LEGO Comic-ConComic-Con International was a lot more fun and a lot less overwhelming than usual this year.

Maybe it’s because we skipped the busiest day to go the San Diego Zoo. Maybe it’s because we picked our battles on what we tried to do. Maybe it’s because last year we crammed the whole experience into a single day, and having three days felt like a luxury in comparison. Or the fact that the logistics of getting to and from the con were so ridiculously complicated (more about that later) that they made the convention seem relaxing.

Batgirl (Cassandra Cain)Whatever the reason, the floor did seem a bit less crowded this year. Both of us remarked on the fact that we never felt trapped as we usually feel on the busiest days.

(Skip to the photos if that’s what you want.)

Thursday was the day I spent mostly on the floor, exploring. I hit the usual haunts: DC Comics, Sideshow Collectibles, Studio Foglio. DC was really plugging their upcoming fighting game, Injustice: Gods Among Us.

LOTR FigurinesSideshow seems to be displaying more figurines (and a wider variety) every year. Their Lord of the Rings figurines are absolutely incredible. Though I’m not sure what the target audience is for the life-sized Han Solo in Carbonite or Boba Fett. I can’t see putting one of those in my living room. They also had a very cheesecaky Poison Ivy statue. I overheard someone saying they couldn’t see themselves buying it because it would be like having that lamp in A Christmas Story. At another booth I discovered that you actually can buy that lamp.

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Darth Joker cosplay at Comic-Con 2011This year, we approached Comic-Con International a bit differently than usual. For the last seven years we’ve been staying in town for all four days. With the baby, we decided to do Comic-Con 2011 in just one day. So we left him with relatives and took the train down to San Diego for the day. We arrived in town about 9:00, walked down to the convention center, and had our badges just after the floor opened at 9:30.

(Full photo set on Flickr, Flash-related coverage on Speed Force.)

Jack Skellington Puppet/Costume at Comic-Con 2011Planning a trip to Comic-Con is always about trade-offs. It’s so big that you can’t see everything, and there are so many events going on that you can’t attend them all. With four days, there’s some wiggle room. With just one, it seemed like I was constantly thinking about those choices.

One of the first choices I made: No news panels. I could get that the next day online (and did). I wanted to focus only on what was unique to the con: exhibits, meeting people, the art show, etc. Basically, I wanted to experience as much of San Diego Comic Con as I could in one day.

Katie decided to pick two things and build her day around them: visiting The Field, an Irish pub our friend Sean introduced us to a few years ago, and seeing the new Thundercats screening. Continue reading

Looking along a long, semi-open tube in a building, with the Comic-Con banner in the center.

Comic-Con International sold out this weekend. The convention isn’t until July, which makes the January sell-out surprising enough…but tickets didn’t even go on sale until this past Saturday, and were all gone by the end of the day!

In past years, tickets haven’t been a problem. This year, they’ve become as hard to get as convention-rate hotel rooms. And those? The con hasn’t even announced when they’re going on sale.

This is the view from one of the escalators in the San Diego Convention Center lobby. One of my friends once referred to it as the “Death Star Cannon” view, inspired by the shot of the inside of the cannon firing near the end of Star Wars.

And this wraps up the daily reports! Only a month late!

Optimus PrimeSunday morning at Comic-Con International in San Diego. We got up early (though not as early as Katie got up on Saturday) to check out of our hotel, store our baggage, and move the car to another lot. I suspect the Sheraton would have let us keep the car there an extra day, since it was self-parking; but I’d already prepaid for Sunday through the convention, and as it turned out the other lot was cheaper anyway. Of course, since pre-paid parking was new this year, it wasn’t entirely clear what we needed to do other than leave the printout where it was visible. (More on that later.)

After eating rolls and fruit from home for most of the con, we went out to breakfast at the Broken Yolk Cafe. (I keep wanting to type Burnt Toast Diner.) They’d decorated for the convention — including thematic T-shirts on some of the servers — had good food (more varied, if not as good as Cafe 222), and were very busy, but we managed to beat the rush.

Then we walked through the streets of San Diego to the convention center one last time.

