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Tales from San Diego Comic Con 2017

Summer 2017 has been a damn adventure to say the least. May through June kickstarted the hottest 90 days of the year with a glorious Stanley Cup Championship for the second year in a row by my beloved Pittsburgh Penguins, which is not only one of the hardest feats to pull off in professional sports but was also a huge personal success because it validated the god-awful playoff beard I had grown. June took an interesting turn when my roommates and I learned we had 30 days to move out of our current house when our new house wasn't going to be available for around 60 days, meaning just about all of July would be spent couch hopping. Honestly, hasn’t been too bad of a summer so far, even with the quasi-homeless three weeks. Yet every year in mid-July I get to completely tune the world out for the four most genuinely enjoyable days of the year. I am talking, of course, about San Diego Comic Con.

Comic Con is held yearly at San Diego Convention Center where over 100,000 comic book nerds, pop-culture fanatics, and cosplayers descend upon the Finest City in America to revel in the culture we all love so much. Oh, and can’t forget the hundreds of volunteers who make this event happen and the multi-million dollar marketing budgets that huge companies like Star Wars, DC, Warner Brothers, and Marvel pour into the event. While Comic Con certainly has exploded in popularity within the last five years of its almost 50-year existence, the general culture of the event remains unchanged; this is the Mecca of Geekdom, where men, women, and children can be unabashedly passionate about made-up universes and fictional characters. Simply put, it’s an incredible community of people who all share an infatuation for nerdy shit.

For the last two years, a very good family friend of ours has been extremely kind and gotten me, my brother, and my dad passes to Comic Con in exchange for our help in manning his booth, i.e., Booth 1037 aka Coastline Comics. We actually work all day everyday during the Con, which means we miss the Hall H panels, soul-sucking long lines, and some of the mania on the show floor, but that is made up for and then some by all the people we get to meet and talk to while working at the booth. We are one of the few actual comic retailers on the floor, which allows us the opportunity to meet fellow comic book aficionados and stoke their interest in new stories while also learning about some new characters ourselves. You can go anywhere and read an “Everything you missed from San Diego Comic Con” and find out about all the booths and panels, but here’s a look at the best moments from the very heart of San Diego Comic Con, Booth 1037.

1. Shaming the foolish woman who decided to dress up as Cersei Lannister

You can cosplay as Darth Vader, the Joker, Thanos, the Riddler, or really any villain and you won’t catch heat for it. Unless you decide to dress up as Cersei Lannister, probably the second most hated villain in television history, then you have to expect to get heckled a bit. If you make the mistake of dressing as Cersei, consider it a successful cosplay outing if nobody throws their half-eaten $6.75 convention center nachos at you. Seriously, what kind of psychopath goes “Oh, that incestiuous crazy woman who murders her daughter-in-law along with hundreds of people and doesn’t bat an eye when her son kills himself over it, yeah I want to dress like her!”?!

Live look at Matt and I on the show floor

Anyway, some questionable soul actually decided to give this a shot and made the mistake of galavanting past the Coastline Comics booth. I turn and look at my older brother, Matt (who is a walking Westerosi maester with a staggering amount of GoT shinfo in his head), and say “Hey, we’re going to shame this woman right?” To which he steadfastly replied, “Fuck this bitch. She must atone for her sins.” We both got up on chairs and began chanting, “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!” in unison. What happened next, I am not sure. Maybe she broke character or maybe this was the eighty-seventh time she’d been trolled like this, but she gave us a Mr. Garrison-level stank-face and delivered a quick, yet staunch middle finger to us. All this did was cause Matt and I to shout even louder, over the complaints from the man accompanying her. I actually expected a more clever reaction but it’s fine, she’ll be dead by the end of this season anyway. (Cersei, not the lady dressed as her… that would be a little sad if she died. Unless she’s anything like the woman she chose to dress up as. Then maybe not so sad.)

