Well. This was surprising. A fight at a panel at the San Diego Comic Con ends in one man stabbing the other in the eye with a pen. Looking at the pictures of the assailant being led away in handcuffs made me sad; no one expects their day at a convention to end in a jail cell. Of course, no one expects their day to end with a pen in the eye, either, so I suppose my sympathy should be tempered.
Not to excuse either party in this situation, as violence is obviously not called for, but the convention organizers share a large part of the responsibility here. The hullabaloo about Comic Con panels has clearly gotten out of hand, and little has been done to adjust. At my one and only San Diego Comic Con, I ended up avoiding the panels almost entirely because Hall H, where the panels are held, was chaos. Lines for the big panels are so long, with people waiting in line all day for afternoon panels, that it seemed pointless. I don't really understand this need to attend a panel, to the point that you'd pay whatever the cost of tickets, transportation, and accommodations only to spend a day at the con sitting in a hallway.
One thing San Diego doesn't do that most other major cons do is clear the convention halls after each panel. This has lead to people sitting all day in convention halls, "attending" panels for which they have no interest, waiting for their panel later that afternoon. And that, apparently, was the cause of the dispute this year, and it's surprising, really, that there hasn't been more instances of violence.
This is a monster of the Con's creation. They've spent so much time building San Diego as the event of the year for all things nerd, and the panels as the must-attend for "true" fans of your given property, that people have become desperate to be in the room. And it gets worse every year, even though every panel is extensively covered from several sites, and video of most panels eventually makes it online. Is the need to ask Joe Quesada a question really that great?
The Beat this morning has several suggestions for alleviating the problem. I agree with most of them, but I think the idea of distributing tickets/collectible wrist bands for the panels will just cause more chaos. You'd just be shifting the problem, not solving it, and by creating a new "must-have" collectible, possibly adding on. I think, first off, San Diego has to start clearing out the panel rooms immediately. Also, it's time to start streaming the panels online, and perhaps even take online questions during the panel. Perhaps, if it's clear to all that you'll still be able to participate in the panels even if you're not in the room, some tension will be alleviated.
There's been a lot of talk over the last few years about the con leaving San Diego, with the thought being that the con has outgrown the hall. I wonder if this incident will be the tipping point that expedites the process. That Harry Potter fan may just have stabbed the Comic Con out of San Diego.