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My Totally Geeked-Out Comic-Con Adventure

Once again, after trying and failing to obtain passes to Comic-Con, my daughter and I boarded the trolley and headed down to the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego to immerse ourselves in the craziness that is Comic-Con culture. This year we decided to attack the event differently. In previous years, we started west and worked our way east, ending up at Petco Park, where there is non-badge-holder seating available for panels, late in the day. Instead, we left earlier, arriving downtown around 9:00 and started at the eastern edge of festivities and worked west. We didn’t get far, because there is just too much to do outside the Convention Center.

Hello Kitty Food Truck Outside Comic-Con in San Diego

Hello Kitty Food Truck Outside Comic-Con in San Diego

Our first stop was under the bridge where food trucks and various interactive activities filled the parking lot. One food truck of note was the Hello Kitty Cafe, where you could purchase such goodies as Hello Kitty Bow Water for $3, or an assortment of doughnuts, petite cakes, or macaroons. They had the longest wait by far of any of the food trucks. Even the promise of a free pink totebag with any $25 purchase wasn’t enough to get me to stand in line for 45 minutes. We did, however, get in line for free swag from the local radio station — a poster and a sticker.

Alien Eyeware

Alien Eyeware

Next we stopped by the Alienware tent to check out the goods and pick up a free pare of Alien Eyeware sunglasses, which I could only wear for about a block before I tripped over the curb. They’re not particularly functional, but they look super cool!

Free T-Shirt from TeeFury

Free T-Shirt from TeeFury

From there we went over to Nerdist at Petco Park where my daughter won a free T-shirt from TeeFury, we got a bunch more swag, and I shook hands with author, Dan Casey, who was autographing copies of 100 Things Avengers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, and more importantly, he told me about his upcoming book, 100 Things Star Wars Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. I pretty much squee’d over that.

Wil Wheaton and the Cast of Titansgrave

Wil Wheaton and the Cast of Titansgrave

We were also able to catch part of the Titansgrave panel with Wil Wheaton and cast.

Tom DeLonge

Tom DeLonge

But the highlight of my time there was being able to see Tom DeLonge, lead singer from Blink-182, who was there to promote his Poet Anderson franchise. I had a total fangirl moment.

Attendees from Comic-Con 2015

We found lots of dressed-up people who were all too eager to pose.

At Comic-Con, Even the Buildings Dress Up

At Comic-Con, Even the Buildings Dress Up

Even buildings join in the craziness, getting in costume.

Sharknado 3

Sharknado 3

And Sharknado 3 is really happening.

Zombies are Everywhere at Comic-Con

Zombies are Everywhere at Comic-Con

Once again zombies where everywhere. Everything from a boy scout camp offering to help us with our survival skills during the zombie apocalypse, to a walk through the set of the upcoming Fear the Walking Dead. Unfortunately, waiting in line and traipsing through the set meant we missed two panels. One with Daniel Radcliffe and the other Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies with the best Doctor ever, Matt Smith.

So next year, with or without coveted passes, we’re determined to spend at least two days enjoying the world that is Comic-Con outside the Convention Center.
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Theater Review – Geeks the Musical (Comic-Con)

Geeks The Musical

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
The show follows the adventures of a gaggle of geeks through the San Diego Comic Book/Sci-Fi Convention. Geek boy, Jordan, is on the search for Batman issue #92, but stumbles upon Kerry, the geek girl of his dreams.

In the meantime, his best friend and Doctor Who fanatic, Chip, offers to distract Kerry’s friend, Emerson, a man with impossibly high standards. But a series of miscommunications has Jordan believing that Kerry was stolen from him by his childhood hero, Mel Tyler, a has-been sci-fi actor.

Meanwhile, Audrina the Goth girl and her best friend Trey attempt to sell their avant-garde comic. All this while they geek, sing and dance to such songs as “Geek to Geek”, “Woman in Sci-Fi”, “Bi Guy” and “Who’s Who of Dr. Who”.

