Tagged: Nerd HQ

Emily S. Whitten in Nerd HQ!

nerd hq

I’m all about organizations with heart. Places that make you feel at home. And while the San Diego Comic Con is phenomenal and offers many amazing experiences, it can also be overwhelming and make you feel a bit like you’re just one of many ants in the ant farm, toiling slowly along towards your next goal.

That’s why I’ve said before and I’ll say again that Nerd HQ is a great alternative place to go and get your geek on when you’re feeling a little burnt out on the crowds of SDCC. Not only that, but the fact that its creators, Zachary Levi and Dave Coleman, built it from scratch and maintain a hands-on approach to running it as it grows (among other things, Zac hosts almost every Conversation and Dave keeps things running behind the scenes); and that all proceeds go to the charity of Operation Smile, give Nerd HQ a great cozy, almost familial vibe. And, of course, it’s a plain fact (that I can confirm, having had the pleasure of interviewing him on a couple of occasions) that Zac Levi is just a really solidly nice dude with a lot of heart. And I think that intangible quality can be felt in everything he’s built.

Last year, I was a big fan of the change in venue of Nerd HQ to The New Children’s Museum. The layout and fun backdrop complemented Nerd HQ’s offerings and all of the various interactive activities they provided, as well as the Conversations for a Cause. This year, with the addition, as Dave Coleman had noted in our Nerd HQ preview interview, of e.g. risers and extra air conditioning in the panel rooms, the venue was even better; and although there were many things to see, Nerd HQ still managed not to feel overcrowded.

Some of the cool things on offer this year were:

  • Gaming – Nerd HQ always offers the opportunity to hang out and play upcoming cool video games, which this year included Battlefield 1, Gears of War 4, and Titanfall 2. And although I didn’t have much time to spare for a session, every time I was over at the HQ, the consoles were all taken and the gaming crowd looked like they were having a blast.
  • On top of being able to play games, Nerd HQ provides cool gaming-related stuff to do. One of my favorites was the Xbox green-screen pictures you could take, which put you into scenes from games like Dead Rising, ReCore, and Titanfall 2. Another was the Xbox wall of custom controllers, with computers set up to allow you to design your own controllers right there. Sure, you can also do this from home; but it was weirdly addictively fun to design them while hanging out at HQ. (I personally designed a Deadpool and Bob set and a Little Prince and his rose set before I stopped.)
  • The photo booths! One fun part of these, of course, is that during the Smiles for Smiles sessions you could get your photo with celebrities by donating to Operation Smile (and I was very happy to get a picture with Joss Whedon. Yay!) But you could also just take pictures with your friends (or yourself and props) – and that was really fun as well. Plus, the tech-savvy setup automatically emailed you a photo if you scanned your RFID bracelet, as well as printing one on the spot. And this year, if you downloaded the Johnson & Johnson Donate a Photo app and used it to post a photo, not only does J&J give a dollar to Operation Smile (or whatever charity you choose from among those listed) for each day you post a photo; but at Nerd HQ you were also given a box of Avengers-themed Band-aids for posting. And boy, was I glad about that – because they saved my feet from some terrible, terrible blisters.
  • Free foooooood! This year, Kellogg’s was one of the sponsors for Nerd HQ, which was cool for two reasons. 1) They brought in comics artist Francis Manapul to do themed paintings with Kellogg’s Krave. They were all pretty rad and it was fun to watch them being created; and I got a picture of my favorite, this excellent warrior woman. 2) They also had a cereal bar set up with regular, double chocolate, and mixed Krave cereal and several different choices of milk. Let me tell you, that cereal is gooooood; and being able to easily sit down nearby and have a bowl saved me from fainting from hunger due to being generally too busy at cons to stop for food. (Nerd HQ saved me from a lot of things this year. Nerd HQ, you’re my heeeero!) And on top of all of that, they were giving away entire free boxes of cereal. Kellogg’s, I approve! (Note: at various times Nerd HQ was also passing out free lemonade and coconut water from different sponsors. Also awesome!)
  • Chill space. Sometimes, it’s nice just to have a place to sit and breathe. Along with the little outdoor area where I had a nice bowl of Krave cereal (and made a new table friend who let me share her table), Nerd HQ also has an indoor chill area and an outdoor patio; and nobody bothering you or telling you to move along. Sometimes when taking a break from all the madness, that’s just what we need.
  • The fan parties! Okay, so I actually missed the Nerd HQ parties this year, alas – but I heard from several friends that they rocked as hard as last year’s, which I did make it to. And as with last year, all you needed to get in was your HQ wristband. Rock on with your inclusive parties, Nerd HQ!

Of course, along with all of these excellent things, one of the best parts of Nerd HQ is the Conversations – smaller panels of about 200-250 which generally feature a chat between Zac Levi and the featured guest(s). They had a slew of fantastic guests this year, and I personally got to see some really neat panels.

  • The Con Man cast, who I saw first, were great, and shared funny stories about filming (particularly hilarious were the stories about working with Alan Tudyk, who wasn’t at the panel, and faces he makes while directing) and about what we can expect from the new season. On top of that, Nathan Fillion, as usual, had brought some weird, random, but ultimately still cool stuff to auction off for charity. My favorite was a small Swiss Army knife that his parents had given him for high school graduation (!). And how he kept emphasizing that it had a little loop so you could put it on your keychain, “or if you’re a girl, wear it around your neck!” Way to know your female fanbase, Nathan.
  • The Scott Bakula panel was pretty much My Favorite Thing Ever, because Scott Bakula and Quantum Leap have been, since childhood, among my Favorite Things Ever. I had not previously gotten to see him on a panel (although I did see him in Shenandoah at Ford’s Theatre ten years ago, which was amazing). So this was really cool; and even better was the fact that Zac Levi, hosting, is also good friends with Scott via their work together on Chuck, where Scott played Zac’s dad. The panel was hilarious, with Scott making running jokes at his own expense, but also heartfelt, with Zac talking about how Scott helped him through the stresses of playing a lead role in a TV show. In conclusion: Scott Bakula.
  • The Orphan Black panel was rad, and I especially enjoyed hearing about how Tatiana Maslany has dealt with playing so many different clones (and it was cool that her stunt double was featured on the panel, as well. An important job that most people probably don’t think about while watching the show). I also loved that an audience member gave Kristian Bruun a “Free Donnie” t-shirt, which he put on right there.
  • The Tom Hiddleston panel started with a hilarious little dance by Tom and Zac as Tom came onstage. This was a cool panel where Tom talked a good bit about his acting process. Meanwhile, I was trying to reconcile his friendly red-haired self with the sly and frequently evil Loki. It’s a credit to his acting ability that I was having a hard time of it!
  • The Joss Whedon panel was, as usual with a Joss Q&A, a thoughtful, insightful panel. He was up there by himself because Zac was having a much-needed rest (by Saturday Zac’s voice was fading, and I heard he was pretty exhausted by Sunday, although you couldn’t tell from his enthusiastic hosting). But Joss Whedon doesn’t really need a host to keep the conversation going, and pretty much the whole panel was quotable.

