I wasn't horribly uncomfortable trying to sleep on the grass in the Hall H line, but that didn't mean I slept well. I'd sleep for an hour, then wake up because there was loud music at some event nearby, or because a train rattled by (it sounded like a series of explosions, crashing down the track), or just because I was sleeping outside among a bunch of strangers.
Convention center staff established some ground rules for camping (which they refused to call camping, because camping is banned. Also, they officially discourage lining up way in advance. But if you happen to stay overnight, you can have a chair and a sleeping bag, but no tent, and please don't light anything on fire). They allowed access to the Lobby G bathrooms all night, thank goodness, but the guard would only let you pass
Just before dawn I went in and washed up as best I could, brushing my teeth and putting on fresh deodorant and redoing my scraggly ponytail and hoping I wasn't becoming That Con-Goer. The bathrooms were the only place I really saw outlets during the con; I plugged in the iPad while I was there, but couldn't stay long enough to do much good. (In Hall H, the bathroom outlets were always bristling with electronics and people babysitting them; it was kind of hilarious. But I would have felt awkward taking pictures in a bathroom. I have limits. A few.)
As everyone woke up and the line compressed into the Hall H loading chutes, things livened up a bit. A Jesus protester showed up to tell us we were worshipping false gods or something. Loki went over to stand proudly as an example.
You know you're at Comic-Con when people are chanting, "Loki! Loki! Loki!"
The first Hall H panel of the day was Tarantino's Django Unchained at 11:30. I don't know why they started the programming in Hall H so late on some days. They don't open the room until an hour before the panels start, so we had a while to wait. Ken came down around 9:30 and took some of my bedding and stuff to the bag check in the lobby, so I wouldn't have to keep it with me all day. (Directions: "I'm by the Jesus guy.")
Finally they let us in. No running, but lots of very quick walking as everyone spread out and tried to snag seats. (The next day, I was scolded with "No power walking." WTF? How many mph am I allowed to go, exactly?) I was in the second group of people allowed in, and by the time I got up near the stage the front section was entirely filled – I mean, I saw gaps, but they said it was filled, and they had ushers posted to keep people out. So I grabbed a seat a few rows into the second section, pretty close to the center, and all things considered it was very good. My definition of a good seat at SDCC is when it's worth looking at the people, not just the giant images on the screens. When you can actually see everyone's expressions, and catch interplay that doesn't get on the screen because the camera's somewhere else, that's fun. And I was close enough for that.
Hall H is just bizarre. The setup, the shape, the hellish, warehousey darkness. The entire first floor of the convention center is one giant single space, but it's lettered halls A through H, and each of them can be partitioned off. SDCC uses A through G as the exhibit hall (so you can imagine how mind-bogglingly vast it is), while H is sectioned off to use as the biggest panel room. The walls are covered in heavy black curtains. It holds 6500
I'd never set foot in Hall H until they did Doctor Who in there last year -- as far as I could tell it was sort of a little convention unto itself, one the really hardcore scary people went to. Rumor had it some were never seen again. But having some idea what it was really like from last year encouraged me to give it a try this year. And, well, I really wanted to see that Iron Man 3 panel. In the wake of the Avengers, I've really enjoyed the other movies this summer, and it was fun to get to do something big related to that right now. Next year, when it's all Captain America and Thor and stuff, I think I'll be able to take or leave it, but right now... it was worth it.
The guy next to me, in his second year at the con, was REALLY excited to be as close as we were. "I think I abandoned my new friends," he said, peering around. But then someone he knew, from the FRONT SECTION no less, called him over.
That made me sort of discontented with my spot – I'd lined up no later than he had, dammit, and I'd reached this section of the room earlier – but later, I took a food break and came back and saw this:
I thought maybe there'd be a little turnover between panels, and I'd be able to hop forward a row or two. When you're just looking for a single seat, it's possible, although I think the ideal team is two – one to hold the original seat, and one to look for openings. Still, I was ready to pounce on any nearby opportunities (though not to stab anyone in the eye with a pen). But it never happened. NEVER. Nobody budged all day long. I heard that some of the people who didn't make it in for the first panel of the morning waited seven hours and still never got anywhere. Now, that would be a shitty way to spend a day.
I became more conservative with my picture-taking as the con wore on, because I only had one spare camera battery. Each battery is rated for about 200 shots.
I took 700+. I credit my success to judicious use of flash.
(I will in all likelihood throw out nearly 500 of those pictures, but that's how it works.)
Next there were mini panels for End of Watch (cop thing) and Silent Hill: Revelation. I was genuinely unsure of whether the Silent Hill thing was a movie or a video game trailer. It was dreadful. The effects were mediocre, the acting was wooden, the concepts were uninteresting. The fact that there's going to be a haunted house based on it at Universal this fall got the biggest cheer, and I can see why.
