But that was only the teaser. What follows is the epic tale of one geek who survived five days of awesome and then killed his fingers to tell you about it.
If I forget something or get something wrong, I'm sorry. Let's get this party started.
I fly into Burbank International Airport, which is TINY. I wait for miniglik to arrive, and then we hug the hug of friends who talk to each other online practically every single day but have only met once before. Together, Mini and I wait for gymble, whom Mini has never met at all! Mini and Gymble and I head into Pasadena for grub. Since Mini is from Iowa, where they put mayonnaise in Mexican food, she wants some California Mexican food. We hit Rubio's, which is a chain but has good food that doesn't have mayonnaise. Mini is satisfied.
Mr. Gymble still needs to take care of some work, so we take a little walk around Caltech. There's a turtle pond! And Numb3rs films there, apparently.
Once we collect Mr. Gymble, we head back to Casa Gymble so the Gymbles can pack! And print out directions! And badges for all four days! There's a bit of a scare searching through e-mails and not finding one day of passes, but we sort it out. The very night we decided to go to Comic-Con, four-day badges sold out, so the three of them have individual day passes. I, however, have a press pass (thanks, Rae!), so I have a four-day pass, which means I get to go to Preview Night, which starts at 6, which means I want to get to San Diego by about 5. I am a neurotic and stressful person, but I am pretty proud of myself for not turning into a crazy irritating mess. The most important thing I need to do at Preview Night is make the Guild signing, and they will be there till 9, and I am confident that I will be able to make it. The extra time would have been a bonus, but I can deal. I will deal! Friends! Hanging with friends! It's all good.
(No, really. Mini keeps assuring me that we will be fine and that she knows I want us to leave, but even inside, I'm okay. I'm surprised, as I thought I would have to be holding my stress in. But apparently I am already reaching Acceptance of Plans Going Awry. This is a VERY GOOD WAY TO BE at Comic-Con.)
We leave around 5 and hit a lot of stupid traffic, but I teach everyone to play Botticelli to pass the time. It takes them a bit too long to get my "easy" starter of Bruce Wayne, but Mini manages to take us all the way to San Diego with Michael J. Fox. Meanwhile, I'm fielding texts from roxybisquaint and prophetkristy and smoo_nyc, all of whom I am supposed to meet up with at Preview Night and all of whom I must inform that we are running a bit late.
With the power of my Acceptance, I have already developed a proper contingency plan. Gymble will drop me off at the convention center, and I have already printed out directions for her to the hotel, and I have already called to make sure they can check in without me there. Now, Gymble does not drop me off at the convention center because we get about a half mile away and hit a light at which nobody moves. Seriously, it turns green and stays green for several minutes and NOTHING HAPPENS. I roll down a window and yell at some conventiongoers—thankfully, you can tell who's there for the Con since people wear their badges and carry their bags all over town—asking how far it is to the convention center. Only a few blocks, they say, so I bid my friends adieu and book it. I run like hell; I can't even take the time to appreciate any costumes. I find the press entrance and get my badge and then enter the Exhibit Hall, breathless.
It is about 7:30. Preview Night ends at 9. I am going to have to accomplish three hours' worth of errands in ninety minutes.
First of all, the Exhibit Hall is INSANE. IN-FUCKING-SANE. I thought it would be kind of low-key since it was only the people with four-day passes, but apparently a FLOPPITY JILLION people have four-day passes. I fear for what it will be like when the Con officially begins. It does make sense, however, since there's no programming going on (except some CW pilots being shown); everyone is there for the Exhibit Hall.
I have my trusty map all highlighted. The Exhibit Hall is several city blocks wide, so it takes a fair amount of time to navigate, but I make it to the Guild booth and there they are! And there is hardly any line, thankfully. I am so flustered and frazzled and out of breath, though, that I can barely appreciate the moment; if I were more calm and collected, I would chat up the cast and whatnot, but right now I just need my bloody autographs, I guess. I take the sleeves out of my DVDs.
"You're so prepared!" says Clara. Er, Robin. I cannot respond properly. My sleeves get passed down the line as the Guildies sign, and I wish I were more composed and able to talk to them and tell them how great they are and how much I love the show and all that business.
At the end of the table is Felicia Day. She sees my nametag. "Sunil!" she says, I think. "It's nice to finally meet you in person." Uh.
"We met at WonderCon," I say.
"Oh, I don't remember [anything from then/that far back/you, but I remember every single other person I met]," she replies. I may mention that she commented on the picture of us on Facebook, and I may not. On the one hand, it's too bad she doesn't remember meeting me, but on the other, it's pretty awesome that she does apparently notice that I comment on her Facebook.
