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Why San Diego Comic Con is Horrible and Amazing and Perfect Right Where It Is In San Diego

by Brian Bradley

I haven’t been coming to San Diego Comic Con for long. Only about seven or eight years. The internet tells me it was founded in 1970 or something and my origin story didn’t even start until 1971, so I am for sure a newb to all things SDCC. In other words, I wasn’t around when it was just ten dudes with boxes of comics and a Klingon Dictionary. The entire time I’ve been attending this convention, it has been a murderously over-crowded sea of geek flesh, filled with swirling eddies of Deadpools and Steampunk Marge Simpsons. And I can tell you, this year is no different. Unpleasant? Yes, much of the time. Worthy of bitching and moaning about as you quaff an icy bev at one of the cheesy bars in the in the equally cheesy Gaslamp Quarter? Of course. This is a song older than the Rains of Castamere. That’s why many have begun asking, neigh, PLEADING that the con pull up stakes and move someplace better. Well, I think that’s a terrible idea and here’s why.

First, the case against San Diego. The chief complaints seem to be centered around some very real problems. For instance, there aren’t enough hotel rooms within shambling distance to the the convention center. And the ones that are available are prohibitively expensive. This forces the lucky folks who do manage to get a pass (which are harder and harder to come by each year) to scramble around looking for lodgings. The accommodations they do find can be quite far out from the center of things. And that’s a bummer. Another gripe centers around the fact that convention has grown so large that many key events are now off-sight and are difficult to get to. This is complicated by the trains that run parallel to the convention center. The station is the portal for thousands of fans coming and going to the con and the ensuing crowds make “the crossing” a daunting affair. Just getting into the goddamned building is exhausting. Especially if you’re wearing fifty pounds of vacu-formed Halo armor that you made in your garage. For many who experienced the great con in earlier, less frenzied years, the whole shebang has become untenable, and worse, unfun. All this is true, but shy of a time machine to take you back to July 1995, moving this carnival elsewhere isn’t going to solve the problem.

The main suggestions for a new home for the con are usually Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Los Angeles just seems ridiculous (and this is coming from someone who lives in Los Angeles and would benefit in commuting time to the Con). Compared to San Diego’s facilities, the LA Convention Center is quite a bit smaller. Like by A LOT. So right there you’ve made the problem worse. And though the train tracks in LA are not as inconveniently located, the actual trains don’t take you anywhere you’d want to stay. And I’m not sure the hotel situation in Downtown LA is any better. But even if it is, you’d be walking the streets of Downtown LA and that’s a dicey proposition. Yes, DTLA has been going through a renaissance, but the Dark Ages aren’t over yet my friends. Despite the hipsters and cool restaurants, you’re still very likely to see a lot of outdoor peeing and be accosted by aggressive panhandlers, grifters and drug addicts – the Tuscan Raiders of urban Los Angeles. And if you’re one of those people that thinks that Comic-Con has gotten “too Hollywood”, what do you think it’s going to be like when it’s actually IN Hollywood? No thanks.

So how about Las Vegas? The convention center in Vegas is huge. So that’s an improvement. And Lord knows there are lots of hotel rooms available. But it is also the convention capital of the United States. The odds of having the convention center totally given over to Comic-Con seem small, so get ready to share that space with the men and women of The American Society of Iron Pipe Producers or something. Same goes for the hotels. You’ll still see your Boba Fetts and Bronies, but they will be dispersed among the the daytime drinkers and bachelorette parties. In addition, it’s Vegas. 110 degrees in July is not unusual. And not fun when you’re wearing a full Chewie costume. So I say, no thanks to that city too.

Are there other cities to consider? Probably, but I doubt any of them will really improve the situation that we find in San Diego. First, the area around the convention is clean and safe. It has a bay view for cripe’s sake! And as crowded as things get, it is in a very nice walkable area. Con-goers wandering the streets of the Gaslamp quarter can feel confident that they won’t suddenly need to run for their lives. And all of those restaurants, though touristy, are a much better solution than any food court that could be dreamed up. The hotel situation is terrible. More rooms near the area need to be built, but even with new construction this problem will persist. It is simply a function of the Comic-Con’s popularity and you can’t really put that genie back in the bottle. And I doubt things will be better in those other cities. But more than all of this, there is another great reason to love San Diego as a location for this event. And that’s the special relationship that this city has developed with the invasion of geeks that visit it every summer.

San Diego is kind of a conservative town. With its large population of military folks, frat dudes and sorority girls, it’s a perfect place for the nerds to gather. Why? Because we want to stick out. At least a little bit. We gather to cos-play and game and talk nerdy together because it edifies this community of outsiders. Geek culture is all about LOVING your stuff, even if the cool kids think it’s stupid. In truth, that’s half the fun of being a geek. You NEED people to not get it. And San Diego has just the right amount of confused on-lookers to make the experience special. In LA, all the cool people would just ignore us and go back to snorting coke off of the script of the shitty kids show they just booked. And in Vegas, with all it’s madness, we wouldn’t stand out at all. Plus, drunk dudes from the Inland Empire wandering the streets with yards of beer around their necks are far are more likely to beat up a boy dressed as Princess Leia.

So that’s it. That’s all. Them’s my thoughts. Comic-Con has become a corporate shill-fest, swamped with hoards of people shacking up ten to a motel room and that’s the truth. There’s no going backwards now. This is our reality. If you want the old school experience, then you’ll have to attend a smaller con and that’s something you can absolutely do (thank God). But for now the great gathering of the geeks happens every Summer right here in this little city by the bay… or a bay anyway… and I for one am glad it’ll be here for many years to come.

Brian D. Bradley is a television writer and Executive Producer for the upcoming ABC sitcom, ‘Uncle Buck’.

Audrey Kearns