I’d quote some of it for you, but I don’t have to! Because along with livestreaming all of the Conversations for the people at home so they could feel like they were right there with us (very cool!) you can now watch all of them on YouTube as well; an experience I highly recommend.

And while you’re doing that, feel free to poke through my SDCC photo collection for more Nerd HQ goodness; and also check out my previous con coverage of the SDCC Her Universe Fashion Show, the Animaniacs Live! panel, the Kings of Con, American Gods, and Nick Animation.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten: 2016 Nerd HQ Preview!

San Diego Comic Con is practically right around the corner now; and with it comes one of my other favorite events, Nerd HQ. The brainchild of actor Zachary Levi and his friend Dave Coleman, Nerd HQ has only gotten better each year I’ve attended. Nerd HQ, which raises funds for the worthy charity Operation Smile, provides a smorgasbord of cool experiences in a chill setting (currently The New Children’s Museum)– a nice place to get away from the madness of the con for awhile while still getting your nerd on. Nerd HQ generally offers a selection of smaller-sized “Conversations for a Cause” panels with celebrities; “Smiles for Smiles” and “Signings for Smiles,” where you can get your photo with celebrities, or get celebrity autographs; places to play video games and see some really cool new or upcoming games; other cool exhibits from sponsors, some of which may be interactive; and two rockin’ parties for nerdy fans.

I’m looking forward to this year’s Nerd HQ, and in preparation for attending, I got to chat with co-founder Dave Coleman about his involvement and what we’ll be seeing. Read on for details!

Zac & David party fans

Dave, what is your background with Nerd HQ and Zac Levi?

Well, I started the company with Zac in 2010.  We’ve been partners in The Nerd Machine, and I have been producing every HQ since they started. Zac and I have been very, very close friends for the last 10 years or so. We’ve had The Nerd Machine for the last 6 years, almost 7. So I’ve been a part of this since the beginning.

Are you also an actor, or do you work in television? How did you end up meeting Zac?

I was on the crew side. I used to be a prop master for television; but Zac and I actually met playing basketball back in 2004, in the neighborhood that we all lived in. It’s funny, we met a lot of our friends that way. That’s where I met Joel David Moore, who was a really good friend of Zac’s at the time, and who’s now one of my other best friends. So it’s really interesting how we all met playing basketball, and then relationships grew out of that.

Eventually, I also started working on Chuck. I had done a movie with another prop master, Scott Bauer, who was on Chuck from the pilot. And he had interviewed me to do Chuck when they thought some of the guys who had done the pilot weren’t going to come back. It didn’t work out because of scheduling, so I ended up doing a couple of other shows while they were doing the first 2 seasons of Chuck. During season 2 of Chuck, I started working on the show 2 to 3 days a week, and then for seasons 3, 4, and 5, I was the on-set prop master for Chuck the rest of the time.

Can you tell me your experience with starting Nerd HQ and how it came together?

My experience is probably much different than Zac’s experience – just because, when we first started doing this, we really had no idea how to do it. We had never produced an event of any size, really, before. I had a design background; I have a Master of Fine Arts degree in set design. So I’d done that kind of thing, but never produced a full-on event for 20,000 people. So there was a lot of trial and error in figuring things out. You know – what do we think would be cool, and let’s just do that. That’s kind of how it started.

The whole thing was really an accident. When we started it; we made some t-shirts to throw out during a Chuck panel in 2010. I had a design background, and I had printed some shirts in the past; so when we started talking about doing stuff, Zac said, “Hey, what if I wanted to just print some shirts and give them out to fans during our panel?” I was like, “Alright, I can make that happen.” So it just kind of all started happening. And we made some shirts, and we took them, and we passed them out; and some of the guys on stage started throwing them; which was a giant problem, because everybody freaked out. Like, lawyers were pissed off and like, “You can’t do that!” because people were jumping over each other to try to get the shirts, and they were worried about liability and that kind of thing. So it got really kind of hairy there; but everybody loved the shirts.

It was the classic Nerd shirt that we ended up calling the NES, with the original Nintendo font. And so people were asking, “How do I get one? How do I get one?” And we looked around and were like, there’s no real “nerd culture” brand. You can buy stuff at ThinkGeek and Hot Topic, and hell, even at Target now, or Walmart; but there was no brand. So we thought about how to start something that people could identify with. So we turned Zac’s fan website, zacharylevi.com, into thenerdmachine.com, and just started taking email addresses; like, “Hey guys, if we made this shirt, would you be interested in buying one?” And we had thousands of people sign up. So we’re like, “Great! Here we go!” and a company got started. And my wife, Courtney, was shipping t-shirts out of Zac’s garage when we first started; and it was crazy. It was a real home-grown family business.

So after that we started trying to figure out a way to have a party; like in 2010 when we gave out the t-shirts, Zac had a party at a bar in the Gaslamp on Friday or Saturday night of the con. And people came, and we gave out the rest of the shirts that were there, and he was like, “Hey man – what if we just did another party to promote the brand?” But we couldn’t really work out a convention space, because, you know, they had been full for years and it takes a long time to get into the convention. So we said, “Hey, we’ll just do something outside.” We’ll find a little place to have a party, and go from there.” And then it turned into, “Well, if we have a party someplace, we’re still going to have to rent it for a few extra days to get it ready. What if we brought in some games or whatever. Maybe we can get some of our friends to come and do some panels. Maybe we could sell some tickets, and give the money to charity. Let’s see what we can do.” That’s how it all started!

What’s your experience been with the chosen charity, Operation Smile?

Fantastic. They’re one of the greatest organizations that I’ve ever been a part of. We are blessed to be able to help them out each year, and to do everything we can to raise money. We’ve been able to do some really great stuff with them in the last five to six years, that has really affected all of our lives in a positive way. You know, we all worry about jobs, and money, and that kind of stuff; but at the end of the day you go, “Man, no matter what we do, when we’re all done with our lives, we’re gonna go, ‘We did something to really help a lot of kids and a lot of people.’”

So of course people will want to know what’s coming to Nerd HQ this year. What can you tell us?

It will be at The New Children’s Museum again, and here’s a quick breakdown: AMD is coming back as one of our headline sponsors, and they are bringing in Battlefield 1 with EA and DICE; so we’re going to have a 64-station multiplayer of Battlefield 1 on PC – which is all Alienware, super-cool tech, and a really fun game experience. We played it during E3, and it’s unbelievable. Xbox is bringing their whole lineup of games that they’re going to have during the con to HQ. So we’ll probably have between 150 to 200 gaming units on site, where you’ll be able to set times, and that will be with Gears of War 4, Titanfall 2, and a bunch of other really great titles, all through Xbox, which we’re really excited about.

Johnson & Johnson is a partner of ours this year, and we’re integrating the “Donate a Photo” app that they do, in support of Operation Smile, into our app and into our photo booth. So if you take a picture at our photo booth, that photo gets sent to our Nerd HQ account to Donate a Photo. We can upload that, and for every upload, Johnson & Johnson donates a dollar to Operation Smile. What we are hoping is that we can raise another 10 to 15 thousand dollars just from photos at the photo booths. Hallmark is going to be on site with some awesome specials and exclusives for HQ which we’re really excited about. Kellogg’s is doing an indie gaming area with the Square Enix Collective, with a bunch of cool indie games that most people have never seen before, that people will get to play.