Kim Evey, producer, is there as well. In order to get a press pass for Comic-Con, Rae had to make me business cards so I could be all official, and I have brought them with me for just such an occasion! I hand her my blogger card since we'd been e-mailing about interviews after WonderCon.
I also hand Felicia a card. "So you'll remember me," I say. "Sorry it's CRAP!" I'm making reference to a funny YouTube video about business cards she'd posted about earlier, but I'm not sure she gets it, instead telling me no no no, it's nice.
"That's so nice," she says, admiring the card. "Did you design them?"
"No," I say. "Rae did them."
"Oh, Rae!" she exclaims. Perhaps she remembers Rae?
I ask Kim about the fate of Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show on behalf of some fans, and she bears the sad news that it is no more. I also bring up my ongoing attempt to get some sort of Guild interview for RTVW Online, and she says we may able to swing something, so we'll see.
After having talked a bit, I'm a little less insane, and I'm able to say my piece to Amy Okuda, who plays Tinkerballa.
"Amy!" I say. "In case I don't get to say it, I was so surprised to see how nice and friendly you are on the DVDs! I was all, 'That's Tink?'"
Felicia says, "She's a good actress!"
"You're so good at playing a mean bitch, but you're so sweet," I say.
Amy thanks me and adds that her mom, on the other hand, says Tink is just like her.
I was planning on buying a shirt, but they don't have the new shirt designs on display, so I resolve to come back later and take a look, as Felicia Day has guilted me into buying something to support their little independent production that can barely afford to share half a booth and bring everyone down there.
Next up: la_perkins has asked me to get her some Comic-Con exclusive blue sushi toy thing, so I go to that booth...and they are sold out! Woe! But the person says they split them between two booths, so I should try the other booth, which is on the other side of the hall. Well, fun times. My map is all highlighted, and I can hit various key booths on the way.
I get a call from roxybisquaint. Or I call her. Either way, we're on the phone, and I tell her my battle plan. Does she want to accompany me on my errands? Sure. Meet me at the Shout! Factory booth.
If I am deciphering my notes correctly, it is on the way to the Shout! booth that I am walking through a sea of people when I hear my name and I turn and someone makes to hug me and I hug her even though I don't know who she is and then she says that she's Bee and oh yeah right I totally met her at Jess's wedding and how in the hell did we run into each other among thousands of people wtf.
(Yes, this gets the tag because Comic-Con is a WORLD IN ITSELF, and I deem running into someone you know unexpectedly a very unlikely occurrence. Although, uh, let's see how many times it happens over the course of the next few days. Okay, fine, maybe it doesn't deserve the tag.)
The Shout! Factory booth doesn't have the Middleman DVDs! Woe! They were supposed to be there for Preview Night, but they are not! But they will be there tomorrow morning. And they come with a free shirt! Also, the Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse graphic novel is at the special Con price of $5! I love Con prices! But it's at the Viper booth, which is another stop. Stay with me here.
It's Roxy!! "You're tiny," I say and give her a hug.
"I'm aware," she says. "You're not that tall." She is covered in Save SCC stickers, as if she were a vandalized lamppost. With her is the illustrious Mr. Roxy! And a woman who recognizes me but can't figure out why...until Roxy clues us in that she is Schmacky, creator of this awesome video of SCC fans that I feature in. She had seen me a lot without knowing who I was! I gave her a hug as well.
Unfortunately, they have realized that we are headed in opposite directions; my errands take me where they have already been, and they must explore the other side. But we will see each other again!
Next stop: Dark Horse! I coordinate with prophetkristy to meet up. The Dark Horse booth is bigger than I anticipated, and I can't figure out where exactly I'm supposed to get tickets for the two signings I want tickets for: The Umbrella Academy and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. One man claims they aren't handing out tickets yet, but Roxy and Kristy and smoo_nyc were all able to get tickets for me as I had asked them to! I needed to better my odds.
I find the booth-within-the-booth where tickets are being handed out and ask the woman about tickets for the signings, and she is happy to give me them. A girl taps me. I look at her. I don't know what's going on. I check her badge. Her name is Kristy. Oh! That would be Kristy. I give her a hug.
As I am getting a ticket for Gerard Way, a woman comes and asks for a ticket for something else. The woman behind the counter asks her if she wants a ticket for the Gerard Way signing. She says no. I ask her if she wants to get one for me. She looks at me quizzically and says, "...Okay."
