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Aug 8

The Geek Holy Grail: San Diego’s Comic Con – A Nerd Epic

Posted on Monday, August 8, 2011 in Comic Con, Comics, living the dream

In certain circles, the term geek or nerd is used to belittle someone that may frequent a comic book store or spend hours on end in front of an Alienware setup satisfying his trigger finger and COD fix. But though the intent is to scorn us for our extensive wardrobe of superhero tees and our apparent social anxiety when conversing with the opposite sex, what most bullies do not realize is that their intentional ridicule actually empowers us. They have given us a mantle to wear proudly: may it be on our shirts, in the form of circular pins accessorizing our backpacks, or more importantly, in how we express ourselves, in both our real and virtual lives. Yes, we are a long way from eradicating bullying, but every jab, joke, punch, and embarrassing moment at our expense, only fuels the revolution that NBC’s Chuck, Zachary Levi, calls Nerdolution.

What is Nerdolution? Simply put, it is being proud of the geek qualities that make us who we are. I may be tooting my own horn, but I enjoy representing my nerd tendencies, especially my love for comics. My coworkers can attest to the various knowledge I impart about both DC and Marvel superheroes and how giddy I get witnessing all the comic book inspired movies that Hollywood seems to be churning out left and right. As a 28-year old kid, I feel as if it is a great time to be a geek because we outnumber the bullies. There are more Trekkies, Gamers, Comic book nerd, and Tech junkies out there. And our community continues to grow thanks to all the conventions that are gaining popularity all across the United States as well as abroad.

As a convention-goer for the past 3 years, I have been lucky enough to experience unforgettable moments at every convention I visit. Granted that my unforgettable moments may not any splashes in most people’s pools, but I am hoping they will appreciate the fact that geeking out moments actually exist and that anyone can experience them, given a lot of luck and a positive attitude.

Case in point, this year’s San Diego’s Comic-Con International, one of the most coveted conventions that not only sold out its tickets in mere hours, but has piqued the appetite of other types of media including movies, television, scifi, fantasy, horror, manga, and video games. Scoring tickets to this convention mimicked a grueling battle of Marvel vs. Capcom where only the determined (and lucky) emerged with a confirmation email, ensuring they would be walking the San Diego Convention Center’s exhibit floor. And the convention floor is nothing but simple.

Covering the entire length of the floor are booths and retailers vying for a patrons’ attention with exclusives in forms of action figures, prints, freebies, and celebrity autograph sessions. And that is just the beginning. Each day of the convention, various panels are scheduled to appease every nerd and geek alike, where a patron can get the inside scoop on upcoming comic books news, take a glimpse at the newest and most exclusive trailers for Hollywood movies as well as the next anticipated season of their favorite television program, and even interact with their favorite actors or directors during the Audience Questions segment of each panel. Rubbing elbows with Hollywood and television celebrities as well as comic book royalty could not be easier. And you do not want to get me started on booth babes and cosplayers!

But San Diego’s Comic-Con International, along with other conventions, is not for the faint of heart. Not only is it synonymous with waiting in long lines, excessive crowded areas preventing you from walking a few feet in front of you, and unpleasant body odor, but the experience does not come cheap. When I visit San Diego every year, I am adding a round trip flight, hotel accommodations, food expenses, and retail purchases to my running tally whose final cost will make anyone question the reality of spending that much money in such a short amount of time. These conventions are a geek’s casino; more often than not, we are freely imparting with the hard earned money we earned (or borrowed from our parents).

Even with the credit card debt, I, personally, can not fathom not visiting Comic-Con every July. You could make the comparison that a pilgrimage to San Diego needs to be made every year to pay respects to Marvel studios in the hopes that they will stop messing with Spiderman’s life. Or a yearly trek to what Ron Burgundy calls “The Whale’s Vagina” will ensure that good karma will surround all upcoming geek-influenced films and television shows, including next year’s The Avengers, the next installment of Underworld, HBO’s Trueblood, and the Lord of the Rings-esque Game of Thrones, also on HBO.

