I don’t normally post two days in a row, but then again I don’t normally have days like yesterday was.
I began negotiating two client contracts simultaneously. I talked to a third client about doing more work for them. I answered about 200 emails. I turned in two pages of completed artwork.
And…I got my professional registration for San Diego Comic-Con set up. That is, I have my pass (a UPC code) in my possession. Of all the things accomplished getting pro registration for SDCC is probably the most complex thing. To give you some idea of how complex; it was somewhere between doing my yearly taxes and hacking into NORAD (as in the 1980s movie, War Games).
While I realize that in recent years SDCC has gotten a lot of national press and therefore has expanded exponentially as a venue itself (thereby adding more to its fame, and so on and so forth)–that snowball effect has led the organizers to tighten up on their application process to allow schlubs like me free pro passes.
But it really was a huge pain.
Most shows you call them up, or email them, ask if they have any free passes for pros. If it’s a little show they ask what you’ve done and if you have almost any sort of credits to your name–or can even draw a decent anime looking girl (Sailor Moon, whatever) they give you a table and lots of build up. If it’s a medium sized show they may ask for a list of your total contribution to the industry as a whole, a paragraph about your career and then still want you to pay $50-100 for a table space. If it’s a large show they will often have you write something along the lines of an essay as to why you should be allowed to be there, then wait 6 months before responding to you, only to tell you that they not only won’t give you a free pass, but that table space all sold out months ago anyway.
But SDCC is all automated now. I’ve gotten strange communications from them in the form of emails that appear to be written in English–as they do contain words anyone can look up in a dictionary–but the words are combined in strange ways that are not always apparent to the reader. At least not to me.
Back in late summer my collaborator on DoorMan, Mike Leonard, sent me a copy of the book “Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture” by Rob Salkowitz. The book is supposed to be an examination of the market forces that are driving the present expansion of Pop Culture and how to build on that as a business model. It is that–but it’s also a cautionary tale to anyone who is vaguely interested in attending San Diego Comic-Con–that is “GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND GET YOUR PASS NOW OR YOU’LL NEVER GET IN!”
A bit earlier in the summer I went to Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC. I split a room with ex-Disney animator and swell guy, Tom Bancroft. I also spent a lot of time with my other frequent collaborator, Shane Berryhill. Between the two of them they managed to convince me that I needed to be more agressive in my pursuit of comics work, and that going to SDCC was key.
So putting two and two together it became apparent that I needed to go look at the SDCC website and figure out how this was to be accomplished. I spent the better part of two days trying to figure out the website in order to, get this, apply for a special code number that would allow me to (at some unspecified future date) apply for the chance to get a pass to SDCC. This process applies to ANYONE who would like to attend–professional or fan.
Which is to say, if you were planning to go in 2013 you’re probably already out of the running.
Now, let me just say that if you’re Stan Lee you probably don’t have to go through the process. They’ve had their lawyers talk to Stan’s lawyers and that was all taken care of months ago. But for anyone as far down on the food chain as I am, the process is what it is.
Anyway, a month or so ago I got an email from SDCC’s automated systems telling me that all guest registration was closed–sorry. Which kind of made me angry as nobody had told me that the process of registration had started. I sent a few emails around to folks I knew had been guests in the past years (Tom among them–did I mention that Tom had been coaching me during all this time about dealing with SDCC?) and found out that none of them were aware of this cut off date either.
Being the vice chairman of the Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society I felt that an apology for this should be forthcoming from SDCC and wrote to tell them so. But I got no answer as such.
Then on Saturday last, I got an email telling me that on Monday the website would be accepting requests for professional registration after all. That the website would open up at 10 am California time and that I could log on then and be given the opportunity to put in a request after all. So I did the virtual “que-up” and somehow found all the info that I had input months before in order to apply to apply got to a screen on the SDCC site that indicated that I had no need to be verified. That is a nice little icon came up in a pleasant blue (kind of looked like one of those post-it note pointers that lawyers use to make contracts look more fun and inviting) that said “VERIFICATION NOT DUE”. I figured this meant that I was all signed up for the next wave of obscure and confusing emails–one of which would contain my pro pass–or not.
But I sent an email off to Tom just to make sure. He wrote back saying that he had secured his own pass already (the aforementioned UPC code in an email) and that if I didn’t have one of those, I should log back on and get it.
I did so, searching high and low for a link to the proper page to do this “getting” thing. I downloaded PDFs of forms I’d filled out back in October, I looked at the pro checklist PDF, only to find that none of the highlighted links therein were actually “hot” (that is, “click me and you’ll go to the right page!”) I finally figured out that by manually entering the string of code in one of the PDF documents that it would take me to the right page.
However the “right” page was by that time shut down for “routine maintenance” and would be until 2 pm California time. But it also said that all complimentary passes had already been spoken for.
My only hope was to log back on at, what? 5 pm east coast time (give me a break, I’d been online for 4 hours by then and am still getting over flu) and see about securing a pass at whatever cost. Not like I have any money right now, but I figured I could at least get to the point of handing over my credit info and still turn back at that point if it seemed too costly.
As it was, when I logged back on, promptly at 5, the page took me straight to a prompt that said I was in! I got my pro pass UPC code, printed it out and an email was sent to my inbox with confirmation. They also sent me straight to the hotel booking page–which comfortingly assured me that just because I booked a room there was no guarantee that I had a pass to get in to the show itself. So I then double-checked all that I’d been doing for the past 6 hours.
My point? My point is that while I can appreciate that SDCC is having to deal with increased traffic every year–to the point of ridiculousness–that the automated systems that they have put in place are not operating as smoothly as they might. I realize that it’s difficult to create anything I.T. at all–one reason that I don’t do that sort of thing is that it IS difficult and I lack the skill to do it. But just because a fellow can write code does not mean that he can write English–at least not in a calm and reassuring manner.
I also realize that it is probably in the worst of taste for me, a first time applicant to attend who in spite of all the difficulties and frustrations actually was awarded a complimentary pass to the biggest comics convention in the United States–free of charge, based solely on my body of work–is now writing what might be perceived as a huge flame to the organizers.
That is not my intention.
My intention is that hopefully the organizers of SDCC will realize that the difficulties inherent in their new process of registration will only cause frustration on the part of many people and that they would be well served to secure the services not only of competent I.T. professionals (and I have to admit the website worked on schedule), but that they should also hire some competent word-smiths to craft the wording of their communications and perhaps give some thought to future design of the portion of their (admittedly voluminous) website devoted to application for entry–making it more navigable.
People aren’t applying for citizenship for Pete’s sake! The process should be streamlined and made more comforting. Hire someone from a cruise ship line to write your copy and answer questions–you know they’re all over San Diego.
Okay, enough. Aside from that small set of objections, I truly do appreciate the folks at SDCC letting me in. Thank you for being so kind.
I will attempt to behave myself in future when speaking of your fine organization. You do indeed do a lot for the community of comics fans and creators, bringing us together like no other venue in the world and I don’t mean to be difficult.
It’s still up to me to figure out how to get there and pay for all the travel, hotel and food while I’m there. It’s still up to me to put together a decent self-promotion package, as well as meet as many potential clients as possible during the time I’m there. But the first major threshold has been met and conquered.
Looking forward to July.