This year as a belated birthday present slash sort of business trip, I was lucky enough to get sent to the nerd mecca that is San Diego Comic-Con… International. I know, I don’t like the addition of international either. Founded in 1970, the four day and now five night event has become known as the ultimate pop culture convention specializing in movies, television shows, and to a lesser extent books and comic books. Of course that didn’t stop me from making my journey as literary as possible at America’s largest convention.
Within this post you will find me squeeing over the fact that I got to meet and get an autograph from author Margaret Atwood, detailing just what it was like to be a zombie in the first ever Walking Dead: Escape San Diego obstacle course, and discussing how the literary nerd in me died when I got to hang out with Amber Benson and Bill Willingham at various after parties. Not to mention meet and network with a variety of like-minded individuals. See: nerds.
In an effort to cater to the fact that this is a literary blog, all literary themed panels, encounters, and other such nonsense will be highlighted in bold. If you however are also interested in television related media, all that will be available for your reading pleasure in the non-bolded sections. Especially you “Community”, “Legend of Korra”, “Firefly” and “Supernatural” fans!
The flight from the east to the west coast was what you would expect. I was cold, uncomfortable, and stuck between two loud children who I contemplated poisoning the majority of the flight. Not to mention hungry because forbid if they feed you on planes anymore in addition to your overpriced ticket. Compound this with a hotel room full of bugs that smells like poop and has damp sheets and well, Comic-Con was not off to a good start. Thankfully, I was able to clear my head a bit in the Gaslamp Quarter, which is a really fun unique area of town filled with bars and shops that would have benefited from not being covered in Greenpeace members. Won’t somebody think of the tiger population!?! The restaurants in the area are transformed into headquarters for various television networks, converting their menus and decor to become the ultimate theme restaurants. While the SyFy themed restaurant was always too crowded, I did get to enjoy one meal surrounded by ponies. I would honestly regularly eat in a place that bombarded me with ponies, cat looking ones or otherwise.
Wednesday night at the convention is also preview night, where four day pass holders, press, exhibitors and professionals can take their first look at the convention floor- specifically the vendors. It is here that I got my first purchase, a Tokidoki dinosaur that I lovingly named Mini-Godzilla. A booth promoting the release of the Indiana Jones quartet (that’s a thing now) went all out with a pit full of live snakes, while various booths promoting The Hobbit had holographic images of sexy dwarf Aidan Turner and the rest of the not so sexy dwarves, a life sized Gollum to pose with and a trio of enormous trolls complete with troll modesty covers.
The following day was the official beginning of SDCC and I began the day by drooling over an [extremely overpriced] Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland corset dress from Pendragon Costumes and purchasing an illustrated version of Snow White by the Brother Grimm with artwork from Camille Rose Garcia– one of my favorite artists. She did some equally gorgeous illustrations for a new edition of Alice and this take on the Brothers Grimm tale does not disappoint. Gorgeous. After these minor literary excursions I headed to the Mysterious Galaxy booth to visit author Scott Westerfeld. Sadly I was not able to get an advanced copy of his new book The Manual of Aeronautics with the code word “weasel-face”. Thankfully I at least got to look at it and I can tell you it is beautiful! And most importantly: shiny.
After this I inexplicably forgot how time worked and ended up sitting through the DC Collectibles panel while eagerly anticipating the Inside the Shadow Show panel with Joe Hill and Margaret Atwood. Thankfully, it was more amusing than I anticipated and before I knew it, Miss Atwood arrived and talk about the Ray Bradbury tribute anthology Shadow Show. Suffice it to say, everyone was there to see the authoress herself, and a librarian next to me gazed around in awe as the room erupted in cheers when Atwood was introduced. It was the cutest thing ever to have so many people there just to see her. (Little known random fact: Iris from The Blind Assassin was inspired by Ray Bradbury.) Equally adorable was Bradbury’s constant biographer Sam Weller who looked like he was going to burst into tears when he told the room that Ray planned to come to that very panel. I WANTED TO HUG THAT POOR MAN SO BAD!
Following the panel was the signing and I eagerly waited in line to get Shadow Show and a newly purchased copy of The Handmaid’s Tale signed. It was worth having to purchase an additional copy to get my favorite Atwood novel autographed- since I was ignorant of the signing until that day, my original edition was left behind at home. But it was worth it when I went up to Atwood and had her sign my novel, telling her how it’s one of my annual comfort reads. She smiled and said to me, “Of course you’d be here, dear” as if we were old friends. Whether it was mistaken identity or not, the recognition was amazing. After a brief confusion with whose anthology she was signing, my copy was adorned with flowers and a butterfly (not pictured) to fix my accidentally inscribed collection. I honestly thought I was going to pee myself in excitement. Whether I did or not however is a private matter thank you very much.
