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Five days ago, I could have told you some war stories about covering Comic-Con. I could have told you about the long hours, the multi-tasking, yet euphoric nightmare of learning dozens of long sought after facts in a single day and the delicious exhale that comes from the damn thing being over. Hell, I could have even recounted schedules from years’ past with a precise clarity. It all would have sounded good on paper too, but you see, there would have been a certain hollowness to my ravings because until five days ago, I’d never actually attended Comic-Con.

You see, while my co-workers were busy shuffling their feet and filing a crazy number of Comic-Con related stories every year, I was the poor bastard back at the office trying to make sense of it all and trying to maintain some level of quality control in the midst of simultaneous live blogs, video responses, scoops, editorials and picture spreads. I was the loyal soldier in the command center, and while I knew every inch of the battlefield, it turns out I didn’t know shit.

On Wednesday, I made the trek down to San Diego. While there, I once again felt the sting of the long hours. I once again alternated between enthusiastic and pissed off when pieces of news broke, and I sure as hell aggressively exhaled on the way home, but unlike all those previous years, for the first time this weekend, I actually experienced Comic-Con. I learned the stench a mass of nerds leaves. I felt the horrific annoyance of going through an exit and having to walk in a giant circle to get back to an entrance. For the first time, I truly took it all in.

And here is what I learned.

Most People Are Less Nerdy Than You’d Guess
The average person at Comic-Con does not look like Professor Frink from The Simpsons or talk like the guys from Big Bang Theory. I’m not going to lie to you and say the lot is filled with a high percentage of star quarterbacks and prom queens, but the average person is most definitely not Screech Powers. Instead, he or she is a good-natured, basically normal person with a real job and some taste sensibilities that skew slightly toward nerdy pursuits. I wore khaki pants and a nice blue button up shirt the first day, and I didn’t feel out of place at all. Think of it like a high school honors English class. Yes, most people have read more books than the average guy, but that doesn’t mean, on the whole, they’re incapable of talking about sports, listening to good music or finding semi-attractive sexual partners.

Some People Are Way More Nerdy Than You Can Imagine
Remember that last paragraph when I talked about how most attendees are basically normal? Well, the reason why Comic-Con gets the reputation it does is because there are a small percentage of people who want nothing more than to force theories you can’t even understand down your throat about Babylon 5 or Red Dwarf. Imagine what would happen if Lucas Blye knocked up Enid from Ghost World, and you’re entering the right ballpark. Most often, these people also have on a costume you don’t even vaguely recognize and bitch about how the SyFy Network has lost its soul. In small doses, they’re amusing to watch in a National Geographic animals kind of way, but with too much exposure, they’ll leave you praying for Odinsleep.

It’s The Friendliest Mob In The World
Estimates vary as to how many people head to San Diego for Comic-Con week, but an overwhelming majority of the figures I’ve seen put the number between 100,000 and 150,000, which is incredible for a downtown area that isn’t exactly New York City. As such, you would think these costumed hordes would run amok, create chaos and piss off local residents, especially when you factor in late nights and drinking, but I didn’t see a single physical altercation the entire weekend. What I saw instead, over and over, were large groups of random people shooting the shit and discussing a range of nerdy topics. Whether they were standing in line together or sitting next to each other during a panel, I saw so many groups of former strangers hanging out like they were old friends, and hilariously, I saw just as many masses of people patiently waiting at crosswalks when they could have selfishly bent traffic to their will.

People Love Getting Their Picture Taken
I hate inconveniencing people. I hate it. Even when someone’s job is to tell me what aisle the ketchup hangs out in, I’d still rather wander around and find it myself. That’s just who I am, which is why I was not overly stoked about having to ask people to let me take their picture for our various photo articles. It turns out, however, that they all seem to love this activity above all else. I asked hundreds of people over the course of the weekend if they’d pose for a moment, and not a single one had the slightest reservation. Most of them actually seemed pleased as punch about the usage of time too, even thanking me for thinking of them and for publishing their photographs. On more than a few occasions, I saw costumed attendees posing for pictures with other costumed attendees, complimenting each other on the work it took to create the outfits.

More People Fit Into A Small Space Than You’d Think
The lines at Comic-Con are long. If you’ve ever heard anything about the convention, I’m sure you’ve heard that. They’re thousands of people long, and many of them begin forming immediately after the activities close the day before. Within hours, they look obscenely, laughably long, but they’re not filled with nearly as many people as you would think. A few thousand people lined up one-by-one might stretch for multiple football fields, but all of those people can actually still fit in the bigger rooms. In fact, on more than a few occasions, I was ready to text my co-workers saying I didn’t get into a panel but stayed just in case and wound up getting in with hundreds of seats to spare. Bottom line: you need to get places early if you want to get inside the doors, but just because your eyes might tell you you’re fucked doesn’t mean there’s actually no reason to hope.

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