Comic-Con 2013: First Time

I attended San Diego’s Comic-Con for the first time this year, the middle-two days out of the four. (Yes, I’m a late bloomer.) Despite starting out with naivete assumption that I could get into the infamous Hall H, I had the best experience poppin’ my cherry at the event esp. since I got to meet George R.R. Martin. For lack of a better imagination, you won’t find bland pics of me in front of costumed Star Wars folks, the trolley I took to the Con in, or stories of arguing over D&D rules on the game floor.

In fact, I barely got a chance to take pics of any cosplayers, as it was hell trying to even get the attention of people when surrounded by fanatics and creatures of selfish habit who need to go where they needed to go in the San Diego Convention Center. Shoulder-to-shoulder relationships become symbiotic when clamming for that exclusive figure on the exhibitors floor, or having the needful urge to glimpse at a movie star. But, we all secretly love the experience of swimming through this sea of chaos because it’s worth it. Geek and nerds, alike.

It was an intense moment attempting to register to get my tickets to SDCC2013 earlier this year. With people who’ve gone before telling me how hard it is to get tickets, the chances were slim, they say. And then there’s the pretentious pricks of the lot who brag about how many times they’ve been to Comic-Con, and giving me a billion advices that contradict each other, where it’s not helpful but to show off what they know about the convention experience. Like the mid-age losers who tell me they can get us on the guests list to a club cause they know the club owner (where y’all now?); delusions of grandeur as being part of the influential and powerful… anyways, needed to get that off my chest. So… In hopes of forward-thinking, I had agreed with a few friends that when we all log-on during registration, and whoever gets access into the system first, helps sign up the other fellow buddies (up to 3 max), as well.

After having logged on to the Comic-Con registration site, I was already getting a hangtime busy, “wait-until-done-loading” screen through my browser. I even attempted mulitple browser logins, but that didn’t help but slow down my conection. And, my fellow Comic-Con dreamers were experiencing the same. About half-an-hour later still staring at the still-spinning “loading” screen, I IMed my buddies that it’s time to give up, we’re not gonna get in. Everyone agreed with disappointment. Then I decided to stop the browser from loading by hitting the refresh button. To my surprise, the browser displayed a message proclaiming that I was number 10,463 (or some number within that range) in line to register, and started counting down from there. I was patiently entranced with excitment and skepticism, wondering am I really gonna get tickets to Comic-Con?

I refreshed that screen at one point, out of curiousity, to see where I am at in line. A message had popped-up warning not to do so, or I will be pushed back to the end of the line. A little over half-an-hour later, I was able to login. With all my friend’s members ID numbers in hand, I was able to register my 3 other friends. I got email confirmations for myself, Andres, and Daniel within seconds… but Bo’s confirmation didn’t come in. He was freaking out, and I assured him that I had registered according to the message on my browser. Bo’s email confirmation did eventually came in about 20 minutes later, but I didn’t let him know for about another half-an-hour. I’d figure since I just went through hell getting the tickets, I’m gonna have fun giving someone hell wondering if they’re still gonna go. I’m drunk with power!

And, so by mid-July 2013, we drove off to San Diego for Comic-Con…

Upon arriving at the Convention Center in San Diego, as expected there were masses of people scrambling in all directions locating their respective lines to get their tickets, to the correct hall area to attend the events, or just to get into the convention itelf. Based off the knowledge that this will be one of the most crowded events, and having experienced the frustration, when disorganized or rushing at the last minute, of setting up parties and trips, I thought ahead and noted down on a scrap piece of paper my itinerary and listed what gifts I had to get my nieces and nephews.

Each attendee were given these bigass backpacks to carry all the free swag you’ll be hoarding. It comes with a cape in case someone tries to steal your shiet, you can fly away, I guess. The event is limited only by your imagination. I got the “Godzilla” one. Other cape backpack brands included the “Big Bang Theory,” “Revolution,” and “Vampire Diaries”. If only I had snagged the later, it would have made this trip more hilariously adventurous.

Bo and I started lining up for Hall H at about 7am on a Friday morning. We were, I’d guess about 3 miles out from the entrance. Hoping to get in by the time the “Walking Dead” and “Kick-Ass 2” panel at 10am begins, the line took its sweet time moving along. We were told that we were about number 4000 (to attend a theater which holds a capacity of 6500) while standing in the burning heat as costumed promoters were passing out free stuff of Hello Kitty paper crowns and “Man of Steel” Clark Kent glasses. At one point, we passed a pirate ship docked at the bay promoting Assassin’s Creed. It fired a loud cannon boom and caused a big scare amongst us attendees in line. Our first thoughts were was there a terrorists attack, as I saw cosplayers pulling out their plastic guns and rubber swords ready to defend the Con and ‘merica.

