San Diego Comic Con and the Haunted Hotel

That headline almost felt like an Indiana Jones title! Hey, everyone: as we gear up for San Diego Comic Con next week (!!!), I wanted to create a series of blog posts about the show, my favorite things to do in the Gaslamp district, and how to survive what usually adds up to five days on non-stop fandom. But first, an ode to my favorite hotel in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter: The Horton Grand.

While spots like the Hilton Bayfront, Hard Rock, and any nearby Marriott tend to be what attendees dive for first, the Horton Grand is a long-time staple of the Gaslamp that is absolutely worth a visit during your time at Comic-Con — if you manage to find a second away from the Hall H line or any of the offsites, of course.

the lobby, via tripadvisor

The Horton Grand is located on Island Avenue, between 3rd and 4th ave, right next to Fluxx,which is set to be a pretty active location for after-parties this year with parties from Geek & Sundry and Nerdist. The Horton Grand  was once two separate hotels — the Grand, later renamed the Horton, and the Brooklyn — and were merged together in 1970 after being saved from demolition by. The hotel often has fan events going on during the day, but even walking in to admire the gigantic glass windows and classic 19th-20th century architecture. The staff is friendly, the courtyard offers a wonderful place to rest, and the classic bar makes you feel like you’re grabbing a quick drink in another era entirely.

via California Through My Lens

The real reasons to stay, though, are the ghost stories. The rooms are nice, but half of the experience of staying at the big HG is the fact that — even as you’re riding the elevator up to your room — one feels a sense that something supernatural is afoot. As you pass each level, a vintage display appears in front, like a time capsule from years long gone. Old books, typewriters and dresses are arranged carefully within each display, as if they were once part of a young debutante’s glamorous wardrobe closet.

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The ghosts themselves — so legends say — are mostly friendly. Still, haunted or not, the ghostly charm of this hotel is all in the look. Take the staircase down to the bar to come face to face with a portrait of a woman whose visage makes you wonder if she might be the esteemed Ida Bailey, who ran a brothel nearby and once owned most of the land that the hotel sits on today.

Bailey herself is said to be one of the ghosts within the walls of the Horton Grad, and if that’s so, it makes sense: for a place that practically screams “I am Totally Haunted,” the atmosphere is as friendly as Disney’s very own Haunted Mansion. This may be because of the ex-landlady herself: some guests have recalled encountering Ida’s spirit, and came away feeling a “warm and welcoming” presence.

Another popular tale is that of Room 309, where a ghost believed to be a guest by the name of Roger Whitaker allegedly takes up residence. Activity in 309 is said to be high and frequent, with “strange occurrences” reported as recently as this past May. Over on Yelp, a guest named Jimmy C reported that his stay in Room 309 was more than he expected. Jimmy writes: “I know it sounds like I’m making this up but I have 2 guys who witnessed all this with me. One was when trying to get back into our room it was locked with the door chain from the inside. I checked it 3 times and saw the chain locking our door. The 4th time I closed the door, and opened it again, and sure enough the chain was off.”

There are two versions of Whitaker’s story told today, though the latter is more widely believed.  The first is that Whitaker was killed decades before anything had been built where the hotel stands today, and was buried there. The second told the story of a young gambler with a knack for cheating who ran out of luck: after swindling the wrong guys, Whitaker ran for his room – 309 – and hid in the armoire, only to meet an unfortunate end when his attackers found him and shot him to death inside of it. Yikes.

 

While I can’t fully say that I believe in ghosts, the spooky-scary is always a fun and exciting topic at face value. If you’ve got the chance, stop by the Horton Grand, grab a drink, and keep an eye out so that Roger doesn’t try to snag your glass.

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Milestone Media’s Grand Return at SDCC 2015 is Extremely Important – Here’s Why

I don’t work 9+ hours a day/5 days a week solely for the press badge that I get every year at SDCC, but it does feel like something of a reward for all of the hours spent when I get to witness real-life milestones in the comic book world. Such was the case this past weekend at the final press breakfast for DC Comics, where legends such as Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, and Dan DiDio spoke on the coming events in DC’s post-Convergence world. Morrison’s wide-range storytelling is being held together as a web of worlds inside of his brilliant noggin, and I cannot wait to read some of the new titles, especially Titan Hunt.

But the real highlight of the breakfast (with love for DC and the amazing bacon strips that the hotel staff served, respectively) was the amazing return of Milestone Media, the trailblazers of the 90’s that were responsible for the creation of Static Shock, Icon, and Hardware. Milestone stood for diversity and representation throughout the 90’s, and their return brings promise of diversity not only in their heroes, but their creators as well. The company’s focus on stories told from the perspective of LGBT heroes, heroes of color, and superheroines makes them a valuable imprint for DC, in a time where the demand for diversity from fans like you and I has been amplified to a point where it can no longer be ignored.

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I was so ecstatic to speak with Milestone co-founder Derek T. Dingle, who spared the time to share insight on what the company is looking for in new creators, and their goals for the future.

Fast-forward to 4PM that day, when the hilarious and talented Orlando Jones took the stage in Room 9 to introduce the founders of Milestone once more. The panel, open to the public this time, took fans through the history of Milestone Media, detailing the tragic story that led to the company’s revival. Original co-founder Dwayne McDuffie, whose career spanned such a good deal of my younger years (from Static Shock, to Justice League Unlimited, to Teen Titans and so much more), passed away in 2011 at the young age of 49. The devastation of this loss left a company in limbo until McDuffie’s memorial service (attended by company heads Dingle, Reginald Hudlin and Denys Cowan), when a fan approached the co-founders and explained how much Milestone meant to them as a person of color.

