Not Quite Fear And Loathing At The San Diego Comic Con (Part 1)

We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers…

Oh who am I kidding?  We had two cups of coffee, a pen, two pads of paper, a camera, and our stuff in the trunk.  It was Friday morning, 6 am to be exact, and I pulled up to my friend Ryan’s house.  I was greeted by his camera flash.

The day was upon us to make our way down to the 2010 San Diego Comic Con.   It was my plan to be in a constant state of ‘drunk’ for the next two days.  I would take on my own Raoul Duke alter ego and wreak havoc upon the crowds and crowds of people. We were immediately off to a bad start as we realized 45 minutes into the trip, Ryan forgot the sixer in the fridge.  I’m not even sure they tailgate at SDCC.

I have a bittersweet history with the giant pop culture nerdfest that is Comic Con.  The first time I visited, it was 2002.  The last time I visited, it was 2007.  Actually, the only thing I experienced from that trip was losing my spot on the floor in my friend’s hotel room, drunkenly making an ass of myself in front of Jedis ‘dropping it like it’s hot’ during the masquerade ball, having a big fight with my then “girlfriend” (long story), and then proceeding to unsuccessfully sleep in my car after embarrassing myself further in front of her friends.  Needless to say, I never made it into Comic Con that year.  On my drive back to Los Angeles at 2 in the morning, only kept awake by sheer fury, I made myself a solemn oath then and there that I’d soon return to San Diego to claim my Comic Con redemption in all its glory.

Well apparently soon is not marked on the clock and before I knew it 3 years had passed.  Finally, with patience not being one of my stronger virtues, I received confirmation in April of this year that I would be attending SDCC as a member of the Press.  Me!? Press!?  Take that, San Diego!  With my Press badge confirmation and guaranteed hotel accommodations, I sat back hands clasped while whispering to myself, ‘Excellent’ in my best Mr. Burns voice.  Redemption was just around the corner.

It was roughly 8:30 in the morning, when we pulled up to our hotel.  We were about 6 miles from the actual convention center and now that I think of it, I believe we were staying in one of those pay by the hour motels.  I was not paying by the hour and there were other Comic Con attendees there, but it definitely had that vibe.  There was a pool and jacuzzi outside across the parking lot hiding behind a rather shady looking rickety wooden fence.  Across the street were two strip clubs and we were conveniently within walking distance from a deserted parking lot decorated with a plentiful amount homeless crack head types.

We parked and mapped out our route.  Soon we found ourselves walking a 20 minute hike from the hotel to the train station.  On our brisk walk, I almost slipped on a used condom which was conveniently hanging out on the sidewalk right outside the San Diego Mental Health Services Center.  Fueled only by 40 ounces of coffee and loads of geekcitement (yes that’s right), I exclaimed, “Let the adventure begin!”  

I mean, come on, don’t I look excited?  I mean geekcited…yeah…

After a short ride on the orange line trolley, we were dropped off outside The San Diego Convention Center.  We got there before the doors opened and I had to laugh to myself as the first bit of redemption was realized.  I didn’t have to wait in that long line of people that had formed outside the building.  I was Press!  I had my own registration entrance!  Of course, this was the first of many moments where I felt like I was a spy, an undercover nerd, just waiting to be found out for the fraud that I am.  Me, Press?  COME ON!  It was just me with my iPhone voice recorder app and dinky point and click digital camera.  Who would believe I was Press and this guy was my assistant?

Apparently many people, because we quickly were in the building with no hassles whatsoever.  We had them fooled! FOOLED!  Upon registration, we were handed these really big swag bags.  I can understand the use for these things if you were, say, wanting to smuggle a bunch of illegal midget immigrants into the country.  Or of course, buy stuff from the convention.  But seriously, don’t let this picture fool you, these bags were obnoxiously huge.

We didn’t have much time to dilly dally as it was 9:30 in the morning.  We split ways as he was on a mission to get Dan Abnett (I still have no idea who that is) to sign some books and my mission was breakfast.  My first event was not scheduled till 11:30 in the morning and I figured I had enough time to eat.  One thing you should know about San Diego during Comic Con is everything is more expensive.  I think I ended up spending 20 bucks for a plate that consisted of biscuits, potatoes, and bacon.  Don’t even ask, it was the cheapest thing I saw on the menu.  It was almost like I was getting prepared for a marathon with all those carbs!  But, like they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and this day was going to be a long one. 

