Monday morning, my legs are weak, my eyes are droopy, and I’m wearing one of my new comic con shirts. It was a long weekend, but in the best way. Early mornings, long sunny days of walking around, and long nights of after parties; with a healthy (or un-healthy) amount of drinking. While one of the tenants of the con is “what happens at Comic Con, stays at Comic Con” I wasn’t officially at Comic Con so it doesn’t count.
Everyone who has tried to get a ticket to San Diego Comic Con knows just how difficult it is. People who have bought tickets before get to preregister, and it’s the same with volunteering. It’s next to impossible to get tickets each year because it just keeps growing. Don’t get me wrong, I love that what I have always enjoyed is part of pop culture, I just wish it was easier to access. But, walk around outside the center and you’ll be treated to all the same experiences, cosplay, pictures, and plenty of lines. With thousands of people hoping for an exciting experience of pop culture and more importantly, free swag.
For those who are staying at hotels for the weekend parking is a non-issue but for the rest of us it could take a lot of our sanity to find a decent spot. As with any event in a city, parking can get tricky. While you could shove out anywhere from 20 to 40 bucks for parking in a street lot or a garage or even on a city block, I figure, if I’m going to be walking around all day anyway, I can park outside the main square of streets and get free parking. In my case, I lived out of my car for the weekend about five short blocks from the main convention street and three away from the trolley station. This made it easier to drop stuff off in my car, and fix my costume when needed, like having a hotel room, but cheaper… and much more cramped. (I wouldn’t really recommend it, but it’s an option.)
A few days before I drove down to San Diego I did a bit of web surfing for what fun stuff they set up around the city. The last time I went down, 2014, I had no clue what to expect, so this time I came prepared. I found the offsite website and wrote a list of all the stuff I wanted to see and do. Then I wrote all of the addresses and pinpointed them all on my google map. Adjusting for lines and breaks I also highlighted the experiences that I wanted to do the most. That being said, I was only able to make it to six of the things that I wrote down, out of over 30 things, not counting the after parties.
But, hey, that’s ok. It’s called being flexible. Plus, you never know how long a line is going to take or how much time an actual experience will take. While I drove down on Friday, I didn’t get to go to any “experiences” until Saturday.
Beginning the day I woke up around 5:20am and climbed out of my car in my Indiana Jones costume (without the whip and pistol). My first stop? The Hilton Bayfront and the Westworld Experience. I didn’t expect to make it in that morning, or maybe even that day, but I would put my name in for as early as possible on Sunday. I walked across the skybridge and down towards the first floor hotel lobby searching for a sign, literally, when I saw a already long line outside, growing on the sidewalk. I knew it wasn’t the line for Hall H, since that had started on the other side of the street, although it had extended to the hotel side as well. So I asked someone, they told me they were waiting in line for Starbucks. Not to diss anyone who likes or loves Starbucks, but why wait in a half-hour long line for it? Even if I liked it there are a lot of other coffee places around without a line. Either way I took a silent breath of relief and continued my search inside the hotel. Getting to the second floor lobby I saw the front desk and to the left, the Westworld poster, a sign. To the left of the closed off rope were clumps of people sleeping on the hotel chairs and couches which were placed in small circles along the wall. I walked down the line, turning two corners, and almost made it back to the escalator I took coming into the room. That was the line… and I joined it, sitting with my back leaning against the wall.
I forgot to bring my phone charger with me when I left the car that morning so with my phone around 40% battery life I was too scared to use it. Luckily, a couple of guys joined me at the ever extending back of the line and we had a long conversation. They had been coming to the con for at least a decade and have seen it grow and change year to year. Their friend, who’s idea it was for them to wake up early and wait in line bailed out because the night before she was invited to an industry party, and partied too hard for an early morning (lucky). Between 8 and 8:30am a man working at the Westworld booth walked down the line and starting from the corner in front of me told us that no one else was going to make it in. Obviously we were pissed, but as decent human beings, weren’t going to take it out on someone who had no power over the situation. We did, however, ask a couple of questions; were they accounting for the next day’s activities, how many people were going to be let in, why were they going under the number that they advertised, stuff like that. He explained that they had tried to let more people in on previous days and were running out of the stock, it got too busy, and the 150 people who had been waiting in the lobby were there since before the staff left the night before at 1am. Sucks, cause I really wanted to see which hat (black or white) I would get… and I wanted the hat too. But we thanked him for answering all of our questions, wished him a nice day and left.
Comic con really is about making choices. There are so many things to do, all happening at the same time, that you can’t do everything. Plus, with the other hundred thousand people around you who want to do the same stuff we are all competing for a very limited number of spots. It’s a weekend game of would you rather, which is fine, but everyone should know what he or she is walking into.
Continuing the day I got into the Netflix experience line down the street, it wasn’t open yet and the line stretched down the block to a restaurant on the corner. I had no clue what the “experience” would be, naturally then, I looked it up on my phone. Details were scarce, but what I gleaned was that you walk through a set from Stranger Things with a VR headset. It was the same sort of thing for the Bladerunner 2049 experience as well, but there they gave the option of waiting in the few hours long line for that or going in the much shorter line for walking through without the headset. Maybe you get swag, but without an actual activity, the wait didn’t seem worth it.
