I have finally been to a Comic Con. My friend and fellow writer, QL Pearce, and I headed to San Diego in time to attend Preview Night on Wednesday. The road trip, as always, was fantastic, and we stopped for a late lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Old Town before heading down to the Horton Grand Hotel where we showered off the effects of the heat wave before taking the short walk down 5th to the Convention Center. The crowds were thick, but interesting. On the way, we saw vans plastered with religious slogans and, in front of the convention hall, protesters picketed with signs about drinking Jesus’s blood and bathing in his sins or something. The Jeebus freaks were rebuked with good humor about worshiping Thor and other gods who know how to party.
I’d been warned repeatedly that Comic Con is a smelly convention, but we figured the first night wouldn’t be too sweaty and, despite the crowds and heat, we were right. We wandered the huge exhibition hall for two hours looking at everything from masses of storm troopers to adult magazines. We walked and walked, slowly, stuck in a mass of people who inched along like a great slow earthworm. It was stressful, not stepping on toes or ramming others. But it didn’t smell and that was something. There weren’t many costumes that night. Bummer.
Returning to our hotel, we were accosted repeatedly (in a good way) by costumed characters giving out everything from packs of gum to Hello Kitty tattoo patches. By the time we got back to the room, we had about five pounds of postcards and flyers we turned on the TV and munched a cold dinner we’d brought along. We slept in.
The next morning our feet were happier and off we went, stopping on Fifth for toast, berries and coffee at a neat little bar and grill that also gave us a drinks menu at 10 am. The servers were all costumed – my favorite was Captain Underpants. Many of the guests were in character, too, and quite a few of them had wine or mixed drinks. (The Green Lantern appeared to have a drinking problem.) We watched costumed conventioneers walk by. There was a preponderance of Wonder Women and Batmen.
After breakfast, we walked on, collecting more postcards and packs of gum. And when we got to the last stop light where overly enthusiastic traffic “cops” blew their whistles like drill sergeants and employed furiously crisp hand signals at cars and pedestrians alike, we smelled it. The Stench of Comic Con. It’s real, we realized, and it’s bad. It wafted a couple of times. The third time, I noticed a large postcard I was holding seemed to smell like a dirty bathroom. I sniffed again. It did. I had Q smell it and her nose wrinkled up like Caesar’s in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. She had one, too, and we gave it the sniff test. It was equally foul. The light changed and we carried those crappy postcards by our fingertips and deposited them in the nearest trash can before going in and washing our hands. I never knew they made printing ink that smelled bad. Perhaps the conventioneers do shower daily and the stink is caused by putrid postcards.
Inside, the costumes were great. The hall outside the exhibition area was especially loaded with them. But, oh, the crowds! It was like ConDor – a San Diego con Q and I like to do each spring – gone insane. I wanted to climb onto a bench and yell, “It’s a madhouse, a madhouse!” But I couldn’t, because there were no benches, chairs, or anything else to sit on. Tired elves and aliens lined the edges of the lobby floor and circled the pillars. There was a Starbucks but no chairs in there, either. Finally, we hit the mezzanine level and found a row of chairs where exhausted people sat. We joined them for a few minutes then headed into the art show and other things upstairs. It was open and airy and huge vents shot cold air. Heaven. Downstairs again, we hit the exhibition hall looking for goodies and Noel Hynd and his wife Patricia, who own Red Cat Press. We found them and had some fun.
At three, we met up with some friends, Mimi Chen and her husband. Mimi is a jock at The Sound LA, the best classic station in town, and her weekend show, Peace, Love, and Sunday Mornings, is my favorite. She takes you back to Haight Street in the 60s. The music makes you feel groovy. So, off we went up Fifth, eeling through the throngs of people until we got to a little Italian place that wasn’t so crowded, Firenza Trattoria. There were only a few patrons at that hour. A pair of elves sat nearby eating pasta, and out on Fifth the crowds were colorful and noisy. We all had wonderful pasta dishes followed by the best salted caramel gelato I’ve ever tasted. Lunch took two blessedly quiet hours. We geeked out over movies and books like we couldn’t at the noisy convention.
Finally, Mimi and Leslie headed back to the con and Q and I decided to hit the road. We talked and talked. We decided that Comic Con was a great experience, that it’s a humongous version the little cons we prefer, and that we hated the lack of places to sit. We decided, too, that our favorite parts were relaxing in the hotel and going out to eat.
Q is returning with her husband to the con tomorrow, so I’ll let you know if the stench has to do with people or if it’s just the postcards.
Personally, I was going to drive back down today, but I’m on deadline and I missed writing. It’s so nice, sitting here in the quiet, in the cooled air, Skypewriting in the Cloud with Alistair Cross. While I was gone, my collaborator turned out at least half of the upcoming third installment of The Erotic Adventures of Belinda, Darker Shadows. It’s full of sex, ghosts, and gothica and we’re about to read it aloud. Then, it’s on to our horror novel, which has reached that sweet spot where everything is beginning to rush to the end. It’s so much fun I can hardly stand it. Indeed, it trumps Comic Con for excitement, at least for me. The writing is great fun and, well, hurrah for chairs!
On a final note, the second installment of Belinda, aptly titled Awakening, is available now on Amazon (and will be available soon in other formats.) The first installment, The New Governess is also available.