4 hours in line, and we were still about a mile away from the entrance. Bo, at this point, wanted to relenquish his patience and decided we should spend our time wisely inside the convention center instead. I was being stubborn and insisted that it’s not time to give up, and we’ve come this far. I was really hoping to get into the Game of Thrones panel, as part of my itinerary was to get a glimpse of Kaleesi in person, and social network post about it to create envy. Muhahahahahaaa… An hour later, we hadn’t moved an inch. My frustration with Comic-Con had set in, as well as a humbleness that I’m here to enjoy the event, not stuck to a rigid plan that may not pan out.

Pushing my way into the convention center, it becomes an eye-popping reaction for me like a kid in a candy store – cliché description but you get the point – with fans in various costumes, people carrying cool stuff got me wondering where’d they got ’em, as cameras were going off from all directions. With social media these days, there are prob pics of me that I am not aware of by strangers floating around the interweb. When I finally made it into the Exhibition Hall, it took me at least a couple of hours to walk from one end to the other. Of course, stopping every few booths to see what they have to offer – figures, books, exclusives, etc. What got me noticed were the signs of large brands competing for my attention – Lionsgate, Fox, and Vertigo comics called to me immediately. I had found the booth for an artist I’ve been meaning to meet for years, Brom, but he was out to lunch. I studied his schedule and realize the best time to meet him would be tomorrow. And, since half of the day had already passed, I didn’t want to waste too much time shopping for stuff yet. I wanted to experience folks in the industry talking about their work…

The first panel I eventually got into was for the “Sleepy Hallow” TV series. It wasn’t by choice to have attended, as the Hall room I had gotten in early at this point was to get ahead into the “Vikings” series panel (more later). While waiting for the panel to begin, the lights go dim, and the credit sequence to the series appeared on the screen. I was like cool, I get to preview this show. About 10 or 15 min in, I get caught up in the plotline and realized I’m watching the entire first episode to the series. “Sleepy Hallow” was surprisingly entertaining with a mix of medieval drama and modern comedy. It was a bit more violent than I had expected for a FOX TV show with emphasis on beheadings. I may actually watch this show when it airs in the Fall ’13. I’m not much of network TV fan, as many shows have left a bad taste in my mouth with overly extended episodes averaging 24-per-season, with story arcs that take way too long to be resolved, or if ever (i.e. “Lost”).

The group panel of actors/actresses were nice enough, a short general Q&A. But, I did not recognize any of the stars of the show. Except for one. Orlando Jones plays a detective of some sort. I just remember him in those 7-Up commercials. I didn’t know he could act. Or, I didn’t know he could be employable as an actor. Fascinating.

After “Sleepy Hallow” ended, another panel featuring comic book writer Grant Morrison began. I was aware of Mr. Morrison, but, I hate to admit, never read any of his work. A bald European slim male sat on stage speaking English in his native Scottish accent, introducing his latest comic series involving Indian spiritual mysticism of some sort. I wasn’t overly impressed with the motion comic animation displayed on the screen as Grant spoke, as I was near the point of nodding off, looking at my phone’s clock counting down to the panel that I was really here for. And, sitting next to me was the ultimate Grant Morrison fan (or groupie) who screamed “Woo!” and “Yeah, baby!” to every word he spoke. That kinda enthusiasm keeps comic-con alive, I guess.

Despite my disappointment not having made it into the “Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” panels earlier in the day, my enthusiasm for the trip revived because I finally was sitting in the “Vikings” panel! Sometimes wrongly labeled as a poor man’s “Game of Thrones,” this Canadian/Irish-produced historical drama series airs on the History Channel. I’m unsure how much History channel tries to pass this show off as real history. But the main protagonist of the series, Ragnar Lodbrok, as I understand it, was inspired by a historical (or a multiple almagation of people) person who’s heroic stories have been passed down through Norse oral tradition. It’s pretty much a series about raiding and pillaging across the lands in 793AD. What more could you ask for?

After screening a preview trailer of season 2, majority of the main cast appeared before us to speak. Travis Fimmel, who plays Ragnar, seemed either overtly tired or intoxicated, but one can only specluate. He wasn’t slurring his words, as he seemed self-aware of being on a panel at Comic-Con. But, his attitude was quite similar to his character on the show, almost an abrasive, flirting-on-the-edge of “I’m Ragnar, who the fuck are you?”. I don’t even remember most of the things he said, other than that he has to get back to his family soon. His presentation was a mesmerizingly entertaining… the panel ended in thunderous applause. And, for attending, we were all given a free prequel comic to the show.

