After years spent refreshing Twitter and Instagram in order to enviously keep up with the goings-on of an event taking place 3,000 miles away, 2017 was the year I finally got to be a part of the masses that infiltrated San Diego over the most glorious weekend in July. The fact that Legion’s Dan Stevens was on my flight (and gave a head-nod/chuckle as I awkwardly shot him a thumbs up on my way back to coach with the other plebeians) made me that much more psyched to get the weekend started.
I mean, beginning the whole trip with a Marvel actor is the greatest of omens, right? (Wait ‘til you read what Marvel goddess I got to fly home with!)
While certainly not new to comic cons in general, SDCC was an entirely unique experience (one that has yet to be fully replicated by the other conventions I’ve attended over the years) due largely to the sheer magnitude of the event and the manner in which veteran attendees approach it.
As in holy hell the lines!
Lines and conventions go hand-in-hand but while approaching Day 1 with a, “let’s just get the lay of the land,” attitude, I quickly realized that rolling up to a panel room or giveaway booth an hour or two ahead of time would simply not cut it at the nerd Mecca. I’m pretty sure the campgrounds of every national park combined see less tents in a year than the city of San Diego sees over the five days of SDCC. That is not hyperbole. Single-person tents were a dime a dozen, full-on pop-ups were just as common, and, were it not for the San Diego heat, I’m certain someone would have been roasting marshmallows over a portable fire pit.
Strolling along the docks with David Haller serving as my beacon, I found my eyes growing wider as I took in the masses of people seated in lawn chairs beneath tented fortresses that made Casterly Rock look quaint. Finally when my curiosity overtook my introverted nature, I awkwardly shuffled my way to the side of the path bordered by people and asked one of the campers what it was that they were in line for.
Answer? Game of Thrones of course.
It was Thursday, the panel was on Friday, and they’d snagged their spot in line on Wednesday. Annnnnnnd the “unofficial” line for Saturday had already begun forming elsewhere.
Despite being an SDCC newbie, I had come in knowing that, realistically, I had very little chance of experiencing the insanity of Hall H first hand. I didn’t want to spend my first SDCC spending days camping out in the hopes of making it into the hall (especially after hearing the horror stories of those who never did) so I didn’t.
And guess what? I still had a really great time! Because, despite what some people might want you to think, there are other things to do and see at SDCC that don’t require risking your weekend passes for nothing.
Spending days in line may not have been in my game plan, but I didn’t mind a couple of hours of it as I spent Thursday flitting between all of the outdoor “experiences” intended to provide a fresh form of advertising for the upcoming shows and films. I ventured over to the Orville training program (which involved interviewing for a position on the titular spaceship and a turn in one of those spinning cage ball things found in most malls), spent an hour waiting in line to play the FX claw machine (only to fail spectacularly and walk away without the sub-par prize of It’s Always Sunny shoelaces), snagged a free water-mister from the Archer mobile “bar” station, and made the tough decision that the Defenders experience wasn’t worth a five-hour wait.
Instead I made my way over to the TBS Wrecked dock and rode a mechanical boar (lasting almost a full minute thanks very much), had my name engraved on a faux coconut (as you do), and gratefully snagged one of the free beverages being served beneath a tiki hut.
What even is Comic Con you guys?
Believe it or not, I did manage to enjoy some of the more traditional events associated with comic conventions as well. While I knew that, as a San Diego Comic Con rookie, I had no chance of successfully making it into any of the Hall H panels, I did make it my mission to check out what Ballroom 20 had to offer this year.
It’s no secret that I am utter Marvel trash and, despite my bitterness over the fact that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would not be attending SDCC for the first time since debuting its Pilot in Hall H so many years ago, I was still interested in spending the long-weekend checking out the shows that were brought in its place.
Of the three Marvel Ballroom 20 panels I sat through, only one of them was for a returning show (something that I’d argue wasn’t the best idea considering the audience opted for “obligatory polite applause” rather than “genuinely enthusiastic cheering” when it came to the rookie shows being introduced).
