The week of July 16-20th was the annual Comic Con International held in San Diego, California and yours truly had the opportunity to attend as one of the representatives of the SCS staff. I’ve been to some of the major Cons, but never before have I experienced anything like this. Comic Con International has become much more than just a comics show in recent years and has become unique in focusing more and more on popular culture as a whole, particularly the worlds of movies and television. Most notably to us, the action figure collecting world continues to become a bigger presence at the Con with each passing year. Every major toy company (and many minor ones) are in attendance to show off new releases and make announcements about future products, making this an unofficial Toy Fair in many ways. Unlike the February Toy Fair in New York, this is an event that is designed for collector participation. During the Con, the SCS was proud to bring you the most detailed coverage of Simpsons merchandise there on the ‘net, but for us that was only one part of the SCS San Diego experience. This was a unique experience for us for two reasons: a) We had organized the first-ever Simpsons Collecting panel in the history of the SDCC and, b) since the Con coincided with the second anniversary of the SCS website’s launch, we had organized a party (err… Box Social) for the SCS community. All things considered, the SCS staff couldn’t be happier with how both events went. They were a lot of fun and a turning point for our site and community in general.
Our panel, entitled "Oh, I've Wasted My Life:" Collecting Simpsons Merchandise, was held on the event-filled Saturday afternoon at the Con in a fairly large conference room. The panel was moderated by Michael Crawford (SCS’s own Captain Toy) and featured Pat Linden (Playmates Toys), two representatives from Acme Animation Studios, Phil Ortiz (Bongo Comics), Mark Lindsey (SCS administrator), Brant Bridges (Sideshow Toy), and Jason Labowitz (Entertainment Earth). We felt these participants provided our panel with a broad representation of the many varying aspects of the Simpsons collecting hobby and we thank all of them for joining us in our geeky fun. The attendance level was better than we hoped for, considering some stiff panel competition that afternoon. We had almost 100 people present on average, with many newcomers joining us as the panel went on. A lot of topics were discussed ranging from what considerations go into new merchandise to the input of the collecting community to the problems that bootleg merchandise causes. The highlight of the panel for many seemed to be Playmates Toys (of course!) who provided us with a lot of great insight into the behind-the-scenes process that goes into the World of Springfield line as well as info on upcoming figures and playsets. This was the first opportunity Simpsons collectors had to directly interact with them, which I think was great. They certainly seemed to win everyone ever when they surprised us by giving away free Be-Sharp Barneys to those in attendance, a great treat considering that these have not been released yet. The SCS staff also did giveaways of our own using a raffle system, with prizes ranging from WoS items to Christmas ornaments. I truly feel this panel was a success on many levels. Through this panel, the SCS has made some great contacts within the Simpsons collecting world and I think we made a great impression about our website and community to all those involved. I have no doubts that next year will be bigger and better in terms of the SCS presence at the Con.
Most SCS members will never know just how much planning and sweating and hard work went into our SCS Second Anniversary party (big thanks to administrators Jon and Nicole for everything they did to make it happen), but I do know that our efforts resulted in a huge success (and maybe a hangover or two). The party was held at the Rock Bottom restaurant and bar in the swanky Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego on Saturday night after the Con ended. This was a really nice restaurant and they accommodated us well. We had a private party room upstairs filled with many tables, prizes and giveaways, and a good variety of food (including the wheelbarrow full of tacos… yes that’s right we had a wheelbarrow full of tacos. Can I get a w00t?). Jon had made special SCS 2003 fezzes for everyone who came and they were by far one of the biggest hits of the party. Wear them proudly, everyone! (Note: Tacos + fezzes = FUN) This party gave everyone a great chance to mingle and interact in a way that one just can’t in a crowded, sweaty convention center. It was so great not only to meet people that I’ve interacted online with (it’s so weird to meet people that you’ve known for a couple years already), but also great to see a wide variety of the SCS community (boys and girls; young and old) come out and join us. There have been small SCS meetups in many areas for a while, but this was the first time that SCS members from all over the country got together and met the people behind the avatars. It sort of gave our community a chance to look behind the curtain so to speak. Towards the end of the night, we did a Simpsons trivia contest (organized by administrator James Murray) for fun and prizes. The questions were pretty well selected and gave many of our members a real hard time (and you guys thought you were experts!). In the end, members James Alan and Steve Flack emerged victorious, though many others walked away with free WoS goodies as well for their efforts. Unfortunately, after a few hours, the wheelbarrow was empty and we had to leave. This was a really awesome party and truly one of the top highlights of my trip to California.
Thanks to everyone who joined us and we hope to see you all (and more!) next year.
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