Photoblog: San Diego Comic Con 2014 – It’s About the Bags, Not the Swag

After covering the past two New York Comic Con (NYCC) events, not to mention the news items I’d seen about San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), I was pretty sure I knew what to expect when I arrived in San Diego on behalf of Adventures by Daddy:  big crowds, big stars and big costumes – and I was right on all counts.

Comic-Con Convention Center

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The above photo was the line at 3:30 pm for people waiting to get into Preview Night at 6 pm.  I don’t wait in lines, if I can help it, so I came back a little after 6 and walked right in to the Exhibit Hall.  It was a mad crush and nearly every booth had a line.  There wasn’t as much swag as I’d expected.  I was handed paper headbands for DragonBallz and Hello Kitty, temporary tattoos, bookmarks and buttons, here and there, but the real lure of SDCC is the exclusive merchandise.

The biggest difference between NYCC and SDCC is the number of panels.  There are some panels at NYCC, but the proximity of SDCC to Hollywood makes it a lot easier to get large numbers of television and movie stars (acting, directing, writing, etc.) to sit on panels.  Fans camp out overnight for a chance to get into Hall H to learn more about their favorite shows and movies.  Happily, you don’t have to go to a panel to see a celebrity.

Kiefer Sutherland Appearance at San Diego Comic-Con

Kiefer Sutherland signing “24” posters at the Fox booth at San Diego Comic-Con

 The Bags

When you pick up your badge for SDCC, you get a bag (sponsored by Warner Brothers) with the program, souvenir guide, and a quick guide.  This year, the bags were designed to be worn as back-packs.  There were twelve designs this year, all based on Warner Brothers television programs.  If you don’t get the bag you want, you can ask to trade.  I had traded my bag twice before I left to wait until the event opened – first from Teen Titans Go to Vampires Diaries (at the request of someone else) and then from Vampires Diaries to Gotham (at my request, because I saw two people who wanted Vampire Diaries trading with someone else, so I offered mine).  As a New Yorker, I was thrilled to have Gotham, so I kept it.

Bags George Collected at San Diego Comic-Con

Bags George Collected at San Diego Comic-Con

The Fans

Aside from the large number of fans, giving up huge portions of their days to wait in lines to buy exclusive merchandise and/or sit in on star-studded panels, there are the fans who do all of that in costume, some of them so good that I wasn’t sure if they were fans or vendors.  My favorite costume, which I’m sorry I didn’t see in person – she was on the news one night – was a woman dressed as Sergeant Calhoun from Wreck-it Ralph.

Star Wars Costumes at San Diego Comic-Con

Star Wars Costumes at San Diego Comic-Con

Fans in Star Wars Costumes at San Diego Comic-Con

Fans in Various Costumes at San Diego Comic-Con

 

Fans of all ages choose favorite characters, favorite shows, and even the Con itself.  I saw several women wearing skirts and dresses made from SDCC bags.  There are photo ops at numerous booths, too.  This is one of my favorites.

Batman Photo-op at San Diego Comic-Con

Batman Photo-op at San Diego Comic-Con

Star Wars

There was a lot going on at SDCC so I couldn’t pin down a theme (including comics – the bigger booths had nothing to do with comics), but the most prevalent franchise was Star Wars.  From apparel to car accessories to toys and collectibles, you could find just about anything you wanted with a Star Wars theme.  A sub-theme within Star Wars could have been Boba Fett.  There was Boba Fett stuff everywhere!    My favorite apparel was from Vans, especially the Stormtroopers design, though the Yoda design was cute, too.

Vans Star Wars Stormtrooper Apparel at San Diego Comic-Con

Vans Star Wars Stormtrooper Apparel at San Diego Comic-Con

 Vans' Stormtrooper Design

Vans' Yoda Pattern

Hallmark somehow managed to create the sweetest Darth Vader I’ve ever seen.

