My Unexpected Comic Con Journey

Every year, I’ve been lucky enough to garner a professional badge to the San Diego Comic Con. Every year except this one. I was too slow on the draw to contact the Comic Con folks and when I did, they were out of badges. I didn’t like the situation, but what could I do? (This was after the sale of tickets.) So I spent my July hanging out with my family doing touristy vacation stuff (like SeaWorld and the La Brea Tar Pits). Then a good friend asked if I could use some comps (this would be Wednesday night, before the Con started). Of course I said yes.

The Ice King before the Mushroom War as Simon Petrikov

The Ice King before the Mushroom War as Simon Petrikov

With no planning, I embarked on my trek through the largest and most populated convention Saturday morning. I must say, no amount of Googling would predict the length of the badge line. (Up till this point, I’d gone through the professional entrance, which is very quick.) I arrived at 8:30, right when the website said badge pickup opens. There was a long line, so I pulled out my phone to busy myself. Then the lined moved and it never stopped moving. I was up in the Sails Pavillion, badge in hand, in under five minutes. Wow! Now, by the time 9:30 rolled around the place was packed, so I imagine the badge line was longer and moving slower. TIP: arrive at the start time to get your badge quickly.

A lounge singing Boba Fett? Not quite sure who these people are.

A lounge singing Boba Fett? Not quite sure who these people are.

I was waylaid at the Mattel booth for far too long. Their line up system was horrific. I wanted to snag an Ever After High doll for my daughter. Wanted is the key word. I’m willing to accept long lines and product vanishing. That’s a given at the Con. But the line was “capped” so that meant no one else could enter. Then the weirdness happened. The line moved forward (cutting the number of people in half along the wall) but the security guards wouldn’t let anyone else in. They were very aggressive and rude (apparently manhandling many patrons). I heard one guard tell a guest that he would confiscate his bag and kick him out if he didn’t keep moving.

Mojo Jo Jo and Him from the PowerPuff Girls.

Mojo Jo Jo and Him from the PowerPuff Girls.

The only way to get into the line, as far as we could tell, was to be lucky. Because people did get in. I stood on the sidelines, waiting for the capped sign to go down and let more people in, yet the line gradually grew back to its former length. I guess what you were supposed to do was circle the convention floor, like a shark in chummed water, and hope (that’s the best word) that they let you in. Ridiculous.

Needless to say, I never got into the line.

There were plenty of Game of Thrones cosplay going on.

There were plenty of Game of Thrones cosplay going on: Daenerys Targaryen and Dothraki Khal Drogo.

On the plus side, I was able to waltz into the Regular Show panel over at the Hilton. No line. No wait. This panel was amazing. They played the Thanksgiving song and we were gifted with an upcoming episode (The Bachelor Party). The cast was just entertaining as their characters. The panel featured J.G. Quintel (creator, Mordecai), William Salyers (Rigby), Sean Szeles (supervising director), Roger Craig Smith (Thomas), Minty Lewis (storyboard artist, Eileen), and Matt Price (story editor, Quips).

JG Quintel

JG Quintel

I snagged grub at great new restaurant called the Werewolf Pub (yes, that’s its name, no gimmick). The food was astounding. I will certainly visit again.

I loved seeing Hagrid's Monster Compendium on the shelf.

I loved seeing Hagrid’s Monster Compendium on the shelf.

The other panel I visited was the Marvel S.T.A.T.I.O.N. sponsored by former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. The whole panel consisted of real scientists who played along with the S.H.I.E.L.D. premise (we were all promoted to level 4 S.H.I.E.L.D. agents). The panel discussed the scientific underpinnings of the four Avengers (Captain America, The Hulk, Thor and Iron Man) and how their powers worked. I enjoyed the debate over Thor’s hammer. Does it hold a liquid neutron star or does it use weak and strong nuclear forces to change it’s weight?

A full cosplay cast of SpaceBalls was also in attendance.

A full cosplay cast of SpaceBalls was also in attendance.

Of course I shopped and snapped pictures of any interesting costumed cosplayer I could find. That’s the best part about the Con, the folks you see. Everyone (minus the Mattel guards) were courteous and polite. Even when we were crammed into an aisle like tribbles in a ventilation shaft, everyone persevered and kept their smiles up.

Tim Kane

Costumes at the San Diego Comic Con

Part of the fun of Comic Con is all the folks dressed up. I snapped plenty of pictures, but not all of them came out in focus. Here are the non-blurry photos.

On my way to baggage check, I ran into Batgirl.

Always great costumes around the Marvel booth. Here we have Nick Fury and Black Widow.

Man. That’s some paint job. But the effect is cosmic. Great Silver Surfer.

This guy had a fantastic Iron Man suit. He even cut his chin hairs to match Robert Downey Jr.

Tremendous steampunk maiden.

