The Rent Is Too Damn High: The Crushing Defeat and the Overpowering Glory of Comic-Con
A wiser man would have not waited to start his laundry at 9 PM on the night before he had to drive the accursed I-5, but Lord knows I’ve never been that bright. So at 5 AM, I hopped in my Jetta and cruised down to San Diego. I left at this goddamned hour because usually the two hour journey is fraught with the traffic of the morning commuters plus the onslaught of nerdlingers coming to Comic-Con. Somehow, I managed to make it to San Diego by 7 AM. But my first stop wasn’t the hotel or the convention center. It was a mall movie theater, to see an advanced screening of Captain America.
Like kudzu, San Diego Comic-Con has spread voraciously over the face of San Diego. Not just content to remain in the Convention Center, events have now spread to the surrounding hotel ballrooms and meeting rooms. But beyond that, the downtown Gaslamp Quarter and the other areas transform themselves. There are any number of events staged outside the confines of the Convention Center — arcades and food truck pavilions, “South Park” experiences and secret parties, scavenger hunts and sometimes even events “Too Hot for Comiccon!” Cowboys & Aliens is due to make its premiere Saturday night in one of the local theatres (not to be confused with the theater). SDCC now dubs itself “a celebration of all things pop culture” — to justify the smothering of the comic-book in the name of multimedia entertainment. Now, you can understand why you are wearing a lanyard promoting Showtime shows like “Shameless” and “Weeds.” What is exactly nerdish about those two shows? The only linker is after the day that I had at the Con, I was ready to just bombard myself with intoxicants and ruin my life and the lives of everyone around me.
But I get ahead of myself.
I circled the city seeking parking. Parking becomes your first curse, because while you might be the shark mindlessly swimming about, it’s the fucking city that becomes the predator. The first lot I pulled into was one of the “Online Parking Pass Prepay!” lots you could purchase tickets for. Most of the others remotely close to the convention were sold out in milliseconds. They were offering spots at a STEAL for $20 a day. Which might seem insane until you realize the hotel that we were staying at was charging $32 a day for its own guests. So when I pulled into the spot I can’t imagine why I was horrified to find out they were offering parking at a premium for just $40 a day. I finally found what I hope won’t turn out to be a clever Con con in a lot almost halfway across the city for $5 a day. When I return, I pray my car isn’t crushed into a cube.
Parked, I hoofed it to meet Drew Morton’s wife (and another friend) at the Captain America screening. They had gotten in line at 7 AM. Now it’s at this point I should mention the screening wasn’t scheduled to start until 10 AM. Three hours beforehand they had to get in line. And they were at least two full theaters worth of people behind in the line. So there were folks who had been in line 4 hours if not more. To see a movie for free that was coming out in two days. As we stood in line, getting harassed and told to scooch one mere buttcheek forward as if this precious real estate would somehow allow the glut of mall patrons access to the many many shops that weren’t even fucking open yet at this godforsaken hour. Out-of-work actresses decked out like star-spangly chorus girls trotted up and down the line passing out free buttons and posters. Local businesses sent employees to ploy us with coupons offering $3 Jamba Juices while other out-of-work actors and bored teens handed out postcards announcing film festivals and other events occurring during the week. We stood in line sweating (OK, well mostly me), while other groups were inexplicably allowed access to the theater, which had been overtaken by a publicity department and was now showing nothing but Captain America: The First Avenger.
Finally, we were seated a little after 10 AM. And told to wait for the film to begin. And so we waited. And waited. And waited. It was almost 10:40 before Chris Evans finally was paraded before us to stammer and sputter about his excitement about the film and congratulate us for being “the first audience to ever experience CAP!” And then he followed his entourage of makeup-caked chorus girls out to the next theater. Hoopty-hoo, that’s fucking Comic-Con.
I finally got my badge and herded through the herd to get to panels around 1 PM, after slogging several blocks from Horton Plaza. The “Game of Thrones” panel wasn’t due to start until 3 PM, but the line was already 500,000 people deep, stretching out of the convention center and down under the sweltering sun into the harbor below. The line steward pretty much told me it wasn’t going to happen. Of the six events I attempted to see, I managed to make it into two panels. And one wasn’t even something I cared about. I should be thankful I actually made it down for Thursday at all, since I-5 notoriously gets shut down with automotive deaths. All he wanted was to see Naruto while dressed like Ghost in the Shell.
So I would love to tell you about what’s up next for “Game of Thrones” on HBO. Or even about the cartoon version of Napoleon Dynamite FOX cooked up. Shit, I’d be thrilled to explain how Mike Judge is bringing back “Beavis and Butthead” for MTV. It sounded hilarious, as I could hear the audience’s peels of laughter through the doors a mere six people away before they closed off the meeting room. But I had been standing in line for two hours which turned out to be a few minutes too late to actually see the panel. What I can tell you is that for those of you who play “Mortal Kombat,” they are releasing a new downloadable character August 9th: Freddy Krueger. Selling out to Warner Brothers the rights to your franchise? Flawless victory. And Krueger’s fatalities are fucking awesome. That’s all I got for you.
