Notes from San Diego Comic-Con 2011

Lauren Bagby’s dispatches from Comic-Con, annual home of Whovians, Trekkies, and Ewoks.

Photo by Chris Lee

It is crucial I find my friend in this frenzied Comic-Con crowd as he has scored an extra pass for me. Getting to him takes more than a bit of dexterity on my part as I am required to sidestep the swarming Boba Fetts, Na’vis and Hit-Girls. I’m also distracted for a good five minutes by a miniature Batmobile piloted by the cutest and most well-behaved Bat-Pug in existence. Normally I’m against dressing up pets, but his cape even flaps in the slight ocean breeze and I am effectively rendered speechless. My camera flash does the talking for me.

While I’m preoccupied, my friend catches up to me. Our reunion is brief as he scurries off to support his buddy’s panel about pitching ideas for comic books. A stray thought enters my mind — there are actual comics here still? — but it’s gone as soon as a pre-pubescent Harry, Ron and Hermione scoot past. Apparently I’m just as seduced by all the fanfare as the teenyboppers, because not two minutes later I get a thrill from accidentally walking into some CW star’s paparazzi shot.

Zachary Levi, self-proclaimed nerd and star of NBC’s Chuck, runs a venue that hosts its own panels of guests by day and throws raucous parties by night. It’s endearingly referred to as “Nerd HQ.” I figure I’ll be in pretty good company there, so I change into my most trusted pair of jeans and flats to combat both the nighttime breeze and the walk. As the line snakes around a few street blocks, I turn to my phone to pass the time. Twitter informs me of a trend I’m beginning to notice while standing here: “Waiting in line for Nerd HQ and I just saw two hot girls cut ahead and get in no wait. Thought this place was for nerds.”

I almost want to point out that even nerds like hot girls, but when the arriving posse of designer-swathed fashionistas are quickly ushered indoors, I find myself changing my tune. Is this really what Comic-Con has become? Flashbacks of my nerdier high-school self undermine my confidence and I retreat, tail tucked, to the comfort of an Irish pub and friends who will gladly share an order of fries.

All is salvaged with a couple beers, and we manage to repair our egos by deciding that it’s still common enough knowledge that going out during the Con in anything more than flip-flops and a beat up Star Trek shirt is a red flag for “celebrity” or “trying too hard.”

I am inwardly battling an unfamiliar rage that lashes out as people stop to check maps and take pictures on excruciatingly narrow walkways. The next Ewok I see is seriously going to get punched in the gut and I secretly wonder, for the first time in my life, if I should seek counseling for anger issues. Honestly though, taking pictures with an iPad looks stupid.

The queue for infamous Hall H begins Saturday at sundown, and I can already tell the room’s 6,500 person capacity will fill. On the docket for Sunday are panels for Glee, Supernatural and the BBC’s hit sci-fi series Doctor Who. As much as I support the people I know who work on Fox’s breakout show, I can’t help but hope the camped out fans are Whovians and not Gleeks. This is Comic-Con, after all.

I am reassured the next morning when, in exchange for delivering necessary coffee, I join some friends-of-friends at the front of the line. I spot a few fangirls in Warblers blazers, but the overwhelming number of people sporting the Eleventh Doctor’s signature bow tie puts me at ease.

Inside we are first treated to a 3D preview of Glee’s feature-length live concert movie. I ask why this needs to be in 3D, to which my friend facetiously replies: “Because 3D is the future — why can no one see that?”

Instead of irritated looks, I sense commiseration from our fellow nerds as we snicker. I even overhear one guy in the back who sums up what most people are secretly thinking: “At least that Brittany girl’s boobs look great in 3D!”

Finally, pure cacophony erupts when Matt Smith, the actor behind the kooky Doctor, walks on stage. For me, this is the pinnacle moment of the entire weekend. I can’t help but feel at home in this overly air-conditioned room of excitable fans. The panelists too exude the kind of enthusiasm deserving of a warm reception, and it’s nice to be commended by the show’s star for our very American “whooping and hollering.”

I spend the last hour at SDCC wandering the floor with a friend on the lookout for comics — the convention’s intended medium. While not a comic book connoisseur myself, I still want to pay my respects to the art form. I scan the booths and compliment the creators and artists where I can, almost to atone for participating in my own standard of nerdom, which probably reeks of mainstream to some. And then, I remember that I’ve never understood the disdain directed at great indie bands who gain notoriety, so I pay no heed to the girl who passes by in a “Team Edward” shirt.

Photo by Chris Lee

Lauren Bagby started her stint in Los Angeles by paying her dues in the film and television industry, but now has a career working with individuals who more readily accept her sense of humor: teaching middle school. In her free time she still dabbles in screenwriting and lives vicariously through her very talented friends. You can visit her website.