Everyone loves a werewolf. They do. It’s scientific fact.

At least it’s air conditioned in the convention center.

Tim Kane

San Diego Comic Con Shopping Spree

Even though I live in the same city as the San Diego Comic Con, I still treat it as a vacation. Thus, vacation spending. I give myself a budget and then spend every penny of it. Here are some stand out items (and where to find them) on the Exhibition Floor.

The first booth I plopped cash down was “Fuzzy Balls Apparel”. Yes, clever name. They were responsible for the hand sewn apple and the “eye” flower (which is actually a hair clip). You can find them at booth 4839. Another of my favorite booths is Conduct Happiness (booth 4832), home of the Pea, as in “pea in the pool” or the “pea pea dance.” I picked up another hair clip for my daughter here. The stuffed Frankenstein was from The Bijou Collectibles (booth C-01). I can’t recall where I picked up the stuffed kitty.

I’m always a sucker for steampunk and no one does it better than Weta (booth 3513B). I picked up yet another fabulous book from Dr. Grordbort. This year, it was Triumph, Unnecessarily Violent Tales of Science Adventure for the Simple and Unfortunate – written and illustrated by Greg Broadmore. I grabbed the last Berry Ninja apron (for kids). I can’t recall the booth, but I do know it was right next to Fuzzy Balls Apparel. Finally, the small book you see is “Wonderland Alphabet” giving each letter an Alice in Wonderland twist. This was from Archaia Entertainment (booth 2635). I just read this book to my daughter. It really goes deep into both Alice Books (Wonderland and Looking Glass).

I’m love T-shirts, but I detest the standard black or white fair. Snap T-shirts (I can’t locate the booth number, but it was near artist’s alley). This guy hand screens the shirts himself. Hard to see in this picture, but the shirt is a burgundy color. The book is called “So Good for Little Bunny” by Brandi Milne. This was from a combo booth with Griz Grimley and other artists (this might be booth 501). Finally the Frankenstein is a “Kooky Kans” from Mixo (booth 4633).

Enjoy the comic con and remember, there are ATMs in the lobby.

Tim Kane

Must Sees at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con

I swept through the San Diego Comic Con like a child in a candy store. So many twinkly and shiny things. As I stumbled around (and into a few fanboys with poster tubes) I snapped pics of my two favorite areas.

Batmobiles
Warner Bros broke out the Batmobile vault and wheeled them all down. Yes, all the Dark Knight’s rides dating all the way back to the Adam West years. Ogle and enjoy.

Adam West’s ride from 1955. It’s a Lincoln Futura featured in the 1960s TV series.

Redesigned batmobile for Val Kimer in Batman Forever, 1995.

Clooney’s batmobile actually had a top speed of 350 mph and a rocket burner.

Christopher Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins featured the “Tumbler” batmobile.

Frankenweenie
That wasn’t all. The folks at Disney were touting Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie everywhere. I grabbed my hall pass and peeked through the stop motion museum. Astounding on so many levels.

Frankenweenie himself, looking cute and a bit despondent. In the back, you can make out the skeleton used to move the figure.

The classroom, complete with Victor, Edgar (as Igor) and the teacher.

Victor’s attic where he jolts Frankenweenie to life.

Outside the official convention was a tent sponsored by Frankenweenie. Inside, I found this… a graveyard with carnivorous plants, gravestones, and mist.

If you’re still in the convention, check these out. If not, then view and drool. I know I did.

Tim Kane

A User’s Guide to Surviving The Comic Con Exhibition Floor

I’ve been attending the San Diego International Comic Con since it was just a local shindig that peddled actual comics. Now the convention sprawls all over the convention center, pulling more Hollywood bigwigs than actual comic collectors.

Rarely do I attend the panels. The last one I did see was for the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show). This was probably the second or third season. Way before they became uber-popular. The cast looked shocked when folks asked questions like: Who do you think would win in a fight: The Thing or the Hulk? (Seth Green was the only one to sport an answer).

Now, these panels are an experiment in frustration. The lines are ridiculously long and that doesn’t even guarantee a seat. Plus, everything is streamed live to the web. Why not Goggle it? You’ll get a better view and not have to wait for eight hours (no exaggeration).

Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel

I content myself with hitting the exhibition floor. What follows are some tips that may help you navigate the crowds and survive the tumult that is Comic Con.

Bring a Suitcase
If you’re like me, you come to shop. The geeker the shopper, the bulkier the purchases. (That Galactus figure won’t fit in the overhead storage compartment.) When the day is over, you’ll need to haul all this swag back to your car or hotel, which is most likely many blocks away. Did I mention that this convention happens in July in San Diego? The heat and humidity conspire to make each passing Klingon smell like an actual Klingon. So a suitcase with wheels will really come in handy.

