San Diego Comic-Con 2017

San Diego Comic Con logoThis year was my fourth year at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and while it was a good experience overall, I’m getting a little cranky about it. Here’s the highs and lows of my personal experience. For SDCC news, I recommend io9.com.

My experience this year was very much affected by my physical state on Saturday and Sunday, especially Saturday. SDCC is all about attitude and my attitude was grumpy. The lines seemed longer and the atmosphere more tense. Every time I tried to sit down or even stand still some staff person told me to move, which was infuriating (credit where due – when people did NOT keep moving the resulting bottlenecks were horrific). Having survived Saturday, when I was in rocky shape, I advise one and all to keep careful track of your energy levels and be kind to them. Have an exit plan ahead of time. Eat some fiber and protein. One thing SDCC does do well is provide a lot of free water. DRINK IT ALL.  This is your vacation, for God’s sake. You should enjoy it, even if that means that you miss some stuff because you are taking a nap.

 

me, looking fed up an exhausted, sitting under a "no sitting" sign

 

Even though I spent this year in an extremely cranky fibro fog, I still had some wonderful experiences. My daughter was able to get into an autograph session with the cast and creators of Steven Universe and later we went to a panel with Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe, and the show’s co-developer, Ian Jones-Quarty. I loved hearing about the background of the show, but more than that as a parent was so grateful to cast and creators for being incredibly warm and kind towards my daughter. I am also grateful to the creators of the show for making something so incredibly positive, feminist, and inclusive.

I heard a lot of people give advice about succeeding at visual arts, at comics, at cartoons, at acting careers, and at writing, and all the advice was the same regardless of the medium. Keep going. Work every day. Practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Engage with your audience. Above all, remember that an idea is no good if you keep it in your head. Rebecca Sugar told us that she writes her doodles for new show concepts on scavenged paper scraps so she won’t have to feel bad about messing up a nice sketchbook with bad first drafts. Whatever it takes to give yourself permission to get those awful first drafts after you, do it and then finish your work!

the meeseeks from Rick and Morty!

Can Do! Pic is blurry because we couldn’t stop laughing long enough to hold the camera steady!

You’d think it would be hard to make friends in a crowd of 100,00+ people, but personally, over the years SDCC has become less about the panels and more about the friendships. I had so much fun hanging out with people know and love. I think the greatest benefit of conventions, whether large or small, is that they help people form smaller, intimate communities of support, understanding, and a lot of laughter.

The most mind-blowing aspect of my SDCC experience has been growing from an observer to a participant. I was honored to moderate the panel “Embracing the Romantic.” Rebecca Zanetti, Jessica Cluess, Stephanie Perkins, Anna Todd, Christina Hobbs, and Lauren Billings. We had so much fun talking about the importance of romance, our favorite couples, what makes a romance compelling, and how much science fiction and fantasy fans and romance fans have in common. Thank you, ladies, for a delightful experience!

It's Cosplay Repair Guy!

And thanks, Cosplay Repairman, for the bobby pins!

San Diego Comic-Con is what you make of it. It can overwhelm you unless you set up strict self-care rules for yourself. You can have a feminist, inclusive experience that celebrates people of color and LGBTQIA readers and creators. I come away from SDCC heart warmed and inspired and ready for battle every year, but I deliberately choose the panels that will foster those emotions. You can have a thrilling experience centered around big budget movies or you can have a slightly more calm, but still thrilling, experience centered around comics, authors, and artists.

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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.

Guide to Surviving SDCC with Kids, for Someone Who Has Just Returned

San Diego Comic Con logoLast year I went to Comic-Con (henceforth referred to as SDCC) with a group, but I was always doing my own thing “for work”, and I responsible for nothing but taking a ton of notes. This year I was responsible for the lives of three children, which is why now all my hair is completely white and I stare into the void with haunted eyes. Did I have fun?  Yes, absolutely – but I didn’t really realize that until we were all home on Sunday night and I counted children. Not only do I have the same number of kids I left with, but I even have the same kids. So hey – parenting win!

If you take kids to SDCC, here’s some things to keep in mind:

There is child care.

