Don Bauder 5:30 p.m., Jan. 29
Comic-Con 2013 hires Nerd Herders to keep crowds moving smoothly
Convention organizers: "We must never have a repeat of 2012's Saturday Stampede. These seemingly harmless creatures can turn deadly under the wrong conditions."
HIGH UP ON THE G4 GEEK CENTRAL PLATFORM, LOOKING DOWN AT THE SWARMING MASS OF SUBHUMANITY BELOW — "For years, the average fanboy or girl attending the Con was mostly placid and gentle, despite its intimidating size," says Comic-Con Traffic Flow Chief Moe Vitalong. "It wandered around the convention floor, pausing to graze at this artist's booth or that studio's display. Granted, there were times when it became agitated — particular panels would arouse its passions, and some of the Hall H events required us to pump tranquilizers into the air conditioning to prevent what we call the Whedon Wheeze. Basically, it's a mass asthma attack brought on by overexcitement. But things like that could be planned for."
Now, however, severe overcrowding is threatening the Con's fragile ecosystem, already strained to the breaking point. "Anti-bullying initiatives nationwide have been almost too successful," observes Vitalong. "The nerd's natural predator is being hunted to the point of extinction. As a result, the nerds are proliferating. There are more every year. And it doesn't help that Hollywood is cranking out nerd recruitment films like Iron Man and The Avengers at record levels. And when July rolls around, the nerds do what nerds have always done: they come here to San Diego."
Unfortunately, "nerds are not used to large crowds. They spend a lot of time alone in their rooms. When they do venture out, it's usually to school, where they follow extremely rigid behavioral patterns. But when they come here, they have no directional guide other than their own oddball obsessions. You put 150,000 nerds in a confined space without clearly defined social guidelines, you're asking for trouble. That's why we're bringing in the Nerd Herders."
Vitalong is quick to point out that Nerd Herders are not just "bullies with badges." "These are trained professionals. Sure, they may be forced to make a troublesome nerd cower in terror once in a while, and they do have a license to wedgie. But it's not done out of malice. They're trying to prevent large-scale geekouts. They just want to keep the Calm in Comic-Con."