What I Learned about Life, Love and the Outlander Fandom at San Diego Comic-Con

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...

Lesson #1  Comic-Con is No Joke

The crowds alone make visiting the convention daunting. I am talking about crowds that physically sweep you off the sidewalk and on to the street. Crowds that wear large, sharp costumes that poke you in the eye as you try to navigate by them, crowds that might be a little intoxicated in the evenings and step on your feet and blow vape smoke in your face as you try to find your car. Lines stretch for miles and wind around the outside of the Convention Center and around the marina and hotels. Hundreds of people camp on the sidewalk for the entire week. I was extremely intimidated and discouraged that first day. I felt like I was too old and slow to handle all that was going on. I thought I was failing at my Outlander Cast Street Squad job and at Comic-Con in general! Luckily, I decided to give it another try, and things improved steadily as I learned the layout a little better and made sure to connect with my fellow Street Squad members for their help and input.

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.




Lesson #2 — Being Part of a Team Makes all the Difference

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.

In the FRONT ROW!


Lesson #3  Apparently I am a Gooey, Screaming Fan Girl

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.

 Best Birthday EVER!

Lisa M. -- the first to get the coveted Golden Ticket

Lesson #4  The Outlander Fandom is the Greatest. End of Story

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:

“The Con for me in reflection is a lot about not being invisible at our age as a woman. That we can still make sh*t happen. As we grow older, sometimes we recede into the background, and for me I realized—no, we made things happen through good deeds and goodwill and we are paid back in kind.”

For Lisa M., she told me at one point, "I didn't think I was a Fan Girl, but I did wear a costume for two days straight, so..."  Not only did she wear that costume, but it gave her the courage to reach out to this amazing community of strong, determined women (and a few men) in a way she would not have otherwise experienced. One by one, Lisa was asked about her costume, asked for a photo, or complimented on her efforts. Little by little, she was given a platform to talk with others and share her inner thoughts and giddy girl dreams, to listen and learn about their motivations and stories, and what road had led them all there. She was emboldened by a persona and enriched by the experience.  In Lisa's words...

"I was riding high on my #bloodyapron notoriety, and now in the autograph line sharing nervous giggles and anecdotes with my new extended Outlander family. I no longer felt on the outside because I had a connection and a shared experience. The fact that I was in an oblivious blur, tongue-tied and occasionally weepy seemed to be the norm. And it was okay because I had family right there with me. I had cosplay sisters. We could scream, cry and jump up and down all we wanted. Take my picture, interview me. I'm a 50-something fan girl. And the name for this phenomenon is not a clinical diagnosis of delusional disorder."

Sassy Sassenach!

Making friends

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.




Will I try Comic-Con again? At the beginning of the week, it was a “heck, no.” By the end of the week it was a “maybe…if I can recover by next year.” Now, a few days past the convention, I am already scouring the Comic-Con website looking for early registration dates. I hope to see some of you there next year and we can continue to grow our Clan at Comic-Con. I’ll save you a blue swag ticket.

The Outlander Cast Street Squad



Have you ever attended San Diego Comic-Con?  Was your experience similar or different?  Any advice for next year?


42 comments

  1. I went for the Outlander premier (didn't have tickets to go to the Con) but met people there, stayed with people I never met before and now have lifelong friends from that event.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope I will as well--the ladies I met were wonderful--instant kinship!

      Delete
  2. GREAT article. So glad you had an AMAZING time. I hope to go next year. We shall see. Sounds like Starz needs a bigger "booth" next year. Guess they don't understand how MASSIVE the fandom is of Outlander. Oh and happy late Birthday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Diana! I don't think it's so much the booth that needs to be larger, just the space for the line. So many people wanted to check it out--hundreds--but there was no place to stand. The lines for other booths like Lucasfilm and Marvel were much more organized--I think the popularity for this just caught them off-guard.

      Delete
  3. I feel like I was there just from reading this. There is nothing quite like the energy you exchange with the other fans of something you enjoy so much. Bravo to the Team for a well written and interesting article- a happy conveyance for those of us at home. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a "Lisa M. fangirl" as well! She is a gem--I was so fortunate to be paired with her that week. And her costume was by far the best at the convention.
      Maybe she'll make me a dressing gown for Comic-Con next year ;-)

      Delete
    2. Too kind! Thank you. I love costumes and the chance to put people in them. Anytime:)!

