Looking Back on San Diego Comic Con 2019 by Erika S. Olson

Erika S. Olson at Comic-Con 2019

Now that I’ve almost fully recovered from my 5 crazy days at San Diego Comic-Con, it’s time to recap some of the highlights.

For anyone unfamiliar with San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), it’s an annual pop-culture-centric convention that’s now in its 50thyear. While its initial focus was actual comic books, over the decades it’s morphed and grown (and then exploded) into a must-attend event for not only pop-culture fans, but also anyone in the entertainment industry with something to promote or get fans hyped about.

Beyond the approximately 200,000 attendees descending upon downtown San Diego — specifically the Marina district and the Gaslamp Quarter — every year, the city itself makes the most of the event, with nearly all of the buildings near the convention center decked out in gigantic ads for TV series and movies, and countless local bars, restaurants and businesses running specials to attract patrons. There’s been a lot of debate about whether or not the convention has outgrown the city, but my fellow con diehards and I agree that a huge draw of the convention for us is that it’s in San Diego, specifically. I don’t think I can imagine a more fitting city that embodies the fandom vibe.

This year, I was lucky enough to have a badge for Preview Night (Wednesday, July 17) as well as the following four full days of the convention. Here are some quick day-by-day highlights

Wednesday, July 17: Preview Night

  • After checking into my hotel, I went straight to my favorite fish taco place in the Gaslamp Quarter: Rockin’ Baja Lobster. Yes, its name may be ridiculous, but its food is great, and it’s situated right on 5th Avenue with several outdoor tables, so it’s great for SDCC cosplay-watching.
  • That night I experienced my first Preview Night of the three times I’ve attended SDCC in the past. And I have to say it wasn’t really my thing. The convention center exhibition floor, which is never notpacked, was almost unbearable for me. (And I had just spent the prior two days at Disneyland, so I’m totally OK with crowds and lines.) But the floor was just wall-to-wall people, and so I decided to go back to 5thAvenue for dinner instead of deal with the mass of humanity any longer.

Thursday, July 18:

  • The first half of the day I attended an excellent LOST panel of podcasters and bloggers (if you’re a LOST fan, you should consider thelost.com next May in Oahu!), followed directly by a spirited Game of Thrones podcasters’ panel. For lunch I went to the popular ceviche and taco spot Oscar’s, and then busted back to the convention center in the hopes of getting into HBO’s His Dark Materials (HDM) panel later that day.

  • The HDM panel was taking place in the infamous Hall H, which fits 6,500 people and requires a wristband (secured the evening before) for morning entry. A huge chunk of people who secure Hall H wristbands then choose to sleep over next to the convention center so that they’ll be able to snag the best seats in the gigantic room the next morning. And then they stay to watch every single panel there for the entire day. So I was definitely taking a chance trying to get into Hall H later in the afternoon … but it worked!

  • I was granted entry during the Marvel Games panel (footage from the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers video game was previewed) and then watched the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel as well before the His Dark Materials cast came on. I loved the trilogy of novels this upcoming series is adapted from … plus it stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Dafne Keen. The previews they showed looked amazing, and I am psyched for it to premiere this fall.

  • Every year at SDCC, I have dinner on Thursday night at Nobu with the Cancer Gets LOST charity team, and without fail we always see some celebs. This time it was the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.cast a few tables over!

Friday, July 19:

  • I need to mention that my roommate got up at 3 a.m. this day in order to get in line to try and secure a ticket to the Wynonna Earpcast’s autograph-signing event. She got up at 3 a.m. … and the last ticket was given to the person directly ahead of her in line?!? That pretty much sums up the insanity of SDCC. (The good news is that she did secure a ticket for the following day’s autograph event.)
  • If you think my roommate is crazy … I spent 2.5 hours in the boiling sun in line for the Detective Pikachuexperience, where you go through an indoor enclosure that recreates different scenes from the movie. All to get my kid a set of Detective Pikachuears they were giving out at the end and a selfie with a big furry Pikachu. Until they ran out of the ears — and Pikachu left — right before I reached the front of the line. Again, this is your run-of-the-mill SDCC heartbreak.

  • After that debacle, I had a quick lunch and then stood 3.5 morehours in line to attempt to get into Hall H once again — this time for the last-ever Game of Thrones I lucked out once more and slipped in right as the panel was starting at 5:30 p.m.!
  • That night, a friend and I went to the House of Blues to attend the D23 Mickey Mouse Disco, DJed by Questlove. And it was So. Much. Fun.

Saturday, July 20:

  • I ventured back to the exhibition floor on a mission: to secure some Toy Story 4 freebies for my kids. Mattel was giving out Toy Story mini figures at its booth — on Preview Night I saw that people were trying for them using a claw machine (move tie-in, get it?) … but then the claw machine broke for the rest of the week (even exhibitors experience SDCC agony)! After that point, in order to get the figures, attendees had to stand in — you guessed it — a long line, and then take a picture in a mock toy box before being handed a figure by a Mattel representative. I’m not going to tell you how many times I did this.
  • In the afternoon I stood in a medium-sized line (less than an hour!) to get into the Snowpiercer.  It’s the TV series adaptation of the 2013 post-apocalyptic thriller directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring Chris Evans. The small-screen version stars Jennifer Connelly (her first TV role in nearly 20 years!) and Daveed Diggs, and it’ll be on TBS in 2020. I’m excited about this one, too.

  • While I thought about trying to get into Hall H on this day, I knew there was no shot: a friend inside the room said it was fully packed in advance of the Westworld and Marvel panels. The buzz for the rest of the day (and night … and next day) after the Marvel panel was about Marvel’s big reveal of all of the Phase Four films (and cast members). I gotta admit that I died a little inside when I found out I’d missed the chance to see Angelina Jolie with my own eyes. (She’ll be starring in The Eternals.) Sob.

Sunday: July 21

  • I’d heard about some amazing pop-culture-inspired donuts being sold at The Pendry hotel, and the rumors were true. I indulged in a butterscotch-flavored Harry Potter (well, Hedwig the owl) donut and a sprinkles-filled Yoda donut, while my roommate picked a Wonder Woman one. We’re still coming down from the sugar high.
  • I may have gone back to the floor to take one last spin around the chaos (and pick up another Toy Story figure…) before saying goodbye to San Diego.

All in all, it was another whirlwind experience, and I hope I get the chance to return in the future. But if I don’t have to stand in another line again for a while, you won’t hear me complaining!

Erika S. Olson author July 26, 2019, all photos Erika S. Olson’s.