Stephen Amell, Yvonne S & ZL

We’re going to have a brand-new app that’s been completely renovated and redesigned for this year, with enhanced RFID capabilities; really cool photo filters inside; and connections to all your social media; so that’s very exciting. We’re pulling out all the stops. We’ve added extra air conditioning to the panel rooms, and we’re doing tiered seating in the panel rooms, so it will feel more like the seating at Petco Park. We’re adding a 360-degree camera to the panels, so you’ll be able to watch the panels at home on your VR system. You’ll be able to feel like you’re in the audience, which is what I think people want. And again, we’re lining up some amazing panels – new stuff, returning stuff; things people love, and some new stuff they wouldn’t expect. I don’t have the full panel list yet, but we’ll probably be releasing some of the panel schedule this week, and then we’ll have the full list out by next week.

We’ll be adding brand-new merch that we’ll be selling exclusively at Nerd HQ. We’re going to have this bad-ass 1960’s Nerd HQ-branded van driving around the city to promote HQ and for photo ops – it looks kind of like a big red version of the Mystery Machine. It’s going to be awesome. We’re doing more signings this year than before; and will hopefully bring in some really big names for the signings. And of course we’ll be doing Smiles for Smiles, which is one of our biggest ways to engage the fans with celebrities. We definitely want people to help us in our philanthropy by being a part of it themselves; so we will encourage everyone who comes or watches from home to download the Donate a Photo app from Johnson & Johnson. Because every day of the year, you can post a photo, and each one is a dollar for Operation Smile. Every person, by doing something that they already do by posting a picture, can change one kid’s life in 245 days. We’ll also have the fan parties on Thursday and Saturday, which will be super fun. We’re excited about those. We have a great time those nights.

So what are you most excited about for Nerd HQ 2016?

I think I’m most excited about the greater amount of offerings we’re going to be able to give this year. And I think we’re going to be able to raise a lot more money for charity, and to create a much more pleasurable fan experience through the upgrades to the panel rooms and the rest of the building, which I think are going to make a huge difference. Just being able to offer cool stuff that we haven’t been able to offer before is great.

And it’s HQ, it’s fun! We want people to feel like there’s a place where they belong, a place where they can feel comfortable, and like everyone there is their friend; and that it’s just a good time, and a good place to hang out.

Thank you, Dave Coleman, for your time and for this exciting Nerd HQ information! I can’t wait!

And until next time, ComicMix fans, Servo Lectio!


Photo credits: Eric Blackmon

Emily S. Whitten: G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. – A Culture of Positive Fandom

Robert DowneyThis weekend, on the way back from the wedding of one of my longtime best friends, I took a loooong train ride home. Naturally, I was riding in high style, in a Deadpool shirt and my handmade Deadpool symbol earrings. During the trip, I happened to be standing in the Amtrak café car line when a guy waiting with me complimented my geeky attire. This led to a several-minute conversation about Deadpool and the upcoming Deadpool movie; the X-Men movies; and (yarrrgh) the Wolverine: Origins movie. It was a great little comics nerd conversation, which I guarantee could have continued for hours were we hanging out at a convention rather than standing in a line for food on a train.

I realized afterwards that this conversation was particularly refreshing because after the initial “So you’re a Deadpool fan?” question, I didn’t encounter any of the attitude that I often get from men in comics fandom – the attitude that immediately questions or is at least taken aback by My Commitment to Sparkle Motion, i.e. my legitimate knowledge of and appreciation for comics fandom as an entity independent of any dude or some imagined desire to falsely pass myself off as a geek.

This still baffles me. If I was going to try to lie to random strangers about who I am, I think it would be way more fun to pretend to be fabulously wealthy and eccentric. I fail to see the advantage of pretending to be a geek.

It was nice to have a conversation that was not tempered by a feeling of defensiveness about the legitimacy of my geekdom in the eyes of my co-conversant, and it made me realize just how frequently I have encountered an attitude that, instead of accepting how I represent myself, continues to question the validity of my enjoyment of a certain brand of entertainment until I manage, basically, to out-nerd the other person (which, not even kidding, happens pretty much every time. If you challenge my geekdom I will pull out the big guns and quote esoteric nerd facts at you with the best of them). It’s so commonplace an experience that I barely notice it anymore; until I notice the lack of it, as in my pleasant conversation with a stranger on a train. As small an element as it may seem, for that component to be missing felt like someone had suddenly lifted the weight of Establishing My Geek Cred from the ingredients necessary to have a normal conversation about fun geek stuff.

I know that change can be slow, but I like to hope that encounters like my little train chat are a sign that geek fandom is gradually transitioning from some of the isolationist, unwelcoming attitudes I have railed against in previous columns (like the attitudes of geeklitism, or of Gamergaters) into a more understanding, celebratory camaraderie of mutual and group enjoyment of genre entertainment without snap judgments or prejudices.

I also suspect that social media, where one can generally interact on one’s own terms, is playing its part as a driving engine for change; and that some of the positive fan-interactive movements started by prominent celebrities in geek fandom, such as Supernatural star Misha Collins and his G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen), and Zachary Levi and his Nerd HQ strongly contribute to the changes I’m seeing in geek culture. I’ve already talked about how great Nerd HQ and the attitude it projects are, and more recently have celebrated the feeling of camaraderie in geekdom conveyed by the new Syfy Geeks Who Drink show and its Twitter interactions. Both of these have a strong positive and geek-celebratory social media component.

G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S., started by Misha Collins in 2011 is another such interactive social movement. The scavenger hunt, which wrapped on August 8 this year, consists of 15-person teams (which you can choose to be randomly assigned to, and which has led participants to meet new friends all over the world and have great experiences) working together over a week to complete a list of over 200 tasks, documented and submitted to the competition via photo or video. The submissions are judged and points awarded, and based on the overall points awarded to the teams, one team wins a Grand Prize all-expenses paid trip to an exotic locale with Misha Collins – which sounds abnosome.

The hunt, which is now a worldwide phenomenon with tens of thousands of participants in over 100 countries, had over 14,000 participants last year and is so successful that it has been categorized by Guinness World Records as the largest scavenger hunt of its kind. It has also broken several other world records through completion of some of the challenges issued to participants. The Gishwhes site describes the hunt as “part silliness, part art, part kindness and 100% fun” and notes that Gishwhes is the single largest contributor to the charity Random Acts.

About the tasks, the site notes, ”We try to create a list that is challenging, thrilling and absurd. We like to have participants break out of their comfort zones, re-awaken their inner artist, and do a bit of good in the world.” According to Collins, the primary reason for developing the competition was that he “loved the idea of thousands of people from all over the world connecting to create incredible things.”

Gishwhes is a great example of a celebrity both following his own personal inspiration for a project and using his status in fandom for good. I also believe its encouragement towards geek teamwork and outreach through fun and passion for the fandom, and the way it began and is maintained via social media and online interactions, is a contributor to a transition in genre entertainment fandom attitudes towards a kinder, more inclusive and positive fandom. Gishwhes encourages fans to branch out, join forces, and put their enthusiasm for their fandom towards creativity, social interaction, and helping others instead of focusing inwards or dwelling on themselves. I applaud celebrities like Misha Collins and Zachary Levi for leveraging their celeb status with fans for good in this way, and hope to see more from-the-heart fan interaction phenomenons like Gishwhes and Nerd HQ.

