I joined Nerdlocker in February of 2013 and from that point on I have been trying to make my journey to the Nerd Mecca that is Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. For one reason or another, something somewhere happened or didn’t happen that prevented myself and my fellow cohorts at Nerdlocker from attending that coveted yearly gathering of nerds and geeks all flying their metaphorical flags high and god damned proud. Finally, call it an aligning of the planets, Pluto included, around March or April of 2019 it became official that I, Chase Gifford of such humble beginnings, was going to the promised land. Hallelujah!!
As the date grew closer things came together, from confirming our Airbnb to the overall funding of the trip, it was all happening. I grew more and more nervous and anxious as things became more of a reality. Brandon was a go, I was a go, no excuses, no obstacles preventing me from going. Brandon, the Con veteran, tried preparing me for what I should expect, what’s out of the realm of reality, and just your basic day-to-day necessities in hopes of surviving five days of walking and sweating and trying to see the beauty of it all despite the exhaustion plaguing your every waking moment.
A few days before the Con…
In the immediate days leading up to our trip I went over my list of what I needed to bring and did so repeatedly. I got my haircut (gotta keep fresh for the Con), had some custom Nerdlocker shirts made for myself and Brandon, and lastly, the night before, I packed. This was it, the day was here, Comic-Con was on the horizon and our fates were set. Time to go…
The drive and Preview Night…
One thing I can say is that we’re lucky enough to not be that far from San Diego, roughly a five hour drive. We drove, we talked, we got to know one another more in those five hours than our entire six year friendship leading up to this moment. After some great conversations and lots of metal soaked mayhem, we arrived at our home for the next week. We put our convention materials together and set out for that beautiful oasis, some know it as Comic-Con.
Without realizing it we arrived about an hour and a half before it officially opened so we explored what we could and waited. I waited six years, what’s another ninety minutes? After 5,400 seconds the doors opened and the journey was fully realized. I, we, made it.
I think in the beginning, particularly the first day, I wasn’t so much overwhelmed but rather just trying to take it all in. I was just trying to acclimate to this wholly new environment where being a nerd, being obsessed with movies and comics and collectibles was not only acceptable but celebrated. FINALLY! Not that I’ve been shy about my obsession with movies this was a place where I could discuss at length and be met with the same kind of enthusiasm and knowledge. Holy shit I’m not the only one!
That’s what Comic-Con is, finding out you aren’t weird or out of place, simply someone with a passion for pop culture, embrace that shit. I was among 130,000 thousand strangers I felt a connection to, it’s a feeling I’ve never experienced before, not at this level at least. I listen to heavy metal music and the community there is tight knit but you’re lucky to attend a show with more than 300 people at a time. Comic-Con is ONE HUNDRED THIRTY THOUSAND PEOPLE. I will say that part, knowing how many people were going to be attending, a bit overwhelming.
A brief exploration of the main floor, a sort of mental note taking of what’s where, we took it all in stride and got set for the official first day of being on our feet for the next ten hours, and every day after that for nearly a week. I anticipated some sweating but boy did I underestimate just how much. Let’s just say it was a lot and leave it at that.
Official Day 1 of Comic-Con…
Arising at 7:45 in the a.m. we prepped and set out for the next ten hours or so. The first day was spent primarily on the main floor of the convention center. It wasn’t long until our wallets were open and money was practically flying out at a near constant rate. This carried on for the next three days. I spent a lot of money, it was kind of obscene. But damn if I didn’t enjoy every moment of it. That said I think it’s important to remember it’s not just about what you can take home with you in a bag but the memories you make when you walk that coveted floor, especially for the first time in your life. Experiencing the insane amount of people in such a concentrated space, the exclusivity of it all as that badge swings with a kind of fervor from your neck knowing this is home. Comic-Con is a lot to take, it can be frustrating at times but I’ll be damned if it isn’t an absolute blast.
As day 1 came to a close we took stock of everything so far and determined it was going to be a long week but we were going to experience everything that Comic-Con had to offer, even if our bodies fell apart in the process. They nearly did, we aren’t as young as we used to be. No shit, that’s how time works, moron. I digress…
Days 2-4, the journey continues…
Almost immediately I noticed a pattern every morning I woke up in this strange bed: I had to remind myself that this feeling of tiresome activity was a sign of having an amazing time and to fully embrace my surroundings and those in it. “Was it worth going again?”, I would ask myself, and yes it was.
