By: J.c Sales
San Diego Comic-Con International, otherwise known as SDCC, is the highest attended pop culture convention in the world with over 130,000 people in attendance. SDCC is held every year in the downtown San Diego convention center during July.
I had the pleasure of attending this year as press and had some great opportunities to meet some amazing actors and comic creators.
If you’ve never attended a SDCC before, let’s just say the experience can be overwhelming at times. SDCC begins on a Wednesday AKA Preview Night, and is open to press, professionals, exhibitors and attendees with special Preview Night passes. Preview Night is really all about the Exhibit Hall. This is the best time to grab a chance at scoring a coveted SDCC exclusive. Booths, like Hasbro and Marvel, have some exciting items that can only be purchased at this event and Preview Night gives you first access before the other 100,000 attendees arrive. This event also offers you a first look at upcoming figurine and merchandise releases for the rest of the year.
Preview night does offer one panel. This year it was Warner Brothers Television Sneak Peek Pilot Screenings. Due to my late arrival for the evening I was only able to catch the pilot for the upcoming Flash t.v. series. This show looks like it will be a fun one.
The rest of the weekend quickly becomes a blur of panels, celebrity sightings, swag, and “line rides.”
Thursday of my arrival I had a specific quest of catching the panels for TNT’s new show The Last Ship as well TNT’s upcoming show Legends. Audience members were treated to the full upcoming first episode of Legends, set to air on August 13, 2014, as well as a swag redemption for a #DontKillSeanBean tee.
Attending panels can be tricky for a first time attendee. I think anyone who has ever shown interest in attending SDCC has heard about the infamous Hall H. Hall H is the panel room that draws the biggest names in the movie and television industries for their upcoming releases. That awesome video you saw of Loki floating around on the internet last year, asking everyone to supplicate for him? That happened at Hall H.
For myself, I avoided Hall H this year. I find this venue works best with a team or accepting that you’re going to stay up all night, outside to get your seat. Or spend all day, outside waiting for a seat to open.
This year SDCC tried to cut down on people sleeping outside by implementing a wristband system. In previous years, if you wanted the best seats for the biggest venue, you waited in line all night long and slept outside with friends or made new friends. The new wristband system allowed people to essentially take shifts. As long as everyone had a wristband and at least one member of your party was in line all night, everyone else could come and go until the Hall opened. Once open, everyone with a wristband would be let in first. All others would be expected to wait in line like a normal venue. It will be interesting to see if they continue to use this new system next year.
With all the panels I attended this year I was able to get into everything I wanted and had a very little wait time. I think the longest I spent was about 30 minutes in line for the Legends panel. And then once there I just stayed in my seat to catch the following The Last Ship panel.
Along with the panels I spent part of my Thursday interviewing various actors, producers and writers for The Last Ship and Legends. The press room consisted of roundtable interviews and it was so much fun. Look for the upcoming interview posts.
For my evening I decided to catch the Her Universe fashion show presented by Hot Topic and Nerdist Industries. This was a free event to badge holders that explored geeky and nerdy themes with a high fashion styling. I had the pleasure of catching Adrianne Curry after the show while she was still modeling her Effie Trinket inspired outfit by Castle Corsetry.
By the time the fashion show had cleared out I was exhausted and ready to get some sleep. This year I opted to stay in a time-share outside of San Diego. Hotels for SDCC sell out about as quickly as tickets do, and while the two main hotels, the Hilton and the Marriott, offer discounts these rooms can be very pricey. Other rooming options include staying at a variety of the hotels in the Gaslamp district, which are either within walking distance or along a free bus route for badge holders.
I spent the main day of Friday running around the exhibit hall floor saying hello to people I knew, taking photos with some of the exhibitors and checking out some of the free off-site events.
For off-site events I attended NerdHQ at Petco Park and the Geek and Sundry Lounge at Jolt N Joe’s. NerdHQ, run by Nerdist Industries, is a completely free event to attend (no badge needed!). It features free demo game play of upcoming games, a retro arcade, and a mini stage with small events. If you brought extra cash you could sign up to take a photo with a featured celebrity OR attend one of the famous NerdHQ celebrity panels. I decided to check out the mini stage where I caught Adrianne Curry, Grant Imahara, Shane West, and Michael Rooker playing a round of Superfight live. After the game I then moved onto a free demo of Alien Invasion. On Sunday I stopped by NerdHQ again, this time to charge my cell phone with one of the many free charging stations offered and relax a bit. I also stayed to watch a bit of Thrown Controllers, a trivia and challenge show, featuring the Runaway Guys.
