This post was originally published back in August, shortly after Mr. R. and I returned from our adventure at Tampa Bay Comic Con. To say that we had a blast is an understatement. We pre-purchased three-day passes to the convention, but having media passes was the cherry on top. The distinctive lanyards afforded us easy access to celebrity events for which we would otherwise have spent hours waiting on line. The celebrity photos would have been off-limits without our having purchased a very expensive photo package.
You may be wondering why I’m choosing to repost this article now. On the second day of the convention, Mr. R. and I used our media passes to get early admission to and preferred seating at the only Q&A session featuring both Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones.
So in honor of the Game of Thrones Season 5 Premiere Eve, I present to you:
Tampa Bay Comic Con: Day 2 (At Last)
There was so much that happened on Day 2 of Tampa Bay Comic Con, I’ve had trouble deciding how to organize the information. I’ve decided to create sections with headings. Celebrity photos are at the end of this post. Here goes…
General Observations: On Saturday, as we waited in line to park (and an exceedingly long line it was), we watched herds of people moving along the sidewalks towards the convention center. Many were in costume and everyone moved with purpose and confidence. My thought was, “I love Comic Con.” This is a place where everyone can unapologetically proclaim their fandom for whatever floats their boat. It’s extremely liberating. Speaking of costumes, before we left home I read about San Diego Comic Con on someone’s blog, and she described attending in costume as a cross between the most humiliating moment of your life and your fifteen minutes of fame. As we watched crowd reactions to costumes, I could see that comparison. Random strangers stopped costumed attendees to ask for pictures. “Hey, Wolverine, can my son get a picture with you?” In terms of costume categories we saw plenty of Poison Ivys, Batman characters in general, some Star Wars, Dr. Who, a couple of Oberyn Martells, and not as many Game of Thrones characters as I expected.
Things That Were Annoying: If you don’t want to hear me bitch and moan, skip this section, because although overall we had an amazing time, there were a few things that were very wrong at Tampa Bay Comic Con.
First of all, parking was problematic, which shouldn’t be surprising given the number of people in attendance, however, we prepaid $61 to Parking Panda for guaranteed valet parking a short walk from the venue. When we arrived on Friday, the parking garage was full so we were sent to another parking garage a short distance further down and we had to self-park. On Saturday, the line going to the valets was blocking traffic, so once again we were sent to the other garage to self-park. We arrived on Sunday, truck loaded with our bags for the return trip home, prepared to self-park and just as glad about it at that point. But since the crowds were much thinner, we actually made it to the valet who informed us that if we chose to park ourselves, we’d probably be charged $20 when we left. Unwillingly, we let him park us. It seems petty, I suppose, because we always did have a space to park, but the whole situation really chapped my behind.
Then there was the heavy handed way convention staff treated guests. Entering and moving around the complex was unbelievably complicated. You could never get where you wanted to go from where you were. Someone was always yelling at you that you were going the wrong way, out the entrance or in the exit. Or you had a wristband for re-entry, but there was ONE re-entry door in the entire complex. One of the most infuriating rules was that from where you entered the building, you had to press through the crush of the exhibit hall in order to go to the other end of the complex, rather than use the empty walkway immediately outside the exhibit hall, and again, the traffic flow was one way only. We heard the word “flow” a lot as we (read, Mr. R.) expressed displeasure with being treated like errant school children. They really could do better.
Food and drinks were difficult to find and the facility had precious few places to sit. At any given time, there were masses of people sitting on the floor in odd places like beneath the escalators and along the walls, hunched over slices of pizza or cardboard holders of nachos. I nearly crushed countless smartphones that were plugged in and sitting on the floor next to their owners. I kept thinking, this is a convention center. Conventions are what they do. Do you suppose Rotarians have to sit on the floor under the escalators? Now, I’ve gotten that out of the way…
Interesting Folks: Luckily, Mr. R. and I were able to snag a table about forty-five minutes before we went to the first Q&A panel. We had two extra chairs and were happy to share with people looking for a place park their weary behinds. The first to ask were Holly Moran and Jeremy Druley, a local couple in subtle gothic dress on their first visit to Comic Con. She wore a top with a pattern of rainbow skulls, accessorized with a bat pendant. He wore a cannibal t-shirt and silver anchor ear gauges. They told us they were just checking it out and people watching, being fans of horror more than comics, but they said they were having fun.
