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Mind Your Business: Comic-Con Alter Egos – Part 1

Part 1 of Mark's epic journey to get his geek on and dive headfirst into Comic-Con.

Comic-Con is many things to many people and freakishly gigantic to all. I hear all sorts of estimates and supposedly official numbers of how many attendees there are this year but my official counting is that it was equal to the population of Brazil.

I went there for business reasons this year. My main purpose was a heroic meeting with Disney. But like all the great heroes, my alter ego was itching to come out and get my geek on.

Alter Egos at Comic-Con. All images courtesy of Mark Simon.

It didn’t take long. My flight got rerouted to San Francisco from Florida. Then I had the opportunity to meet the Mythbusters Kari, Grant and Tory when we ended up on the same flight to San Diego. I think I spoke intelligently to them, but it might have been gibberish. Damn, Kari is even more gorgeous in person. It was a great way to start the trip.

The last leg of my trip to the Con resulted in an unexpected discussion. My cabbie and I were talking about all the costumes in town for the event. I love it. It’s true freedom of expression and unadulterated joy for thousands who hide their inner geek the rest of the year.

My cabbie, who was from the Middle East, also loves freedom, but his alter ego has a different definition of freedom.  To him freedom would be NOT letting people walk around in costumes. He thinks it’s dangerous for them to be all covered up. I literally laughed at him and told him that true freedom means that he can think what he wants and the rest of us are free to completely ignore him.

I also have to thank my San Diego roomie. If you’ve ever been to Comic-Con, you know how hard it is to find a hotel room that week. When you wait until 2 weeks before to decide to go like I did, it gets a lot tougher and MUCH more expensive. Even crappy Motel 6 rooms were going for $300-$400 a night. Fellow NCS (National Cartoonists Society) member and Making It! Cartoonist Keith Robinson shared his suite with me so I didn’t have to sleep outside of Hall H. Speaking of alter egos, Keith is also the owner of Intellivision. If you’re over 40, you know what that is. If you’re not that old, Intellivision equals 8-bit video games of the past.

I was thinking about alter egos the entire time I was in San Diego. So of course when I ran into a couple wearing Superman outfits I felt the urge to discover their secret identities. I didn’t really think either of them was the real Superman as their costumes seemed to be glued together from scraps of…well…scraps. As it turns out I was right. She’s a student and he is unemployed. Um. Yeah.

Superwoman and Superman are out of work and his costume shows it.

If you want the details of who said what and what little bit of information was pretended to be given out in the big halls by the Hollywood studios, read Entertainment Weekly or watch G4. I’m bringing you the real experience of Comic-Con. The experience a person geeky enough know lots of obscure knowledge and wear cartoon socks, but not so geeky as to sleep overnight beside the convention center and walk around the conference floor with dental floss up your ass and call it a costume. (But a huge THANK YOU to all the people who do walk around wearing that dental floss as you make our people-watching oh-so-enjoyable)

However, like all true geeks, I made my pilgrimage to Hall H, the gigantic ballroom that holds 6,500 people. This is where we go to pay homage to excessive Hollywood budgets.  However, there are evidently a few million other geeks who got in line before I did. I never made it in. The line this year is protected by 6 massive tents. Then the line went down the street, across the street and around behind the building. I actually never even saw the end of the line. I just sat on the curb and cried. Oh well, I dried myself off and then tried Ballroom 20 upstairs.

The state of California was in line for Hall H.

This line was completely different. It stretched to infinity across the roof of the convention center. Actually, it wound around the inside of the convention hall, out onto the roof, snaked through a giant tent, went up a stair case and disappeared somewhere out of site. I’m not certain there was a real end to the line. The thought of lemmings came to mind when I saw the line disappear over the edge of the roof.

By 11am on Friday morning, the line was so long for Ballroom 20 that the people at the end had no chance of getting in…until Saturday. Really. I’m not kidding.

Ballroom 20 line.

There were plenty of other events in the smaller rooms that I wanted to see, but after two disastrous failures to get into anything, I decided to spend some time on the convention floor. This is like playing bumper cars with your shoulders. At least it is near the movie studio booths, Lucas, Hasbro, Gentle Giant and anywhere that was offering exclusives and free stuff.

The crowds were not so much of a problem in the areas selling comic books. You know, those old paper things that Comic-Con is named after? Those collections of drawings and words that spawned all the great movies showcased at the other end? The alter ego of Comic-Con is no secret, but it does seem to be forgotten, when you see the biggest comics vendors placed right next to the bathrooms. The placement does sort of make sense since that’s where we tend to read comics, but it’s not exactly the glamorous floor location the namesake might hope for.

Comics are next to the bathrooms now.

The first session I got into was Greg Evans talking about his comic strip Luann. His origin was renting out a robot at parties for ten years before he sold his strip. He shared a touching story of how he and his wife had to adopt out their first child when they were too young and they re-connected 28 years later. That true-life event inspired a series of strips in Luann. This type of info is like watching a great DVD extra, except you also get to ask questions live.

Greg’s current alter ego is that he wrote a musical that premieres in the next few months. And it’s not even his first musical. He wrote one a few years ago that was based on his Luann strip. More and more I find that artists are often musical as well. (I’m not one of them.)

Greg Evans, creator of the comic strip Luann.

On my way to the next session, I ran into two Klingons in some really cool outfits. When I asked about their secret identities, one admitted to being an accountant and the other a Master Toyota mechanic.  I felt like I was living in Cliche’ Land when the first costumed people I talked to were unemployed and an accountant.

Klingons in Cliché Land.

Comic-Con is too big to describe in just one article. More info and photos to come soon. Stay tuned…

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Mark Simon is a 25-year pro in the entertainment industry as a producer, director, story artist, writer and lecturer, with over 3,000 production credits. He’s written 10 industry books and owns www.Storyboards-east.com and www.SellYourTvConceptNow.com.

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