San Diego Comic-Con

For those of you who are not clear on the subject of the San Diego Comic-Con, here it is in a nutshell:  It is the world's largest pop-culture convention.  It started as a small comic book convention as the name implies, but now covers the whole gamut of popular culture, from comics, to movies, TV shows and the like.  We do mean largest.  over 100,000 people will attend this four-day event. (Many conventions count the population of each day and add them together.  Not so here.  over 100,000 people attend each day...)

Front of the convention center

Every July, Comic-Con takes over the San Diego Convention Center.  And among the 100,000 attendees, you will find Walt and Sheila.

This place has been described as Nerd-vana, and that is the case.  Hundreds of panels covering every aspect of popular culture.  (I must take a moment to clarify something.  There are two definitions for 'popular culture.'  First is the more common definition.  This includes things like top 40 music, and products that you find in the average shopping mall at the trendy shops.  The other definition covers parts of the culture that, while creative, might be considered "lowbrow".  Things like comics, movies, TV shows, science fiction, fantasy,  horror,  toys and the like.  Comic-Con covers the latter.)

The whole Comic-con experience is amazing.  Like most conventions, there are panel discussions.  Hundreds of them.  And like most conventions, there is a vendor's room.  But in this case, there are over a million square feet of vendor room space.  To give you an idea of scale, a professional football field covers 54,000 square feet.  This means that the sales floor has enough space to have more than 18 pro football games going on at once.  That is more than enough room that you will find many, many things you want to spend your hard-earned money on.  Like a Walter Action Figure!

Walt the Action Figure

During Comic-con 2005, we took relatively few photos.  Part of the reason was simple.  We foolishly thought that we could get hotel researvations a couple of months before the convention.  Silly us.  We have since learned that they open the reservation line at 9:00 AM some day in February, and they generally sell out some time between 11:00 and 11:30.  We did get a reservation at the Town and Country, which is a very nice hotel complex that is literally all the way across town.  Since parking is a major pain around the convention center, we took the trolley in every day, a 45 minute trip.  We took minimal supplies with us to the convention every day, and left the camera in the hotel room a couple of days, just to save on weight.  We knew we would be buying lots of stuff and wanted to be minimally-burdened.

The Vendor's floor is not just stuff for sale, but also has lots of displays by various companies, advertising current and up-coming projects.  This is the Dark Knight from the DC comics display.

The Dark Knight

Also present:  TV Networks, showing off their shows and giving their talent a place to sign autographs for eager fans.  Below is the [Adult Swim] booth, the most low budget booth of all (and deliberately so). 

[Adult Swim]

