For extremely popular panels, no matter when they fall during the day, dawn seems to be the best arrival time. Some people camp out overnight, sure, but they don't fill the rooms. But the earliest we could get downtown with public transit was 6:15, and I really wasn't sure that would be good enough. If we didn't get in, though, I figured we could always go to the Venture Bros panel that morning. (I've been to the Venture Bros panel three times, and it's always been great – I regretted having to choose between it and Firefly. But Firefly was a one-time event, and it was Firefly. So it won.)
We'd gotten home from Patton Oswalt around midnight the night before, so we were not going to get much sleep. I planned to check the #b20 hashtag on twitter as soon as I woke up so I could decide whether Firefly was a lost cause. We were half hoping it would be (sorta, kinda) because we really needed more sleep. (We'd still have had to go down earlyish for Venture Bros, of course, but not that early.)
But the line status didn't sound totally hopeless at mumblesomethingbefore5am, so off we went. We just missed a trolley, but a hastily devised alternate plan with a bus still got us there around 6:15, at which point the line was impressively huge but not mind-boggling. It swiftly became mind-boggling; they wove it through a couple of the spare tents for the nearby Hall H line, went down the sidewalk, ran out of room and started switching it back in the street. I guess the lane they were using was closed, but still, packing people INTO THE STREET FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE just seems like a bad idea.
The first panel in Ballroom 20, Community, wasn't until 10:00, but they did make things exciting by moving the line at 7am. Before that, when the line is outside the convention center grounds, it's really the everything-besides-Hall-H line. Once the building doors open, the people redistribute themselves into lines for the exhibit hall, the Hasbro tickets, autograph tickets, Ballroom 20, and whatever other things people find worth lining up for. Problem is, that redistribution is kind of chaotic. Instead of people walking calmly down the hall in the order in which they arrived, it's a free-for-all. You can't run, but when the line spreads out into a great big hallway, people start sneaking ahead of each other and that just sucks. (If everyone were like me, I suppose the convention would be dull, because everyone would show their appreciation by sitting quietly and listening. But by God we would have fair and orderly lines.)
So we ended up somewhat grumpily in the Ballroom 20 line, in a half-assed rough approximation of where we should have been. And then we settled down to wait. We were... something like 3500th in line, I think. The "approximate wait from here is n people" signs were hard to interpret. All I know is that the line went through a bunch of tents and down the steps and THEN there was us. But we weren't all the way out in the marina, so there was that.
Those people were not getting in for Firefly.
You know what's really ridiculous? THERE WERE EMPTY SEATS NEXT TO US FOR FIREFLY. The volunteers were doing a really lousy job of spotting openings, and they never asked people to raise their hands if there were empty seats next to them. So some seats remained empty. The ones by us weren't the only ones.
We did take the opportunity to move over a little bit during a break between early panels. When I first sat down, the guy next to me stank, in that sickly heavily-scented-deodorant-layered-over-f
The Community panel was somewhat interesting; there seemed to be a certain amount of awkwardness with the new showrunners, who were falling over themselves to say that they loved the show as it was and totally would not change anything. But if the network didn't want change, why'd they boot out the original guy? Anyway, I don't know about the whole kerfuffle in any great detail, but it makes me a little dubious. Still, it's probably worth checking out the seasons that are out already. It is a very geek-popular show.
Then there was a Legend of Korra panel. I know that this show is also very popular with many people, but most of them weren't in the room, sad to say. (We ended up sitting through Korra last year, too, oddly. It keeps preceding other things we want to see.) The stuff they said in the panel didn't mean a lot to me, but there was a fun bit at the end where they had us do various crowd noises so they could record them for sound effects. It seemed to work very well!
In mid-Korra, I ducked out for a bathroom break. There might have been food involved, I don't remember. I took a few pictures while I was out, because I can't stop taking pictures.
I did not have a lot of time to spare, but knowing that I'd be stuck in Hall H for basically the rest of the convention, I took a frantic last-ditch run past the Marvel booth.
THEY HAD THE IRON MAN 3 POSTER. I bemused the guy giving them out by asking for one without wrinkles. I thanked him profusely, stuck it in my little poster tube and hightailed it back to Ballroom 20.
AND THEN IT WAS TIME FOR FIREFLY.
It was a very emotional panel. I got sniffly as soon as they started showing the little introductory highlight reel.
There wasn't much news – in fact, they barely talked about the special that's going to be on the Science Channel(?) in November. The panel itself was really just about getting everybody (except Jewel Staite, and Morena Baccarin, and Gina Torres, and Ron Glass... okay, that's a bit sad) back together for a great big celebration and love-fest. And crying a lot.
The panel was running a tad late, but it was clearly wrapping up, and those wankers CUT THEM OFF just as they got up for their final bow. They started playing the between-panels music, they put the slides back on the screens – it was like cutting off a rambling Oscar speech. Bastards!
