Last week, I got to fulfill an old dream of mine—attending San Diego Comic-Con. While it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, timing and finances had prevented me until now. Perhaps that was a good thing. The friends I’ve made online in the last year made the experience extra-fun for me, and the timing was good since because of my library school transfer, I can’t take summer classes.
The whole trip was wonderful, even though I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to do. I’m especially grateful to @RevancheGS, her fiancé, and a friend of theirs for letting me stay with them and taking me under their wings. They’re all Con vets and great people to boot. Also, a friend of Revanche’s in San Diego and his mother adopted the lot of us (apparently a tradition) and fed us good meals every night, helped us pack lunches, and brought breakfast sandwiches. It was so much more than I expected and I’m very grateful for it. Every night except w00tstock ended in their home having dinner and decompressing with a little tv/chatting.
I arrived in on Wednesday for the preview night. Rather than attend the other events, we wanted to take in the whole exhibit floor. The initial badging process was incredibly smooth. Getting in line for the floor, on the other hand, wasn’t. We got sent to 4 or 5 locations all around the convention center and pretty much spent the 2 hours from 4 until 6 just wandering and looking for a mythical line. Finally we just sat in a corner. But it really wasn’t too bad, since once the doors opened at 6 we got in immediately. We happened to be close to doors that were somewhere other than where the line was, and because we had badges we got right in.
It was…impossible to describe. It was like walking into some kind of geek fairy land. A magical kingdom. A gingerbread house. A gingerbread house that wants my money but is so freaking awesome.
Highlights of preview night included:
1) discovering the Cthuliana Corner…*melt* there was so much I wanted but didn’t buy until later;
2) meeting Michael Alan Nelson, author of Fall of Cthulhu, at the Boom Studios booth, getting his autograph, and telling him what a huge fan I am of the series;
3) winning a ticket to the Dark Horse signing that included Tom Morello (not someone I’d expected to meet, but he’s doing a comic with them) and PC Cast. I really wish Guillermo del Toro had been able to make it, but he was having a rough Con due to an injury and wasn’t able to come.
Thursday, Day 1
During lunch (the bags behind and to the left), we saw a pair of stormtroopers taking pics with people. So I got one too, because it’s Con:
Since the Thursday panel line-up didn’t really have anything I wanted to see, I spent most of the day going over the exhibit floor. I had really wanted to see the Lovecraft panel that night, but it conflicted with w00tstock. Our group had bought tickets well in advance and a number of people I knew on Twitter were going to be there as well. It was a frustrating choice, but when it came to a one-hour panel I could find recapped online or 4 hours of geeky vaudeville…I went with the latter.
It did not disappoint. At times I laughed until I cried. My throat got so sore from cheering that I had to stop cheering and went through 4 cough drops during the second half of the show. It was such a long show that it’s hard to pick highlights, but Paul and Storm were fantastic, Amy Berg’s sketch about writers was hilarious, and Wil Wheaton’s story “William Fucking Shatner” made me put the book it came from on my must-read list.
I also had a personal reason for going to w00tstock. When I discovered someone was selling the free Lovecraft eBook and posted about it on my Cthulhu Chick blog, Wil Wheaton helped get the word out using his Twitter, Tumblr, and blog. I am very grateful for his support, which I think helped get the thief’s work taken down faster and which brought in support from so many quarters. I’ve seen the internet help people out before, but being on the receiving end was more moving than I could’ve expected.
Wil is an integral part of w00tstock and would be performing and signing at this one. After the show, I got to introduce myself and briefly thank him in person. I also gave him a yellow “sunshine” Cthulhu I had brought. He was as warm, friendly, and encouraging in the flesh as he had been online. As a bonus, I discovered that Adam Savage of Mythbusters has the free Lovecraft eBook and likes it too. (Yes, I did a happy dance.)
Because I went to the signing afterward, I didn’t get home until after 1am PDT (4am on my internal clock) but it was completely worth it! Grateful to the roommates for being willing to stay out that late.
Friday, Day 2
On Friday morning, I got to Con bright and early (8am) because Locke & Key, one of my favorite new graphic novels/comics, had two panels running from 10:30-12:30. Despite having been up so late last night, my roommates were up insanely early because one of them had camped out to get tickets for next year and another was joining him. So I managed to pull myself together in plenty of time to take the shuttle over and camp out with my Nook before the panel.
It was the first thing in the room, so we didn’t have to wait in line. I’m glad I got there early, because by 9:30 the room was nearly full and they made people queue, then filled it at 10:15.
The first hour of the panel consisted of watching the Fox pilot for a tv show based on Locke & Key. In my opinion, it was a great adaptation of the first few chapters of the first volume. I can also see why it wasn’t picked up. The story is incredibly graphic. Even though most of the violence happens in just those first few chapters, I don’t know if Fox is ready to have a show with so much violence involving primarily teens and a child.
I think the show might’ve done well as an HBO mini-series, like Game of Thrones. It had a cinematic quality—more like a film than a tv show, which would work well on HBO. And HBO seems more suited to that kind of violence. Again, it’s not something that would’ve carried on down the line, but since it had to be in the first episode, it had to be in the pilot and be what the potential-producers saw.
The second hour consisted of a panel discussion with Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (the author and illustrator), the episode’s director/writer/etc, and two of the young actors from the pilot (playing Ty and Sam). I’d loved to have heard more about the future of the comic, but I still enjoyed hearing about the process that went into the episode and learning some things about the future.
