in nature as I recall, but you definitely got a sense of the excitement level. There was definitely a lot of energy there. But, by then, CCI was as much about things OTHER than comics as it was about comics themselves.
The year after that was when G4 sent their Attack of the Show crew down for a live broadcast. It was very media-focused at that point and comics were almost an afterthought.
I think I caught Mark Evanier saying a few years back that it's still a good comic book convention, but it's just that there also happens to be a movie and pop culture convention going on at the same time. That if you just care about comics, then you can have a perfectly awesome time focusing on comics and completely ignore all the other stuff, and you STILL won't have enough time to see what you want to see.
So here's where my ambivalence comes from. I could really do without most everything except the comics portion of the show. If I stumbled into the Star Wars panel, hey, that's cool, but my prime interests are going to focus on the comics. So there's a lot at the show that I could handily avoid, thereby increasing the odds that I could see most everything I'd like to. And, from everything I've seen and heard, there's always lots of cool stuff to take in.
On the other hand...
That's a LOT of frickin' people! I'm not so sure I want to be dropped into that!
Plus, did I mention how expensive it is?
Don't get me wrong. I think it looks like the vast majority of people have an incredible time, and I'm sure I would too. I just don't think I'd get enough out of it to warrant the expense.
But these past few years, when I see the videos and Twitter is ablaze with notes about everyone having a great time and the photos are flying past faster than that first streaming feed I saw all those years ago... I'll admit that I feel pretty jealous of all the people who ARE in San Diego having fun. I would love to be attending panels and hearing comic news unfiltered through anyone else. I would love to pick up one of those exclusive Galactus figures. I would've loved to have seen Michael Cera surprise everyone when he walked out in a Captain America uniform. I would love to have seen Stan Lee take his place on Odin's throne...
I don't doubt that I get a lot of out attending CCI. But while comics are extremely important to me, I'd rather spend my money on the comics themselves. I mean, sure, the guy who's selling con exclusives on eBay right now is gouging people by charging at least double what he paid for the items, but it's still cheaper than a plane ticket out there. What would I rather put my money towards? A hotel and overpriced food for a week, or the same amount of money spent on graphic novels at Amazon? I'm not getting the "con experience" but I'm getting more of what I'm most interested in: comics.
That said, it's still hard to not want to be out there right now.