17th Jan2018

DC in D.C. 2018: One Fanboy’s Quest To Gain Access To A Mysterious Comics Event

by Will

So if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me using the #DCinDC2018 hashtag a bunch over the past couple of days. I’m sure you wondered what it meant, as it seemingly came out of nowhere, and to do a Twitter search on it wouldn’t yield many results until midday Saturday. If you want to know what it was all about, take a seat, as ol’ Uncle Will is gonna learn ya something. Ya see, it really did come out of nowhere, almost a month ago to the day. Back on December 14th, Warner Bros Television Group & DC Entertainment issued a press release announcing “DC in D.C. on MLK Weekend”, described as “a landmark pop culture event that brings together the worlds of entertainment and public service to illuminate the story of America and current issues through the lens of comics and Super Heroes”. Kind of exciting, but kind of vague, right? It went on to say,

“DC in D.C.” brings together stars and producers from Warner Bros. Television’s DCTV series, as well as comic book writers and artists from DC Entertainment, who will join invited guests from politics, government service, entertainment, business, academia and more. The event will explore the intersection of comic books, culture, entertainment and enlightenment through a series of panel discussions open to the public.”

I still wasn’t getting a ton of information out of that blurb. I mean, was it a convention? Or was it a festival? Would it cost anything? On top of the panels, there would also be appearances by DCTV cast members, as well as some world premiere screenings. OK, I’m listening. The event would take place at the Newseum which, as a native Washingtonian, is one of the few museum’s I’ve never visited. So, without even really knowing what I was getting myself into, I was determined to take advantage of DC Comics planning to show up in my back yard. This is my account of how I achieved that goal.

First of all, let’s talk about that press release. It was released one month before the festivities, so it gives the appearance that this was a hastily thrown together event. I mean, anyone who wanted to attend only had a month to make arrangements and get tickets, and the organizers were NOT making that easy. The dcindc2018.com URL had been acquired, but all it did was redirect you to the press release. The release specifically said to check that site for more information, but nothing was ever updated except to later add links to Eventbrite for the panel tickets (more on that later). It did list the anticipated guests, as well as the panel topics and meeting times, but it failed to truly answer a few poignant questions, like Why is this event happening?

From what I could gather, there were 3 core pieces to the weekend’s festivities: the Batman: Gotham By Gaslight animated feature premiere on Friday night, the slate of discussion panels during the day on Saturday, and the new DCTV series Black Lightning sneak peek/premiere Saturday night. The release really leaned into the fact that this was taking place over MLK weekend, but why did that matter? Well, a new show starring a Black hero, debuting over MLK weekend? It’s a little on the nose, but I get it. I mean, the cynical side of me says that DC wanted to get the jump on Marvel with a Black hero of their own before Black Panther takes the world by storm. I can’t be mad at that.

We were encouraged to follow the various DC accounts on social media, but I can’t recall any major updates from them regarding the event. When tickets were finally made available (I was able to get mine on 12/22), there was no fanfare. I randomly popped on the site at 1 AM, and snagged a ticket to every panel. Yes, this was designed more like a carnival than a convention; at a carnival you have to get a ticket for each ride, but a convention allows you to pay one price for access to pretty much everything. Oh, but did I mention that tickets were free? Yeah, that was a nice little surprise. Anyway, I can’t say that I saw any DC account on social media say “Tickets to DC in D.C. 2018 are now available!” Those accounts did, however, tout the fact that extra tickets had been released for certain panels (the day before the event), but there was nothing posted for that initial release.

The whole event almost became something of a local secret. “Psst! Hey! Did you get your tickets to DC in D.C.?”And half the time that query was met with blank stares. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who knew that it was happening. If you did find someone familiar with it, they were just as in the dark about the details as you were. By New Year’s Day, with tickets acquired, the website still hadn’t been updated. Were all of the announced guests still coming? Would there be a signing schedule for the celebrities? If you were hoping to get that information from the website, you’d be out of luck.

Remember the Black Lightning premiere? Well, that was another point of confusion, as the release mentioned a sneak peek screening of the pilot that would be taking place at the Newseum, but there was also a fancy, schmancy red carpet premiere at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, to be followed by an after party at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The sneak peek tickets were issued via Eventbrite, just like the ones for the panels, but the fancier event was by invitation only. Ugh! This being Washington, I feared those invitations would go to a bunch of local political muckety mucks who didn’t care a thing about comics. Who was getting invited? How could someone get invited? I guess it’s one of those things where if you have to ask then you’re already out of luck, but I don’t give up that easily. It was time to try that “networking” thing folks are always going on about.

