SDCC 2014 Interview With The Lumberjanes Crew

We meet with the creative team of the Lumberjanes (Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Shannon Watters) to chat about our favorite campers!



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Solving the Funko Fiasco

Funko-Pop-Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer-Buffy-SDCCI am singling out Funko for this post, but really it could apply to any of the myriad of toy companies which were selling exclusive toys at SDCC this year.  So, if you are not one of the thousands of people who waited in line for a Funko bobble head and instead would prefer to imagine yourself in the Hasbro line or any of the other lines, please feel free.  I am only talking about Funko because that is the line I had the “pleasure” of standing in.

I am not a toy guy.  Despite the fact that I have several bobble heads and potato heads, they are more a giggle for me than a desire.  So how did I find myself endlessly circling the Funko booth at SDCC trying to get in the line which was always capped before the con even opened?  Simple.  I did it for love.

My wife texted me while I was in San Diego and asked if I could “swing by the booth where they are selling the Buffy bobble heads.”  My wife is a Buffy fan and had seen a tweet from Sarah Michelle Gellar about the limited edition bobble head that would be released at Comic Con.  For my wife?  Anything.

Each day I would get to Funko as fast as  I could, only to find the line capped and a gruff guy informing us that the line would be re-opened in anywhere from forty-five minutes to an hour.  Fortyfive minutes would pass, I’d be back in front of the Funko booth, only to find that the line was once again full and would be another hour or so.  Repeat for several days until finally, on Sunday I loitered and hustled enough to get into the line.  An hour later I was at the front of the line, only to find that Buffy was sold out.

Now, don’t cry for me.  I’m not here to whine about the line waiting.  I’m not here to boo hoo about not getting Buffy (I found my wife a nice t-shirt by an independent artist and an IOU for a regular Buffy when they are released later this summer).  I’m here to offer a solution to the long lines at Funko, Hasbro, and all the other “limited edition” retailers.  I call it the “McFarlane Method.”

Many years ago Todd McFarlane (the creator of Spawn, for those of you who only know him as “the toy guy”) came up with a plan for alleviating the line in front of his booth.  He issued tickets.  Each ticket had a number, and that ticket was good for two items to be signed.  One ticket per person.  He didn’t do it to be a jerk or to cut down on people having their entire run of Spawn signed.  He did it so that people could enjoy the rest of the show.

He figured he could sign 100 books an hour.  So, he would issue the number of tickets that corresponded to the amount of time he would be signing.  Three hours signing = 150 tickets.  Six hours signing = 300 tickets.  Then, he would post a sign saying that he was now signing tickets 1-50.  The people with those tickets could get in line, he would sign their books, and they would move on.  People with the higher number tickets were free to enjoy the show and then come back as they got closer to the time their number would be called.  No one went away unhappy.

Funko, Hasbro, Mondo (what is it with these companies ending in “o”?) all know how many customers they can process in an hour.  Why can they not just issue tickets for their shops which are good for a specific time/location in line?  Then, instead of everyone standing in line for hours, or milling about so they can get in line once it opens, people could enjoy the con, and then check in when their tickets are good?

Before you rush to say that there will just be a crush of people getting tickets, Lego executed a similar plan last year for their mini-fig drawing.  Once the line location was established, the line moved quickly and orderly.  People who wanted more than one ticket could get back in line and get another.  In our case for exclusives, this would just allow them to get in line a second time later in the day.   Then, once people had their tickets, they could enjoy the rest of the show.  To be even more efficient and hi-tech, the companies could set up a dedicated app which would indicate what numbers were being served.  That way people would not even have to keep cycling back in front of the booths, clogging up the aisles.  They could just check their phones every so often from anywhere in the con.  In short, the current scenario is not the only way to do business.  Companies just have to be willing to try something a little different.

Some people believe that standing in long lines  is part of the Comic Con “experience.”  For those people, I suggest that Hall H may be the place for them.  For the rest of us, I would like to see a solution that allows people to get the exclusives they desire while still being able to enjoy the rest of the show.  Hopefully Funko, Hasbro, Mondo and the rest of the companies offering exclusives will re-examine their line strategies and come up with a solution.

What are your thoughts?  How would you solve the issue of long lines and circling for exclusives?  Sound off in the comments!

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SDCC 2014 Interview with Gene Yang

We chat with Gene Yang about Boxers & Saints, The Shadow Hero, and the importance of teaching young kids coding skills.

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SDCC Interview With Cecil Castellucci

We chat with Cecil Castellucci about Odd Duck, Tin Star, comic book operas, and all sorts of wonderful things while at San Diego Comic Con. 

