Does San Diego need both San Diego Comic-Con and San Diego Comic Fest?

san_diego_comic-con_international_logo-svgOnce upon a time, there wasn’t a San Diego Comic-Con.

Some would mark this period as “The Dark Ages of Conventions” (those being myself). It was in this “long-long ago” (1970) that a collection of comic, movie, and science fiction fans came together and formed a small and intimate convention that would someday grow to become Comic-Con International.

Why am I speaking in fairytale talk? It’s rather befitting given the grandness of San Diego Comic-Con now. It is hard to imagine one of the largest popular media events of the year, which takes up almost all of downtown San Diego and boasted an attendance of roughly 167,000 people in 2015, as once fitting it’s then 300 attendees into a small section of the U.S. Grant Hotel. The mustard seed that was San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con since then has sprouted into the gigantic San Diego Comic-Con.

The story doesn’t have an entirely “happy-ending” though, mostly because there isn’t an ending. The convention has indeed prospered and grown, but much of the same fans who have watched it expand over the years have expressed their displeasures with it as well. From complaints ranging anywhere from the heavy “Hollywood” presence to the sheer numbers of attendees, they feel like they have lost something once intimate. To them, the original focus of Comic-Con is long gone.

comicfest-2017-comiccon-posters-18x24-1It was from this pining for the early days of San Diego Comic-Con that Mike Towry (early co-founder of SDCC) and other fans agreed that something was to be done. This something was the beginning of San Diego Comic Fest in 2012. The “second convention”, produced by fans for fans, has placed an emphasis on the personal interface between creators and fans, as well as fans with other fans. Since then, the convention has been growing steadily.

Do we really need a “second – Comic-Con” though? Comic Fest may not boast the large exposure, big names, and huge crowds of Comic-Con, but in the same realm Comic-Con doesn’t have the intimate, personal connection that Comic Fest offers. I’ve been sad to witness over the years the small vendors and artist alley itself shrinking little-by-little at Comic-Con. Each of the conventions provide something that the other lacks. And let’s face it, Comic-Con isn’t for everyone either. That doesn’t mean fans should be turned away from celebrating what they love. Comic Fest is that experience to simply be a fan.

This year marks Comic Fest’s 5th anniversary, and to celebrate the date the fan-run convention has a number of things planned. During SDCF’s days of February 17th to the 20th, the convention will celebrate Jack Kirby’s centennial birthday with special programming and a “Kirby Café”, salute the 25th anniversary of “X-Men: The Animated Series”, feature Guest of Honor Jim Valentino, and more.

Whether you’re a fan of the early-years of Comic-Con, wish to relive how it would have been, or want to connect personally with creators and other fans alike, don’t miss out on this weekend’s 5th annual San Diego Comic Fest (and yes, now we lived happily-ever after).

Visit www.sdcomicfest.org for more information.

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#sdcc SDCC’16: Tips From a Local – “Where to Go to Decompress”

#sdcc SDCC’16: Tips From a Local – “Where to Go to Decompress”

By: Nicholas Eskey

Much of San Diego Comic-Con will be a tiring blur once you reach Sunday. Technically the last day of the convention, many of people are already tired of the crowds, greasy foods, and all the running between sales booths and panels. It’s for this reason that Sunday is deemed family day, as the typical 4 day con-goers are feeling too lack lustered to put in the complete fervency that they did over the three previous days.

If you find yourself in this same situation, this local has some suggestions on where you can go to decompress, or at least escape and take a break from the convention, if only for a little while over the 4 days.

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Pond and Bridge in Seaport Village

Seaport Village: This 14 acre waterfront complex is a recreation of a harbor side setting in times gone by. All within walking distance of the Convention Center, Seaport Village has a great array of shopping, dining, and entertainment. All of this is completed with the view of the bay with all the fantastic boats harbored there. Seaport Village even features a refurbished Merry-Go-Round that is still in operation to this day.

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Botanical Garden at Balboa Park

 

Balboa Park: If you want to get further away from downtown, Balboa Park is a beautiful option. As early as 1868, this park has been a fond favorite for locals and travelers alike. With its early Spanish inspired architecture, this park is home to the San Diego Zoo, 15 major museums, a large arts village, upscale dining, the Japanese Friendship Garden, The Old Globe theater, The Botanical Garden, and more. Don’t miss the bell tower that plays a different melody every hour.

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Sign in Hillcrest

Hillcrest: Going even further away from downtown, Hillcrest is situated uphill along University Avenue. The LGBT friendly area is home to all walks of restaurant styles, as well as bars that range from the very casual to the somewhat dressy. If you feel like hitting up the clubs, there will be a great many Comic-Con themed parties held during convention time.

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Pacific Beach and Crystal Pier

Pacific Beach: Home to a wide spreading beach and a pier that has guest cottages as well as its daily share of fishermen, Pacific Beach is a very happening area with its own collection of bars and restaurants. The beachy area is also a favorite spot for surfers, college kids, and sunset enthusiasts. If you’re thinking about visiting in the morning, you might as well hit up the local favorite Kono’s Café for breakfast, though make sure to bring cash as they still don’t accept cards. With their popularity, this doesn’t hamper them in the least.

