Sergio Aragonés with a Groo statueI mentioned that I spoke briefly with Sergio Aragonés at his booth on Thursday afternoon. The first half of the conversation went something like this:

“Sorry, I can’t make it to your panel this year. There’s another one scheduled at the same time.”
“And that one’s more important, right?”
“Well, I saw last year’s, and it was great.”
“It’ll be the same thing this year, you won’t miss anything!”

Not that I saw anyone dressed as Thor, but it seemed an appropriate description for a Thursday at Comic-Con.

[Picture of Carmine Infantino]No earth-shattering news so far, but then it was only a Thursday. Katie went to the voice acting panel and the Animaniacs panel (mostly in connection with next week’s DVD release. I went to the Carmine Infantino retrospective. Other than that, we both roamed the floor.

Be sure to check out the back of the Snakes on a Plane booth. There’s a wonderful flight safety card on “what to do in the event of snakes on a plane.”

When I was in high school, I remember there being tons of comic book retailers. They aren’t gone, but there are a lot fewer, and listening to people at the booths, they have the same feeling: not only is the percentage of the con focused on comics shrinking, the number of comic sellers is shrinking too. I managed to pick up a couple of leads on my back-issue hunt. I also sold a couple of random Golden Age and Silver Age books I had picked up, freeing up some space in my backpack (though there’s plenty of stuff left that I didn’t bring).

I spoke with Phil Foglio briefly, and got him to autograph the remaining three Girl Genius volumes (amazingly, volume 5 showed up the the mail the day before we left) and got a photo of Sergio Aragonés holding up a little Groo statuette.

[Picture of Kelson with magician Misty Lee]At one point I started to take a picture of a woman in what I thought was a good Zatanna-style costume (though it evoked the look rather than copying the look). As I was setting up the shot, I realized that it was magician Misty Lee. I told her I’d seen her show in Burbank a few months ago, and she insisted on posing for a second photo with me in the shot. The guy who took the photo? Paul Dini. We talked for a few minutes (“You weren’t there on Saturday, were you?” “Uh, I don’t think so…”)

We ended up leaving around 6:00, went back to our hotel, showered, changed, and went out to dinner at the Indigo Grill (which we had walked past on our way to and from the con two years ago). It turned out to be very good. Highly recommended.

We made it to San Diego around 1:00. After spending an afternoon in Old Town, and a self-guided tour of the Whaley House (which we missed last year), we dropped by the convention center to pick up our badges for Comic Con.

It was around 8:00, and it was Preview Night (only open to guests and pre-registered attendees), so there was basically no line. Only one problem: no one seemed to be willing to give us our badges!

We walked up to the first open window at the line of pre-reg booths. “Hi, we’re here to check in. Last name…” “Try those two guys over there.” “Oh, OK.”

So we walked across the way to the two guys she seemed to be pointing at. “Hi, we’re pre-reg, we’re here to pick up our…” “Try over there,” they said, pointing to a booth further along in the original line of booths.

So we walked across to that window. “Hi, is this where we actually pick up badges, because we were over there, and they directed us over there, and they directed us over here…”

It was, so I handed him the bits of paper from when we signed up, a whole year ago at last year’s con. I gave him my name, he didn’t seem to be able to find it, I gave him Katie’s name, he couldn’t find that, and eventually I had to dig out the receipt (which I had just ripped off of the sign-up sheets, since we usually have to go to separate windows), show him that yes, we paid, and somehow he was able to dig up our registration info, because the badges had the right city any everything.

So we got in, checked out the floor, and I got a few leads on Golden Age Flash books (though again, people seem to be bringing mostly the good-quality expensive copies), and we left when the hall closed at 9:00. Along with everyone else on the planet, as far as we could tell. It wasn’t nearly as crowded as any day last year, but it was more than either of us expected.

It’s been almost two weeks since hotel reservations for the San Diego Comic Con went on sale and sold out in a matter of hours.

The crunch is amazing. Last year, San Diego’s public transportation system dissolved under the combined assault of 100,000+ Comic Con attendees and a weekend of Padres games. Two years ago, the first year we stayed in town instead of just driving down for Saturday, we booked so late that we were stuck with the Super 8. Just for kicks, I checked the prices there. A room for this coming weekend would cost half what we paid per night on Comic Con weekend in 2004. And their prices during the con this year? I can’t tell, because they’re already sold out.

This morning, Travel Planners (the company handling reservations for the convention) sent out an email to people who had reserved hotel rooms through their service. After assuring me that my reservation was fine, they went on to ask:

In the meantime, we have a favor to ask of you. Please take a minute to reassess the number of rooms that you’ve booked and help your fellow attendees and exhibitors by canceling any rooms that you are not absolutely certain you’ll need.

Like you, we’re all thrilled that Comic Con is growing by leaps and bounds every year, but with each new show it gets more and more difficult to find enough hotel rooms to accommodate so many visitors. Accordingly, every hotel room becomes an integral part of the show’s success.

It’s not uncommon for people to grab multiple rooms just in case more people come, or to keep their options open (say, reserving both an expensive hotel downtown and a less expensive one further out, then cancelling one once they’ve made a decision). I’m astonished that it’s come to the agency pleading with people to let others have a chance at the rooms now, instead of waiting until just before the hotels start charging for cancellations.

On a related note, now’s as good a time to any to link to some recommendations for anyone planning to attend Comic Con: