This year’s SDCC was a very different experience. After going as a regular attendee since 2004, this was my first year as a volunteer. In return for three hours of your labor, you get a free badge for that day. Not a bad deal at all given that it’s free and getting the volunteering gig was easier than sitting through the roulette known as the blue dots of doom.
On Wednesday I dropped by the Marriott at 10:30 a.m. to sign up for a shift on Thursday and get my badge. I ended up waiting in a hellacious, slow-moving line for two hours. I guess this is “training” for the SDCC experience if you don’t know what it entails. Finally I got my badge, my free bag given to every attendee and the program books, and an assignment card for the autograph hall at 8:30 in the morning. I figured I would be done by 11:30 and I could be back in the assignment line for Friday when it opens at 1:30 p.m.. The goal was to see if I could work Hall H on Friday afternoon/early evening during the Star Wars presentation because that was the only way I was getting in.
Unfortunately I didn’t realize the importance of the assignment card. I’d left it at home when I reported in on Thursday morning. I was running a little late and I realized to my horror I had to go back in the same line to check in for an assignment. Fortunately they shooed me right in and the guy at the booth asked me for my assignment card. Oops! I rushed over to another booth, got the card printed up again, and went back to the guy at the first booth. Then I waited with a bunch of other people until another volunteer with a sign herded all of us headed to the autograph area together and we followed him to the convention center.
When we got to the Sails pavilion, home of the autograph area, we checked in with the paid SDCC staff. I quickly learned that the paid SDCC staff really runs the show, calls the shots, etc. along with the paid security staff. We were just sub-minions to their minions but given the more PC term “dailies.” Anyway, my first job of the morning was to do some bench warming at empty autograph booths until the personalities and their assistants arrived to set up. That took up more than an hour, much of which was spent chatting with the teenage volunteer sitting next to me. Then somebody came by and said they needed help managing the limited autograph line, which consisted of people trying to get armbands for various autograph sessions with the casts of Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Doctor Who, etc.. As you can imagine, the line was very long but it moved fast and needed very little management. I stood under a palm tree and watched as they went shuffling by. Soon the line was taken care of and they asked for help with the LEGO autograph line, which turned out to be relatively short. Not really needed, I went back in the Sails pavilion and I was then told by the SDCC staffer that since they had a plethora of volunteers, I could check out and go. After waiting a while to get the attention of the older lady at the booth who was in charge of that sort of thing, who looked at me incredulously because it wasn’t 11:30 yet, I was checked out and free for the day.
So I went onto the main exhibit floor and visited the Star Wars booths first. It was as per usual noisy and crowded. Right in the middle of the show area was the flying fudgesicle (at least that’s how it looks to me) from the TFA peep show trailer, which I believe had also made an appearance at Celebration. It was tough to get a look at the merchandise throughout but it was decidedly prequel-rein, which greatly annoyed me. However I dropped some bucks on an Artoo wallet from the Loungefly booth and got some buttons and a free sticker with purchase.
Over at the WeLoveFine booth I spotted a new item I hadn’t seen at Celebration and that was a Jedi robe inspired dress (sorry, can’t find it online) for only 40 bucks. Well, I couldn’t resist. I also couldn’t resist telling the WeLoveFine-rs that I’d like to see stuff from all of the movies and a Queen Amidala or Padmé inspired dress would be nice. (This is something all frustrated prequel fans should do.)
I saw that the Hallmark ornament line was short. My friend wanted the itty bitty set and miraculously, they still had some left though the Hallmark staffer holding the “end of the line” sign guesstimated I would get the last one. A few minutes later I was in line at the booth and the guy right in front of me got the very last one for Thursday. Poodoo!
I decided to go back to the Marriott to wait for the volunteer assignment line to open. I ate my lunch and volunteers started hovering near the ballroom entrance like a bunch of United Airlines gold status flyers ready to bum rush the gate. Right before 1 p.m. a huge group of military SDCC volunteers went into the ballroom. One new thing I learned is that SDCC has a separate corps of military con volunteers, mostly Marines from Camp Pendleton. As soon as the Jarheads went in, so did everybody else. I got into line and pulled out my handy dandy camp chair, an item I bought online as soon as I came back from Celebration, where many attendees had them. I knew I needed one in my life. But as soon as I sat down, a girl in a Black Widow costume started ordering everyone to get up off the floor and not sit down. My lower back was bothering me a bit and other volunteers, who weren’t all teenagers, had just come from their shifts where they’d stood for three hours. The girl behind me, who had one of those walker/chair things, very nicely let me sit for a bit on the chair. She had chronic back problems so she understood.
Because they only had a couple of people working on assignments for Friday, the line took a long time though not as long as the day before. It was 2 p.m. or so by the time I got to the line and asked if I could request a specific place. I was told no, so I asked for an early assignment again. Sure enough, it was Hall H. So close and yet so far.
After getting my assignment AND safely securing my assignment card, I went to get my free volunteers’ t-shirt at the Hyatt next door, which in reality is a long walk. After wandering around looking for the room, I finally found it on the ground floor. I took a break in the con hospitality suite–SDCC’s best-kept secret–and poked around the retail area of the hotel spa before going back to the convention center.
The rest of the day was spent poking around the exhibit hall. The Vikings booth let con-goers put on a costume, swing a weapon around, and get doused with all of the leftover studio blood from Season 3. I’m a hardcore fan of the show but I didn’t want to walk around with studio blood all over my face, so I passed. I visited a lot of my favorite booths and skipped past the golden/silver age booths as well as the small press booths.
One of the biggest jokes about the con this year were big signs prohibiting standing or sitting along the walls but just about every toy and swag line was right up against those walls. And boy were those lines long. I almost hate buying merchandise at the show now unless I can just walk up and get it. The line stuff is for the birds.
I got to see at the DC zip code costumes from the upcoming “Batman vs. Superman.” Ben Affleck must be a fairly tall guy and I made sure they weren’t platform boots. Henry Cavill is shorter but still taller than I am. Gal Gadot has to be petite, my height tops. The costume looked to be about a size 0 and her boots had big ol’ platforms. We’ll see in 2016 how she does in the heel running Olympics up against Bryce Dallas Howard.
As for celebrity sightings on Thursday, I saw many of the usual old timey t.v. stars up in the autograph area and on the exhibit floor, I happened to be walking past the WB booth as Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were signing autographs to promote this KISS Meets Scooby Doo DVD. Now that was a crossover 40 odd years in the making! As you can imagine, everybody had their phone cameras out. One SDCC stalwart missing this year was Lou Ferrigno at the Mile High Comics booth. I guess he was doing press for his cameo in “Sharknado 3.”
I noticed that while there were still plenty of cosplayers, there wasn’t as many around this year. I’d noticed this same trend at Celebration. People will always wear costumes to cons and some will go the extra mile for them but I do kind of wonder if the cosplay thing isn’t that big of a thing anymore.
By 6 p.m. I was pooped. I headed home to recover for Day Two.