Guest Post: Heather Thayer Reports From San Diego Comic-Con

Logo of SDCCThe biggest joy of attending San Diego Comic-Con is that I usually get to bring at least one person with me. This year I took three kids (see my post here: Surviving SDCC With Kids). I also took my friend Heather, and if you are wondering why it’s taken so long for another post about SDCC to come out, I suspect she just woke up! I have never seen another person more thrilled about SDCC and it was a highlight of the trip for me to see her excitement. Here’s Heather’s report!

I went to San Diego Comic Con and It Was AWESOME

I don’t know what possessed her to make such a generous offer, but last year Carrie asked me if I would be interested in going to San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). It has always been a dream of mine to go, although I was worried because I don’t like crowds or standing in line. But hey, given the offer I agreed that I wanted to go as a “bucket list” sort of thing. Carrie warned me that there were a lot of “ifs” before it would be possible, but as winter finished and spring began, I started getting jazzed about the idea. I tried for my own badge and failed, so it wasn’t looking good, but then Carrie got badges, stuff happened, some family issues got resolved and suddenly, with only weeks to spare, I got the email from Carrie that we were a go.

The Schedule

The first thing to know about SDCC is that the schedule is insane. At any given time there are tons of interesting panels, autographs to get, offsite events, gaming tables, cosplay to look at, movies and shows constantly playing and a stupendously huge exhibition hall with merchandise, art, giveaways, and events.

Choices Choices-2

As soon as the panel schedule was posted in early July, I pored through it picking items that I was interested in seeing, but knowing that I’d be lucky to catch even a fifth of what I had selected. Early on I realized that I didn’t have the stamina to camp out overnight to get into the famous Hall H – the colossal hall where the biggest panels are held. The hall holds 6,500 people and the line usually starts the night before, serpentining across a plaza outside. While it was a disappointment to give up the Hall H experience, I decided that there was plenty else to see and do. I picked one or two things per day that I really wanted to attend and other than that decided to take things as they came. I was particularly interested in some of the “how to” panels about creating characters, writing tips, insider perspectives on script development and costume design. I planned to be perfectly happy attending such panels for three days in addition to catching a panel or two on some of my favorite shows. And I think I would have been happy, if that had been how things turned out.

Serendipity

The first day came, I took the train into town (I was staying in Carlsbad with family friends), easily found Carrie and her be-winged daughter, we went right in and were handed our badges with no delay and there we were – inside SDCC — crowds of people being directed by armies of volunteers, people in cosplay and long lines, celebrities and fans. After an interesting writing panel in the morning, Carrie and I split up and I decided to get the lay of the land. I wandered outside – in part because I wanted to get a picture of the famous Hall H line. As I walked by the Hall H entrance, volunteers were there announcing that there was no line for the Hall and there was seating available. Alrighty then! I went in. I saw Bill Murray, then the Hunger Games: Mockingjay panel (I saw Catching Fire six times in the theater, so I’m a bit of a fan), the Doctor Who panel (I paid to go see the 50th Anniversary show simulcast in the theaters, so I’m a bit of a fan) and then the Con Man panel – the crowd-sourced web series created by Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion (I contributed a substantial amount to the campaign, so I’m a bit of a fan). For me, that final panel was the culmination of everything awesome since all of my favorite geek icons were there Chris Hardwick! Seth Green! Wil Wheaton! Felicia Day! And then this happened and everyone in Hall H cried.

Best. Day. Ever.

The other days were not quite as exciting, but every day I was able to see panels on shows that are my absolute favorites. On Saturday morning Carrie and her husband and I went to an offsite event for Orphan Black (we are HUGE fans – Orphan Black was our cosplay).

That's Heather as 'Alison' and me as 'Cosima as Alison'!

That’s Heather as ‘Alison’ and me as ‘Cosima as Alison’!

I was vaguely hoping that one of the actors might show up, so I was delighted when almost the entire cast was there. I was also able to see the Outlander panel on Saturday, so now I can die happy. And on Friday was able to ask J Michael Straczynski a question about Sense8. Me, talking to J Michael Straczynski about a show I love! How cool is that?

The Vibe

There were lots of people, but SDCC has line management and crowd control down to a science, so it never felt crushing. All of the people there want to be there and are interested in fun, geeky things, so the energy is uplifting. The spaces are vast, so with people spread out in the different rooms, waiting in various lines, prowling the Exhibition Hall, or outside the Convention Center at offsite events – there are few times when one finds oneself in a crush. The two primary exceptions were in the Exhibition Hall, which was crowded and loud and overwhelming; and trying to get onto the trolley at the end of the day – an exercise that made the Tokyo subway seem orderly and spacious. Besides, it was a pleasure to just stroll, looking at the people and the terrific cosplay.  I’ve never seen so many Boba Fetts and Lady Siths in my life.

Exhibition Hall

A fair amount of time is spent in lines – if there is a panel you really want to see the trick is to get into the room a few panels ahead of time. I saw The Man in the High Castle and Vikings panels this way – panels that I enjoyed that I otherwise wouldn’t have attended. Most of the medium and large rooms have lines that snake around the Convention Center, crossing hallways and eventually ending up outside under tents on the terrace. The lines are orderly and well-marked, and unless movement is imminent, most people sit down and wait, which actually turned out to be some of the most interesting times of the trip.

Autograph Line

I am not the most outgoing person in the world, but it was easy to talk to people in line and in the halls because no matter what they looked like (Suburban housewife? Gangbanger? Hacker dude? Thor?) they were all there because they shared an interest in geeky things and simply saying “what are you in line to see?” could start off an intense conversation about this genre that we all love. What a refreshing thing to be able to fangirl and not worry that the other person didn’t know what I was talking about! The other great way to start a conversation was to ask a cosplayer how they created a certain prop or effect – anyone who put so much effort into a costume was always delighted to have someone notice.

Cosplay4

Madame, you are KILLING IT. Kudos!

The Verdict

I don’t think I’ve ever had quite as much fun in three days as my three days at SDCC: exciting, overwhelming, fun, interesting. I came away inspired to be more creative and to spend more time on my writing. I may need to take cosplay to the next level – Halloween is right around the corner. I was expecting crowds and hassle and some interesting moments, but instead it was energy and excitement and fascination. I can’t wait to go again.

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