I also just plain love the cool stuff that’s come out of both; and particularly, some of the fun creations I’ve seen from this year’s Gishwhes. Favorites of mine include this gorgeous salt-and-pepper portrait of Robert Downey Jr. / Tony Stark; this portrait of Princess Leia (and her famous buns) in bread (there were prettier ones, but this won my heart for the punny speech balloons); and this lol-worthy video of “another boring trapeze teleconference. Business attire required.” You can see even more cool and crazy things accomplished during Gishwhes in this video from Misha Collins.

Other than all of the nifty things accomplished due to Gishwhes, I think the biggest thing I take away from it is the warm and positive attitude of the competition and everyone involved. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see all of the people who have chosen to celebrate and express their fandom in a fun and inclusive way; especially because, in the end, it is always our own personal choice as to how we want to move through the world; and how we choose to put ourselves out there can have bigger consequences for change than we can ever imagine. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”

From what I have seen, Gishwhes is contributing to changing the attitude of the world (and fandom) in a positive way. Here’s hoping that it continues to do so; and until next time, Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten: SDCC 2015 Part V – Nerd HQ: The Experience

Zak Levi

Ladies and gents, it’s time for my fifth and final SDCC 2015 column, and although my coverage of Nerd HQ happens to be my last SDCC write-up this year, it is certainly not least. In fact, Nerd HQ was one of my favorite parts of my whole San Diego adventure this year and is well worth talking about. Of course, the other parts of my adventure were all super fun too, and if you missed them, please go check out Part I  (the con floor!); Part II (the Her Universe Fashion Show!); Part III (the party round-up!); and Part IV (the panels!). But then come back here, because this year’s Nerd HQ was chock-full of great stuff I want to share!

For those who don’t know, Nerd HQ, now in its fifth year, was started by Zachary Levi to benefit the worthy charity of Operation Smile, and takes place during and adjacent to SDCC. Generally speaking, some of its biggest draws are the ticketed Conversations for a Cause, 200-seat discussions and Q&As with celebrities who are often already in town for SDCC; and Smiles for Smiles and Signings for Smiles, photo and autograph sessions with these celebrities. (All of the proceeds for these three things go to Operation Smile.) However, Nerd HQ also offers access to a chill place to hang out with other nerds, free gaming, and a variety of other fun free activities that vary from year to year.

I’ve been covering Nerd HQ and Zac and The Nerd Machine (which would also be an excellent name for a garage band) since 2013, when I wandered into Nerd HQ for the first time (appropriately, with one of the Gazillion Entertainment community forum moderators whom I’d gotten to know during my stint in the Marvel Heroes beta), to see what this interesting offshoot of the SDCC scene was all about. In 2013 and 2014, Nerd HQ was located at Petco Park, where I appreciated the arcade-like atmosphere of where the video games were set up for free play, and the open-air feel of the setting. There were some neat things to see and do, as well as places to hang out and take a breather from the much more crowded and intense SDCC. All-in-all, it was a pretty cool place to be.

This year, however, I feel like Nerd HQ (sponsored by AMD, IGN, and Sony Playstation 4) really, truly hit its stride, something I got to discuss with Zac Levi in this interview, along with talking about future plans for Nerd HQ and what’s new with Levi’s career right now. It was a delight, as before, to talk with him, and I recommend you check out the interview. Not only does he talk about cool Nerd HQ stuff, but also, it really highlights the time and thought he puts into both his work with Operation Smile, and the planning and execution of Nerd HQ. In particular, he talked about “creating a place where fans feel like they have a voice;” and summed up his choices with the following wise statement: “I don’t want to make decisions out of fear; I want to make decisions out of faith.” He’s a guy with a lot of intelligence and heart; and it shows in everything that Nerd HQ has become.

Speaking of which, here are some things that I thought really made Nerd HQ great this year. First, it implemented RFID registration and wristbands to scan everyone easily in and out of the building and keep track of things very efficiently. Second, it moved to a new venue, The New Children’s Museum, and I just loved the feel of it. With its high ceilings, colorful accents, weird and fun bits of art on the walls, and interesting layout, it made for a great backdrop and contributed to a chill vibe, and the great Nerd HQ staff and volunteers were able to set up the activations (various things to do as you wandered around) and traffic flow in a way that made it easy to get to all of the activities without getting stuck in too much of a people-jam.

The lowest level of the Museum hosted the Conversations, and the highest level hosted primarily gaming (Project Morpheus and Star Wars Battlefront were the featured products that you could try). Everyone trying the games upstairs was having a blast; and on Friday, some fans even got to compete in a 20 versus 20 battle in Star Wars Battlefront in which Levi played too.

The middle, ground level featured a variety of options. There, nerds could chill on the patio or the couches inside; play Star Wars Battlefront; get food at the Cafe (or the food trucks right outside); get their names printed on Coke bottles; get a drink at the Geeks Who Drink bars; talk to the folks from Operation Smile; buy Nerd Machine merchandise; check out displays from sponsors; and contribute to the fun chalkboard-graffiti on a big pillar behind the bar (I totally did a drive-by ComicMix tagging near a Deadpool head, because of course). They could also take pictures with celebrities at the Smiles for Smiles photo booth (for a donation to Operation Smile); compete for LootCrate prizes by shooting at Cylons; and get their images green-screened into stills from X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut, as well as buying the DVD, which came with a special limited edition print and two wristbands to the at-con screening of the film.

In addition, they could take Star Wars Battlefront-themed photos at another photo booth; and pose for photo booth photos with the Nerd HQ logo just for kicks. The photo booths were especially cool and easy to use, since scanning your RFID bracelet automatically posted your photo to the NerdHQ Facebook page and emailed it to you; and, you could print out a copy as well. I especially liked the fun and friendly touch of the clothespin wall, where some people opted to hang copies of their printed photos (I hung one up, and my friend later saw it and tweeted a photo of it back to me!). It seemed to reinforce the feeling that we were all there to have a good time together as part of the same big Nerd family.

That feeling extended to the Thursday and Saturday night parties, which I covered in detail in my Party Round-Up. To recap here, the music was super-fun, the dance floor felt like one big happy dancing family, and Levi even made his way out into the crowd and danced with all the other nerds for quite some time. And I literally made a new nerd friend while hanging out on the dance floor, bonding over nerd things. Plus, there was a Wookiee. You can’t go wrong with a Wookiee.

The familial feeling was also present at the Conversations for a Cause, in part because they are limited to just 200 fans per panel, and in part because of the somewhat casual setting. In those I attended, there was a real feeling that the guests on stage were relaxed, having a good time, and happy to be there with the fans; and that made the experience special. It’s one reason it was great to be able to be there in person for a few, although IGN also live-streamed them all, for fans who couldn’t go to San Diego or couldn’t score tickets; and you can now watch a bunch of them on the IGN YouTube channel (sweet!).

