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Comic Con vs. Star Wars Celebration
So many ups and so little downs
By Robert T. Trate
August 01, 2013
This year Mania took a gamble on attending Star Wars Celebration Europe II over Comic Con. It would appear, to some, that this is like choosing a regular season game over the Superbowl. In many respects, it is. However, when the Superbowl of Geekdom requires multiple access codes to both hotels and passes that must be obtained months (if not a year) in advance with no guarantee, that Superbowl feels like more of a headache than fun. The headache surfaced when the hotel I stayed at for three years now joined the Comic Con block. I’m sorry, Comic Con, but if I buy a flight and do all the leg work for a pass, I want to know if I have a place to hang my cape.
When the news arrived that Star Wars Celebration was heading to Germany, I felt that this might be the right time to take a year off from Comic Con. In all honesty, there wasn’t much coming out next year I really wanted to see. Sure, there is a Cap and a Thor sequel on the way, but the New York Comic Con should supply plenty of hype for that. New York will also have The Walking Dead and, hopefully, The Hobbit, which didn’t even attend Comic Con this year. Since October of last year, the world has tuned its attention back onto Star Wars. A new movie is on its way, as well as a new animated series (see details here). The Clone Wars have ended, but in such a fashion that any and all secrets about their final stories (see here) are driving fans crazy. It might sound nuts, but getting a passport, a ticket to Celebration, and a hotel room in another country was easier than going to San Diego during Con time.
Now I know their attendance and sizes are two completely different things. The San Diego Comic is huge and features hundreds of different properties. Star Wars Celebration Europe only features one property and has a select crowd. However, since I see it as spending the same amount of money, shouldn't I want more for my money? Shouldn't I want less of the hassle and more of the fun?
The Convention Center
The convention center, in Messe Essen, was in no way the same size as the one in San Diego. It didn’t need to be. The Star Wars/ Lucasfilm booth in San Diego does take a big place on the floor. Imagine, if you will, that entire booth expanded 100 times over and its own convention center. Little things then quickly disappear that make Comic Con such a nightmare. First and foremost, you can actually cross the street in a sane fashion and get into the convention center. Trains came from all over the city allowing people to stay in multiple locations. Despite San Diego hosting the event for 43 years, they still don’t seem 100% prepared for the influx of people. Once you do find public transportation, one usually has to wait for the next ride. Since the influx of people would change with each event or screening, the convention center allowed for their biggest room to expand. Yes, you read that right, EXPAND. Imagine if they actually allowed Hall H to get bigger to accommodate what people wanted to see. When Kathleen Kennedy made her Star Wars Celebration debut, the room was packed. There were still seats here and there and people continued to walk in. When Dave Filoni, an hour later, arrived to debut news about Star Wars Rebels, they opened up the curtains and accommodated everyone that wanted to come in. When they handed out swag for the new show (seen here) there was no mad dash and no craziness. In fact, when I went back onto the showroom floor, there was more of the swag everywhere for people to have.
Now, this wasn’t the case every time. I did get shut out of Episode II: Attack of the Clones (in 3D) on the last day. It was in a smaller room than the main stage. The film had screened all weekend allowing multiple chances to see it. For the 30th Anniversary screening of Return of the Jedi, the screening was held outside next door in a park. It was completely open to all who attended Celebration. Comic Con, at times, takes advantage of the Petco Park, home of the Padres, but not nearly enough. There was a showing of 300 at Petco years ago and now it seems the Zombies will run wild there for a time. Yet, to have an event where anyone and everyone could go? That would be amazing.
The Showroom Floor
The showroom floor at Comic Con is a canyon of highs and lows. You can undoubtedly find anything you ever wanted there. However, navigating it is a bitch. After about an hour, I am usually ready to start swinging fists at people. Now, I know the crowd attendance at Comic Con is far greater than Celebration, but after 5 straight years of debating whether or not to punch someone for slamming their back pack into me for the third time, I’ll take a smaller crowd.
