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DragonCon vs ComicCon? 
11th-Aug-2010 10:16 am
Pretty Dreads
A new friend just asked me what the difference was between DragonCon and ComicCon.

As I've never been to ComicCon, I didn't feel like I was qualified to answer the question.

Anyone here been to both conventions and have first hand experience on the main differences?

Of course there is the obvious difference of location, but beyond that...what can I tell her?
11th-Aug-2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
The one thing I do know is that Dragon Con is 90,000 or so less people than San Diego Comic Con. You have more freedom to see what you want to see because there are over 30 tracks there. There are many more TV stars available for signings and meeting them. You also can choose to skip on lines to main events by watching them on Dragon Con TV, which is what I plan to do with the Masquerade.

You also won't get as much free swag or even expect to see a major movie preview there. They also don't have a independent film festival where you can see things you haven't seen before and may not see again. They also don't have a big public party scene nor nearly as many science fiction/fantasy authors as DragonCon does. I think the way you phrase the question is what interests her and adapt the answer from that.
11th-Aug-2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
I've never been to ComicCon either, but I always tend to tell people that ComicCon is now more like... upcoming movie promo and focuses on celebs, and DragonCon has more of a focus on the fans and costumes and parties.

Anyone go to both? Should I tweak what I tell people?
11th-Aug-2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
From what I understand (having only been to D*C), ComicCon is industry-driven, Dragon*Con is fan-driven.
11th-Aug-2010 05:56 pm (UTC)
I've never been to SDCC either, but this is always what I tell people who ask the difference.
11th-Aug-2010 03:17 pm (UTC)
Here's my humble opinion on them:

Comic-Con's definitely the bigger of the two, in my opinion. You have to plan for it a LOT sooner (because tickets and hotel nowadays sell out much faster), and for some I know, it's also the more stressful of the two. Both are crowded, but Comic-Con seems to have this din that either really gets people pumped up or wears folks out. DragonCon has it too, but it seems easier to escape it if needed.

DragonCon's a bit more contained than Comic-Con. SDCC, you have people staying in hotels all over the place in the city, while DragonCon has most folks staying in the big 3 hotels with some overflow that's usually in walking distance. At SDCC, you may find that you have to shuttle to get back and forth from your hotel, which can be problematic with costumes. DragonCon doesn't usually have that problem (usually, I say).

SDCC is more spread out, but to me, it feels less "confined" than DragonCon feels (note this is my opinion and based on my experience only, people who know the area around the D*C hotel better than I could speak for that more clearly). SDCC has the Gaslamp district up the street from the convention center, which has a lot of different eating options, something that D*C doesn't have (Again, not so familiar with stuff outside of the D*C hotel area, but from what my husband and I found when we were out, the area outside of the convention center itself at SDCC is MUCH different than outside of D*C).

Another costumer perspective: the masquerade at SDCC and the masquerade at DragonCon is MUCH different. Videos on YouTube will likely give you an idea of just how much different.

I am sure there is more, but that's some of what I have.

Edited at 2010-08-11 03:19 pm (UTC)
11th-Aug-2010 03:18 pm (UTC)
ComicCon is a media con. It is where big media goes to advertise their stuff. DragonCon has bits of that but is run by fans to draw in people interested in that a variety of fandoms. ComicCon is thus mostly big ticket current and upcoming features where DragonCon is everything old and new.
12th-Aug-2010 12:28 am (UTC)
Honestly this is a sad fact. Comic-Con was not always media driven and it definitely wasn't always where new movies made their big advertising push and whatnot. It was, well, a comic book convention and it was primarily fan-driven. It's morphed into this whole other thing over the last several years because it is such a big convention. It makes me sad.
11th-Aug-2010 03:18 pm (UTC)
Yea the biggest difference is that CC is put on by the industry, which is why you get the BIG stars, premiers and stuff like that.
Our con is fan driven, if we get anything special its because the makers really wanted us to see it (Like getting to see the unfinished copy of Mirror Mask a few years back) and its special. Out in CC they are really previewing it for the press.
11th-Aug-2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
Nobody gets stabbed in the face over a chair at Dragon*Con.
11th-Aug-2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
This, lmao <3
11th-Aug-2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
Someone I know who is local to SDCC but passed on it this year (because she vastly prefers D*C and is coming to Atlanta) described the differences between SDCC and D*C like this:

