Comic Con 2016 Recap: Day Two – I’m More Sweat Than Human Now

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Conversations for a Cause with Zachary Levi (Nerd HQ)

We’ve made it to Friday! This was definitely my busiest day at the con, so stick with me — I’ve got a lot to share. Make sure you’re caught up with my Wednesday and Thursday Comic Con recaps as well! Now on to the madness…

First stop: Nerd HQ.

Nerd HQ is an annual event run by The Nerd Machine, a company started by one of my favorite human beings, Zachary Levi (Chuck, Tangled). It takes place over the four-day Comic Con weekend but is completely separate from Comic Con and free to attend. It offers exclusive gaming, nightly dance parties, photo ops, and celebrity panels. It’s basically THE place to be outside of Comic Con.

Unlike Comic Con, you do have to pay for Nerd HQ’s panels, AKA Conversations for a Cause. It costs $22 for a ticket, but all the proceeds benefit Zac Levi’s chosen charity, Operation Smile. So not only do you get to see awesome people like Tom Hiddleston, Nathan Fillion, and Joss Whedon, but you could actually be helping to save a child’s life. It doesn’t get more win-win than that!

This year I got tickets to one of Zac’s panels (he usually does more than one). My dad and I sat in the second row, so I was able to get some pretty good pictures even with just my iPhone.

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I absolutely adore Zac. He has such an incredible heart for people and you can hear it every time he talks and see it in everything he does. It’s so encouraging to hear him share his faith and speak so much love. He really goes out of his way to show people that they are valued and appreciated and special. I’ve met Zac several times over the last few years at both Comic Con and Nerd HQ, and he gets both sweeter and taller every time.

As the founder of The Nerd Machine, Zac is also kind of the boss man who is literally everywhere. He has put so much of his own time and money into Nerd HQ — it’s just ridiculous how much he cares. He hosts/joins in on most of the panels, has several of his own panels, takes pictures with fans for charity, and parties it up with fans at the evening dance parties. Not surprisingly, the man completely loses his voice every year. He’s just good people.

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Okay, that’s my rant about how great Zac Levi is.

Towards the end of the panel, I raised my hand and asked Zac a question. I used to work at Warner Bros. as a tour guide and wanted to know if he had any stories from working on the lot when Chuck was shot there. This is me nervously talking in front of 200 people:

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To be or not to be? That was not my question. (Nerd HQ)

Zac said he remembered me — but if he did, it was probably from one of our many other encounters because I never worked at Warner Bros while Chuck was filming there. Still, that was nice that he may or may not have remembered me? Anyways, he gave a really great answer to my question that involved a really nice story about George Clooney. But I won’t tell the whole thing or recap the entire panel because you can actually watch it all online!

To watch the part with my specific question, you can forward ahead to 55:20.

For any Tangled fans, I’ll throw in one last Zac photo where he’s attempting to do the “the smolder” like his character Flynn Ryder. Zac claims it’s basically just “light duck face.”

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I love these Nerd HQ panels. They only sell 200 tickets for each one, so it’s much more intimate than Comic Con. It’s all about fostering a relationship with the fans and allowing the fans to ask all their burning questions in a very relaxed environment. Tickets often sell out in less than a few seconds, but if you’re lucky enough to get in, Nerd HQ panels are always one of my top highlights!

After the panel, Zac did a round of what is called Smiles for Smiles, where you can snap a photo for a $20 donation to Operation Smile. More win-win scenarios!

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Smiles for Smiles with Zachary Levi benefiting Operation Smile (Nerd HQ)

Afterwards, I headed back to the convention center. It took a surprisingly long time to get back because the streets were congested and it was RIDICULOUSLY hot outside.

While I tried to cool off, I wandered around the exhibit hall a bit and found just the droid I was looking for! I’ve been obsessed with R2-D2 ever since I was little, and whenever I find him, I MUST take a picture with him.

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R2-D2 Selfie. (Exhibit Hall)

Next: Autograph signing with the cast of The Walking Dead

One of my top Comic Con highlights every year is immersing myself into the madness that is The Walking Dead signing. If you read my Thursday recap, you know that I didn’t get a winning raffle ticket to participate in the signing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stalk by for some pictures! Just like standing in line for hours for a panel, I feel like it’s just a classic part of the Comic Con experience, and it’s something that I just HAVE to do every year. Yes, it’s just a show. Yes, they’re just people. But to me, subjecting oneself to this madness is like the ultimate fangirl experience at Comic Con, so ya just gotta go big or go home. Plus, I’m really really good at it. Even with hundreds of people in my way, I always manage to get pretty close and get some decent pictures. I’ve even snagged Steven Yeun’s autograph a couple times in the past. Fangirling is an art, people.

Waiting for the cast to enter the exhibit hall is like playing musical chairs. The walkways around the booth are crazy congested with other fans waiting, and there’s security everywhere yelling at you to keep moving so the fire marshall doesn’t shut everything down. You have to keep moving, even if it’s just in a big circle. Just like musical chairs. Because you gotta hope that when the cast finally bursts onto the floor, that you’re positioned in a good spot for high-fives and pictures. I told you it was an art!!

