This year, we approached Comic-Con International a bit differently than usual. For the last seven years we’ve been staying in town for all four days. With the baby, we decided to do Comic-Con 2011 in just one day. So we left him with relatives and took the train down to San Diego for the day. We arrived in town about 9:00, walked down to the convention center, and had our badges just after the floor opened at 9:30.
(Full photo set on Flickr.)
Planning a trip to Comic-Con is always about trade-offs. It’s so big that you can’t see everything, and there are so many events going on that you can’t attend them all. With four days, there’s some wiggle room. With just one, it seemed like I was constantly thinking about those choices.
One of the first choices I made: No news panels. I could get that the next day online (and did). I wanted to focus only on what was unique to the con: exhibits, meeting people, the art show, etc. Basically, I wanted to experience as much of San Diego Comic Con as I could in one day.
Katie decided to pick two things and build her day around them: visiting The Field, an Irish pub our friend Sean introduced us to a few years ago, and seeing the new Thundercats screening.
The Main Floor
With just one day, I ended up doing several circuits of the exhibit hall instead of a thorough, aisle-by-aisle search. It seemed less crowded than I remembered, though that may have been because it was Friday.
I hit some of my usual targets: Stop at the Studio Foglio booth & get Phil & Kaja to sign my copy of the latest Girl Genius volume. Check out the displays at the DC Comics booth and Sideshow. Look for signings by artists and writers that I want to meet.
Unfortunately, my haphazard approach meant that I never made it back to Artist’s Alley after my initial pass to make a list of people I wanted to talk to later in the day. (I had the idea of trying to start a new Flash jam sketch and get Francis Manapul, Todd Nauck, and a few others.) And I forgot to come back to the BOOM! Studios booth for Mark Waid after buying a copy of The Unknown TPB for him to sign.
I did, however, finally pick up a copy of Boilerplate (a steampunk robot, photoshopped into historical photos, with stylistically appropriate articles written about the events) after walking by the display for several years running. And I stumbled across the Union of Superlative Heroes in the small press section.
I was also lucky enough to get a wrist band allowing me to buy the limited-edition convention exclusive Flashpoint: Reverse Flash action figure for Devin at Speed Force. It went about like this Gutters strip, except that there were fewer costumes and they hadn’t sold out when I got to the booth. Also, the line went very fast. I went through five times in about as many minutes (they were encouraging people to try again) until I drew a winning ticket.
It still amazes me that in a crowd of ~150,000 people, you can randomly run into people you know. I ran into my parents at the DC booth. I ran into our friend Wayne (whom we’d been planning to meet up with later anyway) in the lobby.
At one point, I was waiting to ask a question at the Mimobot booth when I looked over at an X-wing pilot and recognized a college classmate whom I hadn’t seen in over a decade. We talked for a bit, then I went back to the booth. As I left the booth, I spotted someone dressed as Ramona Flowers and walked up to ask for a photo. She turned out to be another college classmate from a completely different circle!
One of those trade-offs I mentioned earlier: Catching that day’s big DC Comics “New 52″ panel (not for the news, but for the chance to ask questions) or catching a meet-up of people in Flash costumes. I went for the meetup. Unfortunately, only two cosplayers showed up, but I did get to meet the people organizing it. I also got to meet @BitterWallyWest, and we talked about Flash and other comics (but mostly Flash) for a good 20-30 minutes or so.
The two of us, @SpeedsterSite and @TheFlashReborn had been trying to set up a meeting with all of us at once, but that didn’t work out. At the time, they were both in the New 52 panel. I finally caught up with them mid-afternoon, not long after @SpeedsterSite’s talk with Dan Didio.
