A busy day of crowds, lines, costumes, DC Comics, Scott Pilgrim, bad science, twisted genres, Naomi Novik, Geoff Johns and more.
The last few years, we’ve driven down to San Diego on Wednesday afternoon and stayed for the entire length of Comic-Con. This year we drove down early Thursday morning.
The drive was a lot smoother than I expected, and we didn’t really run into traffic until we passed Oceanside. We made it to our hotel around 10:00, figuring we’d store our luggage, then come back to check in when we could. In a stroke of luck that surprised me even more than the traffic, the hotel had a room available at that hour, and we were able to drop things off and move on to the convention center without worrying about having to come back.
The Sheraton Suites at Symphony Hall isn’t exactly close to the convention center, but you can walk it in about 20-25 minutes. To get a sense of the area, we walked that first trip, spotting signs of the convention along the way: a movie screen being set up in a parking lot. The Scott Pilgrim banner on the Hilton Bayfront. Flynn’s Arcade. The marine layer hadn’t cleared yet, so the walk was quite comfortable (if a bit gloomy).
Finally we arrived at 5th and L, the hub of off-site convention activity — not to mention a serious bottleneck for pedestrian traffic. SyFy had a giant purple balloon, Green Hornet had a car and booth babes, there was the Scott Pilgrim Experience across the street, and people were handing out flyers, cards and promotional comic books everywhere you turned around.
The zombies hadn’t shown up yet as near as I could tell, nor the “religious” protesters, nor the vegan activists, nor the boothless babes promoting gaming sites, nor the pirate band…
Once we made it across the tracks and across the street, it was a smooth walk inside, up the escalators, across the halls and into the registration area. 5 minutes, tops, from setting foot in the door to having our badges in hand.
At the Con: Day One
Traffic control and line management seems vastly improved this year. I can’t think of any snafus like the line that ate itself, and whenever a room has been close to full, they’ve had staff quietly looking for empty seats and directing newcomers to them. I walked straight into the end of the previous panel of DC Comics writers (which, to be honest, I might have wanted to see if I’d expected to be there earlier), sat down, and pulled out the laptop to figure out what wifi might be available. Next up was the DC Nation kickoff, where my experiment in liveblogging the panel turned out to be a success.
We met up for lunch, then Katie headed for Once Upon a Time, a panel on epic fantasy and whether it requires larger-than-life heroes. She got to hear Christopher Paolini (Eragon) admit, “I write…Mary Sues. And that’s OK.” She spent the rest of the afternoon in Hall H, catching half of the JJ Abrams/Joss Whedon panel and all of The Expendables before finishing up the day with the big presentation for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Meanwhile, I went looking for a signing at Top Cow before deciding I didn’t really want to wait in line, swung through the Sideshow Collectibles and DC Comics booths, then went back upstairs for the Geoff Johns spotlight, which was the other panel I’d committed to live-blogging.
I only had an hour break between Geoff Johns and the next panel I wanted to hit: Twisting Genres. Eight writers talking about breaking the confines of single-genre fiction — or “mainstream” literature, for that matter. They stayed on topic better than the similar panel I went to at Westercon, but still managed to throw some good quotes and stories.
The Twisting Genres group included Naomi Novik and had a signing from 5-6. We figured whichever of us was free would head over there with our copy of Tongues of Serpents, and with Katie trying to get into the Scott Pilgrim panel at 6, it was clearly going to be me. So I stood in line, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn’t waiting for more popular authors: Naomi Novik was the big draw! About half an hour in, staff started walking along the line looking for people who only had books for the other authors and bringing them up to the front.
The real surprise, though, was the line for Abusing the Science of Science Fiction. I figured this was basically going to be like the Mad Science panel last year, which I don’t remember being terribly crowded, but the line stretched all the way down the hall and back. They ended up cutting off the room two people in front of me, then deciding to open it up to standing room in the back. Once inside, staff sent me to a solo empty seat — right next to two people I’d been planning to meet up with sometime during the weekend!
The panel itself was a lot of fun. Each panelist showed two clips from a TV show or movie demonstrating good science or bad science. This included a clip from Armageddon with an asteroid impact which, someone suggested, contained the only example of a Michael Bay movie underestimating the size of an explosion!
- They weren’t taking reservations during the con. Actually, a lot of restaurants weren’t taking reservations.
- Katie and I were both in panels that let out at the same time that the main exhibit hall closed, which meant we were caught in a mass exodus as almost everyone still in the convention tried to leave through the two tiny bottlenecks that cross the train tracks.
- A freight train was passing by. Not that I could see it, but she had a better vantage point.
Both of us were stuck in a crowd that literally couldn’t go anywhere for about twenty minutes. And then cell reception went out. We figure it was probably overload from all the people trying to call or text their friends to tell them they couldn’t get out, or send pictures of the crush. They really need that pedestrian bridge over the tracks.
Fortunately, one of the friends we were meeting had been in a panel that let out a little before 7:00. He not only beat the crowds, he beat the train, and got our name in at the restaurant. So once all of us were there, we basically walked right in.
Speaking of the Old Spaghetti Factory, we resolved a mystery: A few years ago, it closed down and was replaced with a good Mediterranean restaurant called Dussini, which for some reason never seemed to be full. Then last year, it was back, but with Dussini as the name of the upstairs bar. Katie noticed on the menu that the restaurant chain’s founder was named Guss Dussin, and reasoned that they had tried to spin off a different type of restaurant, but that it hadn’t been as successful as they had hoped.
This was Thursday, July 22, 2010.
Next up: Friday – Art, Signings and Downtown
»Full index of Comic-Con posts and photos.