July 14th, 2012
08:13 AM ET

Comic-Con is in high gear

"Every year it gets bigger," said 43-year-old Marvin Bricker of El Cajon, California. But it doesn't take a veteran Comic-Con attendee to notice that this year's comic book and pop culture trade show is even more impressive and crowded than last year's.

“I can remember when it was a big deal that 5,000 people were attending Comic-Con,” said Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. “Now they’re saying there’s 180,000 people here.”

Convention organizers estimate that the San Diego Convention Center hosted 130,000 attendees last year.

The crush of Comic-Con is an intense experience for anyone – newbie or veteran. And the entertainment companies and vendors here know it. The flashy, come-hither presentation on the floor drops the jaws and widens eyes of passers-by. The labyrinth of booths is blinking a Morse code, sending out an encrypted message to devoted fans.

Cruise by the web comics section of the floor and you’ll see Gabe and Tyco from Penny Arcade signing sketches. The Domo booth beckons otakus with golden Domo bobble-heads. Celebs are posted at television show booths, taking photos with fans, autographing memorabilia and answering burning questions.

You might even catch a “nerdlebrity” walking around in costume, like Adam Savage from the Discovery Channel show, “Mythbusters,” if you keep your eyes peeled.

Escorting his two children to Comic-Con for the fourth year in a row, Bricker noticed that lines to purchase collectible items are longer this year and can end in disappointment. "This year they've been closing down the lines," he said. After a two-hour wait in the Hasbro booth line, it got cut off about 20 people in front of the Brickers.

The booths seem taller than they were last year, as if someone's been watering them with MiracleGro.

Weta Workshops’ booth is guarded by three gigantic troll statues, causing a bit of a log-jam in foot traffic as Con-goers reach for their cameras. The "Iron Man 3" booth looks like main character Tony Stark's entire armor wardrobe was air-lifted to the San Diego Convention Center. LucasFilm brought along the arc of the covenant and enough live snakes to make Indiana Jones completely lose his cool.

Fans lined up days in advance for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2” that took place on Thursday morning. Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures will preview their upcoming films in Hall H on Saturday, and on Sunday BBCA brings a very dapper Doctor Who and his companions there, as well.

There’s something for every superfan.

Thirteen year-old Ricky Becker and his father waited in a different line, one that wrapped around the Nickelodeon booth, while his sister ran back and forth between them and a display of the channel's newest franchise "Winx Club." The show is about girl fairies, and at Comic-Con Nickelodeon is selling sparkly figurines of each character.

"We're probably going to spend about $80 here," Becker said.

"This is about empowered fairies." said Anhelo Reyes, vice president of Nickelodeon's brand marketing. The silver Winx limited edition figurine is one of the Comic-Con exclusives that's been "flying off the shelves" at the booth.

"We've been here for eight years now, and we know what the superfans want. That's what we're giving them," she said.

Nickelodeon’s is one of the largest booths at Comic-Con, and its presentation can be deceptively simple. It's easy to see why it works: Toddlers are drawn like bees to a hive by the very climbable "Nick" letters emerging from some cushy white and orange carpet on the west side of the booth.

But for adults, a wrap-around "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" display culminating in life-sized sculptures of ninjutsu-posing turtles is a major photo opportunity. More reason to line up: Exclusive merchandise from franchises like "Legend of Korra" – an extension of the popular "The Last Airbender" series – ranging from T-shirts and figurines to skateboards.

On the other side of the convention center, Ashley Eckstein's Her Universe booth has an enviable position within the LucasFilm Comic-Con floor footprint, but it stands out without the giant company's help. It's sparkly and purple, and it showcases some of the most unique clothing at the Con. "Star Wars"-licensed shirts, hoodies, jewelry and other apparel have been the backbone of the Her  Universe collection. New this year is Eckstein's "casual cosplay" Princess Leia hoodie, complete with side-buns.

"There's things for girls!" said Kari Bolduck, as she bought a T-shirt. "Most geek shirts are made for men. So they finally have shirts cut for women." She credits Eckstein for finally picking up on the fact that some women want to look feminine and geeky at the
same time. But it's the premiering line of "Doctor Who" and "Star Trek" shirts that grabbed Bolduck's attention.

"This has been a dream of mine," Eckstein said of the "Doctor Who" licensed designs, which took her a year to develop. Designs allude to 2011's "The Doctor's Wife" episode, character River Song as well as a Van Gogh-esque Tardis design, in homage to the episode "Vincent and the Doctor" from 2010.

Just a few booths away, people are looking terrified, and getting their picture taken.