In being a Star Wars fan I was throughly impressed with the fan made art displays that came from all over Europe. Lucasfilm celebrated the artistry that they inspired by displaying these pieces everywhere. What really set it apart from Comic Con was you could interact with the displays. Imagine you create this incredible Cosplay outfit but that is all it is, just a outfit. Now imagine you can stand in front of a display that highlights your artistry to the next level. That’s an experience a Star Wars Cosplayer seldom gets.
Since this event was a Star Wars Celebration there weren’t hundreds of people trying to push you to read their comic, sign up for their magazine, or come to their booth for a product you care absolutely nothing about. What does this all mean? No trash on the floor. There weren’t hundreds upon thousands of flyers littered across the floor, the street out front, or the town. We usually take what we are given, especially at Comic Con. However, after we read it, what the hell are we supposed to do with it? This could be a reason there are so many trash cans at Comic Con. They should really come up with something a little more environmentally sound.
The Staff and Volunteers
Comic Con has conditioned me to not ask anyone in a staff or volunteer shirt for help. I’ve come to observe they know nothing but what they have been told. The extent of this knowledge is usually just to keep people out of this room or that hallway. At Celebration there was the unfamiliar territory and the language barrier. I knew I had to ask someone for help and the staff was delightful. They were incredibly nice and helpful. More importantly, they could provide aid in more than one language. Comic Con, for those that don’t speak English at all, must be frustrating.
I have yet to meet a mean Cosplayer. Considering that it must take them forever to walk from point A to point B, it must be a daunting experience. What amazed me about the European Cosplayers is the detail and originality (see below). There wasn’t a huge influx of Zombie versions of characters either. No Zombie Vaders or Zombie Ewoks. The tongue in cheek Cosplayers were few and far between. I was also amazed by the amount of body makeup these people used and how well it stayed on. Leave it to the Europeans to truly honor the art form it has become.
Show Store and Exclusives
Or, as I like to call it, buying stuff you don’t need but can’t live without. Comic Con is a horrible bitch goddess of exclusives that you literally worry yourself into a fit trying to get. I have had faster 14 hour days of work in relation to the time I’ve spent waiting in line for an exclusive toy. Now Comic Con has battled the line with pre-sales and online sales. However, those are still not guarantees.
This year, the big Hasbro Exclusive was the Black Series Boba Fett. People went practically mad trying to get this piece. This exclusive was actually offered at both Comic Con and Celebration. How that makes it an exclusive is beyond me. Perhaps we need a new word for two times an exclusive? Regardless, I saw Comic Con insanity opening night for Celebration. The line to get to the Hasbro Booth was insane. It was one of the few exclusives not being sold in the Celebration store. After I saw the line, I wrote off getting one.
I went back the next day and picked one up like I was buying a carton of milk. I turned around and went about my business. Now I did have to come back 15 minutes later to buy another (only one per person) but that was no bother either. Hasbro never punched my badge or scanned my barcode. Here is your toy, now go have fun with it. I even went back on the last day to find that there was, again, no line, and they had only 10 left. This means everyone who really wanted one got one (or two).
(Exclusive Star Wars Rebels Blue Print Shirt above)
The first night, I also planned on picking up a few exclusives early so I wouldn’t have to carry them around all the next day. I really wanted one particular shirt but they didn’t have the size I needed. The next day, it was there. They actually put out more products and sizes, thus eliminating the insanity. Another nice treat was that they put out new stuff after certain panels and announcements. So, wait, someone thought ahead and had more than enough to make all the fans happy?
Post Celebration Wrap Up
My overall first Star Wars Celebration was great one. Sure, there was the hassle of multiple time zones and connecting flights. Considering I was going to have to take a day or two off just to follow Comic Con’s Twitter for when hotels went on sale, it balances out. I saw one of the few 30th Anniversary screenings of Return of the Jedi, as well as a 1980 lost documentary on The Empire Strikes Back that will not been seen anywhere else in the world. Sadly, I did learn that there were actual words to the Ewoks’ original triumphant anthem at the end of Jedi. That is something I wish I could forget. Will I go to Celebration VII in Anaheim California in 2015? Despite knowing what “Yub nub” translates into, without a doubt.