Monday, July 28, 2014

MTVP Comic-con International 2014 Coverage: Nerd HQ

While Comic-Con itself is a fantastic experience and a big draw, off-site nerdy events have popped up around the convention center in the last few years. The Geek & Sundry Lounge and Nerd HQ are two especially notable examples. We didn’t manage to make it to any of the Geek & Sundry festivities as we were busy Thursday and rather tired on Friday. But we made it a point to get some tickets for a couple Nerd HQ panels. For those who aren’t in the know, Nerd HQ is run by one Zachary Levi, formerly the star of "Chuck." He and some of his nerdy friends rent out part of Petco Park to hold panels and do signings and photos with fans to benefit Operation Smile (a charity that helps fix cleft palates in young children). Since we’d designated Saturday as our chill/off-site day we made sure we got tickets for a panel that day.

Our first Nerd HQ excursion was for a mystery panel of Bad-Ass Women. The panel ended up being comprised of Yvonne Strahvoski, Jennifer Morrison, Retta, Ming-Na Wen, Sophie Turner and Missy Peregrym. Kudos to Zack for getting such a diverse panel. It was nice to have a panel in such a small venue (about 300 seats). It really made the setting more intimate, which was a nice break from the Friday panels at Comic-con. We were expecting Zack to moderate and ask most of the questions, but he opened it up to the floor immediately. As we’ve mentioned before, audience questions can be hit or miss, but again, for the most part, the questions asked at this panel were well-thought out and appropriate. Overall, the questions asked all the panels we attended were pretty good. The questions for this panel focused heavily on women in the entertainment industry and in American society in general. The most notable question was from a woman who talked about how her Asian parents didn't want her to pursue an artistic career and how lack of diversity on TV makes it difficult for people who don't see people on TV who look like them. The ensuing discussion left both Ming-na and Retta (whose Liberian-born parents also discouraged her desires to be a comedienne) in tears.

The second panel we were slated to see was with the ever-amazing king of geekery, Joss Whedon. Unfortunately, he was in London and recovering from knee surgery. We discovered this on Saturday and were expecting some sort of announcement on the topic from Zack or the Nerd HQ twitter feed, but we got nothing until a half hour before the panel was supposed to start on Sunday. At that point, Nerd Machine finally tweeted to say that it would be mystery guests instead of Joss. We understand that he was out of commission and couldn’t fly. We don’t want him overdoing things and hurting himself more. But we would have appreciated the information earlier than we got it so we could decide if we wanted to do the panel or not. It would have to be a pretty stellar line-up to make up for the fact we weren’t getting Joss. As it turned out, the panel was pretty good; Nathan Fillion, Liam McIntyre, Chloe Bennett, Seth Green, and Alan Tudyk were all in attendance.

As with the prior panel, the audience asked questions most of the time (after Nathan explained that he pressured his friends into doing the panel with him and recounting when and how they each met him). One audience member asked the panel to discuss a time when they felt intimidated by Joss. They each gave interesting and funny answers, and then Joss’s head appeared on the screen behind them thanks to a video feed link-up from London. So we did get Joss after all. This combination of alternate guests and a Skype-in from Joss was really the only way we could think of that the panel could be salvaged (a completely streamed-in video from the UK wouldn’t have been worth it). It got a great reaction from the audience, and it seemed rather appropriate that it happened when it did. Jen wondered if the question about intimidation was a plant because it flowed so perfectly. Poor Joss was not super hopped up on pain meds thanks to the Brits being stingy with such things, but he did seem a little loopy. Still he answered some fan questions and was generally just Joss.

The only thing remaining that would have made the Joss situation completely rectified would be if Nerd Machine had allowed us priority photo ops after the panel. When we get to Nerd HQ on Sunday, the earlier Nathan Fillion panel got photo booth priority. Chatter among our fellow attendees suggested that this was because of a rush to the photo line following Fillion's Saturday panel that the security folks understandably didn't want to repeat. We assumed, however, that they would give priority to us, too,since we weren’t actually getting the panel we paid for. But they didn’t do that, and so we left rather disappointed. But at least we weren’t alone in our irritation and disappointment. Even if they had given us priority, the line was extremely long, and we doubt we would have had a real chance to get a photo out of it.

Overall, we would do Nerd HQ again, but we hope that they are a little more organized in case of emergency cancellations of such high profile guests and the like. Having a better plan for photos would be beneficial, too. But we were definitely glad we took time out of our con schedule to check it out. It was a way to have guaranteed opportunities to see interesting celebrities and took a little pressure off of us to see all the things while at the convention center.

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