Comic-Com Brings all the Geeks to the Gaslamp District

In honor of SDCC this year, I wanted to revive this article that originally appeared on the Nook Real Estate blog on the history and impact of Comic-Con to San Diego’s Gaslamp District.

When we brought you the highlights to living in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, it was clear that the annual Comic-Con event needed its own nook. Every July, over 100,000 celebrities, artists, and professional cosplayers descend upon San Diego, and spend nearly $85 million in direct spending.

How did that happen? Back in 1973, 300 comic book lovers met in the basement of the U.S. Grand Hotel, officially starting the first SDCC, or San Diego Comic-Con. Maybe they knew it had a lot of potential to grow. The founders did always keep the comic books convention tied to pop culture. I’m not sure anyone predicted that they would have to cap the attendance at 130,000 or that hundreds of thousands of hopefuls would wake up early and refresh their computer screens for hours in the hopes of buying a ticket - for those who were smart enough to get a member i.d. months earlier. If you are one of the lucky and nimble fingered enough to get your badge (ticket for the uninitiated), then you need to work even faster to secure your hotel and parking spot lottery.

And that’s well before you plan which panels are worth standing in line to see. You’ll hear a lot about Hall H: with 6500 seats, that’s where the huge announcements, sneak peeks and longest lines live. This year, you can hear from creators involved in The X Files, The X Men, Doctor Who, and Dirk Gently are coming via BBC America, plus standbys like Game of Thrones and new attractions like the revamped Mystery Science Theater 3000. Smaller rooms are sometimes more for creators, with inside information on getting publicity for your comic, comic book legalities, intersectional feminism in comics, a #SPARK Your Creativity panel, and how to use comics and graphic novels in the classroom.

With such a rich history of artists converging, there are bound to be some quirky happenings. I dug deep into the archives of the internet to find you the most interesting of factoids. Okay, that’s a lie. I just asked my friends.

  • Flex Your Rex / Dino-Mite Fun Walk. There are a ton of off-site gatherings over the weekend too. Some require badges to enter and many don’t. If you want to dust off that T-Rex costume or inflatable and parade around the Gaslamp District, like their Facebook Page and get updates. I sincerely hope this was started by a parent who lives there, and whose child saw all the cosplayers and wanted to dress like their favorite thing, too. That would be the coolest origin story.

  • Cosplay Repair Volunteers. Imagine you spent over 700 hours designing, building and perfecting a cosplay for the big weekend. One wrong turn out of a booth and you desperately need a safety pin, or strong tape, or needle and thread to stitch you back up. Who you gonna call? Caitlin Brown and Todd Kimmell, the “real superheroes” of the Con. Named The International Cosplay Corps, Brown and Kimmell volunteer their time and supplies to make sure no Batgirl goes unglued and no Doctor Who is left hanging (more than some of his Companions can say).

  • It’s hard to blend into the biggest geek convention of the year when you built your fandom on the very nature of nerds: curiosity, crafting and blowing things up. Adam Savage of MYTHBUSTERS dons a mystery cosplay every year and fans have to find him. Of course, it has to be a costume that doesn’t show any part of his face. Last year he was the bear from Revenant dragging a Leonardo diCaprio clutching his Oscar, which was pretty epic. Savage also documents how he builds each costume in his signature fabulously geeky way. One of the most fun parts of watching his videos is seeing who figures out that it’s him and how many people are oblivious while getting their photo op (watching Poison Ivy freak out over meeting him is pretty sweet). The Revenant video is also cool because you see him walking past some of San Diego’s waterfront.

  • Ray Bradbury, best known for his dystopian story Farenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, was a guest at the very first San Diego Comic-Con. He attributes his love of writing to his childhood comic strips like Prince Valiant and Gasoline Alley and always tried to attend SDCC when possible. He surely influenced some of our modern mid century architects like Pereira, seeing as how the New York Times called him "the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream".

  • When Disney released TRON: Legacy, they also created an incredible ARG (Augmented Reality Game) to go with it. Months before its release, at that year’s Comic-Con, random people got handed swag. It wasn’t until you saw it under a black light that the phrase “Flynn Lives” appeared. Clues then led you to an arcade a’la Flynn’s, with retro games and even more clues. I know many people who enjoyed playing parts of the ARG, and my husband’s participation in one aspect of the game got us into a special screening of the trailer followed by a Q&A with the original and also the second director. Then we watched the trailer again, because we’re nerds. I fully admit that the hype was better than the actual movie, but I didn’t care. I bought into the fun of the whole adventure because of the ARG.

  • Attendance to the San Diego Comic-Con has tripled since 2000, from 50 million to 150 million. Nerdist once estimated that if the attendees of SDCC from the last forty years could link hands and reach New York City, nearly 1,855 miles. No wonder they’ve been politicking for a convention center expansion for years.