After five days and over forty miles of walking, I really needed to rest and reflect on my San Diego Comic-Con excursion. As mentioned in my introduction to SDCC 2022 article, this is my first year attending. Despite the countless hours reading posts on Facebook, skimming hundreds of images from past conventions, and grilling my Chief Editor on how various elements worked I can safely say it was not enough preparation. Honestly, I think that is part of the awe and grandeur of SDCC, not knowing just what you are really walking into. Rather than giving a play-by-play of each day, I want to offer memorable snapshots, meaningful interactions, and engagements that I feel encompass how much of a privilege it was attending.
First Impressions Set The Stage
My convention experience began Wednesday with attending The Gray Man event by Netflix. Standing in line with other members of the press, the excitement for the weekend was palpable. Passing through the gates, we (David our Chief Editor and me) found ourselves in a square with a rolling video loop of trailers and short behind-the-scenes for the movie. Offered water and hors d’oeuvres, the line gave us an opportunity to take in the interactive escape-style event. Once navigating to the head of the line, agents ushered us into a mock training program for the “agency” to test our worthiness for the Sierra Program, an element of the movie. The full-sized tram car created by VTProDesign tested “candidates’” skill, strength, and speed. Cast members in the guise of agents provided each of us a medallion and explained our mission, then set us loose to navigate the tram car, to figure out the test of skill and strength to escape. Succeeding that we then made our way up a staircase to the top of the tram, where we had to quick sprint against a timer and place our medallion into a briefcase to conclude the training. The agents allowed us to keep our medallions as well as provided a digital souvenir from the event; the footage of our run spliced with a scene from the film where Ryan Gosling makes a similar run (though in far more spectacular fashion!). Overall, this was an amazing way to begin my introduction to SDCC.
SDCC 2022: The Grey Man Training Program
SDCC 2022: The Grey Man Training Program [The Escape]
The rest of my Wednesday evening, I made the walk up to the convention center, checking the sights along the way and getting my first introduction to the Gaslamp District. Buzzing with life, shops and restaurants embrace the vibe of the convention, with comic-inspired food and beverage options as well as employees dressed in fandom attire. This cool combination of New Orleans French Quarter at Mardi Gras and Nerdvana, Gaslamp is a wonderland with everywhere you turn buildings draped in signs and wraps, colorful images from comics, television, and movies immersing goers in an overall feel of what lies ahead for their weekend.
Reaching the convention center, I acquired my Covid band which was exceptionally easy with the CLEAR app, and then made my way for the first time through the labyrinth upstairs to acquire my complimentary souvenir bag and lanyard. (Side note – there was a bit of confusion among the volunteer staff as to where things were. This is easily understandable though given that it was the first day and everything was chaotic.) Though at times it felt like a Myst puzzle to navigate the convention center, stepping onto the convention floor for the first time was nothing less than magical. I am a veteran of conventions, having attended quite a lot of gaming conventions over the years, but nothing like SDCC. To finally be there with my fellow convention goers, seeing the booth signs, hearing the energy and excitement of the crowds, I could not get enough. In fact, I didn’t and throughout the weekend I made several excursions back onto the convention floor to just walk the sections, always seeing something new with each passing. There were several impressive displays, with countless photo opportunities or selfie spots. Literally, every direction I turned I ran into something new and striking.
Outdoor experiences were abundant this year. We explored as many as we could including the FX outdoor garden – a pop-up experience for FX shows, such as American Horror Stories that included creepy dolls in trees, the black wings instillation, the teatime (Holy Smokes, those actresses were amazing!); What We Do In The Shadows (Nadja’s nightclub!) and Little Demon. This was a great outdoor walkthrough near the waterfront. There were so many other experiences like this one dotting around the Gaslamp District for those willing to brave the heat (and humidity) and get those steps in.
I passed by the House Of The Dragon experience, our Chief Editor had a chance to go through it, be sure to look at his footage. I have heard nothing but awesome things about it and given the outdoor cast and the long lines, the hype is strong for this new show.
The other off-site experience I made it into was the D & D Tavern, designed to give participants an opportunity to immerse into the world of Dungeons & Dragons in anticipation for the new movie – Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. It was easy to see that a lot of thought and care went into the construction of this event. From the darkly lit tavern which had a cast of servers offering alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks in a backdrop of images from the movie, to a rather dapper Dragonkin and an eventual attack by a black Dragon! The gelatinous “ice” cubes, the ampersand etched mugs, the photo-opp in the back of the full-sized gelatinous cube for picture opportunities. All these elements really gave attendees a memorable experience and a quick taste of the wonder the movie is bound to deliver. While sadly it was short, I understand trying to move those lines through and give everyone the chance to experience it.
These were by no means the only events. There are just simply too many to include in this write-up. Here are a few images of other sights outside the convention hall and I am sure that there were a few I missed!
