The San Diego Comic-Con is a gathering founded on, and fueled by, love. The only way to nurture a convention like this for 46 years, to get people to make an annual pilgrimage from around the world, is with a shared affection.
And yet, sometimes, Comic-Con can make it hard to feel that love.
With 140,000 people descending upon downtown San Diego from Wednesday to Sunday, everything becomes difficult. Crossing the street becomes a test of patience and proximity. Walking the clogged convention floor becomes an exercise in forced bovine impersonation. Trying to get into a panel for something like “Game of Thrones” or DC Entertainment or Marvel Studios reveals itself to be an endurance trial concocted by the most sadistic YA author. Instead of the “Maze Runner,” you have the Line Waiter.
This was my 15th consecutive year attending the San Diego Comic-Con. I’ve done it in many guises: I’ve covered it as a journalist, as I did this year; I’ve attended as a comic book writer; and bounced in while on the writing staff of a television show that had a panel.
I realize that my Con experience is fundamentally different from most people who attend — I’m there for work, usually, and in order to do that work, those people who come for the love are actually an impediment to getting it done.
Dodging around people stopped to take pictures of a particularly impressive bit of cosplay is just slowing me down as I quickstep from one panel to another.
High-level negotiations have to be made in order to get tickets to those panels so that I can circumvent lines that otherwise would have me waiting for, in some cases, days.
The bigger Comic-Con gets, the harder it is to navigate, and the more difficult it is for me to find that love at its core.
But every convention, I encounter something that reminds me. And this year, I found it more than once.
It was the three women rocking pitch-perfect cosplay of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon’s characters from “Ghostbusters” — an almost defiant display in the face of a section of the fan community that didn’t want those characters to exist in the first place.
It was the sea of Vulcan salutes thrown into the air at the open-air premiere of “Star Trek Beyond” just before a heavy moment of silence for the late Anton Yelchin.
It was getting to randomly meet LeVar Burton and tell him that “Reading Rainbow” both helped me learn how to read and, oddly, to have no patience for rainbows.
It was the boy of maybe 13 in a motorized wheelchair, dressed as a Jedi, with a large Make-A-Wish button on his robes and a ridiculously wide grin on his face.
If this was where that kid wanted to be, more than anywhere else in the world, how is it possible for anyone — including a somewhat jaded journalist — to not see Comic-Con for what it truly is: A place to celebrate together that which makes us different everywhere else.
Marc Bernardin writes for the Los Angeles Times. @marcbernardin