      Delete
  4. Who decided the Print Shop, should have realized it was a very important element in the Voyager book! It's something that was written about for as long as the series became a reality. It is pivotal in the story arc. Woulda, coulda, should have made plans for the huge response. Easy for me to say. I want to go to 2018 SDCC, but I get panic attacks in crowds, so I may have to try for living it vicariously again! Happy it turned out so great for you and the group you hooked up with. The autographs you got are Priceless!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I just bought a poster frame and am framing my giant signed poster as we speak. I just think the convention planners did not realize that any Outlander fans attending were ONLY going for Outlander--most fans have many things they wanted to see. All we wanted to do was tour the print shop...over and over. I really hope they get the message and plan for the crowds next year if Outlander returns.

      Delete
  5. Thanks for a great article. I, too, have had a huge, long-time fandom (although I've never left.) I've read the books for 20+ years and thrilled when STARZ produced Outlander for television. I didn't expect to see another fandom again like mine, except maybe Star Trek, but I'm thrilled because it seems to be the best kind. Supportive, charitable, and intelligent. I'm so happy that you had a good experience, and I'll be thrilled if you come back and tell next year's stories, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much--long time book reader here as well. As far as attending next year-the trick is even getting a ticket to Comic-Con--you get put into a lottery--and I've read that first time attendees only have a six percent chance of getting a ticket. If you are returning, you have a fifty percent chance. Nuts! But happy that I at least got to go this year.

      Delete
  6. OMG, I almost feel like I am with you when I read this! Excellent write-up and oh, how I'd love to join you next year. Except my husband would divorce me! And a belated HBD - welcome to that exclusive club just for wonderful women of "a certain age!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes! So far, so good. I live in San Diego, so it's easier for me to attend this convention. I don't think my family would be good with me jetting all over the country attending fan events, but this one worked out for me perfectly. :-)

      Delete
  7. Thanks ladies for writing this. I have been involved in some other fan events over the years, but not on this kind of scale. You ladies Rock!! I am turning 60 this summer, and have had many of the age related feelings you expressed. You are my inspiration to keep on keepin on!!❤️

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Ruth! This was my first fan event and it was so cool to meet ladies I could instantly relate to--we gotta stick together! :-)

      Delete
    2. So glad you could relate. My mom is 88 and has attended two fan events with me. A rejuvenating, life affirming experience for sure!

      Delete
  8. The crowds and noise would totally daunt and exhaust me so all I can say is well done for sticking with it and ending up having the birthday of your life. It's great to read about it all and about the Outlander fans too. You deserved the special treat of the early preview of Episode One after all your efforts to be there. Must say I'm jelly about THAT! And the fact that you got to meet the team is amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were lots of un-fun moments for sure--along with the crowds was the heat and humidity. The exhibit hall started out cool in the morning and got warmer and warmer as the day wore on. My hair was wet like I had taken a shower and my backpack and t shirt were stuck together with sweat (too much info?) Anyway, thanks for your comments! :-)

      Delete
  9. Sounds like we need a separate Outlander FanFest. I was in Nashville when the GOTCon was at Portland. Viking wannabes and Country Music. OMG imagine OLCCon!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Opryland, not Portland!!!!

      Delete
    2. I would love that--I think they would get massive crowds.

      Delete
    3. There are a few smaller events for Outlander fans around. I love attending the Thru the Stones conference in the Quad Cities. It's a perfect mix of all things Outlander held every two years.

      Delete
  10. Thank you for the experience of enjoying SDCC, Outlander with you and "the girls"! I expirenced a small percentage of what you described at LA Popfest seeing The Queen D, which was an unforgettable thrill! My friends and I were unlucky in the SDCC ticket lottery and will try again next year and hope to meet up with you all then to celebrate your Birthday, what a party!
    Made Forever Friends on an Outlander Tour last year in Scotland , what you say is true, it's the great equalizer and never realized I'd end up such a Fan Girl, but what fun!! Thanks again, you stone!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am jealous that you got to take an Outlander Tour--what a dream come true! Someday! Let's cross our fingers that Outlander will come back to Comic Con and that we all get tickets. :-)

      Delete
  11. Wow, so wonderful to read about this great venture. .. I want to get to Scotland next year..I will keep reading you keep writing maybe catch up oneday

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scotland is on my wish list--I hope we both make it there soon! :-)