Not free, alas, but very reasonably priced. My team was a little old for it – they are tweens so not old enough to roam unprotected but too old to want to go to child care. However, a friend of mine used it last year for his younger kids and they adored it and begged to stay.

There are some events specifically for kids.

Most of these are on Sunday, when one room is devoted to different craft and art projects all day. There’s also a Children’s Film Festival.

By and large, SDCC is aimed at adults.

This means that if you go to a panel, expect some off-color remarks and some profanity. If you walk down the street, you will hear cussing from people on the street (not at you, just a cloud of general cussing). Some outfits are skimpy and some involve fake gore. As a parent who is very lenient about language in the sense that I curse non-stop in front of my darling daughter (sorry, honey) I didn’t find anything objectionable – but it’s not like going to Disneyland where the priority is making kids happy. With a few exceptions, the SDCC crowd is grown-ups having grown-up fun. They are happy to have you and your family present, but they might not tone things down for your benefit.

Have back-up plans in case of separation.

Here are some pictures of SDCC crowds:

Here's a crowd of people waiting to get on the trolley, with a crowd in the background trying to cross the street. The staff who did crosswalk duty were incredible - assertive but also polite and with a sense of humor. Thanks, guys!

Here’s a crowd of people waiting to get on the trolley, with a crowd in the background trying to cross the street. The staff who did crosswalk duty were incredible – assertive but also polite and with a sense of humor. Thanks, guys!

This is a terrible photo, but I hope it shows you how packed the trolley gets. No one falls down because we are so closely packed in together.

This is a terrible photo, but I hope it shows you how packed the trolley gets. No one falls down because we are so closely packed in together.

People trying to get on the escalator to the lobby and Exhibit Hall.

People trying to get on the escalator to the lobby and Exhibit Hall.

SERIOUSLY. That’s a lot of people and a lot of chances to get separated. Luckily, the vast majority of people at SDCC are lovely. So teach your children ahead of time that if anyone makes them afraid or uncomfortable, or they get lost, they should not hesitate to get help from a vendor or staff or, if being harassed, just yell, “THIS PERSON IS BOTHERING ME!” and multiple people will come to their aid. Also have meeting places. We had different ones depending on where we were. Separated on trolley?  Get off at next stop and wait. In Exhibit Hall? Go to the Girl Genius Booth, because we love Girl Genius and they know us well. Figure out what will work for you and make a plan. Again, out of 100 nerd, 99 are awesome. They just want to share what they love with you and make you happy. Statistically speaking, out of 100 people, one is probably going to be a jerk, so don’t be shy about enlisting the help of the nice 99 if you have any problems with that one guy.

Make physical comfort a priority over doing stuff.

Hungry? Eat. Bring snacks and be prepared to also spend a lot of money no food. Tired? Rest. Thirsty? There is water at the back of every panel room. In a full day of walking around you might only cross one thing off your list. That’s OK. Enjoy the cosplay and drink your water!

Enjoy the moment.

I was so stressed out I almost forgot to enjoy where I was – but we had a great (and safe) time! The kids learned to make steampunk bracelets, they met stormtroopers, they saw a giant minecraft display, they attended a hilarious panel at which people argued about which are the best starships, and they played their very fist Dungeons and Dragons game. And now I’m going to sleep for a week. I can’t believe I’m saying this – but I can’t wait to take them again next year!

IMG_2955

San Diego Comic Con or Bust!

Wow, this is actually a thing! A thing that is happening! In just 2 days I will be at San Diego Comic Con and for those who have followed me since last year, no, I will not camp overnight to try to get into Hall H again. That experience was a blast (Domino’s delivers pizza to the line!) but once was enough!

Last year I was really focused on panels, and they were wonderful. This year I have my daughter with me so I’m doing less standing in line and more looking at stuff, maybe getting some autographs, and basically just hanging out with my kid! I know it will be torture not to be going to all those panels but honestly it will also be a nice change of pace.

The one event I’m REALLY excited about is an off-site Clone Club party for fans of Orphan Black. My sestra Heather is attending with me this year and we’ll be cosplaying as Alison dressed as Alison and Cosima dressed as Alison. We are very excited about the party!

