Pop Curious traveled to the great city of San Diego to attend Comic-Con, and since it was our first time, we weren’t sure what to expect. Lots of people have griped that getting a badge is near impossible, the whole event isn’t really about comics anymore, and that it has just become a bloated shadow of its former self. We have no point of reference against which to compare our own experience, but we can say that it was nothing short of amazing and fun.
Comic-Con gets loons of coverage by hundreds of media outlets and bloggers alike, attending all five days and reporting live throughout. Though we’d have liked to go every day, our budget simply would not allow it. The cost of getting there and then staying at a hotel is prohibitively expensive for small-timers like ourselves. We decided to go for one day and make the best of it, thinking it could be a test-run for attending again in the future. So, armed with a digital camera, a Flip HD recorder, and various analogue cameras, we set out for SDCC by way of Amtrak. Since we weren’t spending tons of dough on gas or a hotel room, we opted for business class — an extra $30 per person, but well worth it (free coffee, danishes, and wi-fi access, folks).
After a relaxing trip from Los Angeles and a short trolley ride to the Convention Center, we were dumped into a crowd of several thousand people, including Jesus-freaks with megaphones. It was sort of a controlled chaos, with convention workers guiding people where to go, and various security and police details wrangling the hordes of people. (If you have any sort of fear of large groups, this is certainly not the event for you.) It was an eclectic crowd of all ages, comprised of cosplayers and seemingly regular folks — those who had badges and those who were still looking for them. We finally got our bearings and made our way inside.
At check-in, we were each handed what appeared to be an oversized plastic laundry bag (Warner Bros. distributed them to each badge-holder). The immensity of the event immediately hit us. There are so many things to do, see, and attend — our brains felt overloaded. Comic-Con should be considered the most awesome drug in the world for anyone who has Attention Deficit Disorder, Pop Curious included. Our field of vision was constantly filled with characters of every kind — it was not unlike being inside some kind of monstrous beehive, only with geeks instead of bees, and cartoons instead of honey. We had to snap out of it, because you really could just stand there forever, or just drift with the crowd while taking it all in.
Our first celebrity sighting was Lou Ferrigno, aka the Incredible Hulk. He was scratching his ear, waiting to sign his biography and have his picture taken with anyone willing to step up. No one did, presumably because it would mean shelling out $40 for a book they’d never read. So instead, we all stood a semi-respectable distance away from the man, taking pictures. It was both sad and fascinating, kind of like seeing an exotic animal at the zoo.
We encountered the Necomimi booth, which debuted motorized cat-like ears that move back and forth, twitch, and flatten while being controlled by tiny muscle movements of the head. At $100 a pop, they’re the dream accessory of furries everywhere, yet they have a background that’s intensely serious and as far removed from Comic-Con that you could imagine. The same technology behind Necomimi is being developed by a company called NeuroSky to help people with terrifying conditions that leave them without the ability to speak or move, even though they’re fully alert and aware. Knowing that, it’s a bit unnerving to see play with this toy, but we suppose it will win NeuroSky some money and recognition so the company can help even more people, and hopefully, design even more freaky products.
All over the Internet, you’ll find slick photo galleries of people dressed as their favorite heroes and villains at Comic-Con. We’re a bit mystified by this. Sure, there are loons of people to photograph, but there is such an onslaught of foot traffic that we wonder how it could be possible to take these pictures without causing gridlock. So we went for the run-and-gun approach, when it came to taking pictures: “Oh look, a middle-aged He-Man!” “Hey, it’s the back of the sexy alien chick from Mars Attacks!” “There’s an Imperial Scout Trooper getting on the escalator…” “Brent Spiner is standing ten feet behind the Penguin with his back to us!” You get the idea.
We were fortunate to check out the world of Sid and Marty Krofft in a panel moderated by Chris Gore. Sid and Marty talked about doing exactly what they wanted to do, regardless of their shoestring budget. They spoke of how they did indeed do drugs back in the day, but not nearly as much as you’d think. They also told us how disappointed they were with the feature-film adaptation of Land of the Lost starring Will Ferrell, and how they’d like to do another movie version with the original story in mind. Wesley Eure, who played Will Marshall in the original Land of the Lost series, made a surprise appearance and shared how close they all were on the set. It was a great panel, though from our vantage point, every time Marty spoke, all we’d see was a Sleestak mask instead of his head, which was as entertaining as it was frustrating.
Next up was a press conference with William Shatner and Roger Corman, along with Jena Sims and Olivia Alexander — stars of Corman’s new 3D film, Attack of the 50 Foot Chearleader, directed by Kevin O’Neill. Shatner was affable and excited about his new documentary, William Shatner’s Get A Life!, which gets its name from the infamous Saturday Night Live sketch and chronicles the lives of Star Trek fans. While seated just a few feet away from Captain Kirk, the overwhelming impression I got, besides that he seemed like a genuinely nice guy, was that he smells fantastic! Seriously, the man could stroll through the bowels of hell and leave the place smelling like the lush, green fields of Elysium. We suppose it’s an odd thing to draw from the conference, but really, isn’t your day just a bit better knowing that William Shatner is a sweet-smelling man?
We decided to take a break and went to the MOD Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel to recharge our batteries, literally and figuratively. We met the head of Dread Central while he covered the event live, with dispatches from his 15 reporters amongst the convention goers. He was a swell guy, and after some great free advice, we headed back out into crowd to see what was next.
We don’t remember much else, except that we lost (and found) one of our cell phones, and that we met a guy who held us hostage with his horrible jokes. Before we knew it, the convention hall closed, and it was time to head back to the train and make plans for next year. At least we didn’t have to face traffic.