During yesterday's panels for Firefly and Breaking Bad, the actors had frequently praised the writers for giving them complex, well-developed characters, and I agreed with them. Well, in this panel, the woman playing the
They were supposed to show some trailers between that and the Warner Bros panel, but I think they were having technical difficulties. Time dragged on and they eventually skipped it entirely, to my relief (if the panels ran really late, I would've had trouble retrieving my stuff from the bag check where Ken left it).
Chris Hardwick moderated the giant 2.5-hour Warner Bros panel extravaganza. (Panelganza? Panelgasm?) I stayed put for the whole thing, even the boring parts, because it seemed like it would be rude to crawl over people to go get food or take a break when so many of them were here especially for this.
Hardwick was wearing a 10th Doctor costume, and started things off with his sonic screwdriver. Geek. I like him.
As the presentation began, they drew the ubiquitous black curtains back and revealed MORE SCREENS WRAPPING AROUND THE FRONT OF THE WHOLE HALL OH MY GOD. The crowd went wild. I thought it was cool, but I hadn't realized that they didn't do this every year, that it was an actual surprise to everybody Just the scale of it, the shiny extravagance, it really was a bit impressive.
In fact, let's have a little video. Sorry, I panned a bit fast. I was afraid security would nail me for Capturing Video Of the Images The Studio Put On The Screens and make me eat my memory card. Also, that's Guillermo del Toro, so THERE. I do know some people's names.
Also, Guillermo del Toro talked about Pacific Rim. There will be giant robots.
Then they did Man of Steel, which only had like a minute of trailery stuff.
Somewhere in among all this there was a brief Godzilla trailer. Really srs bsns Godzilla. I don't know, maybe I could get behind that.
And then it was time for the Hobbit. Here I am again, taking pictures of the images the studios put on the screen. Because they were pretty and almost eerily atmospheric. It was the one time Hall H was a vaguely pleasant place to be in.
After Firefly (which totally deserved its extended standing ovation) and Breaking Bad (which also did, being probably the best thing on TV, even if Ken had to elbow me, because I wasn't really feeling spontaneously demonstrative just then) I got really selective about who I was willing to stand up and cheer for. I am of course highly in favor of Ian McKellen, but I was unsure whether I wanted to give him a standing ovation simply for being Ian McKellen, before he'd even said anything. (I honestly can't remember the final verdict.)
Martin Freeman has a lovely fedora, doesn't he? Also, they got Elijah Wood to join the panel, since he was around anyway. I think that may actually have been fairly spontaneous, because he didn't have a name tag. (I think it is awesome that he's willing to do something like Wilfred now, because I imagine he is not desperate for work, but Wilfred is actually genuinely a good show, if a really bizarre one.)
And then it was time for Marvel.
I don't know why the audience went so apeshit over Ant-Man, really. Apparently this is hotly anticipated, but it looks kind of silly. They showed us some test footage –- I actually find unfinished stuff like that really interesting, but it didn't leave me dying to see more. There's this guy, and he fights by getting REALLY TINY, which functions sort of like vanishing! And then he gets big again, and hits the other guy! And then he shrinks again, so the other guy can't hit him back! Etc.
Stuff like that just damages my suspension of disbelief. (Okay, yes, so do the Incredible Hulk, and Thor, et cetera, and I shouldn't be surprised since they are based on comic books, but I think I like them best when they stick to things that COULD be vaguely plausible in reality, with hope and sci-fi and a grain of salt.)
It did evilly amuse me when the guy with the Ant-Man footage declined to show it twice (they always show the trailers twice, but he was like, "You want to see it again? NO!").
I also was not peeing myself over the prospect of more Thor and Captain America, but, yeah, those got big cheers too. The subtitle of the Captain America one in particular made the people next to me hyperventilate or spontaneously orgasm or something.
(I sound so negative! I guess I am a little disappointed that, following the Avengers, I'm not more inspired by the future of The Marvel Cinematic Universe(tm). I mean, I totally want to see more Iron Man, because that was easily the best previous movie (even though its own sequel was a bit crap). But I don't know about the rest of it. I'd really like a Hawkeye 'n Black Widow movie, and I could be persuaded on Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, but none of that's even on the horizon. I guess it's good that they're expanding their repertoire, but the anthropomorphic raccoon?)
But Iron Man's next up, so the panel was mostly devoted to that. Let's get started!
I think Robert Downey Jr.'s entrance confirms that he is composed mostly of ham and cheese. Like a delicious sandwich.
I was very close to that aisle, just a few people off to the left, but it was pandemonium and I could barely see anything. I'm just glad the audience behaved.
The panel went by very quickly. There was an extended trailer, which I could not help watching both times. But I'm trying to forget it now. I have this love/hate relationship with spoilers.
So after that I'd been in Hall H for OVER SEVEN HOURS. I staggered out into the sunlight -- how could it still be light out?? -- like everyone else who wasn't waiting for Kevin Smith, who was up next (that was most of us). I thought I'd grab something to eat, but the panel got out at 7:00, and the exhibit hall also closes at 7:00, so the sidewalk was a sea of humanity. I braved it long enough to retrieve my bedding from the bag check, and (after wandering halfway across the convention center) realized that anything I wanted to eat was going to be prohibitively crowded. Twitter said that 15 people were already in line for Sunday's Hall H panels. Ken was still in Mythbusters. I really wanted to sit down (on something besides a folding chair), so I headed back to the Hall H line to regroup.
