My Comic-Con badge says “Professional Guest.” It’s supposed to indicate that I was the guest of a professional, because I’m not in the industry myself, but upon reflection it is an apt description of the way I approached Comic-Con this year, and how I was treated. Because in spite of the size, the noise, the crowds, the flash, in spite of all of these things, I spent Comic-Con week spending time with friends both old and brand new.
Steven, the Pop Culture Maven
My Comic-Con experience this year, my first year since 2005, was defined by four different adoptive families: Pop Culture Maven, GeekNation, Geek & Sundry, and the team behind the web series “Husbands”. I attended San Diego Comic-Con for the first time in eight years because of Steven, the Pop Culture Maven himself. And really, I’ve only ever attended Comic-Con because of him. He invited me to my first film screening at Comic-Con in 2000, James Gunn’s “The Specials, which is still a favourite of mine, and I have some vague memories of walking the floor with him in 2005, looking at merchandise like Red vs. Blue DVDs, and taking an occasional, non-digital, picture. The year before, I know I took one with Six and Chode from Tripping the Rift, and that was a big deal for me. (Remember Tripping the Rift? No? Well, that’s how long it’s been since I regularly went to Comic-Con.) This year, he got me my “Professional Guest” badge before badges went on sale to the general public, and let me crash in his hotel room when the one I’d booked very early on looked more and more sketchy as the reviews came in. The Professional Guest needed to sleep. There would be no Comic-Con for me if it weren’t for Steven.
Me and Clare Kramer, Queen of GeekNation
I met the GeekNation crew on Wednesday night, the intensely crowded Preview Night, as they were setting up their booth for the signings and podcasts they’d be doing over the next few days. I’ve been a fan of the site, podcasts, and Twitter feed since Clare Kramer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bring It On, Big Ass Spider) and company launched it last year, and I wanted to make sure I said hello very early on in the week. Hellos, hugs, and gifts turned into tagging along at dinner after the expo hall closed for the night. The Professional Guest needed to eat. The GeekNation folks were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and I made sure to stop by to say hello any time I was near the booth. If you follow me on Twitter, you may notice that I retweet links from GeekNation more often than I do from any other nerdy news site, and that pattern will continue. Even if they didn’t produce and find great content, they’re just damned good people, and I’m happy to support them.
Me with Anne Wheaton and Bonnie Burton, Twitter’s Punny Power Couple
Geek & Sundry, the YouTube channel produced by Felicia Day (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Guild, Eureka) hosted an off-site lounge a couple of blocks away from the convention center and its crowds. There was food, a bar, a dance floor, tabletop games, and a room of gaming consoles to try out new games like the newest Thief and Castlevania titles. I have become friends with some of the people peripherally involved with Geek & Sundry, like Bonnie Burton (The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, and the Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub) and Anne Wheaton (VandalEyes, Tabletop) so I spent a lot of time at the lounge with them, or meeting there and heading off somewhere else, like the W00tstock show. The Professional Guest needed to chill. The venue was a relaxed home-away-from-con with a group of like-minded geeks, and it even became the hangout for one of my geeky young in-laws who was in town attending the con. It was nice to have a place to meet that we’d both feel comfortable and not fear losing each other in the crowd.
Husbands Season 3 cast: Amy Acker, Brad Bell, and Sean Hemeon
On Friday of Comic-Con, I went to the only signing I’d put on my schedule. Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time, so many other shows that are awesome) and Brad Bell (Cheeks) were signing the “Husbands” comic book companion to their brilliant web series of the same name. I’ve been a fan and supporter of the show since it began, so I was very excited to meet Jane and Brad in person. And this is where social media and good luck came together in a very special way for me: Because I’d been such an active supporter on Twitter, Jane and Brad knew who I was, and invited me to an event that night prior to the Husbands Q & A panel at the con. I got to spend some time talking with them on a hotel rooftop, meeting other people like John Barrowman and Amy Acker, and then tagging along with the “Husbands” group to the Q & A. The Professional Guest needed to geek out. They smuggled me into the Comic-Con green room before the panel, and while they discussed with their director, Jeff Greenstein (Will & Grace, Desperate Housewives), how the session was going to go, Patton Oswalt wandered in to get some food because that’s just what happens in green rooms at Comic Con. After the prep, I sat in the front row for the panel and got to watch a scene from the new season, a hilarious conversation between Amy Acker and Brad Bell.
Me and Jane Espenson… …and Brad Bell
…and John Barrowman …and Amy Acker
The evening could have ended there and the “Husbands” team would have already made my first Comic-Con in almost a decade more memorable than I’d any right to expect. But they weren’t done. You may have noticed a pattern in my con interests: It was very “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” focused. The people I tend to pay attention to tend to also be somewhere in the orbit of Joss Whedon and Buffy. So imagine my utter deer-in-the-headlights paralysis when, later, the “Husbands” team invited me along to the Nerd HQ VIP Party where I lived out a Buffy fan’s fantasy night, carousing with new friends, my Geek and Sundry friend Anne, and people like Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, and Amy Acker. The Professional Guest needed to dance. It was Zachary Levi’s party, and I met him, as well as Kate Micucci from the comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates (Riki Lindhome, the other half of the duo and a Buffy alumna herself was there as well) who had played W00tstock the night before. And I met Joss Whedon. And, well, I got to second base with him.
I really cannot stress how much I owe to these groups of people who made Comic-Con an unbelievably memorable event for me. In addition to everything I’ve mentioned above, there were also plenty of small, conversational moments that drowned out the noise of the con. With the increase in size over the last few years, I fully expected Comic-Con to be even more impersonal than it was the last time I attended. But through a combination of luck, friendships, and social media interactions, I ended up having a much more intimate Comic-Con experience than I had any right to expect. The Professional Guest needs to do this again, San Diego.
Follow Shawn on Twitter @BackpackingDad