Friday, July 20, 2012

Guest Post: The Con Away from the Con

Dr. Michael Newhouse-Bailey brings Nerds of a Feather our first actual boots-on-the-ground reportage in this wrap-up of Comic Con 2012. The good doctor's nerd specialties are comics, anime, and the Simpsons. Also, even though he's a little out-of-practice, he can still embarrass you on the tennis court. Take my word for it. - Ed.

It is the time of year where I weed through a giant bag of stuff to sort out what I want to keep, what my family gets and what I mail out to my friends. I am talking of course about San Diego Comic Con.

The author, with sad Yo Gabbite.
My favorite thing about Comic Con is that everyone attends for different reasons. While this year marks the final installment of the Twilight films, the SDCC had the Twi-hards, the fanboys, the fangirls, the comic collectors, the toy collectors, the autograph seekers and more. If you are passionate about anything, you will fit in and can have a great time among the 140,000 plus people. I attended for the fourth consecutive year and had another great time with my brother and my friends.

Through both on- and off-site events I was able to gain insight into some true creative geniuses. Whether it was the King of the Con, Joss Whedon, at the Nerd HQ (a little about that later) or Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez discussing their comic Locke and Key, this type of access usually isn’t granted for a fan. I learned how Joss builds human connections between the viewer and the character and that Joe enjoys seeing his characters have flaws and make mistakes. 

Observe: a Fringe hat.
See what I did there?
I was fortunate enough to witness the Community panel, the Firefly 10th anniversary panel (which we linked to here - Ed.), and the Fringe panel. Two of the three previously mentioned panels included tears and all felt like a huge thank you to the fans from our favorite shows. The sheer emotion that is felt on stage by the actors, the swag and the exclusive clips (at least until later that night) led to a great time. My favorite item of swag had to be the Fringe hat that had all of Hall H ready to “observe” the final season.

Enough about my personal experience, what about SDCC as a whole? This year there was even a greater trend to move the fans away from the Convention Center. Highlighted by Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ, you couldn’t walk around the Gaslamp without bumping into something Comic Con related.

I hope Yvette Strahovski's
The Nerd HQ is the brainchild of Zachary Levi of Chuck fame, and brings some of the biggest names from the Con into an intimate setting and a no holds barred Q & A. In addition, there were game demos, raffles, merch, a photo booth and just all around good times. Through photo ops, donations and the conversations, the Nerd HQ raised $140,000 to Operation Smile. Conversations included Twilight, Dr. Who, Joss Whedon, and Nathan Fillion to name a few. In only its second year, this has become one of my favorite things about attending SDCC.

What surprised me the most was The Walking Dead Escape, an obstacle course through PetCo Park infested with zombies. Four of our group braved the wandering herd and climbed, ducked, crawled and jumped over obstacles as we tried to make it through without getting infected. It was a little pricey, but in hindsight, is one of my top moments of the Con this year.

Twitter proved valuable once again. We were able to locate some Django outlaws and get our merch tokens, compete in a bat signal search to win an advanced screening of The Dark Knight Rises (I won a limited edition Mondo poster in the contest!) and be entertained through the nerd panic that fellow con-goers feel as they wait in a line they are sure will never end, wonder about what exclusives are left, or brag about a celebrity encounter.

As I look back on another successful year I can’t help but feel tired. My kids think it was worth it because I returned with prizes, but I think it was worth it as it is the opportunity to spend time with my friends in mobs of sweaty people. Pre-sale for next year, only open to 2012 attendees, begins next month so if the internet gods are kind, I will be attending for a fifth time in 2013.

Time for the coveted announcement of the first annual Newhouse awards!

Best Panel
Firefly 10th Anniversary – even though I am not a huge Firefly fan (I know I shouldn’t admit this, I like the show, I just don’t think it’s the greatest thing ever), the panel was really heartfelt. The look on the faces of the actors when they saw the 4,000 plus giving them a standing ovation was worth it alone.
Fringe/Locke and Key – Fringe was also really heart felt and full of humor. Joshua Jackson yelled thank you at the end and the cast took a bow as they prepare to wrap up the series.
Locke and Key may be the best book published right now. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are hitting on all cylinders as this book prepares for the final chapter.

Mondo Dark Knight trilogy poster.
Best Swag
Fringe Hat – The theme of the panel and the upcoming season are they are coming. They referring to the observers. If you attended in Hall H then you got your very own observer hat.
Mondo Dark Knight Poster – If you have ever tried to purchase a Mondo poster online you know they sell out in no time at all. I was extremely lucky to win this poster and can’t wait to put it on my wall.

Best Fan Access
Nerd HQ – Zachary Levi has done it again. Seats to conversations are limited to around 240 and fans can ask whatever their heart desires. Add in random celebrity sightings at the HQ (I saw Larry King!) and you have an amazing off-site experience

Best Off-Site
Zombies: Big baseball fans.
Who knew?
Tie: The Walking Dead Escape and Nerd HQ – I already have mentioned the Nerd HQ a lot (I really like it and they raised $140,000 for Operation Smile, so sue me!), but the Walking Dead Escape was great. They used the makeup team from the show to ensure the zombies looked great and the course was a mix of fear, humor and was a good challenge to complete. If you were infected you could choose to be “shot” and left with a bullet hole tattoo on your forehead. You were really immersed from start to finish.

Best Exclusive Footage
Community – they showed a fan made clip that showed how much the cast of Community is appreciative of their fans and the bond that the two share. It was great feeling like a part of their family.
Wreck-it Ralph – They showed around 9 minutes of the movie and I couldn’t be more excited. I feel this movie was made for me and my son.