One of the publicists from Warner Bros Television and I have followed each other on Twitter for quite a few years now. I can’t remember if we’ve ever interacted, but she used to favorite my tweets every now and then. She was also listed on the press release, so I felt she would be able to answer any questions that I might have. I fired off a message, asking for clarification on the Black Lightning screening situation. Keep in mind, I didn’t ask for anything, nor did I expect to receive anything except a response. I mean, I was pretty sure I was going to be blown off, but I thought I’d get some kind of blanket “Sorry, but all invitations have already gone out” response. Instead, I got nothing. Whatever. I’m not important in the world of public relations. I get that. So, I did a search of the #DCinDC2018 hashtag, and I saw a woman tweeting the Black Lightning publicist, begging for tickets. I was going to take a different approach, so I just messaged the same questions I had asked the other publicist. Again, no response. I mentioned on Twitter that I wonder if I didn’t get a response due to my Twitter avatar (it’s me in a bunch of Marvel garb). Guess I was going to have to figure this out on my own…

Fast forward to last week – With the event merely days away, the WB PR folks hadn’t replied to me, and I didn’t have any more information about the weekend than I’d had a month ago. I checked the hashtags, and there was no real news. Just some minor chatter, and that same woman, begging the publicist for tickets. Then, on Thursday, my friend sent me a link to tickets for comic creator signings. See, there’d been so much emphasis on the TV stars that they had somewhat glossed over the fact that fan favorite comic creators Jim Lee and Geoff Johns were coming to town. I had noticed their names on the release instantly, and one of my goals for the weekend was to get something signed by them (or, at the very least, get a selfie). I figured they would be signing at some point, but DC never released a signing schedule as publishers are wont to do for conventions. So, imagine my surprise to find out that they were using the same system for signings that they used for panels: you had to hop on Eventbrite and pray you got lucky. Current Batman writer, Tom King, was coming to the event, and that was the link that my friend had sent me. Of course by that point all the tickets were listed as “sold out”. It dawned on me: if they’re doing tickets for King, then there are probably tickets for Lee and Johns. So, after some Google Fu, I was able to find those Eventbrite pages and, of course, they were “sold out”. HOW?! There hadn’t even been any publicity around them. At that point, the DC Comics Twitter account hadn’t even announced the signings. I was beginning to feel like the whole thing was just one big mismanaged enterprise and, while I had tickets to the panels, my enthusiasm for the weekend was beginning to wane. I adopted the mantra I would fall back on several times over the weekend: “Yes, it’s a mess, but at least it’s FREE.”

Discouraged that it didn’t seem like a Lee/Johns signing was in my future, I turned my focus to the Batman: Gotham By Gaslight screening Friday night. By this point they had added another Lee signing, which the social accounts were actually promoting, but tickets flew for those, too. So while the event was actually kicked off by Friday night’s screening, they managed to schedule a signing at 3 PM that afternoon. When people have work. I didn’t care – I’d have blown it off had I gotten a ticket. Anyway, I mention that to point out that the event hadn’t truly started by the time I arrived to the Newseum at 5:30 last Friday evening. Once there, I checked out the DC in D.C. Pop-Up Shop located immediately outside the Newseum, which was stocked with souvenirs like Funko Pops of DC characters, as well as the Top 50 Bestselling DC trade paperbacks and graphic novels. Oddly enough, while nobody could be bothered to update the website, they did manage to crank out an announcement about the Pop-Up. They had created some exclusive t-shirts for the event, and I had my sights set on a particular one. Still, before the event had officially begun, they had somehow already run out of ANY t-shirt sizes bigger than a large, and they had run out of bags. Womp womp. The guy manning the register wasn’t even sure if they would be restocking the next day. As a consolation prize, I bought the Black Lightning: Year One collection, as it was pretty much the only book they had that I didn’t already own. Between this and the signings ticket fiasco, I was really not feeling the lack of preparation on display. But remember, Will: “Yes, it’s a mess, but at least it’s FREE.” Things were about to turn around once my friend and I got inside the Newseum.

courtesy of @lofthouse555 on Instagram

After standing in line for a bit, we were greeted by lines of waitstaff holding trays of water, red, and white. I’m not a drinker by any stretch of the imagination, but I jumped at that Chardonnay. It would be the first of many. I’ll hand it to Warner Bros in that they put together a wonderful spread for the pre-screening reception: Open bar, as well as hors d’oeuvres of mini open-faced cheeseburgers and bacon-wrapped cheese, and more. The strategies we were all employing to get that food would make you think we’d never had a meal.

I made it to six Chardonnays. When the movie started, I was more than ready for it. They even gave us popcorn and snacks. I was a BIG fan of DC/WB at that point. It was a great film, so be sure to check it out when it becomes available on digital on January 23rd. I was feeling really good by this point; I was looking forward to the next day’s festivities, and crossing my fingers that they’d receive a shipment of larger shirts.

