Ever wonder what it’s like to attend San Diego Comic Con? TGI Editor Amy describes her experience and offers her highlights. [Featured photo by Yaneli Gutierrez, used with permission.]

As the soreness of my legs subsides and I am finally able to hobble around my house without much discomfort, I wonder which it would be easier to tell people I did this past weekend- a marathon sprint, or San Diego Comic Con.

The two are similar enough when you’re in the thick of it – people prepare for months just to run the gauntlet, you end the event sweaty and tired, but you have an insurmountable sense of satisfaction when you get to the end.  

And instead of water cups at every checkpoint, there are tables of free promotional products that you can pick up as you pass by from the various companies.  You don’t have to run an Ironman Triathalon when you’re running into Iron Man cosplayers all weekend.  Okay, okay, enough with the running metaphor- I’m training for an Avengers-themed half marathon myself.  But this year, I got to stretch my legs and get some geeks-ercise in San Diego.  Here’s a recap of the colossal convention for those of you who didn’t get a chance to experience it firsthand.

First of all, I’ll spare you the details of all the major announcements from the heavy hitters of Hall H – DC, Marvel, Game of Thrones, and many others made exciting reveals about the futures of their companies and creative projects, all of which you’ve probably heard for yourself.

I spent my weekend on the show floor, unable to brave the lines for Hall H, Ballroom 20, and other venues that drew thousands of hopefuls looking to peek at the programming inside.  The floor opened every morning around 9, but collectors and hardcore fans of all sorts began to line up at times beginning around 6:30 in the morning just to be the first ones into the exhibit hall, whether it was to snag a ticket to a limited event or get in line for convention exclusives.

Line Caps

One of the heroes seen around the convention was Captain America, or ‘Cap’, but one of the most dreaded villains of the con was a ‘capped’ line.  Lines capped early in the morning for such things as Marvel’s autograph signings and the Funko Toys purchase line.  Thankfully, lines for food and the bathroom, though often long, were never capped.

They say, though, good things come to those who wait and for those who waited patiently many cool things did come.  Outside the convention center – in the San Diego heat – were a series of events and activities that were constantly packed with people.  Some required badges while others didn’t – the Gotham City zipline, Simpsons experience, and Game of Thrones “Survive the Realm” exhibit were among the most populated and popular.  I would say more, but it was usually too hot for me to be outside for long since I was constantly in costume.

Thankfully for me, within the convention center all my favorite booths and venues were clustered closely together, so I never had to travel too far for excitement.

Legendary Pictures

One of the hot spots to visit was the Legendary Pictures booth. Legendary is known for such cinematic works as Pacific Rim and Godzilla, as well as the upcoming Crimson Peak by Guillermo del Toro.

While congoers could catch a glimpse of the creepy and intriguing world of Peak through a look at props and some footage, the crown jewel of this booth was the Oculus Rift experience partnered with Pacific Rim entitled “Drift with the Rift.”

Members with tickets distributed earlier that morning could return during an allotted timeslot and strap on an Oculus Rift headset to experience the Jaeger-piloting world of Pacific Rim.  Overall, the experience with the system was about two minutes long, during which the subject would be immersed fully into the world both visually and aurally.  I was instructed that I could look anywhere in the world and there would be rendered environment – I, incredulous, turned my head around as much as I could in any direction, which must have looked hilarious as physically, I was sitting in a chair with a strange headset on.  To me, though, I was seeing the interior of one of the Jaeger robots in the movie. A voice in the world urged me to look at him, and upon turning to my right, I saw Yancy Becket, which fans of the film will remember as a short-lived hero.

I was acting in place of his brother Raleigh. Turns out the experience is the scene of his tragic demise, but you and your ‘brother’ won’t go down without a fight. You fend off the dastardly kaiju Knifehead before he gets the best of your partner and the experience fades out. At the end of it, you are left with a screen of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps logo and the assurance that “The fight begins anew” in 2017.  As a reward for experiencing the Rift, participants were awarded with a personalized Jaeger pilot badge and a free shirt.

I was impressed with the experience, though my one issue was that during moments of intense action, the quality of the display decreased slightly. Also, there was the potential for motion sickness given the immersive nature of the high-action fight. Still, it was exciting to see the potential of the Oculus Rift in immersing fans in the worlds of their favorite films.  [The Warner Brothers booth also featured a similar Oculus Rift-driven experience for their film Into the Storm.]

Toys and Collectibles

Booths that mostly featured toys and collectibles, such as Funko!, Mattel, Lego, and Hasbro had lines of people at all hours of the day hoping to purchase convention exclusives before the dreaded “sold out” stickers had to be slapped over their images in the catalogues.

I heard no less than 7 people at random points in the day decrying the fact that they had “just barely missed” getting Lego’s exclusive Rocket Raccoon with his spaceship, a popular product that was one of the first to sell out entirely. Sideshow Collectibles, however, had every single one of their products on display all weekend, drawing hopefuls and fans who could then go preorder the impressive figures and statues online.

Some of their more popular properties include Star Wars- for which they have life-sized Hans Solo in carbonite, life-sized Darth Vader, and various Clone Trooper statues available – and Marvel – with statues of classic Thor, Iron Man, and the impressively large King Hulk behind glass cases. They unveiled Hot Toys’ new Guardians of the Galaxy figures, as well as the Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier sets.

Even still, there was a wall with nearly every Iron Man armor and a Tony Stark figure in a holographic, JARVIS-like display. Fans could stand there for ages wondering what science made these figures look like actual, shrunken versions of their favorite actors.

