Press access. Two magical words that have encouraged us to remain vigilant in our creation of content. Of course, no press access is more highly sought after then the press badge for San Diego Comic Con. Around 2017, a couple years into running the site, I reached out to apply for it and, understandably, they said “No.”
Tough, but fair. So I asked for Wondercon access and they said. “Okay.”
Then, in 2019, the dream finally came true: The Geekly Grind was officially approved as press for San Diego Comic Con! I was ecstatic! We made it in just in time for the 50th anniversary, and we had a blast seeing the show and providing coverage.
Of course, we had no idea that COVID was around the corner, which would bring everything to a grinding halt.
But now – we’re back! The show has returned stronger than ever, and RogueSymbiote (Lance) and I have been having an amazing time. Let’s quickly recap some of the high level stuff we’ve seen and done so far!
Wednesday night, as is tradition, the SDCC exhibit hall opened for a few hours to give folks a sneak peek at the spectacle of the exhibit hall. Wandering the floor, I was stunned by the gorgeous statues and art, and may or may not have found a handful of books I needed for my personal comic collection…
I also may or may not have contemplated how much trouble I would be if I brought home a $14,000 statue, as I marveled at the Terra statue brought in by Square Enix for display.
I was planning on making a trip to the offiical Comic Con merch store that night, located in the Marriott Marquis. However, I just happened to miss the cutoff on the line, so that adventure had to wait for another time.
Still, it did help me discover the Pinball Arcade! A fun little activation within the Marriott where guests can enjoy a selection of classic pinball titles. There’s also a pretty cool Godzilla statue, perfect for pictures!
After some shopping, I decided to head home and rest up for the main event!
Day 1 – Thursday
Arriving just a touch early so we could secure Lance’s vaccination wristband, things around the hall were a bit hectic to say the least. After all, how do you shuffle/place tens of thousands of eager fans before the main exhibit hall has a chance to open?
Still, we were able to take care of business and eventually both made our way into the exhibit hall.
My first stop was with Funko, where I had a chance to interview Jessica Piha-Grafstein, Senior Director of Communications for the collectibles company.
I was curious how Funko manages to identify licenses that seem to have a lot of staying power. After all, pop culture moves so quickly, how can they know which products will be a hit, and which ones may flop? Jessica explained that Funko really takes the time to listen to the fans, but more importantly, allies themselves with extremely popular licenses that already have a reliable fan base. Properties like Star Wars, and of course the Marvel library, is a deep well that is very hard to exhaust.
For a bit more detail on my conversation with Jessica, look forward to the Funko spotlight piece after the convention is over.
From there I connected with Brandon Wainerdi, Associate Director of Marketing from Mondo, who was recently acquired by Funko (last month!). We discussed how the company evolved from creating compelling movie posters, to now moving into a much wider offering of collectibles – including awesome figures and vinyl collections. Brandon was so excited to be back on-site, connecting with fans, and re-iterated the opportunity that Mondo will now have by having Funko in their corner. They look forward to even bigger and better things, cooler collectibles, and presence in more geek and pop culture spaces with this new backing!
Up next, the Crunchyroll industry panel! While there wasn’t too much in terms of earth-shattering announcements, it was great to see anime fans unite within the Comic Con space to cheer on their favorite upcoming series. Of note was the conversation around the new Saint Seiya series, Battle for Sanctuary, coming out this summer!
After some additional browsing around the exhibit hall, we closed out the day with a very insightful panel on people of color in the TTRPG space titled “POCs in TTRPGs”. From the program –
Tabletop roleplaying games are taking center stage in the entertainment sphere, showing that everyone is welcome to the gaming table. This panel highlights some of the extraordinary People of Color in TTRPGs, giving you a look into their background in gaming, how they are making moves in the RPG space, tips for aspiring creators, and more.
The panel was comprised of Michelle Nguyen Bradley (actor on Critical Role and Idle Champions: A Familiar Quest) , B. Dave Walters (GM on G4TV’s Invitation to Party; actor on Vampire the Masquerade: LA by Night) , Makenzie De Armas (game designer for D&D at Wizards of the Coast and worldbuilder for Critical Role), Alicia Marie (costume artist, actor on Demiplane: Children of Éarte), Noura Ibrahim (actor on D&D’s Black Dice Society and Vampire the Masquerade: LA by Night) ,Markeia McCarty (host/producer and marketing manager for Hunters Entertainment), and Luis Carazo (actor on Critical Role ExU: Calamity and LA by Night)
It was a fantastic conversation around how marginalized players and groups can begin to take up more space, be more visible, and have more influence within the TTRPG space. Set against the backdrop of the recently released Journeys of the Radiant Citadel, which was created exclusively by black and brown talent, the panel shared an overall optimistic tone on the trajectory the industry is taking.
Of course, challenges remain. Makenzie shared a story about how she was turned away from a panel that she was supposed to be hosting because she didn’t “look the part” of someone who had authority on the subject of D&D/storytelling. She also recounted how it took her a long time to feel like she could be herself in a fantasy setting. Even in her fan fiction she would write herself as having “…pale skin…blue eyes. And I thought to myself: this is enough for me.”
Overall, a great way to end our first day and a reminder that while there is a lot of great work going on in geeky spaces, we need to be vigilant and ensure that inclusiveness, awareness, and kindness are key elements of what we do in those spaces.
Looking forward to even more amazing experiences as the weekend continues! We’re halfway through, headed into Saturday, and our Day 2 (& hopefully 3) recaps will be available soon!