Comic-Con 2014 Photos by Julia Prescott
Since 1970, the San Diego Comic-Con has brought comic book fans and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasts from all across the world together to share stories, discuss the great mysteries of existence (Kirk vs. Picard, how does Superman shave, where is the bathroom on the Millennium Falcon), and purchase expensive collectibles. My first time attending was in 2007, and it was all I had dreamed of when I was kid making my Waterworld action figures kiss. It was a magnificent spectacle of the obscure, the misunderstood, and the marginal in pop culture. I was at home.
In the last 20 years, the Con has taken on a different tone. It's less a conclave of dorks than an opportunity for Hollywood to pitch their latest projects to the masses; the Cannes Film Festival, but with a 24-hour Subway on every corner. For VIPs and industry bigwigs, the experience is private cars, lavish hotels, and fancy parties with copious amounts of free drinks. For people like me who just want to get their Sandman trade paperback signed by Neil Gaiman, it's a whole lot more frustrating. Here are all the reasons why I now dread going to Comic-Con:
There Are Lines for Everything, Even Taking a Shit
Comic-Con is extremely popular—like "Pamela Anderson in Baywatch" popular. Yearly attendance is estimated at over 130,000 people, but on a normal day, downtown San Diego only holds around 28,000 people. Those numbers do not add up. The area around the convention center morphs into what looks like a makeshift disaster relief zone, but I suppose that's also the ideal scenario for sci-fi/fantasy fans, because it's like you're living inside the movie World War Z.
An area that's so severely overcapacity is bound to create lines for just about anything you could possible want or need. There's even a line to get into "Preview Night" on Wednesday now. Get excited to "preview" the back of somebody's Farscape t-shirt for two hours while you wait to get into the convention center!
The area was just not built to contain that many hungry, sleepy, drunk people who really need to pee, which means competition for basic services is fierce. One of the most sought-after items at Comic-Con isn't a mint condition copy of Action Comics #1... it's a working toilet. Lines can become truly interminable, possibly due to how long it takes for a guy to unzip and get out of his "Xenomorph from Alien" costume. When wearing an outfit with that many moving parts, finding your dick takes some time.
Photo via Flickr users Dave & Margie Hill
The Lonely Celebrity Signing Area
I remember when the highlight of Comic-Con was getting face time with my heroes, like the original Apollo from Battlestar Galactica or the dolphin from seaQuest DSV. They actually seemed happy to be there, eager to soak up the adoration of the loyal fans that remembered their glory days. Yes, ma'am. I did see your guest spot on Dark Shadows. You were great. I always wish they had brought your character back to get revenge. It's a shame M.A.N.T.I.S. got canceled, isn't it?
Now that the Con is primarily about new stuff instead of nostalgia for the past, the celebrity signing area has turned into a grim reminder of the fleeting nature of fame. Sure, there are still a few hearty souls who get pumped up about having a chat with 64-year-old Erin Gray from Buck Rogers. There just aren't enough of them left to keep the guests of honor from looking as though they've been told it's terminal and they should get their affairs in order.
My Comic-Con badge from 2011. Yes, they spelled my name wrong.
Trying to Get a Badge Is Awful
As rough as it is to attend Comic-Con, getting there is an even bigger hassle because of the sheer amount of interest and the wonky nature of Comic-Con International's online purchasing system.
"If you are interested in purchasing a badge for Comic-Con International 2015, you must first sign up for a Comic-Con Member ID. Your Comic-Con Member ID will act as your login to the EPIC online registration system during EPIC Open Online Registration and will also add you to our verified special member 'E-List.'"
Not sure what "EPIC Online Registration" is, but it sounds really neat, huh? I gues I'll click on Comic-Con International's FAQ page to get more info:
Comic-Con International will send an email with the Open Online Registration date and time to all eligible members at least 48 hours in advance of the sale. At least 24 hours prior to the sale, all eligible members will receive an additional email with their personal registration code and a link to the EPIC Registration landing page.
To guarantee you receive all email notifications from Comic-Con, please be sure to sign in to your Member ID account and click the “OPT-OUTS” option on the “My Account” tab. Make sure you have not checked the “Email Opt-Out” box. If you have selected to opt-out of email notifications from Comic-Con, you will not receive important registration announcements.