Thundercats and the Plural of Apocalypse
Thundercats has since premiered on Cartoon Network, so if you catch a repeat of the pilot, Katie highly recommends it. This goes double if you’re among the child-of-the-80s crowd for whom it’s nostalgic. The audience for the panel was mostly this target demographic, and enough were habitual congoers that the preceding two panels were crammed. For the panel immediately preceding, a new thriller-genre ABC show called “The River,” this wasn’t much of a problem. But the one before that was “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and the campers were crowding out some kids. Katie let a family of first-time attendees cut ahead of her in line to get escorted to the last few seats.
The show itself is not just an update of the original cartoon, but also a reimagining. The characters have different backgrounds and relationships to one another, and the premise has been tweaked. They’re still on Third Earth, but rather than having crash-landed there, it’s their original home. Some plotholes have been plugged, and a lot of the cheese has (mercifully) been picked off. We haven’t yet seen all the major players from the previous series, and not all of those we have seen have met each other yet. And the original voice of Lion-O is in the cast…as his father. Worth standing in line for, and will be going on the DVR.
I only made it to one panel: “Writing the Apocalypse,” and while it was full, I had no problem getting in just a few minutes before it started. Most of the guests were authors of zombie-related apocalypses, and I came away from the panel with two thoughts:
1. Mira Grant loves virology.
2. The premise of Soft Apocalypse sounds scarier than zombies.
Out in San Diego
We ventured outside the convention center twice: Once for lunch, and once for dinner. We’ve developed a tradition of hitting The Field, an Irish pub in the Gaslamp District, at least once each convention. Since I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d be doing, we figured we’d both aim for it, but not worry about getting there at the same time. As it was, we did manage to catch up briefly while Katie finished her lunch and I ordered mine.
The crowds around 5th Street weren’t as bad as I remember from last year. Maybe there were fewer people handing out fliers (though there was no shortage of women in skimpy outfits with stacks of postcards), or maybe the offsite events were just spread out better. Last year, the area between the Hilton and the trolley tracks had a bunch of tables and booths set up for the Scott Pilgrim promotion. This year I think it was just people until you actually walked into the exhibits. That alone may have helped immensely.
For dinner, we met up with Wayne after all our late-afternoon panels and final passes through the floor were complete. One problem: We hadn’t made reservations anywhere, and we had deadlines: Wayne needed to be back at the convention center by 8:00, and Katie and I needed to be on the train by 8:20 (or so we thought — more about that later). We ended up at the Broken Yolk Cafe (which I still want to call the Burnt Toast Diner for some reason), which was decent enough, but I like their breakfasts better. (That said, the next time I’m in Downtown San Diego for breakfast, it’s going to be Cafe 222.)
We wrapped up the day with stops at two more of our San Diego mainstays: Heavenly Cupcake (on 6th), and the Ghirardelli shop (on 5th). We were too stuffed for dessert, but cupcakes and chocolate both travel well.
The Journey Home
Neither of us had expected the longest line to be for the train ride home. We’d been advised to arrive early, and got to the station around 8:00 for our 8:20 train, but the train was delayed coming into San Diego. We didn’t even board until at least 9:00. (That this was the worst line either of us experienced has a lot to do with the choices we made about what to see at the con.)
Part of it was all the extra cars they’d added to cover not only people leaving San Diego after Comic-Con, but people leaving Solana Beach (the next stop north) after the evening’s races at Del Mar. The passengers who boarded in San Diego, for the most part, were exhausted after a day at the con, and quiet. If they talked, it was quietly, within groups. Those who boarded at Solana Beach had just finished an evening at the races, and they were excited, drunk and loud. It was an interesting contrast.
The train delay meant we got home around midnight. Definitely too late for a daily commute, especially with the hour drive to and from the train station. If we go more than one day next year, we’ll have to stay in town (or at least closer).
It’s sad that next year is an “if,” though. This was my twenty-second trip to Comic-Con, and Katie’s ninth or tenth. It’s never been a problem to get tickets ahead of time before, but they’d capped the line for the day’s 2012 pre-sale before we even arrived, and if online sales are anything like they were this year, it’s going to be a Hoteloween-level madhouse when they go on sale.