Castles

Downtown San DiegoI figured there would be a line for Castle (especially since they had the entire cast present, and Nathan Fillion by himself is a big draw at Comic-Con). I wasn’t expecting it to run down the hall from the larger 6 rooms, out onto the balcony, zig-zag a bit under some tents, then head back along the convention center and wrap around the end, next to the gigantic air conditioners. At least the morning cloud cover hadn’t burned off yet, so we weren’t out in direct sun.

Castle Supporting CastIt took a long time before the convention started letting people in, but when we finally got to the front, I decided I’d head out and make Sunday the day I finally really explored the main floor, while Katie went in for Castle and then Merlin.

Frustrations

Elves or FairiesThe staff directing traffic didn’t seem to know what to do with someone who left a line, though, and treated me as if I was trying to cut through it. This was the only time I ran into this kind of problem, fortunately. The rest of the time, traffic management was a lot better than it has been over the last few years!

Hawkgirl and Green LanternFirst I figured I’d try to pick up the No Ordinary Family T-Shirt for which I’d gotten a ticket at the preview the day before. Sometimes events will hand out freebies as you walk in, or will go down the aisles passing them out to the audience. Sometimes they’ll give you a ticket, which you then take to the “fulfillment room” to exchange for swag. It’s usually somewhere out of the way, and since actual programming has expanded to fill more of the rooms in the convention center itself, this year it was pushed out into a room in a small convention center at the Marriott hotel complex. The line for the fulfillment room stretched out the building, down the hill, and through a parking structure — and wasn’t moving, as far as I could see. I decided I didn’t want the shirt that much. (I went back later and there was no line at all. My best guess: it had only just opened, and the line was the backlog.)

The Floor

Once I shook that off, I headed to Artist’s Alley. I hadn’t quite made it there yet this year, probably because it was shoved all the way to the far end of the convention center. My goal: to find Flash artist Francis Manapul and ask him for a sketch. There were only about five or six fans ahead of me, but it takes time to do a sketch (unless you’re Sergio Aragon├ęs), so it took the better part of an hour.

Green R2D2Around noon, I started my final exploration of the exhibit hall, the first systematic tour I’d attempted all weekend. The plan was that I would start at one end and work my way to the other, where I’d meet Katie and we’d head out for lunch and then home.

I checked out displays by artists and toy sellers, skimmed the movie and game studios, worked my way through the comic book publishers’ area, and finally decided to call it quits with a good fourth of the floor left to go, figuring I’d covered that part well enough on my earlier passes.

Leaving San Diego

Pool and Convention CenterWe ended up having lunch at Bareback Grill, the land of burgers and double entendres (yummy, but be sure to order your burger at least medium, even if nobody asks), then went to pick up the car. The structure was mostly automated, with a gate to get out, and there was no apparent way to trigger the gate without getting a ticket — and no way to get the ticket without feeding money into the machine. Money that we’d already paid ahead of time. Fortunately there was a button to call for assistance, and after we showed the guard our printed receipt we were let out with no further problems. Still, prepaid parking could have been handled much more smoothly. (Maybe by not including structures with this kind of payment system?)

Then a quick stop for coffee, and we were on the road, returning from another year at Comic-Con!

This was Sunday, July 25, 2010.

Conclusion

So, it took a lot longer than I intended, but this wraps up my coverage of this year’s Comic-Con International. Well, almost. We’ve both got notebooks with funny quotes, and we’ve only posted the ones from Leverage, “Twisting Genres” and “Once Upon a Time (Epic Fantasy)” so far, so you can expect a humor post or two at some point. Other than that, we’re done!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series!

»Full index of Comic-Con 2010 posts and photos.

Green Lantern Power Battery.Yeah, I’m still working through this report. Here’s hoping I can finish before it all completely blurs together! Follow me back a few weeks, to Saturday, July 24 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Hall H Line and Hilton hotel with a giant Scott Pilgrim banner on it.As usual, Saturday was the big day for big presentations. Katie got up early to wait in line for Harry Potter (and incidentally Sucker Punch and Green Lantern), figuring on taking the first shuttle to the convention center…which didn’t show up. After 30 minutes, it became clear that there wasn’t going to be room for everyone on the shuttle when it finally did show up, so she made the trek on foot. She picked up a spot on the lawn, out where they had canopies (not that they needed them with the morning gloom).