Dragon*Con is just like SDCC except it's more party, less press junket.
11th-Aug-2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
Wait... Do I know you? Because you just described me. ;)
11th-Aug-2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
SDCC is industry-focused. D*C is fan-focused.
11th-Aug-2010 03:35 pm (UTC)
I've been to both, and I've been pretty vocal about preferring DragonCon over SDCC any day of the week. This despite the fact that I get a free pro badge for SDCC and live within easy drive/train distance of it (so no hotel), but have to buy a DC pass and fly (usually overnight) to get there.

The main difference between DC and SDCC, IMO, is that DragonCon is produced and run by fans because they *love* the topic at hand, whether that's Star Wars or Ghost Hunters or D&D. SDCC, on the other hand, is produced and run by the movie studios, by the international media conglomerations, as a venue to sell their wares to the movie-going, tv-watching, game-playing (uh, sometimes comic-reading) public, whether that public wants it or not. It's one giant press junket, with the intention of selling stuff to people who have already paid to attend the con.

There are other differences too: SDCC is held at the San Diego Convention Center, and so activities close down promptly at 7pm, sometimes with *one* movie marathon extending into the evening. No parties, no late night panels, no after dark costuming, nothing. That giant crowd that SDCC boasts of disperses into San Diego without a trace. For a lot of people, the evening activities are the highlight of DragonCon, so this is a huge difference.

There's no parade. There's no central location for costumers to gather -- most people end up on the show floor (it's just as inconvenient there as it is at DC) or in the hallways outside. They have one big costume contest, rather than the several large and many small contests DC has every year. Celebrity interactions are generally limited to the giant halls, for which people line up overnight to get into, and which doesn't empty out between panels (so you can camp a seat all day, doesn't matter if someone else wanted to see the panel you just camped through).

Yes, SDCC is bigger -- but it's in a convention center instead of four or five hotels, with all the downsides (ie, no late night, etc) that comes with that. Yes, more big name celebrities go to SDCC than DragonCon, and more big announcements and reveals are made there. But this is for one very simple reason: the "big names" are *under contract* to appear there, as part of their working relationship with the movie studio. And the whole thing is one giant press junket, bankrolled and produced by the big movie and game studios, so *of course* they're going to make their big announcements there, where they control everything.
11th-Aug-2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
no late night panels,
Actually, that's BS. There are a lot of late-night panels on every night except Sunday -- it's just the exhibit hall itself that closes at 7.
11th-Aug-2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
As someone who has attended both conventions every year since 2006 --except for skipping SDCC 2010-- I'll try to give my two cents.

The short form? SDCC is the industry con, it has the money and the names. D*Con is the community convention, it has the fans and the heart.

I live local for SDCC, and I usually get in on a free comp pass. I worked for the con last year on the Disabled Services staff. I pay and fly overnight to get to Dragon*Con every year. Given, I'm a bit biased to D*C because it's an annual reunion with my college friends. But despite living 15mins from SDCC, I likely wouldn't attend if not for my comp pass, and didn't go this year despite having a comp pass.

SDCC is a giant industry-run festival. There is a lot of free junk (and junk it truly is--I can fill half a trash bag with fliers and buttons advertising TV/movie premiers by the end on the day). There are ads plastered everywhere, some of them are even pretty creative. There is exclusive merchandise, announcements, and premieres. There are a lot of specials/parties at the bars and restaurants in the surrounding downtown area. It's a giant, loud and colorful press conference that they let the public pay to attend. Then they sell you as much crap as they can manage. And unlike any other convention I go to, the primary attendees at SDCC are "normal people". Not the people involved in fan communities, but SDCC is mostly Joe Shmoe you go to work with who it turns out also quietly likes Star Trek and X Files. (Not that the fan communities have no presence, but they do seem to be the minority.)

