Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ben's San Diego Comic-Con Photo Parade

In past years, myself and the other members of this blog have put together elaborate recollections of our wild times at San Diego Comic-Con telling daring tales of after hours shenanigans and inspirational stories of professionalism by day.

You may have noticed a dearth of such posts this year.

Now don't by any means take this lack of reporting to mean we have slowed down our crazy nights (I mean, no more so than usual given my scaled down approach to "partying"; I'm no Kiel Phegley) or that we're any less heroes of journalism (not that Kevin, Rickey or have ever been such, since we work for "The Man" and "The Other Man"; man, Kiel really is the best of us). While I can't speak for my fellows, I can say the reason for my lack of San Diego share-age was simply that the whole thing was kind of a blur.

Seriously, I had a lot of fun, but the whole five day affair felt like it got compressed into 48 hours or so. Much of that was because of the time spent getting Marvel Live up and running then maintaining it throughout the week, which somewhat threw my con into overdrive, but in general, it just felt like time flew. The good times were there in spades, but I wasn't able to stop and mentally catalog them as thoroughly as I may have in the past.

At this stage at the game I'm also past racing to every party or trying to score face time with every single person I haven't seen (though, again, I was never really that guy). Honestly, my fondest memories of San Diego aside from the crazy moments tend to be getting to have a nice dinner with the friends I don't get to see more than once or twice a year or even getting to steal ten minutes with Phil Jimenez or Jamal Igle in between Live segments. Younger men can have the Hyatt Bar (all yours, K-Smooth), I'm content to get grilled calamari at Tin Fish with my crew.

But as I said, my inherent lameness aside, I still happened upon some cool and memorable stuff out in San Diego, such as...

-Scouring the streets of the Gaslamp for a liquor store open past 10 pm with the Marvel.com video team and Harry Go then settling for CVS five minutes before it closed.

-Eating the most awesome Mexican food to ever make me fell really sick and then rallying the same night to debate the definition of a beach with Kiel and Laura Hudson on the deck of the Hilton.

-Bringing the guys from Impact Wrestling into the Marvel party around midnight and watching a hush fall over the room as it looked like I'd left and brought back a well-groomed biker gang; subsequently watching Christopher Daniels and Peter David try to out enthusiastically hand gesture each other in a spirited conversation while Eric Young struggle to figure out how to operate my free drinks bracelet (my only regret is turning down an invite for a Kurt Angle-hosted nightcap at the House of Blues, but I had to work the next day).

-Reversing that adventure by accompanying Todd and Dawn Nauck to their first ever live wrestling show hosted by Impact Wrestling at a local club (sadly we arrived too late for the matches, but still got to mooch off the free food and see the ring get taken down).

-And, of course, Megan's favorite story wherein at the brink of exhaustion (I had just asked my pal Jesse Falcon if I ever gave him the stick of gum I had given him 30 seconds earlier) I was way too enthusiastic to meet Mel Caylo's buddy Scott Porter (give me a break, I *just* finished Friday Night Lights).

But of course they say a picture tells a thousand words, so enough typing for me...

Here's myself and my capable co-hosts "Agent M" Ryan Penagos and Grace Randolph as we're preparing to kick off a day of Marvel Live. I'm pretty sure Hunter Lydon photographed this one, as he was always encouraging me to bust out Blue Steel. I haven't looked this boy band-ready in years. And check out those mint Avengers t-shirts that we were giving away exclusively at the show.

As you likely gleamed from above, San Diego has become, for me, in addition to a place to indulge my love of the comics medium, an event where I can celebrate my fandom for professional wrestling and where I've gotten to meet and get to know some really cool folks who work in that industry. This year was no exception as Mike Kingston's Headlocked booth provides a great hub for the SDCC wrestling contingent, and where I got to catch up with Ring of Honor producer Dave Lagana as well as Wrestling Revolution founder Jeff Katz, plus snap this pic with Eric Young after I defeated him for the Impact Wrestling Television title; it's long been a little dream of mine to pose with a championship belt, so thank you again, Eric, and you can have your rematch next time you're in Jersey.

