This last weekend advance tickets went on sale for the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, and for the first time in five years, I do not already have tickets to the next year’s Con by August. As I covered the event as press for Bleeding Cool, I was not eligible to purchase tickets early. The question that I must ask myself though is not what will I do if I don’t get tickets for next year (or go as press), but instead ask whether I should still plan to go next year and not even bother with going to San Diego Comic Con 2013?
SDCC 2012 was my 10th Con experience, and every year for the last four Cons I have made sure that I did something different to make my experience a little different than previous years. For 2012, I was a member of the press, but in 2011, I attended as many offsite non-Con events as possible. 2011 saw the addition of a number offsite events that piggybacked on the SDCC, and I attended several including Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ, Trickster and the Nerdist Podcast Doctor Who panel. However, in 2012, even with covering panels for Bleeding Cool, I went to even more off-site events and still did not come close to seeing them all.
I was unable to take part in the Walking Dead Experience at Petco Park because it was too much of a time demand. I never even got to see Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry or the WB’s Extra at Comic-Con sites, let alone attend any of their panels. And next year there is sure to be even more piggyback events that will not require a ticket to the Con.
This year I attended four panels at Nerd HQ. Zachary Levi puts on the Nerd HQ event under his company The Nerd Machine, and in partnership with Break Media, XBOX, and Vizio. For the last two years, Nerd HQ has rented out a bar where Nerds can gather for drinks, video games, and the purchase of Nerd Machine goods. In addition, Nerd HQ also has panels that make use of the celebrities in town to attend SDCC. Seats for the panels are $20, with all money from the panels donated to Operation Smile, Levi’s chosen charity.
So, I get to pay $20 to attend a panel which probably is already part of SDCC, which in 2012 cost $150 for all four days. Here is the thing; my $20 gets me a guaranteed seat. Yes, like just about everything related to SDCC, there was line before each panel as you waited to get in to Nerd HQ, but what a difference these lines are. For example, at Preview Night I got in line at the IDW booth to pick up the Con exclusive of Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s The Score, and the lady in front of me turns to me and asks, “What are we waiting in line for?” You see at SDCC if there is a line then you better get it in it even if you don’t know why your there, cause you might miss something. But, at Nerd HQ, the line is just there for you to wait for the previous panel to get out. The $20 gives a guaranteed seat, or standing room space for the more popular panels, and I do not have to bring a sleeping bag.
The first panel I attended was on Friday, and it was Guillermo Del Toro, hosted by Zac Levi, promoting his new film Rise of the Guardians. Yes, if I wanted to see Del Toro at SDCC I could have done so, but that would have meant waiting in line for hours at Hall H, which I have banned entering for the last three years, and I would have only been able to see him on one of the many big screens in the room. At Nerd HQ, my $20 got me a room with only 250 other people in it and Guillermo Del Toro only 10 feet in front of me talking about how much he loves Adventure Time and just answering questions from the audience. The level of intimacy that Nerd HQ allows is unparalleled at the Con.
On Saturday, I attended two panels. In the morning was the NTSF: SD SUV, the Cartoon Network Adult Swim show. This panel only had about 30 people attending, but it was awesome. I was in the front row, and if I stuck my hand out far enough I could have tickled the panelists’ toes. Once again the Con did have a panel for this show, but it was at the Hilton in the Indigo Ballroom, and if I was there along with 2000 other people, what are the chances of me getting to ask a question? Not very good, but at Nerd HQ not only did I get to ask a question, I received a cast signed copy of the NTSF: SD SUV comic book put out by Boom Studios, and after the panel was over show star’s Rob Scheer and Rob Riggle, along with Zac Levi, took photos with each audience member.
And while that panel was amazing, later Saturday there was a one man panel that topped it. Thousands of people had waited hours in line for this man the day before at the Con. The man was Joss Whedon, and I and 250 others waited 20 minutes in line for our $20 seat, and none of us were more than 20 feet away from the God of Comic-Con. Nice right, and I slept in my bed the night before and took a shower that morning. Now I certainly appreciate the level of fandom that goes into sleeping overnight to see something you love, and I am a Browncoat, but I am also too damn old and inpatient for that kind of shit. I can barely handle the DMV without snapping, no way can I handle 6 plus hours in line, with no guarantee I can get in, and knowing that no matter how close I am to the stage I am still likely going to be watching the whole thing projected onto a giant screen. Oh yeah, and on Sunday I had one more panel to attend, Nathan Fillion. Neither Joss nor Nathan provided any great revelations, but both of them were nothing but open and sincere. They both exuded love for the fans for without whom neither of them would have been there talking about a show that didn’t air for even a full season and was cancelled 10 years before. Nathan’s panel took things to another level as he auctioned off items from his bag in order to raise additional money for Operation Smile.
The two most amazing parts of this panel, that showed both the love of the Browncoats and the spirit that Nerd HQ creates, was first while auctioning off a shirt a girl screamed out she would give $1000 for the shirt and a kiss from Nate. Nate made the girl’s dreams come true by leading her in a short slow dance and dipping her for not one, but two kisses on the lips. The second thing was when a girl, who had been outbid several times on items, was aided by numerous audience members with donations to help her purchase a signed shirt from Nate. The panel concluded with Nate providing business cards for all audience members, $5 each and all for charity, that were signed by him on one side and on the other side read “Please accept my apologies. Comicon is an amazing event, but it does place unique responsibilities on me. While I would relish the chance to stop for a photo, to sign something, or even just chat, my responsibilities lie with scheduled events organized to reach as many fans as possible who have waited patiently in line, sometimes for more than an hour! Instead, please find my autograph on the back of this card. Tell your friends we met and had a laugh – I’ll back you up.”
Throw into this the non-SDCC Nerdist Podcast Live with guest John Barrowman of Torchwood. The event included Barrowman simulating anal sex on Nerdist co-host Matt Mira, Barrowman juggling the boobs of several audience members, I must clarify that they were all women as this Con related, and his making out with a straight man, well this was certainly an event to see in person.
The great events I attended will be there again in one form or another, along with many others that I missed this year, and new ones that are not even an idea yet. So, after 10 years of taking the walk through the convention center doors, is this even something I need to do anymore? There is clearly enough other events happening. Do I really need to wait impatiently at my keyboard waiting for the passes to go on sale so I can spend all year looking forward to Comic-Con, while I spend the 4 days at Comic-Con wondering why I look forward to the madness each year? And did I really need another Tardis bobblehead for my desk at work?
Yes, I do need to walk through those convention hall doors again in 2013, because honestly for a nerd like me, there is nothing else like it. When I walk through those doors the first time each year I try it is a moment like no other as I try to absorb the sheer size of it all, before thousands of nerds just like me run to get the exclusive Star Wars Lightsaber plunger and crush me under their feet.
Yes, I do need to wait in front of my computer, smashing F5 repeatedly, as I try to guarantee myself a pass for next year, as who knows what might happen, but if I got a pass, I got a way in.
And no, I did not need another Tardis bobblehead for my desk at work. I needed two, and a K-9 bobblehead, cause I only had the 4th Doctor’s Tardis and they had the 1st and 11th Doctor’s Tardis’. And K-9. I hope I have room on my desk for 8 more Tardis’ for when they are exclusives at SDCC in 2013-2020.