Last Friday, we got up at 5am, assembled the troops, and began the not-that-long caravan down to San Diego for the largest convention in the history of ever. There were plenty of indicators of Comic Con's massiveness on the way down. Our hotel in Escondido -- a good twenty miles north of San Diego, the closest hotel Don could find -- was a crappy two-star EconoLodge with a bathroom only slightly wider than my car and a mattress with slightly less give than particle board. Those rooms went for $300 a night. Ridiculous? Yes. But anything closer to the convention had sold out months ago. We were lucky to find this place.
Then there was actually getting to the convention. If the lodging situation was bad, the parking was worse. Comic Con put out a list of all the nearby (and not so nearby) park-and-rides, and even with all those options the routes were jammed. We drove to Qualcomm Stadium, some twenty minutes away, to park, and then rode the red line train for a half-hour to the convention center. And when the convention center loomed into sight, and we saw the masses of costumed fans baking in the ninety-degree heat, the size of the convention really dawned on us.
The hall itself was larger than any convention hall I'd ever seen. All the dividing walls had been taken out, leaving an open space from Exhibit Hall A to Exhibit Hall H. Almost sixty aisles of vendors and exhibitors packed the hall. To give you a sense of it, we were told that if you walked from one end of the hall to another, slaloming up and down every aisle, you would walk over three miles. Not that you could walk through the hall without getting stuck in a fan jam. Each aisle had at least four breaks in it to allow for foot traffic. And the foot traffic... Nearly every intersection I passed through was either completely clogged or slowed to a trickle. Nobody could move faster than a languid meander. I felt my long dormant offensive lineman instincts kicking in, had to fight the urge to plow through the crowd shoulder-first . I've never seen foot traffic that dense in my life. I assume it's what the New York subway is like, but with less movement and more Batmans (Batmen?).
A lot of celebrity sightings. We saw Stephen Baldwin giving an interview outside the hall. Moments later, we ran into our favorite con-friend, Dean Haglund, during a lull in the crowd. I bought my copy of The Guild season one, and got most of the cast to sign it -- not Felicia Day, though, who was busy with Dr. Horrible panels all day. (On a side note, the line to the Joss Whedon seminar was wrapped around the exhibit hall, down the hall, out the door, and along the wall outside. No chance of getting into that one. Damn it. One of these days I'll write about how many times I've narrowly missed seeing Joss. Not that he's my hero or anything. Or that I wear a "What Would Joss Do?" bracelet. Or that I keep a shoebox full of his nail clippings.) Also ran into David Gerrold, sci-fi author and writer of the most popular Star Trek of all time, The Trouble with Tribbles -- hadn't seen him since he guest taught a Writing for TV class for D.C. Fontana at AFI. He was his usual curt, sarcastic, and brilliant self.
When the exhibit hall finally closed, the Dead Gentlemen zipped on over to the Marriott to prep for the screening. We passed under this rather amusing sign directing us to the ballrooms, and had to pose for a picture.
"DG," right there to welcome us. An omen? A portent?
A sign of good fortune to come? (Answer: No.)
The screening itself went as well as we could have hoped. We started with a good crowd, about 75 people, at least half of whom had no idea who we were or what the movie was about. But the crowd didn't stay that size. Folks kept trickling in. The door to the hall kept opening. By the time the film was over, an additional 100 people had ambled in to join the crowd. And by their response, they loved it -- they laughed long and hard, in all the right places, and gave us a grand sitting ovation when the credits rolled. It was the perfect crowd to screen to, and a great way for us to cristen our Comic Con experience.
After the screening, about fifteen of us -- members and friends of DG, and friends of friends of DG -- gathered for a very late dinner at 9pm. This was the first down time I'd had all day -- I'd been up since five -- and I found myself falling asleep at the table. We left two hours later, and two hours after that finally got back to our hotel rooms. We briefly flirted with the idea of going back to the con on Saturday, but nixed it in the morning. And a good thing, too. Saturday set the new con record -- 140,000 people, the biggest crowd ever, 15,000 more than last year's record. So I'd say we got out good when we did.
All in all, our one day at Comic Con was an exhausting and exhilirating experience, overwhelming and disorienting. Frankly, I can't believe I didn't get a migraine from all the over-stimulation. But I'm glad to have done it, and will be glad to do it next year. Because you can't really be in fandom until you've made the Comic Con journey.
Jamie Chambers (Margaret Weis Productions) poses with Cindy and Wifey.
An unexpected party.