The most common question I’m asked when I mention attending San Diego Comic Con is, “Do you dress up?” The answer is “no.” I am not a cosplayer – unless “writer wearing a geeky shirt” counts – but the elaborate costumes are certainly one of the most recognizable and entertaining elements of Comic Con.
So, what is Comic Con?
San Diego Comic Con is the world’s largest comic book and popular arts convention. Held every July, it boasts hundreds of events covering everything from comic books to movies to television to video games to books to music to science. With attendance topping 130,000 people, many of whom do indeed dress up as their favorite fictional characters, downtown San Diego is overrun with geeks and nerds of all ages, shapes, sizes and colors for one week every summer. I call it Geek Summer Camp, and it’s one of my favorite weeks of the year.
Why I go
This was my eighth year at Geek Summer Camp, hanging out with my fellow Potterheads, Sherlockians, Trekkers and Tolkeinites. While I am there to enjoy being with my tribe of nerds, the trip is also about work. I co-own a few websites that cover television shows, including NiceGirlsTV.com, which focuses on shows with strong female characters and/or women behind the scenes, and TheFairyTaleSite.net, covering all things fairy tale in pop culture.
Attending as members of the press, my team of reporters and I have the opportunity to preview new shows; interview the casts and creative teams behind shows we already love and those we think we’re going to love; and connect with people at the networks and studios who bring us those shows. We return, exhausted, to our respective homes with hours of video footage from panels and press rooms and pages of notes and ideas for stories. Then it’s my job to coordinate all of that content into articles and posts.
But what about the famous people?!? (aka some highlights)
In addition to the hours of watching and editing video footage and editing articles and following up with publicists that comes from attending Comic Con (I know, you’re pulling out the tiny violins for me right now), I always come home with some amazing experiences and stories to share.
Not an engagement photo.
One of this year’s highlights was meeting Richard Armitage, one of my favorite actors (you’ll know him from the British miniseries North & South or the BBC’s Robin Hood or The Hobbit trilogy or all of the above), at the annual NBC press party on Saturday night. He was there along with Bryan Fuller, creator of NBC’s Hannibal and one of my favorite people, promoting his guest-starring role on Hannibal for the remaining episodes of the series. I think my photo with Richard generated more excitement than anything else I posted on Facebook that entire week. And by “excitement,” I mean garbled comments and swooning. Completely understandable.
Perhaps less universally thrilling but one of my most anticipated experiences was attending a Quidditch match in a bayside park. Quidditch, of course, is the fictional sport from the Harry Potter universe. In 2010, an amazing group of people converted it into a real life, non-magical (aka Muggle) sport. With nearly 200 teams and 4,000 players in the United States, the U.S. Quidditch League plays matches all over the country and participates in the Quidditch World Cup which is an actual thing.
This was my first chance to attend a live match, and I loved every minute of it. Well, except for when my friends over at the hotel where all the press rooms were set up began texting me that Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, was there to promote his new movie. No matter how many times I texted back in ALL CAPS to SEND HIM TO THE QUIDDITCH MATCH, he never showed.
The hotel I stayed in was right next to the San Diego Convention Center, which meant several studios and networks were housing their talent in the same building. On our first morning there, while I sat in the lobby using the free wi-fi, Steven Moffat (executive producer of the BBC’s Sherlock and Doctor Who) wandered by, clearly in need of coffee. I opted for a nod and a smile because I’m sure he’s already quite aware of impatient we are for the next season of Sherlock.
We caught up with Stan Lee at one point, waving hello and getting a wave back as he hustled to his next event. In fact, the entire cast of MARVEL’S Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. plus Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) were staying on our side of the hotel, so we ran into them frequently, playing it cool as much as possible.
I was less cool when I rode the elevator up from the fitness center with Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager, and a million other things), but he took my little bit of fangirling in stride. Bless.
You really never know who you’re going to see at Comic Con. One year I remember coming around a corner in the exhibitors hall and literally bumping into someone dressed up as a squirrel. I bounced off the large, stuffed stomach, apologized, and went on my way. (Pro tip: there is no such thing as personal space at Comic Con, but it is still polite to apologize when bumping into someone.) Later I found out that I’d bumped into Johnny Depp dressed as a squirrel; he wanted to experience the hall without being recognized.
And then there was the time, this year, when we were over by the Warner Bros. booth on the convention hall floor and Hugh Jackman walked by after signing autographs to promote his new movie, Pan. I swear we made eye contact for, like, 3 seconds before he turned his head just as I was snapping a photo of our time together (see above).
A couple of friends and I unexpectedly scored passes for the Game of Thrones autograph session, which turned out to be rather delightful as the cast were clearly having as much fun as we were. Alfie Allen (aka Theon/Reek) and I had a nice chat while waiting for the line to move, and Maisie Williams (aka Arya) agreed that her name tag should read No One, and promptly changed it. #winning
On Sunday, I sat down with the cast of the upcoming Heroes Reborn, the 13-episode series that picks up five years after the original series ended. Although they were necessarily full of secrets, the cast got me even more excited about this continuation of the show. Plus while I waited to go into that press room, the entire cast of Grimm assembled in front of me while waiting for their rides to the airport. (No, I didn’t creep any photos.)
Three years and counting!
Another highlight was chatting with Stephen Amell (the CW’s Arrow) and continuing our tradition of taking a photo together at the Friday night Warner Bros. party. If you’ve ever wondered if celebrities care about their fans, I can confirm that, for Stephen, it’s no act. He’s sincerely grateful for his fans and one of the nicest guys I’ve met in the Industry.
Speaking of traditions, my Geek Summer Camp friends and I have established several over the years, from our Nice Girls meet’n’greet on Wednesday to open the convention to our blogger dinner on Sunday to wrap it up to hitting every photo booth we can find in between.
This year seemed to be the year of the hashtag – #teamkitkat #teampenguin #fakehusband #luckycardigan – any of which are guaranteed to leave a smile on my face. Meeting and talking with celebrities is fun, don’t get me wrong, but it’s these memories with friends that keep me coming back.
Until next year, campers!