San Diego Comic Con 2011: Day Four and Roundup

Last year I made the mistake of trying to see EVERYTHING, regardless of feasibility. I misjudged distances and crowds and got stuck at the end of lines quadrupling back on themselves. The end result was frustrating and exhausting and I missed more panels than I attended. This year I resolved to go with the flow, pick a room, and stay for the day. But such stringent time management proved  unnecessary.

The Con planners took notes on the insanely poor crowd control from last year and this go-round was smoother than a veal cutlet. Queuing an hour and a half ahead this year meant chilling out for 15 minutes, heading inside, and getting to see two panels for the price of one. I sat through things I never would have before, and most of them wound up pretty darn awesome—most notably the one where Val Kilmer showed up and seemed totally confused as to what was happening but was just going to go along with it until the hallucinations wore off. While I didn’t get to see everything I wanted (sorry Doctor Who and Community), I thoroughly enjoyed myself anyway.

That’s not to say there weren’t problems. The Exhibition Hall stalls seemed sparse compared to last year. Maybe the arrangement was more efficient, or maybe last year was just a crazy year for swag, but this year was depressingly lame. None of the studios or big comics companies were giving anything away or even selling souvenirs. You could have your picture taken with a terrifying replica of Merle Dixon or stand in front of a greenscreen to have Captain America superimposed behind you. And that was it.

Steampunk stalls were few and far between, and it didn’t matter where you bought that plushie Adipose because you could find it at ten different booths for the exact same price. Product diversity was few and far between, and even the free swag was relegated to flyers and leftovers from Free Comic Book Day. No free Hellboy totebags, posters, or buttons for Alex. Just a foot-long postcard advertising The Walking Dead that was too big to fit in my purse without folding so now there’s a crease right down the middle of Andrew Lincoln’s face. But despite being unable to fill a giant bag full of useless free things that I was probably going to throw away anyway, the convention as a whole was bloody fantastic.

People have been complaining for years that Comic Con is too commercial, too Hollywood, and that comics have been shunted to the dark, dank, forgotten corners. While that’s true to some extent (Artists’ Alley and the Portfolio Reviews area managed to be simultaneously both isolated and teeming with fans), that’s missing the point. I read a recap that proposed that Comic Con isn’t one big convention, but is instead dozens of smaller conventions all living under the same roof. I like that notion, and it fits a lot more than “Nobody cares about comics anymore.”

It’s true that after I asked the chick at the AMC booth if they knew where to find The Walking Dead comics (she didn’t) a Con-goer asked with all sincerity “There’s a comic about the TV show?” But it’s also true that the autograph lines for comics creators and SFF authors were often longer than the studio photo ops. I saw more people dressed as anime and manga characters than anything else (even Adam Savage got in on some Miyazaki action). The stalls run by independent brick and morter comic book stores were never not packed to the gills. You could easily spend the entire Con playing Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering—and I don’t doubt that many did.

And that’s what I like so much about Comic Con. It isn’t one seething organization intent on squeezing as much money as possible out of you (studios and bloated comics corporations notwithstanding), but a collection of niche conventions that border and overlap and welcome outsiders with open arms. I set out to attend the Television Geek Convention and Comic Geek Convention, but on the way I ended up at the Gamers Convention, SFF Scholars Convention, and the I Don’t Know What This Is But I Think I Like It Convention. Each one was a new, different, and bemusing experience, but for the most part I enjoyed dipping my toe into these curious niche pools (except for Axe Cop… I was more annoyed with that panel than I was with DC’s pathetic attempts to explain why Harley Quinn needs to look like a Hot Topic stripper).

Like tofu, facial piercings, living in Los Angeles, and Jennifer Aniston, Comic Con isn’t for everyone. It is overcrowded, overstuffed, and veering disconcertingly close to a Robot Chicken-esque parody of a real convention, but it’s also tremendous fun. For me, this is my only chance all year to socialize with other fans, nerds, and geeks. Every other day of the year the phrase “blaidd drwg” draws blank stares, but at Comic Con there are at least 6500 people who would answer my quote with “schlecter wolf” and a knowing smile.

I can’t wait until my piecemeal Con purchases of Sandman and Preacher leave me with full collections. I can’t wait to come in costume, albeit a functional one that doesn’t require corsets, heels, and bulky accoutrements. And I can’t wait to drag my future kids through the Exhibition Hall and load them up on Silver and Golden Age comics. This is only my second Con, but it won’t be my last. Comic Con has joined the ranks of seeing Amanda Palmer in concert, getting a tattoo, and vacationing in New Orleans as an annual activity, a yearly pilgrammage to my version of a holy land. San Diego Comic Con International, you and I have a date for 2012.

Choice Quotes:

  • “I’m not just wearing these [glasses] to look librarian sexy.” – Patrick Warburton
  • “Excuse me, but I would never touch another woman’s boobs unless sanctioned by my girlfriend.” – unknown Con-er
  • “I’ve dried and cured [my uterus] and keep nickles in it.” – Doc Hammer
  • “All questions about the future of the show will be answered by the show.” – Doc Hammer
  • “All my relatives look like German George Washingtons.” – Jackson Publick
  • “I only like these people… and one of my children.” – Rob Corddry
  • “What makes you think I’ve got your weiner trimmings?” – Stephen Root as Dr. Owen Maestro’s dad on Childrens Hospital
  • “I’m like, ‘Mama, bitch, pimps don’t do chores!'” – Tommy Davidson as Cream Corn on Black Dynamite
  • “Look, you all know I want you to suffer… It’s like a drug.” – Joss Whedon
  • “The point of Season 8 to me was, ‘Hey, it’s comics, and we can do these things we can’t do on television,’ and it eventually became kind of an albatross… People were more interested in her life than they were in the fact that we could draw bigger things… Having discovered that I can do it differently than the television show, I’ve discovered that I don’t really want to.” – Joss Whedon
  • “The only trouble I’ve had with The Avengers is, ‘Where is the 14-year-old girl with superpowers? Very confused! Is it you, Robert Downey Jr.?’ It’s probably Clark Gregg.” – Joss Whedon

To see pictures from Comic Con, click here. To see John Barrowman’s adorably sexy introduction to the season 4 episode 3 screening, click here.

Alex Brown is an archivist by passion, reference librarian by profession, writer by moonlight, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare.


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