Before having to repack and move hotels because of the bug/poop/wet sheets debacle from the night before I stumbled upon the Profiles in History booth, which was crammed full of movie memorabilia. For those of you who don’t know, this is the company that features on the SyFy show “Hollywood Treasures”, and I got to look at props from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which are either not holding up to the test of time or they were just poorly made because the everlasting gobstopper and the golden egg looked incredibly fake. They may have been made of rocks for all I knew. I also was able to ogle Wolverine’s uniform and claws, which made my fan girl heart flutter.
That night I headed to the Top of the Hyatt for the League of Extraordinary Ladies party Scott Westerfeld invited me to. I had a great time talking about the secrets of the literary world, discussing weddings and LeakyCon and meeting actress and author Amber Benson, who is an absolute sweetheart. She even remembered my review of her contribution to 21st Century Dead, which I covered on this very site (see review). She then told me she’d retweeted a link to it, which would explain the sudden jump in page views. Seriously, when we hit triple digits I am immediately confused and intrigued.
Friday the 13th began in Ballroom 20 with the “Community” panel, which was pretty hilariously titled with the Twitter hashtag, #POPPOPComicCon. Joel McHale told the crowd that his father would be played by Eddie Murphy and the new show runners promised not to mess up the show for its dedicated fanbase. They told the crowd that season four would be about discussing relationships and exploring new locations (insert slight snore here), including Pierce’s mansion and an Inspector Spacetime Convention which will hopefully be awesome and full of dalek parodies. They finished up by skirting around the possibility of cast members graduating (because everyone graduates a community college after four years?) and aired some bloopers which included Annie rapping about wolves. Shoe wolves and she wolves in particular.
This was immediately followed by the “Legend of Korra” panel, which had the distinction of being the most fun AND informative. Not only did the cast do a table read, but the show’s creators also unveiled set backgrounds, character designs for the second season and introduced brand new characters. Bonus: no stupid audience questions! The announcement that the show was picked up for 26 more episodes, giving it a total of four books was met with much jubilation, but the highlight was probably the fact that Bolin’s voice actor is just as apple cheeked and adorable- perhaps even more adorable- than his fictional counterpart. Then they unveiled the artwork for book two titled “Spirits”, which is set six months after book one. It included Bumi in pink earmuffs with a pot belly (SCORE!) a pair of sullen androgynous twins, and an eccentric and foppish shipping magnate. I also learned not only that Korra is based off a well known MMA fighter but that David Faustino of “Married With Children” is the voice of Makko. What? What? What? I need to check IMDB more often. With a little time left we were shown a very rough clip and Voice Director Andrea Romano led the room in some very loud and ridiculous voice
gasping acting lessons.
By the time the “Firefly” panel started I had a pounding migraine which was made worse by all the screaming that was to follow. Thankfully the antics of Nathan Fillion, not to mention the sight of him and Joss Whedon crying like little girls made it all worth it. Unfortunately, the addition of Summer Glau was not to my liking, specifically because she looked like she didn’t want to even be there. Why this event was in Ballroom 20 and not Hall H is beyond me, especially because 4,000 fans were left in the lurch outside. Although this is probably why the event was streamed live. Still, not much from the convention deserved a “This is Poorly Organized” chant.
The night ended with delicious shawarma after we took a table over from some Avengers and we narrowly missed turning around and seeing Ian McKellen walk past us. Sorry, Sir Ian McKellen. If only I hadn’t switched my seats I would have seen him! Or if I had turned around five seconds sooner. CURSES! Thankfully this missed celebrity siting was made up for when I rounded a corner and spotted Zack Taylor the original black Power Ranger. You know, the Mighty Morphin’ one who was actually black, the black black one played by Walter Emanuel Jones. Not to be confused with the original Japanese man who was probably not black black.
My longest day began at 9:00AM with my zombification and ended around midnight after a show in a local bar. I walked to Petco Park in the morning, which had been converted into a zombie obstacle course to coincide with the release of The Walking Dead #100. Myself and the other zombies checked in, signed our waivers, changed into our outfits (I was a zombie girl scout) and were made over by “The Walking Dead” makeup team assembly line style. Black highlights were airbrushed on our faces, followed by grey makeup and white highlights. A man walked around me splattering my clothes and skin with a paintbrush soaked in blood, we had professional photos taken which you can see in all their creepiness here, and were brought up to the course. Each group of zombies was assigned a section to haunt and we were given free reign to pretty much do whatever struck our fancy. While everyone else focused on the blood covered table and hospital area, I chose to hide behind a hot dog cart and jump out at unsuspecting victims.
