Supernatural was the reason I went to my first Comic Con. I loved the show dearly but hadn’t yet gotten into the fandom, so much like Jon Snow, I knew nothing. My ignorance resulted in one of the more painful failures of my fandom life.
I went down to San Diego on the Saturday, because I only had a badge for Sunday. After a boozy, successful evening bar hopping, I asked a friend when I should get to the convention center for the Sunday panel in Hall H (the largest hall in the convention center). It’s important to note that my friend had only been there as a vendor, not as an attendee. So he replied “I don’t know, an hour before should be fine.” If you’ve been to Comic Con before, I can hear your eyes pop out of your head. Or hear you guffawing. You’re incredulous, I get that.
Well, I thought I’d be extra safe and get there three hours before. I walked down to the convention center and saw that people had spent the night there and that the line stretched further than the eye could see. I decided to try anyway, and was shocked that I actually eventually reached the front of the line. But it was not meant to be. After hours in line, they literally let the person in front of me in and put down the rope right in front of my chest. Which, I knew was a risk. But then something happened that rubbed salt in the wound. As the last person to my left walked inside the hall, I heard them say “what is Supernatural?” That fan was there for the Twilight panel happening in Hall H after Supernatural, but SDCC doesn't clear the hall so unfortunately our fates were intertwined.
I won't lie, gentle reader. It was a bitter pill to swallow. I had gone to a lot of trouble to be there. The line security guy was apologetic. He assured me I could cry if I wanted to. He’d been seeing it go on all day.
I wasn’t going to let that happen to me twice. The following year, I dug in and learned how to master SDCC as a Supernatural fan. What I have learned is that there is no better fandom to belong to during the week of San Diego Comic Con. And if you know what to look for you will crush SDCC and leave with memories to last a lifetime. Here’s why, in no particular order:
7) Swag. Supernatural is a relatively small show. But the fandom is so passionate and committed, it makes an outsized impact. You can see that in the free swag at SDCC. First, the bags you get when you check in are usually designed with art from a limited number of new shows enjoying a big promotional push----and, Supernatural. Understandably, you don’t get to poke through all the bags when you check in. They have something like 150k people checking in. You take the bag you are given. But then you quickly look around and see who has a Supernatural bag that might trade with you. You want to do it soon, because later on, people have all traded and they have the bag they want.
There is usually also a Comic Con magazine with a Supernatural cover. Entertainment Weekly is good about doing Supernatural covers as well and I've picked that up at the CW booth in the convention. So basically, you can get exclusive Supernatural swag for cheap or free. Well, you stand in lines and do some begging. But no money exchanges hands.
I should also mention my favorite Supernatural merch here. CineQuest is owned by Supernatural fans, and their exclusives are always the best. They know what moments, characters, and relationships mean the most to us. Check out their exclusives ahead of time and visit their booth. They are really friendly and will talk Supernatural with you if they aren’t too swamped. And if you aren’t going to SDCC, you can still snag some good stuff, so check it out. They don't pay me for the plug I just love them.
6) Random Acts. As you may know, we have a Supernatural fan supported nonprofit called Random Acts. Random Acts always has volunteers come down for SDCC. They usually coordinate a donation drive as well as another service oriented activity. They are sometimes on smaller panels about fandom charity, doing us proud. I have worked with Random Acts on several volunteer projects. They are amazing. They work hard for free. And during SDCC they always bring us together. I just love to see their wonderful faces.
5) The big slumber party. I know this one is a matter of personal taste. But I always look forward to camping out overnight for the Sunday Supernatural panel. People look at you like you’re crazy. Or they feel bad for you. Who in their right minds would sit in a line for 27+ hours? Well, for me its part of the fun. I get to see people I talk to online all year but only get to see in person that one time per year. We bring card games, we work on art, we chat about our lives, and we gossip about the show. We organize line buddies so we can go get lunch or check out other panels. Then we all come back to get our wristbands and set up our sleeping bags at night. The weather is temperate and I love to camp anyway, so for me, Saturday night on the grass is a geek slumber party to enjoy.
Also, the cast and crew know we are there for at least 24 hours before the panel, so they often come say hi. I’ve seen Jim Michaels (producer) come over to chat with fans. Jared Padalecki came by one year at 3am after his parties and said hi. And Misha always comes by. He might jog by and give high fives. He might bring us coffee in the morning. He might just pull his happy ass up with a cart stacked with pizzas. You just never know. There are pics of him all over the internet of him visiting the SDCC line. I don't own those pictures, but feel free to share them if you have them!
4) Supernatural family at smaller panels. Supernatural has been on a damn long time. So there are a lot of past and present cast, writers, and crew. Many of them come down for SDCC for new or side projects. So who is your favorite writer? I bet they are signing or have a panel on some other project. I bet you would like that project too. Look at every panel and scan for names. Follow Supernatural family on twitter and sign up for their email lists. That way you don't miss them!
Maybe I’ll do a separate post just for SPNFam appearances! If you’d like that, then let me know in the comments or on twitter. It’s like Supernatural Pokémon. Catch ‘em all.
3) Wayward Cocktails. Jules Wilkinson, who runs the Supernatural Wiki and is a lovely human being, spearheads the annual fan party Wayward Cocktails. We take over a bar in downtown. There are Supernatural decorations, fan art vendors, drink specials, amazing swag, and all your SPNFam. If you work on Supernatural in any capacity, you get in free, so folks who work hard behind the scenes on the show will come and chat with the fans. It's our chance to thank them for their hard work.
Last year at the party, I spotted Bobo Berens (writer), and I went over to say hi and thank him for the great episodes and for being rad. The friend that came with him was a little surprised. He said something to the effect of..wait...you're famous here? These people all know who you are? I was like YES OF COURSE! AND WE LOVE HIM! It was really cute.