After that, everything was going to be anticlimactic. A lot of the room cleared out, of course, but we decided to stake out the room for the rest of the day so we could see Breaking Bad. We moved up to better seats for the next panel, Bones, which was a bit dull. Maybe less so if you still watch the show, but they spent most of their time justifying some developments that just sounded stupid to me.
Then there was a panel for Arrow, a new show. They screened the pilot and did a little talking with the people involved afterward. I was not impressed with what I saw; I think I would have stopped watching halfway through because I just wasn't finding any of it compelling.
And then something magical happened: I fell asleep. Well, more accurately, I decided that if I had not enjoyed the show I was not going to be interested in the Q&A, and put my head on Ken's shoulder (it is lovely to have a seatmate you can lean on, because otherwise these panels are like being in the middle seat of an airplane row ALL DAY LONG) and dozed. I remained vaguely aware that people were talking, but I wasn't absorbing it, and it was really relaxing. I felt great when the panel was over and I returned to full consciousness. And I realized that I can totally sleep anywhere if I'm tired enough, and it works, and I was suddenly much more optimistic about my plans to camp out for Saturday (but more on that later).
Then there was a panel about Powerful Women in Pop Culture, with unexpected!Lucy Lawless.
And then Joss Whedon was back for the Dark Horse Spotlight-on-Joss-Whedon panel, which is really just Joss-Whedon-Talks-About-Stuff. Very low-key, pretty interesting. He talked about his Much Ado About Nothing, which is about as far from the Avengers as you can possibly get in scale. I kind of want to see it, though it's not one of the plays I've studied. (As an English major, I should be embarrassed, I know.)
Breaking Bad time!
After the panel, we headed back out into the outside world to get Actual Food. Ken was going home, and I was going to head over to the Hall H line after that to camp overnight. Because I wanted to see the giant Saturday Hall H panels (Quentin Tarantino, the Hobbit, Man of Steel, lots of Warner Bros stuff, and – most importantly – Iron Man 3) and on Saturdays there's no public transportation that can get you downtown any earlier than 7:30. And I didn't think that was going to be early enough – certainly not early enough to get a decent seat, and quite possibly not early enough to get in at all.
Finally we made it across to the Tin Fish, my favorite fish 'n chips place. Which was insanely crowded, naturally. And while the crowds hadn't really gotten to me all day, I was hungry, and the REALLY SLOW line to order was making me anxious and impatient, and I was carrying some bottles I wanted to recycle but I couldn't find a bin, and I didn't know how I'd find anywhere to sit in this crowd, and Ken decided just to leave. I was getting increasingly frustrated, but I finally managed to order my food... and then I realized I hadn't given Ken my poster to take home. I didn't want to risk squishing it as I slept overnight and dealt with the Hall H madness. So I called him, and he said he was "still in the Gaslamp," which I interpreted as still at the adjacent trolley station, so I went to find him, only it turns out he meant he was walking to a different trolley station, and it was all a bit of a mess but we got back together and I got food and there was a quiet empty table at which to eat it.
I actually had a pretty good setup – I had a little ground sheet, a couple of lightweight throws, a tiny camping pillow, and my flannel shirt, and between all that I could be pretty modular. I ended up lying on one throw, with the other over me, and using my backpack as a pillow with the camping pillow on top. I threw my arm over my Ameribag (I need to have an arm over something to sleep anyway, and that way I was always touching everything I had of value). I was very tired, and it was not too uncomfortable, and aside from a group of Obnoxiously Loud Geek Men it wasn't too loud.
And so it was that I was dead asleep when somebody standing RIGHT NEXT TO ME made a remark, in a normal speaking voice, about all the sleepers.
Jolted into wakefulness, I fumbled for my glasses, aware that a stranger was standing a foot from my head. It was like the time someone woke me up in the middle of the night by speaking to Moly, who was in my apartment window RIGHT NEXT TO THE BED. There was a sudden commotion, and people started taking pictures, and... look, I'd been asleep, and I totally suck at recognizing people, even people I have already met personally. But I gathered that this guy was some kind of celebrity, and so I tried very quickly to take some pictures, and the flash kept not going off, and my hands were shaking from the sudden adrenaline dump, but I finally got this:
There are a lot of older guys at Comic-Con. Often they are people who used to do something of interest to geeks. I figured this guy, whoever he was, was worth taking a picture of. But people seemed awfully enthused. Things got a little mobby, in fact, as more people noticed what was going on. A couple of event security guys showed up, but people were trampling my bedding so I grabbed my valuables and retreated a little.
And that was around when I figured out it was Ian McKellen.
I think he'd just wanted to stop by to say hello, because he kind of ignored the first couple of requests to pose for pictures with people, but he did stay a while to do autographs. I didn't wade back into the fray. They'd moved down a bit toward the building and away from my stuff by then, thank goodness.
I knew that visiting the line was becoming a thing – Joss Whedon had done it the night before – but I wasn't expecting that! However belatedly I realized it, that was pretty cool. And it's one of those random Comic-Con moments you can't set out to have, which made it extra awesome.
But I did have a lot of trouble getting back to sleep!