I was fortunate to be able to attend four great Conversations. The first was with Levi and the founders of Operation Smile, and you can watch it in full here. Despite all the other awesome, nerdy, amazing Conversations that were offered, I found this one to be the most valuable I’ve attended, because it focused on the whole reason why Zac Levi started building Nerd HQ – to help Operation Smile; and on the great work that is done by founders Bill and Kathy MaGee, and the enormous need for such work. The entire Conversation is filled with stories of their experiences that will move you, possibly to tears (and moved Zac, as he talked about his experience with Operation Smile). But I especially appreciated this story from Bill MaGee:

“In the very first trip, there was a thirty-five-year-old man who came in to see us. Now you don’t see a thirty-five-year-old person in the United States with a big hole in his lip. You just don’t see it. And his mom brought him in; he had never been to school, he couldn’t read, couldn’t write. And I took care of him literally in the light of day, on a stretcher in a hall with some Novacaine, like you would in a dental office. And forty-five minutes later I brought him back to his mom and she said, ‘That’s not my son.’ And I said, ‘Of course it’s your son.’ And she said, ‘No it’s not.’ And I had a mirror in my pocket, and I gave it to him, and as he looked in it, he began to cry; and I’ve often thought, ‘What would it be like to go through thirty-five years of your life, and never whistle; and never feel the gentleness of a kiss, because somebody didn’t have forty-five minutes for you. There’s absolutely no justice in that.’ And I think it’s that simplicity of the fact that you can go, ‘before’ and ‘after.’ And before and after is a metaphor that says, involvement can create change. And no matter what it is that you’re involved with, whether it’s like Zac, who’s been such an incredible help, or whoever; just think of something that you can see with your skill sets and your talents, where you can make a significant difference. And I can tell you, it will transform the way you think, the way your family thinks, and what you do in your life.”

What a great inspiration. Another great part of the Conversations is of course that the audience gets to ask questions, and at this panel, I got to ask a question, which is always cool! (And regarding Zac’s answer to the question of whether they might be able to figure out how to have more Nerd “outposts” at different cons, a) I hope they do! and b) Oh, I have ideas.)

The panel wrapped with a great summation from Levi that really showed the passion he has for what he does. He first reminded people that they can look into different ways to contribute to Operation Smile. He then said, “even if Operation Smile is not what you feel like God or the universe or your soul or whatever is telling you: ‘That’s my thing,’ that’s okay. But find something that’s going to change the world. Find something that’s going to help people in a bigger and more amazing way; that is transcendent of you. Because we could be dead tomorrow. You have no idea how much time you have left. But there are so many people that are hurting in the world. There are so many people who have the gift of a palate that need to be told, you have this thing, and their spirits are broken; and we need to be there to love on them, and to help them to mend that. And so I don’t know what that is for you, but find it with everything you have. Go find that. Go do that. I guarantee you it makes your life, here, in this existence, in whatever time we have left, far more, not just powerful, but worth it. Because ultimately, that’s the value that we find in our lives.” Dude. Preach it!

The next Conversation I got to attend was with Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, and many of the cast members of Con Man, the trailer for which is amazing. Seriously, you guys – I am so excited for this series. If you haven’t heard of it yet, this is the best place to go for an explanation, but in brief, it’s a Tudyk and Fillion project that was funded on IndieGoGo and will be airing on Vimeo; and is a comedic and fictionalized look at some of the experiences Tudyk and Fillion have had as stars of Firefly and regular fan convention guests. In Tudyk’s words: “The series is a light-hearted take on the personalities, luminaries, and characters in the sci­fi community of which we are privileged to call ourselves members. Con Man is a way to share some of the surreal occurrences we have had, while telling the story of a guy learning to love and embrace his fans.” It also features a ton of celebrities you’d recognize from big-time genre fiction shows (like Tricia Helfer and Michael Trucco from Battlestar Galactica), and at least one awesome voice actor (holla, Nolan North, voice of Deadpool!).

The Conversation, which you can watch here, featured eight of the cast members, and was super fun. They talked some about the process of making the series, including crowdfunding it, and the reactions from Hollywood when they pitched the project there. I found Tudyk’s discussion of Hollywood’s reaction particularly interesting. “Hollywood didn’t understand this at all. We would talk to studios and they were terrible with it. They’d be like, ‘Ah-ha, I went to Comic-Con once: craaazy! Whoo! All the costumes.’ Like, ‘You sure, or did you just turn on the nightly news and watch the guy outside going, ‘Look at this person!'” He also said that they passed on some potential studio deals, “because they would start out by going, ‘Let’s brainstorm on a couple of ideas. Like, there’s this goofy person, ’cause they’re a total nerd fan…’ And that was their understanding of this world. They would come at it from that direction. They could only see it from that perspective, because they haven’t been to a bunch of cons; they don’t get it.”

Speaking as a full-time practicing attorney, a weekly genre entertainment columnist, a webcomics writer, a convention co-founder and organizer, and a huge geek and regular con-goer, I appreciate Tudyk’s perspective that fans and con-goers are more complex than just being “this goofy person,” and am looking forward to seeing how Con Man addresses the dimensionality and diversity of geekdom.

This particular Conversation was also cool because it ended with everyone at the panel having the opportunity to donate to Operation Smile for a picture with all the cast members present, which, let’s face it, would be really hard to make happen almost anywhere else. Chalk up another cool point for Nerd HQ! (Also, during the photo Alison Haislip told me she liked my Portal Aperture Science shirt. Thanks, Alison!)

The Con Man Conversation was back-to-back with a Conversation with Elijah Wood (which you can watch here, and which was also really fun, and moderated in turn by Levi and Tudyk). Wood seems like a totally laid back, down-to-earth guy, who called Nerd HQ “a breath of fresh air” in the midst of the craziness of Comic-Con; although later he also said, “I love Comic-Con so much. I really do. It’s the best. I went and had brunch earlier, at Cafe 21, and you’re sitting down and there’s characters from Game of Thrones having brunch, in front of you, and then there’s someone else in a hood and a mask, and they’re having a Bloody Mary. It’s wonderful. It’s just so wonderful. And no one bats an eye. It’s this time in which everyone gets to express themselves, and express the thing that they love, and they’re as normal as can be. It’s fucking awesome.”

I enjoyed it when Wood talked about dealing with the hugeness of being a star in The Lord of the Rings. He said he really had to compartmentalize; to which Tudyk replied that it must have been “a big compartment, a huge compartment;” and Wood quipped back that “it was a walk-in closet.” It was also neat to hear about his somewhat surreal experience being on the set of The Hobbit years after starring in The Lord of the Rings. Altogether it was a really fun, mellow panel; and also ended with the opportunity to get a photo with Wood; so of course I did.

The last Conversation I got to was billed as Nathan Fillion, but actually (shockingly!) Alan Tudyk was the moderator, and so it immediately turned into The Nathan and Alan Show. These guys are an absolute riot together, as you can see in the video, and spent the entire time riffing off of each other and interspersing answers to fan questions with auctions of items they’d brought with them to benefit Operation Smile. My favorite bit was Fillion wearing this Captain America sweatshirt, although the whole thing was epic.

