Encapsulating the San Diego International Comic Con into a simple and straightforward after action report is a difficult, if not impossible, proposition. SDCC is the largest show of its kind in the world. It spans four days and fills the San Diego Convention Center to capacity nearly every year. The San Diego Convention Center is 600 meters long and contains 57,200 square meters (615,701 sqf) of exhibit space on two floors. It is the 24th largest convention facility in North America and is a truly immense building. Every year I’ve attend SDCC, this huge facility has literally, and without hyperbole, been filled with attendees shoulder to shoulder by Saturday afternoon. This year’s attendance is estimated to have been 140,000.

That is a lot of people. A lot of vendors. A lot to take in.

As an exhibitor, I get to see only a very small portion of this gargantuan fangasm. For four days my Comic Con world consists of my booth, the booths next to me, the booths across the aisle from me, and the never ending stream of fans who walk by. I haven’t been to a panel in years. I don’t have the time to do things like eat and use the restroom, let alone stand in line for a con exclusive toy or book.

My relationship with Comic Con is, complicated. On some level, I wonder why I even attend anymore. I never see any panels, I rarely walk on the floor, hell, I hardly even buy comics there anymore. The only book I bought this year was the new hard cover edition of Mouse Guard: Winter 1152.

I spend four days standing on crippled knees, eating terrible food and denying my body the most essential of its requirements, and for what? To pass out some printed copies of my comic? To manage and organize the World Famous Comics booth? To make barely enough money on sales to cover travel and hotel expenses? It doesn’t seem worth it on the surface, but there must be some reason for it. Something that compels me to return and pass through such a rigorous gauntlet of physical misery and sleep deprivation.

I think that reason is the people.

I meet so many people. Most of them are friendly and engaging. Some of them are interesting, either for the dedication as a fan, or for their career in the industry. A small number of them are intensely frustrating and creepy, but almost always in an entertaining way that cements them in my memory. Colin Wilson’s #1 fan knows what I’m talking about.

I had a lengthy discussion with Bob Schreck about his hip problems and my knee problems. I made a fool of myself while getting all fanboy on Matt Wagner. Dave Land bought me a beer and I didn’t get a chance to reciprocate. J.J. Torres and John Higashi ended up at my booth, drawn by the first American convention appearance of Colin Wilson. Jessica Countryman was helping to sell corsets at the booth across the aisle from me and appeared overwhelmed by her first time at Comic Con. It was at Comic Con that I met the Fillbach Brothers, who illustrate this very webcomic. This year, as in years previous, they got me drunk.

There’s a lot of talk about how Comic Con has sold out. About how it’s not about comics anymore, that movies and fringe genre have taken over the focus of the show. There’s some real hostility about that from a lot of people, despite the fact that television and movies have always been a part of the Comic Con experience. Even if that weren’t true though, that hostility is mistargeted. Comics have never been the focus of Comic Con. Comic Con is about the people who attend. The artists, the fans, the writers, the editors, and all the rest. Everyone who takes up lanyard and battles to cross Harbor Drive at 7pm, or attempts to find dinner without a reservation. These people, these steadfast soldiers of the show are the focus of Comic Con, and in that respect, it was a very good year.