The worst moment of the Con came just after the panel when I was getting lunch. I looked in my bag for my wallet and realized that I no longer had my Nook. This was not just like losing a good book or a piece of electronics, it was like losing portable access to thousands of books. I dashed (as fast as one can dash at Con) back to Room 8, and they let me quietly come in the back of the next panel to look at the floor. It was sparsely-attended and I didn’t see it anywhere in the row I’d been in. The room director said that he hadn’t gotten it but he’d turn it in to lost & found if someone gave it to him.
I then went to the lost & found, who assured me that they’d call the number inside its cover if it were turned in. An hour after the end of the Locke & Key panel, I got a call from the man who’d found my Nook. He’d waited until the panel he was in was over to call, and agreed to just stay there while I got back. I wish I could’ve thanked him better, but I gave him my heartfelt thanks for getting it back to me.
Despite everything, I made it to the Locke & Key signing, where both creators signed my 3rd & 4th volumes of the series. Score! Joe Hill also bought a Cthulhu he’d asked about on Twitter. It was odd, selling something at a signing, but it went fairly quickly. I didn’t want to be that person who holds up the line.
Near the end of the day, I went to the “Comics in Libraries” panel. I think it’d be more accurately termed “Comics and Graphic Novels in Libraries.” The panel talked about everything from what role they play to how to “sell” them to patrons to how to build a collection from scratch/a poor collection.
The last topic particularly interested me, since I watched the graphic novels and comics at the library where I worked as a teen grow from a few pieces shelved in the 740s (adult) to a proper (but YA only) collection. As one of the senior pages, I helped the teen librarian get the collection in place. But I was only on the implementation side, not making the decisions or influencing collection development.
It felt rather odd being at the panel, since most of the people there were librarians or library-types. It felt like I’d stepped out of Con and into a library conference or a special library school class/lecture. At the end, I stepped back out and BAM! I was in the middle of it all again.
Saturday, Day 3
Saturday was my Cosplaying day. I went as a BSG Viper Pilot “Squid.” In the morning, I met up with more people from the internet and spent even more time roaming the exhibit hall. At some point on Saturday morning, I’d truly seen the whole place. Two of the highlights of the morning were meeting @Joi_the_Artist, owner of the only NASAthulhu, and @LateNightHunter, another Cthulhu-enthusiast, who’s got 2 or 3 of his own.
Joi and me:
@LateNightHunter and me:
Since he was dressed in BSG cosplay as well, we walked around together for about an hour. That was a lot of fun, since it’s the kind of cosplay that’s even better in a pair or a group.
I took the opportunity to hit up the Cthulhu corner booth and get some books and items I’d been wanting for a while:
The books are What to Do When You Meet Cthulhu and The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia. They’re both handbooks/guides to Lovecraft’s world (and other people’s constructions on that world). While I know a good deal about the world, it’s nice to have a reference around. After flipping through, I decided to get them both.
I also got a set of Cthulhu figurines which are intended for a game….but which I want just as statues of Cthulhu, a Cthulhu bandana, an Elder Sign pin, a Yellow Sign sticker, & a Cthulhu fish.
In the late afternoon, I went with a group of friends to the Webcomics Weekly Live podcast & the Penny Arcade session after that. Both interesting, since I’ve read webcomics (including PA) daily for at least the last 7 or 8 years.
Sunday, Day 4
I had to leave the convention center by 12:30 on Sunday, so I spent the morning doing a last go-over of the Exhibit hall with @PhysicistLisa. Thanks to her, I ended up at the booth for the American Physical Society and got three free short physics comics from them. Also, we went to the QMx booth and I got to hold a real prototype of the 11th Doctor’s screwdriver (and make a weird face):
The elbow on the left belongs to the man who makes these, Nick Robatto. He was keeping an eye on me so that I didn’t just run off and sonic everything. 😉
The roomies very helpfully walked me to the airport bus and then…it was over. Almost. My trip home was actually quite pleasant. During my layover, I had dinner with a guy from Pittsburgh who was coming home from Con.
And on the second leg of the trip, I was fortunate enough to have a seatmate who was very into horror and had all four issues of Alan Moore’s Neonomicon, something I’d been waiting to read until it hit trade paperback. I was even more fortunate that he let me read all of them! Alan Moore is sick & twisted, but he writes amazing stories and this was one of them. We both read our comics for a while, then spent the second half of the flight talking about horror, art, whatnot.
The entire experience was amazing and exhausting. It’s taken me a week just to get all this written. I had not expected to have nearly as good a time as I did. I feel so happy just thinking about it. I have a few regrets, not meeting a couple people, not seeing some friends more, and not getting to go to some panels (only serious regret on panels would be the Lovecraft panel). But I wouldn’t trade the experience and I don’t want to sit around thinking how it could’ve been better.
I met so many awesome people there, but I am happiest about and most grateful to all three of my roommates who took me under their wings, showed me around, and played the combined roles of friends and sherpas. Even though the guys didn’t know me before Con, they still treated me like a friend. And while going to the parties might’ve been fun, I think the reason I had such a good time and survived was because we all decompressed in the evenings. I’d post a pic of them, but one’s an anonymous blogger, so I’ll post a link to her recap instead.