So the woman behind the counter hands her a ticket, and she hands the ticket to me. "Thank you, kind lady, for taking one for me," I say.
Kristy, like Roxy, has tickets for me. Unlike Roxy, however, she is totally willing to accompany me on my errands. Rock.
We're in the comics area of the hall, so I go to the booth where Ben Edlund will purportedly be signing and gather some intel for Mini, who has some Tick stuff she wants to get signed for her husband, but apparently Ben Edlund's signing schedule is Whenever Ben Shows Up, so that's not very helpful. At the Viper booth, I get the Middleman finale graphic novel for a mere five dollars. You can get it for eight bucks. And then it's onward and upward to the Dumbrella booth, where they do have a couple blue sushi toys left! Score! Mission accomplished!
But right across is, ah, the Penny Arcade booth! Gabe and Tycho are RIGHT THERE! I am still too jittery to talk to them, though, so instead I just take some stalkery pictures.
We round the corners into the next aisle and, hey, what the hell, it is MC Frontalot! I tell him I saw him at BFD. He says he's doing a show on Saturday and hands me the flyer. Also on the bill is Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Frontalot is not familiar with the comic, so I tell him a little about it, how it's very funny but so wrong. I couldn't take reading it every day, even though I thought creating a hoverimage joke was a brilliant idea. Apparently SBMC would be showing videos or something at the show. "I hope it does not offend the delicate sensibilities of the audience," says Frontalot. He's a nice guy to chat with, and I think he also believes that charging $20 for his "stage glasses" is ridiculous.
We pass a booth with all these awesome T-shirts. It is one of those T-shirt stores from the Internet but IN REAL LIFE. "Ooooooh, no," I say. When the guy behind the counter asks what's wrong, I say, "I could spend my whole life savings on shirts."
That does not seem like a bad idea to him. Kristy agrees. I would never have to do laundry again!
The one shirt I do take special note of is one that reads, "Neville would have done it in four books."
My destination is the Wondermark booth. Wondermark is one of my very favorite webcomics, and I am excited to meet the man behind it, David Malki ! (Yes, the exclamation point is part of his name. Somehow.) So when he is free, I address him, "David Malki exclamation point!" He is quite personable. I tell him that I considered going to APE a while back just to meet him, but the weather was gloomy and rainy so I didn't. He remembers the bad weather.
Before Comic-Con, he posted something for us to print out and bring to him and he would do a free commemorative sketch. So I hold him to his word!
He is drawing! Sketching! For me! Kristy thinks it's cool as well. She is not familiar with the webcomic, but I pimp it to her.
I can see that he is drawing some sort of man person. As he nears the end, I realize I have a request. Can he make him say, "Every day is the fulcrum of your life story"? Because that line really spoke to me. I thought it was a great message; I even used it as my b.org tag for a while. He is happy to oblige.
I ask him how he makes his comics, and he shows me one of the old books he's collected. He scans in the engravings and plays with them in Photoshop. Watch the complicated process here! Then, of course, I start burbling on about how I loved the genre microfiction and I loved his blog post about traveling (I thought it was about Canada but it is in fact about Charlotte). He's very funny, but I liked to see his nice writing as well! I joke that there should be more adventures of the man with the bulletproof ear.
"I think his story is over," he says.
Before I leave, I say, "Thanks for making me laugh." I mean it sincerely because there have been times when I have needed a laugh, and he has provided. He appreciates it.
Now I am prepared to speak to Gabe and Tycho! I don't have anything to sign, but I just want to say hi and tell them I love the comic...when I get the joke. I ask them if they care that only a small percentage of their readers may get the joke, and Tycho says that they write comics that they think are funny, and they're surprised when other people get it. That sounds about right, honestly; a lot of the comics seem like things only they would get (since they appear to be real-life events in comic form). I tell them one of my favorites is the one that ends, It's not for you." I love Gabe's bugged-out eyes.
I only have one more stop on my checklist, and it's the Image booth, which takes us back the other way. En route, we run into some people in costume. YOU DON'T SAY. Yes, I do say. I steal some guy's poses.
I find your lack of surf disturbing.
Most of you don't appreciate this picture since you have no idea who he is. But he's Altair from Assassin's Creed, and it was a pretty sweet costume, and I wish I had gotten a shot of it without me blocking most of it.
The Image "booth" was something like a dozen booths in a square and I have to go around the whole thing to find the man I was looking for: David Mack. I always talk to David Mack.
"Good to see you," he says to me.
