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How Ron Donoho Became a Comic-Con Convert

Finding the merits of the world's most famous geek gathering, right here in San Diego


Comic-con was experiencing an attendance growth spurt when I moved into a Downtown San Diego condo in the mid-1990s. This annual convention celebrating comic books and superheroes annoyed me right off the bat. I considered it an inconvenient traveling circus of alien interlopers.

It got bigger every year. By 2010, it regularly amassed more than 130,000 lightsaber-toting attendees at the San Diego Convention Center. 

Not a NIMBY, I was still exasperated each summer when the downtown population quadrupled. Comic-Con caused city streets to clog and close. Sidewalks filled with Star Wars stormtroopers. Restaurant reservations vanished. Every eatery was unnervingly filled with Wonder Woman and Spiderman paying elevated prices for fish tacos.

A decade ago, a writing assignment immersed me in Comic-Con culture. I breached the convention center and engaged the demographic. And…I became a convert. 

The next Comic-Con International is July 19-23. I recommend you come down and intermingle with this loveable, peaceable, gloriously creative crowd. Don’t expect to buy a ticket, though. The Con’s been sold out for a year. 

Instead, come on the weekend to watch cosplayers promenade down Fifth Avenue into the convention center. Yes, come out even if the Writers Guild of America strike is still ongoing and Hollywood actors boycott. 

Stand in the street and ask any Batman or Scarlet Witch for a selfie. Everybody stops and obliges. Narcissistic? Sure. But there’s also a palpable brotherhood of make-believe that bonds participants and observers. The photographic interactions exemplify shared community. 

It’s a carnival. It’s also a melting pot. Hey, there are 70,000 characters within the Marvel Universe; 10,000 in the DC Universe. My experience is that cosplayers love to bond while explaining who they’re wearing. Even Gen Zers. I once asked a young woman in a pink outfit who she was. She effusively told me the story of Gloomy Bear from Naughty Grizzly, a popular Japanese anime streaming series. Clicking a picture, I nodded. I’ll never watch an episode of Naughty Grizzly

"Gloomy Bear"
“Gloomy Bear”

However, I did get turned on to two great Disney+ streamers because of a conversation at Comic-Con with Boba Fett (the masked Star Wars bounty hunter). 

This Boba Fett clued me in to The Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian, two Star Wars spin-offs. The Mandalorian introduced the world to the cute “Baby Yoda” character. FYI: Baby Yoda is not a younger version of Yoda, the iconic green mini Jedi Master. The Kid from The Mandalorian is named Grogu. He and Yoda are from the same mysterious species. Are Grogu and Yoda related? It’s not been cinematically revealed. But if the long-tentacled world of Star Wars has you curious, you know where to go and have a great time investigating it.

“Boba Fett”
“Boba Fett”

Want to do a geek conversion like I did? Plan to head down to the convention center by Coaster, trolley, or rideshare. Parking in Comic-Con’s downtown universe is expensive and can be a galactic nightmare.  

“On the Sunny Side” columnist Ron Donoho is a veteran contributor and editor of downtown-centric thesandiegosun.com.


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