August 1, 2011 | Uncategorized
First let me say Comic Con is not for the faint of heart, legs, feet, wallet, or mind. My journey began last summer as I watched Comic Con broadcast on G4, a cable channel. I’d heard about the event for a number of couple of years. I knew I’d found my 2011 vacation spot. If of course you think 125,000 plus people descending on San Diego city at its Convention Center and surrounding hotels a vacation hot spot. And I quickly discovered getting to Comic Con isn’t the same as booking a trip to Italy or Disney. That dear reader, would a snap.
My first ‘hint’ this was not going to be easy was Saturday, February 5th. I eagerly sat at my computer waiting for 11am PST so I could buy tickets. Easy, peasey – not. The ticket vendor Ticket Leap, whose logo is a frog, didn’t leap, it didn’t even jump, or twitch. It crashed, croaked. Over and over and over. What a new and terrible experience. But thanks to Twitter posts from Comic Con veterans I learned how to exercise my index finger and the F5 key, over and over and over again. So while Ticket Leap continued to crash/croak I multi-tasked, kept an eye on on my bank account to make sure if I ever got pass the shopping cart my account wouldn’t be debited for additional tickets. Four hours later, I had individual tickets for each day except Preview Wednesday and Saturday and I made it to a friend’s daughter’s baby shower with a story to tell. Of course my friends had no clue what Comic Con was or why I’d spent half the day trying to purchase tickets, but they listened, smiled and nodded in the appropriate places. When it came time for hotel reservations, I had the sinking feeling I was going to be online for hours. No crash, no croak. You are provided a list of all the participating hotels and then you rank them according to where you want to stay. I wanted something close but not too pricey. We stayed at the Doubletree in Mission Valley – easy, peasey. I’m willing to stay there again, located next to a strip mall that had a Starbucks, Joe’s CrabShack and Applebees. One suggestion DoubleTree Hilton – free inroom wifi please. Booking our flight with Frontier Airlines was easy and their flights were on time, our connections smooth and they served warm chocolate chip cookies.
We arrived in San Diego Wednesday afternoon safe, exhausted but excited for Thursday to arrive. The time change was a massive adjustment, one my twenty year old son didn’t have a problem with. Since we came from Central Standard time, we gained an extra two hours. This played havoc with me. I’m an early riser, 6am, so waking at 4am was rough. Thursday morning the first shuttle took us to an off site where we could pick up our badges. We did and I discovered I had a slight badge problem which almost sent me into cardiac arrest. My ticket wasn’t in the system!! Suggestion: When Comic Con sends you the final email right before the convention begins and tells you to print the confirmation pages. Print the confirmation pages. I did but left it in the hotel room and the last two digits on Thursday’s ticket had changed. The staff told me to go to the badge help desk in the convention center and they’d straighten it out. So we took the next bus to the center, my heart pounding, my brain freaked out but once we got there the problem was solved and our badges were printed for every day. When I put on my lanyard, I felt like I’d become a member of a very exclusive group.
Let me back up to our arrival at the San Diego Convention Center. After the second bus dropped us off, across from Petco Field, we crossed over the Pedestrian Bridge. What I saw was so eye opening and overwhelming that television doesn’t do justice. The camera may add ten pounds, but it doesn’t show what thousands of people really look like up close. I was overwhelmed, confused and eager to be a part of it. And I don’t do crowds. I stood there and marveled at all the people, families, and those dressed in costume. After the badge solution, I was given my Comic Con bag big and deep enough for grocery shopping, carry a small child, or an inflatable mattress (not a bad idea by Saturday). Cartoon characters on one side, actors from various programs on the other. Life size almost. On Twitter there was a picture of one woman who’d turned hers into a dress. I scored a Supernatural bag with Sam and Dean Winchester on one side and was approached by a young lady who wanted to switch. No way, child. I am a Supernatural fan. That’s another great thing, if you get a bag you don’t want, ask around someone may be willing to swap.
The convention book is almost half an inch thick – and in small print. Study it. In a corner. Standing. You’re going to do a lot of standing. You can’t sit against the walls, fire hazard. Electric outlets are a premium, you’ll need to find them to recharge your phone. Comic Con gives new meaning to ‘hurry up and wait’. I’ll be glancing through the 2011 edition in preparation for 2012 probably while waiting online to purchase tickets as inspiration to keep pressing F5. The convention is held in several of the hotels, not just the convention center. The Exhibit Hall was were all the vendors, television stations, stars who come for signings, free game playing took place and is equal to three football fields with every inch covered. Buy your Comic Con tee shirt early, they’d sold out by Sunday. Sold Out? Really? I purchased River Song and the Eleventh Doctor’s sonic screwdrivers, a Tardis that lights up and makes sounds and a Tardis usb hub.
So as a first time, but will return Comic Con devotee, here’s just a little of what I experienced.
1. What happens in San Diego, doesn’t stay in San Diego. Especially when you’ve got Twitter and a smartphone with a camera. Constant tweets provided minute by minute updates as to who was where, what to do, who’s doing what, and how to find it. With pictures. Panel video uploads were available right after a panel ended. Just in case you didn’t get in to see it live. Which is possible, check #3. I didn’t go to the Cowboys and Aliens screening at the Civic Center, but there were plenty of other movies being shown at hotels.
