Sunday, July 8, 2012

Comic-Con and Me: A History

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (a galaxy called Los Angeles) I decided to attend my first fan convention. It was 2004 and my friend Dana had gone to a Stargate convention near the Burbank Airport.  She really enjoyed herself there and decided she wanted to check out this convention she heard about in San Diego.  Dana called me to see if I'd go with her.  At the time I was definitely into pop culture but had not fully embraced my inner geek.  The thought of going to a comic book convention was incredibly foreign and bizarre to me.  After some urging, I hesitantly agreed to check it out.  In my mind I convinced myself I would be like an anthropologist observing another culture.  I'm guessing anthropologists have rules about becoming immersed in the cultures they're observing.  It's a good thing I'm not an anthropologist with rule because I fell in love with those nerds on the first day.

We walked around the floor and giggled at all the people in costumes.  We walked past the Sci Fi booth (not Syfy yet) and I spotted an actor I loved in Bridget Jones's Diary.  He was there pitching a reboot of a 70's science fiction show that I scoffed at and fell in love with years later.  He was just standing there, not doing much of anything so I stopped and told him how much I loved him in Bridget Jones.  He smiled, thanked me and I was on my way.

Dana and I also checked out a few panels.  Back in '04, con attendees were able to walk in and out of panels with no trouble.  I'll get to the trouble part later though.  We went to see the pilot and discussion of ABC's new science fiction show.  We were thoroughly impressed and sitting way up close to the stage where the actors and producers were after the pilot aired.  Nowadays you'd have to promise someone special favors to get those kinds of seats but I'll get to that soon too.  Once the fans started grilling the short guy about the incredibly huge movie he was in, we left the room.  Speaking of the short guy, I ran into him at LAX after the con and told him how cool that new ABC show looked and was proud of myself for not going on about the movie with the short guys, the wizard and the elves.  Turns out the poor guy had a bluetooth in the ear I couldn't see so I was totally interrupting his phone conversation.  He was incredibly sweet about it though.  Good guy.  I can totally understand why the cute brunette on the show dated him for so long.

So that was 2004 for us.  It was one day.  It was a cool experience and I wanted to do it again.  Unfortunately for me I moved to South Carolina in June of 2005 and had no money to go back to California for it.  I didn't have the money in 2006 either.  Actually I don't think I had the money for it in 2007 but I was missing California and the geeks so I went again.  Man was it different.

So 2007, for me, was great but eye-opening.  The masses were finally hearing that it was a cool place to be. The studios were getting that message too and they brought out the big guns (both movies and tv shows).  The big stand-out for us in 2007 was the pilot and panel for NBC's new spy-out-of-water show, Chuck.  I can honestly say that I feel blessed having been in the audience for that panel.  The entire room LOVED that show.  We cheered uproariously for the stars as they took the stage after the pilot aired.  Ok, so a minor geek god happened to be there and he got the biggest applause because most of the room were fans of his short-lived, but incredibly loved show.  Dana and I felt like we had struck gold again.  First we were blessed with the Lost pilot and now we were experiencing another show we were definitely going to love.  Con was proving to be the place where pop culture enthusiasts went to feed their habit.

Walking the convention floor in 2007 was horrible.  It was packed.  Plus there were way too many Captain Jack Sparrow costumes around.  In fact it's still a really popular costume.  We could barely navigate the masses and it was a problem.  Gone were the minor stars hanging around the network booths.  We knew then that Comic-Con would never be the same.  That was also the first time I didn't want to go back.  It happens to me all the time now.  During the Con I manage to convince myself that I don't want to come back.  There's no reason to because you can see most everything online anyway.  Then a month or two go by and I want to go back.
Learn to love the line.  The line is unavoidable.
Since 2007 I've been three other times, in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  Wow, this will be my 6th trip.  Dana and I are pros now.  We get into line very early (usually before the sun comes up). Getting into the rooms where the panels are held are incredibly difficult now.  In years past you could leave one room a bit early and wander into another room a few minutes late.  Not now.  Now you have to pick a room and commit to it all day long. We take turns with our line buddies (it's important to make friends in line for so many reasons) to go down to the floor in off hours.  If you go to the floor on Sunday afternoon, just as Con is wrapping up, you're miserable.  It's packed with people with strollers (how I hate people in cramped areas with strollers) and it's awful.  We go to the fulfillment room as soon as possible to have the best chance of getting free t-shirts in our actual sizes.  We know how to pack for the day (grabbing fruit, cereal boxes and bagels from your hotel's continental breakfast bar is a must).  Plus now we go to things outside of the con like w00tstock and the Nerdist live podcast.  Shows like that really round out the full con experience.  There are so many other things to do too.  For example, this year there's a zombie obstacle course, which sounds hilarious.

Stay tuned for some updates from Con next week.  I'll try and post stuff every evening of what I've seen.

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