What’s it actually like to be a Hypable writer at SDCC? Read our daily diary. Saturday’s always the craziest day of the convention and it was no different this year — there were some big hits, but also some big misses.
In addition to exhaustive San Diego Comic-Con coverage of all your favorite fandoms, this year Hypable is also bringing you a blow-by-blow blog from each day of SDCC from the perspective of one of our writers. Get a personal, insider’s point of view of how we at Hypable pull off the craziest week of our year and what we do in all the moments that we’re not bringing you breaking news. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot of lining up.
SDCC Day Two: Saturday 23 July
On Saturday, I attended my first autograph signing of my 2016 SDCC — I was very keen to meet Jim Zub, who currently pens the Bucky-Barnes-led Thunderbolts for Marvel which I’ve been recapping, along with a variety of other books including his two creator-owned titles Wayward and the new Glitterbomb with Image Comics. Zub was signing at various booths during the course of the weekend and invited fans of any of his books to come to any of his signings, but I chose to catch this particular one at the Marvel booth because he was sharing a slot with Robbie Thompson, the fandom-beloved Supernatural screenwriter who recently departed the show and is currently writing three Spider-man related titles for Marvel – Silk, Spidey (a flashback series about Peter Parker in high school,) and Venom: Space Knight.
Signings such as this are not usually too busy, but often populated by very dedicated fans — while I was at the table, Thompson was visited both by a girl cosplaying his character Silk, and by the fan who runs the Supernatural Wiki — a site he admitted to using to check the show’s continuity while writing. Zub was excited and a little amused to chat about the outpouring of desperate “don’t hurt him!” tweets he’s received since he took over writing for Bucky, and how that character in particular inspires such a strong empathy from readers who just want him to have a nice day after all he’s been through. He also expressed his ongoing admiration for Winter Soldier creator Ed Brubaker, who broke one of comics’ longest-running taboos when he resurrected the dead-and-must-stay-dead James Buchanan Barnes. Best of all, he gave me a little sneak peek on his phone of an upcoming variant cover for Thunderbolts — one that’s going to make the heart of any Bucky fan turn into jellified lava and then explode from sheer cuteness.
After the Marvel signing, I’d originally planned to try and attend a couple of other panels inside the convention, but my gut told me that if I didn’t go and attempt to get inside Conival now, that I was going to miss out on one of my must-see events of the day, and I was right. By the time I got over to Petco Park, their entry lines had been closed for the first time all weekend — the space filled to capacity — and they were literally counting a certain number of people out before allowing the lines to be counted in one by one. I’ll admit I still don’t know if this overcrowding was specifically due to the event I had in mind or if it was a coincidence. On one hand, I’m aware of the volume and dedication of this particular fandom, but on the other, I was listening in to the line around me — and keeping in touch with people via Twitter — and not that many people seemed to be pointedly aiming for the same panel as me, they just wanted to get into the space in general. The potentially-popular panelist in question was Misha Collins, and he certainly did draw a crowd that filled the seating area, but I’m still not quite sure if he was the reason the park reached capacity two hours prior, as there was a fair amount of movement in the stands after each of the panels I saw preceding him – Geek and Sundry’s Critical Role podcast and the cast of Outcast.
Now, I have been a fan of Supernatural for approximately thirty five seconds — okay, like two months – but the entire reason I finally bit the bullet and watched the show is because I’ve been a fan of Collins, as a human being, for about five years — much like Zachary Levi, who I’ll speak more about in a moment, I admire his relationship with fans and what he creates for them. His half-hour solo panel at Conival — hosted by my new SDCC MVP Alicia Lutes, of Thursday’s “Boundary Pushers” fame – was mostly an opportunity to speak about GISHWHES, the scavenger hunt, in case you’ve been living under an internet rock, that he created to add whimsy to the world, focusing especially on communal artistic creation and random acts of kindness. Given that Misha’s Misha-ness was my introduction to the Supernatural fandom at large, it’s fitting that my first con-based experience with SPN was this one rather than something to do with the show itself, though there’s plenty of that to come. I even got yelled at (but also high-fived) due to the fact I traveled from Australia!
One of the biggest disappointments of the weekend was my inability to get into Ballroom 20 for Supergirl. Saturday’s block of DC television shows with a closely-shared fanbase meant that the line for the room stretched out of doors and under the tents with little to no movement for hours — no one was clearing out to make space, all day. And guess what I didn’t have for this panel? A reserved seating pass. I’m aware that this is a little bit #champagneproblems and that the majority of people slog it out in line all day in order to see their panel of choice. I’ve been there. I’ve slept out overnight for Hall H (for, oh god, Glee) and we had Hypable staff this year lining up all day Friday to get in for WB and Marvel on Saturday, but Ballroom 20 rarely sees this much difficulty and I simply did not factor in enough queuing time. If I’d known in advance it would be this tight, I would have had to choose what to prioritize and probably had to dedicate the day to lining up. As it went, I kept tabs on the line — firstly on Twitter, through the helpful and hilarious @Ballroom20Line Twitter account, and then with my own eyes after getting out of Conival. At about 2:45pm it became evident that I was not going to get in for Supergirl, despite the fact that I’d hoped to cover it for the site. That’s SDCC though — there will always be things that you want that you don’t get — but the fact that I’d spied on the Supergirl signing at the WB booth that morning and spotted my Broadway bae Jeremy Jordan sitting next to Teen Wolf alum and new Superman Tyler Hoechlin definitely salted the wound.