Least-Threatening Darth Vader Ever Appeared at San Diego Comic-Con thanks to Hallmark Cards

Least-Threatening Darth Vader Ever Appeared at San Diego Comic-Con thanks to Hallmark Cards

 

To redeem Vader’s reputation as a bad-ass, here is a picture of Hot Wheels’ life-sized Darth Vader vehicle, displayed on a super-sized piece of Hot Wheels track.  Great presentation!

Life-Size Darth Vader Hot Wheels Car at San Diego Comic-Con

Life-Size Darth Vader Hot Wheels Car at San Diego Comic-Con

 

There was even a booth of Star Wars car accessories offering a different set of exclusive Stormtrooper car mats each day.

Daily Stormtrooper Floor Mats at San Diego Comic-Con

Daily Stormtrooper Floor Mats at San Diego Comic-Con

 

To see the rest of my SDCC Star Wars pictures, check out the gallery below.

Funko

If you’ve read my NYCC or New York Toy Fair reports (2013 NYCC, and 2013 New York Toy Fair), then you know I’m a big fan of Funko, especially their Pop! Collectibles.   The Funko booth at NYCC is largely wholesale, but at SDCC, they sell exclusive-to-SDCC items, including several Frozen POP! figures, some Ghostbuster figures, and other pop culture icons.  The Funko booth was mobbed right from the start each day.  In fact, every time I arrived, the line had been capped.  Happily for fans, Funko limits the stock it puts out each day, so everyone has a chance to come back on subsequent days to try to get Anna and/or Batmobile, which seemed to sell out quickest each day.

Exclusive Anna and Elsa Funko Pop! Figures at San Diego Comic-Con

Exclusive Anna and Elsa Funko Pop! Figures at San Diego Comic-Con

Exclusive Batmobile Funko Pop! Figure at San Diego Comic-Con

Exclusive Batmobile Funko Pop! Figure at San Diego Comic-Con

 

To see the rest of the SDCC Funko items, check out the gallery below.

LEGO

The Lego booth is divided into two parts:  display and sales.  The front of the booth is set up like a Lego Store.  There are Lego sculptures (including a super-sized Lord Business from THE LEGO MOVIE and a life-sized Spiderman), a big bin of Lego parts with space for children to play and build freely, and a display case of every Star Wars minifig ever.  Ever!  It was awesome!

Ultimate Lego Star Wars Minifig Collection at San Diego Comic-Con

Ultimate Lego Star Wars Minifig Collection at San Diego Comic-Con

Boba Fett Lego Minifigs at San Diego Comic-Con

Boba Fett Lego Minifigs at San Diego Comic-Con

Yoda - NY I Love Minifigs at San Diego Comic-Con

Yoda – NY I Love Minifigs at San Diego Comic-Con

Life-size SpiderMan Lego at San Diego Comic-Con

Life-size SpiderMan Lego at San Diego Comic-Con

 

In honor of Batman’s 75th anniversary, Lego made a Bat Cycle (life-size?).  It even made the news in NYC before I left, so I made sure to get a picture of it for you all to see.

Lego BatCycle at San Diego Comic-Con

Lego BatCycle at San Diego Comic-Con

 

Behind the display area was a small sales section, with a long line of people waiting to buy Lego kits.  As with most other vendors, there are exclusive Lego kits sold only at the booth, which are also released in limited numbers each day, but most of the items sold there are available in Lego Stores.

Lego San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive Kits: Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman, and Star Wars

Lego San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive Kits: Guardians of the Galaxy, Batman, and Star Wars

Lego Ghostbusters

 To see the rest of my SDCC Lego pictures, check out the gallery below.

Artists’ Alley

A major feature of SDCC (and the most comic-like that I saw, besides the booths selling comics) is Artists’ Alley.  Dozens of artists have table space where they can sell their art (supported by a booth that sells plastic sleeves and other art-saving accessories).  Examples of the art work are displayed, which was helpful for me, because I didn’t recognize all of the artist names.  My big thrill in Artists’ Alley was finding Peter Beagle, the author of “The Last Unicorn,” which I discovered only a few years ago, and fell in love with.  Happy news for “The Last Unicorn” fans – the movie is touring again (click here for the official tour site).  The Canadian leg ended in May, and I’ll be watching for the movie to hit New York theaters.  (Yes, I did buy all of those things and he autographed them for me.)

