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Comic-Con '08: The Question of the ‘Con

San Diego- The question of the ‘Con. That’s what John Rood, Senior VP of marketing for ABC Family called the running debate over whether Comic-Con has outgrown San Diego. With the costumed masses teeming through downtown Gaslamp District, people lining up by the hundreds for panel after panel and a simple walk across the convention floor sometimes taking a half hour, it is no wonder more and more conventioneers are wondering if Comic-Con has already maxed its capacity.

“I personally am not concerned,” Rood said by phone on Sunday. (He had made the trek back to L.A. the day before). “There is still such earnest fanaticism. Logistically, yeah, it gets a little hot on the floor, but I have only good things to say for the planning committee.”

Rood noted that Comic-Con planners ”have done a great, great job” when it comes to how they carefully monitor what breakout hits need to have their panels move to bigger spaces, and try to predict what is going to pop once people start showing up in San Diego.

As for chatter that once the current contract ends, Comic-Con might consider a move to a bigger convention venue like a certain gambling mecca in the desert, Rood warned, “a lot of magic would be lost if we went to Vegas.” And one place Rood never wants to see Comic-Con is the Los Angeles Convention Center. “I am not for it going to L.A.,” he explained. “There is too much Hollywood attitude now.”

And while Rood knows he is one of big monsters on the convention floor, he feels the kind of return he gets from the event is because there is such a diversity of product all around him.

“The booth of the independent illustrator is as important to Comic-con as the big ABC Family booth, Sony booth or Warner booth,” he said.

Rood points out this was a banner summer, considering huge super hero films from DC Comics (Dark Knight) and Marvel Comics (Iron Man), plus a bumper crop of high-profile TV shows for the fall. “I don’t think we’ll ever have a summer as big as this one,” he said. “Maybe it ebbs and flows.”

For this year’s Comic-Con, Rood hit all his marks with an established convention performer in “Kyle XY,” the promotion of a recent ABC Family debut in “Middleman,” and the buildup to the yet-to-premiere “Samurai Girl.”

I asked Rood if Comic-Con was now more important the twice-yearly Television Critics Association Sessions, which put cable nets like ABC Family in front of both trade and popular press.

“They are equally valuable,” Rood answered, noting that for his company Comic-Con is “the blogger’s TCA of sorts.” 

For the millennials and tweens ABC Family is trying to reach, the attendance of fan bloggers to Comic-Con is incredibly important, since ABC Family boasts web traffic of two million unique users a month. While some of ABC Family’s competitors like USA, TNT and FX may be ahead in the linear ratings, Rood touts ABC Family’s advantage in terms of online hits. A positive response from the online community out of Comic-Con has become vitally important to ABC Family, Rood said.

“When I’m up there on a panel spreading the good word, I am not blowing smoke,” Rood said. “We need every attendee of comic more than ever before.”