San Diego Comic-Con 2015
By Christopher Erickson
photos by Christopher Erickson except where noted. https://www.flickr.com/photos/dragoniching/albums/72157664356801382
Jean and I were once again fortunate enough to attend San Diego Comic-Con International this year, which was held on July 9-12, 2015 at the San Diego Convention Center. It was another huge enterprise with lots of distractions to keep everyone entertained.
Getting tickets and accommodations to the event has become frustrating over the last few years because so many people want to attend, but the system seems fair in how it is handled. For the accommodations, there is an official list of hotels that provide very competitive prices. Getting a place to stay was handled by logging onto a website and listing your places of preference. The hotels would get back to you with availability for rooms. The hotels were about $100 to $200 less than a number of the hotels that were not part of the package deals available through Comic-Con.
We managed to get a hotel room at Town and Country Center, which is in the middle of Hotel Circle where a lot of the people stay during convention weekend. Included in our stay was a complimentary breakfast for each of the mornings that we were there. The breakfast was a buffet style with many choices for food. People would come in various states of readiness for the day from just getting out of bed wearing their pajamas to already having their costumes ready.
The convention also provided free shuttle buses to get people from different points in San Diego to the convention center. The buses made several stops along their routes and were running throughout the entire run of the convention. This made it easy for people to attend late-night programming without the struggle of finding transportation back to their hotels.
The event has spilled outside of the confines of the convention space and the adjacent hotels. There were several parties that were in the Gaslamp District that were not official events but were programmed to take advantage of the convention. One that we looked at was the Marked Men event onboard the Star of India ship at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. It was private function that required purchase of a separate ticket. It featured a costume contest, bands, belly dancing and catered food. We elected not to go to it as it was too far from the venue to fit in with our busy schedule.
The one outside event that we did attend was the NerdHQ party. NerdHQ was running their own set of functions including celebrity interviews throughout the convention. The party that we attended was held in a building in the Gaslamp District. It had a dance floor, video game room, photo booth and bar. The bar had their own cups and napkins promoting an upcoming game show on Syfy that featured teams answering geek trivia while enjoying alcoholic beverages. Many people at the function were in costume including a Chewbacca on stilts, the velociraptors from Jurassic World and WWE Superstar Chris Jericho.
Another major event that was outside of the show was Conan O’Brien broadcasting special episodes from the Spreckels Theater in the Gaslamp District. The broadcasts featured guests from major shows and movies and geek themed skits. The episode we watched featured the stars of “Game of Thrones” and Peter Capaldi from “Doctor Who” and a comedy skit centering on a weather report of different fantasy lands like Middle-Earth and Narnia. There was even collectible Pop! vinyl figures of Conan as different characters like Batman or a zombie that were people could win via text message contest.
A number of the businesses took advantage of the event to help drum up extra revenue during the weekend. The restaurants in the Gaslamp District converted their spaces into viral advertising for upcoming shows and movies. Many of the hotel bars and gift shops sold commemorative items like Game of Thrones themed beverages or stocked their shelves with geek merchandise. A number of the shops painted their windows with superheroes. A pedicab featured an advert for gentlemen’s club Deja Vu using sexy sci-fi women. Even the San Diego airport was taking advantage of the function with stores stocking plenty of geek merchandise and advertising of the Conan O’Brien shows.
There was plenty of convention activities outside of the building. There was an “Assassin’s Creed” parkour course, a “Game of Thrones” themed setup, a parking lot filled with various viral promotions like a “Peanuts” Snoopy doghouse, and roving flashmob advertising groups like the line of Penguins handing out sunglasses to promote “Gotham.”
Inside the convention, there were plenty of sights and sounds to entertain people. The booths had many different diversions to help draw people in and provide things to look at. The DC Comics booth featured displays of costumes from “Arrow,” “The Flash” and “Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice.” The Lego booth had statues of Hulk fighting Iron Man in the Hulkbuster armor, Ninjago characters, a Stormtrooper and Owen Grady on a motorcycle from “Jurassic World.” The Weta booth featured a full display of costumes from an upcoming movie based on the “World of Warcraft” game. The Mattel booth showed off some of their collectible cars including a Superman/Batman car. The Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum had a TARDIS that people could take photos with. The Marvel booth had a fashion show of haute couture based on the Avengers characters.
There were plenty of panels in the main rooms that people lined up for. I was only able to attend a couple of small panels due to masquerade commitments. One was on how comic books came to dominate Hollywood. The other was on upcoming developments of the “Lord of the Rings”/”The Hobbit” properties.
