San Diego Comic Con International is the mostly intense geek experience in the world. And it's also an opportunity for A to Z List Hollywood celebrities from genre TV shows and films to hawk their wares to their adoring public. Or their abusive public. Or the stalking public.
Comic creators love the Hollywood celebrity element as well. It takes a little of the insane fan heat off them, and since they often share VIP areas, they get their own special time with the likes of Claudia Christian and Bruce Willis. Let's take some questions from the green room…
What kind of Comic Con Celeb am I? There are a few basic types. The film star with a film out. You're flown in, shipped in by limo through the back door, sit on a panel, laugh and joke, say something embarrassing about your director, say that your favourite comic was Silver Surfer then get shipped out again away from these hideous people.
The second is a jobbing TV actor best known for a long running sci-fi show from a few years ago. You're here to sign, sign, and sign, because this is your career now. You may have recorded an album, you may have have some prints of artwork you painted, possibly a book of poetry, you are going to sell thousands, but only to those who remembered you in a jumpsuit blasting aliens.
The third is the old fogey who used to be in something twenty years ago. Or possibly a middle aged child star. The show is a lot more relaxed for you, you're further down the interest list but you've been doing this for decades now. You've seen people's children grow up, and geeks grow into bigger geeks. These are your extended family, and this is your chance to catch up. And sell them a calendar with your face on it.
The fourth is my favourite, the geek celeb. They'd be coming here if they weren't invited. They'd love the panels, the shows, the stalls – and here lies a problem. They can't just wander around without drawing a crowd of their own.
2) What if people recognise me? Simon Pegg put on a Joker mask. Daniel Dae Kim dressed up as V For Vendetta. Seth Green as Spider-Man. Sam Raimi as Zorro. Adam Savage as Hellboy. Ed Norton and Samuel Jackson as well. You blend in with all the other cosplayers and if anyone gives you a second look, it's to say "cool mask" rather than "Oh-my-gods-I-loved-you-In-Babylon-5-let-me-give-you-babies." Megan Fox, who used to come to Con with her portfolio of comic book art, has threatened to dress as Slave Princess Leia. Not sure if that was thoroughly thought through.
Once recognised, and if people are keeping it cool, don't worry. Most fans are harmless and will appreciate your every word. And very few actually bite. Quentin Tarantino has a great con reputation after he sat down in the lobby with a bunch of fans and talked about their favourite films, Before, you know, having to rush off to find Uma Thurman.
3) What if no one recognises me? Even the greatest celebrity can receive a sudden lack of recognition. Maybe your hair is a different colour. Maybe you've put on some pounds. Of maybe you haven't painted yourself green, don't have a wig on your prosthetic forehead? The first day of one San Diego convention, Lou Ferrigno turned up and no one recognised him. He sat at his table, reading a magazine. The second day he had a T-shirt featuring himself as the Hulk. And a large queue to boot. Never be afraid to wear a big sign pointing out who you are. And why you matter. You may even have a Comic Con name tag. Stick it on your forehead.
4) I seem to be shaking a lot of sweaty hands. What should I do? Hand sanitiser. Wipes. Something. This is so important. You may never shake quite so many hands in your life. Also San Diego is on the Mexican border just about. Think about swine flu! And all that air conditioning. There's a thing called convention flu which is just the natural result of so many people in one place, some, let's face it, with less than stellar hygiene. It's not rude anymore. Do it. The amount of people who get sick two days after the show is legendary. Some die. Sometimes even at the conventions themselves, such as Doctor Who star Patrick Troughton. Certainly watching a Klingon leave the gents without washing his hands opened my eyes.
5) I seem to be asked questions by people. What should I do? Which every opinion about something you hold, someone else at con will not only hold the opposite but will have been arguing it for three years solid on the messageboards. Given that most won't agree with your opinion, no matter what it is, at least try to have one rather than be dismissive. "I don't know who would win in a fight between the Hulk and the Thing, can't they just get along?" will earn you hatred. Coming down on one side at least gets you geek respect.
At the very least know something about the show or film you're appearing in. Wikipedia the night before can do wonders for your geek rep. "Well I've been a fan of Spider-Man since Amazing Fantasy #15"… there you go.
5) How can I make a profit at this? Selling signed photographs of yourself can make more money than a small budget movie. However, once you become the kind of person who does that, those are the only movies you'll make again. If it's your time, run for itm, embrace it. If you still have a shot of working with DeNiro, then don't. Just cultivate your fanbase, that shout be profit when its time to negotiate your next Spielberg movie. Of course, Doctor Who John Pertwee sat at a bar once sold the original cape he wore in the series to a fan for hundreds of pounds. And then went on to sell about forty more in similar circumstances.
6) Are people really watching me? They don't seem to be. Over years fans have mastered the ogling at Brad Pitt while looking like they're staring at a $1300 broadsword. But yes, unless you're dressed as a Stormtrooper, they're watching you. Especially you, Jay Mewes, as you stand there, looking at Star Wars toys and digging your underwear out of your arse. Also, people are around at all times – such as when one B-list actor arrived at his hotel with two ladies of the night, thinking all the geeks were in bed. Sadly cameraphones weren't as popular then.
7) Should I sleep with this fan? He/she seems very keen and rather attractive. You know better than me. But beware Con goggles, where after encountering all sorts of varieties of human beings, anyone looking vaguely normal suddenly becomes a sex god/goddess in your eyes. Oh and they're probably very adept at uploading cellphone video footage onto YouTube.
8) How do I get the Comic Con clique to love me? This is the easiest thing of all. Go to the small press comic publisher booths. Walk along and buy something from every table you see. Might cost you $200 to $300 in total. The publishers and creators will twitter this instantly. Go to a panel for your movie, get there early, put your feet up and start reading from a stack of these comics next to you. The word will spread. And you'll be a Con God. could be worth an extra fifty grand on your next contract. And if you really really don't like comics, there are recycle bins around the centre.
9) Should I let Rich Johnston buy me alcohol then tell him stories about William Shatner? Yes.
See you all at the end of July… I'll probably be at the Avatar booth. With Angelina Jolie, obviously.