The other off-site event I attended was the Geek and Sundry lounge, which was also free to the public. This year it was located above Jolt ‘N Joe’s and also featured tons of free game demo play (both video and board) as well as opportunities to do meet and greets with Felicia Day and the Geek and Sundry vloggers. I happened to arrive during a “quieter” moment. There was a Dragon Age demo happening on one side of the venue and several tables with people playing a variety of games, including Gloom. I saw Anne Wheaton and Bonnie Burton were also having a meet and greet. I only stayed for a short while as the venue was incredibly hot and crowded.
The last event I attended for the evening is actually a ticketed event that happens every year during SDCC, the Nerd-a-Thon. The Nerd-a-Thon is a Nerdcore Hip Concert that takes place at the Merrow, a bar about 15 minutes from the convention center. This year’s lineup included MC Frontalot, MC Lars, and Doc Awk, as well as special appearances by the Devil’s Playground Burlesque. This is one of my favorite personal traditions that I’ve kept in all three times I’ve been to SDCC. MC Frontalot and MC Lars have been there every time I’ve attended and always put on a great show. I also love that the artists make themselves readily available to get autographs and photos between sets.
After a late morning and stopping by my favorite downtown San Diego Starbucks (I recommend the one on 10th and Market), I spent my Saturday catching the Nerdist Panel and Geek and Sundry panel, both of which were incredibly entertaining.
The Nerdist featured its creator, Chris Hardwick, and a slew of vloggers his channel hosts. Hardwick never ceases to provide amusement and even gave “points” to a Q&A attendee. The panel consisted of Jessica Chobot, Brian Walton, Dan Casey, Malik Forte, Kyle Hill, Rachel Heine, Katie Levine, and Adam Rymer. Everyone was given an opportunity to discuss their upcoming content on the Nerdist channel.
After a small break I was able to catch my last panel for the weekend, Geek and Sundry. This panel was hosted by Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day. The audience was treated to some clips of upcoming episodes and featured panelists Ashley Johnson, Jesse Cox, and Amy Dallen. The panel was run similarly to The Nerdist panel with Day and Wheaton guiding the panelists on their upcoming content, although it was interspersed with Day’s biting and humorous wit.
I spent the remainder of my afternoon checking out a couple of other free venues being offered. Just behind the San Diego convention center was the Gotham zip line presented by FOX. The background of the Gotham landscape was set up on the lawn and attendees could ride a zip line through it pretending to be the Dark Crusader. Right next to the zip line was FXX’s Simpson’s event called Homer’s Dome. Attendees could enter Homer’s Dome to experience a “projection mapping experience”, enjoy some free cotton candy styled as Marge Simpson’s blue hair, and play a game at the Kwik-E-Race. The last event I checked out was Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Experience. This was set up as a parkour-style event where attendees ran through a themed obstacle course. I opted to watch, but it looked like everyone who took on the challenge was having a good time.
I closed my evening with an amazing dinner at the Burger Lounge. In an effort to save money I brought most of my own food with me to the convention. The Gaslamp district has a wonderful variety of restaurants and bars, and at least three 24 hour Subway restaurants for those on a budget. I’m a strict vegetarian and sometimes vegan, so finding a delicious and satisfying dinner can be a challenge. The Burger Lounge did not disappoint. I enjoyed the hearty organic quinoa veggie burger and a side of french fries; it was all delicious.
Upon reaching Sunday, I decided to opt out of what little programming was available and search the Exhibit Hall for merch deals and comic book signings. Sunday is probably the other best day to get what you want from the Exhibit Hall. While it’s still incredibly crowded today is the day you’ll find some great deals on collectibles, comics, and artist prints. I was able to catch Danielle Corsetto, creator of Girls with Slingshots, and Jhonen Vasquez, creator of Invader Zim, for a quick hello and autograph session.
As you can see, I had a pretty full weekend and an incredible time. This convention has everything a geek could want: comics, movie news, television news, collectibles, cosplayers, and even a few gaming events. I would definitely recommend adding San Diego Comic-Con International to your bucket list of cons.