Those G.I. Joe toys get more and more realistic every year. Photo: Trevor Rimmasch
I entered day three of the convention with the Zen calm of a Hindu cow, resigned to my fate. All the things that a fanboy suffers through for his passion; the sore feet and aching lower back, the endless bumping of people running into you at every turn in the tightly packed convention center, the loud noises, the ups and downs of meeting your idols or being turned away from a full panel, the expensive but desirable exclusive toys and comics—all these things no longer bothered me as I forded my way through the throng of bodies to enter SDCC. I was enlightened. I had achieved a kind of “nerdvana.” I had accepted that with what the con had become, I had no hopes of achieving what I had just a few years earlier. Even when I attended in 2008 for the first time and the first year the con ever sold out, I was able to see everything I wanted to—I was able to get into every panel with a wait time of maybe a half hour at the most. I could effortlessly move from a Stan Lee panel to a Robert Kirkman signing to a Star Trek motion picture preview, all in one day, all without losing my mind. This year I was unable to get into some of the panels I wanted to the most, or to be more specific, I was unwilling to wait in line for more than an hour, which after speaking to other attendees that had made it into some of the bigger panels, was nothing compared to what you actually had to do. One fellow I spoke to had got into the Hobbit panel, I was surprised and I asked him how he did it. Well, this goofball had lined up at 9pm the night before and slept on the sidewalk all night to get into Hall H where the panel was to be held at 2pm the following day. To Hell with that! I wouldn’t do that for the second coming of Christ, let alone the goddamn Hobbit (although I did discover that at the end they unveiled footage to the new Godzilla movie, which I was very pleased to hear)!
What I did do is change my strategy. I decided to go to some of the stranger more independent panels. The first one was actually my yearly favorite panel: Quickdraw. This is much more like a game show than a panel. This Comic Con tradition consists of one of my childhood heroes, Sergio Aragones, who is best known as the Mad Magazine artist and widely regarded as the world’s fastest cartoonist, along with Scott Shaw and a yearly guest artist, drawing things for audience members to guess and other various Pictionary-like challenges. It’s always funny and entertaining.
Next, I went to Oddball Comics which a venue for comic fans that like bizarre old silver and gold age comics from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, covering topics ranging from awkward handlings of drugs, sex, and rock n roll, to weird fetishes. There you can see things like disgruntled artists sneaking the “F” word onto covers of Marvel comics to a weird 12 issue stretch of Superman comics where Lois Lane has her legs spread eagle on every cover. It is exactly the kind of comics I am in to.
Then I hit the Locke and Key panel, and if you don’t know about this comic book, you really should pick it up. It is written by Joe Hill (author Stephen King’s son) and a fantastic architect-turned comic book artist named Gabriel Rodriguez, about a family that lives in an old house filled with keys that unlock doors that do things from letting them leave their bodies to travelling through time or unlocking their own heads to remove fears and traumatic memories; A fantastic comic from a couple of great creators.
At this point after walking countless miles, sleeping four hours a night for the last two days, having every sense in my body overwhelmed with sound and smells and color, I was content to just spend the rest of my time there wandering around looking at toys and people in costumes and celebrities signing autographs.
Had this 2012 San Diego Comic Convention been a success for me? I pondered this question in the aftermath of this surreal weekend. Well yes and no. In terms of seeing all the things I had set out to see, it was a complete failure. I didn’t get into any of the major panels because I was unwilling to spend hours upon hours in line. But the magic of this strange little universe that appears once a year in the heart of San Diego wasn’t so much whether or not you saw everything, but just getting swept up into oddball scenarios that pretty much couldn’t happen anywhere else. Where else could I end up stalking actors behind a hotel? Or getting into free concerts to dance with drunken comedians? Or see half naked women dressed up as the Scarlet Witch? Or meet my childhood idol Ken Foree, the actor from the original Dawn of the Dead, a movie that came out 25 years ago? For better or worse, Comic Con is both amazing and awful, exciting and boring, and fun and miserable. It’s actually a lot like life in that way, if life was one big Dungeons and Dragons game played by God. So I say, “May the madness continue and let the twenty sided die fall where it may.”