For years, I’ve been watching San Diego Comic-Con like other people watch the Olympics. For 4 full days I am glued to my computer watching videos of celebrity panels, scanning my favorite geek-news outlets for breaking stories, and harshly judging the costume quality and construction on all of those “Best Cosplays of Comic-Con” lists.
Back in 2007, when I got married for 10 minutes, we had planned to go to Comic-Con for our honeymoon but it turned out to be too expensive and logistically complicated. I felt like my dream would always be out of reach. But, a few months ago, one of my best friends from high school just happened to accept a job offer in San Diego, and my nerd fantasy came back into sharp focus. Well, for a minute, until I realized that badges were sold out in MARCH, and then I didn’t get a spot in the May badge resale raffle. But, I didn’t care. I figured a few days on the streets of San Diego during Comic-Con might be good enough for now. BEST IDEA EVER.
I had been really bummed out about not getting a Comic-Con badge the legal and proper way, but within minutes of arriving in San Diego, we met some people in a bar who were willing to part with their 4-day badges for the last day… and away we went. Nobody checked at the door. Nobody cared who I was. Call me Sabrina.
I actually felt a little bad for them (well, not that bad). I have never seen a group of religious protesters be so politely ignored by a swarm of people in super hero outfits.
3. Comic-Con is ADORABLE. With the over-abundance of disturbingly creepy and scantily clad costumes (this bizarre couple met both criteria) I was actually really surprised how many young kids there were at Comic-Con. I wish more parents were that cool, because there is pretty much nothing cuter than watching a 6 year boy old spaz out about seeing a life size model of his idol made entirely out of Lego.
4. Every single thing in town is branded/sponsored. From the Always Sunny in Philadelphia pedi-cabs to this hilarious ladies’ room sign I found advertising the new “Bates Motel” TV series, if a vendor could get their hands on it, they did. This Breaking Bad tie-in with a local hat store struck me as being particularly brilliant.
5. Lines… LINES EVERYWHERE… This is where we got into trouble with our illicit Comic-Con badges. Doing a con of this size correctly really requires an attack plan formulated over several days, or at least several hours. We didn’t even find the booth with the programs in it until the day was half over, and by that time we had lost our chance to get in on any of the celebrity panels (raffle for spots in line closes at 9 am). And by midday, anything that didn’t require a raffle spot had a line several blocks long. Sorry, “Game of Thrones Experience”… you’re not worth 2 hours of baking on the sidewalk.
6. Bring your costume A-game, get Comic-Con famous. I was a little worried that I would be the only one at Comic-Con not wearing a costume, and was relieved that only about 20% of con-goers were really committed to a whole day in a unitard or full-body make-up. However, if you do make the plunge, prepare to be assaulted by everyone and their grandma wanting to get their picture with you. This home-made Buzz Lightyear getup was my favorite costume from the con, but I also admired this guy’s total commitment to the physical fitness and grooming requirements of being off-duty Wolverine. I watched him for a good 10 minutes, just loitering in front of the convention center waiting for people to approach him.
7. Don’t get crushed under the weight of your own swag. And no, I don’t mean the kind of swag that Justin Beiber is always going on about. I mean that wherever you go at Comic-Con, people will hand you free stuff, and you will keep it because it seems special and important in the moment. By around 4 o’clock I couldn’t feel my arms because I had gathered so much crap in my backpack. Upon unloading it in my hotel room, I realized that most of it was garbage. Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean you need it. Be choosy about the swag you actually want to keep, and make sure you have a nice sturdy (and comfortable) vessel in which to tote your booty around. 7 am – 9 pm is a loooooong day to be laden down like a pack mule (especially if you’re wearing a full-on Batman suit).
8. Even if you can’t get into any of the panels, it’s still possible to have an emotionally scarring celebrity encounter. As we were walking to go wander around outside for a bit, a lifesize poster of a young Lou Ferrigno caught my eye. So of course I loudly say “Well, heloooooooo Lou Ferrigno,” only to turn my head to the left and see actual LOU FERRIGNO sitting at a table, scowling at me while he tried to make a phone call. I ran away in shame.
By 5 o’clock, we all wanted to pretty much die. It is physically and mentally exhausting to be fighting through wall-to-wall people on your feet for hours on end. Comic-Con is bright, noisy, and honestly, a little disappointing when you realize that everything you want to see is closed or has multiple hour long lines. That said, even getting a very limited taste of nerd paradise was intoxicating.
Now that I have friends in San Diego (because hotels during the con are both scarce and pricey), you can bet your ass that I’ll be starting my pre-planning for next year as soon as I get back. This time, with COSTUMES. What should I be?