Outlander at San Diego Comic Con: A Fan Experience
Weren’t able to experience Outlander at San Diego Comic Con? Our blogger, Rachel Dillon, highlights her experience at America’s largest convention so you can feel as though you braved the crowd yourself.
Is it sad to say that I’m still recovering from Comic Con last week?! One of the busiest – but also most fun – times of the year, San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) occurs every July in my beautiful city. Growing up in San Diego, I’ve been familiar with the con and all it entails: how difficult it is to get a pass, the celebrities and panels, avoiding downtown if you don’t want to deal with traffic, etc. I finally attended my first con four years ago in 2016, and have been going ever since.
Before I get to this year’s Comic Con, here’s a bit of history of Outlander at the Con.
Outlander was first present at Comic Con in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I got to see their panel and get the full experience – and an experience it was! From getting in line at 5 AM to asking a question on the panel, to seeing now-fellow Outlander Cast staff member Lisa Perkis and meeting the cast and getting their autographs….it was quite the year!
Sadly, 2017 would be the last year we would see Outlander at SDCC. In 2018, it was announced that they would not be returning. And in addition, Starz would not even have a booth! The only Outlander experience attendees could get was to attend the Outlander Fan Panel, hosted by fellow Outlander bloggers and podcasters. There we chatted about the then upcoming Season 4, what we liked/disliked about Season 3, and a short Q&A. One of the audience members at this panel happened to be Chris Parnell, a producer for Sony. Unfortunately he had some sad news – Outlander would likely never be at SDCC again, but instead host their panels and experiences at New York Comic Con as the dates better align with the season premieres (New York is in October, versus July for San Diego).
Hearing this news was both a good thing and a bad thing – one the one hand, it is much, much easier to get a pass for New York Comic Con as there is no lottery process (if you’d like to learn more about New York Comic Con, check out this blog post by Blake!). It’s also more convenient for fans on the East Coast. On the other hand…if you live on the West Coast, you would now need to journey to New York to get the Outlander experience.
Luckily this year’s Comic Con for 2019 better represented Outlander than 2018. With that in mind, let’s dive in!
Comic Con 2019
But first, a few important things to note:
- San Diego Comic Con is the largest convention in the nation, so it’s no surprise that it’s pretty packed – crowds and lines are everywhere! This is why it’s usually suggested to pick just ONE thing to try to do at Comic Con.
- I live about 10 minutes from the San Diego Convention Center where Comic Con is held, so luckily I did not have to deal with finding a hotel or paying for parking. But this is very much a struggle for those who attend. Hotels and parking are also assigned with a lottery style system, and luckily our fellow Outlander Cast staff members were able to be close to the center.
- There are a lot of Outlander fans at Comic Con! This was confirmed in 2017 back when you had to go into a separate line just to walk through the Outlander booth. They’re still around, and they’re still attending Comic Con.
For this year’s Comic Con, Starz did have a booth, but instead of having it be Outlander-themed like 2017, they decided to highlight a couple of their shows: American Gods, The Rook and, of course, Outlander. Starz advertised the booth as an “immersive” experience, so I was pretty excited to see what they would bring! But honestly, I was just excited to see Outlander was back in some capacity.
There would also be the Outlander Fan Panel again, with the same hosts as last year. Unfortunately Lisa M, Marlo, and I could not attend (we are big Game of Thrones fans, and their final panel was on the same day as the Outlander Panel). Large TV show and movie (i.e., Marvel) panels are held in “Hall H,” a massive room that holds about 6,000 people. It’s a tedious and lengthy process to get in – you usually have to get in line the day before and have someone camp out overnight to save your spot in line! However once you’re in Hall H, you stay in Hall H. Because the Game of Thrones panel was at 5 PM, we had to stay in the room until the panel, which meant we couldn’t leave to attend the Outlander Fan Panel. Luckily, staff members Lisa Perkis and Christine Lewis attended the panel for us. We also lucked out because before the Game of Thrones panel was the panel for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the new Netflix series that Caitriona Balfe is in!