Aaaand…whew! I think that sums up all the awesomeness I was able to cram in during my time at the spectacular Nerd HQ, although there was plenty more I didn’t see (and speaking of that, I understand the Marvel: Partners in Prime Time Conversation was a contributing factor to another of my favorite things to come out of San Diego this year, The Great Dubsmash War, so thanks for that, Nerd HQ)! But for all the stuff I (literally) saw, check out my whole Nerd HQ photo album here or my whole SDCC collection of photos here.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Emily S. Whitten: SDCC 2015 Part III – The Party Round-Up

Emily Whitten SDCC 2015

I’m back, ladies and gents, with more SDCC coverage! If you missed Part I (the con floor) or Part II (the Her Universe Fashion Show), don’t forget to check ‘em out. And now, on to Part III – party tiiiiiime!

So it’s no secret that I love a good party. And SDCC isn’t a bad place to find one. If you look (and there are some handy party guides put out ahead of each con by more enterprising souls than me to get you started, like this one from Variety and this one from The Hollywood Reporter), you can find events ranging from casual to fancy to star studded galas, and from free events to paid ticketed events.

Your party mileage may vary depending on what you’re looking for; but if you’re like me and like to have a couple of events per night on your radar (nothing worse than ending up at a lame party and not knowing where else to go for a good time when you’re all ready for a fun night), then it’s a good idea to have at least two to three places in mind per night (although it could actually be a good thing if you don’t get to them all – it might mean you were having so much fun at the first one that you didn’t want to leave; and that’s way better than making it to All The Parties).

As a side note before I move on: of course, a lot of the parties listed that feature A-list celebrities or whatever are going to be invite or RSVP-only; but honestly, in my experience of having been to everything from those parties to the come-on-in, it’s-free-for-everyone parties, it’s not celebs that make the fun. Those parties can be awesome; or they can end up being badly organized, long-wait-outside kind of things; and who wants that when you’re looking to get your dance or drink on? So if you end up invited or on the list for those parties, by all means give it a whirl; but if you don’t land an invite to something like that, don’t stress or feel like you’re missing out on life. There’s plenty to do at night for any con-goer.

And as a tip to organizers doing the celebrity-style parties – the most fun I’ve had at those are the ones where you don’t have to wait forever to get in, and where you can actually chat with the other guests, no matter who they are, or where it’s more about everyone dancing and having a good time than whether you’re standing next to so-and-so. The least fun are the ones where if you aren’t an A-list celebrity, you feel like you’re kind of just there, even if you were invited and on the list and everything. Totally lame; so try to strike a balance where everyone feels like they’re welcome and it’s their party. I’ve seen it done right many times, so I know it’s possible! Oh, and for heaven’s sake, don’t tell a press person (or any person) they’re on the list for a party you invited them to and then forget to add them. Trust me – it happened to me; and after wasting precious party time standing in line for a party we won’t see when we could be elsewhere, reporting and/or having a blast, reporters do not forget that shit. Ever.

Anyway; this year, I started poking around the party lists and invites fairly well ahead of time and by the time the Con rolled around, I had my party schedule together. I aimed for a balance of drinks-and-chats vs. club-like, casual vs. fancy, and free vs. ticketed or RSVP events; because hey – I like variety! Some of the potentials dropped off the schedule because I never made it to them, mostly because there’s only so much time in a night (and I heard that the aforementioned list-SNAFU party I also missed turned out to be pretty lame, so no loss there!), but here’s the round-up of the ones I hit, which were hella fun.


The Event: J!NX PRESENTS: Gabe Eltaeb’s Second Annual Comic Kickoff Fundraiser

Where I Found It: I knew about this one in advance because my friend and I stumbled on it last year in the course of meeting up to get dinner. It had a fun casual vibe, so I checked with the J!NX folks to see if they were hosting it again this year, and lo-and-behold they were! But if you don’t know the folks at J!NX, no worries, because this event was also listed on Facebook.

Open To: Anyone! I RSVP’d on Facebook.

The Experience: Like last year, this was held at BASIC Urban Kitchen & Bar. The pizza there is good, and there’s a bar area as well as a more restaurant-like area with tables. The get-together is actually a benefit for The Hero Initiative, which helps comics creators in need, so it’s for a good cause. This year it was sponsored by Razer, Dark Horse Comics, and Loot Crate, and had raffle prizes that included hand-drawn sketches donated by guest artists, Razer Gaming Accessories donated by Razer, and Loot Crates and free subscriptions donated by Loot Crate. The guest artists on hand were Gabe Eltaeb (Star Wars, Green Lantern Corps), Jim Calafiore (Exiles, Aquaman), Carlos D’Anda (Star Wars, Deathblow), Todd Nauck (Young Justice, Nightcrawler), Eddie Nunez (Fanboys vs. Zombies, Ben 10), and Doug Wheatley (Star Wars, Blade: The Vampire Hunter).

As with last year, the vibe was again casual and cool. It was, again, a good place to have dinner with a friend, and more. Although I didn’t opt to participate in the raffle, there were some great pieces available, as well as the merchandise prizes. It was awesome to be able to be in amongst the party while still able to sit down and grab a bite to eat after the hecticness of Preview Night. All-in-all, it was a perfect, relaxed way to do something fun while still easing into the Comic-Con mood on the first night.

But of course, it wasn’t all I did that night. I soon headed over to my next event of the evening…

The Event: Wooden Wisdom (Elijah Wood & Zach Cowie DJ Set) at Bang Bang

Where I Found It: Twitter. I came across this purely by accident on my Twitter feed. Not knowing (as I do now) that Elijah Wood has been into DJing for a long time, my main thought was, “this is the weirdest evening event I’ve encountered at Comic-Con. I must go.” Given that tickets were only $15 when I looked it up, and after learning the venue had a bathroom devoted to Ryan Gosling, I was totally sold. I had to see this.

Open To: Anyone who wants to pay between $5-25 to go to a club and dance the night away with a hobbit co-helming the turntables!

The Experience: The website said the club closed at midnight on Wednesdays, and listed Wooden Wisdom as going on at 10, so I headed over around 10:30 to see what it was all about. As it turned out, for Comic-Con week the club was open until 2, and Wooden Wisdom was starting at midnight (that’s more like it!). That was perfect since I’d wanted to see a few friends for drinks first – so I got my stamp and headed to the Marriott for a drink, heading back to the club a little after midnight for the main event. I was prepared for anything – crowds, no crowds, terrible music, awesome music – and was pleasantly surprised to discover that (other than a sticky floor) this was a rockin’ experience.

Wooden Wisdom is good, you guys! Like, I-wish-they-hadn’t-had-to-go-in-two-hours, I-could-have-danced-a-lot-more good. Both Elijah Wood and Zach Cowrie were awesome up there. Plus, the weird bathroom didn’t disappoint (if you don’t mind a life-sized Ryan Gosling staring at you while you use the facilities); the bartender was extra-nice; I met a couple of new friends on the dance floor; and the giant disco ball and lighting was also pretty darned cool. And, I mean, there was the whole Elijah Wood is DJing (and havin’ a drink) a few feet away thing going on. That was fun. And a kick-ass way to start off the con weekend! I didn’t leave until they pushed us out the door.


