It was the Summer of 2009 and I was in the middle of my semester studying “abroad” in the great city of Los Angeles. When not working one of my three internships, I found myself taking in some of LA’s greatest sights: the La Brea Tar Pits, Diddy Riese, the Ikea in Burbank, etc. Before I left to head back to school, there was one last thing I needed to check off my list: Comic-Con. I’d still be in California during the event, and I bought a ticket without thinking twice (sadly, I could only get a ticket for Thursday). I told my mom about my planned pilgrimage to San Diego, and she reminded me that my dad was flying out to LA to help me pack up my apartment and move back home.
“Is it something he would like?” Mom asked me over the phone, from three thousand miles away. Would my dad like Comic Con? Who wouldn’t like Comic-Con?
Dad raised me to be the geek/nerd I am today. While my younger sisters read all the American Girl books, dad and I watched every single James Bond movie. Dad jumped on the Internet so early in its initial conception that his first screenname was Iceman. Not Iceman321, not Ice_Man457 not _______iceman__. Just Iceman, way before the other Top Gun/Bobby Drake enthusiasts could claim it.
One of the first dates my parents went on was to see Star Wars. Dad had already seen it, but mom had not. As the opening scroll rolled across the screen, mom leaned over to dad and asked where the movie took place. “Cincinnati,” dad replied.
Of course I bought dad a ticket to go to Comic-Con with me. When I told him we were going, he was at first confused, then excited, then confused again, because even though he had heard of the event, he didn’t know what to expect. I told him it would be awesome, and he believed me. I picked dad up from LAX on Monday, on Tuesday we went to Disneyland, and then on Wednesday we drove down to San Diego. Dad asked me if we’d hit any traffic driving down, and I told him, “Nah, probably not.” We sat in traffic for four hours.
We booked a hotel room about two miles away from the San Diego Convention Center, the location of the happiest Comic Convention on Earth. We arrived late in the evening, found a little pizza place to eat dinner, and went to bed early. Thursday was going to be a busy day.
J.J. Abram’s Star Trek reboot was released that summer, and I saw it far too many times at the ArcLight Dome. That morning, I dressed myself in my favorite Captain Kirk Starfleet shirt, put on my worn-out converse, and French braided my hair.
I looked at dad’s outfit for the day, and he was dressed as a dad, with a pair of black chinos, a blue striped polo, sneakers, and his flip phone securely fastened to his belt, his digital camera on the other side.
“Dad, put on the Hulk shirt I got you! If you’re not dressed up, you’ll look weird!” I reminded him, but he insisted that he didn’t want to look, ‘silly.’ Heads up, if you go to Comic-Con dressed like you’re doing errands around town, you will stick out like a sore thumb more so than anyone dressed as The Hulk.
I heard through friends that there was usually a line to get into Comic-Con, and since we only had one-day badges, we needed to get there early to pick them up. I expected the line to look something like the opening night of a Marvel movie, or the line at Diddy Riese on a Sunday. Dad and I left the hotel just before 8am, planning to get into the convention center around 9am. We arrived at quarter of, and found the end of the line. “This doesn’t look too bad!” Dad exclaimed, taking in the five hundred other people queued around us. The nice gentleman dressed as a Ninja Turtle in front of us pointed to the rest of the line. The line wrapped around the convention center, around a little inlet—twice—and then circled back, past the front once more, up a flight of stairs, and up to the second story of the building. Dad wasn’t so excited anymore.
We stood in line for two hours. The line criss-crossed itself a few times, and we kept passing the same father with his teenage son. The first time we passed them, the father looked happy. The second time we passed them, the father was not so happy. The third time we passed them, the father told dad, “Next year I’m dropping him off,” gesturing to his son dressed as Link. It was July in San Diego, so everyone was a little bit hot, cranky, and tired. But we pressed on, because with each step we inched a little bit closer to making it inside, and making it into the wonderland that awaited. When dad and I finally had badges draped around our necks like golden medallions, he turned to me and asked, “Now what?”
Comic-Con is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s like a sold out One Direction concert, but instead of tweens, it’s full of people dressed up like obscure X-Men, trying desperately to be in the same room as Joss Whedon, and huddled around TV screens, watching others play new video games. Comic-Con is magical, and dad and I had no idea where to go first. It was nothing short of stimulation overload. I know dad was completely overloaded, but he continued on through the crowds with me, probably because he was scared that if I disappeared from his sight long enough, I might actually enlist in Starfleet Academy.
Dad and I wandered around the floor and stood in line for freebies when we came across them. I was unable to get one of the iconic Comic-Con poster bags, but I did manage to get a foam hand in the shape of the Vulcan salute, so that was basically the highlight of my month. We got lost in the comic book section and stood watching Peter Mayhew (aka, Chewbacca) sign autographs.
After a while, we got hungry enough to find a pretzel cart, and the two of us sat on the floor against an Avatar: The Last Airbender poster and people watched. We debated trying to get into one of the panels, but it was already middle of the day and dad wasn’t interested in waiting in anymore endless lines. The only big panel happening that day was for Twilight, and both dad and I agreed we could skip that. Instead, we found the LucasArts booth (RIP) and made friends with other 2D adventure game enthusiasts. That was honestly my biggest take away from Comic-Con: it’s full of incredibly passionate people who just might love the same obscure stuff that you do.
By late afternoon, we were exhausted. We took one last loop of the floor and then we bid goodbye to Comic-Con. I tried to talk dad into buying me a Darth Vader toaster, and it didn’t work.
Instead, I got a few t-shirts. We left the convention center in a crowd of people waving light sabers and two people argued about how the last season of Heroes was the worst. Along the walk back to the hotel we passed a group of pirates, and four of them were dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow.
Later that night, mom asked us what we thought of Comic-Con, and I told her it was the best day ever. Ask me about it five years later, and I’ll still tell you that fateful Thursday in 2009 was the best day ever. Ask dad about it five years later, and he reminds me that he waited for two hours in the San Diego sun to get into the building, and that he was underdressed for the event. “Next time I’ll dress up, so then I won’t look stupid,” he tells me.
Good. I already have our matching Sherlock and Watson costumes ready to go.