IMAG1043-1I just got back from the busy, insane, stressful, mind blowing, amazing, expensive anti-vacation that is San Diego Comic Con International and it was absolutely wonderful. Since coming back from my trip, a lot of people have asked me, “How was Comic Con?”. It’s almost impossible to answer that in short form. My initial response is usually either a one-worded “amazing” or “tiring”, but then throughout the day, I’ll supplement that with “Oh, I saw so-and-so. S/he was RIGHT NEXT TO ME OH MY GOD”. That’s kind of how it is: it all happens so fast and then you gradually process how awesome it was. In a week’s time you can turn to your friend and say something like, “remember that time we saw Spiderman and Deadpool talking smack about Superman’s costumes in the middle of the DC booth?” and then your friend will go, “Yeah,” and then with satisfied grins you will both kick off your shoes and enjoy a couple of cold ones.

There were panels and lines and celebrities. Panels full of celebrities and lines for the panels. Exclusive parties, impromptu parties, line parties, and booth parties. There were toys, games, cards, prints, t-shirts, and of course: costumes. There were plenty of polished costumes that clearly cost a lot of time and money. I have a thing for the costumes made of bed sheets and duct tape, the costumes that announce, “I don’t really art, but I just really love this character and I’m super excited to be here.” Walking around on the convention floor, I heard nothing but positive comments from con-goers to cosplayers. I love watching a cosplayer strike a pose when asked for a photo. That’s when the costume turns into a persona and it’s fascinating. I wanted to make it to the Masquerade this year, but like a lot of the plans I made prior to getting to SDCC this year, that fell through. Plans have a way of doing that at SDCC, but between backup plans and spur-of-the-moment adventures, fun has a way of happening anyway. I was thrilled to meet the well-known cosplayer Yaya Han (http://www.yayahan.com/), who was very friendly and gracious about signing prints and posing for photos. She was excited to talk about the upcoming SyFy series “Heroes of Cosplay” in which she is one of the judges. I got the chance to talk to reps from the Star Wars Rebel Legion (http://www.rebellegion.com/and MadalorianIMAG1040 Mercs (http://mercs.firespray.net/forum/index.php) and the 501st (http://www.501st.com/costumer guilds. They came to SDCC with binders full of photos and information for aspiring costumers and potential members. All of these organizations are very involved in charity appearances and eager to talk to people about their work and appearances. Whether you’re a beginner or a skilled costumer, there’s a place for your in the Star Wars costuming ‘verse. I tried to keep it together when I was chatting up the 501st, but I think I still fangirled all over them. It happens.

I’m still getting the hang of panels. This is my second SDCC, and my first year with a 4-day pass. It’s easy to get intimidated by the sheer volume of people and the ever-present long lines. It’s like Disneyland for nerds, but without the rides. Unless you count the shuttles from the convention center to the hotels. My friends and I put together the most intense, detailed, hour-by-hour spreadsheet of all the panels and events we were interested in doing. I think I actually got to maybe 10% of them. We didn’t factor in the travel time, which turns out is a factor even when the panels are on the same side of the convention center. We had this idea that we would get in the famed and feared Hall H line on Saturday at 3am to see the back-to-back Supernatural, Breaking Bad, Doctor Who, and Community panels. That idea seems more adorable than practical now. I talked to someone in the Hall H line who said they lined up for Sunday’s Hall H programs at 1:30pm on Saturday. I stumbled into a panel discussing the upcoming Ray Bradbury documentary “Live Forever.” The clips from the film and the crew’s experiences with Ray Bradbury were great to hear, and bonus: Edward James Olmos walked in right behind me and I totally played it cool. I saw the first US screening of an upcoming anime series called Star Blazers 2199. I am new to the world of anime, but this show was hitting all the right notes for me: spaceships, alien war, and apocalyptic science fiction. The Nerd HQ is a great alternative option for panels. Organized by Zachary Zevi (the star of Chuck), Nerd HQ sports a lounge full of game demos, couches, phone chargers, and an intimate 250 person panel space. I attended the “Mystery Panel” which included Zachary Levi, Rob Kazinsky (Pacific Rim), Nathan Fillion (Dracula 2000) and Alan Tudyk (A Knight’s Tale). This year’s lineup also boasted Joss Whedon, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, and Tom Hiddleston among others. This year the “Conversations for a Cause” cost $22, all of which goes to help Operation Smile: a charity that provides surgeries to children suffering from cleft palates.

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Celebrities are everywhere at Comic Con. Like, you really don’t need to worry about whether or not you’ll see anyone famous, because while you’re worrying about that, Nathan Fillion will make out with Zachary Levi and then hand him a $50 bill when you’re not looking (true story). I suppose there are varying degrees of “celebrity,” but I find it thrilling to see the people whose work I enjoy on a daily basis nerding out about the same things I do. I saw Steven Moffatt walking the exhibit hall floor and then I proceeded to flip out. Adam Savage is known to walk the exhibit hall floor in full costume, giving out prizes to those who guess his identity. Comic book and webcomic authors and artists were abound, signing prints and merch. I love seeing my favorite web artists booths get busy. It’s like, yeah, the big movie panels are pretty cool, but I just talked to Brandon Bird (http://brandonbird.com/) about his artistic process, so I win. At one point I looked to my left and I saw Edward James Olmos for a second time and still totally kept it together, by the way. Then, I walked around the Quantum Mechanix booth, looked again, and I saw John Barrowman. That’s when I totally lost it. Oh, the best thing that’s ever happened to me happened this weekend at Wil Wheaton’s w00tstock. I walked in expecting the usual lineup of Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage, and Paul and Storm with maybe some special guests thrown in because we were at SDCC. Honestly, I was expecting Felicia Day and that’s pretty much it. Well, Felicia didn’t turn up, but while I was waiting in line, George R.R. Martin passed directly in front of me, which caused me to simultaneously squeal and spurt things like “THAT’S THE GUY” and “THRONES” until my friends understood what I was talking about. Once the show started, this happened: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5vw9RTVky4&feature=youtu.be) And that’s the story of how I died. Seriously, I doubt my voice will ever sound the same again. Once Neil Gaiman showed up, I screamed like a teenage banshee at a One Direction concert. You probably can’t hear just my screaming voice in the video, but I bet your dogs can.

I’m already planning for next year. SDCC is a thing I simply have to go to now every year for the forseeable future. It’s like a condition. It’s why the convention gets bigger every year. Sure, the crowds can be a pain, but it’s an amazing feeling to be among literally hundreds of thousands of people who have at least one thing in common with me. It’s a rare thing for us nerds/geeks/whatevers to have an in-person community, and I think that’s a big part of the magic of the con. The rest of the magic comes from booze-filled Camelbacks. See you next year at SDCC!

Jenn Marshall