There was also a panel on Saturday that was lead by none other than Outlander composer Bear McCreary! I’m a huge fan of TV show and movie soundtracks, and Bear’s music for Outlander has been nothing short of amazing. (Lots of the staff think so too – check out these blog posts) The panel, titled “Music of the Monsters,” would go through how music has transformed the way we see monsters and villains in cinema.
Finally, we created an Outlander Meet Up event on Saturday for anyone to join! Because Lisa M, Marlo and I couldn’t attend the fan panel, we wanted to make sure we could still celebrate Outlander and meet other fans. Lisa M was fabulous and created fantastic goodies for us to hand out, including cutout Adsos, trading cards on American history and Fraser’s Ridge buttons. She even made shirts with The Fiery Cross (the book that season 5 will be based on) logo for us to wear!
Although Thursday is officially the first day of Comic Con, on Wednesday night a “Preview Night” is held. This is an additional pass you can buy that allows you to walk the convention floor and check out the booths. A very small amount of passes are sold, so it’s nice if you don’t like dealing with crowds! While Lisa P, Lisa M, Marlo and I were eating dinner, we caught a tweet from someone who attended Preview Night that Starz would giving out an “Outlander Survival Kit” for the first 100 people who got to the booth! So at 9:30 AM when the convention doors opened, we found ourselves rushing to the Starz booth to try to get a kit. It turned out that the “kit” was actually an Outlander mug, with a picture of Fraser’s Ridge on one side and “Good Morning Sassenach” on the other. All we had to do was take a picture at the booth and post it to social media with the tags #Outlander and #Starz. So easy and so cute!
The booth itself was very small, and not nearly as crowded as it was in 2017. The immersive experience was entering a photo booth where you could pick a Starz show and create a video/boomerang. For Outlander, it was going through the standing stones! We had fun creating different ones.
You could also pull a raffle ticket to win a Starz Comic Con Survival Kit, and in it was the Outlander mug, American Gods sunglasses, a fan, a portable phone charger and a pin for each of the shows. The other prize was to be able to attend an autograph signing for the new series The Rook. Both Lisa P and I won the signing, but neither of us could attend as it was on Friday. Everyone got a black bag with the Starz logo.
After going through the Starz booth a couple times, we walked around the convention center checking out the booths in search of any Outlander merchandise and to take pictures. A popular item is the Outlander trading cards, especially the wardrobe ones! These cards contain a small piece of fabric that was used for certain costumes in the show. My personal favorite was one that had a piece of Clarie’s wedding dress and Jamie’s wedding tartan.
I like to dress up for Comic Con, and this year I went as the character Evelyn from The Mummy. I created The Book of the Dead from a cereal box and found costume pieces on Amazon to put it together, along with some fake bangs and a personal Egyptian necklace! Part of the fun of Comic Con is checking out the costumes, and it’s fun when people stop you to take your picture or comment on your work.
The rest of the day was spent waiting in line for Hall H for the Game of Thrones panel the next day. We also finalized the goodies that we were planning to hand out for the Saturday meet up.
Lisa M, Marlo, and I all arrived at the center at 7 AM to get back in line for Hall H. Because we were going to be sitting inside and in the dark all day, I opted out of my costume and wore my green Outlander hoodie from Hot Topic. It ended up being the perfect choice because with the AC blasting it was freezing!
In the middle of the day, we were able to briefly meet with Lisa P, who was sweet enough to create snack bags for us to munch on! She even added a cute little touch 🙂
There were many panels before Dark Crystal and Game of Thrones – Marvel, The Walking Dead and Witcher all presented. The cast that was set to appear for Dark Crystal had not been announced, so we held a slight hope that Caitriona would maybe show up. Instead it was Taron Eagerton and Mark Hamill! We also got to watch the first episode of the series – no spoilers, but Cait’s character is in it and you can definitely tell it’s her. We ended the day with our Game of Thrones panel at 5 PM. It was a lot more humorous than I was anticipating, but wonderful to watch. I wonder if I’ll be as upset, if not more, that Game of Thrones is done when Outlander finally comes to an end as well.