I do know a few people who can be considered "Industry professionals".  Probably the most famous of the lot is Tony Swatton.  When I first met him, he was a Blacksmith who skated in Roller Derby and sold custom jewelry to pay the bills.  A few lucky connections later, he is now "Armorer to the stars". 
Tony Swatton
Tony has done lots of work in Hollywood, making both weapons and armor for many films.  How many?
  1. Undead or Alive: A Zombedy (2007) (sword maker)
  2. Epic Movie (2007) (weapon fabricator)
  3. Pathfinder (2007) (armorer)
    ... aka Pathfinder: The Legend of the Ghost Warrior (USA: promotional title)
  4. Last Stand of the 300 (2007) (TV) (weapon fabricator)
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) (sword maker)
    ... aka P.O.T.C. 2 (USA: promotional abbreviation)
    ... aka Pirates 2 (USA: informal short title)
    ... aka Rummty II (Philippines: English title: review title)
  6. Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006) (sets and props)
    ... aka Garfield 2 (Australia) (Singapore: English title) (UK) (USA: working title)
  7. Bible Battles (2005) (TV) (sword maker)
  8. Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005) (weapon maker)
    ... aka Zathura (International: English title: short title) (USA: promotional title)
  9. "Sleeper Cell" (2005) TV Series (knife maker) (unknown episodes)
    ... aka Sleeper Cell: American Terror (USA: second season title)
  10. The Legend of Zorro (2005) (sword maker)
    ... aka Z (USA: poster title)
  11. Into the Blue (2005) (sword maker)
  12. Domino (2005) (knife maker)
  13. xXx: State of the Union (2005) (sceptre maker)
    ... aka xXx 2: The Next Level (Australia) (Hong Kong: English title) (International: English title) (Malaysia: English title) (UK)
    ... aka xXx²: The Next Level (Singapore: English title) (UK)
    ... aka Cold Circle & Intersection (Philippines: English title: review title)
    ... aka xXx: The Next Level (Philippines: English title)
  14. "Life on a Stick" (2005) TV Series (armorer) (unknown episodes)
  15. Constantine (2005) (spear maker)
    ... aka Constantine (Germany)
  16. Blade: Trinity (2004) (armorer)
  17. National Treasure (2004) (armorer)
    ... aka Sonomo (Philippines: English title: review title)
  18. Spider-Man 2 (2004) (knife maker)
    ... aka Spider-Man 2.1 (USA: recut version)
    ... aka Spider-Man 2: The IMAX Experience (USA: IMAX version)
  19. Van Helsing (2004) (armorer)
  20. Hellboy (2004) (sword maker)
    ... aka Super Sapiens (Malaysia: English title)
  21. The Alamo (2004) (sword maker)
    ... aka Bowie (Philippines: English title: review title)
  22. Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004) (armorer)
  23. The Last Samurai (2003) (sword maker)
    ... aka The Last Samurai: Bushidou (USA: poster title)
  24. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) (sword maker)
  25. The Rundown (2003) (jeweller)
    ... aka Welcome to the Jungle (Australia) (UK)
  26. Secondhand Lions (2003) (sword maker)
  27. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) (sword maker)
    ... aka P.O.T.C. (USA: promotional abbreviation)
  28. Jeepers Creepers II (2003) (armorer)
  29. The Matrix Reloaded (2003) (sword maker)
    ... aka The Matrix Reloaded: The IMAX Experience (USA: IMAX version (promotional title))
  30. Holes (2003) (knife maker)
  31. The Ring (2002) (jeweller)
  32. Men in Black II (2002) (sword maker) (uncredited)
    ... aka MIB 2 (USA: promotional abbreviation)
    ... aka MIIB (USA: promotional abbreviation)
  33. Windtalkers (2002) (knife maker) (uncredited)
  34. Spider-Man (2002) (sword maker)
  35. "Unsolved History" (2002) TV Series (sword maker) (unknown episodes)
  36. CinéMagique (2002) (sword maker)
  37. The Majestic (2001) (sword maker)
  38. Ocean's Eleven (2001) (jeweller) (uncredited)
    ... aka 11 (USA: promotional abbreviation)
    ... aka O11 (USA: informal short title)
  39. Black Knight (2001) (sword maker)
  40. Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (2001) (armorer)
    ... aka Megiddo (USA: short title)
  41. Rush Hour 2 (2001) (sword maker)
  42. Highlander: Endgame (2000) (sword maker)
  43. Witchblade (2000) (TV) (armorer)
  44. The Patriot (2000) (sword maker)
    ... aka Patriot, Der (Germany)
  45. Ready to Rumble (2000/I) (jeweller)
  46. Rules of Engagement (2000) (knife maker) (uncredited)
    ... aka Règles d'engagement, Les (Canada: French title)
    ... aka Rules - Sekunden der Entscheidung (Germany)
    ... aka Rules of Engagement - Die Regeln des Krieges (Germany: TV title)
  47. What Planet Are You From? (2000) (armorer)