You can see just how crazy it gets when the cast hits the exhibit floor in my own firsthand account video:

I’ve seen all the cast members before, but this season Jeffrey Dean Morgan, AKA Negan, is a series regular. He’s been one of my faves since he played Papa John Winchester on Supernatural, so you can imagine my reaction at seeing Sam and Dean’s dad in the flesh and SMILING AT ME, WHATEVER, NO BIG DEAL.

It was a big deal.

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Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Negan from The Walking Dead.

Notice how he’s looking away from the camera? That’s because he’s looking AT ME.

Here’s just a few of the many photos that I snapped while I was stuck in the zombie horde of people surrounding the booth.

In the photos from left to right, you’ll find: Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Danai Gurira, Lauren Cohan, Steven Yeun, Sonequa Martin-Green, Andrew Lincoln, Christian Serratos, Josh McDermitt, and Michael Cudlitz.

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Maggie and Glenn 4eva

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It’s really hard to depict the craziness that was occurring while I was taking these photos. This is how these things work: you’re basically touching 50 people at once and can barely move. Or breathe. Like at a concert. There was a large man next to me that was dripping with sweat. And I literally couldn’t move away. That was one of the grosser things I’ve ever experienced at Comic Con. By the time I made it out of there, I was covered more in other people’s sweat than my own. Mostly that guy’s.

After I could breathe and went to the bathroom to rinse myself off (EWWW), I went to a few more panels.

The infamous Hall H, the largest panel room, was surprisingly walk-in at that point. I was still able to go right in for Joss Whedon’s panel.

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Joss Whedon (Hall H panel)

I love hearing this man spew out his genius. He always has great tips and advice for writers/storytellers. This was one of my favorite quotes, although technically I’m paraphrasing:

“Good writers make a story smoothie by stealing a bunch of ideas and blending it all together to make something completely new.” – Joss Whedon

Fans also asked him about Dr. Horrible 2, and even Joss said it was time they get back together to make it! DON’T TEASE US, JOSS.

Afterwards, I hit up Ballroom 20, where there was no line either. I walked right in for the end of the TV Guide Fan Favorites panel with Marie Avgeropoulos (The 100), Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead), Tom Ellis (Lucifer), Rebecca Mader (Once Upon a Time), Jason Ralph (The Magicians), David Ramsey (Arrow), Brandon Routh (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) and Tamara Taylor (Bones).

Since they don’t clear the rooms between panels, I was able to move from the very back all the way to the 8th row for the next panel which was for The CW’s iZombie, pictured below with Rahul Kohli, Aly Michalka, co-creator Diane Ruggerio, David Anders, Rose McIver, Malcolm Goodwin, and co-creator Rob Thomas.

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Cast of iZombie (Ballroom 20 panel)

Apparently the new season will feature “Law and Order” aspects with Peyton (Milchalka) handling the “law” and Liv (McIver) and Clive (Goodwin) handling the “order.” We’ll also get to see Blaine (Anders) play the good guy, and Liv gets a new do! Or a different wig at least.

Last stop: Nerd HQ again.

I finished off the day with one last panel back at Nerd HQ. This was a “Mystery Panel.” Once we got there it was revealed who our mystery panel consisted of:

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Conversations for a Cause Mystery Panel (Nerd HQ)

Panelists from left to right: Retta (Parks and Recreation), Vanessa Hudgens (Powerless), Bistie Tulloch (Grimm), Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead), Caity Lotz (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community).

Oh, and Zac Levi was here again hosting the panel and offering his personal insights on being a “strong woman”.

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This was such a great panel full of some serious girl power. All these strong, beautiful ladies were laying down truth, even while they went on a 15-minute rant about Internet trolls. There was lots of fun and laughter, including Zac giving Yvette a lap dance as a “bored stripper” that was caught on camera by Sonequa (and everyone in the audience). But they also addressed some pretty serious issues and said some really powerful things about treating people with love and respect.

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The panel ran a little long, but it was no big since this was the last Nerd HQ panel of the day. Boss man Zac said they could ignore the countdown clock screen that told them their time was up. But then the screen changed to read “You do you,” which even the panelists found hilarious.

This was my second and last Nerd HQ panel of the weekend. Like I said, it’s really hard to get tickets! And even if you do, it’s hard to fit the panels into your other Comic Con programing. Still, they’re always a great time, so I highly recommend it! Again, I won’t recap everything in the panel, but you can check out the full panel below:

As we were leaving Nerd HQ, I couldn’t help but notice this AMAZING recreation of the transporter room from the original series of Star Trek. This was another offsite goodie that was set up for the new Mac Cosmetics Star Trek makeup line in honor of Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary. You can see they had already shut things down for the day, but I made it back on Sunday for a picture. Still, it looks pretty cool when it’s empty and not crawling with people. I NEED one of these in my apartment.

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After recuperating, regrouping, and grabbing some dinner, I headed over to the Next Day Line for Hall H, which would hopefully ensure us a spot for Saturday’s awesome Hall H lineup, which included the highly-anticipated MARVEL panel along with Warner Bros, Star Trek, and others. I met up with some friends in line, and we waited. And waited. And waited until it was Saturday…

So check back to see what happens on Day Three: Saturday of my Comic Con journey! Will we make it into the panels or not?! You’ll just have to wait to find out. WAIT, like we did.

**CLICK HERE to read on for Day Three: Saturday’s Recap

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