In Part I of my Comic Con write-up I gave you a brief taste of the packed-to-the-rafters scene inside the 2.6 million square foot San Diego Convention Center. What? 2.6 million? Am I serious? Yes! But apparently it’s not enough to contain the greedy entrepreneurial marketers who cannot resist the specter of hundreds of thousands of high-earning (or future high-earning) nerds descending on downtown San Diego. And good for them. I mean these people are performing a valuable public service. They offer true value. What fan doesn’t need gobs of flimsy cardboard signs, $.02 luridly-colored gee-gaws with the names of various TV shows, movies, books and games splashed across them, and thin plastic or cloth bags the size of the side of a barn to lug around said crap. You do!
Honestly, a weird kind of fever comes over fans who attend Comic Con. Even if you normally don’t care about said nick-nacks somehow you will wait in a line for 6 hours to obtain one while you are at Comic Con. Or snatch one by chasing down one of the hapless half-clothed model-types who appear on street corners to dispense them, not an easy task since you must also push through the maddening crowd like a housewife grasping after a bargain price on bras. Same thing, really.
Over the years these marketers have set up shop in the Gaslamp District directly across the street from the Convention Center. Some movie or TV studios take over whole businesses, draping them in advertisements or completely transforming them into dens of iniquity/fantasy wonderlands like the recruitment hall from Ender’s Game or a mysterious maze/encounter with Godzilla or a free cereal bar with dozens of types of cereal and five kinds of milk to promote King of the Nerds.
Mobs of people, most of them under 30, descend on the Gaslamp district to experience this one-of-a-kind sight. Many of the crowd are dressed in incredibly complex, creative and tight costumes of any sort of obscure comic book character you can think of. The advertisements are only one facet of the place, which also hosts numerous parties – some of them star-studded – movie premieres, game lounges, fan gatherings, zombie apocalypse stock-up shops, food trucks, and so on. One year I was walking along the sidewalk in the Gaslamp District and a bakery van pulled up beside me and delivered a HUGE, freshly baked cupcake. In 2013, I waited in line for autographs from the cast of the History Channel’s series Vikings, which were held at a water-themed mock up with racing kayaks, of all things. A group of about 25 Viking re-enactors showed up and had a grand time posing for pictures and shouting out, “For Odin!”
One of my favorite Comic Con activities is a free, family-friendly event outside the convention center: the San Diego Zombie Walk. Where else can you be placidly enjoying your glass of wine and dish of pasta at a sidewalk cafe when hundreds of gorily costumed zombies shuffle by in search of brains? Nowhere else, my friends!
The “Con on the Lawn” is a relatively new phenomena located between the convention center and the Hilton Bayfront hotel. There are games, giant Lego creations, stages, tents, lines and events in the bay such as the TV Guide yacht, which evidently is only accessible via special pass, and the Jackdaw from Assassin’s Creed III, an authentic ship from bygone days (a loaner from the nearby San Diego Maritime Museum suitably decorated).
The hotels are incredible, an one of the best parts of the con experience, in my humble opinion. Competition for hotel rooms closest to the convention center is intense, not to mention expensive, even at con rates. However, when you share with friends it becomes affordable. It’s nice to experience a little luxury every now and again. One friend, when confronted with the beautiful decorations and high end expensive touches, blurted out: “I’m not worth this!”
Hanging out in the hotel bars in the evenings is a fun way to relax, and the potential for celebrity sightings is high, since many of the celebrity attendees stay at these hotels. I’ve seen Robert Downey Jr., Chevy Chase, and Tyler Posey. I even rode up the elevator with the last two. Very exciting, let me tell you! Speaking of celebrities, there are plenty of them outside of the convention center as well. Some are just walking around the streets, taking in the spectacle for themselves, and others are attending special events like the charity panels put on by Nerd HQ every year.
The drama and frustration of securing tickets to Comic Con and downtown hotel reservations every year could fill another entire entry, but I won’t go into the particulars of those right now. Suffice it to say that although it’s not the easiest thing in the world to access, Comic Con is definitely one of the best. I’ll be headed there again, God willing, in Summer 2014!