San Diego Comic-Con 2011 Wrap Up

I have a love hate relationship with Comic-Con. I love that it’s in the city I grew up. I love that the weather tends towards perfection every year. I love that, by its very nature, the convention center holds a collection of things, caters to a set of people and serves up a series of events that are all up my alley.

I hate the walking. I hate the crowds. I hate the inflated prices. I REALLY hate that having a press badge means nothing to convention organizers or security. Maybe I’ve just gotten spoiled at all the trade shows, where media are treated like VIPs, but I digress.

Of all San Diego events, the annual the Comic-Con is the only one that matters as far as comic book fans are concerned. This year, as in previous years, actual comic books represent only a small portion of what goes on in San Diego each summer. Toy companies, film and television studios, clothing companies and video game developers all vie for a spot on the ever-shrinking show floor. This year in particular had many exhibitors occupying areas outside the convention center, making camp in local hotels, restaurants and empty store fronts. Nintendo set up shop at the Marriot to give the public a taste of upcoming titles like Skyward Sword for the Wii and Kid Icarus for the 3DS.

Sega opened up their own arcade in the middle of the Gaslamp District to show off their wares. Marvel took up residence next door to hype Monstergeddon, a monster truck show featuring Marvel’s most popular heroes re-imagined as monster trucks including Wolverine, Iron Man and Spider-Man.

With all that going on outside, you can probably imagine the chaos on the inside. Saturday tends to be the busiest at the con. For starters, it’s the weekend and would-be attendees aren’t at work. More importantly though, the annual Masquerade Ball competition takes place in the evening. Participants never hesitate to don their duds during the day and that means mobs of cameramen blocking the halls to get a photo.

Comic book lovers tend to be film lovers, so Hollywood is rarely absent from the event. Men In Black 3, Ghost Rider 2, The Three Musketeers, Mass Effect, Voltron, Conan, The Hunger Games, The Amazing Spider-Man, Jurassic Park 4, Sin City 2, and a host of others were either teased or made strong presences on the floor or during panels in the immense Hall H.

Seemingly created just for Comic-Con attendees is the upcoming Knights of Badassdom. Fan favorites Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (Firefly, Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Danny Pudi (Community) star as LARPers (Live Action Role Players) who accidentally awaken a demon that begins ripping people apart. Expect the horror/comedy later this year.

What else? Ah yes, games. As mentioned, Nintendo took over a small portion of the Marriot with 3DS and Wii titles. Sega had an entire building a few blocks from the con. Inside, Lucasarts and Microsoft had playable demos of the still-awful-feeling Star Wars Kinect title, as well as the still-awesome-looking and playing demo of The Old Republic. Hasbro and EA had a smallish booth off in the corner, manned by Mr. Potatohead to push the third in the series of Family Game Night titles. Those responsible for Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers brought with them Battleblock Theater: a new platforming arcade title that hasn’t lost the signature Behemoth style.

Oh, and the toys… sooo many toys. And so many exclusives. LEGO showed up in spades, literally dumping thousands of gold bricks into the middle of their booth for children to wade through. For the collectors, a VERY limited edition Star Wars LEGO Advent Calendar was offered that included a Yoda dressed as Jolly Ole Saint Nick.

Sideshow Collectibles and Gentle Giant Ltd are no stranger to Comic-Con and they have a tendency to corner the toy focus with meticulously detailed figures, busts and replicas representing just about every major character found elsewhere at the show. Stand-outs this year were a set of Venture Bros statues, the perfect likeness of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark having the Iron Man armor attached and an impossibly busty Jessica Rabbit.

Speaking of busty, let’s not forget the cosplayers. Now, this IS a family show, but there’s a certain sexy aura about the show. For some reason, women from all walks throw inhibition to the wind twice a year: Halloween and Comic-Con. Honest to goodness female super heroes and villains, plenty of Slave Leias and female versions of normally male super heroes fill the halls all four days, but especially the Saturday of the Masquerade competition. Men participate too, but for every fat Batman there are two Supergirls. Regardless, there’s enough Cosplay-content to warrant a story all it’s own. Well, more of a gallery, so go here for that.

I guess I really should mention something about the comics themselves. I gotta admit, I’m not myself a comic fan, but I have an immense respect, and jealousy, for the artists that bring their work to be judged. I’m not talking about the massive DC and Marvel booths, but the hundreds of artists that scramble to get a table or a booth in the hopes they’ll spark an interest in publishers and fans to sell their work or get a job. Part of my personal enjoyment of the show is admiring the sketches, sculptures and paintings that adorn booth walls and tables. These are the true artistic masters of our time, they just happen to be working in a niche industry.

There’s so much to take in that you’d be hard pressed to do it in a single day, particularly if you intend on attending any one of dozens on panels that are held on every topic from color mixing and lighting for films to Q&A sessions on upcoming movies and TV shows. Line’s have gotten so bad in prior years that canopied areas have been set up outside to contain the unwashed masses waiting to get a glimpse of celebs like Steven Spielberg, Kristin Stewart, Jon Favreau, Zach Levi, Donald Glover, Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and so many others you might think this was Oscar night. Other lesser known or retired celebs bought up floor space so they could charge upwards of $25 for a photo or autograph: Voyager’s Robert Picardo, Star Wars’ Peter Mayhew and Buck Rogers’ Erin Gray were among them.

So much to see, so little room to maneuver. It’s always an interesting time in a beautiful setting. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get in line for Hall H’s panel on The Avengers… for next year.

Christopher Kirkman

Christopher is an old school nerd: designer, animator, code monkey, writer, gamer and Star Wars geek. As owner and Editor-In-Chief of Media Geeks, he takes playing games and watching movies very seriously. You know, in between naps.

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