Two weeks ago, Mr. K and I attended San Diego Comic Con. We’ve been lucky enough to attend the last few years and even though we have very different reasons for going, it’s become a tradition that we look forward to each year. What makes it more enjoyable is that each year we have such different experiences. Here are some of the highlights for this year:
I wanted to highlight this first because it’s actually open to anyone, not just Comic Con attendees. With tickets being harder to get with each passing year, if you’re in the SD area, it’s definitely a fun stop. We went to Nerd HQ before but I didn’t full appreciate it until this year, and I think it’s also gotten better with each year.
Started by actor Zachary Levi (Chuck), it brings out some of the most fun things about Comic Con, in a smaller setting, without all the ridiculous crowds and lines or prices. The best thing is, all proceeds go to Operation Smile, a non-profit organization that treats children facial deformities like cleft lip and palate.
Each year the event has been at a different location. This year they took over the stadium of Petco Park. Getting in is absolutely free. Once inside, there are video games to play, lounges to sit at, and a lot of random celebrity pop-ups. Some of the celebrities take photos with fans for $20 a photo, with all the money going to charity. Zachary Levi did several of these throughout the weekend. We also were there when Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly) did one. Some of the celebrities participate in panels promoting new movies, and unlike at Comic Con where you are likely in the back of an auditorium of 5,000 people, you can be up close and center during these interview panels, sitting on a cushy couch just a few feet away from the cast. When we visited, the cast of Kick Ass 2 (Donald Faison, John Leguizamo) were being interviewed.
There are also random free giveaways. like at Comic Con. For instance, I got a really cool glass bottle and a cell phone car charger.
They also do really really big giveaways with actual good odds of winning. There are some big giveaways at Comic Con but I never bother because the company is scanning thousands of badges and giving away one big prize. When we were at Nerd HQ, they were giving away a super fast processor with a retail value of $1000, and they gave away 15 to a crowd of about 200 people. Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but the odds were definitely better than any giveaway at Comic Con.
Another way they raise some money for charity is to do some intimate panels with popular actors and TV show casts which can be purchased for just $22 a seat. The small theater only seats about 200 people, guaranteeing you a very close seat to the actors. And unlike at Comic Con, where people were camping overnight to guarantee entrance into the tv panels they wanted to see, you have a reserved seat for these tickets so you can just waltz in minutes before the show.
We purchased tickets to see the cast of Children’s Hospital and NTSD. I’m not really a watcher of either, but the cast has a lot of comedians so I knew it would be a fun panel. Right before the show started, two of the cast members of Children’s Hospital were just hanging outside of Nerd HQ so fans could take pictures with them. I had been really bummed about missing out on getting the tickets for the Nathan Fillion panel, but when the show started, guess who was moderating the event? Nathan Fillion! I nearly swooned. He actually looks a lot better and thinner in person.
I also loved that Zachary Levi was clearly working super hard at running the event, unlike some celebrity sponsored events where they are really just a name or face for the event. You could see him constantly working throughout the weekend and he had almost lost his voice by the last day. He actually walked right past me at one point, and I froze when he gave me a high-five. I wish I had recorded it!
Exhibit Hall Displays
One of the big items on display at several booths this year were 3-D printers. We saw quite a few in action, “printing” up plastic figures.
I also saw an impressive display of ninja turtles made of Legos, as well as someone who made a Minion drawing out of Legos.
Minions were big this year and we saw them in several forms.
I always love seeing the Toynami displays, which includes toys not yet released. Last year one of the most sought after toys was Hello Kitty Chung Li. This year they came out with Hello Kitty Akuma, which is kind of scary looking if you ask me. Here’s the rest of the line of Hello Kitty x Street Fighter. Many of them are future ones that have not been released so it was interesting to get a peek. The bearded one really freaks me out.
Speaking of Hello Kitty, this was Hello Kitty’s first year to have a booth at Comic Con and they were a huge hit. They had a small booth inside Comic Con as well as a mobile truck in the interactive area open to the general public. I couldn’t believe the line just for purchasing merchandise. I was a little disappointed that they were featuring a pink haired Hello Kitty as I prefer the traditional one. But they did bring one of the artists from Japan and I was able to get a sketch done from her.
Another popular Hello Kitty collaboration was a Hello Kitty Ugly Doll. Apparently they ran out of supply before the weekend was even over.
Of course there’s always tons of people in costumes. I don’t usually take many photos of them as I think Mr. K takes too many. But here were a few I thought were picture worthy.
One of my favorite parts of attending Comic Con is seeing Simone Legno, the artist of Tokidoki. I’m obsessed with his cute characters, especially Donutella, which is a character dressed in a donut outfit.
I confess, I’m not a comic book fan. I don’t know most of the artists who are in attendance the way Mr. K does. But the one artist I do know and love is Simone Legno. He’s there every year to do sketches for fans but you have to be able to get a ticket first thing in the morning. We’ve been lucky the last few years to at least see him once over the weekend. To my surprise, he actually remembered me. Considering how many fan signing events he does around the world, I was flattered he remembered my face.
We also did the usual browsing of cute food related shirts. I thought I took photos but I guess not.
GameSpot & CNET BaseStation
There are a few free food options outside of the convention center, but our favorite one was GameSpot & CNet. They took over Lou & Mickey’s, right across the street from Comic Con, and once inside they were handing out free appetizers all night. There was a good supply of sliders, crackers, fruit, quesadillas, cookies. They also handed out tickets when you got in for one free beer or wine. It was free to enter, and once inside there were a lot of places to sit and recharge, tons of charging stations, and Samsung laptops for your browsing pleasure. Sorry no photos; it was quite dark inside.
Other Celebrity Sightings
While walking past the Hardrock, we saw Ken Jeong and Danny Pudi of Community. We also saw James Spader walk by but I wasn’t fast enough with my camera.
John Ratzenberger had a table upstairs and was doing autographs. In years past, we’ve been able to run into celebrities randomly roaming the exhibit hall, but this year we didn’t run into any.
Seth Green partnered up to do a signing with Simone Legno, so we got to meet him for the second time and here he is drawing me a sketch.
We also got take photos and speak with Yvette Nicole Brown of Community and Retta of Parks & Recreation.
We had a fun time during the long Comic Con weekend though we were pretty much exhausted by Day 2. I think Comic Con really reminds us of our aging process. When we first attended, we would park in a lot far away, do a ton of walking back and forth every day full of heavy bags of stuff we purchased. We’d be up early and stay out late. Now, our feet start to hurt after one day. We were lucky to get a parking space underneath the convention center, and we had to take several trips to the car to rest or put stuff away. We turned in early almost every night, not even bothering to check out most of the nightlife.
I do love how Comic Con has spread across downtown. It used to be so contained, but now it’s as if the entire downtown comes to life for this event and it’s one big festive weekend. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky enough to attend again next year.