Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Comic Con Adventures: Wednesday

You can tell right away if people are familiar with Comic Con. When I would say, “I’m going to Comic Con in San Diego,” I would typically get one of two responses. I’d either get, “OMG that is so awesome,” or I would be met with a quizzical stare and a “Comic…Con? What is that?”

I’m happy to say that these days the first response is the more prevalent. After all, pretty much every major news outlet reports on Comic Con and sends a correspondent or two to provide complete coverage; even my Mom called me after seeing a big story about it on the evening news and in The Washington Post. And if my mother has heard of something, it is officially in the mainstream.

But it was hard to prepare or know what to expect since nobody I personally know has ever attended the Con. I spent hours perusing first timer’s guide to the Con, and made sure I had a handle on all the basics. Wear comfortable shoes, make sure you shower and use deodorant (kind of depressing that people needed to be TOLD that one), plan ahead, bring snacks, etc. etc. But it’s hard to actually prepare for an experience, you know?

(Sidenote: I’m writing up the television-centric panels I attended over on the tv blog but here I am going to chronicle all the stories of my various wanderings, as well as give a general idea of what being at the Con was like. Both blogs are going to go chronologically, so there should be plenty to read!)

On Wednesday, when my friends and I arrived in San Diego, we weren’t totally sure what to expect. The flights at least went over without a hitch; Rachel was my travelling buddy as we had booked our flights together, and despite a short stop in Salt Lake, we arrived in San Diego around noon. While walking around the airport it was fun to pick out the people who were there for the Con; anyone wearing any kind of pop culture t-shirt, goth outfit, or gave off an aura of geekiness was instantly identified and categorized. It felt like we had to wait forever for our suitcases, but we met up with our friend Carly who had been so kind as to chat up some cute guys who were also attending the Con (and planned on dressing as Wolverine and Deadpool, so, score!).

Thankfully, our hotel had a free shuttle from the airport (score one for the frugal-minded!) and we got all the scoop from the driver about what was around San Diego. Our hotel was about 10 blocks from the Convention Center, so totally walkable, but Comic Con also provided a free shuttle that stopped right in front of the hotel, and there was a public transport trolley station right around the corner, so we had lots of options. Our first concern was, of course, food.

As I mentioned above, I had read that bringing your own snacks and food was a must. So we struck out for a grocery store located about 5 blocks from the hotel and got a feel for the city. And let me just say this: I love San Diego. I have been to LA before and hated it; too hot, too brown, too meh. But San Diego has gorgeous weather (even in July), plenty of greenery, and even though we stayed right downtown it was totally safe to walk around, even late at night. It has a ton of excellent restaurants and lots to do, even if you don’t spend all day in the Convention Center.

Signs for Comic Con along Broadway in San Diego

Anyway, we hit the grocery store, picking up items for sandwiches and lunches and snagged a cooler to keep in the room. We also had some great Chinese food (mmmm….chinese food) and then struck back out for the hotel. By this time, it was getting on in the afternoon, and Rachel and I decided to head over to the Convention Center to pick up our name-tags and registration and check out Preview Night. Carly, who had not been able to register for a four-day pass spent the rest of the afternoon/evening at the zoo.

San Diego Convention Center

Ok, so after spending 45 minutes in grid-lock traffic on the shuttle bus (taking it ended up being a huge mistake), Rachel and I finally arrived at the Convention Center. Immediately we spotted the huge (and I mean huge) line for registering. Yikes. BUT. I will say this. The line moved quickly, we only ended up waiting maybe 20 minutes, and overall the experience was much easier than I was expecting. All the volunteers seemed to know where people needed to go, and they did the best they could to keep the lines organized and moving. So my first experience with the infamous Comic Con lines was not overwhelming or too annoying.

The view from the escalator in the Convention Center.

After securing our registration, name-tags, and Comic Con info book, Rachel and I struck out to explore the Convention Center. I figured we would be best prepared for the coming days if we knew exactly where everything was located. That way, when I realized I had to book it to Room 6BCF from Ballroom 20 on Thursday, I would know where I was going.

The first thing we saw after exiting the Pavilion (where registration took place) was a huge, monster line. And when I saw monster, I mean it. The line stretched almost the entire length of the convention center which is about 3 city blocks. We had no idea what it was for. Were people trying to get into Ballroom 20 to see the pilot screenings that evening? Was it something to do with the masquerade? Turns out neither were right. It was people waiting to get into the Exhibit Hall to score the best freebies and get a head start on their comics and merch shopping. Since we wanted no part of that, we skipped merrily past the line and right into Ballroom 20 where some pilot episodes of fall television shows were screening.

After sitting around for a while and flipping through the info book, we decided to check on the line for the Exhibit Hall, which had been due to open at 6:00. We stuck our heads into the hall…and the line was gone. Everyone had already moved into the Exhibit Hall so we followed suit.

Let me just say this: sensory overload. You can’t imagine how many people and just…things are crammed into the Exhibit Hall. Every size movie studio (from tiny independents to huge names like Warner Brothers) has a large stall, as do almost every comic manufacturer. There are stalls for video games, artists, manufacturers, it’s like a Portobello Road of geekdom. Since comics and other nerdy merchandise aren’t really my thing, I wasn’t too enamored, but I think for most people at Comic Con the Exhibit Hall is the real highlight. For me, it will mostly be remembered as a giant clusterfuck of people clambering to get limited edition bags from the various movie studios and as the place of my first Comic Con humiliation: asking the lady from Dark Horse Comics where the Angel comics are. Yeah, that’s a different company. So = embarrassing. In my defense, Dark Horse produces the Buffy and Firefly comics, so it was an honest mistake, right?

In the Exhibit Hall

After about an hour of wandering around the Exhibit Hall, Rachel and I headed back up to Ballroom 20 and saw the pilot screenings for V and The Vampire Diaries. You can find my thoughts on those here, at the tv blog. For the most part, it was enjoyable, and kind of exciting to see something before everyone else! I felt almost like a real television reporter, sitting there with my journal, taking notes on the tv shows. All I needed was a fedora with a press tag sticking out of it to complete my look.

Ballroom 20, the second largest room at the Con.

By the time the screenings were over, it was getting late, and we were jet-lagged and tired, so we headed back to the hotel. There was a lot of excitement and planning for the day to come among us girls and we ran around like crazy people packing our backpacks for our first full day of Comic Con panels!

Next up: Sigourney Weaver is a goddess, why it pays to pre-register, and who knew sitting on your ass all day could make you so tired?


Monkey Sri said...

Nice summary. I was there for the rest of it, but I'm still looking forward to more! FYI, though, the link to the TV blog is broken.

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