At the "Falling Skies" booth, fans know exactly what they're lining up for: A chance to have a wiggly, parasitic, mind-controlling alien strapped to their back, just like in their favorite TV show. Proof of their creepy experience comes in the form of a blinking spike which is attached to their Comic-Con badge lanyard. By Thursday the twinkling souvenirs could be seen in every corner of the convention hall.

The booth incorporates aliens made by the show's prop master and a roller coaster ride-like snapshot, which fans can share on social media. Turner Studios helped re-create the "harness factory" from the show for the Comic-Con booth. ("Falling Skies," like CNN, is owned by parent company Time Warner.) Booth staff were wearing actual alien harnesses from the television show, which got just as much attention as the interactive booth.

"I would buy one of those for Halloween," a fan who identified herself as Bunny said, as she exited the booth experience. And she was already saddled with a very full bag of swag.

The “Falling Skies” panel delighted fans with an appearance from show star Noah Wyle on Friday. Still to come are panels for fan favorites “Futurama,” “The Vampire Diaries,” and “Grimm” on Saturday as well as “Fringe,” “Doctor Who” and the annual “Buffy the Musical: Once More With Feeling” sing-along on Sunday.

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Filed under: Comic-Con 2012 • Fandom
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Used Cisco Equipment

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    August 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  2. Ed from Madison

    Artist Andrew Kudelka is at Comic-Con with issue #2 of Mongrel: SOB, an awesome full color werewolf comic. If you missed him there, check out the Mongrel Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/mongrelcomic

    July 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  3. Ivanhoe

    For true superhero adventures read the internationally acclaimed novel - king of Bat'ha by Hashim, -- and the sequel -- Tales from the East: Return of Ivanhoe by Ivanhoe.

    July 15, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  4. Mordac

    I know what they NEED...to get off their parents' sofa in their basement and get a JOB!

    July 15, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • anonomousworld

      I agree. They must have a sad, sad life.

      July 15, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  5. freedomringingnow

    I remember my friends going to these event and saving up money thru eating upstairs with their parents for a couple of months. The even dropped the cable television being piped to their parents basement and started watching TV upstairs.
    🙂

    July 15, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  6. freedomringingnow

    Well what they need is their own island to be held and seperated from reality. :-0

    July 15, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  7. dizzy

    what a terribly shot piece..... was the person operating the camera over the age of 5?

    July 15, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • Vanisa

      Keep it Simple. Have samples and bheorurcs. Photos of before and after results. Have some product available for people who want to purchase "on the spot." You might also keep a list of interested party with their name or company name, phone number and email for follow-up sales. After the first day you may want to tweak what you do to suit that particular venue. Good Luck.

      September 15, 2012 at 12:23 am |
  8. jimmyjohnnyjohansen

    It's amazing how popular these things have become. My son went to one in Connecticut this weekend, I have never seen him have more fun. He wants to go to the one in San Diego next year because it's the best.

    July 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  9. Flugerio15

    How do I pick up women up at bars without using ruffies?

    July 14, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • hewhoknows

      use a bat

      July 14, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
      • John

        But bats have rabies.

        July 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  10. Random

    LOK! it got mentioned and that is good enough for me😛. Though it is actually a very good show and probably should have been mentioned more considering its ratings.

    The Last Airbender movie is probably to blame for this though. The movie was sick and it disgraced the series.

    LOK is yet to be completely tested but the first season was pretty good and i cannot wait for the rest of the series.

    July 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  11. Adam

    Ha. Nerds.

    July 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • I am God

      Ha uneducated imbecile

      July 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Adam

      Ha virgin

      July 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
      • Bulgu

        Ha. Ha.

        July 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
      • Benjamin

        Ha, nope.

        Thankfully nerddom is widespread enough now that the female options are not restricted to varying models of hambeast anymore.

        July 15, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • Skyhawk

      Ha, jealous

      July 14, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Stopthemadness

      Proud to be a nerd. Nerds will rule the world while mouth breathers like you sit and complain about it.

      July 15, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • goodhell

      Let me guess, your a body builder with your whole body shaved and covered in oil as you walk around with your muscles flexed thinking that will pick up a girl.

      July 15, 2012 at 10:40 am |
      • anonomousworld

        That'll pick up a girl faster then sitting in front of a computer playing World of Warcraft until you're 48!

        July 15, 2012 at 11:32 am |
      • Jairo

        Tammy Mukevski – Hi, I would like a quote for a photo booth for 4 hours for a wedding. It will be held in Sydney, CBD area near Botannic garneds. Approx 80 guests. We would like props and also a guest book arranged is this something that you do? Also do the photo booths take B&W photos. Many thanks, Tammy.

        September 12, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • anonomousworld

      HA!

      July 15, 2012 at 11:31 am |