2. Saluting every Captain America who walked by with a crisp “Hail Hydra!” greeting

Around day three of Comic Con, we started noticing an unusual number of Captain America’s roaming the convention floor, most of them wearing pretty high-quality leather suits a la Winter Soldier and Civil War. This seemed a little perplexing seeing as how Captain America has been a full-blown member and leader of Hydra for over a year now. For those who don’t know, Hydra is literally a Nazi organization that operated under the Third Reich and other fascist governments for thousands of years before Cap took over. What I am getting at here, is Captain America is a Nazi in the current Marvel comics, there is no getting around it. The reasons behind Captain America’s jaw-dropping reveal as a Hydra sleeper agent have slowly been parceled out in Nick Spencer’s ongoing Steve Rogers: Captain America series, and his current summer event series Secret Empire (which is FANTASTIC by the way) sees the first avenger actually assume complete control of Hydra, which he then uses to take control of America turning it into a fascist regime.

Would I expect anyone outside of Comic Con to know that? Well, yeah, my roommates because I think I bring it up twice a week, but other than them, no. Hell, I don’t even expect most the people in Comic Con to know that, since Comic Con is much more a “pop culture con” than an actual comic convention these days. You come to Comic Con dressed as Captain America? You bet your economic-class-hating ass I expect you to know all about Cap’s newfound allegiances. Anyway, on day three my Dad had the great idea of shouting “Hail Hydra!” at every Captain America accompanied with the Hydra salute (which in hindsight, maybe wasn’t the best idea as it looks uncomfortably similar to a Nazi salute). Of the five Captain Americas we saluted, one returned a “Hail Hydra!” back to us, albeit a pretty pathetic one because his suit “was too tight to raise his arms.” Two Caps, however, did NOT find it funny. One hissed “Don’t even fucking talk to me about Secret Empire,” while another, dressed closer to the classic Cap from the 1940s iterations, gave us a pretty snarky, “Oh, real funny guys. Never heard that one before or all day.” Hey guy, you’re the one dressed as a Nazi, not me.

Look at this disgusting Nazi sympathizer. In 1940's Europe this man would've been scalped

3. The hottest issue of the convention being the crossover that nobody knew they wanted... Batman-Elmer Fudd

There’s a lot of great things happening in the comic book world right now. Not only is Secret Empire in full swing from Marvel, but plenty of other publishers are in the midst of game-changing events; DC released the second prelude to their upcoming Batman mega-event Metal with Dark Days: The Casting and just wrapped up the Batman/Flash crossover, The Button, which teases the Watchmen’s return to the fold; the relatively unknown independent publisher Black Mask Studios released the initially controversial Calexit which turned out to be a much more grounded and darker take on a possible California secession than anyone expected; and The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman recently announced the end is in sight for the phenomenal series meaning The Walking Dead comics are about to get insane. Oh, and who can forget that Batman just proposed to Catwoman in Batman #24, which is on a fourth (!!!!!) printing already. So we stocked up on as many of those issues as we could in preparation for the show. We were right too, as we nearly sold out of all of the series mentioned by the end of the week. Well, we were mostly right.

Enter Batman-Elmer Fudd, the sensational hit nobody asked for

On Wednesday night, we sold two issues of Batman-Elmer Fudd, a recent crossover book featuring the Dark Knight and Acme’s phonetically challenged hunter, for relatively cheap prices. Eight dollars for the newsstand edition and $12 for the variant cover if I remember correctly. Looking back, whoever bought each issue got a STEAL. After preview night on Wednesday, we had at least 10 people a day come up and ask for Batman-Elmer Fudd, talking about how the one-shot crossover between DC and Acme Studios was impossible to find on the show floor. We were baffled, because of course we knew this crossover was a thing, but like most comic fans we said, “What a stupid fucking idea,” when it was announced late last year. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Apparently, the issue was amazingly well-crafted and a very dark tale. Even bystanders at our booth were blown-away--“Batman-Elmer Fudd? Is that a joke?” No. The only joke is that the illustrious Coastline Comics commander-in-chief, Casey Markee, ended up finding another copy of the fuego issue Monday morning after the last day of SDCC. Who knows how much we could’ve priced that book for. (eBay knows actually, probably only $30 or so, but I digress).

I still haven't read this issue, but looking at this art I think I get the hype now

4. Convention Floor Nachos

It’s often said that cash is king at SDCC, that it’s best to pull out whatever your predetermined budget is in cash. (You’re heading down a dangerous road without a budget, there’s so much cool stuff to buy you can easily go through $1,000 without thinking twice.) Like many booths at SDCC, Coastline Comics is cash-only, for many reasons, the biggest being we simply don’t want to deal with credit cards. Being cash-only has its problems though, the biggest hurdle being a never-quenched thirst for change. Because everybody pulls twenties out of the ATM, we are constantly giving away our ones and fives as change at an alarming rate. Yeah, we have dollar bin comics, but even those purchases are usually made with fives or tens further depleting are dwindling collection of singles. We were having a change crisis before noon just about every day. We even gave somebody $22 for giving us $20 in fives. We were that desperate.

So.. what does this have to do with nachos? Well, we had to get change somehow, and because everyday at Comic Con is a 9-hour workday, we became rabidly hungry every day. Enter the convention floor cafe, which serves stadium-style food at stadium prices. Ya know, $5.50 for a boiled hot dog, $6 for a can of Pepsi. That sorta thing. What was our go-to choice to acquire new change? One hundred percent unnatural, processed “cheese” on cardboardesque tortilla chips, $6.75. There’s something magical about convention floor nachos. You order them, knowing how disgusting they truly are, but the second that liquid cheese hits your mouth, you are filled with unequivocal delight. I alone invigorated the cafe’s economy with the volume of nachos I consumed daily. There is no better cheese than fake liquid cheese.

I relate to this on so many levels, this was me everyday at Comic Con around 12:30 p.m.

5. The Comic Community

The best part about Comic Con remains constant every year, and that’s being completely embedded in nerd culture for days on end. There’s nowhere else that I feel more comfortable and unashamed to be myself than I do while I am working the booth at SDCC. I can rant about why the prequel trilogy should be eliminated from Star Wars canon (hot take!) without hearing crickets; Matt can emphatically discuss the downfall of the Lannister family with a grown man dressed as Aquaman without a sideways glance; and we can all go to dinner after the convention loudly debating the best-selling books of the day and the more popular issues without any bystanders really being particularly confused. For four days, my hometown and the greatest city on Earth, San Diego, is a complete and utter nerd heaven and I fucking love it. That is what keeps me coming back every year. Not the million-dollar displays erected by Marvel, DC, and Disney nor the hours worth of footage and trailers that surface during the convention, but the chance to be surrounded by people just as fanatic about these universes as I am and the opportunity to emphatically engage in nerd culture love with those as deeply involved in it as I am. The community at Comic Con is so welcoming, polite, and genuinely fun to be around (minus the cocksucker who kidney punched me while I tried to get a Marvel’s The Defenders poster. Fuck that guy).

The Coastline Comics Crew on Day 1 aka Preview Night (From Left, Dad, Me, Casey, Matt)

There is a full-blown depression that sinks in the moment that voice bellows over the convention floor saying, “Thank you for attending Comic Con 2017. We will see you next year!” Everyone begins shuffling out of the convention center and Coastline Comics immediately packs our things. It’s not just that we aren’t going to be able to buy all the cool things anymore or find out the latest information on our favorite shows, movies, and comics, but the realization that the normal world awaits us. We have jobs to go back to, mountains of emails to read, bills to pay, and actual shit called “reality” to care about. It takes a few days to come down from the Comic Con ride, and I am still pulling myself out of the emotional Comic Con hole even a week later. But there’s good news: only 353 days until San Diego Comic Con 2018.

The Coastline Comics crew after packing out the booth on Day 5... A little exhausted

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