Directed by Patrick Gates and Lizzie Morse, making their directorial debuts, and with musical direction by Brandon Sherman, GEEKS features Lorina Alfaro, James B. Darvas, Franklin DeBerg, Pete Hoban, Ed Hollingsworth, Devon Hollingsworth, Sarah LeClaire, M. Keala Milles & Dakota Ringer

My Review
I had no idea how delightful this musical would be. I was invited to attend by a friend, and for the price, I couldn’t turn it down. Plus it was a great way to wrap up the whole Comic-Con experience. When I arrived at the tiny BLKBOX theater in Hillcrest, my expectations were tempered even further. I attended with my friend and our two 14-year-old daughters, my daughter, a self-proclaimed Whovian, in her beloved Doctor Who TARDIS T-shirt. It was a toss-up between that and her Thor shirt, but she chose wisely.

We arrived about 15 minutes before show time, but the small venue was already full and four seats next to each other was not possible. In fact, even two seats next to each other weren’t to be had. So the theater staff pulled up folding chairs and set them on the floor mere feet from the stage. We had front row seats to one of the most surprisingly fun musicals I’ve experienced in a long time.

Story
The story follows a group of geeky convention attendees through four days of San Diego Comic-Con. Each main character has their own arc that plays out over the convention as they each seek something — a rare comic book, a set of Doctor Who plates, a publisher, recaptured glory, the love of a best friend — all with hilarious results. There are some adult themes and strong language, but it’s suitable for ages 12 and up.

Characters
The characters are what really make this show what it is. The story isn’t much without the brilliant characters and the actors who bring them to life. While there is some stereotyping, I mean, come on, we’re talking about the king of nerdom here, those stereotypes are played out to comic perfection. But even with some superficial characterization, each charter had enough depth to transcend their archetype and develop over the 90-minute musical.

Music
The music was fun. Sure, it’s not Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it so perfectly fit the theme, I can’t really fault it. The lyrics were witty and the singing was strong. I think my favorite was Woman in Sci-Fi and the way it pokes fun of the male-to-female ratio of convention attendees and the awkwardness of nerdy boys when presented with a female. When budgets allow, what would take this to the next level would be live musical accompaniment instead of canned music, but that’s my only complaint.

Acting
The acting was just flat-out phenomenal. I never once questioned that these characters were who they presented themselves to be. Although I’m sure it’s partly due to his top-notch material, I have to give the local Tony to James P. Darvis for his portrayal of Emerson, the less-than tolerant fashion critic and reluctant best friend to Kerry.

Sets
The sets were probably the weakest part of the production, but I didn’t find that it impacted my enjoyment any. Probably just one more thing they can invest in when this lovely little production takes off.

Costumes
They were brilliant. Geeky T-shirts, 70’s comic book hero, tights and all, the fourth Doctor’s scarf, Goth girl. The costumes were exactly what you’d expect to see and I love that they often changed shirts at least, as convention goers tend to do (some more than others).

Bottom Line
The production has ended for the year, but when this theater darling comes around again next year, it’s not to be missed. If you’re coming to San Diego in 2015 for Comic-Con, take the short trip up to HIllcrest for this show. It’ll be the best hour and a half of your weekend that won’t be spent at a panel.

Title: Geeks the Musical
Book & Lyrics: Thomas J. Misuraca
Music: Ruth Judkowitz
Co-Directors: Patrick Gates and Lizzie Morse
Musical Direction: Brandon Sherman
Scenic Design: Ron Logan
Production Stage Manager: Grace S. Penaranda
Rehearsal Stage Manager: Lance Rosenberger
Music Director: Brandon Sherman
Costumes: Mary Summerday
Links: Geeks The Musical

Observations on Comic-Con from a Writer’s Perspective

Comic-Con International - San Diego - 2014

Comic-Con CrowdAfter spending the past two days immersed in the nerdiness that is Comic-Con, I noticed a few things. This was the third year in a row we took the trolley downtown to just walk amongst the craziness. We don’t have passes. I tried this year, but newbie that I am, didn’t realize that after spending time hanging out in the virtual lobby, when (and if) my number was called and I was lucky enough to buy passes, I could only buy four. We are a family of five, and while the MMA beatdown over who was going would have been entertaining as hell to watch, probably it wouldn’t be worth it in the end.