      Delete
  12. Wonderful post...I lived vicariously through you and the rest of the Street Squad all last week. To hear of your experiences first hand now is just icing on the (birthday) cake! I attended the LA Star Trek conventions when they first became popular in the ( ** cough, ahem ** ) 70s. I'm not sure I could do it now because it sounds so overwhelming! However, my daughter's fiancé is a big Dr. Who fan, and I've agreed to go to the Boston Con with him. Your article tells me that I CAN survive the experience! Kudos to you for stepping outside your comfort zone, and Happy birthday...you're now a "Princess of a certain age" celebrating anniversaries of your 29th birthday. All the best!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, thanks for the sweet wishes. And you CAN do it--if I can, anyone can. Just stick together and make friends--I am sure you will have the time of your life. :-)

      Delete
  13. I wish I could have been there but your article made me feel like I was in spirit. I am 55 and I am unapologetically an outlander fangirl! This show and the books have added such joy and connection. it sounds crazy but I consider it a gift. My husband and family laugh but they respect how much Outlander means to me. I even taught a character study of Jamie Fraser at my local library and met other fangirls. It is magical and pure enjoyment! Thanks for sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I could have attended your study--sounds like a blast. Thanks for your comments! :-)

      Delete
    2. I love your post! Thanks for sharing and creating a class for your community. I love it!

      Delete
  14. This was a great article. I am 57 and love Outlander. It wasn't possible for me to be there but I watched as much as I could. Maybe someday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are other fan gatherings that might be more enjoyable for you--less crowds and crazy-ness. Check around the state you live in and see!

      Delete
  15. Thanks for letting us know how it all works. My husband and I attended SDCC for the first time this year and it was overwhelming. I had no clue how to even get into the booth. Thought I would just have to wait in line. We circled the booth at least a dozen times to get pics of the cast. Felt like a stalker! Different at the Warner Bros booth which was open and showed theirs stars on TV screens also for all to see. Felt the same about whether I would do it again, and decided I would be more prepared and know the process to make an even better experience. I did have fun just a little irritated with Starz crew yelling at us to keep moving!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had the same experience 2 years ago. When I decided to go again this year, I felt much more prepared with a game plan for Outlander objectives. I decided I would just set one attainable goal and anything else would be icing on the cake. That helped me not be so frustrated and overwhelmed. And, I felt like I ate more cake too! Hope you will try again.

      Delete
  16. I love this! Thanks for putting it into words. I was able to go to the Starz booth twice and was excited for the chance. I made it to the panel and it was all amazing. This was my 5th Con and it can still be overwhelming and fustraiting at times but by the end I'm ready for next year, lol!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are a veteran! If I am able to go next year I feel like I will not be as overwhelmed because I at least will know the general layout of the convention center.

      Delete
  17. This was amazing! as a first timer, I hope to attend next year and Outlander is my main reason! I lived in Scotland for 6 years and miss it terribly, so listening to them talk makes me feel like home again! How & when were the autograph tickets dispersed? was it a raffle or just random? thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The autograph tickets were in a tote bag mixed in with all different cards. You put your hand in and selected a card on each visit to the booth. So you either got a swag card or an autograph card. I believe they gave out around 50 autograph cards on Thursday and 50 on Friday. And some of the Outlander booth ladies and gents were holding cards to give out at their discretion (did not know this until later.) But not many people got a card compared to the thousands who visited.

      Delete
  18. What a great blog post! Thanks for this. I've been watching all the news from Outlander at SDCC from Sydney, Australia and lapping it up. Great to hear the experiences of ticketholders / fans. I took my daughters to our first Con in Sydney last year and it was such fun. The camaraderie (?) was so lovely. Everyone was a fan of something, up for a chat, happy to pose for photos in fantastic outfits, and particularly thoughtful of my teens. Much less crowded at the Sydney Cons than SDCC but I loved your blog post. Hoping one day to have someone from the Outlander cast visit Sydney. :-)
    PS Happy birthday!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Anna! Remember, you have our dear Lord John-- David Berry, who is appearing in season three and an Australian so the chances of meeting him are pretty good :-)

      Delete
    2. Isn't it great to know we can have shared experiences across countries and around the world? The connectedness and bond created by a fandom is like no other. Maybe we can be so fortunate to live through David Berry as encountered by you in Australia some day!🤞🏻Thanks for commenting and following us.

      Delete

Back to Top