At the conclusion of either Preview Night or the Thursday, we spotted a dude in Khal Drogo cosplay gear a few booths over from Marvel. Our new Social Media Director Janna O'Shea and I were particularly enthused and implored our intern, Ashley McCollum, to solicit the guy pretty out of nowhere to come take a picture with us; to her credit--or foolishness--she actually did it with minimal protest, forever earning a place in my heart as the girl who tapped the half naked guy with the scythe on the shoulder and said her bosses wanted a photo with him. As you can see here, Ryan and our boss John Cerilli also joined the fun.

I interviewed the Impact Wrestling guys on Friday to promote their live event Saturday and afterwards got this pic of what would be no doubt be a stable to be reckoned with: Eric Young, me, Christopher Daniels, Ryan Penagos and Kazarian. From what I understand, Beer Money are terrified we'll be taking their spots in Fortune.

I've met Stan Lee a couple times, have gotten my picture with him, interviewed him and even received kind wishes from him on my wedding day (Kiel had done a phoner with him on the way to the ceremony and recorded him saying congrats after letting him know where he was headed), but it's a thrill every time. Here, I was off to the side while Ryan and Grace interviewed Stan and witnessed two memorable moments: First was Stan saying he was parched the whole shoot and then totally swiping the half-consumed bottled water I had left on the table and second us urging him to take the stairs off the stage and him instead making a Spider-Man like leap three feet to the floor. Stan Lee is amazing (he still owes me a water).

We had another Impact Wrestling guest on Marvel Live later Friday, and it was none other than Rob Van Dam, who was super nice and extremely on the ball when it comes to comics (no surprise, he did used to own his own store). Had a great chat with RVD about his own efforts to self-publish a comic and his favorite character, Ghost Rider (he was a bit wary of a female GR, but I think I sold him). After we finished interview, Janna, who has never said word one about wrestling, grabbed me and said "Is that Rob Van Dam?! He's awesome!" hence the picture above.

After recovering from my Scott Porter debacle, I got back on the horse and dusted myself off to team with Grace and interview Clark Gregg, aka S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson from the Marvel movies. Judy Stephens (I'm pretty sure) got a nice action shot here (as "action" as comic book "journalism" gets) and I certainly look like I'm working hard. Truthfully, Clark made it easy, as he was friendly, easygoing, and crazy revved up for somebody who had been working the show and the crowd all day. To my credit, I think I got some insightful questions in, none of which I can remember. My favorite bit was definitely at the end when I said to the camera "Clark Gregg, everybody!" and he shot back with "Grace and Ben, everybody!" Good people.

A couple months ago, I noted that Chris Daniels was selling an old pair of wrestling tights on eBay and joked I needed them for Comic-Con. A gent noticed this, challenged me to back up my words and said he'd put my kids (who don't exist) through college if I followed through. Chris said he'd bring the tights. I thought he was joking. He was not. Thus I spent part of Saturday morning sporting Fallen Angel gear over my khakis and pitching my and Chris' mixed tag team to compete against duos that included midgets. Here, I'm poised to tact my erstwhile and unsuspecting partner.

Me on Saturday night with two of my dearest friends in comics, artist Todd Nauck and his lovely wife Dawn. I end up spending most of my after hours time at SDCC with them as they're genuinely fantastic people and we never stop laughing. When Todd's on the East coast for a show, Megan and I hang with him and have an excellent time as well. Amazingly, Megan and Dawn have never met, as neither has made the trip to the other side of the country in some time, but I can't wait until all four of us can finally get together. Todd and Dawn make me smile.

One last hurrah with my wrestling pals as I play the role of a thin, pale A.J. Styles with Daniels and Kazarian. As an aside, I thought I had grabbed two of the Defenders shirts we were giving out at the show--a small for Megan and medium for me--as I needed Marvel gear for every day I was on camera; Sunday morning I woke up, threw my shirt on and realized all I had was Megan's, and it did not look so hot on me. I did a last minute raid of the booth and found this kick ass Thor "Wing Man" shirt which I will now cherish.

As cool and unique way to end my Comic-Con experience, I got to, along with Grace, interview the entrants in the Ultimate Marvel Cake contests, the winning entry of which is shown above. I love cooking shows and am fascinated by how truly great food comes together and the art of it all, so interviewing these skilled pastry chefs was really neat, although having not had breakfast, the smell was like sweet torture.

Hey, looks like I had a pretty packed Comic-Con after all! Go me!

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