I've never been to Comic-Con. San Diego's prestigious event for cool folk the world over is actually only something that I've fairly recently started following. Since around 2012. Perhaps it was the mighty summer superhero buzz that had me flowing in a river of comic book treacle - that year we got The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man - or maybe it was just by chance that on my daily YouTube venture I stumbled across Andrew Garfield asking questions dressed as Spider-Man from the year prior.
Either way, I was hooked. It's now twenty-four months later and another Con is gleefully under way. I'm still a rookie when it comes to the extravaganza, therefore I continue to maintain that wide-eyed newborn baby outlook on all the wondrous happenings, but by now I thinks that's irrelevant. Comic-Con just looks like such a great time.
I'm sure it's busy as hell and hotter than Mount Doom and more expensive than Christmas. It's possible that the grandiosity of Hall H even ushers in a semblance of impersonality. Still, the whole event presents itself as such a blast and, even though I'm not a comic book dude, I'd really love to go sometime.
But I'd love to go to Nerd HQ. Each year at Comic-Con The Nerd Machine - an online-cum-physical community of nerds initiated by Chuck star Zachary Levi and Chuck prop king David Coleman - presents Nerd HQ, a place for said nerds to congregate and interact with actors, directors, writers etc. whilst raising money for charity.
The incentive, then, is a few-fold. (Did that work?) First and foremost, it helps people. More specifically, the event aids children born with a cleft palate. Proceeds gathered from celebrity panels, impromptu auctions and other goings-on are shipped off to Operation Smile, a charity that endeavours to fix ailments and rekindle smiles.
The four-day event is also for nerds. It affords fans the opportunity to converse with the people whom they idolise, within personable range. In a way, Nerd HQ is the yin to Comic-Con's yang: it enables a banterous and amiable local atmosphere, rather than the echoey and perhaps somewhat intimating air that might develop in a 6000 seater arena.
Of course, the immediacy of the layout makes the odd awkward question a tad more awkward, but it's Comic-Con and awkward questions carry the same weight as those guilty pleasure movies we all love to spend a Sunday afternoon gorging on. Where else would you hear somebody requesting a Velociraptor impression from Tom Hiddleston? (Who, somewhat worryingly, obliged last year.)
These Conversations for a Cause are the mainstay of Nerd HQ and they consistently promote fun. Zachary Levi must be a popular guy - more on that in a moment - because his phone book apparently stretches the length of Asgard. Firefly Gods Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk are cornerstones of the Q&A sessions, and this year the likes of Arrow's Stephen Amell and the cast of The Walking Dead have panels scheduled. All of the guests come with a mantra to engage thoroughly with fans too, which is wholly refreshing.
Most significantly, Nerd HQ has a beating heart. The concept is genuine. The panellists are authentic. The audiences are true. And that's not to say those things aren't applicable to the bigger drum beat of Hall H - of course they are. But Zachary Levi and company have created something that just feels so familial. It's like crossing the country to catch up with those relatives you see once a year. Such a rapport has manifested that fans verbally reel off guidelines before Levi has a chance to remind them. (That's no flash photography, folks).
Each of these genial traits reverberate through the man who I'm officially labelling 'The Don of Comic-Con' - though take that with a pinch of salt since I've never actually been - Zachary Levi. He's talented, undoubtedly. But the guy also manifests as incredibly down to earth and good-natured. I'll be the first to admit that this article is a bit schmoozy and possibly even a tad preachy, but Levi and company at The Nerd Machine come across so wholesomely that they deserve to be singled out for admiration. I'm no financier, but I reckon those behind the curtain don't make an awful lot of cash given so much of it goes to charity. Levi, the staff, the volunteers and the guests obviously embark upon Nerd HQ because they have a collective passion for giving back.
I'm not even educated in half of the coolness that goes on in Levi's lair - at the end of the day I'm simply an onlooker gazing from afar. But from what I have seen, I'd be willing to bet that Nerd HQ is the place to be during Comic-Con.
Check out The Nerd Machine and Nerd HQ here: thenerdmachine.com.
They're also on Twitter @thenerdmachine.
You can read more from me over at consumedbyfilm.com.
And you can find me on Twitter @ConsumedbyFilm, where I talk movies and other stuff.
Have you been to Nerd HQ?
Credit: The Nerd Machine