Experiences and Lessons from San Diego Comic-Con

Originally published July 25, 2016

After years of hearing about incredible panels, celebrity appearances, and out-of-this-world cosplay, this was my first year in attendance of San Diego Comic-Con International. I came equipped with my own cosplay, my badge, the official app on my phone, and knowledge of everything I was able to learn in advance about this ultimate gathering of the nerds. But as the convention kicked off, everything else came with little to no expectation, and that balanced along the line between really awesome and downright bad.

Take the lines for instance. There were lines everywhere you looked; for panels to booths alike. Some even required getting in line early, just to be sure that you got in. My patience was truly tested, as I’m not one who likes waiting for long periods of time. But it paid off in the instance of the fan panel for “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” where I got in line over an hour early and wound up getting a descent seat.

Unfortunately, this only happened after I didn’t get into the MOANA panel, which would have been my first Comic-Con panel had I shown up at least an hour earlier than I actually did. Despite the lesson learned after the fact, I still wound up doing the exact same thing when it came to the line for Gene Luen Yang’s panel about the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” comics on the last day. I didn’t get there early enough and sadly didn’t get in that one either.

Thanks to the assistance of some veterans, I now know better for the future; especially when it comes down to what room the panel is being held in (because apparently, the room makes a difference) and what the subject of the panel is.

There were a lot of crowds. Not that that was a big surprise, but it was a bit much at times; to the point where volunteers and security alike had to take charge of traffic control. Fortunately I’m pretty small, so for the most part, I was able to slink by and in between people. While I’m not claustrophobic, it did get overwhelming in some instances. That’s why with navigating the convention center, I eventually figured that if I needed to go to a quieter and less crowded environment, I opted for the game floor or the terrace.

The cosplay was ridiculous – in a good way that is. While this isn’t my first convention (for I’ve been to Fanime in the past), the cosplay at Comic-Con was that much more elaborate, as people really have taken the time to create these incredible outfits to turn them into some of their favorite characters. Some highlights include a girl in a kimono designed to look like Totoro (it even had soot sprites hanging along the skirt!), a giant Pikachu, and a little girl dressed as a teeny tiny Rey – and trust me when I say, there were A LOT of Reys!

I cosplayed for two days at Comic-Con; one day as Rey, the other as Avatar Korra. It was cool to walk around in outfits from one of my favorite films and one of my favorite TV shows, and occasionally be asked for a picture. In fact, there was one instance where I was summoned by a family into a picture they were taking of a guy dressed as Tenzin (talk about right timing!). It was interesting to be addressed by the name of the character you’re dressed up as, as opposed to your real name. Now I see how actors have it.

There was so much to absorb and take in from the few days I was in San Diego. So many upcoming TV shows and films were already getting people excited for them, there was exclusive merch everywhere you looked, and you never knew who you’d see or meet.

For instance: Despite not being able to attend the MOANA panel, I did catch a glimpse of voice actor Auli’i Cravalho, as she made her way through the crowds with her little entourage. Despite not a lot of people making any reaction to the girl with a flower in her hair, I could only look and think to myself: “She’s going to be a big movie star a few months from now.” On the other hand, I got to meet some of the lovely folks of Wong Fu Productions at the Awkward Animal booth, and even got a picture with co-founder Ted Fu and a hug from producer Christine Chen. What you see on screen is what you get in real life, for they were all truly lovely.

Despite the constant excitement all around, I do wish that there were more booths and panels utilized for my interests. Already, there was a number of both for the “Star Trek” franchise and anything Marvel; neither of which I’ve ever been a big fan of. The TV shows that were being promoted I neither watch nor met my interest and there was very little to do with the voices of the new media platform.

I want more novelists making presentations and panels for TV shows other than the ones with superheroes or the supernatural. I wish Comic-Con would take the time to utilize films that are making splashes in the film festival circuit (such as HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE for instance, for that would have made a great panel) and I wish there were more opportunities for those who I watch on YouTube and Netflix. I would love for Comic-Con to be more inclusive of those who don’t just lean on Marvel for their go-to’s.

Otherwise, it’s been quite an experience that I can now officially check off my bucket list. Would I consider going again? Absolutely! In fact, I really hope to go next year. Besides, 2017 will be 40 years since the first STAR WARS film came out.

Plus, I still have much to learn.

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