I hadn't actually planned to camp in line for two nights. Going into this, I thought I'd go home after the Iron Man panel, take a shower, charge up my electronics, and either catch a ride back with karenor at 3am or 4am for the Doctor Who line, or maybe even take a bus back late Saturday night. (Sunday morning buses are impossible, of course; it would've been 8:00 or later before I could get downtown.) But Ken was in Mythbusters until 8:00, and the window of opportunity was just too narrow. People in the Hall H line Saturday morning had been talking about coming right back to it after the panels were over, and I got swept up in that a bit. Plus –- last year, when we did go back at 4am, I never slept anyway. Why not just stay, and actually get a little sleep? Camping hadn't gone badly the previous night -- it was actually sort of fun.
When I reached the Hall H line, there were more than 15 people there; in fact, they were already working on a second row. Most people were standing, many of them too close together (you have to spread out a little bit to sleep). Security were trying to get everybody settled. I got a fine spot at the edge of a tent (I didn't really like being all the way under the tents -- it was nice to see the sky). I had plenty of room. It was nice. I sat down to relax.
Then some girls whose spot was between tents started to complain. There were thunderstorms forecast, they said, and they didn't want to get wet. But they had a plan! If security would just move everybody down by two tents, we could all be covered and stay dry and be happy. (Thunderstorms? In San Diego? In July? I checked the iPad; there was a 10% chance of precipitation, buried in the detailed forecast data. The marine layer's been thick lately, so it sometimes mists lightly in the morning. It does not thunderstorm. The written forecast didn't mention precipitation at all.)
Then things got confusing. The security guys finally agreed to move everybody, but I couldn't tell who they were moving where or why it made sense. I followed the people around me when we were moved, but we ended up right down by the street corner, on a muddy slope, with traffic whizzing by. There were too many people in our tent, so I barely had room to lay out my tarp. I thought about moving to the next tent, even if it meant falling back in line a bit, but with the way they'd been moving everyone around I was no longer sure which way the line went. I sat down on my tarp. There were wet, smelly plants right next to me. With garbage in them. It was just an awful spot.
So, in what was certainly not my finest moment, I had a total meltdown. I did not see how I could possibly sleep where I'd ended up, and I'd already had a perfectly nice patch of dry grass staked out, and for heaven's sake it was not going to rain. My problem-solving skills shorted out and I couldn't seem to do anything but freak out about how horrible everything was; when Ken finally got out of Mythbusters, I dumped everything on him. He was calm and patient and practical about it, though I'm sure I sounded crazy, and I probably said rude things far too loudly about the girls who'd had us all moved (wherever they were). Ken thought I should come home and get some actual sleep, but I think my problem wasn't so much physical tiredness as emotional exhaustion. It had been a stressful few days, with lots of heightened emotional states, and I thought I'd been done with the hard part, only to have this one last thing crop up. I just couldn't deal with it. I was wavering between giving up entirely and trying to tough it out, but Ken finally persuaded me that the line could not have expanded that much in the time I'd been waffling, and if I'd be more comfortable moving over to the next row of tents it was probably worth it.
So I did. I managed to ask somebody where the line ended; it was right on those concrete stepping-stone things they'd had us not sleep on the previous night. Since I was doing all this for comfort anyway, the hell with it; I moved down a little farther still, to a spot that was flat and clean and dry and slightly shielded from all the bright lights. It meant allowing a few more people to fill in ahead of me, but it was comfortable, and if I was going to be spending the next twelve hours there a few people one way or another didn't really matter. Yeah, it sucked to give up a good twenty or thirty minutes of arrival time and go to the end of the line. But I could not handle staying where I was, and this was the best solution.
I made Ken go back for my tarp. I couldn't really face the people I'd been sitting next to. I wasn't entirely sure how loud I'd been talking when I was
We eventually settled on Ken going to Gaslamp Pizza for dinner and bringing some back for me. I fell asleep before he returned. karenor and company were on the way, and I wanted to be awake, but I was feeling pretty frayed. Ken woke me up, and we had pizza and hung out a little; finally, he left to take the trolley home. I struggled to stay up till karenor got there, which took a while because even late at night Comic-Con parking is tough. She felt kind of bad about sort-of cutting in line, because by then some people had arrived after me; but given that she was just replacing Ken, and I'd given up a lot of space in line already, I didn't feel too guilty. (Although when missperkigoth joined us, I'm not sure what excuse I would've used. I mean, everybody else in line seemed to be behaving worse -- the people next to us added four or five people in the morning, none of whom even slept onsite as far as I could tell -- but that's not an excuse. Mostly it was just that the whole line thing was a mess and I'd been screwed sufficiently that I didn't care anymore.)