Will be back with plenty of pics! Sestra Heather, when not playing Alison, is going as one of the Vulvani from Mad Max: Fury Road, I have my Steampunk Jane Austen ensemble, and I also have an outfit that’s not so much “cosplay” as it “I put on all my Doctor Who apparel at once” outfit (villains dress, scarf pin, cute hat). Yet another trip in which I am likely to remember things like fascinators and fans and forget things like socks and underwear.

See you soon!

Orphan Black at San Diego Comic-Con

logo for Orphan BlackI waited in line for six hours for this panel and it was worth every single minute.  This cast has tremendous chemistry together.  The panel was so much fun and also very moving.  One person said that Orphan Black had helped her come out of the closet and helped repair her relationship with her mother.  “You save lives” this person said, and Tatiana Maslany teared up, as did all of us.

Orphan Black Panel

Photo is blurry because I had shaky hands of excitement. There they are!

I don’t mean to sound delusional but I couldn’t help having the nagging feeling that only one of the lead actresses came to the panel.  Where were the other eight? Oh that’s right – THEY ARE ALL THE SAME PERSON.  If you’re not watching this show, seriously – you’re missing out.  It’s that good, and not just because of Maslany’s acting, although that is phenomenal.

al the clones So here’s some notes from the panel:

The panelists were:  Tatian Maslany (who plays the clones), Jordan Garavis (Felix), Maria Doyle Kennedy (Mrs. S, the character who is my personal guru), Dylan Bruce (Paul), Ari Millen (Mark), Kristian Brunn (Donnie), John Fawcett (co-creator), and Graeme Mason (co-creator).

  • Donnie got some of the biggest cheers of the panel.  He is clearly enjoying his character’s trajectory from “eating, farting Donnie” to “Have a SHITTY DAY” Donnie.
  • On the show, Paul is extremely wooden and blank, because he’s constantly hiding all his emotions and thoughts.  It’s a hoot to see Dylan Bruce in person, because he’s such a crack-up – he’s goofy and silly and seems to love his co-stars.
  • Dylan says that he has a “huge man crush” on Jordan Garavis (says Jordan, “Yes, it’s come up several times on set.  We try to handle it professionally”).  He hated doing the scene in which he gets Felix’s fingerprints on the gun.  “I really thought Paul would be irredeemable after that”, he said.
  • Tatiana Maslany handled a question about what the hell is wrong with the Emmy nominating committee with class, saying, “We are at a point in which television is extremely exciting…I feel extremely lucky to be in television at this point in history, making a show like this and in company with shows like that”.  The Clone Club presented her with a special award in lieu of an Emmy:  “The Best Actress in the World Award”.
best actress award

Another Clone Club member gave Tatiana the nesting dolls! Love those!

  • Maria Doyle Kennedy regarding the moment in which she pins her enemy to a table with a carving fork:  “I wasn’t invited to dinner anywhere for ages”.
  • Ari Miller’s character, Mark, was supposed to be killed by Paul in the bar scene.  According to Dylan, that’s how they were introduced: “Hey Dylan, this is Ari.  you’re gonna kill him”, and Dylan was all, “Sorry, man”.
  • Will we ever see more of Beth?  What’s with her back story?  According to Graeme and John, “Nothing is off the table.  We’re both fabulously interested in Beth’s story.  We think there’s probably a twist in Beth’s story that we haven’t heard yet.

Tatiana Maslany and Jordan Gavaris

 

  • The highlight of the panel was seeing how passionate Tatiana feels about the importance of portraying Tony.  Tatiana said, “I love Tony.  I would love to explore him further…he offers so much in terms of gender identity and expression.  He’s a guy I’ve never seen on-screen, and I was so excited by the conversations it prompted.  Maria Doyle Kennedy added that she’d like to have Mrs. S. spend some time with Tony, because Mrs. S. would understand his struggles with identity and “she needs to teach him table manners”.