SDCC gets the big names, the big announcements, and the lines that make any D*C line you get in look like a joke. If you're at cons to meet big celebs, SDCC is the place to go, but be prepared to stand in line with your autograph ticket for 4+ hours.
Those announcements will be online within 12 hours, and most of the exclusive preview videos will be up within a week.
There aren't really a lot of community-focused events or gathers because the community doesn't really have a presence or a place to meet. The convention shuts down and kicks you out promptly at 7pm. (With the xception of a couple of events that run late, but that's the minority.) You cross the 1 crosswalk available between the convention center and downtown where you can either return to your home/hotel or go join the droves at the cover-charged bar parties all over downtown which acquire even more "normal people" locals who just want to do their weekend drinking and aren't there for the con at all.

Dragon*Con is significantly smaller event with less and smaller-name guests. D*Con doesn't have the big preview videos, free swag, or the famous actors you'll spend half your day waiting to get their autograph.

D*Con has the fan-run panels, people that will chat with you in the hallways, smaller guests that are often more appreciative of their fans, smaller lines, and the party goes all weekend--24/4. Dragon*Con has more things you can participate in, like gaming tracks, filk, concerts, drum circles, cosplay gatherings, etc. Dragon*Con covers both old and new media, where SDCC is only interested in things occurring in the prior or coming year.

I try not to say SDCC is bad, because it isn't. SDCC is great if you're interested in meeting big names or seeing those preview clips first. I'm a community person. I like seeing people and fans. I like discussing theories on shows and the community in panels, and chatting with book/comic authors in the artist alley. So Dragon*con is more my sort of thing.

Edited at 2010-08-11 04:31 pm (UTC)
11th-Aug-2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
Having been to both, I completely agree with everything you just said. We've been to Dragon*Con approximately 10 times, and SDCC once. If I was trying to break into the business somehow, I'd probably have better luck meeting people I needed to meet at SDCC, but if you're just going as a fan, for fun, Dragon*Con is better.

SDCC has gotten too much money and too many people. It's become an industry advertisement.
(Deleted comment)
11th-Aug-2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
The difference is about your PRIORITIES, really. They're two fundamentally and in many ways profoundly different events. I don't think a comparison is worthwhile, unless someone can absolutely only afford one of them and they really can't decide.

SDCC= fandom business meeting (with bonus fun and nerdery). D*C= afterparty.

For example, if you want to spend all day in costume in a low-stress, high-. . .party environment, D*C. If you want to be able to wander and happen upon panels or concerts you might not have expressly gone to otherwise, D*C. If you want to be able to stand around a chat with a celeb in a low-pressure way, D*C (generally).

If your focus is on news, exclusive info, clips or items (and it makes a difference to you whether you're just reading it online), you have to go to SDCC. You will be in the same room as people you will never see anywhere else.

SDCC is in fact much larger than D*C and it is a much harder con to do from an attendee standpoint. Everything is a battle, but for me it's almost always been worth it. And last year D*C hotels and badges sold out promptly, so some of those differences are getting less obvious.

There is a difference between being fan-run and being professionally-run, but that's not always a bad thing, either. SDCC isn't actually an "industry-run" con; the department heads and basically everyone except security are all fans. People can say that it's all about the industry bribing fans towards their content, but you get treated to some very fun and exciting stuff that way. Don't knock it till you've tried it! People go to business meetings to get wined and dined too ;)

