Tucked away, up a daunting, unwelcoming flight of outdoor stairs, far, far from the madness of Hall H panels and the other madness of the San Diego Comic-Con floor is a vestibule filled with once or still famous human beings signing autographs for the attendee’s pleasure. (At least, the attendees who ever make it upstairs.)
This is my third Comic-Con. I had been told about this room several times before, but as a working member of the press, I had never had time to actually explore this area or, for honesty's sake, even the convention floor outside of preview night. (Preview night – which happens Wednesday evening, technically the night before Comic-Con begins – allows the press and attendees with a four-day badge to “preview” the floor before Comic-Con actually begins. Translated: It’s slightly less crowded.) But! This year, I had a window where I could actually do some real exploring and, for once, feel what it’s like to be a regular Comic-Con attendee for a couple of hours.
And, yes, this gave me time to finally visit the oft-talked about autograph room. Honestly, I didn’t quite know what to expect. It did seem fitting that while I was doing this, Warner Bros. was having its Hall H panel, which was the talk of the Con at that particular moment. (The talk of Comic-Con changes rapidly.) Was this supposed to mean something? Was this a dumb allegory that meant today’s Hall H hero is tomorrow’s autograph room participant? One thing is for sure: I am definitely overthinking all of this. Heck, I’d trade places with any of these people.
Anyway, I kept a running diary of aimlessly walking around Comic-Con for a few hours. Here’s how that went:
10:40 a.m. The only reason I’m so excited about visiting this room is because I was told that Loretta Swit was once there. I have no idea what to expect.
10:42 a.m. I’ve decided that I do hope Loretta Swit is here.
10:44 a.m. On my way to the convention center, a man who I had assumed was handicapped was blocking my way. I was very patient with him until I realized that he is not handicapped and instead was just pretending to be a T. Rex.
10:46 a.m. My way to the convention center has been blocked by security guards holding up a rope so that famous people can get past this area.
10:46 a.m. I find myself feeling guilty that I don’t know who these famous people are that are getting special rope treatment.
10:48 a.m. The ropes are still blocking me, even though there’s no one there anymore.
10:50 a.m. I say to the security guard, “I’m just trying to go that way, how much longer will these ropes be up?” He responds, “I have no idea. It could be a long time.”
10:50 a.m. Ten seconds later, the ropes are down.
10:53 a.m. On my way to the autograph pavilion, I got into one of those situations where I go right at the same time the woman in front of me goes the same direction. Then to the left. Then to the right. She says, “We’re doing the tango.” I say the word “Ha” out loud instead of actually laughing. Who am I?
10:54 a.m. The first person I see is a man named Nick Palma who was the stunt double for Michelangelo in ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze.’
10:55 a.m. Palma, wearing a sort-of Turtle outfit, is teaching a woman how to fight.
10:56 a.m. Across the room there are loud cheers. Weird Al Yankovic has just arrived.
10:58 a.m. The next person I see is Kathy Coleman, who played Holly on the ‘Land of the Lost’ television series. I find myself strangely delighted by her banner.
11:00 a.m. There is a very big line for George R.R. Martin and that seems reasonable.
11:05 a.m. Richard Hatch is here.
11:06 a.m. I am fascinated by this sign for Eric Millegan (from ‘Bones,’ I’m told) just for the very specific instructions about “*With your camera*.” Anyway, do not get in line and pay $20 and expect Eric Millegan to take a picture of the two of you with *his* camera.
11:10 a.m. Off the autograph area, there’s a section of the room called ‘Freebies.”
11:11 a.m. As it turns out, the “freebies” are about as enticing as you would expect.
11:12 a.m. A child just asked his father if they could stop at the “freebie” table, the father looked down at his son and said, “That’s junk, son,” then they scuffled over to the food court.
11:20 a.m. I really don’t know what else to do in this room.
11:21 a.m. I wish Loretta Swit were here.
11:24 a.m. I’ve decided I want to buy an action figure of The Flash and it’s now my mission to find one on the main Comic-Con floor.
11:28 a.m. I do enjoy some of the unique interpretations of characters that people come up with for cosplay, but I do wonder the mindset sometimes. Like, “You know, Darth Vader is cool, but he really needs more guns.”
11:33 a.m. The Comic-Con floor is crowded, but not nearly as crowded as I assumed it would be.
11:40 a.m. It’s surprisingly hard to find a Flash action figure on the Comic-Con floor.
11:44 a.m. This man simultaneously made me laugh and made me feel uncomfortable.
11:50 a.m. A man dressed as Randy “Macho Man” Savage is eyeing an Ultron action figure, which strangely makes me want to buy that very Ultron action figure.
11:53 a.m. I just purchased an Ultron action figure. I immediately kind of regret it.
11:54 a.m. All businesses should hire the Macho Man guy as a potential buyer to entice customers.
12:02 p.m. This sign at the bottom seems to negate a lot of what this particular booth is trying to accomplish.
12:10 p.m. Funny, I realize that this particular issue of ‘Detective Comics’ is expensive, but I actually just had a fleeting thought of, “Well, maybe if it’s reasonable…” It’s priced at $19,500.
12:16 p.m. Hey, kids, come get your swords!
12:20 p.m. I find a man who is selling a Flash action figure. It’s priced at $25, which I know is too much, but at this point I don’t care. He tells me there’s a $3 surcharge on all credit card purchases that are $25 and under. I ask if he can just charge me $25.01 and he acts like I’ve just invented Tang.
12:22 p.m. I realize that I have cash. The woman processing my order seems legitimately pissed that I realized I could pay in cash.
12:22 p.m. I hear myself apologizing out loud, but I’m not sure why I’m apologizing. She does not accept my apology and curtly hands me a Flash action figure. I have no idea what just happened.
12:25 p.m. I find myself wondering if I’ll ever be able to love this Flash action figure knowing that it was purchased under such duress.
12:26 p.m. I think it’s time to leave.
12:30 p.m. I wonder what Loretta Swit is doing right now.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.