Foodie Adventures - The Werewolf!
Alright, here I am biased. Nearly every morning we went to the Werewolf for breakfast and once for a light supper. This place is just too damn cool. The staff was amazing, the food equally so, and save a creamer shortage (inside joke), I never minded the suggestion to return. This isn’t to say it’s the only place we enjoyed. There are quite a few Irish pubs in the Gaslamp that were truly delightful. Food was not a problem for us at all – something I was concerned about when we were going through our planning. Many folks who offer information regarding attending SDCC I feel don’t give a clear enough picture regarding food choices. There is a variety of food available. You may need to take a bit of a walk, but the options are there as well as decent price points.
One last bit regarding the Werewolf – the Ghostbuster’s party! I tip my hat to the Los Angeles Ghostbusters and their support of the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Great work folks, you earned a Crunch bar.
Hall H and Ballroom 20
Originally when I was looking at my preparations for attending, I had written off going to Hall H and Ballroom 20. I had read and heard horror stories about trying to get into those rooms. Of groups hundreds deep who rotate schedules to leave representatives in line and then switch out with precision based on spreadsheets of names. It seemed rather daunting, and I wasn’t sure it was really going to be worth it. Here’s where the reader is waiting for the “but” and here it comes.
I didn’t make it into Hall H. I watched the lines form, I saw the metal detectors and the diligent security measures to guide folks in, it was impressive. Still daunting but nonetheless incredible and I hand it to those with the patience, drive, and determination to get into Hall H.
Instead my partner in crime and I decided to see about getting into Ballroom 20. I had been cruising through the vendor hall and met up with our Chief Editor. He wasn’t sure what the lines were going to be like, but he was able to get in for one of the panels. Having nothing on the docket, Juliet and I headed up to see just what the line experience was going to be like. How could I report on attending SDCC 2022 if I didn’t at least try to get into one of these rooms? To our shock and surprise, we managed to get into the line – which at the time was rather short – and get into the room. We sat there with awe and wonder as we caught news on American Dad, Family Guy, the new Interview With A Vampire, The Orville, Mythic Quest, and ultimately Critical Role. We bounced up a few rows between panels, trying to get closer to the front. I also ducked out a few times to acquire us overpriced pretzels and waters to make sure we did turn ravenous in a packed room.
I am truly thankful and grateful we managed to get into Ballroom 20. I really wasn’t sure how I would take being in the room for panels. Would it be memorable? Would I appreciate even from a distance hearing the panelists speak on their shows? The pragmatic part of me recognized that I had been clocking eight miles a day walking, so the reprieve was nice, but to my surprise the panels were incredible. To be sitting there, surrounded by fans, eager to hear the latest gossip, news, and trivia about their fandoms. To get up and ask questions of their stars, to be seen by their heroes and the rest of the community, and to share a room with these folks who for many of us are just faces on a movie or television screen was meaningful. I am not sure I will be able to find the words to fully express the gravity of the moment. For those who make those spreadsheets, who coordinate the large groups with military precision to get access to these rooms and panels, I get it. Count me in next year.
Exclusives are something I am not sure I really get. I understand the lottery system, the sacred experience of receiving an email that your “lottery ticket” has come up and you have been chosen for the chance to either pick up that exclusive handbag, autograph, or sacks full of Funko. I have heard the complaints regarding the lottery system while the myriad of Facebook groups were abuzz with folks upset regarding some participants getting access to multiple exclusive offerings and whole groups missing out. Out of our band of seven, only one of us gained access to the Loungefly booth, which gave two of our group an opportunity to buy bags. (They are rather stunning bags, I must admit!) I guess I just don’t understand how the system works. I figure it's most likely weighted in some fashion, which allows some convention goers to have six opportunities for participation while some who have attended for years have never had the chance. Are there better systems? I am sure there are a myriad of suggestions. Some folks even believe that access to things such as Hall H and Ballroom 20 should be included in the exclusives. I will look forward to seeing how next year goes and if they alter the system at all.
You may be reading this article days after it was uploaded. You may stumble across this one while researching for attending SDCC years after 2022. No matter how you came across this, know that being able to secure a pass and making the decision to attend is no small matter. San Diego Comic-Con has been a staple for comics and nerdom and it’s a real treat in getting to go. You may find various posts on social media, blogs, or websites which focus on complaints rather than the positives of the event. But really, when going to SDCC or any major convention, it’s about setting your personal expectations. What are you looking to acquire from the experience? It is a pop culture wonderland, where you will be surrounded by fellow enthusiasts sharing in the current zeitgeist. Revel in the love, friendship, and excitement of those around you. Appreciate the hard work of organizers and volunteers and most importantly, have a great time!
Hope to see you next year!