For the rest of the night, I went back to exhibition floor to browse what may interests me to buy the next day. Most of the merchants were already closing up shop for the day. So, we headed on over to the downtown San Diego area known as the Gaslamp District for dinner. Exhausted, my mind was already excited about what I’m going to do tomorrow…

The next mornin’, the first and only thing on my mind was to get to the Convention Center by 9:30am to line up to pick from a lottery to either meet George R.R. Martin (creator of “The Game of Thrones”) or Robert Kirkman (craator of the “Walking Dead”).

Running late, we ended up lining at 10am. Do I still have a chance? It was a looooongass line to reach the front for an opportunity to pick from a sack of tickets, for a chance to meet either of the authors/creators. If one doesn’t get the marked, winning ticket, one can always line-up again, and with no limit, other than an hour’s time, to try as many times as one can physically can. But, with the length of the line, came the pressure, intensity, sweat, and tears. I believe it’s only up to about 50 winners per guests, which is the number of winners for the GoT casts too.

Along with Bo, we inched closer, and closer, impatiently seeking signs of the creator’s names to point us in the right direction. Honestly, with the disappointment that came with the line to Hall H the previous day, I was in line just to say I was in line. My confidence wasn’t high that I would be able to get in on this dream opportunity, seeing the few hundred people ahead of me. When I reached the entrance to the signing area, I was at a crossroads and saw various signages of author/celebrity names. Without hesitation, I took the path towards “George R.R. Martin”. Approaching towards 4 volunteers, each holding a satchel, I randomly choose the farthest left (maybe because I’m a leftie, not politically, but the usage of my limbs).

I’m not superstitious, so I don’t have any type of luck rituals to perform, nor did I say any type of prayer before I dipped my hand in the bag. I just immediately reached in, felt around for a ticket and yanked it out. I flipped it over a few times in my hand not knowing what I should be looking for. “Nope,” the tall, lanky volunteer said to me. Eh… I knew it. Too good to be true, I said to myself, as I threw the ticket back into the satchel.

Then I walked aside, and waited for Bo’s turn. With my disappointment and confidence at a super low now, I was already contemplating where I should go next. Maybe get my head scanned for the Predator figure at the Fox booth, or head over to catch Brom and chat about his artwork. Or, salvage the trip, if in any way I can meet Kevin Smith or Neil Gaiman somewhere in this crowded convention. First world problems, I know. You can hear the whine through these words, can’tcha?

“You got it,” said one of the volunteers. I lifted my head up to see who had won.

I see Bo holding a ticket with wide eyes and exclaimed,”I did?”

“Yep, hang on to that ticket,” confirmed the volunteer.

Bo then walked over to me, and gave me his winning ticket, and said,”I said that if I win, I’d give you my ticket.”.

I was in a bit of a shock, but I didn’t want to just be selfish. “Are you sure?”

“You wanted to meet him. I was just here to double your chances.”

Still numb to the whole thing. “Thanks. I owe you something!”

To the right is what the winning ticket looks like. Some kinda peanut-looking print. I have no clue what it symbolizes or if it’s a logo of something. I just know it represented my guarantee to meet Mr. “Game of Thrones”! I was nervously anticipating of what I would say, as I got mad at myself for having not brought any “Songs of Ice & Fire” books with me for him to sign. What then, could I have his signature on? I searched the whole free literature area for anything “Game of Thrones”-related, not even a single ad of a Kaleesi cosplay. Maybe I have time to find a copy of a hardcover “Game of Thrones” in the exhibition hall? No, I don’t want to risk losing my place in line. Then I had an ingenious (at least, I think it was ingenious) idea to just have him sign my Comic Con 2013 souvenir book.

There were already about 20 of us standing in line, and every one of them had some copy of George Martin’s books. Funny, though, I didn’t see anyone with a copy of the HBO series. Fawk, I’m gonna look dumb just handing him my souvenir book, but whatever. I’m gonna meet him, say something, and take a pic. Then, one guy approached me and asked if I would trade him my spot to meet Martin for his winning ticket to meet with Robert Kirkman (creator of Walking Dead), which would have been my 2nd choice. But, nah, I’m gonna stick with my first choice. He walked away grumbling as if he had been defeated. Or, so my melodramatic fantasies of a situation describes it to me.