The Event: VR Lounge, hosted by Dent the Future and The Tweet House, and sponsored by Qualcomm

Where I Found It: Long story short, I know a guy. Sometimes it does help to have those connections, and this year, I checked in with a friend who had, last year, hosted several Comic-Con panels and an associated rockin’ Robot Rendezvous Party, complete with technological demonstrations and special guest Brent Spiner, to see what he was up to this year. As it turned out, this year he was all about virtual reality, and was planning three panels, including a “Building the Holodeck” panel and an associated “VR Lounge” party. After last year? I was so there!

Open To: Everyone, with a ticket purchase via EventBrite. Even though I know a guy, you don’t have to in order to attend his parties.

The Experience: Like last year, it was geeky-cool, and a place to play as well as eat or drink. Held at the Stone Brewing Tap Room, the party featured complimentary appetizers and three different VR demonstrations. I got to try out two of the three before having to run off (I wanted to stay the whole time, but I couldn’t miss the Her Universe Fashion Show!) and they were super cool. For one, from the Emblematic Group, you put on some tech gear (a bag, headphones, and a viewing thing) and could walk around a room in the pub, while experiencing the room as a replica of the Star Trek: Next Generation bridge. It was pretty cool; and you could even sit down in chairs that now looked like holodeck chairs. (Or you could walk around looking like a badass Red Son Super(wo)man in a cape, like my friend Amy.)

The next, from Qualcomm, was Vuforia, which is essentially a modern-day, VR View-Master (man, I loved my View-Master), and is super-cool. The way it works is that by looking at a reel while using the viewer, you can enter the “experience” on that reel, and look around a VR version of different scenes. I looked at a space one, and it was super cool (and if you look down, it will say on the “floor” what experience you are in). You can also look around and see different reels within the reel you are in; and if you click on one of those, can jump into another experience. Let me tell you…it is neeeeeaat. I definitely want one; at the very least for my little nephew and nieces, if not also for myself! The third experience, which I didn’t have time to try but also looked rad, was NASA’s  Phobos Hopper project. If only I’d had a little more time to play! But even though I had to dash, it was a super-cool party.

After the Fashion Show on Thursday, I had a friends-and-family type invite-only dinner thing that I go to every year, so I knew where most of my evening was going to be spent (with awesome ComicMixers and the likes of Len Wein and Don McGregor!). But it’s always good to have something on the list for after, just in case…

The Event: The Nerd HQ Nerd Army Party

Where I Found It: On the website, word-of-mouth, and in the party round-ups. Even though this was my third year attending Nerd HQ (which, if you haven’t encountered it, is an amazing all-weekend event started by actor Zac Levi to benefit the important charity Operation Smile, and which I will cover in much more detail in another column), and I’d heard of the parties before, I hadn’t managed to make it to one in the other years. This year, I bookmarked the Nerd HQ party as the next place I’d hit on Thursday if there was time. As it turned out, dinner didn’t wrap until midnight, and I was already super tired after a busy day at the con; but I did swing by Nerd HQ with someone else from the dinner to see what the party was all about in this year’s new setting, The New Children’s Museum.

Open To: Anyone who has registered for Nerd HQ (which is free)

The Experience: This party is funnnnn, y’all. Remember how I was talking about celebrity parties that strike a balance and make everyone feel like it’s their party? Nerd HQ does it right! Even though it’s a draw to know that Zac Levi (and possibly famous friends) are going to be there, hosting the party, interacting with the crowd, etc., the party is still, first and foremost, a party with a bunch of nerrrrds. Albeit a party with Zac Levi and a Wookie on stage. On Thursday around midnight, there was no wait to get in – they just scanned our RFID bracelets, and in we went. The setting this year was pretty good, with a dance floor area set in front of a raised platform where the DJ and Zac and friends could hang out, and they had a really fun mix of music, and great lighting, to set the mood. Zac was totally into the party, singing, dancing, and saying hello to people in the crowd. There was a good crowd, clearly having a great time dancing and chilling, and there were also two bars (indoor and out on the patio) for drinks, although I didn’t get a drink Thursday, since I was just swinging by to scope the scene before dropping like a dead thing into my bed, to prepare for…


The Event: The Fashionably Nerdy Cocktail Hour

Where I Found It: Facebook, and friends mentioning it.

Open To: Everyone! I RSVP’d on Facebook.

The Experience: This was Fashionably Nerdy’s first year hosting this event; but from the minute I saw it, I was excited to attend. As you can probably tell from my coverage of the Her Universe Fashion Show and more, I am all about nerd and geek fashion for women; and the ladies hosting this party are, too! So it was a total match. The event was hosted at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Grand Lobby Bar, and advertised as a way to meet the Fashionably Nerdy team and some great geek chic designers. Swag bags were promised for the first attendees, along with a raffle, and prizes for the best-dressed. Press commitments elsewhere kept me from arriving when it started, so I didn’t land a swag bag, but their list of designers and prizes was very impressive!

Given that this was a fashion party, I dressed in my geek best with the Loki dress from the Her Universe Hot Topic line, designed by the winners of last year’s SDCC Her Universe Fashion Show. I swung by after the party had been going for an hour, and the place was pretty packed! I somehow immediately honed in on and met the Fashionably Nerdy gals (it’s like a geek fashionista sixth sense!) and chatted with them, as well as with some of their friends, one of whom is a designer who had made one of the great geek dresses being worn, and had actually been one of the Fashion Show models as well. We all bonded over our shared love of geek fashion, and kept running into each other for the rest of the weekend after that, which was fun. Yay, new friends!

Speaking of the Fashion Show, the Loki dress a good choice of attire, because I got many compliments! Despite the fact that the line was on my radar from the get-go, several people at the party had never seen the dress and wanted to know where I got it. I was happy to be able to tell them Ashley Eckstein had just announced that the sold-out line is coming back; and this was clearly the right crowd to be interested in news like that. After I met a few folks, I settled in for some food and drink, because whoo, I was starving! Over shrimp tacos I made friends with other like-minded geeks, chatting about, e.g., some of the difficulties and discrimination we’d encountered as women who are into video gaming; and the fun we have in sneaking geek couture into our daily work wardrobes. As the event wound down, I was happy to unexpectedly get one of the cute prizes they were handing out to some attendees – a great glittery Flash hairclip from Accessories by Nerd Girl Britt that I’ll surely wear somewhere. All-in-all, it was a really fun event! I hope to go again next year, and have been assured that planning is already in the works! As this year’s event wrapped up, I headed over to…

The Event: SherlockeDCC

Where I Found It: Ah, I have been a Sherlockian for yea, these many years, and had many friends (particularly from the yearly NYC BSI Weekend, and from my personal scion group, The Red Circle of DC) who were going to this party! So I heard about it from several folks.

Open To: Everyone who buys a ticket! Although this one always seems to sell out pretty fast.