I, therefore, left the line and continued down the street, past the Walking Dead area and walked straight into The Tick experience’s line. There I waited about 25 minutes until it opened and got inside after what felt like forever at the time. But when I finally made it in the short instructional video from one of the show’s characters telling participants to find all the ‘clues’ in each room. After which we got a free 3D action shot and the t-shirt (or tote) that we designed before entering.
By that time it was almost 10am and my feet needed a rest. To the Nintendo gaming lounge! The line was still slowly growing, but I got my spot either near the end of the middle or the beginning of the end, depends on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist (though I not sure which is which). Either way I was able to sit down on the carpeted floor until the line started moving. People slowly started filing in and spreading out to whatever game caught their eye. When it was my turn to go inside they gave me a ‘passport’; a thick paper on which they told me to collect eight stamps by playing different games in order to win a random prize. It wasn’t a bad way to spend a few hours, playing video games in an air-conditioned room.
After I had collected all of the stamps it I jumped into the line for the prizes. It wrapped around itself a number of times so I was able to see what the prizes were. When you push the red button the Mario symbols, a mushroom, feather, Chompy, fire flower etc. flash on the screen. Most people got the mushroom, which gave the prize of stickers and some random papery stuff (if you can’t tell I didn’t win this prize). I, instead, hit the feather, which won me the 30-year edition of the Mario amiibo. Once I had won my prize my stomach wanted one too so I turn my phone back on and found a nearby brunch place. I was lucky that I was walking out when I was because there was an R2D2 in the lobby that I was completely giddy to take a photo with.
On the way, I stopped across the street for the Expanse experience, but after talking to another person in line who said that he had been told that the wait was two hours I just ‘noped’ on out of there. Instead I stuck with my stomach and got food at Café 222 on the opposite corner.
After eating brunch and dropping my new swag in my car I walked back towards the Petco Park Interactive area. I thought, ‘why the hell not?’ and walked inside through scattered crowds. On the opposite side from my entrance was the stage where they were holding Fanfest. More importantly, when I arrived they were 15 minutes away from an on stage interview will Michael Rooker, Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy. I wasn’t sure if I cared enough, I love Guardians and Yondu was awesome (spoilers), then they announced that they would be giving away swag bags for people in cosplay. I was there and in cosplay so I stuck around.
Even though there were other people in better cosplay than I, they still saw me beside the stage and gave me a bag filled with Deadpool stuff. F*ckin’ sweet. And since I was there I hung around for Yondu, who does give very funny interviews, so I am glad I stayed.
Just Walking Around
When walking around the con or even just standing in line the best thing you can do is keep your eyes open. Whether you have a camera or phone with a camera or not you’ll be able to see some awesome cosplays that can most simply inspire creativity. Sometimes you’ll also see some scary sh*t, or get “in the know”.
Another of the best things to do is talk to the people around you in lines; you’re sitting on standing next to them for hours anyway. Trust me, I know how terrifying it is to talk to strangers, or even people in general. I would rather put in my ear buds and listen to a podcast or music or anything else, but that’s why I do this. I pull myself kicking and screaming out of my comfort zone (internally of course), and then I realize over and over again that almost everyone is going through the same things. Of course you aren’t going to make best friends with everyone you meet but you can open yourself up to new experiences; such as getting interviewed by an online video blog (if only I could remember the name) and…
While the first night I just wandered to various bars looking to relax with some live music, there are plenty of bar and clubs in which to party hard, on my own. The second night, Saturday, I had choices to make. My original plan was either to get in line for the SyFy Fan Party hosted by Zachery Levi at the Children’s Museum or go to the Red Wedding After party at the House of Blues. But when I was in line for the Kingsman happy hour (free burgers and special movie themed cocktails, in which they did not skimp on the booze) I was behind a group with a Rick (from “Rick and Morty”).
After not talking for a while and scattered random uncomfortable comments with the people around me (at least from my point of view) struck up a conversation. They told my around a “Rick and Morty” talk and probable screening at Petco park starting at 8pm. That’s when my brain started swirling, I suck under pressure, even if the choices don’t actually matter in the long run. Luckily I had time to weigh my options and I decided on Rick and Morty.
In line for that I met the second and last Indiana Jones I would meet over the weekend and another Rick. Along with a few other people who I met in line we talked the entire line length and even sat together during the ‘show’.
Most of it wasn’t even a talk, but at the end they did show both the first and second episodes of season 3, which was amazing. Not only the episodes themselves, but also watching them while being in such an enormous crowd. We kept (half) joking that this has the makings of a cult, they say cheer and we cheer.
After the ‘show’ was over I went along with the con friends I made to a live band bar/club called Tin Roof where ‘Rick’ and I played giant Jenga and water pong while listening to the back Keep Your Soul.
With dozens, if not at least a hundred, parties going on each night (private or public) of Comic Con there are so many possibilities for things one might be doing and you can never know unless you conquer the fear and get out to do something, especially if you’re alone. It’s one of my mottos, “do what makes the better story”.