Monday, July 23, 2012

San Diego Comic Con 2012 - The Way I Saw It!

I’m a week late and everyone else in the world has already posted, but I thought I would throw in my own comments about my experience. This year, as some of you already know, I was only able to get a one-day pass for the event and that was for the Sunday. Most of the big events and stars had come and gone, but it didn’t stop the place from being packed. I seem to recall previous Sundays as being relatively light, but this year the aisles seemed to be filled.

I decided to take the train this year, rather than the hassle of driving and searching for parking. Remind me next year not to be that dumb! The trip south was just fine, with plenty of room and a nice view of the coast. Lots of surfers and paddle-boarders, along with some dolphins and I believe a shark fin sighting but I’m going to chalk it up to another single dolphin and my imagination. However, there had been some actual sightings of Great Whites in the area the past week, so you never know. Got a coffee and snack from the club car and couldn’t have been more relaxed. I’ll tell you about the very, different trip home later.

The train got in on time and I was at the Convention Center by 10:30, with hardly any line at all for badge pick-up. As bad as it is to actually order one online, the staff at the Center couldn’t have been nicer and more professional when you are there. This has been my experience the last few times I’ve attended the convention and don’t think the staff there gets enough credit for moving things along. This year the con gave out those giant bags that some companies were giving out previous years. Not sure about the previous days, but mine was promoting THE HOBBIT. I have to admit that the freebies table continues to be a disappointment for anyone looking for memorable stuff. I recall in the ‘90s the thing seemed to constantly being stocked with actual comics (full-size and ashcans) and trips back every few hours could earn you new material each time. Now you’re lucky to get some one-sheets for movies that will probably never see theatrical release, postcards and flyers for local stores and smaller retailers & publishers promoting their booths and events.

My only ‘must’ was to try and pick up a limited-edition Admiral Motti mini-bust from Gentle Giant for Kristina. You never know with those things, but I was in luck and hope she likes it when she finally comes to pick it up. It took me longer to find the booth, even though I had the number, than it did to actually get the item. I don’t know what it was like earlier but on Sunday there were only a few people in line ahead of me and the sales staff quickly got the bust and rang up the sale. I took it over to the Cons ‘coat check room’ and was able to wander the aisles with only the con bag over my shoulder.

There were only a few folks I wanted to see and actually did. I try to make it a must to stop off to see Randy Reynaldo, the creator/writer & artist for ROB HANES. If you are a fan of the old style comic strips like Terry & The Pirates, Secret Agent Corrigan, etc. then you should seek out Randy’s work. His site is http://www.wcgcomics.com/, where you can see samples of the Rob Hanes books and order copies of just about all the issues. I first met Randy at one of the San Diego cons in the late ‘90s and instantly became a fan of the character and series. Most of the issues are self-contained stories with Rob and his fellow agents of “Justice International” (notice there is no League in there nor super-heroes) solving crimes and stopping various felons. He is really a terrific guy, deserving of greater sales and more recognition. Independent publishers could do a lot worse than to put Randy, as either writer or artist, on one of their titles.

The other person I sought out was Marc Hempel, whose work on solo projects and with oft-times partner Mark Wheatley, I’ve been a fan of for years. Their two series MARS and BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT were two great titles from First Comics and WaRP respectively back in the mid-80s. They have worked together since and Hempel worked with Neil Gaiman on “The Kindly Ones” arc for the SANDMAN series at DC. Marc has really been nice to me on Facebook, acknowledging and responding to my questions and posts. Just wanted to drop by his table to thank him and he could not have been nicer.

Between those visits, wandering the aisles and picking up a few other things it was time for lunch. As usual I decided to head up to Dick’s Last Resort in the Gaslamp District. Dick’s is one of the more popular places for Con attendees and you can’t blame them. The waitresses and some waiters in cos-play, a nice selection of beer (on tap and bottles) and decent food, as well as its location make it all but perfect if you have an hour or so. The place is always crowded and noisy, but that is part of the attraction as well. If you have never been there keep in mind that wait staff is supposed to be slightly rude and pushy, so don’t take it personally. I know folks who hate the place, but they are not the kind of folks you want to hang with anyway.

Didn’t do much besides check out the larger displays and take some photos the last couple of hours I was there. Marvel had what is becoming an annual standard, namely a display of various Iron Man suits, including some from the up-coming third film. Good luck getting close to that most times of the day. DC is giving away fewer books, unless you want to stand in a very, long line to get a handful of logo buttons. I do like that they have placed Artist Alley down at the end of the exhibition hall and put the video game companies in the back. At least you can get through to that area and skip the always blocked aisles where the gamers are. AMC had a nice display this year featuring Michonne and her zombie duo. If you wanted (and were again willing to stand in line) you could have a collar placed on your neck and pose as the second zombie. As always it seemed a third of the costumers and many of the model & toy companies were promoting various Star Wars related products.

I finally decided a little after 4:00pm that I had done and seen just about everything, plus (also a regular thing) my left ankle seemed to have gone out on me and I was limping. I took one of the shuttle buses (Bless the convention for those!) and ended up gimping a couple of blocks to the train station. There I made the bad mistake of sitting in the station, and not going out to the platform until almost 5:30, figuring the train wasn’t due until 5:50. It turns out there was a waiting line for the 6:10 already around the building. It was interesting standing in line with a woman dressed as Jeannie, various manga/anime characters I didn’t know and at least one Doctor. Long story short I actually had to stand on my bad ankle from San Diego to Lake Forest (more than the ninety minutes it took in the morning), jamming myself and my two large bags into a corner with two folded wheelchairs. By the time I got home I could barely limp up the steps and the next morning I was using the bureau and walls to get to the bathroom.

Needless to say, when SDCC sends the e-mail in a month or so for pre-registration I’m going to try once again to get that four-day pass for 2013. The convention is just so amazing and despite the aggravation it is a lot of fun and I’d hate to miss it. Hey, at sixty-one I don’t know how many more cons I have in me!
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