Comic-Con 2011, Part 2: Getting Better, or Breaking Murphy’s Law

Part 1 posted yesterday

When we couldn’t make it into the room – or even get near the room, really – for any of the panels we’d hoped to see on Thursday or Friday morning, we had to re-think what we wanted to experience at Comic-Con.

We also thought about how the Con needs to re-think its approach to crowd management and scheduling. We heard from other attendees that the Convention Center’s huge Hall H, which can hold over 6000 people, was readily accessible for much of the weekend and not even close to capacity for some of the panels held in there; compared to the literally day-long, fruitless wait to get into Ballroom 20 for some of the events in that room, it seems like some programming should have switched places. It also seems like it might be time for Con organizers to consider some sort of ticketing or wristband system for high-demand panels, because this “not clearing the room” thing is becoming a real problem as Comic-Con keeps growing. It rewards squatters who sit through panels they don’t care about just to ensure they’re in place for what they really want to see…and forces almost everyone to become squatters once they do get into a room. It also ends up making “standing in line” some attendees’ primary experience of Comic-Con – granted, to some extent the attendees are choosing that themselves, but they’re missing out on lots of other experiences when they do.

But as it stands (no pun intended), it is a common experience for both rank-and-file fans and uber-geeks, as Comic-Con attendee Wil Wheaton notes:

“…once I was finished with that, I was able to almost enjoy the rest of Comicon (sic). I say ‘almost’ because it was too crowded this year for me to do anything more than walk about 1/3 of the show floor before the claustrophobia of being surrounded by a million people drove me back into the streets of San Diego. Did it feel massively crowded to anyone else, like seriously more than last year, or was it just me?

I didn’t make it into any panels, mostly because all the panels I tried to get into last year required multi-hour waits with the very real possibility of getting cut off ten people from the door (Comicon absolutely needs to clear the big halls between panels. The only people who seem to disagree with this are the ones who take up seats all day in panels they don’t give a shit about so they can see the one panel they actually care about at 6pm) but I still had a great time….”

My husband, Tall Paul, does not blog often, but he posted about how he found his own way to have a great time at Comic-Con, and has allowed me to quote from that post here (emphasis added):

“Contrary to what some may think, Comic-Con is not filled with bespectacled, overweight, socially-awkward, male virgins. As you’ll see in some of my photos, there were actual girls there! Geek/nerd girls in hand-made TARDIS dresses, steampunk outfits, superheroes, cartoon/movie characters, or original creations. It’s not just for guys.

Comic-Con is a place where no one need fear that they will be made fun of, or laughed at. They can dress any way the want to. What is shunned, or ridiculed, in the outside world, is not only welcomed, but encouraged at Comic-Con. That person you wish you could be, you can be at Comic-Con. I did not hear anyone say anything negative to anyone else the entire time we were there.

The people are friendly and welcoming. If you’re waiting for three hours (or longer!) in line for a panel, there is always someone to talk to. Everyone I started talking to, was happy to take time and talk with me.

As I roamed the Convention Center with my camera in hand, I would stop and ask someone if I could take their picture. Every one of them said “yes” (many of them taking on poses relevant to their characters). Not a single person said “no,” or walked away. All were proud to be who they were, or, who they were pretending to be.

Considering that somewhere around 125,000 people pass through Comic-Con over the weekend, it is an amazing geek/nerd love-fest. A lot of sharing, laughing, support, and the giving of many thumbs-up.

I love going, and will continue to go every year (as long as I can get tickets!).

We didn’t dress up for Comic-Con this year, but Paul has a great collection of people who did – you can see all his photos here, here, here, and here. Oh, and here too (with the photographer’s permission):

As I mentioned earlier, by early afternoon Friday, we hadn’t seen a single panel at Comic-Con, but we did get to explore the Expo Hall at a relaxed pace. After some lunch, Tall Paul and I parted ways for a couple of hours. I was determined to attend a 3:30 panel titled Totally LOST: One Year Later with Entertainment Weekly‘s resident experts on the show (which I still miss, for the record) so I went to get in line for Room 5AB two hours before it started, and he wanted to roam around taking pictures. He got lots of good ones, and I made it into the LOST session. The “surprise” guests on the panel were producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse – “Darlton” to LOSTies – and they brought a clip of a “secret” deleted scene from the Season 1 finale that “explained everything” (it’s online now – go watch it if you haven’t seen it yet!). It was a great time.

After the panel and a late-afternoon snack, it was time to get into another line. This time the Comic-Con gods decided to like us; Tall Paul and I were among a very small number who were admitted to join the squatters who had stayed in Room 6DE to see RiffTrax Live. The RiffTrax guys were all part of the late, lamented Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew, and I cannot remember when I last spent an hour laughing that much – but I plan to spend two hours laughing that much on August 17.

We weren’t at the Con on Saturday, because we couldn’t get tickets, but it actually wasn’t such a bad thing to get a break from the madness (and sleep in!). However, we did engage in some entirely apropos movie-going, seeing Captain America during its opening weekend. I liked it much more than I expected to, and Tall Paul liked it at least as much as he’d hoped he would. He’s been a Captain America fanboy since forever and was quite apprehensive about whether the movie would “get it right”…and for the most part, he thought they did. That night, we had dinner with Amy and Natasha (and Natasha’s husband Taylor), who all had spent Saturday at Comic-Con. It’s quite rare to get the chance introduce my husband to my blogging friends, but I really do enjoy when those worlds collide, and we had a great time comparing notes on our Comic-Con experiences.

We were back at the Con early Sunday morning for the peak experience of our weekend, but I’ll tell you about that next time.

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