Sunday, July 19, 2015


Some may recall that last year, I was a little underwhelmed by my Comic-Con experience. The trip was fun, but it was more in spite of the convention rather than because of it. This year, thankfully, things returned to form. Here's a recap of the trip by way of some of the tweets I sent out from the convention.

Preview Night: every year I'm unsure whether I want to do it. It costs extra and it's become practically as crowded as any other day of the show. But, given the amount of time spent standing in lines and attending panels throughout the con, Preview Night really is, as it always was, the best opportunity to tour the exhibit hall. And this year it was actually productive for me, as I came across a Japanese Transformer I wanted at a very reasonable price ("Combiner Wars" Superion, for those curious), which might have been scooped up by someone else if I hadn't been there. Nonetheless, I still wonder if it's worth it. Technically, for the price I paid for the Preview Night badge, I could've just had the toy shipped to me from overseas for the same ultimate price.

There are a few things I realized about Comic-Con a long time ago, and they have informed my trips ever since: One, despite its name, this is no longer a comic book convention -- which is fine, because I no longer read current comics. And two, there are some things I will never get into, and I shouldn't even try. Case in point: Hall H, where the huge movie panels are held every year. You can camp out for hours to get a wristband which will allow entrance to the Hall, or you can decide, as I did years back, that you will never set foot inside Hall H again, and be done with it. There's plenty of other stuff to do, after all, and most of those movie panels make it up onto the internet within a few days anyway.

So instead, as usual, I focused more on TV related panels this year. And the big venues for television are Ballroom 20 and the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton next to the convention center. I made it into both rooms this year, with Thursday dedicated to Ballroom 20. The day started off with a cool panel: Titan Books has an upcoming title called THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAMES T. KIRK, written by FAMILY GUY producer David Goodman, and Goodman and William Shatner spent some time talking about the book, with Shatner reading a few selected passages. I might have preferred to see Shatner take the material a bit more seriously, but he's such an entertaining guy that I was pleased with the panel nonetheless.

Later that day was the SHERLOCK panel, attended by co-creator Stephen Moffat, producer Sue Vertue, and Rupert "Inspector Lestrade" Graves. I like the show, as I've mentioned before, and Moffat didn't disappoint with his nutty demeanor and fun anecdotes. I didn't take much away from the panel, but I had a good time.

Thursday evening brought some panels at the Hilton's Indigo Ballroom, which allowed its easiest access of the con that day. We walked in with little difficulty, got seats right up front, and saw Seth Green and Bryan Cranston, among others, speak about their upcoming stop-motion Crackle series, SUPERMANSION, which looks like it could be funny. After that were a couple of "Adult Swim" panels: a new program called ANOTHER PERIOD, which I haven't watched yet, and DRUNK HISTORY, which I've seen a few times. I find the comedy TV panels get you the most "bang for your buck", so to speak, as you aren't listening to actors speak seriously about "becoming" their characters and you don't have moderators and fans trying fruitlessly to pull spoilers from them. Instead it's always just a bunch of funny people laughing and joking around, which is much more my speed.

And that happened Thursday, too. I haven't really had many, if any, celebrity sightings in downtown San Diego over the years. A few at hotels, sure, and comics creators, certainly. But you -- or at least I -- don't usually find actors out and about. Yet there was Elijah, waiting for a table like normal people, while my friends and I had dinner and a few drinks. One of my friends even got a picture with him, which I took, though I didn't want to bother him further by requesting one myself.

Every. Year. Without fail. Friday's Ingido line is the worst, because the room is filled with things people want to see. You wind up waiting in line for stuff you don't care about just so you can get to the things you want to see at the end of the day. And it's not just the line-waiting that's the problem; it's the venue for the line. For some reason, the spot where it's located -- behind the Hilton -- gets no breeze even though it's right beside the water, and the sun seems to reflect off the ground or the hotel or something, making the area about fifty degrees hotter than any other spot around the convention center. It is, with no exaggeration, pure misery.

