Where next for Comic-Con?

Will the venerable institution of geek move city?

ComicConWith the news that Comic-Con International may be considering moving from its traditional home in San Diego, many fans are understandably concerned. The event is, after all, inextricably linked with the city for any number of reasons, and in a subculture that is (ironically) resistant to change, this represents huge upheaval for something that has become a cultural landmark over the last few years.

I attended Comic-Con myself a few years ago, and I found San Diego to be a wonderful city to play host to the event. Its eclectic architectural styles, friendly people, and temperate climate made it ideal for spending five days surrounded by all things nerdy. Its restaurants and bars were top notch, and I never had any problems with transport there. Indeed, it made such an impression on me, that last year I wrote a guide to Comic-Con for SciFiNow, suggesting what panels to see and where to go after. It would be a shame if the event moved city, but I could honestly understand if it had to.

After all, as beautiful as San Diego is, and as ideal and iconic the convention centre remains, it simply can’t handle the volume of people interested in coming. Preview night passes sold out ridiculously quickly this year, and when I went, it was difficult to get about. Queues abounded, panels were utterly impossible to get into unless you sacrificed other items of interest to wait in line all day, and the sheer amount of people was insane. I’m not a stranger to pedestrian traffic, having spent a large part of my life in cities such as New York and London, but this was ridiculous.

The drawback is that Comic-Con becomes too large for its own good, and loses some of the charm that makes it great. It’s already become something relatively faceless, as the largest event of its kind in the world. Britain’s equivalent, MCM Expo, attracts only 30,000 people a year for instance, in comparison to Comic-Con’s (approximately) 140,000. As a result, a certain dehumanising factors not only become impossible to avoid, but essential to embrace in order to facilitate logistics and organisation. If it became bigger, however, I’m not sure if it would be of tremendous benefit.

Either way it goes, Comic-Con needs to reassess its structure and approach to adapt to the popular demand that follows it. It is fuelled by the pop culture that it once celebrated, and now consumes in order to propagate itself, in a deliciously curious role reversal. With that in mind, here are a few suggested relocation sites for the event, should it move when its contract with the San Diego Convention Centre expires in 2012.

Picture 5Los Angeles

Population: 3.8 million (approximately)
State: California
Likelihood: 80%

Los Angeles is a strong contender for a new Comic-Con location. Not only does the city have the infrastructure to support such a large body of people attending for a block of days, but it’s also the de facto home of entertainment in America, and the studios would almost certainly prefer a home location for their talent and shows at the event.

Picture 3Anaheim

Population: 348,467 (approximately)
State: California
Likelihood: 40%

Anaheim is making a strong push for the Comic-Con contract come 2012. As with the other prospective cities, larger areas for the convention and more hotel space are attractive prospects for the organisers, and the city’s tourism board has officially confirmed that a bid has been launched. It also has experience of large-scale visitation, being the home of Disneyland and tourism its primary industry.

Picture 2Las Vegas

Population: 558,383 (approximately)
State: Nevada
Likelihood: 55%

Las Vegas is a city built around tourism, and one that already has the apparatus in place to handle an event on the scale of Comic-Con. Its many casinos and convention areas could quite comfortably host it, and its public transport network is more than capable of handling the large volume of foot traffic. Also, as a bonus, is has the added value of being a dual attraction as a city as well as a venue.

Picture 1San Diego

Population: 1.3 million (approximately)
State: California
Likelihood: 90%

Comic-Con is hugely important to San Diego’s economy, and the city will be fighting hard to keep the event within its boundaries. Various hotels have offered up to 300,000 square metres of convention space free-of-charge, and the event itself has begun experimenting with holding panels outside of the Convention Centre and its famous Hall H. We wouldn’t be surprised if a deal is struck.

All pictures courtesy of Google Earth.