[Each year we try to find a newcomer to the amazements of Comic-Con to report on their adventures; it’s a nice way of seeing the very real enthusiasm for what is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. This year’s con virgin is cartoonist Matthew Petz who offered to both write and sketch some of his experiences at the con, starting with not even having a badge… Here’s his first report.]
What day is it?
Seriously…with SDCC a day behind me I can finally get around to writing up my experiences. In a nutshell, it lived up to the hype. Good and bad.
I knew the trip was going to be all that and a bag of chips when my flight had the Comedian (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and real live penguins! Seriously, the penguins had been on the Today show and were going back to the San Diego Zoo. Mid flight the handlers brought them through the cabin to a 100 camera phones clicking away. Mine included.
I landed in SD at 8:30 local time, but 11:30 my time. Jet lag would continue to haunt me the whole weekend…no doubt the late nights and drinking didn’t help. Oh well. I dropped my bags at the Bay Front Hilton, and taxied over to the iFanboy party to meet up with friends. I was there MAYBE 5 minutes before we all bailed, I think the iFanboy thing was wrapping up and the roof was transforming into a club?
Our party of 7 split cars and headed to the Hyatt…but seconds into MY ride we changed plans and end up at the CBLDF party.
Thus is the SDCC…It’s a manic pop culture free for all that never ever lets up.
Shit happens, then it doesn’t, then it happens again, and then plans change and then you end up… somewhere. You must be adaptable. You will miss things and people, and that’s OK. Part of the fun is jumping out of the plane and seeing where you land. Sometimes it’s a private party, other times it’s drinks with fellow creators discussing what the “Haunted Tank” is…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
After the CBLDF party my friends and I left and got dinner. Walking around SD’s Gas Lamp district is pretty crazy… It’s a city full of cos players, pedicabs, lots of traffic vehicular and human… and this was only Thursday! Everything is wrapped in some sort of promotion. EVERYTHING. By the end of the weekend I was overloaded with the amount of sponsorship.
From projection screens on buildings at rooftop parties, to cups emblazoned with advertisements for TV shows that will surely be cancelled, San Diego becomes one gigantic ad you can’t fast forward through.
After dinner Thursday I went back to my hotel room at the Bay Front Hilton. It was 4:30 AM my time. Toast.
Up and at ‘em!
Still reeling from jet lag, I was up at 8 and out the door by 8:30 (I deserve a medal) I set off.
Between the Bay Front and the convention center there were all the Batmobiles from the TV show and movies. It was awesome, but I totally blew by them to get into the convention! On my way in I passed the growing line for Hall H. It was no joke. It’s everything you think it is, anime characters lined up next to batman, lined up to characters that are beyond my nerd scope.
I had a few options to actually get into the convention. A fellow creator had an extra badge, but it didn’t have my name on it. With the rumors of increased security I thought I might not be able to use it. I also had a badge from The Beat to fall back on (Thanks Heidi!) but the line to get that badge was long, long enough that I feared losing out on my second task: getting some exclusives.
So I tried my friends pass. No problem. In fact I talked to a few other creators who were also using a friend’s badge that weekend for various reasons. All had no issue getting in. Maybe there were security checks, but I didn’t see them.
So the place itself is MASSIVE. Just huge. I’ve been to a fair amount of shows before and nothing compares to SDCC it just goes on forever. First thing I did was scramble to get the exclusives that were my primary goal. I mean this is a HUGE part of the show experience, might as well see how hard it would be to get my hands on the items you can only get at the con.
For me it was easy as pie. Granted a Land of The Lost limited edition screen print isn’t the same thing as the Helicarrier toy, and maybe a Bane flash drive isn’t some crazy Star Wars exclusive, but maybe I just have odd taste? So I was happy to get those two exclusives.
Within 30 minutes of Friday I had my exclusives. Done and done.
What to do next? With that out of the way I started to walk the floor…
It really is just a pop culture convention now. Comics may have spawned it, but it’s really not about them anymore. I passed by a ton of booths about movies and TV and the big DC and Marvel type booths to get to where the actual comic retailers were at. This part was more like a gigantic American Legion show. Easy to walk around, not very loud, and full of overpriced stuff that I love to look at but feel no need to buy. Bootleg guy, poster guy, sword guy, they all were there.
On the way back I ran into friends and since it was lunch, we headed out.
A tip for you convention goers, behind the convention center there is this seaport village that was sleepy compared to the convention floor. A fantastic oasis of Hawaiian rice bowls and cold beer. It was a very welcome respite!
After lunch my friends and I split up. I headed to find a FedEX for my print, might as well ship it now and be safe. The FedDX was like a military triage center. Shit was getting wrapped and shipped off the front line to make way for more. I’ll admit my poster tube felt dwarfed by refrigerator sized boxes full of hellicariers and other exclusives.
Then I wandered.
Maybe it was jet lag, maybe it was the crowds, but I just wandered. Slowly. I wondered at the spectacle of it all… eventually I headed towards my hotel and the Batmobiles.
Batmobile serenity. I took photos of all the cars; my favorites were the original 1960’s Batmobile and the Lamborghini/tank that is the Tumbler. It actually wasn’t very crowded and I spent time checking everything out without feeling rushed. As I made my way back to the hotel room I was sharing I took the escalator up with Guillermo del Toro. No joke, I gave him the “whats up guy” head nod.
That night we hit Trickster.
Trickster was awesome… If a little hard to find this year. Friday night it was packed. It was like an indie rock club for comic book fans, live drawing, booze, comic conversation. Rad all around. It went on until 1AM, but the roof deck closed at 11 so we all made the trek to the hotel.
The Bay Front was packed. Wall to wall creators, and fans looking to get their drink on. Amazingly we found what we dubbed “the secret balcony”. It was far enough away from the bar that it must have been overlooked by people looking for a place to chill, BUT, not far enough away that the waitress couldn’t find us. Awesome.
Eventually we settled in, 10 or so of us, for a relaxing time of drinks, future of comics talk, and general tomfoolery. It was a great time. SDCC is at its best when you’re connecting with friends and talking about the bright future comics could have.
Good times are also easy when you have a horrible game to play. I won’t mention names, but someone in our party asked “what type of sex act a “Red Skull” would be”. This naturally de-evolved into a downright terrifying conversation that was both hilarious and probably criminal in some countries.
The night ended falling over in laughter/horror at the possibility of a “Haunted Tank”.
Next Time: Saturday and Sunday!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.