If you work at The Royals you would now know, by my incessant bragging, that I’ve just come back from attending the world’s biggest pop-culture convention in San Diego, Comic-Con. But I’m discovering that not many people really know exactly just what Comic-Con is. So here’s my experience and run-down of, what is quite possibly, the most nerdy thing ever.
San Diego Comic-Con (commonly referred to as SDCC) is basically a big shopping spree for those of us who are pop-culture inclined. It’s where you can buy all your favourite merch, and get a chance to check out all the new gear before it’s out. There are celebrity appearances, artists and heaps of other cool people there you can see. It covers everything from film, TV series, video games, anime, manga, technology, and even comic books (although that section grows smaller every year due to waning interest!).
I’d cut the whole thing into 2 parts; the market hall, and the panels. The market hall is, I want to say thousands, of little booths that are hawking their merch. It’s massive. Almost the entire convention centre is the market hall. I predominantly gawked at toys (“Dad, they’re called ‘figurines’ and they’re art!”).
Mingled in with all the stores, are activations and showcases from companies. I played a Playstation VR demo for Resident Evil 7 inside a big cardboard house, and played the upcoming Dead Rising 4 (and badgered a developer for information which he was not forthcoming with).
There are also mini appearances, where people of note do signings (or y’know, just kind of appear). This is where I saw Adam Wingard, director of You’re Next and The Guest, as well as the upcoming Blaire Witch sequel that was announced there. Being up close with one of my favourite directors was incredible, and the kind of thing most people can only get at a convention.
And then you have the panels. The things were all the stars of your favourite show sit at a desk and talk at you and a big audience about past and upcoming stuff. Then sometimes you can try to ask them questions through your flop sweat and stammering when that practised sentence comes out backwards and that guy you love so much on TV just looks at you weird. Exhilarating.
Most of these are impossible to get into. You’d have to get there hours before the event opens and then sit in line for hours more to get a chance of getting into something like a Game of Thrones panel. It’s not gonna happen for you. But I did just kind of walk into the Capcom panel where they announced a few video game tidbits, nothing of real interest (HOW DO I BEAT THE RE7 DEMO WHY WON’T YOU TELL ME YOU FRAUDS).
There’s also a lot of big activations around the exhibition centre. My favourites were South Park, which had photo-op props of notable scenes from the show, and Ash vs Evil Dead, which build an entire replica of the Evil Dead cabin which you could walk through (to get free shit).
And then there are costumes. Boy, are there costumes.
Or as we call them in the biz, cosplays. Not everyone dresses up, but a lot of people do. Saturday seems to be the peak day for getting costumed and sweaty. And in the San Diego heat, you’re going to get sweaty. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience. Which is why I didn’t do it. But it doesn’t stop most people.
(My friends dressed up as Howl and Sophie from the Ghibli film Howl’s Moving Castle)
The convention itself holds a competition for the best cosplay and gives out prizes. I’ve never attended this event, but I’m sure it’s great. And yes. There are “Furries”. Although recently they’ve been usurped by the new gross fandom I saw a lot of this year, Five Night’s At Freddy’s. A horror game where animatronic pizza parlour robots attack you while you cover the night security shift. But I guess people want to have sex with the cartoon robot animals. Don’t google this.
To give you a good idea of this phenomenon, Adam Savage of Mythbuster fame has videos where he dresses up as his favourite thing of the year and roams the market hall incognito. It gives you a sense of scope of the place and just how much effort some people put into their costumes. He’s so renowned for this, attendees will just come up to the best costume they’ve seen and just ask ‘Adam?’. And most of the time they’re right.
Last year he totally jacked my Dredd costume, but we worked it out and we’re still cool. Brian Cranston once did this, wearing a big latex mask of his own face from Breaking Bad. Truly horrifying.
And then we have the mostly ignored and unfortunately neglected part of the market hall – artists and (very) minor celebrities. Last year, the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, attended and had a stall where people could just come up to say hi and get things signed. But every time I walked past, he was just sitting by himself. Everyone too focused on the big pull of the Star Wars or whatever. The same goes with the comic book artists, it’s a few aisles that have significantly less foot-traffic than the rest of the convention. Considering it’s the longest running tradition and namesake of the convention, it’s sad to see. But every year I visit one of my favourite artists Jason Edmiston, of Mondo popularity. He signs my toys and I buy a poster, it’s a great relationship we have.
I bought so many things and got so much free loot that I had to buy another carry-on to take it home and now I’m poor again. But I went, I conquered and I patted the furries. Until next year!