One of the joys of any comic convention are those random moments of happen-stance in which you come across something or someone which feels only for you and you alone. These seem to occur more often at events such as San Diego Comic-Con, which is not entirely surprising considering the sheer wealth of talent and celebrity that it attracts from across the globe. But it stills feels magical and slightly surreal when they do happen.
If you’re a regular reader and listener to my posts and vlogs, you will know that I have tried my best to give back what I can to the incredible organisation which is Comic-Con International as a volunteer, first as a regular applicant in 2012, progressing to a Staff Volunteer with Clydene Nee’s Artist Alley department. However, these sessions take place during the course of the actual event and so, because I’ve done a number of Preview Nights before and I’m not so rabid into my exclusives, I’m always drawn to putting myself forward to volunteer for Preview Night.
In 2013, I had been allocated a Preview Night shift which meant I would be helping out on Sails Pavilion, starting at 3pm and finishing at 6pm, leading up to the doors opening and attendees stampeding onto the Exhibition Floor. At 11am PST, the outside doors to the Convention Center had opened, those dedicated front-of-the-line attendees had collected their Badges, swag bags and Souvenir Guides and were now lining up, both in Sails and along the first floor wall along the rear of the Convention Center, above Hall H – my wife, Caroline, and a whole host of my con buddies were part of this throng and the plan was for me to sit with them until my shift started. That was the plan, anyway… But, because I hadn’t brought my Staff Badge down with me, I was told I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the Convention Centre with them unless it was via the Volunteers Entrance and only as part of my duties.
I was turfed to the street, man. By the stiffs! Fascists! Revolution!! Revolution!!!
I kid, obviously. To be fair, San Diego in July isn’t the worst place to wander around when you suddenly find yourself aimless and fancy-free for a couple of hours. With the sun pouring down, it’s good to go see the finishing touches to the off-site events being constructed, head to a bar for some liquid refreshment or to do some people watching as the crowds gather, either to get into the Convention Center themselves or those non-PN attendees, in town early and checking out the city, soaking up the vibe as San Diego Comic-Con ramps itself up, gearing for the bedlam ahead.
And so, at midday, I found myself with a cool bottle of water, leafing through a copy of the Souvenir Guide that I’d managed to lay my hands on, stretching out halfway up the steps of the Convention Center and watching the crowds go by, enjoying the sun. It was still quiet at this point of the day, I happened to be alone on the steps, and I glanced up occasionally from the pages to check out the numerous cosplayers that walked the sidewalk below me, laughing and excited.
It was on one of these glances that I spotted a middle-aged chap, rounding the corner and lazily trotting up the steps towards me, obviously just getting the lay of the land and very obviously not from around these parts: he couldn’t have looked the dictionary definition of the ‘tourist from out of town’ if he tried – short trousers revealing knobbly knees, polo shirt, I can’t quite recall but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was wearing white socks with open toe sandles. Indeed, as a European, I recognised the unmistakable pale white legs and the lobster-pink forehead of a fellow countryman instantly. I was about to make myself known to him (possibly let him know about the UK Attendees Group that I’m a part of) but he acted with the gait of a chap who had pretty much just gotten off the plane, a little bit unsure of his surroundings, so I decided to leave him to it and let him discover the geography at his own pace – that’s what Preview Night is for.
That was until he passed me and I suddenly recognised him. “Holy shit,” my brain screamed. “That’s Steven bloody Moffat!”
Writer, showrunner and Doctor Who/Sherlock executive producer Steven Moffat was in town attending SDCC for the first time (I believe), bringing not only the debut footage of the 50th Anniversary episodes of Doctor Who to Hall H but also riding high on the multi-award winning success of Sherlock the year before – 2013 was most certainly Moffat’s year to come to Comic-Con. (It would later turn out to possibly be his last, as it happened, as rabid fans leaked said DW footage on t’interwebs to Moffat’s displeasure) To see him, wandering around like some lost soul, all on his own, was quite endearing actually – that the man behind the two franchises with the most intense and fervoured fanbases could be as dwarfed by the sheer scale of the building as the rest of us was lovely.
That wasn’t to say that, once he’d got to the top of the stairs, pressed his nose to the promenade doors to get any kind view of inside Sails, and then made his way back down the steps, I wasn’t going to get a photo op with the guy. “Excuse me, Steven, I hate to interrupt your expedition…” – that got a chuckle – ” but there’s no way I’m letting you pass without asking for a photo, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Sure, not a problem,” he said, in that light Scottish lilt of his. “You’re a little far way from home, aren’t you?” I fumbled with my iPhone to get it to the right settings (my mistake, that I’ve now learnt, is to take video instead of a photo – that way you can pick and choose the more flattering frame that you want and not the one where you look like a startled walrus). “Yup, Yorkshire, but it’s not my first time – if I drop this phone because of the amount of sunscreen I’m wearing, I wouldn’t be the least surprised.” Another chuckle, a pose, a click. “You are going to have a great week, sir.”
“I’ll try my best, you too.” He smiled and continued down the steps. I sat myself down to preview the pic I just took, thrilled – my first celebrity moment of that con, out of the blue and totally random. Marvellous.
It was then I looked up to see Moffat reach the bottom of the steps and turn off to the left to continue exploring, manoeuvring only to step around a group of ten or fifteen Doctor Who’s (of varying numbers, mostly Fours and Nines), Amy Pond’s and Whispering Angels, chattering excitedly, distracted by their giddiness of being in San Diego and passing him by, completely oblivious, not knowing that in a couple of days time, he would be one of the people they would be camping overnight, eager to see. I smiled, part of me was very glad that the man was as innocuous as he is…
All images (c) An Englishman In San Diego