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Attendee of the Week: Jon Esparza

Every week from now until San Diego Comic-Con, we’re celebrating you: our readers! So let’s meet this week’s Attendee of the Week:

Jon Esparza


Where are you traveling from?

Imperial Beach.

How many years have you been attending?

Almost every year since 2002!  (Missed 2003 and still haven’t forgiven my cousin for it!)

What was your favorite panel and why?

The Mattel/WWE panel from SDCC 2011.  Not only did I get to meet Bret Hart, I was also standing right next to CM Punk when he “crashed” the panel!  I was in ALL the videos that had sprung up over social media afterward! A close second would be the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 25th Anniversary Panel from SDCC 2009. It’s not everyday you get to meet Keno the Pizza Delivery Guy, aka, Ernie Reyes, Jr.!

What is your favorite exhibitor or artist booth and why?

Gonna go old school here, but the SciFi (now SyFy) Channel booth was always a classic.  Took a LOT of abuse during its run, but man was it a fun booth.  Its slick design and curved facades looked other worldly.  Seems like a sin that they no longer have a booth at the show, but the events they host outside the convention center for ALL to attend more than makes up for it!

What’s your favorite item you’ve ever taken home from the convention (swag, exclusive, merch, etc.)?

Man, that’s like asking me to pick my favorite kid! As far as exclusives go, The Suit-And-Tie Cobra Commander figure I got from Hasbro in ’08 is pretty special.  I grew up on G.I. Joe, so anytime I can get one of those toys is a big deal. That also happened at a time where I didn’t have much money to spend on anything, so it was definitely a splurge! Swag-wise, I got this really cool keychain flashlight from the show Supernatural that projects a butterfly. It was strong enough to clearly project onto ceilings even! I was using it to freak people out at a Ballroom 20 panel once! General merchandise, there’s too much to list, though I’ve gotten some great books that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

What was your favorite autograph session and why?

Haven’t gone to many autograph sessions mainly because they’re a pain to do now.  But I’ve gotten into some, and my favorite was when I met Ray Harryhausen at SDCC 2007.  This man was the father of modern special effects.  To stand there before him and talk with him for a bit and let him know how much I appreciated his contributions…  It meant the world to me.  A VERY close second would be meeting the MST3K cast at SDCC 2008. Lotta folks there that had a profound impact on me!

What is your favorite con snack?

I know very well to avoid the snack bars at the Convention Center.  But the frozen yogurt shop across the street at the Hilton is definitely my go-to snack place!  The line’s rarely long because the Starbucks line next door almost always blocks the shop door. And that’s even when Comic-Con ISN’T happening!

Tell us about your most memorable celebrity encounter?

I’ve actually had a few, but my best one was when I came across Mick Foley at the Mattel booth in 2011. He was literally just standing there in a flannel and sweatpants, despite the insanely hot weather outside.  When I saw him, I said, “Wow, someone actually did Mick Foley cosplay.”  I guess I must’ve said it louder than I realized, because he heard me and turned his head, revealing his missing ear!  Still not getting it, I said “Man!  This guy really went the distance on his-Oh crap that’s really him!”  We had a good laugh and he thanked me for not calling attention to him. It’s amazing how easy these celebrities can blend in when they’re just acting naturally.

What is (or was) your favorite offsite and why?

There’ve been some great ones over the years. NerdHQ and Nerdist’s Camp Conival were great offsites. I miss NerdHQ dearly and wish that Conival would go back to Pecto Park. As far as current offsites go, it’s hard to beat the Petco Park Interactive Zone. Lots of fun and free things for all to enjoy! Last year’s display of the life-size, mechanical Megalodon shark crushing things with its jaws was pretty cool! The impromptu cosplay contest they had there back in 2015 was awesome and nabbed all the participants SDCC badges for the weekend! As far as former offsites, I long for the Xbox Lounge! Formerly at the Hard Rock, it moved to the Hyatt from 2013-2015 and was just a blast to go to and had some amazing swag that they’d give out! The last year they did it, they had a marathon Mortal Kombat X tournament going on!  It was like being in the arcade again!

What is your favorite restaurant in downtown San Diego?

Once again, it’s like picking between my kids!  I love The Field though!  It’s usually packed, but the atmosphere is rowdy and fun, like most Irish Pubs!  It’s become a con tradition for me and my family and friends to eat there during the show!

What is your favorite Comic-Con memory/moment?

So many to choose from, how do I trim it down to one? This is a pretty funny story, though it’s a bit embarrassing.  In 2004, I made my return to SDCC after a one year layoff. I was 20 going on 5 and I was just stumbling all over the place, enamored by the sites and sounds of the show. I wandered into the Lucasfilm booth to take a look at the full-scale replica of the X-Wing fighter my brother had helped build. As I walked around the booth, taking it all in, I felt something hit my knee and a loud but shrill voice yelled out “WATCH IT!!!”  I looked around wondering who said it when the voice came again, yelling “DOWN HERE!!!”  I looked down and it was Kenny Baker! I almost cried I felt so horrible! I crouched down to help him up, apologizing with every other word. He simply smiled at me and said “You gotta quit being so tall!” And with that, he patted my shoulder and walked off laughing. He was obviously messing with me and in the end, I was able to laugh about it too. But still, my clumsy, oafish self accidentally knocked over R2-D2!  Only at Comic Con…

Do you have any advice on how for a first time attendee?
Boy do I! But I go into pretty good detail on my blog every year around con time, so if you don’t mind doing some digging in July’s posts, you’ll get the textbook descriptions there!  But for the cliff notes version:

1. Bring water bottles and refill as often as possible!  The rooms upstairs all have water coolers in them so you don’t have to drink off of those nasty drinking fountains!

2. Wear comfortable, REAL shoes!  Sandals may sound convenient but your feet are going to get stepped on!  It’s just the nature of the beast!

3. Bring cash!  Although a lot of booths do take credit now, cell/WiFi service at the convention center is far from reliable. Cash is always accepted.  This also kinda leads into another point: Don’t expect to make phone calls or update social media. Downtown San Diego’s packed that weekend. Even Verizon customers have issues!

4. Bring snacks! And sustainable snacks too like trail mix or fruits/veggies. Candy and soda are fine in small doses, but in the end won’t keep your engine running! As far as dining options go, most places don’t do reservations that week due to the too-high demand. But, there are times where the action’s largely centered around the convention center and offsites, usually between 10AM and 1PM. Things can always change from hour to hour, so it’s a gamble. The further away you get from the Con, the more things start to open up. And Downtown SD’s got some great restaurants, so don’t be afraid to explore!

5.  Finally, BE COURTEOUS!  Yes, there’s a million people there and it’s hotter than hell outside. It’s easy for tempers to flare, especially when someone’s being rude. But we’re all in the same boat and sometimes, it’s much easier to ignore a pest than engage one. If we all just be kind to one another and try to be understanding, there’s no reason we all can’t have a wonderful time at the best Comic Con there is in the world’s greatest city!

Wow, that was more detailed than I thought!

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