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Sunset at Black’s Beach

Black’s Beach: Black’s is a unique beach. Unique meaning it has a clothing optional rule. Frequented by beach walkers, surfers, and nudists, this beach is situated next to UCSD College in La Jolla. Be careful when you try to make the trip down to the beach however, as the most used way of access is a slippery staircase that descends from the cliff that overlooks the Black’s. If you rather not risk it, there’s the Torrey Pine’s Gliderport at the top, where you can grab a quick bite or take up a little paragliding.

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Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument

Point Loma: A great degree of San Diego’s military history is situated in this area, from the old Naval Base, to the Naval housing. Check out Liberty Station, which was once the area for the old Naval Barracks. The preserved buildings now house restaurants like Slater’s 50/50, The Corvette Diner, and Soda and Swine. There’s also a plethora of shopping choices, dance studios, and the recently relocated IDW’s San Diego Comic Art Gallery. If you want some more history, head down to Cabrillo National Monument park, where you can see one of the few remaining lighthouses in the united states.

I might add that all these areas have a great deal of Pokestops if you’re going to be playing Pokemon Go, all except Black’s Beach at least. If you think about it, it’s really for the best. I’m sure the locals won’t appreciate seeing a cellphone pointed at them, nor believe you if you said you spotted a Krabby.

#sdcc SDCC’16: Tips From a Local – “Avoiding the Con Cruds”

#sdcc SDCC’16: Tips From a Local – “Avoiding the Con Cruds”

By: Nicholas Eskey

One of the hardships that comes with travel is catching an illness. It happens. New surroundings, a climate unlike that of your home town, different air quality, and even stress of travel that might affect your health. If you take into account the tight quarters that a popular convention entails, mixed with the inconsiderate sick people that still attend and hack their germs into the open air, sounds charming doesn’t it? Sharing is caring after all.

In any event, with a week left before Comic-Con you should take certain precautions when getting ready. Listen to some advice from a veteran con-goer, who also has had to deal with traveling, interviewing, and battling with deadlines, all the while still trying to nerd out to my favorite fandoms.

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The evil nacho monster may say he loves you, but once he gets inside, he’ll destroy you from within.

  1. Rest. It’s the biggest advice I can give. With so much going on at Comic-Con, you’ll be very enticed to stay up late, and wake up early. But doing this for 4 days straight is havoc on the body.
  2. The Right Foods. The often greasy food available on the premises won’t do you much good either. Unless you packed some healthy snacks, venture out further downtown to find something healthy to eat.
  3. Drink Water. I know, what about the caffeinated sugary drinks to keep me away? Caffeine is great, but that sugar will just make you crash all the harder later in the day. Bring some water with you or find the drinking fountains to stay hydrated.
  4. Hand Sanitizer. This stuff is more precious that gold when it comes to Comic-Con. Let that little mom voice in your head sound out: “You don’t know where that’s been!” With so many people at the convention, I would guess a thousand plus hands can touch just one door handle. Handle to hand, and then hand to face will mean giving yourself the eventual cruds.
  5. Vitamins. Again, since you’ll be co-mingling with thousands of other people in a tight space, you’ll be exchanging germs with them. It wouldn’t hurt to give your immune system a boost with something like Airborne or One-A-Day Vitacraves.
  6. Relax. This is not the same as resting or just idly standing in a Hall H line. The stresses of the convention can take a toll on your immune system, making your more susceptible to those airborne germs. Take a moment to find a (somewhat) quiet corner, sit down, and take some deep calming breaths.
  7. Don’t Overindulge. One or two drinks is fine and dandy, but more than that and you’ll be sorry the next day. Do this for a few days straight, you’ll be hurting and irritable during the convention. Have fun, but not to the extent that it will ruin your convention time.
  8. Avoid Stress All Together. I’m really emphasizing this because though the convention is an all-around good time, very many people are quite easily led astray to the dark side and let every little thing stress them. If you can let go of the fact that you lost the lottery for a collector’s item, if you can forgive the person that almost ran you over, if you can just make peace with that you’re not getting into Hall H, you’ll be better for it.
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The salad is your friend. Believe in the salad.

Some of these points may be a matter of common sense, but when you’re distracted by the lures of San Diego Comic-Con, it’s really easy to forget everything else. Though you may not see everything you want, these tips will ensure you’ll have a more enjoyable experience.

#sdcc Downtown San Diego: Is it ready for Comic-Con 2016?

#sdcc Downtown San Diego: Is it ready for Comic-Con 2016?

By: Nicholas Eskey

Typically, around this time each year downtown San Diego is well underway in a temporary face lift for our very own Comic-Con International. As one of the largest comic and popular media conventions in the world, Comic-Con International has long outgrown the confines of the Downtown Convention Center and has been steadily extending its reach like the tentacles of Hydra (Hail Hydra!). True, most of the parties and events have no affiliation with CCI, but that hasn’t stopped the many vendors who want to participate in the festivities from finding a way to capitalize.

