I first applied for a press pass to comic con months earlier. About a week before the con they finally let me know I had gotten one. There were a list of requirements that had to be met before you could get a press pass. We didn’t meet them all, yet they gave us one anyway. Here’s what I did with it
Early that morning I had to bus down to the convention to attend a press conference. I was directed into the room that had a large line out in front of it. Already the perks of the press pass were showing themselves. I was led to the front few rows where I was able to set up my equipment. I decided that it would be in my best interest to record the entire thing. Looking back on it, I decided that the whole thing was a waste of time. It aggrandized Dan Farr, the man behind the convention as a hero and savior for bringing such an event to Utah. But if the rumors about him are to be believed he’s far from noble. Especially regarding LGBT celebrities and applicants. Regardless, the most interesting part of this conference to me was when the district attorney was talking and said the phrase “What ever gender, or genders you are,” Which was slightly surprising, given this being Utah. Still slightly wide-eyed about the experience I finished recording and got to see a few celebrities. They were paraded out and sat down at tables for press to quickly interview. I decided to see who was in line and get at least one interview in. Joel Hodgeman of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was sitting at an empty booth, with no one really around. It was perfect. Someone I have admired as a comedian for a while, and with no line. I asked him a few general questions about his passions, and I was on my way. I had no real desire to speak to anyone else. I mostly did it, because the opportunity presented itself. For the most part the interview went fine, I hadn’t planning on doing any interviews, so It was awkward on my part. A lack of preparation, and a sense of winging it, was going to be my general plan for the following days.
I headed out of the conference hall and saw the mass of people waiting to get in. They were all lined up at big metal gates waiting to be herded into the main floor. I stood around wondering if I was supposed to do the same. I waited for a while, but never actually got into a line. I was beyond lines. Lines are boring. After a bit I decided that if I was confident enough I could just walk in through one of the doors staff members were using, even if it wasn’t allowed. So as I saw some folks carrying some boxes and equipment I got up to the door and followed them in. No one blinked an eye, or more likely just didn’t gave a shit. I made my move and it payed off. A press pass can get you places. I gazed upon the main floor and realized that this would be my home for the next few days, and whether or not it was going to be utter hell was up to some fickle God. I wandered around to see what kind of set up there was this year. The biggest and brightest was the Funko store: The crown jewel of comic con. The veritable heart that spread it’s arteries and capillaries to every booth and vendor. Spewing the true blood of the convention, hemorrhaging and gurgling for all to bow down and drink. And lo’ the people drank. The theme of this year’s convention wasn’t to showcase new and exciting things happening in “Nerd Culture.” No, it was consumption, greedy and lavish. I didn’t yet comprehend it’s extent. I couldn’t. We will come back to the eternally bleeding Funko, for I never truly could escape it. Soon after, the people entered. It all started on a Thursday so thankfully there weren’t too many people. The number of early entrants gave me much trepidation for the crowds I would witness on Saturday. I should point out that at this point there were only those who had purchased a gold or VIP pass to the convention. The upper classes of attendees. Those who could get in early, didn’t have to wait in long lines for panels or photos. Those who were donned in Metallic badges so everyone could clearly know who there status.
I did make my way over to the general entrance. It was two hours before the public was let in, and there was already a massive line that filled a large room. Just a giant pen to hold back the mass of people. I could see those in front champing at the bit to get inside. I feel like the price of the convention and the waiting in line is all a psychological trick. Force people to pay and wait. Make them go through hell before finally getting inside. Once they are inside they will convince themselves that it was all worth it. They wouldn’t have done any of that if it wasn’t worth the pain and suffering. A trick of the mind to quell the cognitive dissonance of the reality. Another perk of the free press pass is seeing through this. Eventually they too joined us on the inside and the first day was in full swing. For the rest of the day I just wandered around getting myself familiar with the convention. I didn’t drink much water and didn’t really eat. Wandering the convention was like being in a trance. The whirl of colors from costumes and people, the hordes cramming themselves into tight alley ways. Pushing through, getting caught up, speeding up, breaking into an open area, the rush of freedom and relief, you truly lose yourself in those moments. It all felt as though you were in a state out of mind.
Day one was a passive outside look at the con as a whole. On day two, I went deeper. I truly immersed myself. It was time to find the tiniest of crevasses in the con culture and explore what I find there. I want to delve into the niche shops that are scattered about. There is everything from artists to toy vendors all trying to capitalize on the lust of the consumers. The lust for pop culture, the lust to drown themselves in the material goods to forget the pain of the everyday, the lust for nostalgia. For here it is acceptable to acknowledge that lust and satiate it. I found one such nostalgia vendor. Selling toys and trinkets from my childhood in little baggies, as though they were drugs. People huddled around his register itching to make a purchase to relieve the craving.
I spent the day wandering from vendor to vendor. They were all shouting and hawking their wares. People were waving money and shouting back. Arguments over quality and price until an agreement could be reached. There was a true sense of bartering. The whole place was just one giant bazaar. Fueled by the rawest forms of mercantilism and trade and all for what? Nothing but keeping ones addictions alive. In these alleyways, there is still the glimmer of what comic conventions were intended for. Private sellers and traders of comics trying to make a living. Through all the circumstance and celebrity worship that envelops Comic Con, comic merchants still reside within its depths, carrying on with the traditions. These are the parts of the convention I love. In these stalls and vendors I felt the true sense of the convention. Herein lies the depravity that I love about comics, and toys, and making the finds you wouldn’t be able to elsewhere.
In my wanderings on the second day I came to understand how pervasive the Funko blood was. How deeply it flowed into every crack and crevasse. This day I understood that it was blood that connected the entire con. Every stall, save a select few was drenched in this blood, and selling it by the gallon to anyone who was willing to drink. At This point I finally decided to venture into the heart of the con, the Funko booth. There was a large line out front, that wound around a show case of exclusive figures, and large statues.
Then headed into the rows of the Pop figurines, before emerging at the registers and exiting near a final statue crowded with children having their picture taken. This truly was what was giving life to this convention. It’s what spurred the consumption, and gave justification to the blood lust of the participants.
Further emphasized the death of bizarre and unique and gave rise to the commercial.
I felt like the delirium had finally set in. I was adrift in the sea of people, waves upon waves of people washed over me. The noise of the con had become nothing but white noise and everything I saw was spun together in a mesh of sweat, and cosplay foam. There was nothing new. Nothing to keep my attention. Nothing to drive off the paranoia of the endlessness of the convention. I’ve stared into the soul of Comic Con. I’ve seen what this beast truly is and it has jaded me to my core. The third day of a convention always leaves me with an utter contempt for the whole experience and this was no different. Once a year 200,000 people come together to participate in this event. They throw themselves into the mud and mire for three days. The events that take place are never remembered the same and everyone recounts them as though something entirely different, something much safer had happened. I don’t think anyone can stand to look back and with a sound mind, let the world know what they did. On the third day I hid from that. I found a little corner booth that sold some comics and just read. I let my world burn around me as I just read. And hoped that there was a chance that we all just might make it out unscathed.