Hello fellow Fridge Nukers! Rob Bradfield here…
As I mentioned in my recent preview of The Walking Dead Escape, Comic-Con International has become too big for the walls of the San Diego Convention Centerto contain. That’s not a knock on the venue, nor is it a call to
move the con – which is apparently, the thing to do now. The reality is that it wouldn’t really matter where, let alone if, they could possibly move it, Comic-Con, in recent years has grown from an annual comics and scifi convention into a full blown popcult Block Party. A term that’s gaining a lot of steam right now: Nerdi Gras.
One of Comic-Con’s best kept secrets — though not really a “secret” at all — is that you don’t really have to have to be in the Convention Center to have a Comic-Con experience. And a lot of the offsite action is quite reasonably priced, if not altogether free.
As tickets grow increasingly expensive and harder to come by, this is great news for comics fans who want to be part of the fun, but think they may have missed the boat. It’s becoming more and more common for movie and TV production companies; video game producers; and yes, even comics publishers and toy manufacturers to either rent out empty retail/gallery space in San Diego’s Gas Lamp Quarter (the commercial area around the Convention Center), or partner with local businesses to create a virtual “Con away from Con,” with parties and lots and lots of fan service. After all, if the goal is to give the throngs of popcult lovers who descend on San Diego every year a little “above and beyond,” the Convention Center might actually be a little confining.
Last year, for example, SyFy Channel partnered with the Hard Rock Café, who stored their usual rock and roll memorabilia to move in props and costumes from SyFy’s original programs, and temporarily renamed the tourist destination The SyFy Café. Warner Bros./TBS rented out a gallery to display fan art devoted to late-night talk show host, and self-professed geek, Conan O’ Brien. But the fan experience to beat by far came from Comedy Central who, in celebration of South Park’s “Year of the Fan,” turned an entire park, which was actually one train stop away from the Convention Center, into the titular Colorado town as it appears in the cartoon. You didn’t have to have a Comic-Con badge to participate in (free) “Big Wheel” races; get characters from the show painted on their faces; check out one of the most amazing fan art galleries ever collected; or even munch on some Cheesy Poofs at Chef’s Cafeteria. They even screened episodes, and …Bigger, Longer, and Uncut at night.
So, after doing a little research on Con-adjacent action, here is a list of some promising possibilities:
- For animation fans, I highly recommend the Chuck Jones Gallery on Fifth Avenue in the Gas Lamp. I mention this first because it’s not a Comic-Con event, but rather a convenient and coincidental location of a permanent gallery. If you’re a fan of Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, the Grinch or one of the other hundreds of productions to which Jones lent his immense talents, it’s an essential visit. And who knows? If part of the fun of Con is laying your hands on some exclusive merchandise, it doesn’t get any more exclusive than an original animation cel.
- According to MTVGeek an Extra Stage is being constructed outside of Hall H – which will be hosting a number of events and interviews and will have “pretty much every Batmobile ever made” on display. So, if you’re not aware of what this means, it means that the (non-ticket holding) public will have access to A-list panels (and presumably the big announcements that go along with them) that in years prior, came with only a Comic-Con ticket. I’m sure somebody, somewhere is going to get mad about this [“Well, why did I waste money on a ticket?”]. In the meantime, in the immortal words of Rita Hayworth, “Make hay while the sun shines.”
- NBC isn’t just taking over one space, but many spaces in the Gas Lamp to create the ultimate fan experience for fans of their hit fantasy, Grimm, as well as promote their upcoming post-apocalyptic action/thriller, Revolution. Dread Central has a complete list of venues and activities.
- Tr!ck2ter is presenting an alternative, free convention at their “pop-up” location on J St. Guests include Jim Mahfood and Jill Thompson.
- Geek and Sundry will be taking over Belo – hosting a number of fan events including a meet and greet Thursday morning with Geek and Gaming Goddess, The Guild ’s Felicia Day.
- Ciro’s New York Style Pizza will be Cartoon Café! Animation Headquarters again this year. Come for the Cartoon Networkswag – stay for the pie.
- Comedy Central is taking over the Hard Rock this year, hosting free events for their hit shows Workaholics and Futurama, and their upcoming animated series, Brickleberry. Cast signings for each of the three mentioned shows, and a Happy Hour at the HR’s pool space, Float, with the stars of Workaholics.
- CNET will be hosting a CNET Base Station, Thursday through Saturday. All you have to do is RSVP on their site, and apparently anyone can have access to the free snacks and drinks, video game previews, and prize giveaways. They’ll even have laptops and free charging stations.
- Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts is hosting a special Comic-Con only appearance of the touring exhibition, Darkness and Light: Art Inspired by Heroes & Villains, Hope and Heroism – featuring unique portraits of DC Comics characters painted by the likes of Jim Lee, and photos of famine relief efforts in Africa. Apparently, the “price” of admission is a modest donation. For a couple of bucks, you can check out some rare art, and feel good about doing it in the process.
- Patton Oswalt is performing at The Historic Spreckels Theatre on July 12th. It’s not a free ticket, but at around $40, it’s still way less out of pocket than a Comic-Con badge. Oswalt performing in San Diego during Comic-Con. Coincidence? I guess Brian Posehn wants to keep his schedule free to hunt for comics…
- And of course, there’s The Walking Dead Escape at PetCo Park. (see above)
The above suggestions are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Points of departure. Consult Gaslamp.org for an extensive list of Con-adjacent activities. Once you’re in the thick of things, keep your eyes and ears open — and word to the wise, don’t refuse any fliers — there’s bound to be a lot more popping up.