Edward James OlmosAs I anxiously continue to wait for the signing to begin, I see over to my left, was Edward James Olmos signing a few autographs. He’s more popularly known these days as Captain Amada of the Battlestar Galactica reboot. But, I grew up knowing him as the guy who was in “American Me” and that aging teacher in “Stand & Deliver“. He often looked old and tired in all my memories of his appearances in film, or either that he plays characters portrayed as such – always reminds me of Danny Trejo with back problems. I don’t mean that to be amusing, but that’s the recurring image I have of him. Although, he was a badass captain in BSG. I just hope Mr. Olmos never reads this. In my defense, I would always watch him in anything.

There was one skinny kid in front of me in line who kept turning to me and screaming,”OMG! OMG! OMG! It’s him! It’s him! It’s really him! OMG! We’re almost there! Almost there! OMG! OMG!!” You can’t really label me a GoT whore after having met this kid. But, OMG, I’m about to meet George R.R. Martin! OMG! OMG! OMG!

Within only about 2 people ahead of me, I asked the security guy managing the movement of the line if it was okay to take pics. He straight up told me that sorry, pics weren’t allowed. But, strangely, I wasn’t told to stop as I stood in line snapping away pics of Georgie from all angles. I won’t post ’em. It’s even bad photography that I didn’t even attempt to frame a good pic. Just point-and-shot (repeat, and repeat) with hope that something looks good enough to crop. I’m nowhere near qualified to shoot a Game of Thrones story in pictures (or in digital film, for that matter).

To my joy, they were selling hard copies of the “Songs of Ice & Fire” books. I quickly asked for a copy of the first in the series titled “Game of Thrones,” of course. Lord have mercy, it’s $35! It normally sells on Amazon for only about $18. George, you’re beheading me! But, I didn’t care at that point. I would have paid $100 and have my left-nut lopped off to the song of “The Rains of Castamere” in public for this moment.

And then it was my turn, as I nervously walked up to him. I simply said,”Hi George.” Although, I had hoped to meet the Mother of Dragons earlier in this trip… then after having killed countless hours for the “Game of Thrones” panel, and I couldn’t get in – this meeting with the closest thing to a god, made up for more than anything, a moment frozen in time. Not sure if my conversation (even if any occured) with George amounted to anything, and I prob had a billion things I wanted to say but did not come to my mind to say ’em. I just simply thanked him after he signed both my expensive copy of Book 1 and the SDCC2013 souvenir book. In his usual laid back, whispy calm voice, he said,”Myyyyy pleasure!”

Strangely, the security guard asked if I wanted to take a pic, and then this happened…

After feeling the Universe has finally gave me meaning, I scrambled to an open, safe area away from traffic to compose myself as I quickly glanced back a few times mumbling to myself,”Damn, that was George R.R. Martin.” I then whipped out my smartphone and uploaded the pic to my Facebook. I’ve just had to tell the rest of the world!

Gathering my thoughts on what to do next… There were other hopefuls that I wanted to meet, names I had written down in my itinerary notes, including Neil Gaiman and the guys who are doing the “Anne Frankenstein: Nazi Hunter“, but they were nowhere to be found. Then remembering that I had a window time of one hour to meet Brom before he gets off for lunch again, I speed walked over to the Exhibition Hall…

Gerald Brom is an artists who put out work that has since captured my imagination for a long, long time… since when he started illustrating a lot of the earlier D&D covers. I finally got to meet him, and had a long chat. He was more pressing on information of my meeting with Georgie Martin than me praising his artwork. He was a nice, mid-aged fellow who reminds me of a shorter, calmer Michael Bay (same scraggily hair, same swollen face) but with a goatee and bifocals. I thanked him for his new book and as I walked away, he pointed at me and said,”Uhm… can you pay for that?”

Check out his work at:

My backpack was heavy, my gift bag was becoming a burden, and the hot sun continues beating on my face and neck, as a scrambled from place to place… and Bo had finally completed a “Kick Ass 2” bingo game involving taking pics of various items encountered at Comic-Con – examples like cosplayer with pet, or sexy cosplayer, etc. – marked on a bingo card. So, we were to head over to the “Kick Ass 2” promotion event located outside of the Convention Center, in the Gaslight District, to pick-up his prize.

There were a large handful of bicyclists offering free rides through the local area. The only trick is that you gotta tip ’em. And, lo and behold, we found a “Game of Thrones” themed one.

After having arrived at the “Kick-Ass 2” party we realized it was sponsored by Playboy (I have no clue why, but I wasn’t complaining). With their promotion, girls dressed up in skimpy Playboy bunny outfits were passing out bottles of water, free photo-ops with the gals getting your “asses kicked”, and limited edition pins. Bo had picked up a hoodie that mimicked the green outfit “Kick Ass” wore in the movies and comics, as the prize for getting the bingo.

