Outside of the In-Crowd – San Diego Comic-Con 2008 – A more personal account

Courtney Enlow

San Diego International Airport. It is 5:38 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, July 27, 2008 and it is official: Comic-Con kicked the shit out of me. I am dehydrated, exhausted, my nose is stuffed up, I’m nauseous and a bit shaky. And you know what? I had a pretty amazing time.

First and foremost, let’s get the negative out of the way. A lot of Con stereotypes are very true. Foul odors, fouler flesh displays and endless paranoia that somehow you yourself are responsible for at least one of the above (I went through two packs of gum in three and a half days and bruised myself pulling up my jeans and/or bra constantly fearing that I’d unintentionally display something). It was instantly apparent that for many, Comic-Con is the most social interaction they have all year. It was equally apparent that for many others, Comic-Con is nothing more than a chance to get attention, and attempts to gain as much as possible usually result in an exorbitant amount of uncovered flesh and/or constant very loud talking during panels (I very nearly racked up a body count during Venture Brothers/Robot Chicken. More on that later.)

I arrived in San Diego at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. I saw Bill Corbett (Sci-Fi Channel Crow/Brain Guy from MST3K) dropping off a rental car, but my Midwestern embarrassment precluded me from saying anything – which was really obnoxious of me actually, considering the man gave me a job and all. (In my defense, he had sunglasses on and I was only 75 percent certain that it was him I was staring at, and didn’t want to say anything unless I was certain.)

I rectified the ignoring-Bill-at-the-airport thing when I saw him and Mike Nelson at the Rifftrax booth the next day. We chatted, and they are as nice as you could possibly imagine and treated me like a friend and colleague (and not the spazzy fangirl I am) all the various times I talked to them for the rest of my time in San Diego. Waiting in line for the Saw 5 and Repo: The Genetic Opera panels, we see the woman who will henceforth forever be known as Naked Leia Tramp Stamp. She was dressed as Slave Leia, with two very tiny strips of fabric covering her front and back, and her breasts were covered in theory, but in execution, not so much. Essentially, she was nude. But most importantly, she had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lower back tattoo. She also had sadness in her eyes.

Speaking of Repo, Paris Hilton was there. She was everything I hoped and more. She spoke in her tiny baby fake-voice and pandered to the crowd saying how she’s more comfortable at Comic-Con than at red carpet premieres. When director Darren Lynn Bausman said that she was cast because of how strange and inappropriate a casting decision that is, she didn’t get it. The second the panel was over, she started posing like mad. I laughed for about an hour at this.

The next day I ran into Mike Nelson again, this time with his lovely (and VERY tiny) wife Bridget. I witness the audacity of fandom when someone declared himself to Mike Nelson as the biggest MST3K fan ever before shoving a camera at Bridget, who also happened to be a co-star/co-writer. She was Mr. B Natural! Don’t force your camera upon Mr. B. I also got to meet Mary Jo Pehl and her husband Ron. Also uber kindly. I tell them all about Naked Leia Tramp Stamp. I will relay this story approximately seven thousand more times over the next few days.

Around 2 p.m.-ish, I got a mad attack of the hypogylcies that I am prone too. With nothing else to do other than stand around and shake, I ducked into the panel for Ghost Hunters. This was horrifically boring. Only two people showed up, neither of them being Jason or Grant, the stars of the show. Instead we had Donna LaCroix, who I’m sure is a dear and lovely woman, but came off more like a post-show cast member of The Bachelor, mostly just stoked that she’s on television. Also present was Robb Demarest from Ghost Hunters International, who was a little more real about things, but still couldn’t save the dullness of this panel. I wasn’t asking for a poltergeist to rip through 6B and kill us all or anything, but some EVP samples or even some more clips would have helped.

After that, I booked up front to the seat that would become mine mine all mine for the next several hours. You see, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 20th Anniversary Reunion Panel would be happening later that evening, which is the entire reason I went to Con in the first place. Pardon me for not giving a shit about Max Payne. I was there for Tom Servo. So I claim my chair and hunker down. The next panel was for X-Box Live Content. I hadn’t read the preview beforehand, I figured it would just be a panel about video games. Ah-yawn. I brought my iPod and some crossword puzzles. However, it was not about video games at all. It was actually a panel about the new horror/comedy shorts Microsoft is producing. The panel was made up of writers and directors like Saw‘s James Wan and Leigh Whannell, Hard Candy‘s David Slade and Lucky McKee, director of one of my favorite movies ever, May. Sean Gunn was there as well, channeling his brother James (“I get my inspiration from sodomizing animals. I’m James Gunn.”)