Costuming was a huge part of the convention. Comic-Con is one of the main places where you can see a huge variety of characters portrayed. There were plenty of superheroes and characters from current shows like “IZombie,” “Game of Thrones” “The Flash,” “Outlander” and “Doctor Who” and recent movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Mad Max Fury Road,” “Minions” and “Jurassic World.” There were plenty of people portraying cartoon characters from “Steven Universe,” “Archer” and “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” There were also plenty of classic characters like Sailor Moon, Lilith from “The Munsters,” Jem from 1980s cartoon series, GizmoDuck from “Duck Tales,” Xena and Gabriel, Ripley from “Alien,” Star Trek uniforms, classic “Doctor Who” characters, Cosmo and Wanda from “The Fairly OddParents,” the main characters of “Jurassic Park” and plenty of “Star Wars” outfits.
There were plenty of more obscure characters and costumes. There was a number of people who dressed up as characters from “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” outfits based on the DC Bombshells artwork, a Supergirl based the “Justice” artwork (a line of magazine covers featuring DC Comics heroes), Freakazoid from the cartoon series, and Moist von Lipwig and Adora Belle Dearheart from the Discworld novel “Going Postal.”
There were plenty of video game characters represented with different versions of Link, Zelda, Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, characters from “Borderlands,” Lara Croft, several Pokemon and Billy and Jimmy Lee from “Double Dragon.” Anime had a heavy presence with Speed Racer, Sailor Moon characters, Pokemon trainers, Totoro, Princess Mononoke and pirates from “One Piece.”
There was plenty of other pop culture representation. There were several people dressed as professional wrestlers including Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Chris Jericho and John Cena. There were a few Daft Punk outfits. People dressed up as Roman and Egyptian gods. There were many Transformers and G.I. Joe characters as well. Other people dressed as Gomez and Morticia from “The Addams Family.” Another couple were dressed as characters from “Penny Dreadful.”
There was also plenty of mashup style costuming. There were several interpretations of Deadpool. One group did a hipster version of Marvel superheroes. Another group did redneck version of the Avengers. Two women dressed up as a Hawkeye and Black Widow Playboy Bunnies. One cosplayer mashed up the Eleventh Doctor and a Jedi. There was also a group of people who combined “Star Wars” and steampunk. There was amazing Stormtrooper mashups with a “Where’s Waldo” version and an Evel Knievel version. One person did a pirate Iron Man. The most interesting mashup was a Wookie “Charlie’s Angels” group.
A lot our time for Comic-Con was dedicated to the Masquerade. For Jean and me, the convention started with having to make new costumes. We were part of a masquerade group of tap-dancing X-Men. My costume, Professor Xavier, took several weeks of sewing long hours after work to complete, as it was a men’s tailored suit. There were a huge number of pieces including interfacing that was required to be hand sewn. I was sewing during my lunch breaks at one point to make progress. Jean had managed to snag a used wheelchair for free, so she had the best contribution to my costume.
We spent time rehearsing the choreography with the group for a few sessions before the convention. We all had to learn a fairly complex routine with tap dancing steps (except for me since I was in a wheelchair). We also continued to practice during the convention. During the day of the Masquerade, we had the chance to practice on a mockup stage so we could get a feel for the actual dimensions of the stage.
Later that day, we had to check in around 5 pm to start getting ready. Some groups spent the entire day putting together props and complex pieces for their entries. During the check-in time, people were getting makeup put on and getting their costumes together. I had to have a bald cap applied to my head and get age makeup completed.
Costume judging for workmanship also took time as people lined up to have people look at their outfits and props. During this time, people would talk with other costumers that they knew in separate groups, take photos of the different entries and have their pictures taken for references for judging.
The longest part of the time was having to wait around before going on stage. A screen was provided for people to watch the entries on stage in the green room. People were also able to watch on screens in the backstage area while in line to go onstage.
Once onstage, all of the preparation, practice and hard work came down to about two minutes or less of entertainment for the thrill of the performance and the reaction of the audience. Our group got a loud reaction to our tap-dancing Wolverine and all of the other X-Men.
After our performance, we were taken to a room for photographers to take our pictures. We then returned to the green room to await announcements for the awards. Since our group was receiving an award, we lined up again to go onstage. We were presented with the award for “Most Humorous” which included a medal. We were then taken back to the photography area for pictures with our award.
After the masquerade, we had to get out of the costumes we made and head back to the hotel. It was strangely silent as the hallway was devoid of people, making it almost eerily silent. It was hard to fathom that there could be a still moment at a place that is usually so packed with people and noise.
The convention wrapped up for Jean and me with breakfast the next morning and getting the last few pictures of costumers before we headed for the airport. Despite all of the trouble of getting tickets, securing a hotel room, sewing and packing, we still managed to have a great time.