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SDCC 2004: Preview Night

July 21, 2004

San Diego Con 2004

Di and I arrived in San Diego on July 20, 1 day before “preview” night, and 2 days before the official opening day of San Diego Comic Con 2004. On our first day in town, we checked into the hotel around 3:00 pm, then jumped back into the wagon, hopped back onto Interstate 5, and continued south into Mexico. We drove about 30 miles into Mexico to the town of…well, I’m too damn tired to remember the town’s name, but it was fairly small and a bit dirty (though it had a pleasant restaurant built on a wall overlooking the edge of the ocean). Following a late lunch/early dinner, we shopped a bit in the jerkwater town before motoring back to the United States. Amazingly, there was virtually no traffic on the return trip and we passed through border patrol in about 10 minutes. Once back in San Diego, we swam in the hotel pool for about an hour and later walked through town in search of a 7-Eleven. It was around this time that we discovered there are very few 7-Eleven stores in San Diego (at least in the vicinity of 4th and Ash—the nearest market was approximately 12 blocks distant). We snagged some snacks and watched a TLC special before nodding off.

Tuesday, July 21

We slept in, not that it mattered since preview night did not begin until 5:30 pm. Around 1:45 pm we took the Orange trolley toward the Gaslamp District and exited at one of the two Convention Center stops on the line. Badge pick-up began at 2:00 pm, so we decided to pick up our badges and then grab a bite to eat and spend a little time walking about the city. There was more than a bit of confusion with regard to exactly where badges were to be picked up. We were sent up to the second floor only to be told we needed to go back down to the first floor. The security was tight, with more men and women in red “Elite” security shirts than one would find in the entire run of the classic Star Trek series (unfortunately, none of these red shirts were killed off). Eventually, we located the badge area and, about 30 minutes later, were given our official SDCC badges and bags o’ stuff. The convention program features a Jack Kirby cover. The interior includes a Kirby tribute to honor the 10-year anniversary of The King’s death. I felt downtrodden, wishing I’d have known the Kirby tribute was going to be part of the program because I’d have wanted to submit a drawing or article out of respect and admiration for Kirby, the greatest of the great comic artists.

It was 3:00 pm and we still had not eaten. So we headed into the Gaslamp and settled upon a rather unassuming Chinese restaurant. There are plenty of trendy, upscale restaurants in the area, but we like the lived-in look of the Chinese place and the greeter who spoke very enthusiastically as he beckoned us into the eatery. “Come, come. Very good food. Very healthy.” Begin vegetarians we ordered vegetarian items, to which he said, “You vegetarian. Very good, very healthy for you.” We spoke a bit about New York, San Francisco, and Philly’s Chinatown districts. San Diego has no Chinatown district, per se, though our food was as good as anything we’ve had in Philly, San Francisco, New York, or LA for that matter. The place had no atmosphere. It looked like the basement of your aunt’s house, with tacky wood paneling and tables and chairs that looked as if they were purchased from a bar at a foreclosure sale. But none of that mattered. The place was clean, the prices were dirt cheap, and the vegetable moo-shoo kicked ass.

Afterward we walked back toward the convention center. It was hot, though it was surprisingly much cooler in the shaded areas. We decided to hang out at the center and wait for the doors to open. By 5:00 pm there was a general sense of confusion and chaos as none of the Elite staffers seemed to be able to confirm where convention-goers needed to be standing in order to gain access to the show at the 5:30 start time. Finally, after much questioning, a manager informed us to head up to the second floor. We did this, but found the doors barred. Inside one of the main halls, several thousand people stood anxiously awaiting entrance. By 5:45 the crowd was beginning to grow restless. “Open the doors!” “We wanna buy comics!” and “Boooo!” were among the protestations being shouted. We moved into another room and cut to the front of the line in true East Coast fashion. None of the West Coasters seemed to notice or care—or if the did notice and care they chose not to voice their displeasure at our rudeness. At 5:50 a man at the very front of the line began to lose his temper and was shouting at the walkie-talkie wielding security gal (who was all of 19 years old). Meanwhile, the gates in yet another room were opened, and comic-hungry fans flocked past us while we were still restrained from entering the procession. At last, at 6:02 we were granted entrance. The main floor was huge, lined end to end with all types of displays and displayers. There seemed to be no end to its vastness, and by show’s end we’d barely scratched the surface. We stopped at the Top Shelf booth and said our hellos to Brett Warnock and Chris Staros then shopped for a while. (I found a few 1970s Marvel mags Star Wars comics for a buck each. Di found a vintage circular Beatles button and a square-shaped Monkees pin.) We ran into our friend, the always conversational writer Paul Storrie, who in turn introduced us to a few of his friends. Back at the Top Shelf booth a bit later Di and I parted ways. It was about 8:00 pm, a half-hour before preview night’s conclusion. I stood inside the rectangular booth, feeling like a fish out of water, quite uncertain I should actually be here. But Brett offered a few words of confidence, and as I began talking with a few fans who stopped by, I started feeling a bit less awkward and a bit more self-assured. By 8:30 a few copies of Less Than Heroes had been sold, as well as a couple copies of The Broccoli Agenda. The thought of returning on Thursday morning doesn’t seem so bad at this late hour—though perhaps I’m only tired and delirious.

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