SDCC09: San Diego, Why Don’t You Come To Your Senses?

What defines a superhero? Powers? Costumes? Code names? Those may be the elements that make a character ’super’. The ‘hero’ part comes from one place; a willingness to fight for what’s right even when it’s not convenient.

The other thing about superheroes is that they’re fictional. The people who read them, and the people who write and draw and publish them, are under no obligation to follow their principals. We normal, ordinary folk can relish these tales of brave men and women standing up against wicked deeds, but when the time comes for us to stand up for an idea, well, that’s where the line is between fiction and reality.


Which brings us to San Diego Comic-Con 2009, and the Manchester Grand Hyatt. SDCC is the biggest event in the comic book year, bringing together thousands of fans in one huge sweaty hall. It’s one of the biggest conventions to hit San Diego every year, and the hotels in the area are always booked out.

One of the official hotels is the Manchester Grand Hyatt, owned by Doug Manchester. In 2008, Doug Manchester donated $125,000 to the successful effort to strip Californians of their right to same-sex marriage with Proposition 8. For the past 12 months there has been an organised boycott of Manchester’s three hotels - the Grand Hyatt and the Grand del Mar in San Diego, and the Whitetail in McCall, Idaho. The boycott does not apply to other Hyatt-operated hotels.

Labour leaders and gay rights groups have backed the boycott.

The comic industry does not.

On the one year anniversary of the boycott last week, organisers claimed they had cost the chain $7 million in business.

But not comic book business.


Comic book publishers, writers, editors and artists are all staying at the Manchester Grand Hyatt this week. I won’t name names, because I know many people had forgotten about the boycott even though this is the second year that it has hit the Comic-Con, and the organisers of the boycott did not do a good job of getting word out to the industry. I also feel that naming names would make people defensive, and I would rather they were contrite.

The problem - and it’s an appreciable one - is that the San Diego Comic-Con is huge, and the Manchester Grand Hyatt is only two blocks from the convention centre, and it is traditionally the social and business hub of the whole event. Most of these people work on superheroes, but they are not heroes. They will not do the right thing if it’s inconvenient to their business, or worse, to their buzz.

Last year some attendees argued that the boycott would punish the wrong people - the hotel staff. That’s an odd argument. People aren’t going to sleep in the streets or drink water all weekend if they are not at the Hyatt. Some waiter somewhere will get your tip, and he won’t be less deserving than the waiter at the Hyatt. When you choose to eat in one restaurant, your heart cannot bleed for all the waiters in all the other restaurants you walked past.


The other argument against a boycott is that people can spend their dollars, but mark them with a word or phrase or symbol that shows that this money comes from a queer-friendly source. Even assuming that people buying beers that they intend to expense later will be paying in cash, how will those markers ever make it to the account sheets? Even if every pro-gay person who stays or drinks at the Hyatt during this convention goes to the front desk and registers their objection to Doug Manchester’s position, will they be heard? It’s better than doing nothing, but only barely. It’s a fig-leaf for the conscience rather than a response.

The boycott is not unique to SDCC, and it has had an impact, because Doug Manchester is reeling. Two months ago, ahead of the convention season, Manchester tried to make amends - in the most wretched way possible. Having donated $125,000 to oppose gay marriage, he pledged to donate a fifth as much, just $25,000, in support of… civil unions. That’s not a reversal of his anti-gay discrimination. That’s the same position from a new direction.

Manchester also promised $100,000 in credit to local gay and lesbian groups - a bribe that gay groups have said they will reject as ‘blood money’, should it ever materialise (it hasn’t yet). All of this comes after the fact, after Proposition 8 passed in California and millions of gays and lesbians were stripped of their rights. Far too little, far too late.

Doug Manchester wants the gay dollar, but he still does not support gay equality. The boycott continues. It should continue, either until Manchester recants his position and makes a donation greater than $125,000 to a marriage equality group, or until Proposition 8 is repealed or overturned.

But the comic industry is not part of the boycott. Every dollar spent by the comic industry at the Manchester Grand Hyatt is a dollar spent in support of hate.


