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Nerdstalgia Flashback: The Good Old Days of SDCC

Seeing as how the name of the website is Forces of Geek, I can assume that everyone reading this is aware that the biggest gathering of fandom is happening this week.

That’s right – The San Diego Comic Con.

… okay, so the New York Comic Con is probably bigger at this point, but for years SDCC was the only game in town.

Anyway, I haven’t been to SDCC in some time – partially because it’s so incredibly crowded, partially because it’s really not so much a convention but a showcase, and mostly because of the Metal Men Incident of 2005*.

*Legally, I’m not allowed to divulge anything other than we settled for an undisclosed amount.

So, for this installment of Flashback to the Present, I’m going to go over my experiences at SDCC; from when I first went in ’96 to the last time in ’05. The ups, downs, and everything in between.

First of all, you folks have to remember that at one point SDCC was just that: a convention.

It was a place that comic book retailers, artists and companies would meet and go over the trade, make deals and generally catch up.

As a kid, this was like being backstage at a major concert festival.

It was never too crowded, but that may have been the fact that, at the time, comics weren’t nearly as mainstream as they are now. You could literally wander up to anyone you wanted to, shake hands, talk shop, and maybe even get a really cool sketch.

That’s not to say that has changed – for the most part comic book artists and writers have always been really great to their fans. It’s just that over the years the con has gotten so large it’s hard to get to them.

Anyway, looking back, I now realize that SDCC was a benchmark for the business and back then the business was slowly dying. However, that all changed a decade later, when I was lucky enough to write for the biggest comic book company on their now most recognizable character; Iron Man.

In the early ’00s I was over the moon co-writing Iron Man for Marvel Comics.

I have nothing but genuinely nice things to say about my experiences with Marvel, especially for a 20-something guy stumbling through it all like a babe in the woods.

However, with the announcement of the Iron Man movie (something my father and I knew nothing about at the time) and Marvel’s genius push into the mainstream, I quickly noticed SDCC’s change.

Suddenly, there were real talent agents from huge agencies wandering the halls of the convention center looking for writers. Big production companies and studios had massive booths, hawking everything from a comic related films to rom-coms that had nothing to do with the business in any way, shape or form.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the short-term; in a way it rescued the tepid medium and brought awareness to millions of new fans that never would have picked up a comic in their lives. It exposed my little slice of heaven to more and more people.

Again, this isn’t a complaint – change is inevitable.

I met a lot of great people, some of which are icons in the business, and had a lot of great times. The Marvel vs DC softball games were always fun and the Marvel dinner was simply amazing – sitting next to all of the big names and hearing them tell hilarious stories was probably my favorite part.

Check out the picture below – I’m in the upper row, third from the right; in case you can’t tell, we won handedly in ’05.

However, things really changed for me a few years later.

As I said at the top, SDCC has always been a convention – just like any other convention for any other business.

The last year I went I took a friend of mine who was doing a smaller, self published book. I figured “hell, he can come as my guest, meet some dudes in publishing, etc.”

Not so.

At that point, things were so crazy the people in charge were literally too busy to even talk shop. The crowds were nuts, the panels were stacked on themselves, and good friends were generally running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

I was left scratching my head – if you were young, hungry and wanted to make a comic book this place was no longer for you.

Now, when somebody asks about my opinion on SDCC, I always tell them it’s a lot like Mardi Gras; definitely meant to be seen and experienced, but maybe only once.

Until next time…

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