Screamers were my favorite, and I did a pretty good job of making the spectators laugh at the ridiculous reactions people had to a five foot tall zombie in a girl scout uniform scaring the crap out of them. Highlights included getting to frighten author Joe Hill and being thanked after I finished my shift for providing so much spectator related fun. The only problem with jumping out at people, some of them react with violence, which is how I ended up being physically grabbed and thrown on the ground, and I have the bruises to prove it. Note to participants: NONE OF US WERE REAL ZOMBIES! After our shift, we were given special variant editions of The Walking Dead #100, available only to participants. Coincidentally, mine is currently for sale on eBay. Hint. Hint.
Still in my zombie regalia, I ran to the Sails Pavilion (AKA open air autograph area) to get my copy of 21st Century Dead autographed, specifically by Amber Benson (who actually remembered me from the night before) and S.G. Browne, whose books I have been reviewing on this site but had yet to meet until SDCC. Definitely worth the jog over to get my book signed, even if I did have to meet him covered in blood with blackened teeth. Zombies just don’t have the healthcare they deserve. Then it was over to the Profiles in History booth to ogle Sean Astin, because I certainly wasn’t going to pay $40 for an autograph. Do you not have enough money Sean Astin!?!
After cleaning the blood off myself
from killing those orphans back at the hotel, I headed to the Marvel Booth to watch the annual costume contest and got to see some awesome cosplay, specifically a fully electronic molded Iron Man suit and the most beautiful Storm I’ve ever seen before heading out to meet up with an old friend. On our way to find a quiet bar we passed Ron Jeremy of all people and wound up at the El Dorado, a cocktail lounge full of bearded, suspendered bartenders. Everything was handcrafted with all fresh ingredients and I was fine after one drink, but when the Gin Master arrived (how does one become a gin master?) and bought all the ladies a Moscow Mule it was hard to say no. No seriously, that’s how much alcohol was in these drinks, I couldn’t even form coherent thoughts.
Then it was off to the Tin Can to see some acoustic music- not your Mom’s acoustic music. There were xylophones, cellos, violins and even a stand up bass. Bonus: tucked in the back of the bar/show space was a kitchen called Doods Foods, where I had a delicious grilled cheese sandwich made on homemade sourdough bread. Yum yum! This is where San Diego finally started to feel like home. Of course, a day before I leave I finally started taking a liking to the place.
The final day of SDCC began with a “Supernatural” panel in Hall H to go along with my enormous, almost as tall as me Sam and Dean swag bag. The panel was pretty hilarious, with all the moderator’s questions being avoided as best as possible and the panelists spending the majority of the time messing with each other and showing us their off-scene bromance. I.e. Jensen standing up and shrieking like a girl when Jared walked onstage. Jared’s hair was the worst yet, I’m talking disturbingly awful. I almost wish I could go back in time and direct a question at his hair, as in, “Hi, I’m Cassie and this question is for Jared’s hair. WHY!?!” This is why time travel needs to be invented. We were informed the theme of season eight is Raiders of the Lost Arc while a very [possibly] high Ben Edlund completely lost it. The panel ended perfectly, with a gag reel that included Sam, Dean and Bobby riffing on Wayne’s World.
After purchasing presents and scoring a Lego Phoenix (Green, not Dark), it was time for relaxing by the pool. This was a partial vacation after all. For dinner we ate at Hodad’s, a burger joint that the locals say is better than In-N-Out Burger. Mental note to compare Hodad’s to In-N-Out when I return to San Diego on Thursday. I just can’t stay away. The burger was the size of my face, made with all fresh ingredients and I couldn’t even wrap my mouth around its deliciousness. Literally. And for only $5.50, a burger like that cannot be beat. Unless it was filled with gold… Edible gold. Yeah, that makes way more sense.
The final event before heading back to the east coast: the Fables after party, which took place in a cute little village area behind the Hyatt. It was a small affair, and participants were given food, drinks, and we got to hang out with the creators of one of my favorite comics, Fables (see very old overview of the series here). If you have not yet read the series, or at the very least the prequel 1001 Nights of Snowfall you are missing out. The comic fangirl in me was very excited to meet the sweet, down to earth Bill Willingham, who is busy planning the first ever Fablescon this March in his hometown of Minnesota and the very British Mark Buckingham who made my six hour flight seem silly in comparison to his eleven hour one. Also got to immediately regret eating west coast pizza. It shouldn’t be legal to even call that pizza.
All in all a very successful SDCC and an amazing birthday present. I got to meet new people, have new experiences, explore a completely different side of the country and hopefully I can participate again next year. If only to revisit my new acquaintances and practice my zombie skills. Nerds of the world, I highly recommend you go to this convention at least once in your lifetime. Hopefully with less Westboro Baptist protestors and more Flying Spaghetti Monster supporters.