“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon said that. He might not have ever attended Comic-Con, but Mr. Lennon may as well have been describing my time in San Diego when he said it. Every amazing thing that happened, happened without plans. But more on that later.

San Diego Comic-Con 2011 was a whirlwind of comic-related insanity. On the outer edges of it, Hollywood peddled its wares. Shows like The Big Bang Theory, Fringe, and Supernatural received their standard treatment. The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man were the new buzz movies, both releasing their first trailers this past weekend. But at the core, as always, were some damn good comic books. For a while, there has been the talk of the scale of SDCC. Its size and the ever growing corporate presence. Try as they might, comic books remain the heart of the show, the unifying factor.

This was my second Comic-Con. Last year was my first. Even with WonderCon and APE under my belt, I still had no idea what to expect. It was overwhelming and I think I personally missed some opportunities. There is too  much going on that a person can see the whole convention, but still miss everything. Stand in line for the wrong panel and you miss the signing by your favorite writer. Wait too long to meet Lou Ferrigno and the panel for your favorite show fills up before you get there. So much of Comic-Con is simple timing. Thats the difference between getting to a screening with the cast/crew and watching the encore playback later that night. And you have to be willing to improvise. Just because you missed what you WANTED to see, doesn’t mean there’s NOTHING to see.  It was that willingness to seek out what else there was that set the standard for my experience at SDCC.

It started with Mark Hamill. For some reason, I landed on so many more press release mailing lists. Within the first day of press releases, my INBOX was nearly doubled what I had previously. I was determined to have a more presence as a member of the press this year. In the bombardment of everything last year, I did not follow through as well as I should have. I was either distracted or too wrapped up as a fanboy to stick to a journalistic ethic. And so, when I learned of the Arkham City press roundtable, featuring the classic Batman TAS actors Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy, I jumped at the chance. It was here that I realized the true fun of SDCC.

In retrospect, we shouldn’t have picked the table in the middle. The press room was divided in two. The bloggers were put at the tables while the video crews were set up against the SDCC backdrop.

This took place in a meeting room, but you wouldn’t know it.

The group of guys that I ended up sitting with were the most rambunctious out of everyone that was there. We had more fun waiting for the interview than the actual interview we got (which was with the always interesting Paul Dini. The celebrities only talked on camera). But that was more or less the gist of my Comic-Con. I had more fun between the cracks than at any of the actual events at SDCC. While looking for a party, I met the girl in charge of Doctor Who’s international branding (the lovely Kate). On my way out of the convention, I ran into Joss Whedon on accident.

Literally the last person I interacted with at Comic-Con

I believe that is the key to Comic-Con. Being willing to change a plan at a moment’s notice. Panels fill up quicker than you have time to get there. Lines are cut off for signings. A successful attendee of Comic-Con must always have a back-up plan and a comfortable pair of shoes. The shoes part is definitely key. I had a standing date to interview Joe Hill, but his schedule didn’t line up with mine until Saturday night. But being willing to wait and come back, to improvise, made it possible for me to get the interview. I won a print of Conan O’Brien’s The Flaming C, signed by him and Bruce Timm because a panel was full and I went somewhere else. And having a great group of friends going with you always helps. I had my buddy Anthony and he brought two friends, Travis and Rich, who, through the fires of SDCC, quickly became my friends as well (they are the lovely gentlemen in the Video Diaries).

Comic-Con is the same hyper-reality that exist at summer camps and business retreats. You are surrounded by people who, at best, share the same interest as you or, at worst, are stuck in the same hell as you. Acquaintances become long-time friends in a matter of hours. It is a lovely system of friendship that I always have enjoyed at events like this. Intimacy, inside jokes and friendly short-hand are forged in being crammed together into the same line for the cast of Bones. That is what SDCC has become for me. Again, like last year, I was held up on this post. But this year, it was because I was moving more than I was having an identity crisis. It was because I realized what Comic-Con will always be and I wanted to make sure that I got that across.

Over the past decade, SDCC has exploded. It is so huge that there are constant threats of it being moved because the San Diego Convention Center can’t hold the people anymore. Comics are getting their time to shine, something that has been in the making since their heyday in the 30s and 40s. This is the moment. Maybe the convention will become THE EVENT of Summer. It basically is now anyway. But when you read about it, you only see the shiny Hollywood folks, the big network coverage. You don’t see the average fan, just looking to get an autograph from Judd Winick or Gail Simone. You see the hyper-reality, but since you weren’t there, you don’t see the reason for Comic-Con in the first place. As big as it has gotten, it is only that way because the passion of the fans. The people who camp all night for Doctor Who, who spend a full day in line to get a portfolio review, who wait in line for a shot at next year’s tickets. Robert Downey Jr. didn’t make Comic-Con. Stan Lee didn’t make Comic-Con. Anthony Marefat made Comic-Con. Travis Lenne made Comic-Con. Richard Morgan made Comic-Con. It is the fans and their passion, the hundreds of thousands of people who share stories and experiences with the people around them. The people you don’t read about, but without, there would be no news to read. This post is for them because not too many posts are.

Comic-Con 2012 is next July 11-15.

I cannot wait to go back.

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