Ira Madison III’s Comic-Con Diary, Days 3 And 4: Synchronized Swimmers And Joe’s Crab Shack

Some tricks and tips for navigating the final two days of Comic-Con 2016

While going through Comic-Con withdrawals on a crowded Amtrak train heading back to Los Angeles, I flipped through pages of the comics I’d bought. I finished the multiple issues of disco singer/superhero Dazzler’s first run — so that I could live my best gay life — and also Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s immaculate Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a new horror take on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. When I finished, I was left alone with my reflections on the weekend, which, coincidentally enough, started with Aguirre-Sacasa’s spotlight panel at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Having followed Aguirre-Sacasa’s career since seeing the Chicago premiere of his play Say You Love Satan while in undergrad, I’ve been witness to his transformation: Beginning with rewrites for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — a horrible musical that I nonetheless saw six times — his career has since included writing for Glee and creating his own series, Riverdale, based on the gang from Archie. Parties can be fun, but the bulk of Comic-Con is visiting artists and creators you love and seeing how their fans respond to their work. Nothing beats seeing a high school friend like James Tynion IV signing his copies of Detective Comics at the DC Comics signing booth, or Steve Orlando signing copies of his run on gay superhero series Midnighter. Or attending a panel called “The Gay Agenda in Horror” hosted by horror screenwriter Michael Varrati, with guests like Darren Stein (director of Jawbreaker, whose fans are also gay horror afficionados). I saw Alan Rowe Kelly (Tales of Poe), and the unreasonably-attractive-for-a-screenwriter Christopher Landon of Disturbia and Paranormal Activity fame. And why attend the Entertainment Weekly party when you can see a midnight screening of the cult film The Final Girls, written by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller?

Of course, I didn’t completely forego free drinks. The BuzzFeed/CW party had plenty of those, not to mention the added bonus of Grant Gustin (The Flash) and Brandon Routh (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) wandering around. Arrow’s Emily Bett Rickards even got to celebrate her birthday by playing beer pong with some fans at the party, and I cleaned up in a Plinko-esque game with Flash and Supergirl Funko dolls. Next, I slid over to Blush, where MTV had a party with the Teen Wolf cast. Not wanting to seem like I was stalking Tyler Posey, I moved on to a party thrown by Fox, which was surprisingly light on promoting whatever genre shows they have coming up this year (The Exorcist, I guess?). Also, there was a really weird, random moment where synchronized swimmers jumped into the pool and did a routine to a Lady Gaga song FOR NO DAMN REASON. Horrified that Ryan Murphy might have been the one throwing the party, I hightailed it out of there before the dancers could flop around in the pool again.

The same goes for the Funny or Die/HBO party on Saturday, which had some really good drinks but also people doing stand-up, and nobody has time for that ever. Thankfully, NBC was throwing a party nearby at the same location Fox had the night before and it was (1) less crowded, (2) easier to get drinks, and (3) did not have weird synchronized dancers. On the con side, the NBC party did not have Ted Danson, queen Mary Steenburgen, Darren Criss, and Mechad Brooks wandering around looking glamorous like Fox did. So, you know, results varied.

Through my long week, I figured out that the best way to do Comic-Con is with friends. It’s no fun going to a party with free drinks if you’re going to be there by yourself. Grab your friends for photo booths at the party and gawk at celebrities. Then find your friends who have panels that might be under the radar of the convention. Who needs to go to Hall H when literally every outlet visiting Comic-Con is live-tweeting it and the trailers that get screened go up on online seconds later? (EXCEPT THE FOOTAGE FROM SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, WHICH MARVEL NEEDS TO FUCKING RELEASE.) And getting dressed up to go to a glamorous event might sound fun, but you know what’s even better? Slipping away from the Con for drinks and conversation at the hideaway Joe’s Crab Shack. It’s kitschy, it’s greasy, but with friends it might just be the thing you can’t wait to do again next year.