I love both, and they are BOTH my go to every year cons. I have frustrations about both too, and I find them to be good "companion cons" to each other.
11th-Aug-2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
A comparison is most definitely worthwhile for my friend who has never been to a Con and isn't familiar with either of these conventions. I don't know if she can afford to attend either of them, but it certainly isn't worthless to gain knowledge about something.
11th-Aug-2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
I've only gone to D*Con but from research and what I've heard from friends about SDCC here are some of the key points from what I've gathered:
-Again SDCC is the industry con and D*Con is the fan con.
-SDCC is the place to buy exclusive merchandise, all sorts of things from Hasbro to BPAL.
-More big name guests and media events at SDCC.
-If you want to go to a big panel at SDCC plan to devote most of your day to waiting in line for it.
-At D*Con you can skip the lines and watch the big events from the comfort of your hotel room thanks to DCTV.
-Not as many costumers and more difficult for elaborate costumes to get around at SDCC.
-Crazy costume contest rules at SDCC, like you can't "unveil" your costume until the contest. I'm really not sure how some people manage that.
-Gobs of different costumers and contests at D*Con, pretty much something for everyone.
-Convention center vs hotels, easier to get to your room at D*Con.
-SDCC can easily be more expensive with considering things like buying a regular pass, buying a preview night pass, and all the expensive hotels and restaurants in the area.
-At D*Con at least you only need to buy one badge to go to all the days of the con and can eat relatively cheap thanks to the food court, though there are a fair amount of other restaurants in the area.
-Less partying at SDCC. It sounds like you have to know someone to get into decent parties at SDCC since they're industry related.
-At D*Con it's pretty much a free for all, people are in it more for having a good time than for networking.
11th-Aug-2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
You're pretty spot on about the costumes. I went to SDCC this year and there were almost NO costumes worn until Saturday. I saw maybe 5-10 cosplayers on Thursday, a handful more Friday. Even then, the amount of people wearing them is no where near smaller cons and if you're used to anime cons like me, it's really surreal seeing almost everyone... dressed normal o_O

That being said, if I ever go again I'm not bothering to take costumes with me. Mine were simple and easy to wear but in the crush of people along with little interest in the non-sexy costumes, it wasn't worth the effort in my opinion.
11th-Aug-2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
Comic-Con is Dragon*Con's douchey brother. He has a gelled up hair, and no one really likes him.
11th-Aug-2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Alright now. I was looking for concrete differences, not name calling.
11th-Aug-2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
They're both just as much fun in different ways.

SDCC is much more expensive in terms of hotel and ticket. It isn't a party or costuming con. If you're into pop culture and want to see what's new in media or comic books, it's the place to go. I got into a screening of Scott Pilgrim attended by the cast and director, ate tacos made by Robert Rodriguez and the cast of 'Machete' out of a truck, and took home a Fables sketch made by Bill Willingham among many many other things.

It's a different experience, there's not a whole lot of overlap and I love both cons.

Also, I was two aisles away from the infamous stabbing. Something like that will happen at D*C eventually, it's just a matter of time. Nerd rage knows no bounds.
11th-Aug-2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
DragonCon is about hanging out with other fans, partying, drinking, speaking up in discussion panels, dressing up and being admired/admiring other fans' costumes, rocking out to good music, staying up late, feeling part of a community. It's active and participatory. Transformational fans are more likely find a place for themselves here.

ComicCon is about waiting in lines and obtaining swag and cheering for celebrities and being a good little consumer. It's more passive and less participatory. Affirmational fans will be happiest here. (I enjoyed the year I went, but I wouldn't go again--it's much easier to watch the highlights on YouTube without having to put up with the endless lines.)

(These are generalizations and there's some overlap, but the basics true and are the reason I go to D*C and not CC.)
11th-Aug-2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
I've done SDCC as both a fan and a dealer. Frankly, the only advantage SDCC has given me over D*C is receiving my badge in the mail pre-con.
22nd-Jul-2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
Late to the party, as I mentioned to Luna down below. But yeah - I always wondered why D*Con never tried to mail actual badges out, instead of those silly postcards. Are they afraid of people copying the badges?
11th-Aug-2010 06:32 pm (UTC) - Another Prospective
I've never been to SDCC so I can't give my opinion on how it differs. What I can tell is what my D*C guests have told me.

While guests of my Space Track aren't the usual big names that SDCC is known for, some of them do attend to participate in specific events that they are connected with. In that sense they go and enjoy it and are happy to do so.

D*C to them, is something completely different. To a great extent guests come to Dragon*Con to have fun! It's a party for them as well. The bigger names that come to D*C aren't hobnobbing at room parties or hanging out in the general group areas but it's still a less constrained atmosphere for them. For many of the other D*C guests, they're out partying with the rest of the Con!