I slept in a bit longer before heading down to stand in line for Leverage, which was, well… Leverage was an experience in its own right.

Bridge Under Construction.Afterward, I took the opportunity to do a little exploring over by the Hilton now that the sun had come out. Mostly I checked out the views of the convention center, but I also went up to the top of the parking structure to get a look at the pedestrian bridge that San Diego started building two years ago. That’s where I found a portable cell phone tower, showing that at least one network had made an effort to increase coverage for the event.

Experience the Epic

Walking Dead Zombie leaning against a wall.After another brief pass through the main floor, I headed out into the Gaslamp again. My plan was to go through the Scott Pilgrim Experience, especially since I’d heard that Saturday was the last day, but the line was hideously long. The line for “Stuff” wasn’t long at all, however, and it took me about two minutes to pick up a T-shirt and some download codes related to the soundtrack.

So I wrote off the Scott Pilgrim Experience just like I’d written off the Hall H Experience, and kept going. Though I should have stayed a little longer: they were just setting up the truck with free garlic bread as I was leaving!

Lunch

I had some time before Katie and I planned to meet at a shawarma place for lunch, so I figured I’d get some iced coffee first.

Cosplay: Ash from the Evil Dead series.The convention always spills out into the city. Even beyond the Gaslamp crush of official and unofficial offsite activities, there are ads and banners everywhere…and convention attendees walking to and from restaurants, hotels and parking lots. At one point I walked by a couple dressed as Wonder Woman and Ash from the Evil Dead movies. Wonder Woman was drinking coffee or a smoothie or something, but I asked Ash to pose for a photo. I turned around and saw a couple dressed as Drusilla and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the other side of the street.

So we met up at lunch, showed off swag (my Leverage: Mastermind shirt, her Harry Potter: Undesirable No.1 shirt), caught each other up on what we’d missed (the Green Lantern oath, Parker’s thoughts on Comic-Con, what the heck Sucker Punch is about), and showed each other pictures. Digital cameras have really changed the immediacy of photo sharing!

Back at the Con

Na'vi (Avatar) CosplayWe each went our separate ways for the afternoon programming. I caught the No Ordinary Family preview, which looks promising, then figured I’d try getting into the discussion on Scott Pilgrim Vol.6. It was at least 20 minutes into the panel by the time I arrived, the series has been extremely popular, and the final volume had just come out a few days earlier; so I wasn’t really expecting to get in, and I wasn’t terribly surprised to find that it was full. I took the opportunity to dash off my first impressions of No Ordinary Family. Katie, meanwhile, caught a group of science-fiction authors discussing: “Welcome to the Future. Are you sure you want to stay?”

Winding Down

SyFy Balloon in front of the Omni Hotel.With no specific plans for the evening, but memories of Thursday’s cattle drive, we left about a half an hour before the floor closed so that we could catch a shuttle before the rush. We didn’t really need to, since the driver waited until it was full anyway, and didn’t pull away until almost 7:00. On the plus side, we spent that time in cushy seats instead of standing in a crowd, shuffling along. On the drive back to the hotel, we first heard vague rumors of the stabbing in Hall H earlier in the afternoon.

By the time we got back to the hotel and dropped things off, neither of us wanted to deal with getting back to the Gaslamp, or out to another part of town. Easy route: the hotel restaurant. It had a fixed menu for the evening, but at least it was food we could eat, and as I recall the steak was pretty good. The reason it had a fixed menu was the live music event…which had just wrapped up. Which was also why the restaurant was almost empty when we arrived. (And probably why they offered us extra parfaits for dessert.)

It was the most low-key experience I’ve ever had at a Comic-Con. And that was not a problem!

This was Saturday, July 24.
Next: Sunday. Castle, Merlin and Artists’ Alley.

»Full index of Comic-Con posts and photos.