Peter Beagle Signing Autographs at San Diego Comic-Con

Peter Beagle Signing Autographs at San Diego Comic-Con

 

Artists’ Alley wasn’t the only place to find art.  I found quite a bit on the main floor, too, including this sketch.

Random Art Find on Table at San Diego Comic-Con

Random Art Find on Table at San Diego Comic-Con

 

My best art find on the floor was at the National Cartoonists Society booth, which is only fitting.  Tom Richmond, probably best known for his work with Mad Magazine.  He was signing his book, “The Mad Art of Caricature” and for an extra fee would draw a caricature or Alfred E. Neuman or Alfred E. Neuman as someone else.  I bought the book for my brother, a Mad Magazine fan.

Tom Richmond, Mad Magazine caricaturist, with Signed and Caricatured Book at Comic-Con

Tom Richmond, Mad Magazine caricaturist, with Signed and Caricatured Book at Comic-Con

 

There were over 50 rows of booths, so I’ve only given highlights here.  I have a couple of honorable mentions.

Hasbro is offering a special “mash-up” with Marvel characters and another childhood favorite.

Marvel and Toy Story Mash-up at Comic-Con

Marvel and Toy Story Mash-up at Comic-Con

 

The San Diego Public Library teamed up with SDCC to offer a special edition library card, which was, unfortunately for me, only available to California residents at the convention.  Non-residents could also get the card, but only by going to a library to submit the application.

San Diego Comic-Con Library Card

San Diego Comic-Con Library Card

 

Wondering about the Bronies?  I found this shirt at one of the WeLoveFine booths:

Brony Shirts from WeLoveFine at San Diego Comic-Con

Brony Shirts from WeLoveFine at San Diego Comic-Con

OuterCon

Don’t worry if you can’t or don’t want to pay for an SDCC badge.  OuterCon (I coined the name OuterCon – feel free to contact me for licensing fees, SDCC organizers) are SDCC-related activities that take place outside of the convention center and there are a lot of them.  Petco Park, across the street from the Convention Center, offered visitors a Walking Dead interactive experience (it wasn’t clear to me that an SDCC badge was required).  The parking lot next to Petco Park hosted quite a few booths, including the Eat Like the Boxtrolls food truck (click here to read about my experience there),  Adult Swim, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hello Kitty and more.  At the Hello Kitty booth, I received one of the best temporary tattoos I’ve ever had.  In fact, it’s still intact on my arm a week later, despite running and showering throughout the week.

Hello Kitty Booth at San Diego Comic-Con

Hello Kitty Booth at San Diego Comic-Con

 

Along the bay, were several huge interactive areas, including ziplining through Gotham

Zipline past Gotham at San Diego Comic-Con

Zipline past Gotham at San Diego Comic-Con

 

an outdoor Godzilla museum full of fan art

Godzilla Conquers San Diego at Comic-Con

Godzilla Conquers San Diego at Comic-Con

Godzilla Fan Art Tribute Wall at San Diego Comic-Con

Godzilla Fan Art Tribute Wall at San Diego Comic-Con

 

and…

The Simpsons

Simpsons Art Pillar at San Diego Comic-Con

Simpsons Art Pillar at San Diego Comic-Con

 

The Simpson area was huge.  FXX is launching a marathon of #EverySimpsonsEver.  The marathon starts August 21st and will continue for 12 days, capping off the final episode of the marathon with THE SIMPSONS MOVIE.  As visitors walk through the line to the Homer Dome, where visitors walk into one of Homer’s ears and out the other, experiencing a montage of Homer’s memories within the Dome (no photos allowed), they create a Simpsons Survival Kit, picking up, on their way through the line, items to help them get through the marathon.

