Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic-Con: An Overview for the Uninitiated...

I'm finally back. It feels very strange to not blog; I was tempted to but the lack of an internet connection put a damper on the temptation.

However, I have returned and will, hopefully, be back to my normal blogging routine.

I had a fabulous time at Comic-Con. That's pretty much going to be the gist of this blog. If I rambled on about everything fantastic I saw, it would be an even more epic-lenghth blog than usual. However, I'm sure others will follow. will just be an overview for those who cannot comprehend what, exactly Comic-Con is all about.

In short, it's about entertainment. Comic-Con is a massive convention for anyone who loves entertainment.

Comic-Con began, I believe, as a gathering of Star-Trek fans and so, in many people's minds, Comic-Con is just a massive gathering for geeks and nerds who like to dress like Spock and speak Klingon to one another. I have to confess, upon my first visit three years ago, this is what I thought.

Fortunately, I was wrong. Very, very wrong. To my delight, Comic-Con encompasses many, many things, crosses genres so it's not just favouring science fiction and provides massive amounts of entertainment in many formats. Yes, there are Trekkies there but there are also thousands of other people into many, many other things.

When you enter Comic-Con, it feels slightly like a descent into madness. Picture, if you will, a big convention centre. Then make it bigger. The San Diego Convention Centre, the site of Comic-Con, is huge. Then, picture swarms and swarms of people waiting to get inside. These people are dressed in everything from plain old t-shirts and jeans to full blown costumes from Alice in Wonderland, Star Wars (of course), Anime characters, Super Mario Brothers, Lost, Shawn of the Dead and thousands more. There are so many 'insider' t-shirts, shirts that have significance only to fans of whatever the shirts symbolize, that it's impossible to see them all.

At the centre of the convention centre is the Exhibition Hall, a massive, gaping room filled to the brim with things to see. There are film studios there: the Warner Bros. booth is always the busiest place in the hall followed by Paramount, Fox and Sony. Then there are the big comic publishers: DC, Marvel and Dark Horse. There are booths for video games, the pinnacle of which is the G4 booth, the TV network dedicated to video gaming. There are booths for artists of both Fantasy Art and Graphic Art; you can meet and talk to the artists one-on-one, just by strolling by. There are booths for fun, booths that sell things like t-shirts of Mr. Toast (I now have one because, hello....toast! I love toast), Happy Tree Friends....the list goes on and so do the booths.

The Exhibit Hall opens at 9:30 a.m. On the first day of the convention, attendees had to go get their badges which double as admission passes. Once my friend and I obtained our badges, we were sent back outside to the streets outside the convention centre to wait, along with the rest of the early birds who wanted to be there as soon as it opened. Irritatingly enough, around 9:15 a.m., the security team stopped sending people out, allowing the latecomers to get their badges and wait inside, right outside the door to the Exhibition Hall. Naturally, this inspired wrath in those of us who had been waiting for a while and, let me tell you, there were a lot of us. However, we did briefly get distracted from our irritation when we realized they'd filled up the inside waiting area to the point where the people taking the escalators down from getting their badges had nowhere to go when they got off. Yes, it's a little cruel but we actually all watched with bated breath to see who would be the first to start the pile up. We didn't have to wait long. The people began to pile into one another like dominos until some smart person finally stopped the escalator. Unfortunately, they did this without warning and one poor soul almost tumbled right off the edge.

Our irritation was increased again when they finally opened the Exhibition Hall late and then proceeded to allow all those people who were inside to enter, leaving us stranded outside with security blocking the doors so we couldn't get in. We had to wait fifteen minutes longer to get inside. This may not seem like a big deal but many people wanted to see some of the panels that were supposed to begin at 10 a.m. Getting into any of the popular panels takes a commitment of waiting in line for a very long time and the later you get there, the lower your chances of getting in.

Once inside the Exhibition Hall, the first thing to do is go find a bag. Many of the booths give out free bags, each emblazed with the logo of the place giving out the bags. If you attend Comic-Con, you need a bag to put in all the buttons, stickers, comics and gifts you're given. Many of the booths that are solely there to promote their products give out goodies to convention goers and, at the end of the day, your bag is weighed down with things you grab or are handed to you.

The floor of the Exhibition Hall ranges from chaotic (the area around the movie studios' booths) to calm (around the Fantasy Art area). There are thousands of people there and sometimes, the crowds are crushing. To top it off, the bigger booths like Fox and Warner Bros. have signings throughout the day, a chance to meet stars from your favourite movie or TV show. For me, the signings are too much work and they rarely have them for shows I like. However, it is an experience; I did get a signature from Elizabeth Mitchell from Lost and the upcoming V remake coming in November on ABC. (For a review of the first episode, check out a future blog on Captain TV). My friend and fellow attendee is a huge fan of Mitchell's so I kept her company in line and ended up getting a signed poster.

As well as the Exhibition Hall, there are panels throughout the day. On the first day, I went to a panel sponsored by Entertainment Weekly called "Wonder Women" and it featured Sigourney Weaver, Eliza Dushku, Zoe Saldana and Elizabeth Mitchell. I also saw a Dexter panel that day. For the panels, patience is required as the popular ones require at least a couple of hours' wait. They don't clear rooms between each panel and so, sometimes, you end up sitting through ones prior to the ones you want to see just to make sure you get a seat for your desired panel.

There is food to be had but like any event, it's overpriced and not that good. The trick is to eat a big breakfast, snack on things like granola bars throughout the day and wait to eat dinner afterwards though there are evening events as well. As my friend and I were still on East Coast time, we ended up wimping out of the evening events to go back to the hotel, drop off our laden bags and grab a quick dinner before going to bed around 10:30 p.m. This way, we'd have energy throughout the day.

You need energy for Comic-Con. The walk to the hotel for us each way was over a mile. Once inside, the Exhibition Hall takes a tremendous amount of walking to get from one side to another. The panels take tremendous amounts of standing in line. By the end of the day, your feet feel like you've run a marathon, no matter how comfortable your shoes. I admire the women who go in costumes that require heels.

At the end of the day, the lines streaming out of the convention centre mirror those streaming in during the morning. Some brave people head over to the line for Hall H, the largest room in the Convention Centre and always with the most popular events. People camp out here so that they get guaranteed admission along with a good seat for the next day's panels. This year, the "Twilight: New Moon" panel had Twi-Hards and their mothers' apparently camping out over 24 hours before it began. For those of us who aren't that energetic or dedicated we leave. People await, handing out yet more promotional materials. This year, the TV show Heroes was sponsoring a 'carnival' outside the Convention Centre, complete with rides, games and cotton candy stalls. I think it has something to do with what's going on with the show but since I long gave up on Heroes because it just, frankly, started to suck, I have no idea. Still, it was a great idea.

So, that's an overview of the entire event. Hopefully, I've given you a mental picture. It's organized chaos, mostly. Yet it's a fun chaos, chaos that allows us to indulge the shows, books, comics and movies that we're passionate about and embrace the fact that it's ok to be a fan. I'll recap more specifics tomorrow.

As always, thanks for reading. It's nice to be back.

Happy Monday.

No comments: