Clowns. Dark alleys. Close talkers. All of these evoke fear in the average person, but none freaked me out more than attending my very first con. For that first experience to be at the San Diego Comic-Con—the King of Cons—was even more terrifying. But years of watching slasher B-movies made me nothing if not optimistically naïve I could survive.
Growing up, I never would’ve considered myself a nerd. Awkward? Yes. Entirely undateable? No doubt. But a nerd? I wasn’t convinced. In looking back, I now realize that the Batman vest and matching leather necklace I sported in middle school put my nerdom on blast like the Bat Signal to Gotham’s night sky.
When I decided a few years ago that it was finally time to make the trip to Nerd Mecca, I had plenty of misconceptions to grapple with. The biggest misconception was that I could easily acquire a 4-day badge. Totally false. That was the year we nerds broke the Internet then had to wait months to purchase badges online. I ended up with a meager two-day pass. That was the low point. But like all low points, you can only go up from there.
Despite having only two days in Nerd Mecca, I still fell deeply in love with SDCC. The panels were fantabulous—I got to meet Mike Flippin’ Judge. And the signings. Good lawd. I nerdgasmed right in front of Pee Wee Herman as he signed my poster and chuckled in legendary Pee Wee fashion. Even the exhibit hall offered some geektastic sightings, including The Real Stan Lee. Excelsior, indeed!
Still, what I cherished most were the conversations with attendees. You see, my second biggest misconception was that people would shun me as a noob. Yet their passion and excitement for the comic-and-pop-culture world was matched only by their compassion for their fellow nerd brothers and sisters. For instance, I stood in the center of the dining area looking (desperately) for a place to sit. A stranger called me over to the empty seat next to him. I took it then tentatively sparked up a conversation.
“It’s my first time here, and I’m scared everyone will be mean because I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“We all got picked on in school,” he said. “We know what it’s like to be left out. That’s why we’re all so nice to each other.”
This unassuming hero reminded me of what Comic-Con is all about. The panels and exclusives are amazing, but the experience would be nothing if it weren’t shared with people who will geek out just as hard as you. People who will understand and gladly participate in extended conversations about the possibility of time travel, who would win in a fight between the Hulk and Spider-Man, and Return of the Jedi vs. Return of the King. Like a radioactive spider to Peter, attendees are what make SDCC super. And I hope to see you there this year!