In my case, I pay homage to Danger Girl’s, J. Scott Campbell. Like kryptonite, I am powerless to stop money leaving my wallet for Jeff’s phenomenal sketchbooks and prints. As an added bonus, I actually have the chance to speak with the talented genius himself as he autographs my recent purchases. Comic-Con promotes the opportunity to say hello to these celebrities in the comic book industry and really converse with them. This face time is rare, especially with writers and artists not from the area, like the Texas based Josh Howard, creator of Dead@17. Though I am lucky to be twitter friends with him, it is a lot more meaningful for me to chat face-to-face about his amazing books and the future of Nara Kilday.

Posing w/ Josh Howard after he signed my trade paperback copy of Dead@17: Witch Queen.

And the opportunity to speak with these comic book titans does not end there. Countless artists sell their wares or take commissions at Artist Alley, a section of the exhibit floor showcasing the most talented individuals in the industry. I was able to meet Alex Garner for the first time and pick up a limited edition print he created for this year’s convention. His gorgeous artwork entices me to find him at other conventions where I can support his talent and get his take on Wonder Woman’s costume and the like. Just by walking through this area, a comic book fan can come across new artists and amazing artwork to add to his or her collection; a great place to start for new fans as well, both young and not so young.

This year’s convention introduced something new and rather innovative, organized by Zachary Levi’s nerd apparel company, The Nerd Machine, targeting geeks alike and not just Comic Con badge holders. These “Conversations for a Cause” brought together icons in both film, television, and the video game industry for an hour chat in an intimate setting of 250 people whose ticket sale proceeds went directly to Operation Smile, a charity dedicated to healing cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities. At its core, these “Conversations” gave fans a chance to have a Q&A session with their favorite geek icon, and not being limited by the generic, pre-determined questions that most Comic-Con panels begin with. And an important thing to note is that all advertising and promotion of this event was solely done utilizing social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

I had the honor and pleasure to attend the “Friends of the Nerdolution” conversation that included NBC’s Community star, Danny Pudi, SyFy’s Caprica hottie, Alessandra Torresani, The Voice‘s social media correspondent and geek babe, Alison Haislip, NBC’s Chuck himself, Zachary Levi, Perfect Couples star and every fanboy’s dream girl, Olivia Munn, Lost actor and the extremely funny, Jorge Garcia, and Zachary Levi’s Chuck costar, nicknamed “The Bearded One,” Joshua Gomez. Color me lucky when all these extremely talented and funny individuals were introduced because as a geek fan of each, I found myself checking if this was a highly intricate and fabricated inception dream!

My Nerd HQ shirt, signed by the “Friends of the Nerdolution” panelists.

Spending an hour with these celebrities and being able to speak with them at the autograph signing afterwards while all proceeds go to charity felt too unreal. “Too good to be true” came to mind, but this was not a trick. The Nerd Machine converted San Diego Gaslamps’ Jolt’n Joe’s bar and upstairs area into Nerd HQ, a place where nerds can come support an awesome charity, play video games, get some food and beverage of choice, and purchase t-shirts, posters, hats, and even flash drives to show appreciation to all that Zachary Levi has cooked up in his ingenious mind. And rumor had it that Zach, along with his celebrity friends, made appearances several times throughout the length of the Con, including a rather humble and appreciative thank you from the stars of Chuck during the official NerdTweetUp on Saturday night that left me speechless.

Though I found myself at Nerd HQ more times than I can count hoping to grab a drink with Zachary Levi and his friends, this year’s Comic-Con held much more in store for me in terms of rubbing elbows with celebrities. Being the biggest nerd out of my circle of Google+ friends, I planned out everyday of the convention, which panels I truly wanted to attend, the exclusives I wanted to buy, and the autograph signings I would fall in line for.

This year, my main goal was to meet the cast of NBC’s Chuck, since the next season airing on October 21st at 8pm Pacific would be the series’ last. I had been trying to meet them ever since my first Comic-Con in 2009, and was positive I would this year, but Warner Bros. restructured their autograph signing policy, leaving my a bit apprehensive of my chances. Instead of waiting in line near the Warner Bros. booth Saturday morning, a lottery would be held where fans would attempt to draw a winning ticket from bags held by volunteers (to keep the line flowing, there were two volunteers each holding a bag).