2 Wear comfortable shoes. I mean really, really comfortable shoes with support.
3. Lines, lines and more lines. I underestimated the long lines. I don’t do lines. But this was Comic Con so yes I stood in lines. I stood in line for Ballroom 20 on Friday probably longer than my flight from Chicago to Denver. I started way, way back near the water and finally gave up right outside the center. By that time I knew I wasn’t going to get in for Torchwood which was the first panel. I wanted to ask Jane Espenson, a writer for the series questions. Seeing John Barrowman would have been a bonus. If I’d gotten in, I would have stayed in that room all day. The line up after Torchwood was The Walking Dead, Big Bang Theory, Eureka, Warehouse 13 and then True Blood. The rooms are not cleared between panels. You can get bathroom passes and food vendors are located right outside the door. If you don’t get a pass, then it’s back to the end of the line, where ever that is. Back near the pier maybe? I did get in for True Blood, ain’t saying how. It was awesome, no spoilers given.
Anyway since I didn’t get in for Torchwood, it was time to find another panel, another shorter line, one less than a mile long. So what time should you arrive to get in line? Well if the panel begins at 10am and the actors and programs you’re interested in are wildly popular I suggest 6am. And that I think doesn’t get you into the convention center itself. No I’m not kidding. One trick is if you want to see a particular panel, but there are three or four panels ahead of it that you may not really want to see, get in line, get in, sit down and wait. There are no boring panels. After NCIS LA with LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell I stayed for the Worst Cartoon Ever panel. It lived up to its name. My son was off at the Marriott Hotel which was much quieter. Gamers don’t talk, they play games and watch anime.
Sunday I wanted to see SuperNatural and Doctor Who in Hall H bigger than Ballroom 20. I got up early, arrived at the convention center around 8am and was in line across the street from the convention center. Glee was the first panel and I got in standing room only. I kept an eye on people as I stood in the back, when the panel was over, I hoped a lot people would leave. I stared at chairs at the end of several rows. When the panel ended, people left and then it became a game of musical chairs. I bolted for the first chair open I spotted, sat and didn’t move. During the question and answer period for Doctor Who there were two absolutely amazing Dalek costumes that must have taken days to construct. Life size with a person inside. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan took time out to sign the creations.
4. Misery loves company or geeks love geeks. Long lines at Comic Con creates bonding if only for a few hours. There is also a sense of ‘Boy did I get here in time. Do you see where they are?’ when you see how long the line is behind you and you’re happy to be where you are. People are polite, talkative, and will hold your spot if you have to make a break for the bathroom. But don’t try to cut in line, pretend you were there all along. You’ll be reported to the nearest usher. Experienced that. Not me, someone else. Somehow I ‘wandered’ into Thursday’s Batman Arkham City line. Someone I’d met at the hotel told me about it and seriously I just kinda found myself in line. I learned a lot about the characters, actors who do the voices, Mark Hamill, the game, and the trailer was awesome. May have to buy it and play.
5. Hydrate, sunscreen, a small chair, blanket, pillow and camera. I will pack a small folding chair next year maybe put it in my convention bag. The weather was absolutely perfect. I did remember to bring an umbrella which helped while standing outside. Camera and extra batteries are necessities because of all the costumes. People go to great lengths to realistically dress up. It’s fantastic and they love to have their pictures taken.
6. Keep track of Twitter, kept me up to date about happenings and where.
7. If possible a Comic Con buddy is essential. You can’t be in more than one place at one time. My son didn’t count because he headed to the anime and gaming hotel and wasn’t seen until he was hungry or the room closed down for the night. There is so much to do. I got Jim Butcher’s autograph and took a picture with him. And I had my picture taken with Richard Hatch, the original Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica. He’s still hot and damn nice. There’s a system for getting autographs and it’s written in the guide. I’m going to read it for next year.
8. Where can you sit? Almost anywhere you can find a chair and those are rare. There’s seating in the the Sail Pavilion, I finally figured out where that was because I was sitting in it. I actually took a short nap, but kept waking up to watch a different costumed person walk by.
9. I wish I’d had tickets for Saturday. Sherrilyn Kenyon was there, plenty of authors. A number of publishing houses, Tor, Del Ray, Simon and Schuster also had booths. When I’m published I want to sign at Comic Con.
9. Tickets for 2012 Comic Con were sold at this year’s convention at one of the hotels. Again long lines. I’ll wait for my index finger and F5 in February.
We did venture out into the Gaslight area, across the street from the center. Streets were packed and we had lunch at Cafe Diem, the Eureka restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel. There were plenty of activities going on there as part of the convention. I definitely want to explore the area more next year. I’m pretty sure I experienced not even one tenth of Comic Con which why I need to go back. I still don’t do lines, but I’ll stand in a Comic Con line. I don’t like crowds, but at Comic Con it’s not a crowd, it’s a large group of people like me who are having a good time.