Friends, this post is going to be a long, rambling, fangirly one and the first of three.
I spent the last three days at Salt Lake Comic Con's Fan Xperience here in Salt Lake City. I've never been to a fan convention before, and I wasn't sure how I was going to like it, but it turns out I am most definitely a fan. I won a free multi-pass, so I was able to go all three days. This is a good thing. Had I bought my own tickets I would have likely just gone one of the days, and there is way too much going on to take it all in during one day.
In case you want the TL;DR version now: Cosplayers are awesome, I got to meet one of my favorite actors, and I'm now a convention addict. And now, the stories of Thursday, April 17.
I knew Comic-Con was going to be a horse of a different color from the first time I tried to find a parking spot. Lots with available spots were blocks away, and I walked up to the Salt Palace (where Comic-Con is held) behind Spiderman, Zelda, and what appeared to be a purple fox. (All of us recognize some of the characters being cosplayed, but no one recognizes all of the characters being cosplayed.) The lines for registration stretched across many crisscrossing lines, and I was glad to have pre-registered the day before. I flashed my wristband to the security volunteers at the start of the hall of vendors and was sucked into the most condensed population of fellow geeks I've ever been enveloped by.
I cannot explain the hall of vendors to you. I can't really explain much of anything, but a description of this main hall just completely eludes me. There were booths side by side like an old-school open market stretching up and down in rows and columns, all completely filled with people. I spent three days walking up and down the hall trying to figure out what all was being sold and I'm sure that I still managed to miss some booths. T-shirts, posters, board games, natural medicine, comics, action figures, food, autographs insurance, movies: you name it and it was being sold by a vendor in that hall. I spent almost an hour on Saturday searching for a booth I'd seen on Thursday with FanX t-shirts. It wouldn't be quite as difficult if the passage ways weren't always obscured with people, of course. Traffic flew pretty smoothly, which was a blessing. I don't have a high crowd tolerance and being stopped for longer than a few seconds in the crush of humanity would definitely have started lighting up my panic buttons.
A tiny, tiny portion of the vendors' booths
So that took up the main portion of the Expo Hall. In the back were a line of folding tables set up for the celebrities who would be meeting fans, signing autographs, and the like. I saw the banner for James Marsters and just kind of got anxious/excited/is this the real life?
[Side note paragraph: You may recall that I became deeply obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer last summer. The obsession has not abated. James Marsters played Spike, who from his very first appearance on the show caused me to go, "Who is that and why is he not onscreen more often?" As I shotgunned the rest of the seasons Spike rose to the rank of my Favorite Fictional Character of All Time, and I adore legions of fictional characters, so that is very lofty praise indeed. He is perfect. Anyway, I have been freaking out about James Marsters being here ever since it was announced that he was coming, and seeing the banner made it seem that much more real.]
There are so many people at Comic-Con. I mentioned that in regards to the hall of vendors, but it bears repeating. There are people everywhere-- cosplayers, volunteers, just regular attendees lounging on the stairs and walking about and snapping pictures. There are so many more people than I am used to. I have never been around so many people that have interests similar to my own.
The first event I went to was Ioan Gruffudd's spotlight. These are the panels where a generic host sits on stage with the featured guest and usually asks a few questions and then members of the audience can ask questions. It's a good time. Ioan Gruffudd starred in of one of my favorite movies, Amazing Grace, and I was quite excited to see him in person. My sisters and I quote Amazing Grace literally every time we are together and can do the whole movie pretty much verbatim. Turns out that we've all been saying his name wrong-- it's pronounced Yowan Griffith. Yes, Gruffudd is pronounced Griffith. Welsh is a weird language, but a beautiful accent. The best part of this panel-- besides the fact that he basically called Amazing Grace his favorite-- was having him pick pirates over ninjas and Star Wars over Star Trek. Right on, Ioan. Right on.
A horrid, blurry picture of Ioan Gruffudd
After getting out of that I went on a quest for the south ballroom where James Marsters would be spotlighted because there was no way that I was going to miss it due to my inability to find places. It was being taken up by one Sean Patrick Flannery who I cared about not at all. I went to look at some more vendors, then came back to find that most of the people milling about were like me, waiting for James Marsters. The volunteer at the door told us they were going to start early seating, so we should go in and listen to the end of the current spotlight, then we could move up and claim better seats when the current guests left. This I did, and it turns out I don't like Sean Patrick Flannery. But I did get a nice seat out of it in the center section with an unobstructed view of the stage.
The host came out and the intro clip played and it was literally all clips from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, aka this was where I started screaming. The host said, "James Marsters!" and he ran out saying, "Hello!" in the most cheerful voice you ever heard and it was so cute. Before my camera battery died I recorded the first half of the Q&A (which he started by saying that we could ask literally anything because he has no shame) and friends it was delightful. He sang one of his original songs for us (he's in a band if you didn't know) and did his Spike voice (my only problem with him is that he's not truly British. Nobody's perfect, I guess.) and was hilarious and awesome. There was much feminine screaming.
I'm somewhere in this picture!
After James left the stage I went back to the vendor booths, having resolved to not seek after his autograph until the next day. Spread out your James rations and all that, haha. I bought a few things and then stood in line to meet Adam Baldwin. He's most well-known for Chuck (Agent Casey) and Firefly (Jayne Cobb). I tried to think of clever things to say, but that was an exercise in failure. I just stuttered on about liking Firefly and I am sure that he could tell how flustered I was. He gave me his signature and said, "Nice to meet you, fangirl." I should note that my shirt said Fangirl, so this was cute and not rude. He shook my hand (he has a warm handshake) and I said my stuttering adieus. It was so surreal to see people that I watch on television standing right in front of me.
I went to a panel on the unsung heroes of the film industry talking about people like makeup artists, sound mixers, location managers, etc. but I wasn't really into it, haha. Too up in the air from just being at Comic-Con. I was in sensory overload the whole day; a friend trying to get my attention had to yell at my three or four times before I realized he was even talking to me.
And that ended day one of my Fan Xperience. As I headed home I drove past the convention center and watched everyone exiting the building. I saw Batman's cape billow up as he jumped down the steps, and Maleficent taking a picture with a little girl, and so many other people that had come together to celebrate these things that we love. Fandoms are so wonderful. Thanks for including me, fandoms.