What’s it actually like to be a Hypable writer at SDCC? I wrapped up my SDCC with three — count ’em — three Supernatural panels, a very odd experience for a newbie fan not yet caught up on the show.
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 Four: Sunday 24 July
By Sunday, SDCC takes its toll. You haven’t slept. You haven’t eaten. You’re not really sure which way is left, or right, or if it’s even Sunday at all. One could be forgiven, you understand, for making mistakes, and for me, this is how my final day at SDCC started — completely and utterly addled at 10 a.m., wandering around on the exhibit hall floor looking for a comic book author signing that didn’t actually take place until 1 p.m. It wasn’t until I paced along the far wall of the room and spotted Jared Padalecki, absurdly tall and way too cheerful, being ushered into the WB booth, that I realized I’d ballsed up my own schedule — I’d mixed up the actual signing I’d meant to go to with the Supernatural one, which I’d noted down merely out of curiosity (separately ticketed by WB, for those interested, in Sails Pavilion, and drawn at 6 a.m.) Swiftly kicking myself for this mistake, I legged it to the line for Hall H, which, after the initial crowd headed in for Sherlock, had been reported as walk-in (that is, no queue being held up) for a little while. No such luck. By the time I got there, it had been filled to capacity and I was held in one of the chutes, anxiously worrying that I would not make it inside. Obviously, my actual plan had been to go down to the queue first thing in the morning, NOT onto the exhibit hall floor, but by this point in the weekend, there’s really no accounting for one’s actions, capability, or memory.
Thankfully, the fandom crossover between Sherlock and Supernatural isn’t quite 100%, and once Benedict had left the building, so did a third of the occupants, allowing me access – for the first time all weekend — to the hallowed Hall H, the convention’s hangar-sized main stage, which seats somewhere in the region of 6000. I stumbled my way around the room in the dark, finding a lucky single seat somewhere in the front third, and awaited my induction to the legend that is the SDCC Sunday morning SPN takeover. Like I mentioned, I am a ridiculously new fan of the show — I’m not even up to date with it yet. However, as a person on the internet in fandom over the last decade, I feel like I know half of everything there is to know about it, purely by osmosis — it’s just so ever-present that aren’t we all, some way, in the Supernatural fandom, whether we like it or not?
Regardless of that, I’m absolutely loving both the show itself and my experience of its fans way more than I ever would, and I am super enthusiastic about it. I feel like I chose a great time to get involved – this fandom has been incredibly drama-filled and it seems like I have missed the worst of everything and come in at a time when everyone — cast and fans — have chilled the hell out and learnt a few important lessons. I’m also incredibly spoiled for the entire show, including its most recent season, and have been following the current production of season 12, so despite not having gotten through all the episodes yet, I was able to easily follow and enjoy the relevance of everything that the panel offered, from the blooper reel featuring Dean’s never-before-seen short shorts, mentioned in “Baby,” to the reveal of the new vessel for Lucifer and the affect that the revived Mary Winchester will have on her sons – I particularly relish the idea mentioned of Cas tattling on the boys and telling her of all the stupid things they’ve done.
After trading my place in Hall H with another one of our Hypable writers who wanted to see the Prison Break panel coming up, I took a brief recess from what was proving to be a very Winchester-centric day in order to conduct an interview with Patrick Meaney, the producer and filmmaker of the Neil Gaiman documentary Dream Dangerously, which had been presented at a panel on Saturday night. Patrick and I sat down in the press room for half an hour or so and spoke about what he experienced going on the road with Neil, and what he had witnessed in terms of the author’s relationship with fans. After that, I managed to attend the signing I had been trying to wrongly attend at 10am — with Nick Spencer, the current writer of both Captain America: Sam Wilson and Captain America: Steve Rogers, who recently became Marvel’s Most Hated by turning Steve into an agent of Hydra.
I’ve written at length about why I trust Spencer as a writer, and was interested to meet him, because I really do love his work, particularly the recent Avengers: Standoff event which introduced Kobik, the cosmic cube child who’s ultimately responsible for rewriting Steve’s history. I even spent a day calling and visiting several comic book stores on opposite sides of Los Angeles trying to get my hands on certain issues — particularly the 75th anniversary issue of Captain America that took place in the middle of Standoff, in order to get them signed, as I usually buy all my comics digitally. This stop at the Marvel booth was also one last chance to get a selfie with the Captain America statue that will be dedicated in Prospect Park in Steve’s honor, because, come on, you have to. And that was that, for me, at the actual convention center. I swiped out of the convention center for the final time — the RFID badges actually held out pretty well – and headed back to my hotel to grab my luggage, because I was about to do something pretty stupid and risky in the name of fandom.
