Comic Con: Blast From the Past

Historical Reverie

Comic Con has grown since its beginning in 1970 from a bunch of card tables stacked with comic books to a behemoth convention.

Comic Con lobby 2001

In the lobby of the San Diego Comic Con

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.”

Comic Con Planet of the Apes Characters

Angry apes wielding sticks a la “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.

Comic Con sexy women - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Sexy women in green and red


Gothic woman at Comic Con - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Gothic woman at San Diego Comic Con 2001

Fairy with Blue hair and wings at Comic Con - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Blue hair, fairy wings and lady tattoos enter the scene

Even guys can exercise the freedom to be the female character of their choice.  All is equal in Cosplay.

Comic Con male as female character - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Man with long red hair and white dress

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.

Comic Con Bottle Cap Man - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Bottle Cap Man at San Diego Comic Con 2001

Female Klingon poses for DP Mark Schulze - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

A female Klingon poses for DP Mark Schulze

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.

Comic Con vehicle with Rob Zombie film - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Rob Zombie was ahead of his time with graphics displayed on this panel truck

Vehicle signage at Comic Con - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Sophisticated vehicle signage for The Age of Insects

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.

The Weiner-mobile at San Diego Comic Con - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

The Weiner-Mobile makes an appearance

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.

Comic Con Avatar Character - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Appa, an Avatar character at San Diego Comic Con

Over the years, the sidewalk area directly across from the San Diego Convention Center became a gathering place for costumed characters paid to advertise various businesses and protesters with signs.  Protesters? you ask.  Aren’t there people protesting just about anything these days?
Groups Across the Street from San Diego Convention Center - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Groups gather across the street from San Diego Convention Center

 

Costumed character with bicycle - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Costumed character with bicycle

Pedicab-ville

This is possibly the best time of the year for Pedicabs, as they line up in droves to carry passengers from hotels to San Diego Convention Center and back.  Typical pricing is $5 from Seaport Village to Convention Center.  It’s a good idea to ask the Pedicab driver what their rate is BEFORE you embark.  Many tourists have related their tales of woe, paying up to $30 for a ride of only a few blocks.  Other transportation options include the San Diego trolley or your own two feet.  We have to drive our car in to that neighborhood because we carry all our video production equipment in it.  But parking is a nightmare.
Pedicabs lined up across the street from San Diego Convention Center - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Pedicabs lined up across the street from San Diego Convention Center

 

Mascots

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.

Glazed donut mascot - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

This looks like a glazed donut with sprinkles and a Mexican hat

 

Neon green box with eyes - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

A neon green box with eyes attached to a leash

 The San Diego Comic Con is not only a massive cosplay fest but an opportunity for friends and families to check out what downtown San Diego has to offer.  There are probably a hundred restaurants and dining establishments within walking distance of the Comic Con. Small Bat Man gets a ride from his dad.
Young Bat Man rides on his dad's shoulders - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Young Bat Man rides on his dad’s shoulders

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.

San Diego Comic Con Floor - Photo by video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

On the floor of the San Diego Comic Con

Celebrity Panels

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.

Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolly appeared on a panel for 'The Day the Earth Stood Still," 2008 - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connolly appeared on a panel for ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still,” 2008

Hugh Jackman 2008 - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Hugh Jackman “Wolverine” made a surprise guest appearance in 2008

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.

Marines volunteer as ushers at Comic Con - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Marines volunteering as ushers at the Comic Con

Apparently non-humans frequent the halls, floors and restrooms of the Comic Con although I have never seen one myself.
Restrooms for Humans Only - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Sign posted outside the lavatories; unfortunately non-humans cannot read


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.

Avatars at San Diego Comic Con - photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Avatars at San Diego Comic Con

Photography in Lobby of Comic Con - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Photography in Lobby

 

Fat Bat Man cruising the lobby - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Check out the Caped Crusader’s double chin; looks like he picked up a few things for the bat cave

Celebrities have become the mainstay of the San Diego Comic Con.  There is no doubt that the attendees of the Con would not have grown to such massive numbers if there was not some sort of pay-off for them.  What’s the pay-off?  It’s hope.  The opportunity to catch a glimpse of a beloved celebrity.  The possibility, no matter how slim, of getting up close and personal.  The potential of asking a burning question during a panel.  The idea of perhaps shaking hands with a screen star, someone bigger than life.
Actor Beau Bridges talks about Stargate: Continuum on the flight deck of the USS Midway, 2008 - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

Actor Beau Bridges talks about Stargate: Continuum on the flight deck of the USS Midway, 2008

Comic Con is Coming

San Diego Comic Con 2016 is coming, and it’s coming fast. After a quick glance at their website, one can see that Friday and Saturday (July 22 and 23) are long sold out; these are the times when you will see the most costumed characters in every corner of the San Diego Convention Center halls. These are the two days that Comic Con fans spend the year preparing themselves for. If you position yourself in the right place at the right time with a camera, the crowds will slowly shuffle on by, providing great photo ops.Thankfully we have press credentials in hand, and so we will be on our way into the maelstrom once more, just as we have done for nearly two decades, as an elite broadcast video production crew, gathering images from the convention floor and beyond!
San Diego Convention Center, street level - Photo by San Diego video producer Patty Mooney of Crystal Pyramid Productions

San Diego Convention Center, street level


Patty Mooney is a VP, Video Producer, Sound Technician, Teleprompter Operator and Video Editor at award-winning San Diego video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions.