Devourer of Words 056: Revisiting Comic-Con

Toucan reading a comic

This past Comic-Con was my 18th, by my count. (Which could be off because math is not a “strength” of mine.) I first attended as a journalist, working for Entertainment Weekly, after I convinced my bosses that in the wake of Spider-Man, maybe we should start covering comics in a real way. I had heard of Comic-Con, of course. Every fan had. Growing up in New York, it was, literally, a country away. So I didn’t make my way until a job made it happen.

I barely knew anyone in comics. I knew names on mastheads, publishers on covers—and a couple of colleagues from my days working at Starlog magazine had ended up as editors at DC Comics—but it was a whole new world to me. And I fell in love with it.

Most of the times I attended Comic-Con were as a member of the press. If it wasn’t representing EW, it was io9, or The Hollywood Reporter, or Playboy, or The Los Angeles Times. Occasionally, I was also there as a comic book writer, which I started doing on the side to scratch the itch I’d always felt. I’d squeeze in a signing or two between my duties covering panels or conducting interviews with the increasingly glittery TV or movie stars who started hitting San Diego as the con began growing.

I’ve seen almost every angle of Comic-Con. I’ve been on panels where more people were on the dais and I’ve moderated panels in a packed Hall H. I’ve hit the shiniest poolside parties and I’ve eaten a convention center hot dog while sitting on the floor of an empty corridor.

But this year was wholly, profoundly different. This year, I was there as a television writer. Now, to be fair, I was also a TV writer when I went in 2011, while I was on the writing staff of Alphas. But SYFY didn’t build a block-long haunted house or bury a Lincoln Town Car in a fountain in support of Alphas. But Hulu did precisely that to help promote Castle Rock. That show is the single largest thing I’ve ever been involved in. Hulu screened the pilot episode during the Castle Rock panel, which was held in a standing-room-only Ballroom 20. I heard the gasps and cheers from backstage, where I was standing with actors Sissy Spacek, Bill Skarsgard, Melanie Lynskey, and Jane Levy, and showrunners Dusty Thomason and Sam Shaw. Then I walked out onto the stage to moderate the panel for the TV show I helped write.

“Surreal” was my Comic-Con 2018 watchword.

I was also an invited guest of the convention, another first. As part of my invited guest status, I was informed that I would get a Spotlight panel—in which there would be a ballroom, a microphone, a stage, and a buncha chairs, all in anticipation of people showing up to a panel that was just about Me. I asked the organizers if they were sure. They said yes. I asked my friend Evan Narcisse if he’d moderate the Spotlight panel. He said yes. He’s a journalist, so knows his way around a question. He’s also been a friend for years. So, comfort zone.

I’d heard an anecdote about speaking engagements like this. An author was holding a book reading. Before getting to the store, he stopped at an ATM and withdrew $20. If, when he got to the signing, there were enough people present that he could buy them all a drink with that $20, then that’s what they’d go do. If there were too many people for that to work, they’d stay and get on with it.

When I got to the room in the San Diego Convention Center where my Spotlight panel was held, there were more people than I could’ve bought drinks for. Which was far more than I expected. I took my seat, next to Evan, as Gary Sassaman—who edits this here blog, and is SDCC’s director of print and digital media—took the podium and started talking. He said that in recognition for contributions to the comic book arts, as a journalist and as a comic book writer, I was one of 2018’s Inkpot Award winners. And there was a trophy and everything.

No one told me this was happening. Nor did anyone tell me that Evan was going to then deliver an intro that would reduce me to tears.

I’ve never had a Comic-Con like this. I’m sure other people have had a barrage of wonderful come at them in such rapid succession, but I never have. And if it never happens again, that’s okay. Because at least it happened once.

I can’t read them or I’ll start crying again.

Marc Bernardin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!

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