Don’t Bring a Suitcase
Those wonderful security folk who man the doors won’t let you on the exhibition floor with your rolling suitcase. So now you’re saying: “Why the heck did you make me tote this suitcase down here anyway?” I can answer that in two words: Coat Check. There are multiple locations where you can store your suitcase for the day. They cost a few bucks (so bring some singles), but it’s well worth it. Often I return and stuff my suitcase with swag before launching back into the exhibition hall. It costs each time you pull your suitcase out, but it’s worth every penny. Just don’t lose your slip, or you won’t get your luggage back.

Deodorize
Comic Con is funky on many levels. Mostly it has the unwashed comic geek, fresh from his basement lair. And all these folks are crammed into narrow aisles. Douse yourself with something that smells nice. Seriously. I often walk through clouds of stink as I traverse the halls.

Bring Snacks
Yes, there are vendors selling food, but it’s overpriced and the lines are long. (I once saw a line that stretched fifty yards. I was convinced this was some famous person doing a signing. Nope, just the line to Starbucks.) Throw some snacks in a backpack and much as you go. When it’s lunch time, I’d forge into downtown San Diego rather than eat the convention fare. You have less crowds and better eats.

Take Plenty of Pictures
The best part of Con are the folks in costume. I once saw a group dressed exactly like the cast from Indiana Jones, The Last Crusade (they even had one fella dressed up like the old knight). Or then there was the fully functional Transformer costumes. I’ve found that the best place to see and photograph these folks are in the main hall right outside the exhibition hall. It’s less crowded there and you’re able to snap a photo. Don’t be shy. These people want to be photographed (otherwise they wouldn’t dress up). Just ask politely.

Costumes from the Last Crusade

Good luck folks and remember, your poster tube is not a lance. Please don’t stab me with it.

Tim Kane

Must See Booths at the San Diego Comic Con

Every year the Comic Con hits town, I head down to the Exhibition floor to check out the vendors. Yes there are the mega-sized corporate booths like Lucasfilm and Marvel, but unless you sprint to them directly after the doors open, they’re mobbed. (In fact, I’m often amazed at how there are already lengthy lines when I arrive directly after opening hour.) I prefer to frequent some lesser known vendors.

Urban Vinyl
My first stop is the Urban Vinyl Toys area. This is always located in the upper left corner of the massive floor (find the map PDF here). If you’re not familiar with Urban Vinyl, it means toys that you’re not meant to play with. I know what you’re thinking. Huh? Why shouldn’t I play with them. This is an offshoot of the action-figure-in-original-package set. Only here, these toys are designed to be looked at, not played with.

Take Funko (booth 4829). Last year I bought a Thing bobble head. Sure I wiggle it once in a while, but most of the time it sits on my desk looking nifty and admired by my students. Yes I disagree that all Urban Vinyl toys need to be no touch items.

My absolute favorite is Conduct Happiness (booth 4832), creator of such slogans as “The Pea Pea Dance,” and “Pea in the Pool.” My daughter loves their Go Pea Go book. If I could, I’d buy everything at their booth. One of their neighbors is also a fav or mine: Mr. Toast (booth 4831). They make plush toys of unusual items, like toast and bacon. Basically, you can have your own plushy breakfast. (A bit like those ads at drive ins with the dancing hamburger and soda cup).

Cthulhu
Ok, I’m a sucker for anything old gods. Mostly I like the aesthetic, the tentacles and creepy vibe. For a general smorgasbord of items look no further than Adventure Retail (booth 4423, catty-corner to Urban Vinyl). They have plenty of stuffed old gods (we have a Nyarlathotep) and they even carry Cthulhu slippers (have these too). I’ve also picked up some Lovecraft audio books produced by Audio Realms.

All the way on the other side of the exhibition hall (quite a trek), you’ll find Badali Jewelry (booth 530 right next to the ZDN Zombie Defense Network). They have the most amazing Cthulhu jewelry. I own the Miskatonic class ring. This year they will reveal a new Necronomicon necklace.

Steampunk
Okay, last year I found an aisle that had three or four great steampunk vendors (I want to say there were on the fringes—far right or left of the floor), but seeing as the Comic Con hasn’t designated any stempunk section, I’ll have to hunt for it again. One vendor that is easy to find is Weta’s Dr. Grordbort (Booth 2615 sharing with Dark Horse). If you’ve never experienced Dr. Grordbort’s awesome ray guns, then you are not a true steampunker. These guns make you want to shed the internet for some steam and brass. So far I’ve picked up the tiny models of each gun (I still can’t afford the full sized ones).

That’s pretty much it. I wander around, looking for eye catchers. If I can afford it, I’ll try to extend my Fantastic Four collection. But seeing as one issue in this range starts at a Ben Franklin, I often can’t afford these pleasures.

Enjoy the Comic Con and remember, pace yourself. That’s a big convention center.

Tim Kane