We met cosplayers, superhero enthusiasts, collectible psychos (myself included), convention newbs and veterans. We met Tom DeLonge formerly of Blink-182, Jay Mewes of Jay and Silent Bob, and numerous comic artists and writers who were all nothing short of kind and welcoming as they signed memorabilia and posed for countless photos with their endearing fans. For nearly five days it was Nerd Nirvana. I miss it already.
Beyond the main floor is a concoction of booths and displays advertising the latest in comics, movies, and television shows. In the world of television we experienced all that FOX Television had to offer. From it’s relaxing ferris wheel layered with pictures of Bob’s Burgers and The Simpsons to newer fare like Bless the Harts, to larger than life forms of beer pong and cornhole, it was a lot of fun, and completely free to the public no less. Not far from there was the Comedy Central location setup as a South Park mini-golf attraction. In the Amazon Prime section they advertised their upcoming and ongoing series such as The Expanse, The Boys, and Carnival Row. The Boys looks especially exciting and one I will certainly be checking out come July 26th. Look for Jimmy’s review of The Boys already up on nerdlocker.com.
Of all the outside attractions FX Networks was the most engaging and exciting of the bunch. From an over-enthusiastic, sign-waving Green Man from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, to an Archer themed oxygen bar to it’s best aspect, the American Horror Story: 1984 fully immersive haunted house, FX certainly did it right.
A bit isolated from the rest was the Cartoon Network section replete with Rick and Morty themed games and prizes. There were doughnuts and other assorted fried treats placed right by a phallic giant weiner hotdog meant for the braver souls to brace with their thighs and then humiliate themselves as they try to stay on top of this giant weiner. Think riding a mechanical bull but in its place is a giant hotdog. If that wasn’t bad enough the surrounding audience was armed with squeaky toy hotdogs to throw at the dumb dumbs who thought it a good idea to board this thing in the first place. Yes! Shame them!
Once the outside was thoroughly explored we returned to the main floor for more money loss and still so much sweating. Comic-Con had taken over our lives at this point and we were all too willing to hand everything we had over to the vendors all too eager to take our hard earned gains. No one complained so we carried on.
On the final full day, Saturday, we made it our mission to find certain people we knew to be attending the convention and hopefully snag a photo with them. The first was the ever-elusive Courtney Miller of SMOSH fame. She fell into the category of once you stop looking you’ll find whatever it is you were looking for. For almost two days of keeping a look out we eventually gave up and shortly after, just walking along we found her and I got my photo. Win. The next lovely personality was a bit easier to find as she was conveniently located in the Sails Pavilion for a meet and greet. Well I met Maude Garrett and what a delight she was. We talked, I got an autograph and of course that sought after photo. Thanks again, Maude.
From this point on it was mostly a repeat of looking at things we just had to see again and sometimes for a third or fourth time. It was late on Saturday when a brew of exhaustion and determination to keep going clashed leaving us wonder if we should stay or call it a convention. We bought everything we could possibly ever want, or afford if I’m being realistic, we saw so many amazing people and captured countless photos and videos of our adventures. During the evenings when the Con was closed we ventured into the local San Diego scene, particularly Gaslamp. We ate, and took in what the city had to offer. When we had nothing left we returned to our temporary home and recharged for another day of frivolity.
The End is here…
On Sunday we forwent the final day of Comic-Con and decided to make our way back to Las Vegas, where they believe in air conditioning (California, I’m looking at you!). We cleaned up, we packed and left it all behind. Well maybe not all of it. The difference now was that we were leaving with some seriously cool stuff we bought way too much of. More importantly though we were leaving with countless, unforgettable memories that I will personally cherish for the rest of my life. I became closer with my friend Brandon, I hope he’s okay with this. I learned to a greater extent that my passions are perfectly normal and there are amazing organizations like Comic-Con that celebrate just what exactly being a nerd is truly all about.
I want to end this by saying a simple but heartfelt thank you to the people who run and make Comic-Con a reality. And of course I have to thank my lifelong friends at Nerdlocker for making this all a possibility. I’m eternally grateful. You allow me to let my freak flag fly and to do so high and proud.
Is it all worth the effort?
One word: YES
Here’s to next year…
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