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Avril Brown Presents:

Last weekend I attended my very first San Diego Comic Convention, and though I had tried to mentally brace myself for the sheer volume of people my friends assured me would be present, I still was completely blown away by the tremendous throngs of nerds, geeks, fanboys/girls, dolled-up dorks, run-of-the-mill nutjobs and regular folk with an over developed sense of curiosity.

Though the massive amounts of bodies in various states of cleanliness and costumes were impressive, the number of panels, events, vendors and stuff were nothing to scoff at either. At SDCC there was no shortage of things to do, people to see, and stuff to buy, meaning the Con’s greatest boon was also the most overwhelming factor.

From the very beginning I knew this was going to be a trip to be remembered in the annals of Avril Brown’s traveling history. Arriving at O’Hare International Airport bearing two airplane-appropriate carry on items and sporting jeans and a tank top (which revealed my Rogue and Gambit tattoo so there would be no confusion as to my destination), I settled into my seat and almost immediately engaged in conversation with the fellow sitting next to me. He and his brother left the wives at home and were on their way to their first SDCC 2009, so we started exchanging reading lists, nerdy stories and amusing anecdotes, and before I knew it the plane had landed and I was stepping into the warm California sun, itching to dump my bags at the hotel and begin my exploration.

I hit the ground running by attending a roundtable interview with David Faustino (Bud Bundy, Married with Children) and Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose), who were there to discuss and promote their ‘fake reality’ web show entitled Star-ving. A relaxed, semi-informal and highly hysterical interview was just what I needed to get this party started, especially since I got to brag all weekend that Bud Bundy jokingly hinted he would be willing to sign my boob.

The fun didn’t stop there; in fact, the fun never stopped as the weekend went on full speed, chock-filled with panels, parties and people. I sat in on another roundtable interview with the brilliant minds behind Radical Comics, one of the most imaginative Indy publishers on the market today, and helped Elliott Serrano film a few segments for CWR and the Chicago Red Eye paper. I attended a party where I made my own mojito and met one of my favorite writers EVER, Peter David, author of Marvel’s X-Factor. I met my editor-in-chief, the gracious and generous Marc Mason, as well as the rest of my fellow columnists, finally putting faces and a few laughs to the names I know so well.

What made last weekend such an enjoyable escape from the status quo was the instant camaraderie surrounding the entire event. From my friendly Chicagoan seatmate to the very nice women I met the last day at my hotel, one of who gave me a lift to the airport (still have to pay those karma points forward), there was a tangible aura of togetherness in the city of San Diego. You can’t swing a nerd in the city without hitting at least three more nerds, and though occasionally tempers flare when you’re crammed into a convention center with narrow walkways and one hundred thousand other people, for the most part there is a fellowship to be found at such an event that cannot be found anywhere else.

Learn something new each day, I say (or rather, I paraphrase the article/book ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’), so I take away from my first San Diego Comic Convention these lessons three:

1) Don’t over pack. Seriously. This lesson was imparted to me before I left by seasoned veterans of the Con, and though I heeded the words to the best of my ability, I’ll admit I got a little girly and packed more clothes than I should have. Through some sort of miracle, or maybe some Disney Merlin magic, I managed to fit all the books and bobbles I’d acquired into my protesting carry-ons, but it was a tight squeeze and I still have a callous on my shoulder from lugging those hefty fuckers from one state to another.
2) If you’re going to take a camera everywhere, then use it! I felt like I could have taken a hundred more pictures of the people in costumes, the city itself, and my CWR buddies at the bars. Posing can be awkward, especially in a crowded convention center, but candids are cool and the whole point of having a digital camera is being able to take a million pictures without wasting film.
3) Pick your battles. When it comes to the major film/TV panels, like Iron Man 2, True Blood or Dexter, you have to decide what is really worth your time. You have to start waiting in line at least an hour ahead in order to have any chance of getting into the room and finding a seat before the panel begins, so already you’re looking at a two-hour commitment for an hour-long panel. There’s a half an hour of guaranteed entertainment as an ‘exclusive’ preview is shown (‘exclusive’ meaning you get to see it two days before it hits the internet and reaches the rest of the world) and a moderator asks a few standard questions of everyone on the panel. Then it’s up for grabs as the floor opens for the audience Q&A, which can be hit and miss considering the people present range from super-cool to super-tool.

Almost four days of blissful indulgence in the land of nerdy nectar and abnormal ambrosia wasn’t nearly enough to abate my hunger for quality time with like-minded peers, or slake my thirst for new comic knowledge. A corporeal cloud descended over me as my plane touched down in Illinois, the thud of the wheels on asphalt sounding like cage bars slamming shut and the voice of the captain welcoming us to Chicago akin to a judge handing out a sentence: “You must complete your service of three hundred and sixty five days before you are eligible for parole and allowed to return to the San Diego Comic Convention.” Don’t get me wrong, I love my city and logically I understand there is no way any sane being could survive such a circus for much longer than a few days, but leaving San Diego last weekend felt like I was being deported from a unique and magical world I’d only just been granted access to. Like Charlie in Wonka’s Chocolate factory, there was no way I could sample everything my greedy eyes wanted to in the time allotted.

This past weekend wasn’t a vacation for me; it was a foray into another world. I started missing San Diego, the people I met and the comics I didn’t buy before I even left the city. I take away from this west coast wonder sore shoulders, a vacant wallet and lessons learned, but I have also gained a stamp in my otherworldly passport as tangible proof I followed through on a dream and traveled to the Nerdy Nebula. I met and made new friends, shared new experiences with old ones, and generally did what I set out to do: I had a fantastic fucking time. 

Avril Brown 

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