I’m surrounded by superheroes, pirates, Navi natives, Yu Gi Oh! characters and sexy nurses. A busy day on Hollywood Boulevard? Nah, I’m at Comic-Con!
We were lucky to have scored some last minute tickets to the sold-out event, due to the largesse of the our favorite undead friend, Denis O’Hare. He’d been flown to the event to sign autographs and participate in a True Blood panel in the grand ballroom by HBO, from whence all good things flow. Being the Vampire King of Mississippi has its privileges, and one of them is that he could get us a few passes, plus (miraculously) an opportunity to valet park right in the heart of bedlam.
We went on the spur of the moment. Unfortunately, spur of the moment is not the best way to approach the madness that is Comic Con. It’s not a place for the casual tourist. It’s like Disneyland plus Halloween in West Hollywood plus the Rose Bowl Flea Market. It’s like Mardi Gras for Geeks.
(Ironically, the term “geek” seems to have reached near-cool status, what with iPhones, “The Big Bang Theory” and Michael Cera. Has the moniker “nerd” been similarly elevated, or is it still in wedgie-land? What’s the difference between a geek and a nerd? Discuss.)
Does this bag make me look fat?
I thought Comic-Con would be this one big room full of people in costumes handing out free stuff and a panoply of stars on high, flashing their smiles in benediction. Hmmm… not quite. For one thing, it’s not just in the Convention Center. Comic-Con spreads and infiltrates ALL of downtown San Diego. Every hotel nearby has themed elevators and giant screens pulsating with some high action fantasy flick or television show. Panels and symposiums are held at multiple venues. The local hotdog-and-popcorn store has a giant Predator on display. The whole town’s been taken over. You can’t escape it.
Get out! The Star Wars impersonators are here already! You’re next!
There were people in costumes a’plenty, but since we live near Hollywood and Highland, where superheroes and movie characters are parading every day, it’s not such a big deal. (Though, I have to admit the full-sized Iron Man outfit worn by the Robert Downey look-alike who strolled into the Hard Rock Hotel was pretty impressive.) As for free stuff, up and down the streets you’re assaulted with people wanting to give you things (giant bags, coupons, playing cards, bracelets, enough postcards to fell a Tree of Souls) but unless you’d be sharing this booty with your fellow D&D players at your next wizarding campaign, you’ll have little use for most of it.
Inside, there was swag to be had, but it comes at a price. You could get a free Alien
“Want a Hug?” T-shirt (promoting the upcoming BluRay trilogy release) but you’d have to stand in line a couple of hours to get it. You might be able to get your “Next Generation” poster signed by most of the major Star Trek actors, but that would mean signing up ahead of time and waiting a generation to do so. Like I said, the convention’s not for popping in and “taking a look.”
There are treasure to be had, but you had to know where to find them, and when to find them. Looking to have Thelma from “Good Times” sign an autographed photo? She’s over there in row 399, next to the Disney vintage memorabilia! (and looking damned good, too). Want to meet an comics illustrator you’ve always admired? He’s over in Artist Alley! Chewbacca’s going to be giving autographs at noon right by that concession stand!
See my movie… or perish!
While Hollywood did have a huge presence— giant displays of the next superhero movie plus clips blaring from giant screens—the geek quotient remained, happily, quite high. Lots of gaming opportunities abounded (the new PS3 motion-sensor wand is pretty cool), and for those in the market for vintage comic books or alien bobble-heads or collectible Dr. Who paraphernalia, this was the place to be. And where else are you going to attend panels on how the upcoming Batman comic series will be drawn or how to break into the manga market? People dressed up, not because they’re trying to land an acting job or to look beautiful, but because it made them happy. There’s something kind of fun and pure about that. Also, it’s a little creepy. But mostly fun.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got an inner geek the size of an Ent. Hey, I’m a guy who read all of the Lord of the Rings to my sisters and created a mini Middle Earth in our basement, complete with Toaster cornbread for lembas and hidden rings. And I bid and won tickets on ebay to see the entire trilogy of LOTR back to back on the big screen. I don’t own a cape, but I was pretty stoked to be at Comic-Con.
We didn’t actually see that much of Denis because he had a full publicity schedule the entire time he was down there, and anytime he set foot in public fans swarmed and converged on him like high-speed zombies, asking for photos, which he graciously acceded to, being the courtly King of Mississippi and all (perhaps we’ll get him to write a word or two about his experiences at Comic-Con later). Doug, who has little interest in animation or comic books and a dislike of crowds, went to the True Blood panel and schmoozed it up with Alan Ball and Vampire Bill. That left me and Benjamin to get our geek on. I bought him a Clone Trooper Cody uniform, and we hit the floor.
It was an action-figure paradise for Ben. He also got a Ben 10 comic book which was subsequently signed by all four creators. Benj was a little less than enthused by the signatures (as in, couldn’t care less) but the seller assured me he’d appreciate it when he’s older. Taking no chances, and knowing the fate of most of Benj’s books, I also got a plastic sleeve to store the comic in. As for myself, I partook of an Alien face hugger fan, plus an adorable vibrating/chirping Tribble to give to a two-year-old we know (really, we’re giving it away, I swear…).
And then it was time to go. We inch our car out into the street like we’re Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren in The Birds. We drive slowly through downtown. Outside, there’s a sort of benign chaos. Paper’s blowing everywhere, hordes of people in various outfits mill around on the streets. It looks a little like 28 Days Later set at a street fair. Time to get back to reality.