Simplistically, SDCC is the place to see and be seen. Dragon*Con is the place to go and fun. : - )
11th-Aug-2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
Having done SDCC this year and DC twice before that:-

SDCC : more people; the biggest, most humongous dealers room you'll ever have seen; HUGE queues for hours for popular panels [because the room isn't cleared between panels]; LOADS of free swag, exclusive promos of new movies, etc; big stars on stage at a distance [unless you're very lucky]; modest chance of autographs; the ocean! Panels/promos etc mostly run by the industry.

DC : Cosplay everywhere; good evening parties on site or nearby; major autograph opportunities; themed tracks; good chance of decent conversations with other fans and some of the stars; DC tv. Run mostly by fans for fans.
11th-Aug-2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
I think the differences can be summed up in the attitude of the people there.

SDCC is trying to sell you something.
D*C is sharing a secret with you.

But ultimately, even though SDCC has three or four times as many attendees, D*C gives them a run for their money, sometimes meeting or beating them in the blood drive almost every year. What does that tell you about D*C fans?
11th-Aug-2010 11:45 pm (UTC) - D*C is sharing a secret with you.
This was awesome!
12th-Aug-2010 01:46 am (UTC)
Every year, I explain the difference between the two cons in same way: SDCC brings the glitz, but D*C brings the party.
7th-Sep-2010 03:57 am (UTC)
I've never been to ComicCon but have been to D*con 4 times so I can give you points on what I think makes D*con special.

The biggest thing is that it's held in hotels - the best hotels of Atlanta. There's the Hilton, Sheraton, Marriot Marquis, Grand Hyatt, and Westin - all in downtown ATL. These aren't some dingy hotels in a suburb somewhere. These are really grand, huge hotels with lots of glitz. What makes it so convenient is that all the hotels are walking distance of one another so you can hop from place to place. Each hotel gives you a lobby or areas where attendees and costumers hang out, take photos, and just enjoy the time. It's not just limited to one place. Hyatt and Marriott are the biggest gathering places. You can see costumers all day long, but especially late night after costume contests and the Masquerade contest on Sun, there are tons of costumers hanging out at the hotels. There's no curfew, you just stay out as long as you want. There are walkways that connect the hotels so you don't even have to step out in the streets. Hilton connects to Marriott connects to Hyatt.

If you get a room at one of these hotels, it's easy to go back and change/shower/rest. This is very convenient especially if you're a costumer. You have somewhere to go back to. As for eateries in downtown ATL - well, unlike downtowns of other major cities, ATL downtown dies down after dark and eating and social options are scarce. If looking for good eating and partying, you should either take MARTA (train) or a cab north to Midtown which is the real hot spot of ATL. However, it's worth attending late night concerts and DJ parties at D*con and you'll be partying it up with all the other attendees that are there for the same reason you are. A techno-goth group like Cruxshadows puts on a pretty fun show every year, and is that wasn't enough, there's a DJ party really late night (as in, it begins at like 2:30am) that goes on to the morning. Really makes D*con special IMO.
22nd-Jul-2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
Luna! :-) It's Archer from CXS fairies.

And I know I'm seriously late to this party, but I have a few added points to this - for anyone stumbling over this question like I did. I have never been to Comic Con, but I have many friends who have - and have regaled me with their experiences. So I'll attempt a comparison.

First - the numbers between Comic Con and D*Con are not nearly as drastic as people make them out. 90,000 between the two? That's a bit of a stretch - I'd put it more like 40-50,000 at most between the two. The main reason for this is that, according to anonymous sources inside D*Con, they don't exactly give the correct numbers (or didn't for a long while) due to fire hazard issues. Too many, and the con gets shut down because as others have pointed out - it's a cramped space and fire marshalls can be anal-retentive. I talked with someone 'in the know' a while back, and according to this person D*Con's numbers in 2008 were around 70,000 (it was the year I had issues at the concert, though not sure if that's at all memorable - it was the reason I was in a position to be told this info - which may be wrong, but I trust the source). And it's MUCH bigger now than it was then. Then there were 3 main hotels and the overflows, now they've added a 4th main hotel (the Sheraton) which seems to pick up more fun stuff each year (and is only a pain in the butt because there's no easy way to get to it from the other three host hotels).

