Or, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Comic Con But Were Too Afraid To Ask
For 4 days last week, I had my thumb to the pulse of pop culture at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con. It was my first convention, and it was a truly amazing experience. So rather than try to report back to you like a credible news source (which we know I’m not) or an impartial journalist (which I’ll never be), I will attempt to share with you a little bit of the experience of going there. First, The Floor:
Walking into the convention center the first time is a bit overwhelming. First off, the convention hall is gigantic–probably the largest enclosed space you’ve ever been in. The next thing you notice is how many people there are! People of all kinds–old, young, middle-aged, some in costume, most not, all carrying monstrous bags to hold the swag they collect. 130,000 people attend Comic Con. Yes, some are in costume. Most aren’t. But if you want to dress up, you can! You are free to let your freak flag fly, because there is no way you are the weirdest Cheerio in a box this big. In fact, people will celebrate your weirdness, and possibly ask for a picture. This is Disneyland for geeks. The constant thrum of activity, punctuated occasionally by a vendor shouting or an advertisement blaring, gradually soaks into you until you begin to hum at the same crazy frequency. Then, you’re ready to take the plunge.
The convention hall is more or less broken up into thirds. Crowding the majority two thirds are the large brand booths, which probably have a well-calculated floor plan, but which I will break down into Toys/Games/Comics and TV/Movies because for the life of me I can’t figure out the floor plan. These draw the largest crowds, and rightfully so!
The Hobbit exhibit sits next to the Lego Hobbit action figures guarding the southwest Lego corner. Fox is a square surrounded by counters where booth babes hand out swag (I grabbed a Stewie Griffin button and a thumb drive shaped like a thumb) while Hasbro sells My Little Pony in long lines near BBC America’s booth, which quickly ran out of “I AM S-H-E-R-LOCKED” T-shirts but still sells Tardises. DC demo’s its new Justice League video game called “Injustice” across the way from Marvel, which has a constantly-crowded Iron Man 3 stage complete with 7 Iron Man suits. Everything is bigger, louder, and more interactive, and in case you get tired of standing in line (which you do a lot), you’re still given things to do. Here’s how the wall on the Lego line grew:
Taking up the gradually shrinking rightmost third of the hall are the smaller comic book and nicknack vendors who are Comic Con’s namesake. Mostly small, independent enterprises, they are crammed together in alleyways three or four people wide, which spill into a larger avenue that continues unbroken, bisecting the convention center lengthwise. The artists and vendors of this section have varied displays and tables selling pictures, comics, posters, collectibles, t-shirts, and costume items of every sort. Overall, it reminds you of an outdoor bazaar, if said bazaar was solely devoted to tchotchke of the geeky sort. If you want to hear the true heartbeat of geek culture, mill through these aisles and listen to people talk to each other. The vendors and buyers alike are here to share their passions, and the most surprising and wonderful things happen here.
It is in this chaotic-but-fascinating section that I discovered that Comic Con really is for geeks everywhere, no matter your credo or obsession. Next to the food court selling $8 “themed” pizzas, a vendor was selling vintage movie posters from the 1940s to the present day. As he carefully paged through the large plastic sheets protecting his collection, I talked with him about favorite titles, and discussed CinemaScope with others who stopped by, and laughed over Katherine Hepburn’s caricature in a movie I’d never heard of before. It was the last thing I was expecting, but Comic Con is truly the home for geeks of every kind.
It took three days to finally figure out the rough lay out, but even when I did, I was continually surprised. The convention actually spilled outside onto an adjacent lawn, where they parked the 5 Batmobiles for fans to worship. Across a bridge in a parking lot I was awarded a green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trucker’s hat for swearing allegiance to the Turtles to exterminate the Foot Clan. My inner 8-year-old rejoiced and I refused to remove it for the rest of the convention. Restaurants surrounding the convention offered thematically appropriate food, and the Umbrella Corporation from the Resident Evil games was handing out feet to anyone who tweeted #umbrellacorpcares across the street from the abandoned Ferris wheel for a new TV show. Back inside the convention I lost myself in the comic vendors maze, only to emerge with 4 trades that I probably didn’t need but read with relish anyway. It was easy to get caught up in the excitement. But I hadn’t yet seen a panel in the hallowed Valhalla: Hall H.
Part 2 To Be Continued!