Thursday’s Legion panel was as big a hit as the show itself. Cast and crew alike seemed eager to delve into some of the speculation surrounding the onscreen and offscreen characters of the season and gave more than a few wink-wink, nudge-nudge, answers that have me psyched for Season 2. My personal favorite moment came when head of Marvel television Jeph Loeb pointed out that the majority of fan questions asked during the Q&A portion of the panel were in fact asked by women- further proving that the world of comics and, by proxy, comic-inspired entertainment is not a man’s world. #MakeMineMilkshake
Immediately following Legion was Inhumans which… umm… is… yeah… it’s… uhh… it’s definitely a TV show… O_O
Is it a TV show I will be eagerly watching come Fall? Despite the panel’s best attempts at convincing me to, the likelihood is still pretty slim. I can say with certainty that, unless there’s some guaranteed sneak peek/trailer drop of literally any other Marvel production preceding it, it’s not something I plan on wasting $22 on an IMAX ticket for. Which is a bummer. With the hype (hype as far as Marvel TV goes, which is naturally incomparable to the hype surrounding the films) that has surrounded Inhumans since the Marvel-ABC-IMAX partnership was announced, I was anxiously hoping that it’d at the very least be justified. Alas, the few minutes of footage shown at SDCC confirmed my fears that this show won’t spark my interest in the slightest, as the characters and overarching story is looking as though it will be as flat as Medusa’s wig. The clips shown made Inhumans seem every bit an ABC drama and, though I think it was meant to reassure fans, the footage of Medusa’s hair in motion was just as cringeworthy as the wig itself. (TIP: When one’s hair is the staple of their character, it’s advisable to not make it go from clearly being a wig to clearly being CGI)
Long story short, I left the Inhumans panel even more upset that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was dropped for it. I also left with a renewed feeling of resentment over the fact that Agent Carter never got a third season. If I have to wait until January for S.H.I.E.L.D. to return, I’d far prefer watching Peggy Carter over Black Bolt in the interim. If anyone deserves an IMAX run, it’s Cap’s better half.
Thankfully, my third Marvel TV panel left me a bit more optimistic about new content. The Gifted actually looks like a promising freshman series, largely because it’s being advertised for exactly what it is. Despite the mutant element, the Gifted looks as though, at its core, it will be a family drama. Both found family (as is common with most enterprises revolving around superpowers) and blood family. The 10ish minutes shown at the panel had a balanced combination of realistic special effects and emotional turmoil so, if TPTB stay consistent, it’s looking as though Fox and Marvel could have another successful TV merger on their hands. The combination of superpowers with standard prime time drama tropes might also prove beneficial in catching the attention of viewers that might not typically veer towards anything comic-inspired.
Outlander was the final Ballroom 20 panel I got to see and, despite my personal aversion to the, “Truth or Dance,” game played onstage (I can’t handle second-hand embarrassment AT ALL) it was a humorous one that ended with a screening of Season 3’s premiere episode. I’ve got to say, watching episodes of television with 5,000 people who love it is really a fun experience.
At the end of the day, would it have been cool to see the Black Panther and Infinity War content in Hall H? Better yet the Defenders? Or even the DC stuff? Sure, only a lunatic would say otherwise, but Ballroom 20 had content that I was just as interested in checking out and only required waiting in line for maybe an hour at most.
It should also be noted that Hall H and Ballroom 20 are most decidedly not the only places to go for panels. One of the more interesting ones I attended over the weekend was ‘Costume Designing for Screen.’ The panelists (all supremely talented women I’d like to point out) provided a fascinating look at what goes into designing costumes for television and film. Ann Foley (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Jill O’Hanneson (Preacher), Kiersten Ronning (Supergirl), and Ruth Carter (Black Panther) represented comics well as they discussed the ins-and-outs of what it takes to bring the iconic costumes of our favorite characters from page to screen. The number of factors they have to take into account is extraordinary and hearing them discuss the intricacies that most viewers likely don’t consider made me that much more appreciative and impressed with the final products seen on screen.
An added bonus to the panel (a bonus that was undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend) was the fact that, despite no official S.H.I.E.L.D. presence, Chloe Bennet rolled up to support Foley and moderator Simon Kassianides (who played the Hydra baddie Bakshi in Seasons 2 & 4). All three were utterly marvelous after the panel, graciously taking photos with fans and happily putting their John Hancocks on some comics at the post-panel signing.
Perhaps the only manner in which SDCC pales in comparison to its (arguably) less known counterparts is where the actual comics are concerned. Artists’ Alley was minuscule compared to other conventions I’ve attended and shoved so far back on the show floor that it was a miracle I was able to find it at all. The tiny set-up, consisting of what only felt like a few handful of short rows, seemed to only confirm that much of the mainstream conventions now have little to do with comics. Still, I did manage to briefly interact with creators whose work I admire (Felipe Smith, Jim Cheung, and Edgar Delgado to name a few) and can only hope that they’ll venture out to some of the smaller conventions where they’ll receive a bit more precedence. No Angel‘s Eric Palicki and 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank’s Matt Rosenberg were representing at the Black Mask Studios booth (both are always awesome despite my own general awkwardness) and reminded me that much of my favorite books are of the indie variety anyways.
Despite the scantness of AA, I roamed the show floor until closing time on Saturday evening and managed to keep my wallet firmly closed despite the many things I would have liked to have sold a kidney for. ‘Twas a great weekend but, unfortunately, early morning, transcontinental, flights meant that I didn’t get to enjoy anything on the Sunday schedule. I was up and out of my hotel room by 4:15 (the AM one), parted ways with the swanky SDCC keycard at 4:20, and waiting in the airport for my flight home by 5:00.
All-in-all, a success!
And that flight-sharing, Marvel goddess mentioned earlier? None other than the Wakandan Warrior Lupita Nyong’o. What a way to end my first trip to San Diego Comic Con!