I just returned from the largest gathering of nerds, dorks, and geeks collected under one roof. An event known to insiders as San Diego, or Comic Con, or simply ‘The Con’.

It is a huge annual gathering that fills the entire San Diego Convention Center which covers several football fields in total yardage. Most of the attendees would tire themselves if they walked the entire place but thankfully short breaks are found in the multitude of booths occupied by vendors, publishers, mini-shops filled with everything from 60 year old comics to the latest in Transformers action figures.

Artists sit at tables trying to carry on a conversation while they sketch a request made from a fan who finally made it to the front of the line aftering waiting for two hours. These creators are friendly though some of them are not used to people or sunlight and San Diego Comic Con brings a little of both so they are a little off balance.

Nerds who seek to live a second life in the form of Jedi Knights, anime characters, or as vampires are everywhere. They, along with the booth girls (some hot, some not) are asked to pose for pictures. For the nerds it is truly a ploy for attention and fame. Photo ops with booth girls is the only chance some of the dorks have to get next to a ‘girl’.

Vendors are piled into spaces eight feet in length unless you are a mega vendor that occupies thirty feet. In either case the spaces are crammed with collectable comics and toys, or anime and manga.

Some deals are to be found but it requires either waiting until the event is about to close or braving the wild as you search through box after box of comics that are in no particular order. Searching through large inventories also means giving up any personal space as you are wedged in tight quarters between other treasure hunters — reaching through bodies while on tip-toes, scanning the titles, hoping to find what you are looking for.

Meanwhile the place turns warm, sweaty, and smelly as the air conditioning in the large chamber fails to keep up as more and more people enter the main floor. It’s not uncommon to walk up to something of interest only to scramble away because the nerd who got their before you isn’t so ‘Sure’ or ‘Zestfully Clean’.

Some of these fellow fans feature black, camouflage, or baggy style clothing that accent their tattoos, freshly dyed hair, piercing. Then there is the guy with no shirt on at all featuring the latest in nipple rings of which he displays proudly while walking through the Yu-Gi-Oh collectable card game competition — filled with young boys who buy more and more cards in search of the rare, powerful cards that will assure their victory against their fate-unknowing opponents.

Lastly there are the independent publishers who are trying to make their fold-up table somehow compete with the large, expensive, custom floor spaces that cost more than their annual budget. These champions of freedom of speech and capitalism are just happy to be there while a few in the group have that twinkle in their eye as they seek their big break in the industry.

Next year most of them will be in the same spot as before while one or two will have made it to the big floor shows, signing or drawing for the fans and avoiding direct sunlight in general.