Comic Con: Blast From the Past
Comic Con has grown since its beginning in 1970 from a bunch of card tables stacked with comic books to a behemoth convention.
In fact, it’s San Diego’s largest convention.
It’s a wildly-anticipated venue for nerds, fans and geeks to gather together in a huge cosplay to worship some of their favorite characters and the celebrities who play them.
My partner, Mark, remembers how as a child he would ride his bike downtown to the U.S. Grant Hotel, where the Comic Con first originated. 25 years after that, he started working at the Comic Con as a camera operator and Director of Photography. Every year as the big convention approaches, we brace ourselves, as we know clients will be calling us at the last minute to work the show, and it’s not a simple gig. It has not ever been a simple gig.
The New Millennium
At the time, the costumes of 2001 seemed very cutting-edge and “far out.” Check out this Wookie in an “I Heart Yelp tee shirt.
We ran across these angry apes from “Planet of the Apes.”
Sexy women have always abounded and in fact are a signature trademark of the San Diego Comic Con. It is worth noting that the aisles at the show in 2001 were relatively spacious and free of conventioneers. At the most recent show in 2015, anyone with social anxiety would have suffocated due to the enormous number of people on the floor.
Even guys can exercise the freedom to be the female character of their choice. All is equal in Cosplay.
Bottle Cap Man
I will never forget meeting the Bottle Cap Man. I have only seen him this one time and never since. But the creativity of adhering beer bottle caps to his jacket, tie and cap, have stayed with me all this time. I have been collecting bottle caps in gigantic plastic pretzel containers ever since, with a plan to deploy an amazing artistic piece made out of bottle caps, as soon as I feel I have enough.
When Hollywood Enters the Scene
Early in the 2000’s, Hollywood began to aggressively market films via San Diego Comic Con. Mark and I scratched our heads wondering how movies like “The Wedding Crashers” and “Ballistic” had anything to do with comic books. But upon further thought, the marriage of Hollywood studios and thousands of nerds has been a match made in heaven. Now it’s common to see panel trucks emblazened with movie graphics, cruising throughout the San Diego Gas Lamp District. And some of the buildings are now cloaked in massive movie graphics, too.
Sometimes what’s old is new again, as in the case of this Oscar Mayre Weiner-mobile. We have also seen the Bat-Mobile on a few occasions.
Entrance of Video Game Avatars
The next addition to the Comic Con around this time were video game characters, like Pokemon and Avatar. This exponentially increased the number of generic characters you could see at the convention.
Some of the studios are now creating bigger-than-life mascots to advertise certain movies or video games. I feel sorry for the people who parade around inside these hot costumes on some of the hottest summer days in San Diego. Hopefully they are getting paid well.
The ebb and flow of the convention floor can be frustrating to people who want or need to move along. Back in 2001, I was wearing a mixer which was attached by a cable to Mark’s camera. If we weren’t “glued” to each other, people would move between us and impede our progress. This happened several times. What made it even worse was the producer in charge of that shoot sent us from one end of the floor to another and back, carrying the 20-pound camera and 25-pound tripod. In the business, this type of guerilla video production is called “run and gun” and it’s an endurance sport, particularly at this venue.
Some of the most popular venues within the Comic Con are the celebrity panels. Depending on audience interest and celebrity appeal, these panels occur in one of several halls. Conventioneers have been known to stand in long lines for hours simply to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars. As a video crew hired by the studios, our entrance has strangely not been guaranteed. Sometimes we have had to finagle our way into a room, stake out a spot during a panel, in preparation for the next one. Years ago, I saw Ray Bradbury. More recently, we have covered panels for Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, the CW and others.
This panel below with Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolly who starred in “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” occurred in 2008. One of the people asking questions referred to Jennifer as Jennifer Garner. How embarrassing.
People of the Comic Con
These three handsome guys are Marines who volunteer as ushers throughout the Convention Center. Marines tend to be quite beefy so they probably also serve a dual purpose of security guarding.
The hallways and lobby of the San Diego Comic Con are prime Photo Op places where costumed characters stroll around, ready to pose at a moment’s notice. You have only to ask. They love being photographed.