No Time For Stan: Comic Con 2009

At 2:00 a.m. PST Friday morning, right around the time Josh Flanagan was deciding that making it to the hotel elevator was close enough, I was in Missouri crawling into a cab. My city is deeply suspicious of shared transportation (seems a little pinko) so before Friday I couldn’t even remember the last time I saw a cab, never mind the last time I saw 4:00 a.m. This was a special occasion, though. I was getting a ride to a St. Louis cab’s natural habitat: the airport. I had a golden ticket.

A month ago, I used this space to note that convention season was starting. The thrust of my article was that I’d gotten used to experiencing cons on the web because I was never going to get to one. I was not whining about this. I was only barely thinking at all, just turning the crank on my late-model brain hard enough to string a few hundred words together, so I didn’t realize my tossed-off comments had set some kind of karmic Rube Goldberg device in motion. A couple of things happened at once:

1. Josh read the article, took pity on me in my wretchedness, and let me know that the iFanboy suites had a spare corner for me to sleep in; and
2. My wife, already well acquainted with my wretchedness, read the article, took pity on me and said, “Is it too late for you to go? You should try and go. Please go, and tell all you meet there of your wife’s goodness and mercy.”

I didn’t feel wretched when I was writing it. I wasn’t sad or wistful. I didn’t yearn for cosplay on the coast. I was perfectly fine staying home like I do every year… but goddammit, if I had actually done all this intentionally as a finely crafted long con to get to San Diego, it could not have worked any better, and there was no way in hell I was going to let these two suckers wriggle off the hook now. The morning after her bold, compassionate proclamation, my wife remembered we were in the middle of moving and began to reconsider; at the first sign of it, I hurled myself face first down a flight of stairs at my laptop, wildly wiggling my fingers in the air in front of me until they hit the keyboad to type “Orbitz.com” and shouting, “No backsies! No backsies!!” until a nonrefundable ticket was on the credit card.

And so it was that I came to spend my most deranged 48 hours since college. The whole thing would have been like bathing in a hurricane to begin with– it was Comic Con, after all– but the fact that I would only be there 48 hours meant I had a lot of living to do this weekend. As a result, I’m already starting to remember it more like that dream you have the night you accidentally take a second dose of cough medicine than like something that actually happened to me. On Friday morning, I stood on the con floor for the first time among a dozen separate people dressed like Marion Ravenwood, and by Sunday afternoon I was having dinner at home. It didn’t help that I slept through both flights. Did you ever hear stories about people centuries ago walking down the street, getting hit on the head, and waking up in the navy? It was a lot like that.

To start with, it’s worth noting that I am a lot like most of you in the sense that, to me, the rest of the iFanboy staff were voices in my headphones and little men on the monitor. We were online buddies, but I had never seen any of these people in the flesh before. From the first moment I got to the hotel, the TV people were coming to life and touching me in familiar ways. I got hugs from the little men in my iPod, and that was how it started.

I had come to town carrying nothing but a backpack full of underpants and a wallet full of cash. When I went to pick up my badge, they asked me for ID and thus helped me to discover that I had lost my driver’s license in a strange city literally within ten minutes of getting on the ground. (I’d pulled out my phone when I landed, and the rubber grippy thing on the phone had grippied the license and flung it into the ether.) It’s a good thing I wasn’t co-hosting a party that night in a bar. What? I was? Well, then it’s a good thing I didn’t have to try and board a plane in two days with no identification. With my pockets empty, my belongings on my shoulder, and the rage bubbling up within me, I had never understood Bruce Banner’s life better than at that moment.

But the rage only lasted a moment. Scamming my way past bouncers and the TSA were tomorrow’s problems, problems that were certainly in my wheelhouse. The only ID I needed for the weekend was my badge, and they let me have that.

