We’ve all been influenced by pop culture in one way or another through movies, television, comics, music, you name it. What we like or have seen/heard mold us into the person that we are. I can say that about myself when it comes to the event known as Comic-Con.

Growing up in San Diego, I was interested in movies and television, but not obsessively so. Every Sunday morning when my mother read the newspaper she’d always hand me the funny pages. It was a must-read: Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Peanuts, Baby Blues, Luann, you name it. One Sunday morning I read a piece in Luann talking about Comic-Con. At the time I wasn’t entirely sure what it was, but then my father explained it and my eyes lit up. I had to go to this event. How was I not going there before? It’s about comics, and many that I’d been reading up to that point would be at the convention center. The X-Men. Superman. Batman. All would be there!

The first time I went to the convention center with my dad I wasn’t able to get in. The center was under construction, expanding into the behemoth that we all know and love today. But at that moment – even being outside of the event – I was hit by the bug. While we were waiting to figure out whether or not there was any room in the convention center for us, I soaked up the atmosphere. There were people dressed up like video game characters and superheroes. It was a dream. It was majestic. It was the geeky equivalent of going down the rabbit hole. I never wanted to leave.

I mentioned the atmosphere of the place and I’m not talking about the body odor. It’s the overall scene, the energy, commotion, the mixture of noises and the people in imaginative costumes who are running around “The Floor” of the convention center. There’s a tangible  energy that fills up the convention center, and once you step inside it completely takes me over. You may have gotten only a couple of hours of sleep the night before , but when you step in there you’re completely recharged. You want to see everything, you want to experience it all. You even want to wait in line just to strike up random conversation with people. Some may just see crowds of people that they just don’t want to be near, but for me there’s multiple ways to really experience Comic-Con just through simple conversation.

One of the things a few of my colleagues don’t understand is my fascination with the main floor – or what most of us Comic-Con regulars call “The Floor.” They just see it as a congested mess that they’d rather avoid. I see it as an opportunity to immerse myself in what’s going on in the culture, not just the chance to play our favorite video game or check out the artwork from an upcoming movie.

There’s Artists Alley, a great section of the convention center where you’re able to talk one-on-one with emerging or established artists. Then there’s what I like to call the golden age comics section, where there’s tons of comic book vendors from across the nation selling some of the best comics and trade paperbacks out there. But that’s not all they sell. And let’s not forget the multiple booths that have some of your favorite comic book artists, writers or movie/television actors to interact with (though sometimes for a cash transaction). And the limited edition action figures are great too.

Then there’s the panels. Some consider this to be one of the worst things to experience at the Con, but I disagree. Earlier I explained the people you can meet in line, but it isn’t just that. There, You get an opportunity to not only see something from your favorite comic/movie/television show/video game but also ask questions to the people behind it. Comic-Con gives you the chance to stand out there in front of a mic, under the spotlight for the entire room to see as you ask a question to whoever it is up there. It’s not many times you get the opportunity to ask a question to – say – Jim Lee, Joe Quesada, Stan Lee or Robert Downey Jr. It’s difficult to go up and ask, just because of the attention you’re getting for doing so, but it’s completely worth it. It’s a great experience.

But I always come back to all of the people in the convention center. They may not all agree on what they like, but the act of coming to Comic con is enough to bring us all under the same roof. Each individual at Comic-Con is there because they’re passionate about what they love, and everyone just wants a memorable experience. So what if there are Twilight fans at Comic-Con? So what if television is taking over this year? The energy and affection everyone has for whatever television show, movie, comic or video game in there stands out so much that it’s no wonder the San Diego Comic-Con is the biggest pop culture convention of them all.

If you haven’t given Comic-Con a chance, you should give it a try next year. Or, if you’re already in town and may not have a pass, you should explore around downtown San Diego. There’s plenty of off-site places to explore while the Con is running.

Thank you Comic-Con for being the way that you are. It makes us want to go back there from here until the end of time.

Are you going to Comic-con?