The 40th annual San Diego Comic-Con wrapped up Sunday, with another capacity crowd enjoying a smoothly run show.  Ken Krueger, the chairman of the very first Comic-Con, was one of several members of the original organizing committee who were invited back to celebrate the 40th anniversary.  Other committee members from Comic-Con’s early years were also present as guests. 


The massive presence from Hollywood shifted a bit this year, with a greater emphasis on television.  Comic-Con Director of Marketing and Public Relations David Glanzer described  the shift.  “There was certainly a lot more presence from television this year,” he said.  “And there may have been less movies in some instances.  But not everybody has a project they want to promote to this group every year.”


We asked Glanzer about the continual sellouts of the show, which are capping its growth.  “The mayor has appointed a task force on the expansion of the convention center, and they will render a decision on that in September and the mayor says that he will abide by whatever their recommendation is,” he said. 


The convention utilized tents for some signing space, as well as the main ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront as additional space this year, and use of outside space may grow in the coming years, Glanzer told us.  And although the convention did not increase the number of tickets this year despite the additional space, that step may be taken in future years, allowing a greater number of attendees despite a maxed-out convention center.  .   


Twilight was one of the biggest phenomena of the show, with massive excitement for anything related to the movie and its upcoming sequel.  We saw a line that stretched through several halls of the exhibit floor on Saturday, and eventually determined that it was people standing in line for the 3,500 Twilight buttons that Hachette, the publisher of the novels and of the upcoming graphic novel, gave away from its booth.  When people will stand in a line for one of thousands of buttons, clearly a feverish devotion to the property is involved.


Swag may have been a little down this year, with what seemed like fewer bags coming from the movie and TV area of the floor.  The newly rebranded SyFy channel did take things to a new level this year by taking over the entire restaurant at the new Hard Rock Hotel and branding it Café Diem, with SyFy logo and standups. 


Preview Night was the busiest ever this year, with toy booths getting the most action as fans looked for show exclusives.  “We’ve been exhibiting at this show since 1989,” Toynami’s George Sohn told us, “and this is the best opening ever.”


Sales from other sectors were mixed.  Comic and graphic novel publishers generally reported sales as flat or up a little, with the mix of new product the biggest determinant of how any given booth did.  Dealers of Golden Age and Silver Age comics were generally reporting down sales, for reasons that may have as much to do with secular changes in that business (sales on top end books are migrating to the auction houses)  as with the economy. 


But there was clearly a conservative buying mood in the air over-all.  After the show closed on Sunday, we overheard the following conversation:


Fan #1:  I didn’t spend as much money this year.


Fan #2:  Me either.


Fan #1:  I went to the xxx booth, but I just didn’t do it.  Why should I give the money to them direct when I can buy it online cheaper?


In the wake of the re-branding of most of the Wizard shows to various Comic-Cons (see “Wizard Returns to SoCal”), we asked Comic-Con’s Glanzer about the status of the Comic-Con trademark (which he declined to answer) and how he felt about the re-branding.  “Comic-Con has been around for 40 years,” he said.  People refer to us as Comic-Con.  Whenever an entity comes along and brands itself in a way that confuses people, whether intentional or otherwise, I don’t think anybody enjoys that.  I don’t think it benefits us, I don’t think it benefits the attendees.  There are other Comic-Cons out there we have never had an issue or a problem with.  We just don’t think it’s fair if there’s intended or unintended confusion.”