— Jon Bucud (@zyphaz) July 23, 2016
Luckily, I was able to do something else worthwhile with my time — head over to Nerd HQ and catch their panel with the cast of American Gods. I’ve been attending Nerd HQ — the passion project of Zachary Levi, who started it with an aim to create a low-key space for both fans and celebrities to hang out, play games, dance and have more genuine and intimate interactions away from the main convention while raising money for charity — since its inauguration at Jolt’n Joe’s in 2011, where it was basically just a rather stuffy back room above a bar. They’ve moved up in the world since then — taking over the entire New Children’s Museum for the second year in a row with a large staff and dozens of volunteers, Nerd HQ reigns as SDCC’s premiere offsite, with free entry to the gaming space and the best parties — including the con’s safest event for celebrities, their Friday night invite-only absolutely-no-press-allowed all-nighter. But what makes Nerd HQ extra-special is their “Conversations for a Cause” — small ticketed panels (of about $20 per person) featuring some of the con’s best special guests. Ever since their first year, Nerd HQ have never increased the size of these — it’s about 250 people, max – and although Levi or other members of the Nerd HQ family often host the panels, they’re not moderated. No one checks questions in advance — it’s a circle of trust, and year after year celebrities return to participate in Nerd HQ, relishing in the opportunity to engage on this level.
Nerd HQ also livestreams their panels online for those who don’t manage to get into the room, and I suggest you pick any one and watch it, just so you understand how it strips away facades and creates some of the most honest and entertaining fan experiences of all time. The American Gods cast were first-timers, obviously, but they immediately won hearts – particularly Ricky Whittle, who’s a menace, no other words for it, and newcomer Bruce Langley with his Neil Gaiman impression — and I expect to see them back there again next year. I got to ask a question about how foreign fans can support American-based TV shows and keep them on the air, a circumstance that’s infinitely frustrating to me, but I was struck by how much another fan’s question really exemplified the community Levi has built. The audience member wanted to ask something of Pablo Schreiber, but was overwhelmed due to her admiration of him, so she addressed Levi instead, saying “look, I’ll just ask you, because you I’m very comfortable with.” Levi has a considerable amount of celebrity himself, of course, but for Nerd HQ regulars, he’s just a buddy with no airs and graces who puts on this awesome party for us — and works damn hard to do it.
Immediately after the American Gods cast finished up at Nerd HQ, I bolted back into the con to catch some of the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency panel. This new show by BBC America and based on the Douglas Adams novels stars Samuel Barnett as Dirk Gently, an eccentric private detective who refuses to admit that he’s psychic, and Elijah Wood as Todd, his thunderstruck new sidekick. Wood is obviously the more famous of the two leads, and his character is the audience’s view into Dirk’s world, but two-time Tony nominee Barnett is an actor I’ve been a huge fan of for ten years, since I first saw him onstage in Alan Bennett’s highly acclaimed play The History Boys, and he’s why I was desperate to be there. The trailer is nothing less than thrilling and the cast — which also includes Hannah Marks and Jade Eshete — has fantastic chemistry, even in person. Showrunner Max Landis seems incredibly smart (and incredibly young) and together this team seems to have pulled off something totally unique – Dirk Gently looks bizarre, irreverent, lightning-fast and adorable.
However, if you know anything about me at all, you’ll be aware of my slavish devotion to the original cast of The History Boys and the way that I have followed every project that each of them has ever done. Quite a few of them are in the limelight right now, with Dominic Cooper also at the convention as Preacher’s leading man, Jamie Parker as our new Harry Potter, and James Corden being — well — James Corden, not to mention Samuel Anderson’s recent turn on Doctor Who and Russell Tovey’s frequently-naked appearances in Looking. I don’t like standing up in front of people (I’ll re-iterate, Nerd HQ is much less intimidating for those who might want to ask a question) but I did line up to ask Sam about the current status quo of his History Boys family and who – a bit cheekily – has the best gig of the lot of them.
As evening fell, we tracked the Marvel news coming out of Hall H in real-time online — a common pastime for SDCC attendees who couldn’t make it inside — as myself and the other members of Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast present at the con met up with our “tiny overlord,” showrunner Jeff Davis, who has become a very dear friend in the four years since we started covering the show. We were meeting up for a drink and a chat about the news that the show is ending, although, if you’ve ever listened to our podcast, you’ll know where our conversations always descend to, and hanging out with Jeff is no different — plenty of time was given to arguing over Captain America: Civil War. After we said our goodbyes I legged it down the entire length of the convention center – from the Hyatt to room 29AB, if that means anything to y’all — in order to catch a panel I’d been anticipating for several weeks: “Neil Gaiman in Film,” a discussion with three filmmaking teams working on different projects about Gaiman. These included Allan Amato and Olga Nunes for “Temple of Art,” a documentary about what it means to be an artist, Christopher Salmon for “The Price,” an animated adaptation of one of Gaiman’s short stories about a cat that visited his home, and Cat Mihos, Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert for “Dream Dangerously,” the recently released documentary that followed Gaiman on his final big signing tour and explored his relationship with his fans. These panelists all hold a close relationship with Gaiman, as does the moderator Geoff Notkin, and old schoolmate, and although the author himself was not present (he wasn’t expected to be) it was certainly a meeting of minds for those who are fascinated by him and want to help share his stories.
By the time this panel ended, the convention center had become eerily vacant, which only emphasized its vastness — it is truly somewhat terrifying, how many people are crammed into the space over the course of the weekend and how quickly the environment can change.
“A Day In The Life at SDCC” will be published for each day of the convention on Hypable, in addition to our usual SDCC coverage.
Wednesday — Preview Night
Thursday — Day One
Friday — Day Two
Saturday – Day Three
Sunday — Day Four