San Diego Comic-Con is quickly approaching. For the first time since 2019, we’re set to have a full in-person convention. If you’re too hyped up and feel like you need to do something to take the anxious edge off, perhaps try watching some of these television episodes and movies that feature the iconic convention.
San Diego Comic-Con is a geek culture phenomenon. It seems like everyone has heard of this convention, even if they aren’t really into nerdy endeavors. As such, it’s worked its way into pop culture, including many popular television shows and movies. Sometimes it’s played for a laugh. But sometimes it’s depicted as the fun cultural event we know it to be. The way the convention is portrayed really depends on what the audience of any particular show or film happens to be. But whatever you’re angling for, there’s probably something on this list that will interest you.
The way the con is depicted can also vary quite a bit depending on the show or film. Most of the time the con is seen through the eyes of attendees, but we also have the celebrity angle and the locals experience covered here. Sometimes it’s depicted as a magical geek paradise. A lot of the time it’s treated as an embarrassing meet-up of losers, though. Read each warning to determine if it’s something you want to watch or not. Some may not vibe with you and you should just skip those.
Television Episodes Featuring SDCC
These featured San Diego Comic-Con episodes range from having the entire episode being about the convention, to short funny scenes that give us just a small bit of con culture. Needless to say, all of these have ongoing plots that surround them that you may not understand without watching the rest of the series. Where possible, I’ll try to give a breakdown of what you need to know for each episode. And where the mentions end if they aren’t the central focus of the episode.
The Simpsons 32×7: Three Dreams Denied
Warnings: There are fat jokes and an acne joke at the attendees expense, which are par for the course for anything involving Comic Book Guy. While the details of the convention are appreciated, you get the feeling we’re still somehow the butt of the joke. When you set those issues aside, though, it’s got some classic Simpsons humor and is pretty funny.
This is the most recent San Diego Comic-Con themed episode on the list. It’s loaded with Easter Eggs, ranging from the accurate look of the iconic convention center, to a nod to Hall H, and even features the red trolleys that run in front of the con center. There’s one particular scene when the Comic Book Guy enters the exhibit hall that’s fun to pause on just to take in all the little details. The episode has a ton of small things on the signs that are aimed directly at SDCC fans and it’s worth reading every single one of them.
As the title suggests, there are three parallel stories happening. One of them is our Comic-Con story with Comic Book Guy. Then we also have Bart becoming a voice actor, and a Lisa Simpson romance plot. So basically, the SDCC bits are about a third of the half-hour episode. Set your expectations accordingly.
Entourage 2×9: I Love You Too
Warnings: Nerds are depicted as losers here and a character uses the f-slur for gay people quite casually. This is a show about cool celebrities doing cool things, so we’re kind of a secondary element. The large amount of SDCC bits is worth it, though. Just brace yourself to hate most of the characters.
Entourage follows the life of a young actor, Vincent Chase, who decides to bring his friends with him to Hollywood as his ‘entourage.’ His brother, also an actor, tends to hang around with the crew as well. This episode features the group headed to Comic-Con to promote Vinny’s new superhero film, Aquaman. Vinny isn’t really into all this geek stuff, and his friends are also kind of ‘too cool’ for it, but they agree to go to the convention anyway.
Brace yourself for messy interpersonal drama, because you’re being dropped right in the middle of a troublesome relationship. Hence the title of the episode. His ex-girlfriend, Mandy Moore, has been hired as his co-lead in Aquaman and he has to do a presentation for the film with her.
Vinny’s brother, “Johnny Drama,” though not nearly as popular as Vinny is at the moment, has a rather geeky fanbase from previous projects. Because of this, he attends Comic-Con every year to sell autographs. He’s set up as a sort of Kevin Sorbo figure. Johnny had a genre show called Viking Quest, but the spin-off with his woman co-star ended up being far more popular. The actress from the more popular spin-off is also present at the con.
This one is unique as it looks at the con through the eyes of celebrities instead of con goers. That difference, though, does make it stand out from the crowd here. It may not be relatable, but it’s funny. All the actual SDCC signs used as set decorations are also pretty fun to see.
The Big Bang Theory 7×14: The Convention Conundrum
Warning: Awful laugh track. If you think “this doesn’t deserve a warning,” oh trust me, it absolutely does.
This is probably the most famous episode involving San Diego Comic-Con. It features the iconic frantic F5 situation that used to be how we scored badges prior to the virtual waiting room system. Now we need to absolutely not refresh, but that was the reality at the time. In fact, that was one of the last years that that was the method of obtaining a badge. We have our lovely little waiting room and an hour or so of extra anxiety now.
The experience of joining the queue while watching badges sell-out is still very much true, though. They even nailed how Saturday and Friday are the first days to sell-out. And if you don’t get a badge, ‘there’s always WonderCon in Anaheim.’ Oof. I feel that.