Sarah and Tony

  •  During the audience Q&A, someone asked where Cosima’s parents are.  “Their daughter is seriously sick!”.   Graeme explained, “They’re out in Berkeley.  They’re a little disengaged”.  Tatiana added, “They don’t have a car, so they’re walking.  Really slowly”.
  • At this point a woman got up and made an incredible moving speech.  I’m transcribing from hand-written notes so please forgive any paraphrasing on my part. She said, “Before I started watching the show, I was really in the closet”.  she was inspired by seeing that Cosima was more than her sexuality.  She started watching the show with her mom and “It rebuilt our relationship because she could see that Cosima was more than her sexuality, and she was OK with that…What’s it like to know the effect you have on people’s lives?  You’re saving lives.  That’s what you did for me”.  Of course at this point everyone, including Tatiana, had tears in their eyes.  Jordan responded, “We like to be reductive in life.  I don’t know why.  We reduce people down to their sexuality or their diseases or their race or gender or whether they watch Game of Thrones.  But that is not who people are.  People are complex and diverse.  There are much more interesting things about you than your sexuality”.
  • On a lighter note, someone asked if we’ll see Jesse again.  John responded, “One of our favorite moments in Season Two was seeing Helena get a little romance…it would be really cool to do more with him.

Jesse and Helena

  •  Finally, Maria Doyle Kennedy was thanked for making a career of playing complex women and she said, “I think women are generally pretty amazing and I’m not interested in playing parts where I’m just an accessory for someone else’s actions.”  BECAUSE SHE’S AWESOME!

Quick Impressions From San Diego Comic-Con and Pics!

San Diego Comic Con logoYou guys, I am so overwhelmed.  Please forgive the many, many typos that are likely to occur in this post.  My plan was to post about Comic-Con today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.  It is now obvious that I will be writing about things from Comic-Con all year.  Here’s just a few of the things I want to write about:

  • The hunger for representation.
  • Many, many thoughts from the Women Who Kick Ass panel and the super heroines panel.  So much to think about and share.  Common thread – women are complex, women don’t have to be either all perfect or all evil, women can have their own stories, and women can take up space in the world and in their own lives.
  • The difference between Hall H, which made me an excited but passive consumer, and the smaller panels which made me feel inspired and excited about moving forward in my own life.
  • The complicated  relationships between fans and stars.
  • How we crave face to face connection despite the availability of social media.  Everyone knows that the panels from Hall H will be on YouTube a day later and yet thousands of us camp overnight so that we can be there in person.  On a smaller scale, I was thrilled to get to meet a couple of people who I knew from Twitter in person.
  • On a related note, I have so many people who I’d love to do interviews with, so watch for those in the next few weeks and months.

I was totally unprepared for how overwhelming five days at Comic-Con would be.  There are so many huge websites that post Comic-Con news the instant it breaks, so I’m going to use this blog to talk about what the experience of Comic-Con is like, how it is different yet similar to other conventions, and highlight some things that I know are of special interest to my readers.  Yes, I did make it into the Orphan Black Panel, you guys!  I waited for five hours and I did it for you!  And it was great!

Right now it’s late so I’m going to leave these pics here for you to enjoy and will blog more extensively (including posting more pics) over the next few weeks.

Here I am!

Here I am!

The Flash and Green Aroow

The Flash and Green Arrow

By the way, I got to see the pilot for The Flash.  It’s rough, like most pilots are.  I got the sense that most of the actors haven’t figured out their characters yet.  Barry Allen is adorable, ethical, and gifted with an abundance of common sense.  I adore him unreservedly.   I’d grade the pilot as a B- with lots and lots of promise to be a fantastic show.  Back to pics:

 

These cosplayers are probably very happy that Marvel announced that there will be a Guardians of the Galaxy 2!

These cosplayers are probably very happy that Marvel announced that there will be a Guardians of the Galaxy 2!

Of all the Thors I saw this week, male and female, she was the most Bad Ass of them all.

Of all the Thors I saw this week, male and female, she was the most Bad Ass of them all.

The real-life superheroes of Comic-Con.

The real-life superheroes of Comic-Con.

These people told me that they didn’t feel heroic  – they just felt tired (it was Sunday afternoon).  But they are actually saving lives, as are the thousands of people who donate blood at the annual blood drive every year.  They don’t just consume superhero stories – they live them.  Whether you donate blood, donate money, or donate time, find a way to make the world a better place.  Go to a protest, write a letter, volunteer someplace, mentor someone, hug a friend.  You don’t have to be Batman.  Do what works for you – but do something.

Your move, D.C.

Your move, D.C.

More tomorrow!