Fan conventions used to be only something that fans of science fiction and comics attended. Since those things were considered to be nerdy, and nerdy was not something that was socially acceptable to be, those conventions were generally not too well attended or popular. But the San Diego Comic Con changed that. Commonly just called Comic Con or SDCC this convention made it socially acceptable to go to conventions.
Now fans of action, science fiction and horror films, TV shows, comics, and video games regularly attend cons. Major movie studios and TV studios regularly debut trailers and other marketing materials at cons. Some studios even develop special companion comics to a large scale release specifically to build interest about a movie at a con before the movie actually premiers. Studios host panels at SDCC where the stars, writers and producers of movies and TV shows talk about their work. And the fans can’t get enough. Walker Stalker Con, a zombie and horror centered con, used crowdfunding to host the first con in 2013. It was so popular and attracted so many major sponsors that in less than a year it has gone international. In 2014 there have already been several Walker Stalker Cons in cities around the US and in 2015 there are already twelve Walker Stalker Cons planned in the US and in Europe. Cons have become big business, thanks to SDCC.
SDCC is the most successful and most consistent earning fan convention. More than 10,000 fans fill the San Diego Convention Center every summer to attend SDCC. Vendors, studios, TV networks and stars plan all year for their appearances at the con. Fans spend months preparing elaborate cosplay costumes hoping to win the costume contest. Many others dress up for the sheer love of a particular movie, show, or game. Millions of dollars are made by companies associated with the con and by hotels, restaurants and shops near the convention center.
The creators of the SDCC never imagines that the little fan gathering they created back in 1970 would grow to be such a massive cultural phenomenon. Originally the con was just a chance for fans of science fiction and other genres of books and comics to get together, buy and sell books, and network with other fans. Only 300 people attended the first SDCC. The founders started reaching out to other groups like the SCA and started opening the con to other genres in the hopes of attracting more people. The attendance slowly built over the first few years and then started gaining momentum.
While the fandoms of comics and books were banding together a cultural shift was taking place that eventually propelled SDCC to the monumental event that it is today. As technology changed and become more of a part of the social fabric video games started to become big business instead of just hobbies. Science fiction, horror, and anime went from being things that only nerds cared about to mainstream pursuits. TV and movies shifted more to action instead of scripted sitcoms and romantic comedies. Studios started to release that having the stars attend cons could translate into big money at the box office. The stars liked attending cons because they could make a lot of money taking photographs with fans and signing autographs.
These days it’s common for big studios and TV networks to premiere trailers, new scenes, and other content at SDCC. The Walking Dead, which is the most watched TV show in cable history, has premiered the upcoming season trailer at SDCC for the last two years. More than 6,000 crammed into a hall at the convention center to watch The Walking Dead stars talk with Nerdist host Chris Hardwick and even more flooded the convention center to attend the costume contest. Cosplayers can win large monetary prizes at the costume contest, but the best prize is bragging rights. SDCC has become so huge that the stars of major pictures and shows attend the con in costumes so that they won’t be recognized and get the chance to see all the exhibits without being mobbed by their fans.
San Diego Comic Con is more than just the biggest convention in the country. It’s the culmination of the work of a bunch of fans who wanted to bring together the people who make the shows, movies and games and the fans that love them. Now it’s become an unstoppable cultural force that will continue to dominate the con world.