Your enjoyment of The Big Bang Theory may vary. Some love it. Some adamantly hate it. But whatever your feelings, this episode has a ton of SDCC jokes and is worth a watch.
The Big Bang Theory 10×17: The Comic-Con Conundrum
Oh yes, this show has TWO Comic-Con episodes. I suppose that’s not terribly surprising for a show about nerds.
This second episode features some pretty accurate details, including our tendency to sleep out on the concrete for Marvel panels and just how jam-packed the show floor is. It also mentions that all the hotel rooms are booked and people usually have to room with a bunch of their buddies. Honestly, these tidbits gave me some SDCC war flashbacks. The accuracy is appreciated, though. Whoever wrote these episodes definitely knew the finer details of SDCC.
All the warnings in the other Big Bang Theory episode still apply. They did not, unfortunately, drop the awful laugh track.
Futurama 6×11 (Hulu: 7×11): Lrrreconcilable Ndndifferences
Warning: This is listed on Hulu as season 7, episode 11, so be prepared for some confusion. I have no idea why it’s listed as such there, but this is, in fact, season 6 episode 11. If in doubt, just check the episode titles.
The Futurama gang goes to a futuristic version of Comic-Con, where the iconic eye logo has multiple eyes and the panelists are heads in jars. SDCC is still taking place in the San Diego convention center in 3010, and entry is free with an Ewok pelt. This sets the tone for the episode pretty darn well.
Like The Simpsons episode, there’s an exhibit hall scene with funny signs filled with fun details. The gags in this scene lean less on the SDCC hidden jokes and more on absurdity, but it’s still hilarious. This episode also features a very realistic Ballroom 20, which is where Matt Groening usually does his panels for projects.
The SDCC references keep going, though. On top of those, this episode features the “last actual comic book booth,” and a special guest appearance by long-time SDCC guest Sergio Aragones. This has a lot of in-jokes, basically. It’s probably one of the more entertaining episodes on the list for that alone.
Chuck 1×6: Chuck Versus the Sandworm
Warning: The convention is discussed, but never seen.
Chuck has been an important part of San Diego Comic-Con culture for a very long time. Lead actor, Zachary Levi, has been using SDCC hype to raise money for charity (Operation Smile, usually) for many years. While his super popular Nerd HQ hasn’t happened in a while, he’s still a big part of con culture. As such, his show having an episode that talks about Comic-Con isn’t surprising in the slightest.
This episode takes place in October and, as you know, SDCC is in July. That said, it’s discussed a few times. One of the agents assigned to Chuck uses a photo from the convention as part of their cover. The photo shows the two of them cosplaying at the con and makes a few appearances throughout the episode as their relationship evolves.
This story is definitely told from our perspective. We aren’t the butt of any jokes or anything. It’s simply a part of his life and nobody really judges him for it. Despite the convention not actually being seen in this episode, it’s one of the more positively framed discussions of the convention on this list.
Weeds 5×7: Where The Sidewalk Ends
Warning: The scene involving SDCC attendees happens around the 18-minute mark when cosplayers enter their weed shop. It’s brief, but funny. If you ditch the rest of the episode, I don’t blame you, though. It’s a mess.
I have a complicated history with Weeds. Back in the day, I was a huge fan of the show until it started to lose me about halfway through the fifth season, which is exactly where this episode is The first few seasons are fantastic. This is sort of where things fell apart for the show, though, so it’s kind of terrible on its own.
Thankfully, the ‘previously on’ bit covers a lot of ground and should catch you up on the context of the episode, should you watch the entire thing Weeds is about a widowed suburban mom who turns to selling weed to pay the bills. At this point in the story, five seasons into her situation, she’s pregnant with a drug lord’s baby, one of her sons has opened a medicinal marijuana store, and many other people in her life are kind of spiraling out of control.
So where does Comic-Con fit in? Well, all these messy people live in San Diego, you see. And it’s Comic-Con time. This is just a brief snippet of what it’s like for local San Diegans when the convention rolls into town, unlike the previous shows that offers the attendee and celebrity perspective.
The OC 1×7: The Escape
Warning: The OC is about mostly cool rich kids. Only one character is actually an SDCC con goer and he’s made fun of for it. Set your expectations accordingly. Long after the Comic-Con mentions, there’s teen drama that leads to attempted suicide. Like Weeds, you can totally stop long before that and be just fine.
I was a resident of Orange County when this show was airing, and it certainly didn’t represent my experience in the slightest. That said, it certainly depicts the privileged rich kid stereotype most people probably think of when they imagine the little county sandwiched between Los Angeles and San Diego. Add in heaps of teen romance drama, and you get The OC.
The only likable character is the nerd of the bunch. He’s been attending Comic-Con since he was a child and they decide to use that as a cover for a trip down to Tijuana. Once they no longer need a cover, it promptly gets forgotten. The last mention is when someone asks one of the rich kids, “I didn’t know you were into comic books.” Another character hastily steps in to continue their cover, saying she “goes for the anime.” And then that’s it. The rest of the episode is angsty teen problems.
