Written by: Lisa Cole Perkis, Guest Contributor
Additional contributions by Christine Lewis and Lisa Ann Margulies
If you followed Outlander Cast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts last weekend and thought to yourself “Wow, that sounds like so much fun!” and then thought, “I am going to take a jaunt to San Diego next year and check this Comic-Con thing out!,” then please proceed with caution. I have lived in San Diego my entire life, and heard stories about how extreme Comic-Con was from my friends who go year after year. Given that, I felt I was pretty well prepared for my first trip. I had meticulously thought through what I would bring in my backpack. I had planned my daily schedule, wore sturdy, sensible shoes, mapped out the Convention Center, and even pre-purchased parking. I came home from my first day at Comic-Con bewildered and dazed after over eight hours wandering between the Starz Outlander booth on the exhibit floor and the back wall that housed the infamous “overflow” line. I was even questioning if I wanted to go back the next day. But, I did go back, and I learned a lot about myself and about the amazing Outlander fandom. Here are my Comic-Con life lessons…
The crush of people trying to get into the Outlander booth was daunting. It wasn’t even a matter of waiting in a long, winding line—I would have had no problem with doing that. However, the Convention Center did not allot enough space for fans to line up, so security was chasing fans away from the overflow line, which had room for about ten people. And when I say “chasing,” I mean yelling really loudly “You CANNOT STAY HERE….YOU MUST KEEP WALKING…COME BACK IN AN HOUR!”
They finally came up with a ticket system: security would hand out little blue “swag tickets” to allow you get in the overflow line. But who security would hand the tickets to would be totally random. Some fans walked by the overflow line for hours and never did get that blue ticket. I was fortunate because I made it through the line around six times throughout the weekend—many people never did get through at all.
I don’t blame STARZ or the security guards—they were in a difficult position. I think the Convention Center just way underestimated the number of fans who wanted to get into the Outlander booth, especially since the elusive autograph cards were waiting to be chosen. The more times we made it through the booth, the more swag and chances to win an autograph session. We tried to stay positive and friendly toward security and made sure to thank them whenever we got a blue ticket, and we also profusely thanked the STARZ booth team because they were dealing with massive crowds as well. I hope a STARZ executive understands what a nightmare this was for fans, security, and STARZ staff and tries to work with the Convention Center a little more next time. Even the local newspaper, the Orange County Register had something to say about the “unusually long lines this year” at Comic-Con.
I would not have survived Comic-Con without the ladies I met through the Outlander Cast Clan Gathering Facebook Group. It is hard to believe we were virtual strangers just a couple weeks before this event. We banded together to take turns in line, to relay information we had heard or read, to give each other encouragement, and to bask in the glory of seeing all our favorite actors mere feet from us. I originally thought I would be doing the convention alone. I have no idea how I would have physically done all the events without a team or at least a line buddy. If you have ever spent eight hours inside a ballroom trying to jockey for good seat position amidst 4,500 other fans who all want to get in the front row like you do, you will totally understand. If not, trust me and find a dedicated group of like-minded friends before you attempt it.
Street Squad buddy Lisa Margulies (heretofore referred to as Lisa M.) had come to Comic-Con by way of Iowa, emboldened by her costume—that of 20th century World War II Claire. World War II Claire was a woman of determination and action, with purpose and fortitude, who finds herself in foreign territory, battling a new front and trying to find a sense of belonging. As Lisa was planning her trip to Comic-Con, she knew that this was the costume she wanted to make. It would be an opportunity to bond with other fans and something that really represented what Outlander was to her. Not to mention the fact that Combat Claire was exactly what Lisa M. needed to embody going into her second Comic-Con (see #1 Life Lesson above).
In addition to Lisa M. and Christine Lewis, another Outlander Cast Street Squader from Seattle, we were very fortunate to meet up with Rachel Dillon, one of my daughter’s longtime friends. We met at the STARZ booth the first day and, being young and energetic, Rachel was able to get in line for day two at zero dark thirty in order to get a higher position in line for the front row seats of Ballroom 20—where it ALL was going to happen. The early start was integral to getting a good spot for the Outlander cast and crew panel interview that was scheduled to take place at 5:00 p.m. We speculated about who was in the ballroom for panels preceding (television shows we had never heard of) and who might be leaving soon, and sent runners to swoop in and reserve seats in closer rows. By the time of the “Brave New Warriors” panel at 2:00 p.m.—which included Rik Rankin/Roger MacKenzie from Outlander—all of the Outlander Cast Street Squad was in the front row and loving life.
