San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) is officially over and was, as usual, a raving success.
Temperatures soared, cosplayers’ creativity reached new heights, and panels drew massive crowds. Only the lengths of its lines surpassed the sheer magnitude of its nerdiness. There were lines to get food, to use the bathroom, to use the escalators, and, most importantly, to see panels.
Panels are where fans have the opportunity to see their favorite actors, catch sneak peaks of their favorite upcoming shows, and meet other people who share their obsessions. The experience is unparalleled by any other at SDCC, and as such snags the interest of most everyone who attends. However, with SDCC’s largest exhibit hall, Hall H seating a meager 6,500 people, wanting fans are forced to embrace a competitive ardor rivaled only by Roman gladiators if they decide they want in. I am one such fan.
As a massive (and to be truthful, borderline overzealous) fan of the CW’s “Supernatural,” the thought of attending SDCC, but not seeing their annual Sunday morning panel in Hall H makes me want to cry. It only took one year of underestimating the line (and subsequently missing the panel) for me to vow, “Never again.” Sure enough, I have attended the Sunday panel every year since, and last weekend was no different.
Though I only had badges for Saturday and Sunday, that was really all I needed. Saturday morning my mother and I drove to the San Diego Convention Center, and spent the day in the exhibit hall. We encountered zombies, purchased SDCC exclusives, and swapped complimentary goodie bags until we got the ones we wanted. After a couple of hours, we’d had our fix and were ready to crash. The most efficient way to kill time at SDCC? Wait in line for something!
Intent on getting as close to the Hall H stage as possible, we got in the line for the Sunday Supernatural panel at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Camped out on the sidewalk behind the convention center, we were treated to authentic Mexican food trucks, elaborate cosplayers, and passersby who couldn’t believe what we were doing.
As the sun set over the ocean, the line was condensed, and by 9:15 p.m., we had black “Group A” wristbands around our arms – a virtual guarantee that we would be getting good seats in the hall the next morning.
When we were relocated to the tents adjacent to Hall H, everyone set down their camping gear and made a mad dash for the convention center, then exclusively opened for those waiting in line overnight. Inside the convention center, which was eerily devoid of life in contrast to its daily crowd, people swarmed wall outlets, purchased coffee for the long night ahead, and rushed to the bathroom before returning to the line. Back under the tents, cell phone screens illuminated tired and sweaty faces while lively voices filled the air. Even as the night dragged on, the excitement never ceased.
By midnight some had retired to their sleeping bags, but many remained wide awake. A great number of people spent the evening hours catching rare Pokemon, while simultaneously draining their phone batteries. I myself went on a miniature scavenger hunt, and was also able to secure tickets to an event for the following day. Unfortunately, sleep is near impossible to catch in downtown San Diego, in part because of the perpetual traffic, in part because of the pulsing nightclubs, and in part because sleeping on a public lawn isn’t the epitome of comfort.
By the next morning, however, no one doubted it was worth it. Once everyone had packed up his or her things, the line was condensed yet again, and it was time to go.
After filing into Hall H, seating was a free-for-all. While my mom held two seats towards the middle of the front section, I sprinted for the stage, and found two available in the second row. Naturally, my first reaction was to deny the existence of such perfect seats, however the people around me assured they were up for grabs. Even after my mom and I got settled, my head was still spinning at the fact that I was sitting in the second row in the largest hall at the convention for the only panel I really wanted to see.
We still had about an hour until the programs started, so I held our spots while my mom ran to the restroom, and got snacks. Supernatural was the second panel of the day, and it just so happened that the one that came before it was another favorite show of mine, BBC’s “Sherlock.”
The panel started with a trailer for the show’s fourth season, which drove fans in the crowd (who have grown accustomed to the show’s infamous year-long hiatuses) wild. Panelists included crew members Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue, and cast members Mark Gatiss and Amanda Abbington. Fans were also treated to a surprise appearance by leading actor Benedict Cumberbatch, for his first SDCC appearance with the show. The new season is set to premier next year.
Once the lights dimmed on the Sherlock panel, I was just about falling out of my folding chair with excitement. The Supernatural panel was beginning! It started with a look back on the previous 11th season, debuted a piece of the gag reel, and gave a sneak peak into the upcoming 12th season. The stage welcomed show writer Andrew Dabb, executive producer Robert Singer, cast members Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, and Mark Sheppard, surprise panelists Samantha Smith and Ruth Connell, and was moderated by cast members Rob Benedict and Richard Speight Jr. They touched on season 11’s finale, discussed dynamics and story arcs to be introduced in season 12, and took questions from the audience. For my mom, who does not watch the show as religiously as I do, much of the conversation went over her head, but to me and other superfans, it was everything we could have hoped for and more.
Naturally (or should I say super-naturally?), the panel ended much too soon for my taste. After Supernatural was a 20th Century Fox panel that split the time between “24: Legacy” and the newly revived “Prison Break.” Prior commitments required us to be somewhere almost immediately after Supernatural ended, so we didn’t stay for the rest of the day’s panels.
When I exited Hall H for the first and last time of the convention, the only thought running through my head was, “It was worth it.” And it absolutely was. It’d taken 20 hours and one bad night of rest, but Hall H gave back to me tenfold.
There is nothing at San Diego Comic-Con that can beat seeing and celebrating the shows you share your life with the other 361 days out of the year. The wait was just as long, tiring, and overwhelming as it is every year, but so too was it rewarding.