We got in line for Indigo fairly early, around 10:30 or so, and waited for close to two hours to get in, even though the main thing we wanted to see -- ARCHER -- was at 4:00! Nontheless, there were some entertaining things in that room as always, as it's where the "Adult Swim" animation series usually show up, so we saw ROBOT CHICKEN and MIKE TYSON MYSTERIES, as well as Fox's BOB'S BURGERS prior to ARCHER.

ARCHER is one of my favorite series on TV, animated or otherwise, and the show's cast is always entertaining, from H. Jon Benjamin's and Chris Parnell's seeming disinterest in the proceedings to Aisha Tyler's apparently genuine (but still sarcastic) enthusiasm. This year they brought Jessica Walter as well for the first time, so it was cool to see the entire cast on stage, finally. That said, Indigo is such a hassle to get into, and you lose so much of your day to it, that I think I may skip ARCHER next year after seeing it six years in a row.

Saturday was my final day at Comic-Con, as my wife had work Monday so we needed to drive home Sunday. We started the day with another trip to Indigo, this time arriving plenty early and waiting in a much more pleasant indoor line to get access to the day's first panel, LAST MAN ON EARTH. I admit that I haven't watched the Will Forte series, but my friend Chris is a fan and I love Forte, so I joined him. I wasn't disappointed, and I suspect I'll need to add this series to my weekly schedule when it returns in the Fall.

I spent the rest of the day wandering the exhibit hall since it was my final day at the con. I picked up one or two more souvenirs, then met my friends at the Tilted Kilt Pub around the corner from PetCo Park to finish my SDCC with a night of beer and UFC fights. It was a pleasant evening.

Overall, this Comic-Con was a much more satisfying experience than last year's. For whatever reason, I just wasn't "feeling" it last time. This time I got into several things I wanted to see, I bought a few items, saw some collectibles I'd like to pick up over the next year or so, and came home with some freebies. I felt like I accomplished more this trip than before, and I'm already looking forward to next year.


  1. I've heard such horror stories about Hall H and the SDCC panels in general that at this point, I've pretty much decided that when I finally do make it for the first time, I'll probably just skip the panels entirely and spend my time on the exhibit floor and talking to creators. But then I worry I'd miss out on the true SDCC experience by not sitting through crap I don't care about to hear about some crap I do care about. :)

    Yet there was Elijah, waiting for a table like normal people, while my friends and I had dinner and a few drinks.

    The one big out-of-town convention I've been to was Wizard World Chicago back in, oh, 2002 or so (when Wizard was still a publishing entity) and one night while having dinner a group of about a half dozen supporting actors from the Star Wars films that were signing at the con got seated at table right next to ours. So my big celebrity encounter involves eating dinner a few inches away from Chewbacca and Boba Fett. :)

    I admit that I haven't watched the Will Forte series, but my friend Chris is a fan and I love Forte, so I joined him.

    I'm still making my way through the inaugural season, but it's definitely worth watching. It's one of those weird comedies which are becoming more and more common in that it is funny and overtly comedic, but there's some darker and more dramatic elements to it as well. "Dramedy" is probably how you'd term it, but even that isn't quite right.

    And Forte is a blast in it, completely deserving of his recent Emmy nod. He hits the comedy and the drama beats equally well, and does a marvelous job of making you feel bad for his character even while you realize most of his troubles he brings on himself.

    1. I still haven't looked at LAST MAN ON EARTH, but the more I hear, the more I intend to.

      Comic-Con is definitely a good time, but like I said, it's not really a comic book convention. There are certainly creators and publishers in attendance, and there's a decent sized Artists' Alley, but it's really more about the movies, TV shows, and video games these days.

      Almost every year lately, I find myself pining for how it used to be. You could walk into almost anything without a line and it was still about the comics more than anything else. But then I remember that I don't read current comics, so if it was still about them, I'd actually probably enjoy it less than I do now. I think mainly I just miss the smaller crowds.

      Good luck coming someday! It's worth it at least once just for the experience.