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

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