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SDCC 2014 Interview With Lucy Knisley

We sit down with Lucy Knisley to talk about Relish, as well as her upcoming travelogues and her impending nuptials.


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SDCC 2014 Interview with Dave Gibbons

We sat down with Dave Gibbons to discuss his Watchmen: Artifacts Edition.

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SDCC 2014: The Comic-Con Correction

ccihdr_r1_c1San Diego Comic Con 2014 is in the bag.  All that is left now is to sort through the hours of video we shot, read through the mounds of comics we purchased, and decide where we are going to hang all the art we bought.  In short, this trip to the Mecca of comic fandom was another success.

I’d love to wax poetic about the miles of aisles we wandered (Keri’s pedometer clocked us in somewhere between seven and ten miles of walking each day) or the fantastic creators we talked with (come back each day for the next couple of weeks as we release interviews with a different creator each day), but I think I will leave that to some of the other sites out there (Yes, there are other sites.  Hard to believe, I know.).  Instead I’d like to write a bit about what I have come to think of as the Comic-Con Correction (TM).

Over the past decade or so (long-time attendees will probably point back to an even earlier time) San Diego Comic Con has seen explosive growth.  I peg it back to 2004 when Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow “took over” San Diego with giant mecha placed around the con to promote the movie.  From then on, Hollywood studios have inundated the convention specifically and the surrounding area in general with larger, flashier, and more expensive promotions.

The resulting crush of Hollywood money has led to a spike in rents in the surrounding area. Now, any space in the blocks in the area immediately surrounding the con (“immediately” = five block radius) costs a minimum of $45,000 for the week (and prime locations go for that a night.)  While many restaurants and shops have found a way to turn this into their own July-version of Black Friday, this year seems to have marked the start of a correction in the market.

For those unfamiliar with stock market terms, a “correction” is when the market in general (or specific stocks) are over-valued.  Stock holders get out while the getting is good, triggering a sell-off.  The price of the stock falls until it gets back to a level where people feel it is in line with its actual value, and they begin to purchase again.

Any casual viewer/attendee of the con this year will have noticed fewer ads plastered on buildings, fewer branded pedi-cabs, and significantly fewer storefronts given over to licensed experiences or branding.  The risk/gain ratio was just too great for all but the largest entertainment corporations to afford the rent on even the smallest of spaces, especially given the historically shaky success rate of con-launched properties.  So, this year, the overall con experience was, for the first time in a decade, smaller than the previous year.

And maybe that is not a bad thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the circus atmosphere of the convention.  I think it is fantastic that someone can get an amazing experience without ever stepping foot on the con floor.  For all but the hardest of hardcore fans, that is probably enough.  Does the average person who likes the Marvel movies and watches the Walking Dead (or reads their respective comics) really need to spend $200 to share that experience with 175,000 of their closest friends?  Probably not.

Because the rents were so high, advertisers had to be very careful about how they spent their money.  Instead of focusing on getting their name as big as possible but keeping the actual “good stuff” inside (see last year’s Ender’s Game experience), advertisers created more interactive fan experiences outside the con and invited the general public to participate, either actively, or as casual observers.  From the Assassin’s Creed Ninja Warrior-inspired parkour course to the Gotham zipline and the Simpson’s Dome, there were plenty of experiences fans could have outside the con.

It would be great if San Diego Con could continue to have experiences like this.  But, for that to happen, the overall Comic-Con Contraction (TM) needs to continue.  Rents need to come down to a point where more intellectual properties can afford to have a presence outside the con floor.  Wouldn’t it be great if Tr!ckster could afford to return to San Diego and have a presence in a location where casual fans could discover creator-owned comics?  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a storefront dedicated to the Image Experience?  Or the world of Bone? (Seriously, the Great Cow Race would be an awesome interactive experience!!!)  For comics to re-take San Diego, the rent needs to come down to a level where someone other than Disney and Warner Bros. can afford it.

What is clear is that the surrounding businesses have found the upper ceiling of rents they can charge for the week of Comic-Con.  In many cases, they surpassed that ceiling and were left without a high profile party or branded experience.  Next year many places will have to reconsider their asking price.

I don’t think the con experience will continue to shrink forever.  If the stock market has taught us anything, it is that corrections are temporary.  The prices will drop, more people will enter the market, and prices will go back up.  Personally, I am looking forward to next year, when the restaurants and storefronts, realizing that they did not get the exorbitant rates they asked for this year, drop their asking price to a level where it is more affordable.  Who knows what properties will jump on the lower prices and open up their con experience.  Here’s hoping that Jeff Smith reads this and we get a Great Cow Race!  If not, I know I can still see him in his booth on the con floor.


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