As every proud (and self ascribed) game geek, tech nerd, and fantasy fanatic know, the annual San Diego Comic-Con was held this previous weekend. Comic-Con is a comic book and entertainment convention spanning 4 days, held annually in America’s finest city, covering multiple genres and platforms. In recent years the event has gathered crowds of 130,000+ attendees coming from all over the world. Living in downtown San Diego I had the pleasure of attending what I like to call the “Poor Man’s Comic-Con”. The namesake gathering is actually held inside the San Diego Convention Center, where upcoming movies, video games, television shows etc. display showcases and venues promoting their projects. This year all eyes were on the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where attendees camped out for 36-48 hours to be part of the elite group of spectators to get the first sneak peek of the anticipated film. Ticket prices for the convention average around $50 a day for adults, $25 for kids and seniors. Honestly not too steep in my opinion and probably a nickel in a wishing well for a die-hard fan.
Unfortunately for the Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon geek deep down inside me, I’ve never paid much mind to the event but curiosity piqued my inner child to see what all the hoopla was about. As I made my way toward the general chaos I immediately came across delighted individuals in costume, some elaborate, some needing elaboration. My first Comic-Con experience came about a mile away from the convention, in the form of a promotional event for a video game titled “Just Cause 3”. Drawing long lines of pretty rugged looking gamers, a security guard explained to me that if you were 18+ with an I.D. you could participate in the challenge. You climb to the top of a makeshift tower, strap into a harness, and zip line to the bottom whilst toting an M-16 air gun and shooting targets. As I look up and watch a guy perform the tasks he was explaining, the guard’s words translated into “Do some cool shit”. I snapped back to reality just in time to ask him how much, to which he responded with the sweet melodic words of “It’s free!”. Also adding that patrons 21+ get a free beer. I whipped out my wallet but only swung it half the distance before realizing I had misplaced my driver’s license just weeks before. FML. I held my head in defeat as I walked down 5th Avenue, the street which directly lead to the Convention Center. My spirits were lifted once I began to see crowds of people filling the streets in parade-like fashion. It looked like Mardi-Gras’ nerdy little brother. It was like revisiting my childhood in a dream with all the scenery and costumes to awe at. My particular favorites were a couple dressed up as Ash Ketchum and Misty of Pokemon nostalgia (note to self to remind my girlfriend of Halloween themes), there were numerous girls clad in green tunics and elfin ears dressed as Link (sadly no Princess Zeldas or Ganondorfs) and a plethora of Deadpools, equipped katanas and pistols (which responsibly were always checked at front doors and gates.
My attention was then grabbed by a platoon of marching soldiers in red hats, led by an apparent sergeant barking commands and orders. As they stopped at a street corner I noticed people taking pictures with the soldiers and receiving the same red hats. I wanted a red hat. I walked up to a soldier and articulated my desires and he told me that they were promoting a new television show called “Colony” and to get a hat I just had to take a picture with him and post it to a social media of my choice. Sure, why not? A selfie and a tweet later I had my hat, as well as two coupons. One for a free Uber ride, which I’m saving for a rainy day, and one for a free food item from one of various restaurants in the immediate area. It was officially break time from Poor Man’s Comic-Con while I cashed my coupon in for a Hot Fudge Sundae at Ghardelli. Now I was full, cool and ready to do more exploring. I tracked back down my previous path and came across a similar group of identically clad paraders, this time all dressed i the infamous masks from Scream movies, along with t-shirts bearing the title. Before I got a chance to ask them what they had going on I was handed a flashlight keychain which read “SCREAM: The TV Series” as well as an MTV logo. Pretty self explainable.
In my excursion to reach the mass gathering of human traffic at the end of the street I was additionally sidetracked numerous times by TV show promoting gangs. There were a group of paraders in judge robes, who from afar all appeared to be very energetic senior citizens holding signs and shouting from megaphones. As I got closer and my nearsightedness became less crippling I could see that they all had on masks of a very stern and grey-haired face. However their action contradicted their attire as they had member challenging people to push-up contests and dance battles. Never figured out the show they were promoting, but hopefully as entertaining. There were also a group of young adults wearing “666” shirts and shouting things such as “It’s all for you Damien” and “Join Us”. I received a pamphlet about the anti-christ from them, but I wanted a t-shirt. At the end of this parade of madness was men on stilts dressed as Uncle Sam with a shark protruding halfway through his body. Sharknado 3 is apparently on its way, and if the mini-crowd it drew is any indication, people are excited. As I walk past the confusing Sharkando charade, I find myself in the heart of the storm. I am being handed brochures and cards to download mobile apps left and right. It’s hard to breathe let alone walk. I had my eyes fixed on any gratuitous item they were passing out. If there was any day to be a freeloader this was it.
As I fought through the crowd for fresh air and free merchandise, I came out into a walk way with some fans, laptop stickers, a Mad Max bottle opener, and my most prized Comic-Con possession, a large bag with “Hey Arnold!” on the front and the famous quote from the show “Stoop Kid’s Afraid To Leave His Stoop” on the back. My inner child cried a little bit. My first stop in this second phase of Poor Man’s Comic-Con was the a venue titled Web Toons. Appeared to be appropriate and I.D. check free, but as I walked in I realized that the part for children was about 15 square feet and the real party was inside the bar that was strategically located behind the big cartoonish sign. I left and made my way past a promotion for The Walking Dead. To my knowledge it was a mini-haunted houses which lasted about 30 seconds, but I had recently just met up with my girlfriend who had no plans on being scared today. 0 for 2 for cool shit. Walking past the line for miniature golf I tried to get her to play a couple holes, however she didn’t want to be embarrassed by my superior Wii Golf skills. Understandable. So finally we come to the epitome of free cool shit to do at Poor Man’s Comic-Con, an American Ninja styled obstacle course promoting the new Assassin’s Creed video game. Once again, I was defeated by not having proof of my age, and my girlfriend isn’t big on risking injury for fun. But, I was able to witness Kendra Wilkinson of Playboy fame complete the course, even got a selfie with her. So, 0.5 for 3 for cool shit. Past the obstacle course the events start to dwindle and it becomes more of a bazaar as people attempt to sell you water, $5 hot dogs and caricatures. My girlfriend and I made our way to a booth which was giving away 1 dollar bills. It was safe enough for her to do. It was frugal enough for me to do. So we both grab a pair of headphones and view a screen which shows the inhumane abuse of farm animals being prepared for slaughtering. It was disturbing enough to let a woman convince me to dedicating at least one day out of the week to veganism before handing over our dollars.
We walked past a couple other of promotional events such as a video game testing for Call Of Duty: Black Ops 3, which dissuaded us with its hour wait time, and one for Game Of Thrones, though I’m not sure exactly what the event was besides the fact that it drew a line about a fifth of a mile long. All in all, Poor Man’s Comic-Con was a nice, sense stimulating day for a date. With all the events and costumes and festivities you experience just free of charge, it could easily convince someone on why they should buy tickets for the actual convention. I recommend Poor Man’s Comic-Con for San Diego residents who have only heard about the convention but aren’t quite sure of what to expect. I don’t recommend it for someone out of town who is willing to fly into town solely for mini-golf and free ice cream sundaes. I believe Poor Man’s Comic-Con goes hand in hand best with buying tickets for at least 2 days and experiencing the downtown San Diego scene with the remaining days. As to whether my experience persuaded me into investing in a weekend getaway in the comic book holy Mecca, I’ll work on getting my girlfriend to become a little more adventurous.
Photo Source: beyondthemarquee.com