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Comic-Con 2012: Surprise Close Encounters

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Mark Hamill strolling through the lobby of the San Diego Convention Center during Comic-Con International 2012. Photo credit: Adam Frank

James Roday and Corbin Bersen of “Psych” pose for a quick photo with a fan at San Diego Comic-Con 2012. Photo credit: Deborah J Bell

For those at San Diego Comic-Con 2012 unwilling to do the sleeping bag and tent thing in order to secure a seat close to the stage in Hall H for one of the more popular panels, there was always the chance of a glimpse of or a handshake with celebrities on the 525,000 square foot exhibit hall floor, or perhaps even outside on the streets of San Diego.

This reporter turned around at a booth only to bump (quite literally, sorry guys!) into James Roday and Corbin Bernsen of “Psych.” The stars were kind enough to stop for a photo with another fan before briskly walking off to view more of the vendor booths, all the while accompanied by a black-suited security detail.

Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, and his entourage strolled past me in the midst of the Lucasfilm “Raiders of the Lost Ark” exhibit and LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fame were discovered signing on the exhibit hall floor. I was tipped off that “Mythbusters” Grant Imahara was doing a spur-of-the-moment autograph session at the League of S.T.E.A.M. Steampunk booth, and Seth Green was spotted strolling in downtown San Diego during Comic-Con. So the nerd gods did smile upon ordinary fans occasionally.

Grant Imahara greeted fans (including your intrepid reporter) at the League of S.T.E.A.M. booth at Comic-Con 2012. Photo credit: Deborah J Bell

It definitely paid off to be signed up on Twitter and Facebook for alerts as to where one’s favorite celebrity might be appearing. Several companies such as Marvel had their own events app available for free download which provided updates on signings and giveaways at their booth throughout the convention.

Dedicated autograph tables upstairs in the convention center’s Sails Pavilion offered a much better chance of nabbing a signature and maybe even a quick photo with various personalities, from actors, writers, directors, cartoonists, and even the occasional pro wrestler.

But appearances by the more popular media idols only meant additional lengthy waits in lines for fans, and often sans any guarantee of success. Lines were often closed when time ran short, such as when the celebrity had a panel scheduled to follow.

For example, fans could draw a ticket for the “Workaholics” cast signing upstairs in the Sails Pavilion, whereas the “Community” first come/first served cast signing at the Sony Entertainment booth downstairs could only be described as a complete SNAFU.

Seth Green in downtown San Diego for Comic-Con on July 13, 2012. Photo credit: Celebuzz!

First come/first served arrangements are problematic at best, and disasters at worst. The “Community” event turned out to be the latter, as several hundred fans waited patiently upwards of two hours, only to be turned away empty-handed at the last moment, and with no apologies by staff. Handing out wristbands or tickets to be exchanged for the limited number of autographs available, as most of the other booths did instead of just inviting fans to show up and wait, would have eliminated much of the disappointment that followed.

At super-sized events like Comic-Con, it often happens that extreme frustration is handed out in equal measure with extreme elation. Some fans have a harder time dealing with letdowns in the highly charged environment of a convention, as was evidenced by the occasional verbal outburst from overtired or overwrought attendees. It always seems best to maintain a laid back attitude and be prepared for disappointment, because you really don’t want to be that guy in the green spandex tights having a meltdown in front of 130,000 people with cell phone cameras.

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