Comic Con, from what I've heard, doesn't have the all-night stuff (though I could be wrong) that you'll find at D*Con, too. Their programming ends around 10-11pm, where as D*Con's stuff goes quite literally into the wee hours of the morning, as any CXS Fairy can attest to. This is likely partly due to the transportation issues caused by how wide-spread SDCC is over the city.

Honestly, while SDCC does have slightly higher numbers, the populations of both cons are going to feel the same to any con-goer.

Comic Con has more industry-oriented stuff, D*Con is more fan-based, as others have pointed out. This draws a lot of playful animosity between loyal con-goers. Many vendors and celebs that attend SDCC barely even know D*Con exists... but that IS changing.

We've got Nemoy and Shatner again this year, along with some pretty heavy-hitting stars - it's becoming a much bigger draw than it ever was before.

And of course D*Con has CXS (my main reason for being incredibly loyal to D*Con!) - but I don't have to remind you about that.
22nd-Jul-2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
I think it's been pretty well said that DC is fan run. There is one important thing that has been left out of all these responses.

The Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant

SDCC doesn't have that going for it LOL
10th-Sep-2011 05:25 am (UTC) - West Coast Perspective
I stumbled across this thread after having this exact conversation with a friend. I've attended SDCC for five years - two of those years for work - and D*C for two, with the second one being last week.

The biggest difference I've noticed between the two has been what everyone else has noted. SDCC is industry focused and D*C still feels very much like a fan covention. That said they are two really different animals.

Having worked as a journalist covering the event and as a exhibitor contractor SDCC is a wonderful, if chaotic, blend of various interests. I've noticed over the years SDCC has willingly let itself be used as a springboard for TV networks/shows and FIlm studios in order to provide con goers first access to screenings and QA panels with stars, writers and directors. But it's not just studios. Toy companies and other merchanising agencies have used SDCC to test new toy/merchandise concepts. Animation studios use it gauge reaction to ongoing or upcoming series a la Thundercats.

Whether this is good or bad is purely subjective and frankly a personal preference.
I have friends who are exhibtors, artists, writers, and toy makers that attend SDCC who go because it provides a crucial nexus to meet other artists and fans. SDCC's artist tables are vastly more expansive than the ones in D*C.

Dragon*Con in contrast is a "Fan" convention in every sense of the word. From the various panel tracts, wonderful costuming and after night events. D*C has a much less hurried vibe and things feel smaller. These are virtues not to be overlooked. I don't feel like to run around to watch, see or experience everything. On the flip side if I wanted to help jump start a career in popular media I'd pick SDCC every time.

Here's a breakdown of things of things I've noticed between SDCC and D*C:

Demographic: Dragon*Con seems to skews with an older demographic. D*C goers seem on avg mid 30's while SDCC avgs late 20s. I also more groups of teens and early twenty somethings at SDCC than D*C.

Size: If the "official" numbers are to be believed SDCC is about 3 times the size of D*C. Truth is both cons under report for the same reasons. Have too many people in space meant for half that means Fire Marshal comes in and closes the fun for everyone. A few people I know who volunteer for SDCC and WonderCon say that actual numbers are much higher than the ticket sales suggest with SDCC almost hitting 140,000 one year.

Cost: This is dependent on where the con goer lives. Living in California and flying to Atlanta is much more expensive proposition for me than driving or flying to San Diego. But the reverse is just as true. Hotels are almost even but SDCC hoteling tends to screw more people over than D*C so I think value wise D*C wins out.

Cities: To be frank San Diego beats Atlanta hands down. The city has much better dining options and offers more non-con entertainment options for those who are visting.

Final Words: If you've never been to SDCC i recommend attending at least once. If you've never been to Dragon*Con I recommend attending at least once. They're both wonderful and unique experiences and need to be seen to be believed.
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