I made my way back on the path from The Gaslamp District to the Convention Center.  For those who have never been to San Diego, these two area are very close in proximity but when adding in large amounts of people, it becomes very common to hear people mooing.  Yeah, like cows, as if that is still an original concept.  On my trek, I stopped to flirt with this lovely lady who was just begging to have her picture taken.  Oh and that’s the car from THE GREEN HORNET she’s standing in front of, in case you’re wondering.

I finally make it back into the Convention Center and by the check of the watch, I found I still had plenty of time before the panel for AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD.  Originally, my agenda was to start with DRIVE ANGRY 3D but that panel was scheduled to start at 11:15 and if I was to have to pick between zombies or a movie starring Nicolas Cage, I would pick zombies every damn time. It was 10:30 and I had an hour.  But just to be on the safe side, I decided to make my way to Room 6BCF to stake my place in line and make sure I have a good seat.  

Apparently, I was not the only genius in this crowd of people and soon found myself following the line from the room, turning corners, and finally outside on the patio.  I miraculously ran into a friend of mine in the line and thankfully had someone to talk to during the wait.

While in line, I found this guy staring at me.  Don’t ask me how I know he was staring, I just knew.

Once the panel was over, I was extremely giddy.  I found these guys and tried taking pics of them whilst walking bac
kwards through people.  I’m not sure they appreciated me shouting out actions to them like “More fierce!” and “Who’s a sexy zombie?”

I had an hour to kill and proceeded to grab myself a pretzel and head to the Convention floor.  Up until this point, I had not been down there and knew I was about to test my issue with large crowds. I guess I had THE WALKING DEAD on the brain because I somehow made my way immediately to AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD booth.  They had it set up like one of the sets from the pilot episode. This ended up being a frequently visited spot for me.

People were waiting in a line that wrapped around the booth for the opportunity to take pics with the dead guy on the couch.  Sadly, I didn’t have the time to wait in line.  I had to come back.

I didn’t have a lot of time to dilly dally since it was almost 2pm and I needed to get to Pressroom 1B.  This was my first big test.  Will they know I was a spy?  I entered the Pressroom and immediately felt like the obnoxiously big swag bag painted me as a target.  They assigned us all to different roundtables in the room.  Everyone else had cool little digital voice recorders and here I was with my iPhone voice recorder app.  Well whatever, I was in and sitting across from the cast and crew of THE WALKING fucking DEAD!  For my coverage of THE WALKING DEAD panel and press conference, click on the zombies!

Sadly, the press conference went a bit late.  The DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK panel was set to start at 2:15 in Hall H and I was unable to make it over there at all. That being the case, I felt it would have been pointless and even a bit time consuming to make my way across the street to the press conference for the movie that was set to happen soon after.  Seriously, crossing the street in that giant sea of people was time consuming and annoying.  At this time, I also remembered hearing word that Frank Darabont would be signing limited edition posters Drew Struzan painted for THE WALKING DEAD.

Sadly, I couldn’t remember where he was supposed to be signing.  I proceeded to walk around the entire parameter of Autograph Alley for 20 minutes.  I spotted THE HATCHET 2 crew signing autographs and snapped off a quick photo of Morgan Fairchild. 

I have no idea what she was signing for, but then again I also saw the likes of WWF’s The Million Dollar Man: Ted DiBiasi and other obscure pseudo celebrities from my childhood.  Anyway, I was getting distracted.  I suddenly had an epiphany that the signing was happening at the booth on the Convention floor.  With urgency, I did my best to run through the crowd and down the escalator without falling over.  Running with that obnoxiously big bag hanging from my shoulder was just stupid.  Why was I still carrying that thing?

I only had a small amount of time to walk around the Convention floor and during that small amount of time, I passed Eli Roth at The Lionsgate booth, chatted up my friend Gavin who was working The Fearnet booth, and was lucky enough to snap a quick picture of Tobin Bell who was signing autographs.

When I got back to THE WALKING DEAD booth, there was a really long line.  I did confirm it was for the signing but sadly, I needed to have a raffle ticket that was handed out the day before.  Well, that sucked.  I backed up and sighed and then noticed a crowd forming around the flat screen TV they had on the side of the booth.  There, they had the trailer which was earlier premiered at the panel playing on a loop.  It was seriously mesmerizing people as they were walking by. I stood there for probably 20 minutes just watching the trailer replay itself.  It was such a huge deal, I didn’t quite realize I was standing underneath the giant Recognizer that towered over the TRON LEGACY booth which was directly across from the room with the dead people in it.