This last Saturday I decided to venture out and see all the early changes for myself. I was quite surprised with what I found.

Though the convention is less than two weeks out, a number of large displays are normally already installed or nearly completed. This year I could hardly find anything in reference to CCI.

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Advertisement for the All Star Game

There’s actually a lot of other events happening in San Diego this month. Tuesday was the Baseball All Star Game, held at Petco Park, and two days before that was the All Color 5K Run being held for the baseball game. San Diego, aside from being a military town, is also a sporty town. We love our Padres, our Chargers, and even Gulls hockey team. The area around Petco Park in downtown had many signs and advertisements for the All Star Game. You can bet most of the bars also had something in the way of an All Star tie in.

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The Hyatt decked out for the All Star Game

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Not only that, but at the end of the week will be San Diego Pride. Though the parade and festival will be centered in the Hillcrest and Balboa Park areas, there will be a lot of focus placed on it. Also, hotels and bars will also see an impact throughout this weekend as Pride parties abound. It’s no wonder why I couldn’t find much in the way of Comic-Con International displays, since the city doesn’t want to take the focus away from this other money making events.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any changes to downtown in regards to the convention. The MTS trolley system is in full Comic-Con mode with much of their train cars wrapped up in Conan O’Brien advertising (since he’ll be live at the Comic-Con again) and a few odd ones featuring shows like as “Son of Zorn.” Reason for this though is that the skin covers for those trains take a long time to put adhere, so we locals have seen them already for the better part of a month (and most likely will for another month after CCI). On my travels through the city, I even came across a building adorned with the “Funko” name on its exterior. Looking through the windows of the historic “Cracker Factory Building,” I saw human sized Captain America vinyls and a sign toting the 75th anniversary of the hero.

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“Funko” featured on the Olde Cracker Factory building

There is most likely more installations like this throughout downtown; exhibits that need more than a week to be put together, and so are completed early. I hear that the San Diego Airport just placed mannequins throughout its terminals that feature all styles of Steampunk Cosplay.

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Once the last of our other events are out of way, I don’t doubt there will be PR teams and companies frantically putting together their themed displays. I’ll revisit downtown in a few days and see how the changes have progressed.

#sdcc SDCC’16: Tips from a Local – Getting Gear Ready for the Convention

#sdcc SDCC’16: Tips from a Local – Getting Gear Ready for the Convention

By: Nicholas Eskey

Attending conventions can be the highlight of anyone’s year. They allow fans to share their fandom with other likeminded individuals, purchase rare and exotic collectibles, explore new destinations, get the latest news from industry people, meet their favorite actors or artists, and maybe show off their elaborate cosplay creations.

However, attending conventions come with their own amounts of headaches. A counterpart to all the good times. There’s one that stems all the way from the start: Packing. “What do I bring? What will I need? How the heck am I going to tote all of this around?”

The idea alone is very daunting, the execution is laborious, and the carrying around can be tiring. I’ve experienced my share of conventions, both local and out of town. All the experience has helped me to streamline my convention pack to tailor my own needs. Mind you, my pack might not completely be suited for what you may need, but I want to share it with you so you can get ideas for your own.

Gear 2.0

When I travel, I like to be ready for many different eventualities. First thing is to start with a large enough pack that will be able to hold all of my necessities and gear. I chose a REI brand backpack. It’s meant for backpacking, so it comes equipped with many pockets, as well as a zipper that can expand the pack. Best thing, it falls within the airline’s carry on size regulations. You’ll just have to make sure it’s below the weight limitations. Often there are papers I need to bring, so I can’t forget those. I use a Nikon D300 SLR digital camera for all the photos I’ll be taking, and because changing lenses isn’t really a feasible option I use an 18 to 200 telephoto lens, which is great for travel and many other situations. A flash can also come in handy in low light situations or to counteract harsh light, so I use a Nikon SB-800 speed flash. Special batteries are required so the recharge is quick. I go for Energizer Ultimate Lithium.

A computer is very important for writing my articles. I use a Microsoft Surface tablet, first generation. It’s compact, can take a USB flash drive, and has touch screen capabilities. It’s also used to take notes during panels and for interviews. The detachable keyboard is an expanded battery for the tablet, and the leather case is to keep them both safe. As a precaution, I have a Moleskin notebook as a backup for taking notes. The printer is more of a luxury choice of mine. True, a number of hotels have business centers that are available for use. But I find that some of them are only available for rewards members or for an extra cost. I choose to bring a small foldable HP printer in case I need to print, and yes that happens.

After these, and of course clothes (which I always choose to measure out only enough for the days I’m attending) there are loose things like a pill box for medication, USB hub, tablet charger, extra battery pack for my cellphone (since the convention plugs might fry one’s cell), screen cleaner, business cards, wireless mouse, earbuds, cellphone cord, USB memory card reader, camera memory cards, camera batteries, a box with various toiletries, and a small should bag for carrying around the convention. I used to have a portable wifi hub, but found myself rarely using it due to complementary hotel wifi.