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Static Figurine shown at SDCC 2015

The realization hit them like a brick wall: Milestone could not just disappear. It was needed, important, and as relevant as it had been back in the 90’s. With that in mind, Milestone began building their foundations in silence, and four years later, their grand return is one of the most highly anticipated “milestones” in modern comics.

As relevant as it was before, Milestone is, in my opinion, especially needed now. In an amplified society like ours, where the subjects of diversity, bigotry and acceptance are a constant talking point, Milestone stands firm for people that still find themselves underrepresented, disrespected or made mockery of in modern-day comics.

Milestone serves to show fans that everyone can be a hero, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, or identity. But, what’s almost more important, is Milestone’s style of honesty: the stories of their heroes reflected the real world around us, and along with supervillains, many of Milestone’s flagship title leads struggled with actual problems that real people face on a daily basis. Milestone flies us away into fantasy, but does not create a world where the issues that surrounded us are overlooked for the sake of anyone else’s comfort.

For their part, the company is opening it’s doors to new IPs “down the road” and reviving beloved characters as well as introducing a wide range of new heroes for people from all walks of life to adore and identify with. The honest, iconic, human stories of Milestone’s past once again have a home, and yes — the figurines are already on their way. Overall, I absolutely cannot wait to see what becomes of Milestone Media over the next few, likely explosive years.

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SDCC 2015: Where to Find Me!

In less than 48 hours, many of us will be on our way to the biggest geek event of the year: San Diego Comic-Con. I’m delighted to count myself among the masses of press that will be covering the show – alongside the incredible team at Moviepilot, I’ll be on the ground, bringing you a new look at the culture behind Comic-Con along with some incredible exclusives. But, outside of work, there’s one major thing I’d love to be able to accomplish: meeting new and old friends at the show! Here’s a quick rundown of the public events that you can find me at during the show, outside of the hurried hallway hugs that so many of us end up having.

Wednesday

Game of Bloggers

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9p-12a at the patio & bar of the Dragon’s Den (315 10th Avenue)
Cost: Free

On top of checking out preview night, I’m ecstatic to be part of Crazy 4 Comic-Con‘s Game of Bloggers party, where I’ll be representing Moviepilot! Come meet some of the coolest people in media, geek culture and more at this free event.

Thursday

HerUniverse Fashion Show

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6-8PM, Grand Manchester Hyatt Ballroom

I’m so excited to cover this year’s HerUniverse fashion show, and I can’t wait to see what my wallet will be aching from when Ashley’s newest pieces hit the runway. If you’re there, drop me a message so that we can meet up afterward!

Boom! Comics Party

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9PM-Close, Hilton Bayfront Odysea Bar, OPEN TO ALL

While most of the evening events I’ll be attending this year are invite-only and secret, this awesome party from BOOM is open to all! BOOM threw one of my favorite events last year, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for fans in 2015.

Friday

Fashionably Nerdy Cocktail Hour

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5-6PM, Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, Grand Lobby Bar – More Details

With more sponsors than you can shake a cute Star Wars bangle at, Geek Chic TV‘s event is one that you just cannot miss. Join the brilliant minds behind this awesome and fast-growing new channel focused on the fashion behind geek culture, and marvel at the inevitable sea of cute outfits!

Outside of these, I’ll be attending several lovely parties thrown by some of the top names in entertainment, as well as visiting offsites such as Adult Swim on the Green, The Walking Dead Escape, Nerd HQ and much more! If you’re looking to meet up, please follow me on twitter or check out my facebook page for updates from the convention! What do you have planned for Comic-Con? Let me know below in the comments!

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Playlist: New York City Heart

I’m about to travel again, which means it’s time for another playlist! This time around, it’s all about the city that stole my heart: New York, New York.

I’m headed east for New York Comic Con and a short stay next week. I’m ecstatic! It’s been over three years since I last set foot in NYC, and that’s far too long for anyone to be away from it in my opinion. This city took me in and helped me grow up in a very, very short amount of time, when I really needed it. I learned almost all of the lessons that have so far benefitted me as an adult while I was living in Brooklyn. I learned to be confident, headstrong, and goal-driven: qualities that are required for survival in the big city. That’s probably a little daunting, sure, but I always thought of it as a challenge.

NYC is like the parent that gives you almost all the tools you need to succeed in life and says, “do what you want with this.”

This playlist examines my favorite things about NYC: The commute, the freedom, the weather (seasons!) the individuality, the adventure and the immediate hometown feeling of the city I once called home. The playlist features several different artists that led music revivals and movements in NYC, along with songs about the city, and songs that I feel reflect the city very well.

In related news: I’m going to New York Comic-Con, everybody! I’ll be there on behalf of Moviepilot, hitting the con floor to cover all of the action over the weekend. I’m also part of a wonderful panel on Sunday called Women in Geek Media: Supergirls on a Mission, which is a panel comprised of successful young women from several areas of geek media (journalism, animation, production) who will share their stories, challenges, victories, and advice for up-and-coming creators. It’s on Sunday the 12th at 4:15PM in room 1A1B.

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Is there a city that holds your heart? I’d love to know about everyone’s experiences in NYC or their favorite city, so let’s get mushy about it in the comments!

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