Comical Adventures in San Diego

For the past four years, there is one event I look forward to attending every summer. Taking summer vacations to an exotic locale is a rarity for me, so an event that’s well known and local to the state of California suits me just fine. That event is San Diego Comic Con, which is the biggest pop culture extravaganza in the United States. For the past four years I have attended the Con, and it has usually gotten better every year. While this year’s trip was certainly fun, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that something was missing this year.

Courtesy of Tyler Christian

Courtesy of Tyler Christian

For the previous two years, I attended with a 4-day badge, but this was my first time attending both that and preview night. Preview night is exclusive to about 20,000 attendees on Wednesday night, and it features a screening of new television pilots alongside an open floor for booths to sell exclusive, collective merchandise.

I was excited to see what it would be like to experience preview night for the first time, but it unfortunately was very underwhelming. The crowds were relentless and large in size, which made it nearly impossible to walk the floor and take pictures. One hour and one photo later, I left the hall to avoid the rush. Up until this day, I still believe that this year’s Con felt off because of how cluttered and packed the floor was for just booth exclusives.

Thursday, though, was a more fortunate experience. My best friend who had Thursday and Sunday tickets was alongside me for the day, and we started early in the morning to line up for the limited drawing signings. I was poised to win in the drawing for the signing that showcased the two leads, director and author for “Divergent,” which I won after drawing seven times. The main reason I did this was to meet actress Shailene Woodley, who is one of my biggest young celebrity crushes. I will confirm that the moment I met her will be a memory I’ll cherish for a while.

Afterwards, I met back up with my friend to attend the panel for one of our favorite shows, “Dexter.” We were fortunate to attend this panel because it coincided with the show’s final season. It was sweet to witness the cast-members giving their final farewells to the show, but it was even better for the fact that the panel brought back actors who played fan-favorite characters that were killed in previous seasons of the show.

On Friday, I was up bright and very early at 3 a.m. Before you consider labeling me as an insomniac, I did this so I could line up as early as possible for the panels at Ballroom 20. I was mostly there for the “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” panel, but I didn’t sit through the several panels that took place for it.

Once the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” panel finally started, though, it turned into one of the best experiences I’ve had at the Con. They first brought the whole cast and several creative staff members onto the stage, and this culminated in passionate chants for Clark Gregg (“Coulson, Coulson!”) and Joss Whedon (“Whedon, Whedon!”). A Q&A was immediately ushered after the introductions, and the third question asked was if a clip of the show was going to be shown to the audience. Joss answered that Disney didn’t allow them to bring a clip because of copyright issues, but then followed it up by saying “we can’t show you a clip, we’re just going to show you the episode.” A huge uproar of applause and cheers followed that response, and the pilot episode was screened. I will assure you all by saying that the pilot proved the great potential that the series has to be something special in the Marvel universe.

I tried sitting through the rest of the panels that were lined up for the rest of the day, but the fatigue from being awake for almost 15 hours quickly settled in on me. In order to save my energy for the final two days ahead of me, I decided to call it a day and leave in the middle of a late afternoon panel.

After resting up for several hours, I went back to the convention center for the Saturday events. My first and biggest goal of the day was to draw in the raffle for Joss Whedon’s autograph signing, which I ended up winning on my first try. Afterwards, I had several hours to kill until a signing later in the day, so I attended a panel that showcased the business of writing for television shows. As an aspiring television writer myself, the panelists provided a vast amount of tips and insight for those that want to go into the industry.

Later on in the day, I went to two signings, one for Ben Edlund and Steve Polio, the creator/writer and artist duo of the fantastic comic book series “The Tick.” Afterwards, I attended a signing for “Breaking Bad,” which had creator Vince Gilligan and star RJ Mitte signing autographs for the fans.

Sunday is usually known as the slowest day of the Con since it is the last day of programming and events, but it was still a memorable one for me. I attended that day with my friend again, and while he got to meet two actors from his favorite movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” I had my Holy Grail moment of meeting Joss Whedon again. I had him sign my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” poster and “Serenity” limited edition steelbook Blu-ray, in addition to having both a short conversation and photo with him.

Afterwards, my friend and I capped off our trip with attending the annual “Buffy Musical” screening, which features the audience singing along to the show’s musical sequences. Being in attendance for that event was quite special because it enamored me into the experience of watching an episode of the show with all kinds of eclectic fans alike.

While all of those experiences proved to be special for me, the most memorable of all was the deep conversation my friend and I shared with Chuck Rozanski, the esteemed founder and CEO of Mile High Comics. He has attended the Con for over 40 years, but his viewpoint of the event’s transition of central focus from comic books to pop culture was thoroughly engrossing. He said that the huge spike in the event’s attendance has taken away the previously high cherishment of comic books and their appeal. He also noted how out of the thousands of people that walk in the exhibit hall, there are many of them that don’t lay one eye on the comic book exhibitor booths.

In the end, he advised both me and my friend that we should attend other comic book conventions in the United States to see how pop culture doesn’t dominate their programming as much as San Diego’s does. Though many of the SDCC attendees today would take what he said with a grain of salt, I on other hand view it as the truth that thousands of people fail to notice when they attend each year.

Though I would consider that my trip to the 2012 San Diego Comic Con was a bit more exciting than this year, I still had a great time nonetheless.

I feel that the most important thing I gained this year was neither an autograph nor a panel, but more the insight on the history and direction the Con has taken in the past decade. That information I’m sure will prove vital at some point, where I’ll broaden my range for the various fan conventions I’ll attend in the future.