For as much talent as there was in this room, this panel wasn’t too good. David Slade was kind of pricky and I literally could not have hated the preview for his short more if it had featured scenes of my mother being slapped around. Jenna Dewan, star of the Academy Award winning (*shakes head no*) film Step Up was there for almost no discernible reason and didn’t really say or do anything other than sit there and look waxen.

It should be noted that my feelings regarding this panel probably have something to do with the individual sitting next to me. This fellow was probably in his early 20s and was … I don’t quite know how to put this … let me just say that at many points during Comic-Con, I was very certain that I had accidentally wandered into the Asperger’s Syndrome Support Convention instead, and this kid was a key reason for this sensation. During X-Box Live, he kept falling asleep on my shoulder. Not just falling, rather he was rolling to sleep. He was practically gyrating. I, being the kind delicate flower I am, jutted my elbow out so he would hit it every time he entered my personal space. After smacking into my elbow five or six times, he proceeded to pull out a Subway sandwich made entirely of peppers, olives and the decayed remains of a sandwich he had during last year’s Con (at least that’s what it smelled like) and spent almost a full half hour eating it. I literally thought I was going to scream, vomit and cry all at once. Then I was going to have to wail on someone who in all honesty may have been slightly touched.

Next came the panels for Venture Brothers and Robot Chicken. Now if there is anything I have learned in my life as a Kevin Smith fan, it is that some completely awesome things have some of the worst fans possible. That is not to say that all fans of these programs or people are awful. Quite the contrary. Most are just as cool and funny as the fandom they share. But never the ones who ask the questions and NEVER the ones who feel the need to speak during the panels themselves.

Note to any and everyone who ever attends any event involving someone you admire leading or taking part in a discussion: No one is there to hear you. No one thinks you are funny or interesting and you do not matter. Do not under any circumstances yell ANYTHING during this panel or discussion. Don’t yell your favorite quotes. Don’t yell about your favorite characters. Don’t even yell, “You rock!” Just don’t do it. Go fuck yourself instead. Idiots.

* ahem * Sorry. I’m kind of the tiredest, bitterest little writer in the world right now. I’ve been living on Luna Bars and beer for four days. And I had a really ill-fated experience with some Dexatrim on Day One that I may never recover from. On with the Con …

After the tools dispersed, it was time. The MST3K 20th Anniversary Panel. Three words – Fan. Girl. Squee.

It was great. Patton Oswalt moderated, and in addition to being one of the best comedians out there, he is a true MSTie. He asked the questions only a real fan-of-geek-proportions would ask (such as who would win in a corporate war – Gizmonics, GloboChem from Mr. Show or Montgomery Burns, Inc.) I won’t go on too much, because the panel itself will be on the 20th Anniversary DVD release of MST and I expect you all to go out any buy it or I’ll hold my breath till I turn blue.

The next day was pretty nothing. I stayed in and wrote a bit of my next Rifftrax and shook for about seven hours (still from that damned Dexatrim. I’ll never try to lose weight again.) I made an attempt to go back to the Con and take some pictures but had hypoglycemic episode number two and had to head to Subway where I waited in line for about an hour behind people who spent the entire line comparing Yu Gi Oh cards. Oh Comic-Con. Luckily I got my chicken ranch wrap before I could savagely beat them to death with their own sparkly binders. (For those of you who are beginning to fear that I have anger and violence issues, low blood sugar makes people slightly stabby and ragey. I promise that in a normal glycemic state, I’m pretty nice almost.)

After a quick recovery nap at the hotel, it was back out into the world for the Rifftrax Live Show. It was awesome. The Balboa Theater is very pretty, and the crowd was lively and awesome. Only flaw of the night was that Naked Leia Tramp Stamp attended the 7 p.m. show, and not the 9:30 one I was at. Fare thee well, Naked Leia Tramp Stamp. May our paths cross again some day. Hopefully after you’ve laundered your costume and everything you sat upon.

And that just about brings us to present. I’m tired. I’m sick. I feel like I’ve been through a war. But you know what? It was awesome. I got to real-life meet Bill, Mike and Kevin, some of the people who are most responsible for me being a writer, and I got to see that sometimes when you meet your heroes, they’re even better and kinder than you ever thought, and I really thank them for that. I got to hang out with some ridiculously cool people and made a number of new friends, who I also thank for making my Comic-Con-virginity loss a pretty painless experience and just for being incredibly fun and hilarious. I got to stand thisclose to Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion and Kevin Smith. I got to gaze upon the glory of Naked Leia Tramp Stamp. I got to find out that Dexatrim is not a healthy way to a better body. All in all, a great four days. And if I can clothe myself in air fresheners and a gas mask, I’ll probably go back next year.

For more on the Comic-Con, check out our Hanging Around feature.

Courtney Enlow is a writer living in Chicago and working as a corporate shill to pay the bills. You can contact her at courtney@hobotrashcan.com.

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