I didn’t do a lot of the things one does at these cons. I just didn’t have time. If I’d been there all week, sure, I might have camped out for the Lost panel, but when you’ve got two days you don’t spend half of one waiting in a line. About ten minutes before the Iron Man 2 presentation started, I thought, “You know… I am right here. Everyone must be in there by now. Maybe I can fast-talk my way into the back row or something.” I could not. The people who had been waiting three hours to get into the hall visibly appreciated my attempt, though, and I’m sure they would have welcomed me into their community with open arms had I gotten in.

I’ve also never really understood signings. It seems to me an autograph is meant to say, “I met this person, and I can prove it.” Waiting in line for twenty minutes for some kind of Soup Nazi transaction seems to bleed every drop of meaning out of that encounter. “I got to meet Peter David!” Did you? Did you really? I’d much rather just run into people on the floor.

And run into them I did. I had an advantage, of course, as the iFanboy camera bag monkey. I spent most of Friday tagging along for interviews, and I got to shake hands with Jason Aaron, who is big enough to eat me without chewing. I got to eavesdrop on Matt Sturges. I got to stand nearby while a famous comics luminary repeatedly referred to himself in the third person. The theme of the weekend was “seeing people whose names would not impress anyone but me.” While acting as the guy who stands there keeping sheeple from wandering between the interview and the camera, I nearly collided with comedian Doug Benson, a fact which impressed exactly no one later. I literally collided with Bill from Bill and Ted at the Mattel booth. While waiting in line for a Ghostbusters action figure I would never get (the line was short) I turned around to see the Conan show’s Pierre Bernard standing behind me. I saw Jeff Conaway and Spongebob within the span of about a minute. I thanked Roger Langridge for the Muppet Show books until I could hear myself thinking, “Really? You’re still talking? Would you maybe like to recite your entire history with the Muppets for him before we go?” At the iFanboy party, I turned away from my conversation to see I’d had my back to Felecia Day for God knows how long.

You don’t want to be a big fanboy, though. Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion had dinner at the table next to us Saturday night, and I thought about saying something to them, but then Ron and Alan Tudyk waited in line for the bathroom while some crazed fan chose that moment to do exactly that, and it illustrated succinctly the person I did not want to be. “I met the guy from Firefly!” Yes, and he will always remember you as the guy who told him your life story while he was begging to pee.

Of course, there were a few people I did not meet. Ron informed me that we were supposed to interview Stan Lee, but since they had talked to him three times already they had opted not to do that.

“I see,” I said. “You thought that, since you talked to him every year I wasn’t here, you’d wait till the one year I got here to turn him down. That’s fine. Enjoy your room service bill on Monday.”

We also had an hourlong odyssey where it looked like we were going to interview Anthony Daniels but couldn’t think of any pertinent questions. We were eventually kept waiting so long we just bailed on C-3PO. “We don’t have time for this, C-3PO!” I said. The tightness I felt in my chest when I awoke the next morning was doubtless from my inner five year old just punching and punching and punching me.

C-3PO wasn’t there for any comics-related reason, and obviously there’s a lot of that at Comic Con now. I was almost asphyxiated by a flash mob because I got too close to the cast of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. (I think. Never seen it.) The Twilight line was hilarious, because I was not in it. My favorite illustrative moment of the con was at the Marvel booth. A handful of people in costume as Mr. Sinister, Lady Deadpool, Lady Nick Fury, and Lady Notalady were posing and vamping as dozens of people cornered them for pictures. Four feet away, completely unmolested and unnoticed, stood Matt Fraction, the actual writer of actual X-Men comic books. He looked kind of bored.

It was everything you’ve heard and nothing you’ve heard. Everybody smelled fine, even though Saturday felt like living inside a blow dryer. 99% of the people there didn’t make you ashamed to be a human, and then you’d turn a corner and see this guy:



Why come dressed as a marijuana leaf? Why come dressed as the Hulk, even though you’re a lady, and then not put any makeup on your face or tie back your hair? I like Elektra too, but you are in public in lingerie. Go patch things up with your dad, quickly.

The commitment was impressive. As funny as it is to see Rorschach eating a hot dog and talking on the phone, it’s even funnier to see the guy dressed as Nurse Uniform Joker keep walking like that everywhere all day long.

Both nights, I had a dream that Paul showed up with his clothes in a Hefty bag, but when I left at 4:00 a.m. Sunday it still hadn’t happened. I’d packed so I could leave without waking anyone, but it turned out the guys were getting back for the night just as I was heading out. And let me say this about that: those f***ers work hard for you people. They had an interview scheduled every hour on the hour the whole time I was there. I split off from the group Saturday because iFanboy.com had exhausted me after being there a day. They also treated me like visiting royalty; if someone had crashed my party the way I was crashing theirs, that someone would have slept in the tub.

In the end, we had a lot of fun and gossiped like little old ladies all weekend. It was an unforgettable weekend I’m already starting to forget. I had my fun and put some faces to some names: “Oh, yeah! You’re Daredevil Head Avatar!” If I met you, it was nice to meet you. If I didn’t, better luck next year.

Yes, next year. Picking me up from the airport, even as she said how much she missed me, my wife was saying, “Maybe when you go back next year….” I am already loading Orbitz in the browser. No backsies.

My Flickr feed for the weekend is up here. I’m not really in love with my pictures, but I would love to see everybody else’s. If you’d post links in the comments below, once you regain consciousness, that would be pretty great.

Comments

  1. Marvelous.  I am very jealous and am also very glad you enjoyed yourself.  That’s too bad about Stan Lee.

    I think I have my wife convinced to not only let me attend SDCC next year, but to actually come with me (I need someone to carry my bag and serve as a placeholder in lines).

    Thank you for the picture of Josh in the elevator. This is the behind the scenes stuff that makes the site great. 

    P.S. You embedded the "Luke gets a medal" video twice.

  2. Glad you had a good time.

    Sounds like a lot of work for the Josh, Ron and Conor. I always sort of had the thought in the back of my head, "wow they’re complaining about Con season coming around again" You hear a resigned tone to Ron, Conors shoulders slump and you can see that whisp of something broken in Josh’s eyes. At which point I think damn I would love to go to a dozen cons every year and run around the halls and have fun, talk to artists and writers. 

    Of course you don’t think about the hours of footage they probably have that you don’t see and then the fact they throw a get together and get plied with booze, then go out the next day to do it again. Good job guys, can’t wait to see the footage. 

     You should have made Jim do the Stan Lee interview on his own, put it up as a special 🙂 

  3. It took me a second to realize what that guys costume was.  Now I can’t stop laughing.

  4. Adult Swim show cosplayers are scary.

  5. You didn’t meet Stan Lee?  That would be the only thing I would want to do!  You should have interviewed him alone for Ifanboy.

  6. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Jim, did you dare touch the Sword of Power?  Let’s hope you obeyed the sign, lest you anger mighty Greyskull.

    Well-written as always.  Glad you made it out to the con and seemed to have a good time.

    But, how the heck did you fly back on Sunday without an ID?

  7. Great article, as always, thanks for sharing!

    I have to say, this is the first year that the notion of SDCC inspired actual envy rather than abject terror.  It’s either your fault or Twitter’s. 

  8. I can somewhat explain the waiting in line to get autographs. When you are gettign autographs, you get to talk to those guys. Ask them about their books, socialize a little and sometimes get the inside on what they’ll be doing for the next 2 or 3 months that they aren’t allowed to ‘openly’ talk about.

  9. I had a great time meeting you Jim and hopefully you can make it back next year. i cant believe no one took a single picture of the iFanboy staff together. Hope you enjoy your issue of Rom.

  10. Ha! There’s no picture of me with Sonia or Ron, but I think there are five pictures of me with that Rom Annual. And I don’t have any of them.

  11. "I like Elektra too, but you are in public in lingerie. Go patch things up with your dad, quickly."

    Why does a girl who feels comfortable dressing a certain way automatically have to have some type of "issues?"

  12. @mrmister, dude, Jimski is 75, he’s from a different time;)

  13. Awesome article man.  Followed you on Twitter through the whole thing but it was nice to hear it all out in one spot.  I NEED to go next year…

     At least I have Chicago?…….