When I got home Friday night, I checked Twitter, and there was a local woman who was asking if anyone had extra tickets. When it came to the panel schedule, it was as follows:

10:00–10:45 a.m. The Art of the Matter: From Sketch to Screen
11:00–11:45 a.m. The Many Shades of Heroism: DC Heroes Through the African-American Lens
12:00 p.m.–12:45 p.m. Wonder Women
2:00–2:45 p.m. The Pride of DC: The Art of LGBTQ Inclusion
3:00–3:45 p.m. The Aftermath: Battle & Trauma in Comics

While I had gotten tickets to them all, my interest in some of them actually waned as time wore on. I knew I wanted to see the first 2, was waffling on the next 2, but wanted to see Tom King’s, which was the last one. Since she really seemed to want to go, I gave her my ticket to the Wonder Women panel. I didn’t really have much of a plan for Saturday, but I had finally gotten tickets to the Black Lightning sneak peek (not the fancy invite-only one) earlier in the day, thanks to a tip from a stranger on Twitter, so I felt I should pay it forward. So, while I’d had a great time at the screening, some part of me was already checking out of the whole thing.

The next morning, I got to the Newseum for the first panel, only to find two lines wrapped around the building. No one seemed to know the difference in the lines, nor did they want to lose their spot to fight out. It was to start at 10, but we were still lined up in the cold at 9:50. Once inside, it was a far cry from the night before. We had to empty our pockets and go through security checkpoints. They hurriedly put wristbands on us, and said that we would have to exit the auditorium after each panel. Make a note of that point. I’ll cover the panels in detail tomorrow, so don’t worry about them right now. Just know that there were quite a few empty seats in that first panel. So, I guess it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when, following the first panel, they announced “In order to keep the schedule running on time, please feel free to remain in your seats for the next panel.” They would repeat this message following all of the morning panels. They flipped the script. Instead of actually needing a ticket for each panel, you really just needed one to get in the building. Once in, you didn’t have to leave. Oh, and they were also granting us free admission to the rest of the Newseum, which is something they really could’ve told us sooner in order to plan the day accordingly. I began to wonder if the signings, which were taking place in the lobby at the same time, had also given up on enforcing tickets. I wouldn’t find out, though, as I ended up staying for the Wonder Women panel and the signings had ended by the time it let out.

I had run into some friends over the course of the morning, and it was good catching up with them. Once the lunch break occurred, a few of us decided to just go get lunch and decide whether or not we cared about the remaining panels. I checked out the Pop-Up again and they had restocked on bags and shirts, yet were now out of anything bigger than a medium. I never really intended to wear the shirt; I just wanted a souvenir of the occasion, so I grabbed a random size and bought it. While in line, some folks behind me were asking the shop employees how they could get tickets to get inside to the event. There was a father and son trying to get in, so I gave the dad my ticket to the LGBTQ panel, telling him that it seemed like he just needed it to get in, and he’d be set for everything else. This left me with only the Tom King “Battle & Trauma” ticket, but I didn’t feel like having to kill time until it started, and then have to kill time until the Black Lightning screening. So I offered that panel ticket up on Twitter, but nobody took me up on it. After lunch, my friends and I just decided to head home, so I eventually offered the Black Lightning ticket up on Twitter, as well, to no takers. By that point, those not in attendance were split into two camps: “What is this thing that’s going on anyway?” and “I’ve already given up on trying to find out more about this”. My offer was simply too little, too late. Plus, it was cold as Hell, which was probably a deterrent for some. Anyway, my DC in D.C. 2018 experience ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Epilogue

Late Saturday night, I hopped on Twitter after the Black Lightning premiere had finished. I checked the #DCinDC2018 hashtag, and was greeted by a flood of selfies and pics taken at the Smithsonian premiere party. As I scrolled down my timeline, something caught my eye: the stranger who had tipped me off about the Black Lightning tickets being available had managed to get a selfie with Legends of Tomorrow star, Caity Lotz. I thought that was pretty cool, as I kept scrolling. Then something else stopped me dead in my tracks. Remember that woman who had been begging the WB publicist for tickets? Well, there she was on the timeline, all dressed up, AT THE PREMIERE PARTY. Her incessant pestering had worked! The publicist had gotten back to her (this was publicist #2 to ignore me, mind you) and she even hashtagged it #dreamsdocometrue. Well, good for her. I guess I know what to do if there’s a next time. There were a lot of hoops and obstacles during this whole process, but at least it was free…

Anyway, that’s far from my final thoughts on the weekend. Tune in tomorrow for my final installment, where I’ll get into detail about the panels, as well as discuss how they colored my feelings on the event as a whole. I’ll answer some questions you probably have, like “Well, did you enjoy it?” and “What could they have done better?” Teaser: Contrary to what you just read, it was an overall enjoyable weekend, content-wise. I honestly had a good time, in spite of the seeming lack of organization’s best efforts to thwart that. Tomorrow we’ll get into the panel content that made the event so special.

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