Nothing can really prepare you for the monstrosity that is San Diego Comic-Con. With over 130,000 attendees, a significant portion in cosplay, it is a vortex of verve, or in layman’s terms, lots and lots of nerds.
While I didn’t grow up on comics (like @robotchampion who seemed to know every Star Wars, Star Trek and L.O.T.R. reference), I did find myself in awe of the event as a first-time badge-holder. It’s a journey you can’t know or understand until you experience it for yourself. And even if you’re crowd-adverse, as I am, there are ways to enjoy the 4-day extravaganza without a dizzying sense of claustrophobia or ochlophobia setting in.
My strategy was to steer clear of the masses, like the 6,500-seat Hall H (which hosted the cast of Twilight, Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory, as well as headline-making names such as Peter Jackson, Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton), and instead discover the off-the-beaten-path “hidden gems.”
Here are some of the highlights:
THE WOMANTHOLOGY PANEL
When comic artist, Renae de Liz, started noticing “a ton of female artists on Twitter who were amazing and not published yet, when they should have been,” she popped a question to the Twitterverse: “Would any female creator like to help make an anthology with all women?” Within 24 hours, more than 100 women had said yes to the proposal.
The result was a Kickstarter-funded project showcasing 140 female artists (called Womanthology: Heroic which is available for purchase on Amazon for $27.89) and has since lead to a sequel, Womanthology: Space.
The panel featured eight woman from Womanthology: Heroic, and their enthusiasm and passion was inspiring. My two favorites, Kelly Turnbull and Jean Kang, both hilarious in their own right, reminded the audience that being an artist takes dedication but when you’re doing what you love, it’s never work. It’s simply a labor of love.
BRYAN TILLMAN’S HOW-TO TALK ON PITCHING AND PROMOTION
One of the compelling components of Comic-Con is its How-To track. I dropped in on Bryan Tillman ‘s Proper Pitching and Promoting Yourself talk. As the academic director for Media Arts and Animation, Game Art and Design, Visual Game Programming, Motion Graphics and Visual Effects at the Art Institute of Washington, Bryan killed it. His delivery alone made the hour-long session a treat. But he also gave some really solid insight with his 5 Rules of pitching and promotion:
- Know your product.
- Be prepared to B.S. your way to the truth.
- There’s a fine line between confidence and cocky.
- Network, network, network — with everyone.
- Get over yourself.
THE WIKIA-LA TIMES HERO COMPLEX PARTY
Need I say more?
SCREENING OF MORGAN SPURLOCK’S DOCUMENTARY: “COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE”
Teaming up with executive producers Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Harry Knowles, and Thomas Tull, Morgan Spurlock nailed the essence, the passion and the exhilaration of Comic-Con in his latest film pursuit. The audience laughed, cried, even cringed at the mention of the ‘Comic-Con stink’. It is a must-see flick for anyone even mildly curious about the Con: http://comicconmovie.com/
THE HOBBIT NEW ZEALAND TRIP GIVEAWAY
Steve and I entered the chance to win:
- A 6-day trip for two to New Zealand
- Round-trip flights on Air New Zealand
- A VIP tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set
- A visit the Weta Cave to meet the artists from Weta Workshop
- Visits to all the movie set locations in Queenstown
- PLUS two tickets to the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in Wellington on 28 November, 2012-06-13
The movie looks awesome, the trip even more so.
THE WALKING DEAD ESCAPE: LIVE THE APOCALYPSE
The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman rented out Petco Park and created a thrilling obstacle course, including both human survivors and animated corpses, that willing bodies could pay to take part in — either as survivors, walkers or spectators. Steve and I just watched, and listened, from the ground — the shrieks and screams were entertainment in itself.
Con badge-holders could go hang out at the 15,000 square foot gaming, technology, and entertainment space (that offered adult beverages) where panels and interviews took place throughout the day, and patrons could play at one of the 40 Xbox gaming stations featuring the newest and yet to be released titles.
What’s Trending star, Shira Lazar, held court on Thursday, providing entertaining interviews with folks like Jay Mewes (the Jay of “Jay and Silent Bob”) who took us back to what it was like attending the Con in 1995.
Steve and I once again eschewed the hotel route, opting for Airbnb lodging. We stayed in a gorgeous hacienda-style home, about 15-minutes away from downtown, that offered our own wing overlooking a tree-lined backyard and pool. The only sound we heard at night and in the morning were birds chirping lyrically. It was more of a salvation than a retreat from the chaos of downtown (and about a 1/3 of the cost of a decent downtown hotel).
NON-CONVENTION CENTER FOOD
The food at and around the convention center leaves much to be desired but we managed to find some quality eats that surpassed our expectations. I highly recommend the Farmer’s Market (Mercato) in Little Italy, Proper Gastro Pub and Heavenly Cupcakes.
- The Little Italy Farmer’s Market – Open on Saturday, and only two metro stops from the convention center, this place was an oasis. Four blocks of local, seasonal fruit, vegetables and artisan treats (everything from quiches to paninis to romantic-sounding cheeses), it offered a savory alternative to the nachos and pizza so many Con-goers scarfed down.
- Proper Gastro Pub – We discovered this hidden retreat after visiting Trickster!, the meet-up/ networking/knowledge-sharing spot created by a rogue band of Pixar artists. It has a spacious upstairs, outdoor patio overlooking Petco Park with a solid lineup of craft beer, along with some tasty local, seasonal fare.
- Heavenly Cupcakes – As a regular patron of LA-based Sprinkles Cupcake, I actually enjoyed Heavenly’s cupcakes on Sixth Avenue more — sorry, Sprinkles! The Chocolate Mint and Snicker-Doodle cupcakes were divine!
Of all the reasons to love Comic-Con, by far the best part was being around so many enthusiastic, passionate artists — from illustrators to animators to writers — of every variety and sort. It didn’t matter what you wore, how you spoke, where you were from — all that mattered is what you loved. And you could show it — you were encouraged to show it, to wave your nerd flag high and with pride.
Comic-Con is a celebration of creativity, a tribute to those with the power and vision and dedication to give life to their dreams. That, in itself, is an experience like no other.
Amy Senger is an L.A. transplant by way of Washington, DC, and co-founder of 1X57, named to Washingtonian’s Tech Titans list with her partner Steven Mandzik. Follow her on twitter @sengseng and follow the Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch or email amy@1×57.com.