  14. "Why does a girl who feels comfortable dressing a certain way automatically have to have some type of ‘issues?’"

    If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, smells like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s probably not a singularly confident squirrel taking the twins for a walk.  

     

  15. @mrmister – It’s a joke. Eeeeaaassssyyy, big fella!

    Also, that’s not how he phrased it on the floor.  It was more like "thank you".

  16. @josh

     was just checking, I figured as much. not trying to be "that guy." 

    hopefully make my way to san diego next year. not too interested but figure need to at least go once.

  17. That all sounds awesome, and your article is endearing and entertaining as always. I’m glad you got to go, and that you had such a great time.

  18. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Group pictures or it didn’t happen!

    (Glad you finally got to go and that you had a good time, man. You more than deserved it.) 

  19. This year was the year that I stopped caring about signings – unless the artist asks if I’d like them to do so – and trying to buy anything besides unknown and/or discounted books. Still camped in Hall H for two or three minutes of Iron Man 2 footage. I’m not sorry.

  20. For me the most surprising thing was how fast those cool stay puft marshmellow men sold out.  

  21. Did you tell Pierre to bring back the Recliner of Rage?

  22. You have never seen It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia?! Easily the funniest show on tv! 

    Sad to hear about Stan though. 

  23. For some reason, I quickly read Pauls’ comment above as "It’s more than you deserved." I was thinking, "damn, it’s not like Paul to be so bitter." Then again, I hear The Wild will change a man.

    Jim — It was good to meet you. Hope this is the first of many trips to SDCC.

  24. Gald you had a great time. Reading your tweets and the other istaff really showed you guys had a fantastic time. Although I have to admit, I am jealous by some of the things you did.

    I don’t know what’s more disturbing about that ‘Boy Toy’ pic. That the man is dressed (or lack of) like that, or there is a huge poster of a baby next to him.

  25. If there were a "Make a Nerdy Wish Foundation", it’s story would have gone something like this.

    We roll in to Chicago August 6th, Mroczkowski! Always room for one more.

  26. people can be such anal retentive dicks about touching the sword of power. But here I am, I got fish like dudes kicking sand in my face, I got beast type dudes kicking sand in my face and meanwhile my giant jungle cat is a complete pussy. 

  27. Whoa someone call the Feds!  I guarantee Buffalo Bill Junior at the end there as at least 5 bodies in the crawlspace at home.

  28. Wait, how is Paul Montgomery posting from the wilderness!  Glad to hear you are still alive, thank goodness, Paul.

    The Cons down here – when they even happen – are piss weak.  IMHO, anyway.  It might be exhausting, but the chance to meet, or even see, so many creators must be awesome.  Stan Lee, for f&^ks sake.

    Funny as always, Jim. 

     

  29. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @delphan – WildFi

  30. So Jim, how did you talk your way on to the plane?

  31. @Paul – Americans, you have all the cool stuff.

  32. "I got hugs from the little men in my iPod"

    In an article full of great lines, that may be the greatest.  

  33. I will say Jimski had the best con tweets this past weekend.

    Also I want to second how nice the ifanboys are. I went to NYCC this past year and met Ron and Paul and they were incredibly friendly. I never understood how anyone could label the guys as rude. I’m still kicking myself for not going to the meet and greet (there was a girl involved but we won’t go into that) I can’t wait until next year as I will be living in new york by then.

  34. I will say that every time someone came up to the guys to say "I love you, iFanboy," I assumed that they had no idea who I was and sort of took a step back and didn’t say anything. Later, I thought, "I was just trying to be polite and not make it all about me, but watch: every one of those people will have known exactly who I was, and they will go online now and say, ‘Conor was nice, but Jim was there too, and he was a completely rude, standoffish douchebag.’"

    That does not appear to have happened, thankfully, which just means that no one has any idea that I work here.

  35. BARNABY JONES! Come live with me.

  36. @1SinMuse: Why would there be a penguin in a wheatfield?