The actors of course get a lot of the glory because they literally personify the characters we love. And they absolutely deserve all the love they get. But the words they say? The sets we adore? The amazing props that become objects we cherish? Lots of people work hard on those and don’t always get the feedback from fans since they are behind the scenes. This is a super fun opportunity to meet them and let them know how much their work matters to you. You never know who is going to come, but no matter what, you have a great time with other fans.
2) Misha Collins. There are so many members of our cast that I look at and think ‘gatdamnit we are lucky bastards that this person is a part of our SPNFamily’. I feel that way about Osric, Kim, Lisa, Brianna, Rachel, and many others that have huge hearts and inspire us to do good, celebrate our diversity, and show kindness to one another. Misha Collins is truly one of those people, and he always connects with fans at SDCC. One year he tweeted us to meet him and have a cosplay contest, even though he wasn't even on the panel that year. Last year he did a scavenger hunt on the fly and the goal was to find him in downtown San Diego wherever he was. THAT warrants some detail.
We were in line for Hall H and someone came by with a basket of fortune cookies with the first clue. Of course we had no idea what was happening. He just springs these things on us. To join in the Misha fun, you have to be open minded and willing to drop everything you’re doing. I wasn’t going to miss out, so I took a clue, grabbed a wonderful line buddy and got moving.
The first clue led to us finding someone near The Tick pop up who gave us a task and a clue. So we started doing tasks, documenting them, and bringing them to the next stop which we would figure out via the clues. At every stop there were Supernatural cast members giving us the next clue and task. So we got to meet and talk to Osric, Kim, Brianna, Ruthie, and Alaina. We couldn't take selfies because it would spoil the clues so we kept it under wraps so that each person after us got to walk into a hotel or restaurant and see a cast member or two waiting for them. It was so lovely. And we did tasks like find the ubiquitous Jesus protesters and protest with them, find warriors, find cat costumes, I can’t remember the details but it was a ridiculously amazing ride, and Misha was the end of it with Osric and Kim in the park right across from the convention center. They chatted with us, took pics, and were just generally delightful. Those three, man. They are gems.
The moral of the story is, you can set your watch to it (do people still wear watches?). Misha is going to try to channel our energies for the greater good and build something bigger than ourselves. That’s our Mish. Set notifications for his twitter account.
1) The Panel. The Supernatural teams seem to understand that we go balls to the wall for Supernatural at SDCC, and they reward that with a great panel. They know we sleep outside. They know we wait around the clock. And they take that seriously and let us know we are appreciated. After all, SDCC is the most massive pop culture event of its kind in the world, and Hall H is the monster hall of the con. Not many shows can fill Hall H on their own. But Supernatural is not just any show. Fans do what it takes to show up for Supernatural. And every year we leave on cloud nine after our Sunday panel.
Here’s how it usually goes, based on my 6 years of SPN panels at SDCC.
About an hour before the panel they start letting us in to Hall H. We’ve all slept outside but by then we’ve given each other breaks to go brush our teeth and get breakfast. We’ve packed up our bedrolls and put them away somewhere. We are sleepy but excited. As we walk into the Hall, the staff give us high fives and we cheer. We made it into Hall H! Last year, they also tossed us each a t-shirt commemorating every year Supernatural has had a panel at SDCC. We speed walk through the massive hall to find a seat as close as humanly possible. We take pics of ourselves in front of the screen. We post selfies with our SPNfam. We make sure we get to the bathroom before the panel starts. We walk around saying hi to anyone we didn’t get a chance to see in line.
Then the room gets dark. We see new footage. A preview usually. We see the gag reel. Then we see Rich and Rob, who moderate all the Supernatural panels these days. They bring out Jensen, Jared, a producer or showrunner, and now Misha too. In the past there have been others, but always at minimum, it’s Jensen and Jared. They seem to remain so grateful and excited to be in Hall H. They come in taking footage and trying to look all the way to the back of the hall. And they start the panel which never fails to be uplifting and hilarious. Jensen and Jared are basically brothers. Their chemistry is a beautiful thing to watch and share in. If you have been to a SPN con you know. They finish each other’s sentences, they have perfect comic timing together--they could take their act on the road. They are consummate professionals with the fans -- warm, humble, and sincere, with the occasional gentle ribbing when appropriate. We are so fortunate to have these two guys leading our show. And the fact that the moderators are their close friends adds to the atmosphere of family and friends.
But last year there was more. Before the panel, when the room got dark, the entirety of the massive hall was ringed with screens with a special video presentation for us. It was overwhelming in the best way. And then the band Kansas came out and performed ‘Carry On My Wayward Son’. I put my phone down and just yelled the lyrics with everyone else. I had goosebumps! There were tears!
But even when we don’t get Kansas or t-shirts, we always leave on cloud nine.
That isn’t to say we always agree on everything. We do express our dissent when they do something awful the prior season, like kill off our one LGBT representation and love letter to the fandom Charlie Bradbury in the most disrespectful way possible--but I digress. Without fail, no matter our disagreements, we are always reminded why we are a part of the Supernatural family. We always leave stronger and uplifted. We saw our fandom family. We made new friends. We felt the love and appreciation of our cast and we were able to show our love and appreciation for them. We laughed at the gag reel together. We did something weird because Misha said it’d be a good idea. These are memories we will always treasure.
So if you’re going this year, please come say hi. You've definitely seen enough pics of my face now to find me! 🙂 I’ll be at Wayward Cocktails Thursday. I’ll be in that big ass line up and down the water on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll be wearing a Supernatural bag. But I’ll definitely be in Hall H screaming my fool head off. Let’s make some damn memories.