The Ardent Eccentric: Comic-Con Reflections

So I know my regular post is usually on Tuesday, but this week is a special edition-Comic Con 2015!

Which I’m not at.

For the first time in 5 years.

And my heart is breaking. But only a little.

As I receive Twitter updates from the Comic Con blogs I subscribe to, and hear about everyone’s journey to San Diego today, I think about how much Comic Con has changed just in the few years that we have been attended.  Obsessed with going after the Mighty Boosh cast appeared as part of Adult Swim’s booth in 2009, I easily was able to purchase badges online in 2010 by being ready when sales opened at 12:00 ET.  The following years were a little more difficult, until the past two years where it has been done strictly by lottery.  While I find the system to be much fairer to everyone, this year, we never managed to get Saturday passes before they sold it, so it was hard to justify traveling 3000 miles to not be able to attend the biggest day at Comic Con.

That said, there are so many off site activities now that we could have found plenty to do on that Saturday.  Fear the Walking Dead, Vikings and Game of Thrones all have walk through activities this year, and many restaurants are taken over by various networks to host lavish parties for people in San Diego, whether you are attending Comic Con or not.

I will say, however, that it is difficult to infiltrate these activities with an attendee under the age of 18 or 21.  Many venues can’t be bothered to monitor underage drinking simply from the sheer amount of people in attendance, so it makes it difficult to take advantage of the various opportunities for fun with a minor.

But the sheer wonder of Comic Con through a tween/teen’s eyes is amazing.  My daughter and I first attended when she was 11, and we strode into line for Hall H at 8:00 AM for Thursday panels starting at 10:00 AM.  The first panel was Megamind with Will Farrell, Tina Fey, and Jonah Hill in attendance, and provided swag that was unlike anything we had received before.  Today, Wednesday, July 8, 2015, there are already 30 people lined up outside of Hall H for tomorrow’s panels.

And our first year, we tried to attend the Adventure Time panel, which was the first year it was at the Con.  A cult favorite, it was followed by a commemorative session with Berkley Breathed on Bloom County.  Because Comic Con does not clear the rooms between panels, if there is a panel you want to see at 1:00 PM, you can come to a less attended panel at any time before that and just stay through to the panel at 1:00.

Because of this, the Adventure Time panel was filled with people waiting for Berkley Breathed.  My 11 year old and I, her dressed as Princess Bubblegum, and I in a Lady Rainicorn outfit, got within 5 people of the door when it started. Seeing her in tears, the very kind volunteers/security kept a look out for anyone leaving the panel to try to move her in.  30 minutes in and we finally got a break-only one seat was available.  I sent my shy but ecstatic 11 year old into a room of hundreds of people alone, but there wasn’t much need to worry.  The volunteers and staff of Comic Con are used to star struck adults and children, and very gently guided her to the empty seat.

She was overjoyed, and even more so when she got to meet the creators and voice actors of Adventure Time, as well as get her picture taken for Cartoon Network, since her Princess Bubblegum costume was pretty bad ass.

And I too was thrilled to see H. Jon Benjamin (from Archer, Home Movies, and a variety of other projects) visibly moved when I shared with him at an autograph signing that watching Home Movies late at night had gotten us through many sleepless nights with our 1 year old, and that now she was 13, and loved the show and him as much as we did.  We talked about his son and my daughter for a few minutes, and as my daughter and I were both dressed as obscure Pokemon, he needed to know who we were so he could share that with his son.

This kinder, gentler Comic Con prompted us to return for the next few years, bringing my husband along one year as well.  He preferred to people watch rather than scamper to various panels and autograph signings while dressed in full cosplay, but it was still a great family activity.

That Comic Con, however, quickly became a thing of the past.  The Con has gotten so big now and so cut throat that we wandered around the same booths for hours last year while security hand-picked people to get in line to buy exclusives.  To get into Hall H or Ballroom 20 was nearly impossible, and dealers would buy huge quantities of exclusives and upsell them for enormous amounts at their own booths.  Even the off-site events were unmanageable, with lines that snaked around the convention center several times.

So while I am sad that I’m not there this year, I’m not too sad.  Yes, Conan O’Brien is filming there this year, and yes, I will miss Chris Hardwick and his various hosting gigs (seriously, one of the nicest and most genuine human beings in the world in case it wasn’t obvious), and I will definitely miss playing dress up with my kid for four days straight, but maybe having this year off will help us appreciate Comic Con more next year for what it is meant to be: a weekend for fans of all aspects of the pop culture genre, from all walks of life.