Majority of us stood in line for 2+ hours before getting our chance at the hologram-like signing bracelet, but we knew it was a steep hill to climb. With only a few winners already, I was not feeling too confident, but after deciding to try my luck at the volunteer to my right, I placed my hand inside the bag, swirled the tickets around, and literally willed my Green Lantern replica movie ring into action. There must have been something that Batjeepster did when producing that ring because I drew a winning ticket, leaving me stunned beyond belief! A sly smile crept across my face as they latched the signing bracelet onto my wrist and I desperately tried not to run around Sails Pavilion mimicking the scene in Elf where Will Ferrel is frolicking around yelling “I love her and I don’t care who knows it!”

My Chuck autograph signing bracelet

Sometimes the journey is better than the reward, but in this case, my little geek heart was swelling with pride and anticipation as I filed in line at the Warner Bros. booth for the meet and greet. In retrospect, I felt like a kid at a candy store, beaming from ear to ear as I was able to fulfill my goal of meeting the cast of Chuck and finally let them know how much I appreciated them. It is a funny concept, appreciation. Co-creator, Chris Fedak, mentioned how everyone was appreciative of the fans and the support they have received, but I told him that he had instigated the entire thing. I told him that it is us who should be thanking him and Josh Schwartz for coming up with the concept of Chuck. They created something that gave us fans something to cheer about and fight for. And boy have we fought. And as a fan of the show, the actors, cast, crew, and writers, being able to express my appreciation with a simple handshake, smile, and “you are so awesome”, makes the waiting in line for hours on end that much more worth it.

Chuck himself, Zachary Levi, at the Warner Bros. booth

In terms of accomplishments, I had already fulfilled my quota tenfold, but I like to think Comic-Con is a magical place where anything can happen. And boy was I right! When Comic-Con descends on San Diego every year, the surrounding areas rise to the occasion. Hotels closest to the Convention Center advertise the newest video games and upcoming movies while the Gaslamp district showcase posters in shop windows and on light posts.

The Hilton had a large Cowboys and Aliens poster that vertically spanned several floors. Being a Jon Favreau fanboy since he directed Iron Man, I had his newest movie on my list of summer movies to catch, but I never expected to get a chance to watch the movie at the World Premiere on Saturday evening. How did I get this honor? Simple, being at the right place at the right time.

Most geeks are familiar with G4′s Attack of the Show!, a television show reeking of nerd pop culture hosted by Kevin Pereira and Candace Bailey. Prior to visiting San Diego, I relished watching G4’s Comic-Con coverage. So naturally, swinging by the G4 booth was a priority. It was here where I was lucky enough to be in line to meet X-Play‘s Adam Sessler and overhear G4 had planned a signing with Jon Favreau. And because of this random opportunity, I was a lucky fan that received a golden ticket to attend the World Premiere of Cowboys and Aliens and preview the movie with the actors, writers, and producers a full week before the actual release.

Cowboys & Aliens golden ticket winner

Jon Favreau converted an opera house for the movie and as a master stroke of appreciation, he provided appetizers, drinks, and music for the 2000 lucky fans on the red carpet where the movies’ celebrities strutted down hours before. Needless to say, this memory was the highlight of my trip. Yes, such a difficult choice between several awesome moments, but who can say they attended a Hollywood movie premiere held in San Diego and partied on the red carpet afterwards?

At this point, I have to note that this Comic-Con trip consisted of many unforgettable moments that may or may not happen to everyone. Not only did I fulfill my Comic-Con goal of meeting the cast of Chuck, but I was able to meet several geek icons as I supported a charity and attend the World Premiere of Cowboys and Aliens. A part of me realizes that this was my best Comic-Con ever and that the future ones will probably fall short. So I consider myself a lucky nerd and will continue to hope that my future visits will live up to my 2011 experience.

The most famous of the Goonies once said, “This is our time.” I would like to think that Mikey was right because it is our time. As geeks it is our time to shine, whether it be at a convention, online via social media, or in our daily lives. As nerd pop culture continues to find its way to the forefront, the stereotypes will begin to disappear. More and more people will be proud of their affinity for comic books or video games, and not just the quote-unquote nerds. So wear the mantle proudly, my fellow nerds, and I’ll see you at next year’s San Diego Comic-Con. I’ll be the geek with a huge smile on his face, sporting either a Brightest Day shirt or cosplaying as a steampunk Captain Mal Reynolds.

Viva La Nerdolution!

To see some pictures I took from this Con, click on this link or this one.

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