Fortunately these comic book people all work in the media, and that puts them in a great position to fight that hate. One of the easiest ways to combat prejudice is to increase the visibility of diversity. The major comics publishers have skirted by with a minimum commitment to diversity, usually doing less than the least they could do, and sometimes just edging across that line as non-committally as possible. Even smaller publishers tend to shy away from gay content, feeling that it’s a different audience and a different market, rather than part of their audience and part of their market.

It is unfortunate that money spent by that audience is being used to line the pockets of a gay rights opponent. One might charitably assume that most of the pros who make this mistake are doing so in ignorance. Hopefully they will not remain in ignorance, and having recognised their error, will be happy to redress the balance through their work. After all, as of this week they cannot claim neutrality. They can either stand by their support of Doug Manchester and Proposition 8, or they can stand against it.

Most people don’t have what it takes to be a hero, and stand up when it’s difficult to do so - not when there are beers on the table and the company is buying. But these people don’t have to be villains.

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15 Responses to “SDCC09: San Diego, Why Don’t You Come To Your Senses?”

  1. burge Says:

    You can be bloody magnificent at times, sir.

  2. Jaavik Says:

    I will be posting links to this article from everywhere i can. Excellent read!

  3. Kelly Commerford Says:

    You are correct, Post-Game Show, that at one time Doug Manchester did support Proposition 8 financially, at the direction of his church, nearly two years ago. Now, thanks to two years of conversation, the boycott, the work of LGBT leaders and activists, his willingness to listen and the humility to admit to a wrong, Mr. Manchester believes that every American is deserving of the opportunity to receive all of the benefits from civil marriage, gay or straight.

    Mr. Manchester has apologized for his previous personal donation, has re-affirmed his commitment to the gay and lesbian community, and has vowed to never again financially support any initiative that limits the rights of others. It was with great pride that we recently announced property owner Doug Manchester’s pledge of $125,000 to gay and lesbian organizations and initiatives; a $25,000 personal donation as well as $100,000 of in-kind donations by the Manchester Grand Hyatt. The process for which LGBT organizations can apply to be beneficiaries of these funds, goods and services will be made available at http://www.MGHSDtruth.comin a few short weeks.

    I understand firsthand that Doug Manchester has built an inclusive, diverse work force and we are truly proud to be a part of it. We would also ask that you consider Hyatt’s track record with the LGBT community, both with those that are members of our Hyatt family and our extended family in community. We offer our employees Domestic Partner Benefits and have a strong history of enforcing non-discrimination at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. We have maintained a 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign for nine years, and have been honored with distinctions by other LGBT organizations and media, including The Advocate as one of the “Top-Ten Gay Friendly Employers in America”.

    We are very excited for Comic Con and the all the wonderful comings-and-goings in San Diego surrounding the annual event. At the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, our doors are open to all and we look forward to seeing many of the convention attendees at our hotel this weekend.

    In this case, we believe that forgiveness and the celebration of a new ally in Mr. Manchester is the better part of valor.

    Warm regards,

    Kelly Commerford, CHME
    Director of Marketing
    Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego

  4. Remember: Fuck ‘The Hyatt’ at Comics212 Says:

    [...] Or, as my good friend Andrew Wheeler recently summed up it up at his blog: “Most people don’t have what it takes to be a hero, and stand up when it’s difficult to do so – not when there are beers on the table and the company is buying. But these people don’t have to be villains.” - Andrew Wheeler, The Post Game Show [...]

  5. Andrew Says:

    Thank you for your comment, Kelly, but as outlined above, Doug Manchester’s gestures of regret are insufficient - he’s supporting civil unions, not marriage, and doing so by a much-reduced amount, with a further donation of ‘credit’ to make up the difference. His donation towards Proposition 8 was not made in credit, was it?

    The boycott against Mr Manchester’s properties has not been lifted by the organisers, because despite paying lip service to his penitence, he has yet to make amends. I would be very happy to forgive and celebrate his valour if he’s happy to donate $125,001 in actual funds to a pro-gay marriage cause, but if he does not make amends, he should not expect forgiveness - even if you, as his employee, are keen to celebrate him.