However, the most impressive set on display at Sideshow’s booth was their own original property – the Court of the Dead. Made up of ghastly, haunting, and downright gorgeous figures, the Court divides into three factions which have their own special jobs. Featuring characters such as Death’s Siren and a Reaper Admiral, Sideshow created an expansive – and expensive – world of sinister and seductive characters which can be seen on their website and are being slowly released for preorder.

But there was still a way to walk home with something from Sideshow at the end of it all – thanks to Susan Dee, their social media correspondent, over 20 lucky individuals took home collectibles that are already available for purchase on their site. Via twitter, she hosted giveaways for convention attendees during which she would post a clue as to her whereabouts in the exhibit hall, as well as a secret phrase that gave a clue as to the prize. If you found her and were the first to give her the phrase, she would offer you a free Sideshow Collectible, the values of which ranged this weekend from $150 to nearly $400!  Good news for those of you who missed the show, she hosts these giveaways near-weekly on Sideshow’s twitter page even when it isn’t Comic Con.

Indie Comics at SDCC

Surrounding the bigger-name comic companies were more independent brands such as Boom! and Image Comics.  Boom! featured many comics that many might not have heard of, including one of their newer series Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson.

At Image, Marvel diehards might recognize a few names on the independent titles, such as Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios on Pretty Deadly [DeConnick is known for her work on Captain Marvel], Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky on Sex Criminals [Fraction is known for his work on Hawkeye], and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie on their brand new series The Wicked and the Divine [both are known for their work on the most recent run of Young Avengers].  Both booths featured convention exclusive covers for certain issues of comics as well as a wealth of other great independent titles for those looking to branch out to something different from the ever-present, iconic superheroes of Marvel and DC.

DC

Now, for fans of these big-name brands, there was plenty to get excited about. At DC’s booth, various Batman cowls were on display, highlighting the classic look’s evolution throughout the ages. From Nolan’s trilogy, props  and costume pieces could be seen from characters like Batman himself, the Joker, and Catwoman. Also seen were television screens playing promos for their shows Arrow and the upcoming Flash series.  Another feature of the booth was their promotion of the Lego Batman 3 video game, featuring heroes and villains from beyond the realm of Gotham. A free commemorative comic was given away to promote this release, featuring cute, Lego-fied versions of the Justice League and some of their most villainous foes.

I wish I could say more about this booth, but my focus was just across the walkway at the massive Marvel zone.

Marvel

Marvel, representing both Marvel Studios and Marvel Comics, commanded the convention floor most of the weekend. Outfitted with a massive stage, red carpeting, and a small store, fans flocked to this booth at all hours of the day every day.

On one end of this set was a giant screen playing videos, magnifying the action of the stage, and displaying the logos for the various upcoming film project. On the other end, a rotating pedestal revealed various movie props, including Ant-man’s helmet, Loki’s sceptre,, Lola the red corvette, and most devastatingly, Captain America’s shattered shield and Ultron Mark 1.

The whole stage hosted their movie signings, featuring Michael Rooker from Guardians of the Galxy, Hayley Atwell for the upcoming Agent Carter, and the casts from Agents of SHIELD, Ant-Man, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.  The latter stopped people in their tracks just to try to catch a glimpse of the actors, much to the dismay of people trying to keep the traffic on the floor moving.

No less than a thousand people stood firmly in place, cameras and phones clicking and clacking trying to snap a picture of the cast as they signed for the few lucky fans who managed to score tickets to this highly coveted event. When there was less going on at the booth, there were still constant crowds. This booth was also home to signings for comic book creators and artists, including the creative teams of the current Captain Marvel and Spider-man comics. A long line of people wrapped around the periphery of the Marvel zone nearly constantly, waiting in line to purchase exclusive shirts, tumblers, posters, and other fun collectibles featuring the lineup for the new Avengers Now! [featuring the new Thor and Captain America designs] as well as characters from the Spider-verse and of course Guardians of the Galaxy.

Other Activities and Giveaways

There was no shortage of activities to participate in there either. The stage was also home to trivia competitions, a cosplay showcase, and then a cosplay contest for which the prize was special Dr. Pepper cans emblazoned with the Avengers logos. At a green screen on the side of the booth, attendees could have their photo taken and inserted into the police lineup of the Guardians of the Galaxy characters and take home a printed photo as proof of their outer-space escapade.

Constantly available were freebies of Skottie Young prints, comic books [many of which were also part of their Free Comic Book Day set], but every so often people would cluster around the freebie table for a chance to get free charm bracelets, bouncy balls featuring the eye of the Watcher from Original Sin, and even more coveted- the concept art posters for Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

About two Avengers’ images were released each day at various times, when a sea of anxious hands shot up and over towards the table, hoping that a poster would make it into their hands relatively unscathed.  The Ant-man posters also came out about the same time as the Avengers each day. By the end of the weekend, all the Avengers posters lined up formed one mega-image, but only the most dedicated and fortunate attendees could score all of them. For the rest of us, the completed image can be found online by a simple search for it – and isn’t it awesome? And for those of us who weren’t in Hall H to see the sizzle footage for the film will just have to wait for trailers and finally the film in 2015.

The staff at all the booths were constantly friendly to the excited fans who flooded the San Diego Convention Center, packed in close for the exciting, exhausting weekend that only comes once a year. Everyone had something different to offer, and it couldn’t all possibly be done by one person in four days – but that never stopped anyone from trying anyway.

And now that it’s come and gone, everyone can rest, relax, and wait for all the exciting things to come that could only be previewed in this one short weekend. Until next time!

What exhibit or event would you most have liked to attend at SDCC this year?

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