San Diego Comic-Con is, more or less, Mecca for nerds like myself. It's probably not something you can do every year, but you pretty much have to go at least once in your lifetime. What started as a comic book convention in 1970 has, in the last few years, evolved into the largest pop culture convention in the world. Its official name, Comic-Con International: San Diego, could not be more accurate. While there, I met quite a few fans from other countries, such as Canada, England, and Germany. It is a place where nerds of all kinds gather to nerd out over nerdy things with other nerds, perhaps one of the few places where they can do so without judgment. (Except from the Jesus picketers, who showed up around Friday.)
This year was the first that I was able to attend after nearly half a lifetime of seething with jealousy over everyone who got to go, and one of the first things people ask me when they find out I was there is, "Did you have fun?"
Hell yes, I had fun. It was Comic-Con. If you don't have fun at Comic-Con, you're doing something wrong. (Or you're working it. I have a feeling some of the volunteers weren't having a good time.) Because Comic-Con is full of all the things that make me ridiculously excited. It's kind of like an all-you-can-eat buffet, only instead of food you get free posters and comic books and t-shirts and panels full of people like Seth Green and exclusive footage from Frankenweenie, and hey look there's Shawn Ashmore just meandering through Artists' Alley and it's the fourth time you've seen him this weekend, I hope he doesn't think you're stalking him.
It wasn't all fun and games, of course. Before I left for San Diego, when people found out I was going, they'd tell me, "I hear it's a lot of waiting in line." Yes, it is. You have to wait in line to pick up your badges. You have to wait in line to get into the convention center, to get into the panel rooms, to draw for autograph passes. You have to wait to purchase merchandise. You have to wait for the bathroom. Over one hundred thousand people packed the convention center over the span of four days, and they all had to go somewhere. Lines for the big panels (like the Warner Brothers panel, containing about eleven minutes of footage from The Hobbit) stretched for upwards of three miles, tickets for the Game of Thrones autograph session ran out before we got up to the table, and the exhibit floor was so crammed with people that I got claustrophobic a couple of times.
There was so much to do and see that you often had to make some difficult choices, like if there are two panels you want to see at the same time, which one do you pick? Should you wait in line for the panel for a particular show or the autograph session? Are you willing to give up an entire day at the convention to sit in a panel room, sitting through panels for shows you don't even watch just to make sure that you have a spot for that panel you're super excited about? Are you crazy enough to camp out on line to get into the panel room in the first place? My friend and I went in with the plan that we would pick one thing we wanted to do each day, and if we were lucky, we'd get to do it. It didn't always work out the way we planned -- we didn't manage to snag those Game of Thrones autograph passes after all, and waiting in line for those guaranteed we wouldn't be able to get seats for the panel, but that meant we got to make the Robot Chicken panel instead.
And I'm not going to lie, it wasn't cheap. My friend and I were in San Diego an entire week, not just for the convention but to be tourists as well, and cross-country airfare isn't what I'd call inexpensive. I'd wager that I spent approximately $1000-$1100 on that trip, and it would have been more if I wasn't worried about overdrawing my checking account or any of my credit cards had wiggle room. (Plus, I had to buy a new phone while I was there.)
The second question people ask, upon finding out I was there, is, "Was it worth it?" Was the experience worth the money? Was it worth the hassle of waiting in all of those lines, of dealing with all of those people?
Hell yes, it was worth it. My sole reason for wanting to go to Comic-Con was this: Merlin. I love Merlin. Yes, the show is a little (a lot) ridiculous, and it's certainly not going to win any Emmys, but it's fun and entertaining and it puts beautiful people on my screen every week, and one of those beautiful people is Colin Morgan, who is a perfect human being. And Merlin, despite airing on Syfy, doesn't do any press in America except for SDCC (at least not in person). They're currently filming season 5 and it's been widely speculated that season 5 will be the last (mainly because I'm pretty sure the producers did an interview where they said they had a five-season plan), and so I figured that if I didn't make it to SDCC this year, I would never ever get to meet the cast.
Anyway, I was able to score passes to an autograph signing for Colin Morgan and Katie McGrath, and like a complete fangirl I brought Colin peanut butter, but I have a picture with each of them in addition to their autograph, and there is video evidence that Colin high-fived me. It was probably the greatest five minutes of my entire life. Plus, we were in the fourth row for the panel the next day, perfectly positioned to have optimal viewing of both the cast and the screen, where we watched the season 5 trailer and bloopers and a hysterical faux interview with Bradley James and Rupert Young.
Plus I met Kevin Williamson, James Purefoy, Shawn Ashmore, and Chris Hardwick. I shook Kevin Bacon's hand (my thirteen year-old-self was pissing with excitement). I was in the vicinity of Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage. I breathed the same air as John Barrowman and Tim Burton. I got free posters and comic books, a free Superman t-shirt and a Hobbit pin. I bought a K-9 bobblehead and a TARDIS lunchbox. I have pictures of Optimus Prime, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a Hulk made out of LEGOs, not to mention some seriously epic cosplay. I was in the live audience for the official SDCC Nerdist podcast.
We may not have gotten to do everything we wanted, or everything we planned, but I got to meet Colin Morgan and get awesome seats for the Merlin panel, which was the reason I was there in the first place. Seriously, those five minutes basking in the presence of Colin made the entire trip worth it for me.
Would I do it again? In half a heartbeat. Provided someone else pays, because I really don't think I can afford to go back anytime soon.