As I mentioned on Twitter, I decided to focus my blog about Comic Con not on the panel itself (because surely be now you’ve heard all the juicy details – those tweeted by both HBO and the fansites alike) but instead on the experience, so that you too.
Con attendees around you are straggling back into the hotel as the after-con parties empty out. But not you! Nope, you’re bundling up to head out and get cozy on the nice hard sidewalk, or the itchy door-mat like carpet outside the hall doors if you’re lucky. If you had the space, and depending on how many panels you planned to camp for, you may have even brought your own sleeping bag, or collapsible fabric chair to sit on. The most hardcore of fans have come even earlier, the line for Ballroom 20 officially started at 5 pm on Friday. You opted for some sleep so at least you’ll be awake when the panel comes. Fortunately, the weather cooperates.
Huzzah! The building opens and the line moves! You power-walk about six blocks to get to the next line where you’re herded like cattle through the world’s longest amusement park ride line. You pass signs that cheerfully announce that if you’re stuck waiting there there are [x] number of people that must enter the room before it’s your turn. The last one of these signs reads 2250 people. Luckily for you, you’re close enough to the front that you’ll know you get in. You settle down for another two hours of waiting in cramped spaces to get in. You’re still fortunate. At one point in the day the line will stretch out over two miles and have at least 10,000 people in it. The Ballroom sits about 5,000.
Huzzah! The line moves again! With the help of a crossing guard, you’re finally allowed into the Ballroom! There is a slight scrum for seats, but you nab one, nice and center and even better, the people are still people size. You read the rules “Don’t leave during a panel, 1 question per person, not all people in line will get to ask questions, don’t make personal requests” and get a bathroom pass so you can go then grab a bite to eat. You settle back in and anxiously await the first panel of the day at 10:00 AM.
10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Panels start! Although content varies, most will follow a variation on the theme:
1. The panel will be introduced (in some cases this may be after 2). The panel usually consists of actors and executive producer, and possibly a writer or two, especially if it’s an animation panel. True Blood is almost certainly the biggest group of the day. This year, they had to add another table to the stage to accommodate them all.
2. Special footage will be shown. The nature of the footage depends on the nature of the show and where in the process they are. New dramatic series will show their full pilots. Shows like Once Upon A Time, which have just begun to shoot the week before don’t have new footage, but showed special splash cards to tease upcoming characters and a funny spoof commercial related to the series. Others like True Blood will show extended trailers and/or snippets of future episodes.
3. The panel begins to talk. This is where things start to truly vary from panel to panel. Some are very formal and very on point – True Blood tends to be one of these, if for no other reason than there are so many on stage you have to have some kind of order to get anything done. Others are very relaxed and don’t have much of any purpose. The Warehouse 13 cast, for example, discussed the conjugation of “To Tweet” and debated whether “twat” was the past tense of to tweet. Depending on the panel this section will either take up a very long or very short section.
4. Audience Q &A and interaction. Again this varies quite a bit. Some have a ton of it, some don’t have very much at all. Go to a Seth McFarland panel and if you go up to the mike you stand a very good chance of getting heckled by the panel. The Vampire Diaries demanded they turn the mike back on for a girl who had violated the rules and made a personal request. Futurama had a costume contest and a drawing contest between Matt Groening and the lead artist. The Vampire panels (TVD and True Blood) kept these sections short. Be aware that you’ll meet some strange people there. Hopefully they will be of the strange, but harmless camp versus the strange and truly creepy. You’re most likely to get questions that you’ve heard of before. If the panelist isn’t a star of the show, or a major star in their own right they likely won’t get to say much of anything unless the collective group is asked something. Moral: if you’re a fan of a supporting cast member try to ask them something! They’ll love you for it.
Likely there will be at least one series in there that you don’t watch/don’t care for, but then you can be pleasantly surprised by them too, or you find a new person to follow on Twitter. While waiting for the panel that you want to see, keep an open mind.
The convention kicks you out of the Ballroom with kind words and reminds you to throw out your garbage. There are still other panels to be had and signings to go to. You can pick up your official swag bag from the Fulfillment Room. Or you just may be starving from not leaving the hall all day and go seek out food. Or exhausted because this was [x] night camping out on the sidewalk. Either way, you survived and got to see your favorite cast up on the stage! You got to see the small interactions that go unrecorded and hear everything, not just what the official accounts tweet. You got to meet some awesome people around you and marvel at the insanity that is Comic Con.
Hope this gives ya’ll an idea of what it might be like to attend, and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.