This was a VIP section. I have no clue who either of those girls are, ’cause Playboy is not pR0n to me.

Having additional stuff to lug back in our geek bag o’ fun, my arms burned, my back spine gained a few muscles, esp. with the hardcover signed books by Brom and Martin in my backpack. Pushing through the crowd heading towards the Convention Center to finish the rest of the day, we decided to see what’s left to do and buy in the Exhibition hall. Right across from the entrance back to the Center, a lady from UNICEF stopped to talk to me. She asked if I was having fun, and then rambled on about what a cruel world we lived in. I was patient because I found it as an opportunity for me to rest a bit from all the walking and lugging.

I’ve always had a strong belief in helping those in disadvantaged situations and/or are in desperate need. And, donate to charity when I can. But, I felt this UNICEF representative was way too pushy and aggressively taking advantage by trapping me and placing a guilt trip on me while I’m attending Comic-Con. Some may disagree, but when you’re imposing a self-righteous attitude on how I should be contributing to relieve the suffering of others on this blue/green planet, you’re just another religion. I know myself well-enough to know I’m not an asshole. When I’m gone one day, I’ll know that I’ve been a good person, and also had fun attending Cons.

Okay, enough ranting. I quickly ditched the flustered UNICEF woman by saying,”I will need to learn more about your organization by visiting your website,” (It’s my line every time I want to avoid anyone who’s selling me stuff), and continued scanning the insane crowd of Con attendees and Jesus-freaks that are bullhorning how we’re all going to hell for reading comics, looking for Bo. (Don’t have pics but you gotta see it to believe it.) Then… I noticed a skinny, mid-aged looking teen that I swore is Jay from “Jay & Silent Bob”. I looked over to Bo next to me and yelled up at him,”Dude! Isn’t that what’s his name?!” We immediately pushed our way and said,”Can we take a picture with you, Jay?” History was made…

…I’m this much closer to meeting Kevin Smtih one day.

Finally, back into the Exhibition Hall, I randomly walked around seeking what else that captures my fascination to experience, purchase, or take pics of. A crowd formed around the Marvel area, sponsored by Verizon, with signage promoting the upcoming TV series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “Captain America: Winter Soldier“. Apparently, there’s a line forming for a few of the cast members signing autographs. I didn’t see Chris Hemsworth or the guy who played Captain America was there… but, whoa, Joss Whedon was there. And, I pushed through the crowd enough to quickly capture this rare pic.

Not finding much else left to interests me, and I didn’t want to spend too many more funds and become a hoarder, there was only one thing I was debating to do. I messaged Bo and asked him to meet me at the Fox booth. In promotion of the 3D blu-ray release of the classic “Predator” movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, they’re offering a deal to purchase the movie, along with my head scanned on a 6″ statuette of the Predator holding me decapitated. Cool, I gotta get that! When I receive the figure in 6 to 8 weeks, it will be posted on my Facebook and Instagram, and prob mirrored on Flickr too.

Bo lucked out again on a random drawing, and won this…

They didn’t have Bo’s size, so he’s gonna have to fight the Predator shirtless like the Terminator.

By the end leg of the trip, there was one more event to attend. The “Evil Dead” signing at The Commons club. So, back again in the Gaslight District. It was also a blu-ray promotion release party. As we’re lining up, I’m butt-tired and carrying the bag felt ghetto, as I was dragging that stuff up to meet the director and female star of this classic horror remake. I mumbled “Hi… How are you… love the movie…” Inside I was definitely more excited than I had appeared. There was an awkward silence between us, and Fede Alvarez said,”Sign?” I looked at the “Evil Dead” poster before us and both I and Jame Levy agreed and said,”sign”. I thanked them, took a snap shot, and dragged my ghetto bag of comic-con goodies out of the club thinking of nothing but my hotel bed.

Director Fede Alvarez and, the female “Ash,” Jame Levy a.k.a. Mia of the reboot/remake/alterverse the “Evil Dead”.

I’m vibrating with excitement from the trip, as I got to see a lot, but didn’t see everything I wanted. Ran down to the local comic shop and picked up X-Files S10 #2 and the latest Previews book just to soak in the air of geekiness that gets me through certain parts of my existence. And, searching for all the panels and other things that happened at the Con that I missed on YouTube and the Net. I’m livin’ in good times now.

Georgie Martin also signed my Comic-Con 2013 souvenir book.
That’s Neil Gaiman’s new design of his further
“Sandman” stories coming out in Fall ’13.

You can find my Comic-Con 2013 photos on Facebook or, if you prefer, it is mirrored on Flickr.