The Experience: This was an all-around great party in a great setting, put together by The Baker Street Babes, Being Geek Chic, The Nerdy Girlie, SherlockDC, and more. Held on the 9th floor of the San Diego Public Library, the room had a glassed-in view of PETCO Park and downtown San Diego (which was especially cool when we unexpectedly partook second-hand in the Star Wars Celebration fireworks!), as well as a patio outside. There was a great spread of food (both hot food and a fruit and cheese table), and a cash bar. Everyone who went got a cool swag bag with Sherlockian-themed items like exclusive prints and Sherlock-themed tea. There was also an impressive raffle with lots of themed prizes, as well as a selection of merchandise to browse.

One of my favorite bits was a photo booth where you could get a set of four pictures done in quick succession, with silly props supplied for you. My friend Lacy and I had a total blast with that. It was also cool to run into great friends from the BSI, like Les Klinger of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes and Curtis Armstrong of Supernatural and King of the Nerds. And, of course, any party where you walk in and Steven Moffat is hanging out doing a Q&A is pretty darned cool. Really, this party wasn’t missing any ingredients of success; and a good time was had by all. Which brings me to the final party night…


The Event: The Nerd HQ Nerd Army Party

Where I Found It: See above. I was determined to actually have time to hang out at this party Saturday night, after being too tired to stay long on Thursday.

Open To: All registered Nerd HQ attendees

The Experience: The vibe and setting was similar to Thursday, although there was a line to get in. Still, it moved fairly quickly (unlike most party lines) and soon I was nerding out inside with the rest of the Nerd Army. At first, I’ll admit I was a little cranky, because I really, really wanted a water and could not figure out how to efficiently obtain one. After waiting in a long bar line, realizing near the front that I had to buy tickets in a separate line for drinks, and then buying those and getting back in the bar line, I was a bit frustrated – and I definitely think that process needs to be streamlined (why did there need to be drink tickets at all?) and clarified for next year (at the very least a complimentary water station, or a separate line for just water, would probably work wonders).

But once I got some water in me, I was more than happy to party like the rest of the crowd. And also, to take a couple of pictures with their free photo set-ups, which were still available during the night-time fun. (Fun side note: I pinned one copy of my party picture to the photo clotheslines just for fun; and the next day, a friend who I didn’t actually get to see in person the whole con tweeted it at me, all, “found you!” Haha! Friends seeing friends via Nerd HQ.) The dance floor was a good time; I got into the crowd for a time, and actually ran into and said hi to Zac as he was making his way back to the raised area after he’d been dancing in the middle of the crowd for a long while; and when I took a break from dancing, I ended up meeting and hardcore nerding out with a new friend in conversation on the sidelines of the dance floor. And although I personally didn’t run into any of the other celebs who might have been there, I know that, e.g., Yvonne Strahovski was there at least one of the nights; so you never know who you might see at Nerd HQ! And either way, it’s a hoppin’ party!

But eventually, I needed to slow it down a little; so I headed over to my last party of the weekend…

The Event: SlamCon

Where I Found It: Twitter. You have to follow @Slam_Con on Twitter to find out the location of this party each year. On the day of, they tweet the location a few hours before (they tweeted it at 5, and the party started at 8, this year).

Open To: Everyone! And you never know who you might see there, from friends to celebs to who-all-knows. Last year half the cast of Supernatural apparently showed up.

The Experience: SlamCon is another example of a good way to mix some celebrities or con guests with con-goers without it feeling weird. Although the venue and feel might change a little from year to year, this party, organized by Todd Stashwick, Dennis Calero, Brea Grant, and Deric Hughes, is a great way to hang out, have some drinks, and wrap up a con weekend. This year, the event was at the Hilton Bayfront Pool Club; but then moved to the Odysea because the crowd got so big.

Although, alas, I headed over pretty late and missed a fair bit of it, as well as Deric, who I would have loved to catch up with, even just walking in I ran into the awesome Brandon Auman, writer for the current fantastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show on Nickelodeon (and funnily enough, earlier had run into the just-as-awesome Greg Cipes, voice of Michelangelo, out on the street – Turtle Power and Turtle friends!) and was introduced to another writer for the show. And I also got to say hi and thanks for organizing to Todd Stashwick, who is a delightful human being (and a great actor!). And I ran into one of the great Fashionably Nerdy gals again, too! So even though I didn’t get to stay too long, it was nice to go and see some old friends or meet new ones! And next year…well, I’m definitely going to try to get there sooner!

But until then, I think I’m partied out for a few days; so check out my complete party photo album or my whole con photo collection, stay tuned for the rest of my con coverage, and Servo Lectio!


Emily S. Whitten: It’s Comic-Con Time!

Comic Con

The San Diego Comic Con starts tomorrow, and OMG I am all in a tizzy getting prepped for it. Which kiiiiind of means I didn’t have time to write a long, thoughtful, in-depth column about anything this week. Not only because I’m busy, but also because when I get excited, it’s like Fireworks! Going! Off! In! My! Brain! And then long, thoughtful columns are overtaken by things like Rorschach answering dating questions, or incoherent babbling about imaginary stuff. So you can imagine what my brain looks like right now.

However, for those of us heading off to SDCC and looking for some tips, I can refer everyone back to my Comic-Con Prep 101 guide from last year. Check it out for a list or a reminder of all the basics you should think about when packing for and prepping for a con.

I can also share a few tips specifically for San Diego. Of course, a good place to start when planning for SDCC (which you totally should be completely ready for by now, right? Right??) is the official app, where you can put your own personal wish-list schedule of panels together (while recognizing you’ll only actually make it to maybe 1 in 10 panels you want to attend, if you’re anything like me and over-commit). You can also see what guests might be out there that you want to track down for autographs, commissions, and more. You can also head over to the official site for the list of San Diego Comic-Con exclusives exclusives to see what you absolutely must snag on the con floor.

Then you should consider your after-hours plans. While a lot of the parties are “invite only,” there are still a ton of good things going on at night. For a couple of good round-ups of the parties and get-togethers, check out the Hollywood Reporter’s list or Variety’s list. I’m planning on SherlockeDCC and the Geek Nation/Epic Pictures parties. Another good place to poke around is Facebook. A lot of the free parties have event listings on Facebook, which will also link you up to “related content” so you can find even more parties. The two I’m eyeing that have Facebook pages are the J!NX PRESENTS: Gabe Eltaeb’s Second Annual Comic Kickoff Fundraiser and the Fashionably Nerdy Cocktail Hour and Mixer.

And of course, there are other peripheral events to be aware of; one of the biggest of which is Zac Levi’s awesome Nerd HQ. Even though the Conversations (200-seat panels featuring awesome celebrities, sold for $22 each and with proceeds going to Operation Smile) sell out in a hot second, there are also other things going on, like free gaming, and usually Thursday and Saturday night parties. And then there’s also SlamCon, the mysterious moving party that you need to hunt down via Twitter to attend. And then there’s the occasional thing that makes you go, “Bwuh?” but in a good way; like Elijah Wood DJ’ing at Bang Bang tomorrow night (come on, I’m so there; I hear he has a kickin’ vinyl collection). All in all, there’s more than enough to see and do while in San Diego for the con.

So there you go! Some on-the-fly tips off the top of my head (which is about to fly off in excitement) about how to experience the San Diego Comic-Con, at least the way I like to do it.

So get out there, have a blast, and until next time, Servo Lectio!