    The Hyatt as a hotel operator does indeed have an admirable record with LGBT issues, and I applaud them for that. It is a shame that they find themselves in business with Mr Manchester.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  6. Renee Says:

    Mr. Manchester believes that every American is deserving of the opportunity to receive all of the benefits from civil marriage, gay or straight.

    That kind of invalidates your first point… sounds like he’s in favor of gay marriage.

  7. Andrew Says:

    No, Renee, it’s sadly all too consistent with my point, but I fully understand the instinct to want to bury the complexities of the issue and turn a blind eye. It’s difficult and inconvenient to have to give full consideration to these things.

    Mr Manchester has publicly recanted his position opposing gay marriage, but the boycott is not about public statements, it’s about actions. His donation to the Prop 8 cause helped take away people’s rights in California. By recanting his position, he is not taking action to undo the damage done to gay rights; he is only taking action to undo the damage done to his business.

    Supporting civil unions (which is not gay marriage) and giving people hotel credit (so that they spend money at his hotel) does not balance the books on this.

    If Mr Manchester truly believes that every American is deserving of the opportunity to receive all of the benefits from civil marriage, gay or straight, then let him show it through actions, not words. Let’s see an equal or greater donation in support of gay marriage, from the same wallet that donated $125,000 to strip those rights away.

  8. alternative press festival 2009 | ventedspleen blog Says:

    [...] made during the five day event. Among the news: Supergirl is wearing bike shorts under her skirt. The comic industry is failing to boycott the homophobic Hyatt hotel. Marvel have acquired the rights to the most famous unread comic - Miracleman. The Eisner winners [...]

  9. Renee Says:

    I get it… in your mind, unless you act fully in the manner that you deem acceptable then your behavior is unacceptable. You had a man who has made considerable progress towards coming into the 20th century, but because he’s not there yet it’s unacceptable. In this recession, after being subject to a boycott, he may not have the complete funds to make the donation that you want.

    My grandfather marched with Martin Luther King. He would have valued the changed heart over the 100,001.

  10. The Post-Game Show Says:

    [...] update on the Manchester Grand Hyatt boycott, which I wrote about earlier in the week. I don’t know if the comic industry has taken notice, but the folks at [...]

  11. Andrew Says:

    A professed change of heart is nothing if you don’t back it up, Renee, and Martin Luther King was an advocate of peaceful direct action, which is what a boycott is.

    Mr Manchester supported the removal of people’s rights. Now that those rights have been taken away, it’s very easy for him to say he’s changed his mind, but if he believes that what he did was ‘wrong’, he should make amends for it, otherwise it just looks like expediency.

    (Also; it’s the 21st century now, and “unless you act fully in the manner that you deem acceptable then your behavior is unacceptable” is a truism for absolutely everyone everywhere.)

  12. Alex de Campi Says:

    Andrew is far from alone in his opinion. Mr Manchester’s actions show him more concerned about the damage done to his business, than the damage he has done to others’ rights. He can’t pout like an embarrassed five year old and keep repeating the magic “I’m sorry”; this isn’t kindergarten any more. If Mr Manchester were truly sorry for his decision, he would contribute an equal amount to support gay marriage.

  13. Samson Says:

    If this guy had a shred of decency, he would employ his vast resources to put forward a campaign to reverse Proposition 8. That’s all that would be needed to justify his apology. Instead he hands out candy bars and pats the people he offended on the head saying, “It’s okay, there’s always another way.” He is perfectly happy saying gays don’t belong in the marriage club, which he backs up with his small words.
    Frankly I’m rather tickled this article drew a response from Manchester, if it was just publicity blown out the nose. People are entitled to their opinion, but forcing that opinion onto others does not share good feelings. That is all Proposition 8 is, and should never ever have been conceived.

  14. Lindsay D Says:

    I was reading someone else’s coverage of the Con and they had typo-ed Hyatt as ‘Haytt’. Freudian slip? Or sotto voce support for your stance?

  15. The Post-Game Show Says:

    [...] at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego on the same day, because Al Gore is appearing there. As long-time readers will know, the hotel has been the subject of ongoing protests and boycotts by gay rights activists because [...]

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