Even aware that yes, you have to stand in endless lines, Comic-Con has gotten fucking ridiculous. It costs over a thousand dollars to spend four days staggering agonizingly around a convention center to basically see commercials 15 minutes before the rest of your friends see them on the internet. Sometimes, you might get your photo taken with a celebrity! That’s if you were willing to stand in line for a different two hours and pay cash for it. Geoff Johns be looking out for Geoff Johns, motherfucker. They sell out every year, and every year, the panels get harder and harder to get into. Maybe if I played the Press junket a little more savvy I’d do better, but that’s not how we do things at Pajiba. We prefer to stand on the moral high ground. In line. For two fucking hours. Under seventeen Tuscan suns. To find out that Freddy Krueger can summon a boiler room furnace from the ground and throw your opponent into it for his fatality for the low low price of $5-10 of video game console points.
So you gotta ask. Why the fuck do it? Why suffer Comic-Con? You can’t do anything, and when you can it costs seven hundred dollars. It’s like a fucking amusement park without the amusement. At least if I stand in line for two hours elsewhere, I get to go on a terrible 20 second ride. Here, I get nothing but shame and disappointment and a dull throbbing pain in the center of my chest. Our reward for clever planning is to have celebrities bombarded with awkward questions or to listen to Jeri Ryan explain over Skype to a packed auditorium why she’s so proud to play such a seminal character like Sonya Blade in a webseries for a video game she’s never played. We bleat like sheep and clap our hands and get excited. So why suffer it? Why fucking deal?
Well, that’d be the rest of my night.
See, I work for Ten Thirty One Productions, the lovely ladies who put together such events as The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride and more recently Ghost Ship. They were throwing a private party event in the Starlight Ballroom in conjunction with Comikaze Expo, which is going to be LA’s attempt at hosting a Comic-Con in November. So they brought down four actors to be decked out in makeup and costume and to mingle with the guests tormenting them as they sipped cocktails. Guess who was the psychopath?
Dressed in a jumpsuit and a cloth mask that only allowed for eye holes and a bit of mouth to show, I was one of four characters. We had our nurse, bloody mouth and strange dental apparatus that looked as if it were splitting her face in twain. We had our doctor, a seven foot tall beast that defies imagination. We had our captain, who was decked out in nautical finery with demonic eyes and a fish withered face. It was pretty great. We spent the night standing behind people and startling them, and then posing for photos. Chris Ullrich from The Flickcast was in attendance and I swooped in and started messing with him. He had no idea it was me. I don’t know how many other short bald men he knows, but his friends took to calling me “Danny Devito’s Ghost.” I thought that’d be a giveaway. But nope, no idea.
Then “celebrities” starting pouring in. Stan Lee. Rick Fox. Phil Lamarr. Ray Wise told me gleefully that I was creeping him out. Morgan Spurlock hugged me as we posed for a photo, calling me his new friend. Some of “The Guild” was there — not Felicia Day — but Vork (Jeff Lewis) and others. Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh) wanted to get a photo of me freaking out Clara (Robin Thorsen), so I merrily obliged. By the end of the night, my costume was soaked through with sweat, and there are so many iPhone photos and the like circulating of me twitching and twisting. After some drinks, I staggered back to the hotel I’m crashing in with Drew’s wife. It was a long night, and now I sit here, waiting to shower — YEAH, SOME OF US FUCKING SHOWER, YOU CRETINS — before heading back out to the convention center for more disappointment and outrage.
So, yeah, while I get pissed about missing out on revival-hall commercials, I remember that Comic-Con is about drinking out with friends. Later this weekend, I’ll be meeting Pajiba readers for drinks, probably Saturday. Tonight will probably be with my hometown darling Amy, who volunteers for the Con every year, and the friends of hers that are now friends of mine that I met last year. I’ll have to claim those beers from Chris Ullrich so I can taunt him about my spookening. I already got to spend time with some incredible people that I only get to see once a year. When were fucking people up on The Los Angeles Haunted Hayride — or this year when we do terror cruises out of Newport Beach on The Ghost Ship. It won the Scariest Attraction in Los Angeles poll for a reason, kids.
I realize Comic-Con can seem crass and commercial. Hell, this write-up itself is a thinly veiled whoring of my later gigs to mask my inadequacies as a coverage reporter. It is definitely disappointing and frustrating most of the time. I might not even make the panel I want to cover this morning. I hate standing in line, hoofing it all over creation only to meet with anger and frustration and anime costumes. It costs too damn much, kills me with rage, and I’m already making plans for next year when my brother can finally attend.
I fucking hate you San Diego Comic-Con. Now, let’s hug it out, bitch.
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