Matt Smith! Robert Kirkman! Joss Whedon! Peter Jackson!
If the sound of those names sends a frisson of delight through your heart, if you know your "Battlestar Galactica" from your "Buffy," you can come out of the closet right now, my friend, for you are one of the few, the not-so-proud, the geek nation.
It also means you will truly appreciate my upcoming assignment, covering the epicenter of quirkiness known as Comic-Con 2013. As a job. Seriously. Don't tell my editors, but this trip has been on my dweeb bucket list for years. We're talking Disneyland for nerds, right?
For a few days every July, the San Diego Convention Center becomes engulfed in genre fan(atic)s from all over the world. More than 100,000 fan faithful are expected to attend. Trekkies and superheroes and zombies, oh my.
This may surprise those of you who know me by my first love, theater, and my day job, dramatic criticism. But a culture vulture does not live on Bard alone. With a job that requires spending so many nights out, plus a toddler at home, my down time often involves a remote control in one hand and some icy sauvignon blanc in the other.
Since Comic-Con badges are as hard to come by as winning lottery tickets and most fanboys book their hotels a year in advance, I know I am lucky to have a press pass to pave the way for my pilgrimage to Nerdstock.
Plus, this is a big news year for the Con, the 10th anniversary of the "Walking Dead" zombie apocalypse. We are about to bid adieu to my favorite regeneration of the Gallifreyan (see Matt Smith) so there might be breaking news on the Whovian front. There are also new fanboy blockbusters in the works such as Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." TV show and the "Amazing Spider-Man" sequel. The truth is also out there about the "Thor" movie, the "Hunger Games" sequel and "Captain America 2." Oh, and did we mention the long-awaited "Godzilla" remake? OK, so it's not the latest dispatch from Syria, but in my multiverse, it's front page, above-the-fold news.
I'm also hoping to get a little quality dork time with the creators of "Game of Thrones," "Falling Skies" (yes, I know it sucks, but I enjoy it) and the eye-candy cast of "Supernatural."
Mostly I'm dying of curiosity about the culture of the convention. For us newbies, there's a lot of mystery to the proceedings. For example, if you don't like to "cosplay" (costume meets play) are you a hopeless outsider? How many true believers fear the convention has sold out to Hollywood?
And why do they call the convention center the Hall of Doom?
Alas, it's probably because you have to start standing in line for the hot panels in Ballroom 20, like "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," very, very early and even then you might not make it in. This is because they don't clear the room after each panel. Anybody seated gets to stay, so truly insane fans get there at sunrise so they can nab a seat and squat all day. Bathroom passes are available, otherwise you are pretty much in a "Waiting for Godot" situation, but without the bowlers.
However, for the truly epic panels such as "Game of Thrones" and "The Walking Dead," even more sacrifice is required. For the panels in Hall H, the Mount Everest of venues, snagging a seat means setting up camp the night before -- and pitching a tent in an Orion slave girl outfit isn't easy. Celebs may visit the devout in the wee hours, but it's still a survival-of-the-fittest type of deal.
So why do fans put up with such an obstacle course? Because there is nothing like Comic-Con anywhere else in the world. No self-respecting gore hound can resist AMC's interactive zombie gauntlet. What hard-core Scooby could beg off a chance to attend a "Buffy" panel 10 years after the show wrapped? Let's not even get into how devoted the folks attending the 20th anniversary "X-Files" panel must be (now that's loyalty). And just how do you choose between a Whedonverse panel and a "Walking Dead" panel without having your head explode?
Either way, here's hoping I come out of this with a passing familiarity of Klingon. I'm also a little intrigued by the secret Metallica concert (only those in the know are invited) and the chance to sail a Viking ship.
As it happens, the party circuit is a huge part of the Comic-Con experience from red carpet stalking to killer apps. The Dark Con fete, a horror fan's dream, promises nibbles such as Intestines on a Bun and Shattered Glass Cupcakes in its all-the-humans-you-can-eat buffet.
Such gems may help me cope with the heart-sinking realization that I am flying out before the "Supernatural" panel, so no Winchester boys for me. I also have to skip out on the "Doctor Who" and "Breaking Bad" panels. Where's a Tardis when you really need to dabble in time travel, eh?
If you'd like to experience the insanity of it all, I invite you to follow my running commentary from the capital of cons starting July 17 (preview night!). Beam me up -- already!
LIVE FROM Comic-Con 2013
Karen D'Souza will report live from the San Diego pop culture convention being held July 18-22. Watch
www.mercurynews.com for updates and follow her on Twitter and Tout at @KarenDSouza4.