July 31, 2009

Too early to even comprehend, we are awake on Sunday in the very enormous Ballroom 20 teching through stuff for our panel that afternoon. On our way out, a Comic Con employee is barking at early arrivals: “Smile! You have to smile! It’s Comic Con!” When we return hours later, she will still be shouting this at the same volume with the same enthusiasm, which is way impressive.

Upon our arrival in the green room at noon before our panel, I am instructed that there is a special “VIP bathroom” we can use. It is a normal bathroom around the corner but there is a sign hanging outside reading “bathroom temporarily closed.” This is, I guess, meant to keep non-VIPs out. Makes you wonder how many supposedly “closed” things are just for VIPs. Maybe there is not a recession at all, just a profusion of VIPs-only businesses.

Since there is a lot of running around and communicating on the fly at Comic Con, this necessitates a lot of really dumb texting-while-walking. This is generally a difficult thing to pull off but becomes even more so when the feet you see walking back and forth in your peripheral vision when you are looking down at your phone have reptile toes or the boots of Master Chief from HALO or aren’t feet at all, just black cloaks rushing by, and you get very distracted.

Ballroom 20 is near the Anime hall and its surrounding passageways are swarmed with anime kids. It has probably been pointed out somewhere by someone else, but: you’re not just KINDA into anime. The shit is wonderfully specific and tribal. I have tons of respect for these kids. The attention to detail is profound: “You know that character with spiky purple hair and an impossibly big sword? Well when I dress up as that guy, I want my hair to be exactly that spiky and purple and I want my sword to be just that impossibly big.” A bunch of girls in Team Rocket uniforms are offering to wash people’s Pokemons (or something.) God love you guys.

At the panel, we debut our short film and then take questions from the audience. It’s a total gas. Again, if you were there: thanks! After the panel, we are taken back into a press room where we will sit and answer questions. There are people from another project and some other press people already in said room. As we enter, a woman who seems somewhat in charge stands up and looks at us, kind of grossed out, like we are a roach she just smashed with a paper towel and she is still holding us while fast-walking to the toilet. To our publicist, she whispers, faux-friendly: “Hiiiiii…who are they?” It’s very amusing. We adjourn to another room to do the interviews and no one in there looks at us like we are sentient tumors.

We finish out the day in our booth. An inordinate amount of the kids I talk to are from right there in San Diego. A kid we have seen a bunch this weekend, Denzel, and his buddy are among them, and they hang out for a while that afternoon. “Comic Con is all we have, real talk,” Denzel says about Comic Con as it relates to San Diego. Then he says it’s either that or smoke and go surfing, none of which sounds all that bad, to be honest with you.

The last day of Comic Con ends at five. There is a flurry of last minute buying and selling and giving-away everywhere and then the floor is cleared so we can start packing up. We leave to get dinner before returning to disassemble our booth, and as I step out into the mezzanine I realize a booth a couple doors down from us that was playing the “Where The Wild Things Are” trailer all week has given me the auditory equivalent of sunspots, burning that one section of that one Arcade Fire song into my brain. It isn’t just that it’s stuck in my head. I actually think I hear it looping and looping somewhere far away for a few hours after leaving the booth. We have dinner with some of our beloved film bloggers, new friends and old, and then we head back to the Convention Center for the final time.

A flier is hanging outside a Convention Center bathroom. It says “CAMERA LOST. JUST WANT MEMORY CARD.” It details all the unique events that are recorded on the memory card, like a daughter’s graduation. It’s typewritten, but there are handwritten embellishments all over it, like dad did the first draft on the computer and mom thought it wasn’t heartfelt enough so she went and added a bunch of stuff like “PLEASE HELP!” in pen after the fact.

Move-in was advertised as a strict and unforgiving process and turned out to be relatively easy. Move-out was not advertised as anything and turns out to be pretty much anarchy (anarchy in the ideal sense, everybody leaving everybody else alone and fending for themselves in whatever way they see fit and things getting done that way, rather than the more negative sense of grandmas getting stomped out in the street and fires everywhere). We realize that rather than undergo the whole shrinkwrapping-and-palleting Teamster process, we can just pull our van out front and bring our stuff out by hand. Dominic goes to bring the van around front and Nick disassembles and crates up the Mystery Team stand and we are pretty much done in less than an hour. At move-in, crackly shrinkwrapped cardboard footpaths were laid down between the front doors and the doors to the convention floor, and these footpaths have returned. As my feet make crackling noises and I walk back and forth to the van, behind and in front of aging dudes with gray ponytails carrying crates full of comics and Star Wars memorabilia, I get wistful. It seems exactly one thousand years since we arrived. I look out at the skyline and realized when we arrived I had it mis-oriented in my head, as you often do when you first get to a place. We stand and laugh and talk with Donald’s dad and sister for a minute, and then it is time to park the van in our hotel parking garage and get dinner and drinks and think about what a cool week we just had.

I will draw no grand conclusions here at the end of the recounting of our Comic Con 2009 experience, other than to say it was maybe the most purely fun experience I’ve had in the process of making “Mystery Team.” A thing I never got tired of pointing out in interviews was that “Mystery Team” is a story about characters who have clung tight to a childish enthusiasm you’re told you have to abandon when you enter the “real world,” and their struggle is figuring out how not to leave that behind entirely, but work it into their adult selves so they can carry it into the rest of their lives unharmed. Comic Con is a hundred thousand or so people who have figured out how to do that, how to take unfiltered childhood joy and enthusiasm and make it a part of their adult lives without compromise, to make it something that enriches the sometimes mind-numbing everyday. Everything about it made me happy and heartened. We put together a handmade booth for a handmade movie and got the kind of reaction you hope to get when you’ve made something with ten tons of love. If I met you it was a pleasure to meet you and if I didn’t, I will most definitely see you next year.

We have drinks in a lounge on the roof of our hotel. This is the actual top floor, the actual roof, after a week of “roofs” on the fourth or sixth floor. Nighttime San Diego is in every direction. At one point I am drinking four beverages (a beer, a shot, a Red Bull, a water.) I am a geek for a lot of things but most of all I am a geek for drinking multiple beverages at once. I am here to tell you, it was heaven.

Posted by DC at July 31, 2009 06:32 PM


That's an excellent commentary on the feeling of excitement one gets at Comic Con. It was really great getting to hang out with you guys during the con and see Mystery Team. It was definitely the best comic con I've been to since I started going in 2006. I guess I'll see you around UCB!

Also, your blog is awesome. I'm gonna get my hands on a copy of your book, for sure.


Posted by: conor

I know that "auditory sunspots" thing very well from my old Ice Cream Truck job. Try listening to "It's A Small World After All" eight hours a day for two summers!

Posted by: CEDownes


Yes, DC, I also had the auditory sunspots from the Where the Wild Things are trailer, but its a good song, so I didn't mind so much. Mostly just thought it was wierd.

We blasted the radio for the next two days at home, and eventually, it left

Posted by: Katy

I LOVE DRINKING MULTIPLE BEVERAGES AT ONCE! It's usually water, diet coke, and some sort of alcoholic beverage. I don't know if I've had a moment with 4 though...you win this round DC...you win this round.

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