Silicon Valley Comic Con Ups its Game

by Transmute Jun

Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC) was held this past weekend, from April 21-23, 2017. Although this was only the second year for this event, SVCC proved itself to be a major contender in the pop culture convention scene. Headliners included the stars of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Grant Gustin and Tom Felton of The Flash, Buzz Aldrin, cast members of Sesame Street, John Cusak, and Steven Yeun, along with SVCC founder Steve Wozniak. In addition to celebrity panels, there were many science and technology offerings, including an entire programming slate hosted by NASA.

In 2016, SVCC had one signature panel: the Back to the Future reunion, with Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson. This year, SVCC had four signature panels: the Star Trek: The Next Generation reunion (hosted by William Shatner), the Sesame Street panel (featuring most of the live actors from the program, as well as voice actor Carroll Spinney), the Flash panel (which featured Grant Gustin), and the Buzz Aldrin Mars Exploration panel. All of these panels were hosted in the City National Civic theatre across the street from the Convention Center. City National Civic offered comfortable seating and clear views, along with a healthy capacity, so that everyone could attend these events, all of which were very well received.

The exhibit floor, while hosting the usual assortment of booths selling convention staples such as Funko Pops, mystery boxes and t-shirts, also boasted a bigger Artists’ Alley, a large space dedicated to NASA and SETI, as well as a small handful of tech exhibitors. Even Warner Brothers made an appearance, allowing attendees to spin a prize wheel for free posters and t-shirts. The exhibit floor layout was altered this year for better flow and less crowding.

Gaming was back in a big way, with a large, open lobby filled with 70s pinball machines, 80s arcade games and 90s console gaming systems, all of which had free unlimited play for attendees. A live band played video game music for those in the area to enjoy. Nearby, Screenused had a large conference room (a significantly bigger space than last year) where they displayed many movie props and costumes, and hosted a live auction on Sunday afternoon. Notable items included one of Christopher Reeve’s Superman costumes, stacks of ‘cash’ from Breaking Bad, and a Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars: A New Hope. Elsewhere on the lower level was a large children’s area with foam construction blocks, craft/coloring areas, and educational booths sponsored by NASA. My favorite part was a display of ‘technology your parents grew up with’ where kids were encouraged to touch and play with rotary dial phones, typewriters, a betamax machine, Apple II computers, Kodak Disc cameras, and other 80s technology.

But the biggest changes for SVCC’s second year were in the significant expansion of the con. In addition to the aforementioned use of the City National Civic theatre, SVCC made use of the adjacent Plaza de Cesar Chavez park, which was open to the general public, giving a kind of ‘campus feel’ to the entire event. This allowed locals who might be unfamiliar to see what a comic con was all about. Technology demos of VR and games by Facebook and PlayStation were mixed with beer tents, food trucks, live music and free cotton candy and water. The area generated so much interest that it was opened early on Friday night as people congregated in the area watching the setup, rather than its planned Saturday morning debut.

Bill Watters, Programming Director, holds the first official SVCC Talkback panel

At the Talkback panel concluding the con, all of the participants agreed that SVCC has made significant strides in just one year, with 2017 being a huge improvement over 2016, which was already a good con. The few complaints (such as no name placards for panelists, inconsistent seating signage and issues with the con app) were relatively minor and things that Programming Director Bill Watters promised would certainly be fixed next year. Given SVCC’s drive to offer a fantastic attendee experience, as well as the improvements witnessed this year, I have no doubt that this will be the case for SVCC’s third annual event.

SVCC returns to San Jose in 2018, on April 6-8. I am already looking forward to it!

Did you attend SVCC? Join the conversation at FoCC!

 

Transmute Jun

Transmute Jun has an addiction to pop culture conventions, and attends as many as she can each year. When she’s not traveling, she likes to stay at home reading a good book, playing a video game, or binge-watching a TV show. She can be bribed with pizza, Coke Zero and Belgian milk chocolate.