At this point, it was about 4:30 in the afternoon.  My cell phone was in desperate need of charging. This was a big issue the entire time I was down there.  The WiFi at Comic Con was horrible with thousands of people attempting to access it through a multitude of mobile devices.  This was a huge drain on my phone’s battery.  I soon went on a mission to find an outlet to plug into where I could also rest my feet for a time.  Walking through the building, there were many people sitting on the floors against the walls, so soon I found an outlet and did just that.  No sooner than 10 minutes go by and I’m harassed by the first security guard who tells me I can’t sit against the wall. I replied, “Uh, have you worked in this building long?”  He didn’t appreciate my sarcasm and this started my mission to find an outlet I can use.  I went through three locations before finally finding one where I was not getting hassled.  My phone and feet were thankful.

I got to the Pressroom for HATCHET 2 at roughly 6pm.  During my visit, I had a fun conversation with Tom Holland and his wife Kathi.  While chatting, she brought up mention of a party which was to be happening on The USS Midway, an aircraft carrier which fought in WW2, later in the evening.  “See you there?” she asked me.  “Uh…of course…!” was my reply.  As I walked away, I immediately began planning my infiltration of said party.  Time to test how powerful this Press badge of mine was.

For my coverage of the HATCHET 2 panel, click on the hatchets.

When the panel ended, I confronted the PR person about this aircraft carrier party I had heard about earlier.  She told me to be there by 10pm because “William Shatner is scheduled to land via helecopter”.  Whaaaaaaat?!  Even if I had to pay to get in, at this point, it became a mission to get on that boat.

I found Ryan, my partner in crime waiting for me outside of the room.  Upon exiting the building, we both agreed our obnoxiously giant swag bags were just too much.  We might as well have planned to walk back from the train to our ghetto hotel with giant bull’s eyes painted on ou
r backs. So, per suggestion of employees manning the bag check booth, we chucked them in the trash. 

Our first mission was food and soon we were stuck in the middle of the crowded restaurant Dick’s Last Resort.  A ridiculous 80s cover band was playing on the stage and our sassy waiter both brought us our really over priced meals in a semi timely manner. 

From the restaurant, we walked.  Over a mile, we walked.  This would not have been a big deal if my feet were not cursing the powerful force of gravity and its onslaught it wreaked them for the past 12 hours.  We finally get to The USS Midway and lo’ and behold my Press badge gets me in for free.  Ryan, however, had to pay to get in.  But given his love for World War 2 aircraft, he soon got over it.

We made our way up top and found multiple bars set up while a band played on a makeshift stage. I quickly found out my wristband did not allow me free drinks.  I found AJ Bowen who suggested I take R.A. Mihailoff’s wristband but I already got a punch in the face by Kane Hodder.  I didn’t need to make Leatherface mad.  All joking aside, I was so worn out at this point, one drink would have knocked me out.

I made my rounds and chatted a bit with Adam Green and Jason Miller.  I then had to stop and take in the whole thing.  It was all feeling a bit surreal hanging out on this historic ship with Jason and Leatherface while passing the likes of Kevin Perreira from G4’s ATTACK OF THE SHOW and other semi-nerd celebrities.  I found Rob Pendergraft in the smoking area with AJ Bowen and it started dawning on me that even though this was a surreal experience, the party was not as exciting as I wanted it to be.  Just then, they set off fireworks. 

We were soon escorted off to the hangar where there was a DJ spinning and a semi crowded dance floor.  At this point, the day’s events had caught up with us and we decided it was best to catch the train back to our hotel before it was too late.  On our way out, I caught site of Brent Spiner and Levar Burton stone cold kickin’ it on the dance floor.  I stopped.  Ryan looked at me and said, “Don’t be that guy.”  I shrugged and said, “I AM that guy.” They must have sensed me coming, though, as they quickly moved into the crowd.  I left the party without seeing William Shatner and was too exhausted to care.

The train back to the hotel was packed to the point I had feared it would topple over from the weight.  Our walk from the train station was not as scary as I had thought it would be, although Ryan kept mentioning his concern about the dark overpass we had to walk through.  Thankfully, we didn’t have those damn bags with us.  I’m sure that would have made things worse. 

My feet were on the verge of giving out as I limped into our hotel room. Right as Ryan’s head hit the pillow, he was asleep.  As I made my way to bed, I smiled.  Our first day of Comic Con had come to a close but my thirst for Comic Con redemption was only half quenched.  I only had six hours of sleep to rest and I would need it because I was dead set to p’wn the hell out of Day 2.

-Aaron Pruner

One thought on “Not Quite Fear And Loathing At The San Diego Comic Con (Part 1)

  1. ffs! they need to get a comic con in scotland, i’ve never been much of a comic book guy, but i totally would be if something like this was around my area. you’re one lucky fucker!

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