If last year was an off year for me at SDCC, then this year more than made up for it. A lot of it was due to luck, some of it was due to experience, but most of it was just down to having good quality programming at this year’s con. Here’s the recap!
LOL J/K IMMA TALK ABOUT THE RAMEN FIRST. But seriously though. Every year I fly into San Diego, and every year I capitalize on the fantastic ramen that the west coast has to offer. I met up with a kind follower from twitter for a ramen dinner at Menya Ultra Ramen and HOLY HELL. Y’all. I’ve eaten a lot of ramen around San Diego over the years. A lot. And I just found the best goddamn bowl I’ve ever had in the city.
Everything about it was perfect. Noodles, broth, chashu slices, the marinated egg. Every. Single. Point. I still have a lot of love for Yakyudori Yakitori, but Menya shot straight to the #1 spot on my San Diego ramen list.
THE EXHIBITION HALL
Okay, NOW I’ll talk about the con. 😀 I’ve come to find that the longer I go to San Diego Comic-Con, the less excited I am with the exhibition hall. Nevertheless, it’s still an impressive display for all the big studios and artists to show off their goods and bring in interest!
Hall H. Oh, you tempting, tempting bastard. I’d camped out for Hall H twice in the past and had a great time, but I also decided that twice was enough. I would’ve loved to sit through a Saturday Marvel panel some day, but most of the time the Marvel panel was the only one I was interested in on Saturday lineups. It didn’t seem worth it for me to camp out in line and then spend my whole day in Hall H just for the last panel of the day. Until I saw this year’s Saturday lineup. Holy shit.
For the first time in years I seriously considered going for it. I wavered a bit, and then I got a message from a generous follower on twitter who offered to let me join her line group for Hall H. I’d never done the line shifts before (never got a group big enough), but for spending a couple of hours in line to hold the fort I felt like it was an easy time investment vs. camping out the whole day, and if we didn’t end up with wristbands then no big deal, I’ll just enjoy the rest of my Saturday. But guess what? WRISTBAND ACQUIRED. OMG I’M GETTING INTO HALL H ON A SATURDAY.
And the panels were EPIC. The only letdown was the Westworld panel due to extremely poor moderating, but otherwise it was a day packed with seeing awesome sneak peeks, fun Q&A sessions, and I FINALLY GOT TO SEE A MARVEL PANEL.
Bucket list within a bucket list achievement unlocked! If there was a year for me to do a “one time only” Saturday Hall H, this year was the year to do it, as I got to see the likes of stars ranging from fresh faces like the kids from Stranger Things and the casts of all the latest superhero movies, to the timeless movie giants like Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford. Thank you thank you THANK YOU to Amanda & co., I never would’ve made it in without all your help! I can finally mark off “see the Marvel panel” from my SDCC to-do list. NOW I can say I’m done with Hall H. I think. For now. 🙂
THE OFFSITE EVENTS
I keep saying that the offsite events get better and better each year, and this was no exception.
The highlight of SDCC 2017 for me. The Westworld offsite event was hands down one of the best offsite events I’ve attended in my 7 years of going to SDCC. My friends and I got lucky in that we’d heard about this super exclusive event before SDCC even started (thanks to SDCC unofficial blog!) and decided right away that we were going to sign up for this based on blind faith that it was going to be something great. We got in line at 5:30am on the first day before all the hype started rolling out and had no problems getting a spot.
It was seriously one of the most incredible things I’ve experienced at the con. The setups were beautifully done with amazing attention to detail, and the hired performers were so, SO freaking good. Overly polite and robotic, to the point where it was a bit unsettling. You started out in the “lobby” of Westworld where you could browse through actual props and costumes from the show, and then you were escorted down a hall to wait for your assessment. Everything was in pristine condition, and every sign in the hallway was replaced with Westworld signs. There were also subtle easter eggs scattered around, such as a Samurai World door in the hallway, complete with the sound of clanging swords coming from behind it.
Once they were ready, your host would escort you to a room where they performed an assessment on you to determine what kind of hat you would get for your “stay” in Westworld. You’re seated in a dimly lit room for a one-on-one conversation with a host who asks you several questions about yourself. Normally I’m all about recording and taking photos of things like this, but the performer was so good at making the conversation feel real that I actually felt awkward about pulling my camera out. After they help you select a hat, they ask you to take a look in the mirror to make sure everything looks alright, and in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, the mirror flashes and you’ll see a man in a hazmat suit staring back at you from behind the mirror. Creepy as hell, and the host smiles at you as if nothing is wrong. That’s what made the entire Westworld experience so good…it was so beautifully subtle and (unsettlingly) grounded in reality. It wasn’t an overt “YEEHAW!! COWBOYS ‘N GUNS!” kind of gig, and that’s what made it feel so much more immersive because you honestly felt like a participant and not a spectator. You’re later faced with a terrifying “malfunctioning” host portrayed by an actress who was REALLY good at convulsing and giving a dead-behind-the-eyes stare the whole time, and when she came back “online,” she gave a horrifyingly creepy smile and led us to the Mariposa saloon where you’re met with a courtesan host for drinks.