There is plenty for non-pass holders to do outside the venue. We were there for five hours on Saturday and another couple on Sunday. Lines were long at the popular events, but even without waiting in line for two hours to go through the Assassin’s Creed obstacle course, we were never bored. Hot, tired, sore feet? Check. Boredom? Not a chance. And after all of this, I noticed a few things with my writer’s hat on:

Zombies Rule Comic-Con1) Zombies are Huge
The only zombie-themed thing I’m aware of was The Walking Dead Escape. For $70, you could immerse yourself in the world of zombies, navigating a course among the zombies, or for $90, you could join the horde of the undead. Even though the event didn’t begin until 6:00 PM, I saw more zombies during the day than any other character type. Sure, there were plenty of superheroes, a plethora of Doctor Whos, women walking around in TARDIS dresses, a smattering of video game characters, but zombies ruled the day (and night).

While vampires seem to be all over the place from books and movies to a multitude of shows like True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and My Babysitter is a Vampire, the zombies are striking back with The Walking Dead and now iZombie. A quick search on Goodreads shows that when it comes to books, zombies are very popular – over 13,000 titles!

2) Marketing Genius
One local author was handing out slick cards with information about his new fantasy novel. Over 130,000 people attend Comic-Con and countless more locals, like us, just go down to absorb the weirdness. We were handed buttons, fliers, posters, cards, and bags (although what I really wanted was the foam chainsaw from the Sharknado 2 movie, but they were out). Likely most of these author cards will end up in the trash, but some people will look at them,  maybe even visit the author’s site, and no doubt, he’ll sell more than a few books as a result. But as any author knows, name recognition is a huge part of the game. Getting hits, having someone bookmark your site, it all helps. I’m sure the cost was minimal, and if you’re going to be down there anyway, why not join in the marketing freeforall.

DarthPink3) Girls Want Female Heroes
I saw plenty of little girls dressed as Disney princesses, but I saw many more dressed as Spiderman, Batman, Superman, and even a little Hulk-ette. There were a handful of Princess Leia’s, my own daughter dressed as Katniss Everdeen on Sunday, but when you think about it, there aren’t a lot of good female heroes. Especially in the comic genre. Marvel gets this which is why they announced the next Thor will be female.  There were easily as many females as males wandering around outside the convention center. I don’t know the makeup of attendees, but based on the crowd outside, I’d be surprised if it leans too heavily male.

So while I saw this pretty little pink Vader, if you’re looking at the Star Wars franchise, there are only a handful of female leads (I’m include Ahsoka Tano and the Duchess Satine from Clone Wars just to get to an even four) who are heroes. Even looking at Marvel, there’s Wonder Woman, Bat Girl, Natasha Romanov, and that’s kind of it for the well-known characters. And the most annoying thing about the Marvel world is that all of their female heroes feel the need to wear revealing or skin tight outfits, sending the message that in order to be a strong female hero, you must also be sexy.  No wonder girls were drawn to The Hunger Games. Katniss proved you can be badass without being overtly sexual.

Sharknado 2 I Really Happening4) Sharknado 2 is Really Happening
Sharknado 2 was everywhere. They had people following them trying to get their hands on all of that sharky swag. By far the coolest thing they were giving away were the aforementioned red foam Sharknado chainsaws, which sadly, I did not score. But they were working the buzz like crazy, generating long lines at their mobile carts as a parade of hangers on tried to get whatever was being handed out.

What does this mean? Campy is cool. There was nothing good about Sharknado and yet millions tuned into watch it last year, so much so, that a second movie was not just economically feasible, but likely will be highly profitable. And apparently cool enough that there are a whole host of celebrity cameos in Sharknado 2.

5) History is Cool
History is cool. Who knew? The first thing we saw when we got off the trolley was The History Channel’s attraction. I have to admit, just knowing they were there intrigued me, so we wandered over to see what history had to do with Comic-Con.

They had whole block set up for their Vikings show. A show I didn’t even know about before yesterday. So well done, History Channel, well done. I’m now interested enough to check it out. And if an entire downtown block devoted to fun and games wasn’t enough, they also had this giant mural plastered across the entrance to NerdHQ.

The History Channels Vikings

GOT Survive the RealmI don’t know if Game of Thrones made history cool or not, but historic shows of epic proportions were well represented in San Diego. Speaking of GOT, they were all over the place. On buses, sides of buildings, even the pedicabs were decorated up all Game of Thrones style. And the GOT experience had a line that wrapped around three quarters of the block. Both days.

GOT Line

So, if you’re a writer and you want to know what the masses are interested in, here is just a partial list from one of the nerdiest and yet coolest, pop cultural events of the year.

Write it and they will come.
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