The excitement of being feet away from actors who portray the characters you have loved for more than 10 years can do interesting things to a person. I consider myself a pretty calm and collected middle-aged lady. Yes, I love the Outlander books and TV show, and yes, I do frequent internet searches for interviews, pictures, and videos of Tobias Menzies on a weekly basis, but doesn’t everyone?
Originally, I was just hoping to get into the Ballroom for the panel interview—in the back was fine, as long as I got to at least see them on the screens and hear them. Then I needed to be in the front row. Then I was jumping out of my seat and screaming with glee as Graham McTavish made a surprise entrance onstage. Then I was wiping the tears that would not stop as Episode 3.01 started to air.
I soon progressed to having the world’s most awkward and embarrassing photo being published on social media of me sobbing on a STARZ employee’s shoulder after she gave me an autograph ticket in honor of my 50th birthday (a little more on that later.) And no, we aren’t reprinting that lovely photo here—just picture a newly 50-year old lady with her face twisted into a grimace of joy/confusion/terror/exhaustion and a beautiful 20-year old girl smiling worriedly, wondering if this weird lady was actually going to collapse and take her down as well. I managed to collect myself, slightly repair my face and tackle the autograph signing with as much focus and appreciation as I could.
I managed to speak coherently for the most part and even made eye contact with Tobias, smiled into those soft brown eyes, and laid a hand on his beautiful blazer-clad arm as we shared a joke. That last sentence sounds totally normal, right? I rest my case.
This isn’t my first fandom. I was pretty involved with another fandom several years ago—one that has a vast and long-standing following. As I got deeper into it, I started to see a lot of factions—people wanted to know what website you contributed to, which aspect of the fandom you were most interested in, what attitude you had towards certain people, what philosophy you held to, what inside jokes you knew. If you didn’t answer correctly, there were eye rolls and condescending remarks.
I did not see any of that at Comic-Con among the Outlander fans. We were there for one purpose—to give love to the cast and crew of Outlander , and to enjoy it with each other. I can’t even count how many people I met and chatted with. I felt like I was totally understood. I didn’t have to be young and fashionable, I didn’t need to have personal knowledge of Sam’s dating life, I didn’t even need to have read all the books or watched the shows a million times. People seemed to accept each other where they were in their level of fandom. Most of us were of a certain age and kind of stood out from the typical Comic-Con participant. Christine Lewis put it so eloquently:
It was, indeed, the Outlander Cast Clan Gathering ladies who were stars in my book. Christine found out it was my 50th birthday and made it her mission to get an autograph pass for me. She didn’t have to do that—she could have scored one for herself. We barely knew each other, but she decided to do that for me. And ladies I had just met that week were hugging me and wishing me well and sharing in the excitement. I had the privilege of going through the autograph line with fellow Outlander Cast Street Squad member Lisa M., a lady of incredible class and grace. Together with her, I felt the joy of watching her get her beautiful “wee medicine box” signed, as was her dream.
I hope I passed that goodwill along as well. I brought in a necklace to the autograph session for Sam to sign from our adopted Clan member, Rachel, who was so helpful to us on the panel day in getting good seats. I saved panel seats for ladies we met in line and covered for each other throughout the long day. I passed along information about the best strategies for acquiring a ticket to stand in the swag line. I shared in the excitement with ladies who had the good fortune to pull an autograph ticket from the swag bag. The love and caring shared that week was overwhelming, and I understood why so many people attend these kinds of events.
Sometimes even close family members don’t understand how we feel about Outlander —they may tolerate it, they may enjoy teasing us about it, they generously buy you Comic-Con tickets and wish you well, but they don’t really understand it. Here among our Clan at Comic-Con, surrounded by fandoms of all kinds, I felt understood. If I wanted to jump up and down and scream, cry with happiness, hug strangers, take endless pictures of the Print Shop Sign, that was okay. I was okay. It was the best feeling in the world.