San Diego Comic-Con is perhaps the largest annual gathering of misfit geeks, comic-book fans and science-fiction/fantasy enthusiasts in the world. Since estimates this year put daily attendance at about 125,000 fans, it’s easy to see why you’ve heard stories about how crowded it is. As a comparison, I went to Disneyland on Sunday—to ride Star Tours in Anaheim—and an employee estimated the park attendance that weekend-day at merely 50,000.
I’ve been to 11 Comic-Cons, and I marvel at how much bigger it gets every year. In the run-up to the 2011 con, I was nearing an ulcer with all of the work and planning that it took and swore that this would be the last one I ever attended. But every year, as soon as I get there, I change my tune—this year being no exception.
There is unprecedented access to the creators, actors and writers you love when you go to this convention, and everyone—and I mean everyone—comes to this convention. My day job is as a documentary filmmaker, and attendance at Comic-Con has allowed me to see all kinds of A-list film talent speak about the craft. I’ve been able to attend panels presided over by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Ridley Scott, Bryan Singer and others. This year alone, I was able to sit in awe five feet from Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Francis Ford Coppola and Pee-Wee Herman, listening to them dispense their knowledge. And that’s just the film tracks in Hall H.
Just about every comic-book creator I follow was there—not just signing autographs, but talking to fans and taking their input. You might remember that my first column in this august publication was about the controversy over Barbara Gordon being taken out of her wheelchair to become Batgirl again. While walking the exhibition hall floor, I happened to run into the writer handling the book, Gail Simone, and we were able to chat for a few minutes; she really eased my mind about the whole thing. There is nowhere else in the world where this kind of thing could have happened.
The world of geek television is equally represented. I had the privilege of interviewing some of the cast and crew of The Clone Wars and Torchwood; I got into the press box for the Doctor Who panel and was blown away. The Game of Thrones panel was standing-room-only, and author George R.R. Martin walked right into one of my fellow robots, almost knocking him over.
To say I had a blast at this con would be an understatement. If you want to go for yourself, I’d start making plans now.
But as awesome as all of that stuff is, there is a dark underbelly that is worth a horrified laugh. There are plenty of clichéd geek stereotypes out there—and, sadly, a lot of them are true. In order to attend Pee-Wee Herman’s panel, I was subjected to a panel dedicated to Twilight. One of the mainstays of Comic-Con is access to ask direct questions of cast and crew members, and this panel was no exception. After showing a clip of Edward and Bella getting naked and preparing for sex in the new Twilight movie, a fan got up and told Robert Pattinson, and I quote, “I was impressed with your back muscles, and I think I speak for everyone here when I say, ‘Om nom nom nom nom.’ ”
The most absurd interaction was Patrick Stewart’s first appearance at Comic-Con. They opened the floor for questions, and a man dressed as Goku from Dragonball Z offered this first question for Patrick Stewart, captain of the Enterprise and leader of the X-Men: “Can we have butt sex?”
I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s a different world there, and if you can take the good and the bad in stride, you’ll have a time unlike any other. Maybe I’ll talk myself into going next year, and I’ll see you there.
Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.