Ask anyone at Comic-Con International about how this crazy, overstuffed convention has changed since they started attending and you'll get the same answer. It's nothing like it was way back when, whether that was 20 years ago or just two or three.
I've only been coming to Comic-Con since 2010, when the iPad's arrival created ripples throughout the comics industry, and the show has even changed for me. No, I can't remember when this was a quiet, comic book-focused event. When I started coming it was already a platform for promoting movies, TV shows, really anything that has even a tenuous connection to geek culture.
The people are the thing I've noticed the most. Every year the show seems to be getting a little bit younger, a little bit more gender balanced. The costumes have always been wild, but it seems like the pop-culture properties being referenced keep getting broader. Yes, on arrival to the convention center you will see a guy dressed as Wolverine posing for pictures with people. (I'm serious, there is always a Wolverine out there.) But in addition to the Batmen and Spider-Men, the Doctor Who cosplayers are really taking off and just about every other genre TV show around was visible somewhere.
My favorite bit of dress-up, though, might be the satirical protesters. This year there are plenty of actual protesters holding signs asking us all to repent for our sins while shouting slogans from bullhorns. But I also noticed several fake protesters, complete with signs and bullhorns. I spotted a Galactus Is Nigh sign hoisted high on the show floor, and right next to one set of protesters outside was a guy advertising another comic convention in L.A., complete with signs and bullhorn. And around the corner by the Hard Rock Hotels an "X-Men" presentation was being faux-disrupted by a couple of mutant-rights activists.
Technology is changing the show, too. In 2010 I bought a page of comic art—Micronauts #53, thank you for asking—and was asked to write a check. I don't carry a checkbook anywhere (I practically don't carry a wallet), so what was I to do? I ended up showing them my iPhone as I logged into PayPal and sent them the money. Flash forward to 2013 and while there are a few cash-only vendors still out there, Square has really taken over. At one booth I bought some gifts for my kids and out came an iPad mini for me to "sign." I packed a lot of cash to bring to the con this year just in case something struck my fancy, but in almost every case it just hasn't been necessary.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.