The one point anyone who attended Comic-Con International in San Diego in 2003 will agree upon is that the show was big. Really big. The show has grown from a humble comic book convention to the nation's largest pop culture show. In addition to comics you can find multiple other hobbies and genre's represented including gaming, video games, anime, sci-fi and of course there's the gaggle of Hollywood type's that make the show a must-visit event.
During the 4 ½ days of CCI we here at CBR News heard a number of interesting facts and rumors about the show. Stories of wild attendance figures, strange programming rumors and even one about expanding the show additional days. We caught up with David Glanzer, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for CCI, to set the story straight and learn a bit more about how this years show went.
Those who visited the show this year thinking it was bigger than even 2002, their biggest year yet, were right. The show added a large amount of floor space for the 2003 show.
"At the end of last years show we decided to increase our floor space by another exhibit hall (approx. 50,000 sq. ft) to accommodate the increase in exhibitors and crowds," Glanzer told CBR News Monday afternoon. "However, about one month out from the show this year, we realized that because of exhibitor interest, we would need to increase the floor yet again by another exhibit hall (50,00 sq. ft), so basically we were increasing the size of the floor by approximately 100,000 square feet in one year. That's a huge increase.
"I think it's important to mention here, that we typically average about a 1,000 to 3,000-person increase from one year to the next. That increase includes attendees, professionals, exhibitors and the like. Last year saw a jump of 10,000 people from the year previous (2001 had 53,000 attendees, 2002 had 63,000)
"Though we were happy about that increase, we honestly thought it was an aberration. And because of this we weren't even sure that we would match the previous years attendance. The important thing to point out, however, is that we made accommodations for at least that many, just on the off chance they all showed up. I think it's safe to say that we were taken off guard by yet another dramatic jump in attendance.
We asked Glanzer how he felt about CCI 2003 what were some of his personal highlights from this year's show.
"Personally, I do think the show was a success. In addition to the overall increased attendance, it was the programming rooms that were perhaps the highlight of the show. All of them, not just the big ballroom 20 [where the big media panels were held], but all of them saw outstanding attendance. Each of our programs attracted a good-sized audience. So it's important to realize that while the floor was crowded throughout the day, at any given time, there were several thousand people who weren't on the floor but instead upstairs in panels, seminars, workshops and programs on comics and all aspects of the popular arts.
"As for special moments or highlights, there really are too many to mention. Except to say it was nice to finally meet some people face to face after having dealt with them via telephone or the Internet for years. And the meetings were really by chance. This happened to me twice this year, and it was really, really fun!"
Some critics have said in recent years that CCI has focused less on comics and more on big media such as the more high profile movie and television events. Others also felt that 2003 saw a small shift in focus back to comics, placing them more at the forefront. Glanzer takes issue with those criticisms, noting that CCI has never lost its comic roots.
"I know there has been a lot of talk on the Internet about this. I even saw one post that said a majority of our programming wasn't even comics related.
"Well that simply isn't true. In fact, over 60% of our programming this past year was geared toward comics in specific, with the balance being other comic's related topics and/or other popular arts subject matter.
"And, I might also add that each year we have a pretty impressive guest list of comic's creators from past and present. We're very proud of the fact that Comic-Con is a place where programming is still devoted to all aspects of comics, including the Golden and Silver age. And we're also very proud of playing host to the Comic Arts Conference."
While final attendance figures aren't in yet, Glanzer did note that initial counts show attendance up from 2002's record setting numbers.
"All departments haven't reported in yet, however, it looks like we broke the 70,000 mark," said Glanzer. "That's a minimum of 7,000 people more than last year, so, again, another dramatic climb in attendance."
Each year after CCI closes up, the team looks at areas that need improvement. Glanzer talked a bit about that and set the record straight regarding a number of attendance rumors.
"Oh yes, there are always areas in need of improvement. One is better crowd control. Again, the truth is, while we were prepared for a crowd of 63,000, we were taken by surprise at the dramatic increase in attendance.
"I've seen reports that said early on we were expecting in excess of 70,000 people at our show. This just isn't so. Had it been, we would have been much better equipped for line issues, crowding and the like.
"As with any event, there are always a number of variables which make predicting attendance difficult. But you can expect that we will be having several discussions on an array of subjects all dealing with how to make sure the event runs as smoothly as is possible.
The other rumor that this reporter heard from a number of sources was that Preview Night, held the Wednesday night before the official opening of CCI, would find its hours expanded for 2004. Would CCI Preview Night 2004 be extended?
"This is totally untrue.
"Long time attendees of Comic-Con will remember that many years ago we tried a five-day and even a six-day show. Of course it was a much smaller event back then, but still grueling and the decision was made to stick with a four day convention.
"Preview Night, was and is an opportunity for pre registered four day attendees and professionals to get a chance to see the floor in a less crowded environment. To increase that to a whole day would defeat that purpose, and, quite frankly, just be too draining for everyone involved."
The show has changed quite dramatically compared to shows 10 years ago. Even five years ago the show had a very different face. In addition to comics publishers and retailers, the event has evolved into a massive pop-culture bazaar. Major movie studios have set-up booths at the convention (witness the massive "Lord of the Rings" pavilions for 2002 and 2003) and many genres outside of comics are now well represented. But Glanzer notes that the show has changed in much the same way the comic industry has changed during that time.
"The show has changed in the past 5 to 10 years. But I think, so too has the Comics Industry. Comics are being made into movies, toys, and things of that nature. So the show has changed along with it. Statements made by some, that the show now focuses primarily on popular culture and away from comics I think are misleading.
"Long time attendees know there has always been a movie/pop culture connection. Back in 1974 Frank Capra, Walter Koenig and Majel Barrett were special guests. The seventies also saw special guests; Chuck Norris, George Pal and other media stars. And don't forget, 1976 saw the first sneak peak of "Star Wars" at Comic-Con a full year before the movie opened.
"The philosophy of the show has always been to bring in people of varied interests and expose them to comics as part of the mix. I honestly feel that Comic-Con can be very proud that we welcome thousands of comics professionals (who give of their time and vast knowledge, for programs and seminars), a large gathering of comics publishers, an impressive array of small press and comics programming that I would argue is among the best at any convention."
The week of Comic-Con International, Wizard Conventions announced they'd be launching a new show in Long Beach next year. We asked Glanzer how Wizard's choice to put a convention in such close proximity to San Diego affected their plans.
"Well, I think we have to first say that we have a mission statement at Comic-Con and it is that statement which pretty much serves as a guide to what we do. That mission statement reads: Comic-Con International is a non profit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.
"That said, if another comic convention can increase awareness of comics, or bring more people to the industry, how can that be bad? I know people don't believe this, but a successful comic convention is good for everyone, for retailers, for publishers, for attendees…for everyone. We truly wish them a great deal of success.
"As for affecting our plans. I'm not sure how it will. Of course, the date of the Wizard Long Beach show is one month before the traditional month for WonderCon, our Bay area show. And WonderCon is a smaller type of event, so maybe it will have an effect. Only time will tell."
CCI has no plans to operate other conventions any time soon, they've got their hands full with San Diego as well as WonderCon and APE (Alternative Press Expo) in San Francisco. He did finish things off by saying a number of top talent have already committed to 2004.
"I think it's safe to say we're already planning on 2004. To date we've been lucky to have Geoff Johns, Walt and Louise Simonson, James Warren, Bill Plympton, Batton Lash, Stan Sakai, Craig Thompson, and David B. accepted our invitations to be guests so far."
Comic-Con International 2004 will be held July 22nd through 25th in San Diego, California.