Oh... so that means I'm guaranteed to be able to buy a ticket at that point, right? RIGHT?
OK. Great. That worked out.
Everything Is Expensive, Especially Parking
Local merchants, realizing that Comic-Con week is their best chance to ensure they turn a yearly profit, jack up the price of everything. They really screw you on anything that's a finite resource (as is their prerogative in this glorious capitalist nation), and parking is the most finite resource there is due to the aforementioned population issue in downtown. It's best not to drive at all during Comic-Con. There's always taxis, the San Diego Trolley, or pedi-cabs. Pedi-cabs are great, right?
These pedal-powered personal conveyances are ostensibly designed to make getting around downtown San Diego much easier for Con attendees. Sometimes, they actually can be fairly handy, if you need to get a few blocks faster than your legs can carry you (and you have a few extra dollars in cash burning a hole in your wallet). Other times, they are guided missiles with one mission: hitting you while you try to cross the street.
The drivers are also kinda pushy about getting you to ride with them if they see you hoofing it. Like, why would you walk if you can hop in the cart on the back of my bike that's shaped like the Iron Throne! Pedi-cabs are Comic-Con's natural predators. Beware.
Everyone's Constantly Getting "Turnt"
Since when did a comic book convention for people who have a hard time making eye contact turn into a 24/7 rave? Once the floor closes for the day, San Diego's Gaslamp District rises from the ashes like a Phoenix (you know, from X-Men #101-108) and is reborn as a geek-themed frat party. The big star of last year's convention was not the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer or Benedict Cumberbatch. It was this girl's puke, since we all got to step over it and around it, and smell it. The smell is what I'll never forget. Good lord, the smell.
Everyone wants to cram into Hall H to see sizzle reels, trailers, and sometimes just logos from various upcoming genre films and TV shows. Despite being the largest room in the convention center, Hall H only has a capacity of 6,130. That's a small fraction of the people who attend the Con.
The demand for Hall H presentations is so intense that in 2012, I stood in line for three hours to get into the Doctor Who panel. I finally made it to the front of the line when the security guard informed me that Hall H was now full, but I was welcome to be first in line to see The Cleveland Show panel. You know, the cartoon with the black people.
Needless to say, I did not stay, but everyone behind me did, because by sitting through the interminable banter between the voice cast of The Cleveland Show, they could stick around for the next panel, which was either the Firefly reunion or a sneak peek at the font that would be used in the end credits of Iron Man 3. I don't remember.
If you actually get into Hall H to see a panel, you pretty much can't get up to walk around or take a leak, because someone will take your seat, especially if it's close to the podium or the Q&A microphone. You're stuck there. I hope you like combing through the Comic-Con program to find something to read or futily trying to get service on your cell phone. Don't expect the panels to start on time, so download Angry Birds now. You're going to be real familiar with that game soon enough—unless you came with a friend, in which case you can discuss which restaurant you're going to wait in line to maybe eat at after it's all over.
Good Luck Carrying All the Toys You Just Bought
Here are some things I've bought at Comic-Con: the entire set of Enterprise bridge crew figures from Star Trek: First Contact, a giant Dark Knight Batman toy, a Con exclusive Indiana Jones poster, a Judge Dredd t-shirt I never wear (because when is that socially acceptable outside of Comic-Con?), a Star Trek: The Motion Picture mini-poster, a bootleg DVD copy of Re-Animator, multiple sonic screwdrivers, and a Mon Mothma Star Wars figure (still in the package, natch).
I love all of this stuff, and I proudly display it all at my home. Actually getting all that crap to my home is the hard part. The people in the above photo had to drag a fucking cart around all day to hold all their toys. What happens when they both have to pee at the same time? Do they bring the giant laundry basket full of toys with them into the bathroom? What about if they want to sit down to a nice meal? Can they bring that goddamn thing into Hall H with them? Isn't that a fire hazard?
The Religious Protestors
What better place to proselytize and convert lost souls than a large-scale gathering of kindred spirits who also obsess over sensational fantasy stories about the conflict between good and evil, with a healthy dollop of questionable gender politics? It's like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel, folks. That doesn't make it any less annoying. I'll take my Christ in allegory form—straight from Krypton, resplendent in blue and red tights. Thanks.
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