Simpsons Survival Kit at San Diego Comic-Con

Simpsons Survival Kit at San Diego Comic-Con

 

After the Homer Dome, visitors could treat themselves to blue cotton candy at Marge’s Sweet Station and participate in the Kwik-E-Race, where every participant wins a Simpsons Doughnut inflatable cushion to add to their Survival pack.

Simpsons Doughnut Seat at San Diego Comic-Con

Simpsons Doughnut Seat at San Diego Comic-Con

 

Visitors to the Simpsons event were offered the opportunity to join the Simpsons’ attempt at the Guinness World Record of the paint-by-numbers with the highest number of participants.  I took my turn!  I made sure to pick a square with two colors, making sure to paint Simpsons yellow.

George Painting in the Simpsons' Guinness World Record Attempt at San Diego Comic-Con

George Painting in the Simpsons’ Guinness World Record Attempt at San Diego Comic-Con

 

The record hasn’t been confirmed yet, but here’s a picture of the painting later in the day.  I’ll report back when I find out whether or not the record was made.

Simpsons Guinness World Record Attempt at San Diego Comic-Con

Simpsons Guinness World Record Attempt at San Diego Comic-Con

PSA: not all of the “freebies” you get at SDCC are goodies:

left shoulder sunburn

Expect to be outdoors more than anticipated and apply and reapply (!) sunblock accordingly.  I wish I’d used The Simpsons sunblock dispenser, instead of just photographing it!

Simpsons Sunblock - I wish I'd Used Some

To see the rest of my SDCC The Simpsons pictures, check out the gallery below.

San Diego businesses also get in on the SDCC act, by renting out their spaces as booths and screening spaces.  At the Blacklist and Constantine booths, if you watched a screening, you got yet another bag.  One of my favorite marketing booths was Schick’s.  So clever to offer shaves under the shadow of a guillotine!

Clever Schick Campaign at San Diego Comic-Con

Clever Schick Campaign at San Diego Comic-Con

 

Even the pedicabs got in on the action:

Game of Thrones Pedicab at San Diego Comic-Con

Game of Thrones Pedicab at San Diego Comic-Con

Disney Infinity 2.0

Disney Infinity 2.0 had rented out a storefront and filled it with games, sketch artists, photo ops and the opportunity to pre-order the game with SDCC-exclusive gifts with purchase.

Maleficent in Disney Infinity 2 at San Diego Comic-Con

Maleficent in Disney Infinity 2 at San Diego Comic-Con

Boo Sketch from Disney Infinity Event at San Diego Comic-Con

George’s Boo Sketch from the Disney Infinity Event at San Diego Comic-Con

 

To see the rest of my SDCC Disney Infinity pictures, check out the gallery below.

As I mentioned above, I don’t like waiting in lines and avoid them when possible.  It is not possible to avoid every line at SDCC.  This was how I got into the Exhibit Hall on Friday.

Line to access San Diego Comic-Con Exhibit Hall on Friday

Line to access San Diego Comic-Con Exhibit Hall on Friday

 

For super fans, SDCC offers access to exclusive information, merchandise and more.  They can gather with like-minded fans and show their support for the comics, shows, movies and artists that they appreciate and love.  The producers, stars, artists and vendors can show their appreciation for their fans with giveaways, exclusive offers, information and more.  It’s not entirely family-friendly, but the children I saw were well-behaved, for the most part, and thoroughly engaged in the culture of SDCC.  On a future visit to SDCC, I’d like to attend some panels, but I’ll have to practice staying up all night or find people I trust to take turns napping throughout the night.

To see the rest of my SDCC pictures, check out the gallery below.

Our contributor, Sarah Woloski, also attended SDCC.  To read about her SDCC experience click here, and/or you can listen to her podcast about SDCC by clicking here.

Disclosure: George Gensler received a press pass and complimentary admission to attend San Diego Comic Con; however, all opinions expressed are her own.

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About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.