In 2012, my first Con, I gave an overview of the event. In the 2013 version, I’m going to provide more detail on my personal tour through the chaos of San Diego Comic Con. It is all about the experience and 2013 didn’t disappoint.
The Wednesday evening before the Con officially begins, I rolled up to the convention center ready to fully immerse myself in everything nerd. The crowds were already at a fever pitch, with screams of joy and a high energy vibe from thousands in line waiting to be the first to set foot on the 2013 San Diego Comic Con convention floor. I took my place, glanced around and saw smiles, laughs, and high-fives from all kinds of people. That is *the* thing about the Con; it matters not who you are or where you are from, if you are attending, you’re already part of the vibe. Striking up a conversation with a total stranger is effortless and within a few moments of asking, “How’s your Con?” or “What are you here for?” you’ll be off and running but more on that later.
Around 6:00pm, the doors opened and the nerd herd spilled onto the convention floor like coffee beans from a split sack. Upon the floor was everything a nerd can imagine. Major movie studios have massive booths presenting Paramount, Warner Brothers, Sony, and Marvel. Television is represented through other huge displays like The Walking Dead. Gaming brands included live play on the XBox One, PS4, WII U, and even Sega. Then the remaining floor is replete with artists alley, heaps of comics, t-shirts, games, artwork, memorabilia, posters, books, stickers, figures, clothing, costumes, and toys from every brand you’ve ever (or never) heard of. With over 600,000 square feet just on the convention floor (and a grand total of 2.6 million square feet in the entire San Diego Convention Center), you’d think there would be plenty of room but that is not the case. Even on preview night (typically smaller crowds), the floor is a cacophony of noise, music, thumping rhythms, and jostling bodies all heading for every point on the compass… and I love it. I’m the guy who heads to the mall on Christmas Eve to the see the chaos; the Con is four days of hectic shenanigans easily surpassing even holiday crowds.
This year I noticed a number of lines which formed quickly and snaked between booths and aisles. I found myself asking, “What is this line for?” and being told on several occasions it was for *this* exclusive toy, or *that* nifty limited edition action figure. I also came to the realization, if I’m asking about the line, chances are I’ve already missed the opportunity to get whatever the line is for. The preview night ended quickly and simply provided a taste of things to come.
On the shuttle back to the hotel, I overhead a robust fellow yapping about sources of information and one guy I dubbed a “Comic Con Jedi” offered a few invaluable Twitter resources to monitor for up to the minute Con information. I’ve realized it takes attending the Con a few times before I’m going to fully understand how the system works, what other things are going on, and how to manage my time correctly to maximize the experience. Twitter (my go-to social network) provides an excellent up-to-the-minute tool for the latest chatter.
Thursday (Convention Floor)
When I considered the crowds to be significant on preview night, nothing prepared me for the onslaught of Thursday, officially Day One of the Con. I typically reserve Thursday for stomping around the convention floor since the panels and other shenanigans don’t really peak until Friday and Saturday, so it gave me a chance to really dunk my soul into the saturating nerd ambience and relax. This is also the first really big day for super nerds to engage in cosplay (not my personal thing but it is interesting to see what mashups others come up with). Who knew Steampunk and and My Little Pony could work. Fascinating. Or how about Star Trek and Zombies? Why not.
On Thursday, the crowds were madness. Everyone carrying poster tubes, backpacks, vague cosplay attempts with tails, weapons, and an inordinate amount of strollers littered the floor. I took a backpack or poster tube in the face or junk a handful of times. I would walk, only to run into “dood” in front of me who would suddenly stop to take a picture. Can’t blame the guy, there was much to see and record for posterity. Thing was, no one really cared. Smiles all around. No hassle, no grousing, just everyone happy to be attending. Hell, it takes some considerable effort to prepare and execute a plan to get to the Con. “One does not simply walk into San Diego Comic Con.” But the crowd was gravy in the secret sauce of the Con. The energy, buzz, vibe, and excitement was palpable. I loved every second of random happenstance.
While strolling past the Del Rey publishers booth, I noticed a couple of books from Scott Lynch (The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies) and asked the booth staff if Scott would be attending the Con. I was told no and my disappointment must have been evident because a woman asked if I liked Scott’s work. I offered an enthusiastic yes to which she replied, “Wait there for a sec,” and disappeared behind a make-shift curtain. Moments later she emerged with a trade-size paperback and handed it to me. The book was large, was entitled “The Republic of Thieves” by Scott Lynch and was stamped, “Advanced Uncorrected Proofs” with a “Tentative Onsale Date: October 8, 2013.” I realized she’d given me Scott’s next book in the series; a book as yet unreleased! What a fabulous gift. I quickly took to Twitter to express my appreciation for Del Rey and the booth staff.
The rest of the day was centered around getting some fabulous artwork from various artists on the floor (kinda fun when they actually sign their own work in front of you), picking up the limited edition Breaking Bad Walter White figure (I’m a Breaking Bad devotee), and some other trinkets and doodads. Had to buy a poster tube to put all my prints inside (no way to carry anything flat for long). All in all, a fabulous first day at the Con.
On the shuttle bus back to the hotel, I was planning the next day’s schedule, intending to get inline for the dreaded and huge Hall H (“One does not simply walk into Hall H.”) around 5:00am the following morning. Hall H was going to feature Simon Pegg & Nick Frost (from Shawn of the Dead fame), the cast of KickAss 2, the cast of Riddick (including Vin Diesel), the cast of The Walking Dead, and the cast of Game of Thrones — a power packed lineup. I overhead three people sitting behind me (Susan, Travis, & Lisa) talking about their plan to get into Hall H the following day but much earlier than I’d planned. Travis (a film critic for PunchDrunkCritics.com) said they wanted to be inline around 4:00am and had their own car so they could beat the shuttles. I asked if I could get a ride in and they agreed without skipping a beat. And that is the joy of the Con (more on that later).
It doesn’t matter where you stand, sit, lineup, or hang near, it is simple to strike up a conversation with anyone. At the Con, everyone is cut from the same cloth, comes from the same tribe, and loves everything nerd. Conversations are easy because we all have similar interests and that theme was echoed time and time again at this year’s convention.
Friday, Saturday, & Sunday (Chaos)
What happened to my in-depth description of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday? The remaining days became a blur of experiences, frantic activity, and brushes with the stars. Yeah, a blur…