After Holly and Jeremy left, we were joined by Ed Padilla and Danielle Myers, dressed as Ned Stark and Daenerys Targaryen, respectively. I was glad to see them since up until then I has seen very few Game of Thrones costumes. This was their second Comic Con and they offered some interesting information. It seems that last year, organizers expected ten thousand attendees and ended up with thirty thousand. I’m thinking that poor planning on their part resulted in big fines, which perhaps explains their inflexible rules regarding “flow.”
Did I Mention Celebrities?: Let me just begin this section by saying that press passes rock. This is because they can get you into unbelievable places. Case in point, celebrity photo ops. The average attendee was invited to purchase photo op tickets for $30-$50 dollars apiece, depending on the celebrity, then at the appointed time wait in a huge line to have a picture snapped with said celebrity, and take home a personalized souvenir of the event. Press passes allowed us to bypass the line completely and walk right into photo sessions with Evan Peters of American Horror Story and Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kennedy of The Walking Dead.
We didn’t want photos with the actors, we just wanted to see them, and we did, up close and personal. I practically bumped into Brighton Sharbino. It was amazingly cool. Mr. R. tooks photos of people taking photos while I took copious notes.
Later we attended two back to back Q&A panels, the first with Evan Peters and the second with Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden from Game of Thrones. With the press passes, we once again avoided the long lines and were ushered into the VIP section, literally the second row in front of the stage. We could have chosen the front row if we’d liked but I preferred the end of the second row for the angle it afforded. Ultimately, I sat taking notes while Mr. R. moved freely around the stage snapping photos.
Evan Peters answered fan questions for half an hour, gamely responding to questions he’s undoubtedly heard a thousand times, at one point even dropping trou in answer to the predictable question of ‘boxers or briefs’ (for the record, pastel plaid boxers). Mind you, his parents were in the audience, directly in front of Mr. R. and me, making this particular follow-up request from a young fan-girl even more inappropriate than it would have been under any circumstance: “Thank you. Also please sit on my face.” Obviously, Peters is promoting the new season of American Horror Story: Carnival, due out in October. I, for one, am looking forward to the premiere.
After this session, the room had to be emptied out to accommodate the long lines waiting to get into the Pedro Pascal/Richard Madden panel, but if you had a press pass you were allowed to sit tight and wait. So wait we did. When they finally opened the doors, it was to admonitions of, “Don’t run! Don’t run!” They seemed to be letting fans into the ballroom a few small groups at a time and eventually the entire room filled. The crowd went crazy when Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal were announced and they strode out onto the stage, and there were hearty shouts of “King in the North!” throughout the hall. I have to admit to being a bit starstruck for a few moments, even writing in my notes that I was having trouble focusing.
Allow me a bit of snark, if you will. When the questions began, the first one up was an annoying blogger (also with a press pass) who sat in front of us and during the previous session, she really buddied up to Evan Peters’ mom, simpering and acting like a big shot journalist. So little Miss Annoying steps up the the mic and welcomes Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden to “our country.” Mind you, Pascal was raised in California and Texas. A serious journalist should do a little research. The two men simply looked at each other and shrugged.
Pascal and Madden also answered questions with good natured enthusiasm. They said they hadn’t met before that day, and at first I thought they were kidding. It’s true that they never shared any scenes. Pascal was in the process of auditioning for the role of Oberyn Martell when the “Red Wedding” episode aired. Not having read the books, Pascal described his reaction as, “Just. Fucking. Traumatized.”
Some of the most interesting moments of the panel came when the two men conversed between themselves.
RM: Did you ever sit on the iron throne?
PP: Yeah. (smiling) It wasn’t comfortable. It was very uncomfortable.
RM: I never thought I should.
PP: And look where it got you.
Another conversation stemming from a question about whether they’d kept anything from the set:
RM: I kept a dressing gown and I kept one map piece representing each family.
PP: They wouldn’t let me have anything.
RM: I suppose I sort of stole them. (laughing)
PP: I was stupid. I asked. (shrugging and grinning)
Up next for Richard Madden is the role of the Prince in Disney’s Cinderella. Pedro Pascal is working on a series for Netflix called Narcos, about the takedown of Pablo Escobar. I can truthfully say that sitting in on these sessions was the coolest thing I’ve probably ever done. I can’t wait to do it again.
So, overall, my impression of Tampa Bay Comic Con? Despite the militant rules and regulations, I had a great time. Having tickets for all three days eliminated the pressure I’d have felt to ‘see it all’ the first day. Having press passes made for the coolest moments, and I don’t think I’d want to go without them. I would definitely go again, hoping that the convention organizers will spend the year getting their act together to make for a more pleasant experience.
*Note: With the exception of the postcard at the top of the page, all photos are by Mr. R.