Numb3rs 4×9: Graphic
Purchase on iTunes
Warning: The episode is mostly fine, but be prepared for a ‘big-boned’ cat lady joke.
I need to start this off with a disclaimer. I’ve never watched Numb3rs before so I really can’t help you when it comes to what’s going on around this episode like I could the others. Super sorry about that. Thankfully this was fairly easy for me to follow without knowing much about it, so you shouldn’t have any trouble either. Basically, there’s a crime at the convention and they have a little crime-of-the-week style episode trying to solve it.
There isn’t much about this that specifically screams ‘San Diego,’ but that’s apparently what it’s supposed to be. This episode features other shots of various places around Southern California, and this is the biggest con in the region, so it’s more of an assumption than anything. You won’t see mentions of Hall H or Ballroom 20, or even an SDCC logo. Go in with the expectation that it’ll be mostly general comic book convention nods and you should be fine.
Additionally, some of the main characters are quite nerdy, so the experience is from our perspective. There are some cool FBI agents, however, who drop some jokes at our expense. It’s kind of a mixed bag here.
San Diego Comic-Con in Movies
The convention has also made appearances in a couple of movies. If you’ve blown through the above episodes and want more, check these appearances out. Neither of the films on this list treats us as the butt of the joke, so they’re pretty safe. We have one fiction film here and a documentary, so whatever you prefer, you can choose accordingly.
Fun fact: Seth Rogan is in both of these films. Go figure! He’s done a lot of guest appearances in various shows at the convention, too, particularly with IMDb. Like Zachary Levi, he’s a staple of this convention. He will always be welcome.
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Warning: Characters uses the f-slur to insult nerds a couple of times. But they are the bad guys, if that helps at all. None of the good guys use those words.
The main characters, played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, are introduced as they enter San Diego Comic-Con for the first time. There’s a montage of them crossing the infamous intersection from the Gaslamp to the convention center, entering the convention with all the accurate SDCC signs around, and visiting various booths as they carry around their logoed bags.
It’s very realistic. But I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised because Pegg and Frost are major nerds to begin with. This is very much from our perspective. The characters feel at home at the con and are completely comfortable with their unabashed nerdiness. But of course it is. It’s written by the guy who said my absolute favorite geek quote of all time.
“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.” – Simon Pegg
After their San Diego Comic-Con fun, they move on to an alien-themed road trip, where the actual plot of the movie begins. As someone who also digs that kind of stuff, they really did their homework on that front, too. They film at actual touristy alien locations just like they filmed at the actual convention. I appreciate the attention to detail on both fronts in a film that is essentially about whacky alien shenanigans.
If you’re a fan of other Simon Pegg or Nick Frost works, this is a must. Not does it feature SDCC, but it’s his typical style of humor, too.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope
The documentary is by Morgan Spurlock of Supersize Me fame, but it’s a lot less depressing. I watched this documentary between my first and second San Diego Comic-Con experiences to hype myself up. It definitely did the job. If you’re aiming the get hyped for the con and like documentaries, this is the one for you.
It’s a pretty thorough documentary that follows various people around the con. The film follows regular attendees, comic artists hoping to break into the business, and retailers on the show floor. It’s respectful to us, and treats the con as the geek paradise it has become for many. There are also numerous fantastic celebrity cameos (including Seth Rogan) where they talk about what the convention means to them.
San Diego Comic-Con in Comics
It shouldn’t be surprising that the convention is in a ton of actual comic books. Some of them are special comics specifically about the con, while others are specific stories that are part of an ongoing series. I haven’t read all of these so I’ll be giving them the best summaries I can based on available information.
Iron Man is in San Diego during Comic-Con and decides to attend the convention. Cosplay shenanigans happen and villains pop up. It culminates with Iron Man getting booted out of the con center.
This one is just one volume in the middle of an ongoing story. Dazzler finds herself at San Diego Comic-Con. Stuff happens. The convention center gets destroyed.
Once again, our titular character finds themselves in San Diego during the convention and has to attend it in order to track down the bad guy. This is a common theme, honestly. And it makes sense.
Judging by the cover, the gang attends Comic-Con. Information about this one beyond that is a little hard to find.
Shenanigans lead the gang back to Comic-Con twice more. Like the episode of Numb3rs discussed previously, one of these plots involves a comic book-related crime that must be solved while it uses the convention as a backdrop.
Lobo destroys one of his Superman comic books and heads to the convention to find a replacement. Things apparently go sideways for him and stuff gets destroyed.
This 20-issue comic series uses the convention as the backdrop for their ongoing story for most of it. This is one of the more involved comics that use it as a setting for sure.
Are you hyped?
Hopefully, some of the above will hit the right notes for you and you’ll be able to hype yourself up for the convention. If you have other shows, movies, or comics that use the convention in any way, feel free to drop them in the comments.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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