I enlisted a friend to help me drag my luggage over to Nerd HQ, where the kind staff allowed me to leave it in a safe area, because I was about to attend two back-to-back Supernatural panels and then have to get in an Uber immediately and go straight to the airport. The final panel — the one that closed out the whole of Nerd HQ for the weekend — was slated to finish at 5pm, and my international flight was at 7:15 p.m.. Yeah. Make better choices than me, people. Anyway, the first panel was compromised of the four leading cast members — Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard, and Zac Levi didn’t even stay to host — it was just the four guys by themselves and the crowd. For a fandom that’s reportedly had issues at even their own conventions with questions being checked and banned, the unmoderated Nerd HQ environment is an incredibly trusting one for this cast, and, as Levi mentioned at another panel I attended, to this day, no one has ever messed that up — for Supernatural or any other guests.
The SDCC panel was pretty fun, but this one blew Hall H out of the water — the sheer lack of filter, for one, and the evident comfort between a cast that has stuck together for so long and a fandom who, by now, know them inside and out. I truly had no idea what to expect from these guys, particularly Jared and Jensen — whether they believe their own hype, whether they really understand what fandom is, whether they’re jaded — but it was utterly charming to see how playful and sincere and on the level they are. I now understand this fandom’s extreme loyalty to their boys, which, given the frequent drama, I had assumed must be misguided.
Popular guests who also have a relationship with Nerd HQ — Nathan Fillion is a prime example, who usually shows up for at least two and brings tons of memorabilia to auction off for Operation Smile, Nerd HQ’s charity of choice — often do multiple panels if they have time. As Jared Padalecki has been a supporter of Nerd HQ since its low-key first year in 2011, it made sense that he elected to do a second solo panel after his cast’s group panel, and before I attended the first one, I was a little torn about what to do – I wasn’t sure if the second panel might be cutting it fine for my flight, and given that casts like this usually get driven around together with security guards at SDCC, I assumed that the rest of them would have to wait for him at the venue, and that in that circumstance they may take part in some “Smiles for Smiles” — photobooth meet and greets in exchange for a $20 Operation Smile donation while Jared was in his talk. Which did I prefer — another panel or the vague chance of a quick pic with Jensen, Mark and Misha? Should I go into the panel or not? The first panel cemented my choice — Padalecki in person has such warmth and such infectious full-body enthusiasm that the idea of spending another hour locked in a small room with him was a no-brainer. This turned out to be a smart decision because — much to my surprise (genuinely, unlike Levi’s sarcasm below) — this panel morphed into another full-cast event rather than just Jared alone. I have no idea if this was always the plan or if he invited them to stick around ten minutes beforehand, but either way, they made an ongoing joke of bringing everyone back out and this time, as it was the very last panel of his weekend, Levi — almost voiceless by now — stuck around too.
If I’d thought the first one was weird, the second Supernatural Nerd HQ panel was one of the most ridiculous, funniest, out of control fan experiences that I have ever witnessed — or participated in. I’m in no rush to stick my head above the water in this fandom, but when I thought the panel was just going to be Padalecki, I’d prepared a question not about SPN, but about Nerd HQ itself and its 2011 origins, and for whatever reason, Levi picked on me first. I don’t mean to sound like a clickbait headline, but what happened next has to be seen to be believed. I didn’t even get my question out, because the entire cast got tripped up on my Australian pronunciation of “H” and proceeded to absolutely slaughter me, somehow devolving into an ongoing joke where they refused to let me get my question out. It reached the point where Levi came over and knelt down directly in front of me in order to get my question, because the others had been attempting to prevent him from talking to me so badly — including Misha Collins jumping out of his seat to flail around “guarding” me like a basketball player. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, but I have to say this: I hate being humiliated, it is my absolute worst thing, it shuts me down and ruins me, but these guys did not make me feel like that. It was not mean-spirited at all, it was incredibly entertaining and Padalecki in particular kept catching my eye to make sure I was in on the joke with them. As far as first-ever in-person experiences with a new fandom… this one kind of takes the cake. Watch the first 15 minutes of the video below to experience my torment at the hands of these ruthless idiots.
The entire panel was even looser and sillier and more intimate than the first one, with hugs being given out to audience members and a hysterical bit in which the guys dragged the standard “CW Smoulder” and various other stilted poses they’ve been forced into for promo shots, and their perfect demonstrations of these followed by immediate laughter and ridicule, sold me on them for life, because it was a perfect example of stripping back the curtain and proving that they haven’t bought in. At the end, Levi presented me with a half-eaten pack of sour gummy worms as a prize for all I’d endured, and left the room to a standing ovation for all his wonderful event offers to us. I managed to yank my suitcase into the elevator amidst the bump-out of tons of gear — Nerd HQ was already being dismantled — and immediately jumped in an Uber to the airport. Just like that, it was over. Thanks for the memories, SDCC 2016!
“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