Again with the attention to detail: for a free event, they could’ve easily given us cheap Koolaid punch served in plastic cups, but instead each drink was a crafted cocktail made to order and all served in quality glassware. The drinks were legitimately delicious, and I actually tried asking for the recipes on twitter afterward!
I tried saying “FREEZE ALL MOTOR FUNCTIONS” to our host, but she gave a coy smile and said “I’m sorry?” and sauntered off. Looks like I didn’t have access to those commands. 😉 And the hat we got? When you google the label on it, it retails for at least $160 a pop. For an almost-lifelong Texan, I’d never owned a cowboy hat until now, let alone a high end one! They seriously spared no expense to replicate this “luxury resort” experience. If you’re a fan of the show and the experience shows up at any other conventions around the country, I’d highly recommend snagging an appointment the first chance you can get.
The Blade Runner Experience:
Also very cool and MOAR FREE BOOZE. Thanks to this one I ended up taking 3 shots of whiskey first thing in the morning. Another really fun immersive experience where you’re taken into a recreation of Los Angeles 2049, with costumed performers interacting with you, whether it’s a prostitute eyeing you up and down or a policeman interrogating you. There was also a VR experience paired with it, and while I usually don’t care for VR sets, the Blade Runner experience had a fantastic setup where you’d be in a car chase scene on your VR set, and when the video was over, you’d take your headset off and OH SNAP LOOK IT’S THE CAR YOU JUST CRASHED. Fantastic way to segue from the VR experience into the real deal. And you got free noodles and whiskey! Another two thumbs up for this offsite experience. I promise the free booze had very little to do with it. 😉
I know I shouldn’t complain about free stuff. It’s FREE. But…BUT…did anyone else feel like this year’s swag grab was underwhelming compared to previous years? I feel like every year there’s usually some piece of swag that will make everyone say “oh wow, where’d you get that?” Whether it’s a cool hat, a nifty keychain, or a spiffy water bottle, there’s usually SOMETHING that’s somewhat of a coveted item when it comes to swag. The only one I could think of this year was the the Stranger Things hats, and even then you had to wait in line for hours to get one of those, if they had any left to begin with. Previous years brought on headphones, portable chargers, collapsible cups, berets, all sorts of fun stuff. This year it seemed like it was all posters and flyers. But hey, free stuff is free stuff, so who am I to complain? 🙂 My swag haul gets smaller every year, but I like to think I got some decent stuff this time around.
Other fun stuff:
This was a fantastic year for me, thanks to so many other fun things that happened around the convention:
- Conan O’Brien taping: Conan O’Brien tapings have now reached Hall H levels of hype, but if you’re lucky enough to snag a ticket online, it’s still a super fun thing to do outside of the convention, and you get to walk away with one of the most coveted pieces of swag of the con! I went to Thursday afternoon’s Kingsman cast taping, and I got the one Conan Pop that I really wanted, the Jedi Conan!
- Celeb sighting: Adam Savage from Mythbusters! I saw Adam Savage from Mythbusters on Wednesday afternoon, but it wasn’t just any celebrity sighting. I was having some beers at Mission Brewing, when I heard a ridiculously loud roaring outside. It’s entirely too loud to be an airplane flying overhead, and everyone looks outside to see what’s happening. You guys, there was a dude zooming down the street on a FUCKING JET PACK. With Adam Savage in tow! I may not have had the “omg I ran into Gal Gadot and got a selfie with her!” story this year, but dammit, I GOT TO SEE A MAN FLY ON A JET PACK. I’d say that’s pretty epic. 🙂 Official tested.com video footage of the jet pack can be seen here!
- Breathalyzer?? Okay, this was just plain fun. On the way back from the Westworld experience there was a table set up on the sidewalk by the San Diego Police Department offering free consequence-free breathalyzers to raise awareness about drunk driving. I just downed 3 drinks at the Westworld experience and I’d never blown a breathalyzer before (and I hope I’ll never have to), so I figured this would be a fun way to see how it’d go. Three drinks down and I was still under the legal limit! W00t! Not sure if I could still say the same later in the night, it was fun seeing how everyone else’s breathalyzers compared too. 🙂 Bottom line: don’t drink and drive. You don’t have to be drunk to be over the legal limit, play it safe, for yourself and for others on the road.
And of course, the drops! I’m currently drafting up a separate post for the drops, but for having the largest undertaking of drops that I’ve ever done, I’d say it went pretty damn well! I flew into San Diego with a duffle bag of 44 critters, which expanded to 49 critters with a last minute addition of 5 more pieces, and out of all that only 6 were missing! Woohoo! More on that to come, but otherwise while I’d say it’s never a bad time at San Diego Comic-Con, SDCC 2017 was one of my best years yet. Here’s to hoping I’ll be back again next year!