Lisa P and Christine went to the Outlander Fan Panel at 3 PM. It was run very similar to last year’s; they talked about Season 4 and what was liked/disliked, and shared what they hoped to see in Season 5. Both the book and show were discussed, so if you attended and hadn’t read the book there would have been spoilers! We ended the day by getting together for dinner and finalizing everything for the meetup the next day.
Although Comic Con is a four-day event that ends on Sunday, today would be the last day for some of us. Sunday is usually the most calm day with not very many big-name panels, and attendees highly likely to bring their kids due to the smaller crowds. We all got to the center at different times – Lisa M wanted to shop for the Outlander Trading Cards, Lisa P attended a D23 panel, Christine checked out the Starz booth some more, and Marlo and I slept in! I eventually met up with the group around 11:30 AM, and we all went to the Starz booth a couple more times in an attempt to win the Survival Kit… which we didn’t. Pretty soon it was 1 PM, so we all left and headed to the spot for the meet up to prepare!
Many people showed up around 1:50 PM, so we jumped right into it and started to hand out swag. Other Outlander groups, like Outlander North Carolina and Outlander Vancouver, contributed freebies. Mary and Blake sent some Outlander Cast buttons for us to hand out as well! It was a great turn out, and I’m so glad I was able to meet fellow fans.
Not long after the meetup, we headed to Bear’s panel in the convention center. We got there early and were able to snag seats in the second row. I was surprised at how many non-Outlander fans were there! Bear has also done work for The Walking Dead, Gods of War, Godzilla and, most recently, the reboot of Chucky. I’d say maybe 25% of the audience were Outlander fans, the rest were fans of his other work. In the panel, he talked about the themes of monsters and how they further evolve the characters. (Jaws anyone?) He then dove into his own musical work for monsters, with examples from 10 Cloverfield Lane, Godzilla, and Chucky. It was very educational and he was great at getting the audience involved!
After the panel, 20 other people and me rushed toward him to ask questions and get pictures. I was honestly shocked to see how popular Bear was, and hearing other people’s questions made me realize that Outlander is just a piece of some of the great work he’s done. Bear was also great with fans – when someone asked him a question, he gave long and thoughtful answers, all while maintaining eye contact and focus. He never appeared like he wanted to leave or that he wasn’t interested.
I finally got the chance to talk to him, and first shared that, on behalf of Outlander fans everywhere, how much we love and appreciate his music for bringing the show to life. Bear was gracious to hear that and shared that Outlander is a very special project for him. I asked if he was planning on doing anything different for the music on Season 5, and he said that he’s planning on reworking the major themes that have already been established for the characters using different instruments. I also asked if he was planning on creating a new theme for the Season 5 opening music, to which he brought up a great point – every season, we’ve changed geography for the story (Season 1 was Scotland, Season 2 was France, Season 3 was post-Culloden Scotland then Jamaica, Season 4 was America). This is the first season where we really aren’t changing the location of the story. He mentioned, though, that despite that, he would feel weird not changing the theme and felt that fans would be disappointed if he didn’t. Bear then surprised me and asked what I thought! I told him I thought he should change it, and suggested maybe even doing a military theme since we’re getting close to the war. I was able to give Bear some of the handouts that we had for our fan meetup, and made sure to again reiterate how much us fans love his music. This was probably my favorite moment from this year’s Comic Con!
Let’s Do This Again……?
And just like that, Comic Con 2019 wrapped! Because it now appears that Outlander’s role in SDCC is limited, I’m torn on whether to attend next year or put my focus on possibly attending New York Comic Con. However, this year was full of great experiences and reconnecting with Outlander fans, and I had a wonderful time.
Have you been experienced Outlander at either the San Diego or New York Comic Con events?
If so, please share your experience below. Also, what question would you have asked Bear McCreary if given the chance?