"Do you recognize me or are you just saying that?" I inquire.
"I don't remember your name," he admits, "but I've seen you before." Aw, I have made an impression. "Did we e-mail?"
No. I WISH. "Are you on Facebook?" I am, but I haven't contacted him on it. Ah, well, he had e-mailed with someone with a similar name.
I ask him if he could sign an Alias trade. "I would be happy to," he says. Except, ha, it's already signed! I had a sneaking suspicion that I'd gotten it signed, but I couldn't find the signature! David gave me a special silver signature since the other one was in black.
Kristy looks at some of the books, and I pimp the awesomeness of Mack to her. This year, I plan to actually buy something from him, but I have not decided what Kabuki trade to buy. He has an older printing of Circle of Blood, but I like the newer cover better. I tell him I will come back on Sunday and decide what to buy. He says some of them may be sold out by then, but I tell him that may make my decision easier. Kristy and I leave him to his many adoring fans.
We stop by the California Browncoats booth, where they are handing out cardboard Jayne hats for a flash mob after the Chuck panel on Saturday. They are free, but a man asks if I would like to give to charity. HOW CAN YOU SAY NO? "Not right now." OH. LIKE THAT.
I recognize the girl behind the booth. "You were at WonderCon!" I say.
"I was saying different stuff, but I was at WonderCon!" she says.
With time running out, I search for booths with half-price trades. The Torpedo booth claimed to have them, and have them they do, but not what I need...although, for fuck's sake, they have many copies of Daredevil, Vol. 12, which I bought for full price in Seattle, thinking I would never find it elsewhere.
Unfortunately, smoo_nyc is unavailable, so that meeting does not occur at this time. The Hall closes at 9, and that is it for Sunil and Kristy's Whirlwind Adventures in the Exhibit Hall.
I exeunt omnes, welcoming the cool air outside. I wait for Jenny. Jenny who? Well, let me tell you a little story.
Once there was a boy who lived in Pittsburgh when he was, like, six or seven or whatever. His family spent a lot of time with this other family that had three kids, a son and two younger daughters, the younger of whom was about his age. They were all friends and had lots of adventures together, and then his family moved to Texas and he basically kind of never saw them again, although he once visited their house when they weren't there but the parents were. Then, say, twenty years later, FACEBOOK SOMEHOW THINKS HE MIGHT KNOW THIS GIRL WHOSE NAME SOUNDS KIND OF FAMILIAR WHAT THE HELL. The only explanation he can think of now is that she's on his AIM Buddy List. And so there is a reconnection and catching up. And she just happens to live in San Diego—as do her brother, Zubin, and sister, Amy—and he just happens to be going to San Diego soon. Well.
It's quite an adventure getting to the car (there is a lot of traffic in the convention center area), but I make it. Jenny and Amy and I catch up on two decades. Apparently, I had maybe seen them some years ago? For a very short while? I have no memory of it, though. And my mom, it seems, has kept in touch with them quite well! In fact, she helped out a great deal at Amy's wedding. She walked around Getting Things Done, and everyone was all, "Who is this woman?" My fucking mom, that's who. We have not really seen each other since we were wee! But the connection still remains; we're happy to see each other again.
We meet Zubin at Basic, a very...basic bar that's set up to look very bare bones and industrial with a Big-Ass Ceiling Fan. Perhaps coincidentally, Zubin is wearing a Pittsburgh, City of Champions shirt. I am hungry, not having eaten for seven hours or so. The pizza is purportedly very good, and we decide on the white pizza—because white pizza is what we also had in Pittsburgh—with broccoli, because that's what the menu recommends. The pizza is huge—thin crust, though—and also very tasty. The broccoli comes in the form of florets, which is the perfect way to do it.
We get a bouncer to take a picture. My flash is very strong.
On the way back to the car, we encounter a scene that is a strong contender for Best Picture from Comic-Con:
You'd think Master Chief would be riding around in a Warthog or something.
Zubin drives me back to the hotel, the Best Western Seven Seas. On the way, we talk a lot about video games. He gives me his number in case I need anything. One of his friends has an extra one-day pass for Friday, so he may try to go.
It's after 11, and the rest of the gang is asleep, but I have to wake them to get into the room, which is very tiny. It holds two beds and that's about it. Very little floor space. But, hey, for a hundred bucks a night, it'll do.
Before I go to sleep, I quickly jot down notes for this post. And then I crawl into the same bed as Mini. Scandalous!
Tomorrow, Comic-Con will really begin.