  48. The Big Tease (1999) (armorer)
  49. "Angel" (1999) TV Series (weapons) (unknown episodes)
    ... aka Angel: The Series (USA)
  50. Mystery Men (1999) (knife maker)
  51. Wild Wild West (1999) (armorer)
  52. Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) (knife maker)
    ... aka Star Trek 9 (USA: informal alternative title)
  53. Blade (1998) (sword maker) (uncredited)
  54. The Mask of Zorro (1998) (sword maker) (uncredited)
  55. Doctor Dolittle (1998) (knife maker) (uncredited)
  56. Almost Heroes (1998) (armorer)
  57. Progeny (1998) (armorer)
  58. "The Magnificent Seven" (1998) TV Series (sword maker) (unknown episodes)
  59. Amistad (1997) (sword maker) (uncredited)
  60. Spawn (1997) (armorer)
  61. Face/Off (1997) (knife maker)
    ... aka Face Off
  62. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997) TV Series (weapons) (unknown episodes)
    ... aka BtVS (USA: promotional abbreviation)
    ... aka Buffy
    ... aka Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Series
  63. Deus Volt (1997) (armorer)
  64. "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (1996) TV Series (sword maker) (unknown episodes)
    ... aka Sabrina (USA: promotional abbreviation)
    ... aka Sabrina Goes to College (USA: promotional title)
  65. The Crow: City of Angels (1996) (knife maker)
    ... aka The Crow II
  66. The Fan (1996) (knife maker)
  67. The Cable Guy (1996) (armorer) (uncredited)
  68. Beastmaster: The Eye of Braxus (1996) (TV) (sword maker)
    ... aka Beastmaster III
  69. Heat (1995) (knife maker) (uncredited)
  70. Casper (1995) (armorer)
  71. The Shadow (1994) (helmet maker)
  72. Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993) (sword maker)
    ... aka Hot Shots! 2 (Australia)
  73. Hoffa (1992) (knife maker)
  74. Hook (1991) (sword maker) (uncredited)
In addition to the professionals, there are loads and loads of fans.   Many of whom dress in costume.   Here we have a fan dressed as "Shaun" from the zombie film "Shaun of the Dead."   For those of you who have not seen this masterpiece, the tagline says it all:  "A love story, with zombies."

Shaun of the Dead

Some Professionals are high-profile, like Charleze Theron, who appeared at this convention, others are a bit more low-profile.  Here we see a quick, somewhat blurry shot of Billy West, the main voice actor for the TV show "Futurama".  He does the voice Philip Fry, Professor Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan.  He was also the voices of both Ren and Stimpy on the show of the same name.  Here he is, enjoying the vendor's room and being annoyed that he was recognized and photographed.

Billy West - Futurama

After the convention was over, we did our usual pilgrimage to the Big Kitchen.  It's an unassuming place, and you would probably not even notice it was there.  However, if you pass it by, you are missing one of the greatest eating experiences you will ever have in your life.  I envy the people who live in this neighborhood.
Big Kitchen

Big Kitchen is run by Judy, who is one of the original hippies.  She is an amazing person and is always happy to see you and feed you right!
Miss Judy!

After our meal we always get some coffee cake to take home.  It is the best!
Coffee Cake

...And then we were home!


In 2006, we did things a bit differently.  First we took a day off of school so we could be at the computer to make our reservations the moment the reservation line opened up.  We did very well, securing a room reservation in the Marriot that connects to the convention center itself.  This makes for very easy conventioning.  Leave something in the room?  Go back and get it.  Tired and want to take a break?  A soft, comfortable bed awaits a short walk away.  It is MUCH better than the room we had across town last year.  This photo of the convention center, was taken from the balcony of our room on the 18th floor.

A veiw from the top

As I stated earlier, the convention draws over 100,000 people each day (although Saturday draws the most, up to 140,000!)  This is a view from our room, looking down at the trolley stop where another group of attendees has been dropped off and is beginning to wend their way to the convention center.   Many of these people were only there for one day, and had to stand in line to buy their tickets.  That line could last up to four hours!
The crowd!
Several years ago we went to the convention for just one day.  We arrived at about the time the doors opened.  We found the line and were really dismayed to see that it went all the way through the parking area and around the back of the convention center.  we were informed that it would be about three hours before we could get our tickets.  We began to head to the back of the line.  At about the 20-minute-wait part of the line we happened to run into a janitor at my school.  His name is Mr. Romero, and Mr. Romero is the biggest toy collector on the planet, which explains why he was here.  He spotted me and called out "There you are Mr. Owen!  We have been waiting for you forever!  He snuck us into line, thus saving us about 2 hours 40 minutes!  Mr. Romero is a great guy who always looks out for me, even during the summer!

Our hotel room happened to be on the end of the building, and the building is lens-shaped.  This meant that the architect gave the end rooms two different balconies, in our case one facing south, the other east.  This was the view from the east balcony, looking kinda to the south.
another view from our balcony

And this was the view from the south balcony.  A wonderful view of the marina and Coronado Island.
The marina

Comic-con itself is amazing.  This picture below comes from outside the convention center.  We were waiting in line to see Kevin Smith.  He was presenting in Hall H, which seats 6,000.  After waiting in line for a couple of hours (outside in the HEAT!) we finally got into Hall H.  They announced that Kevin Smith had not arrived, and was somewhere stuck in San Diego traffic.  We waited.  They showed some movie trailers.  We waited more.  They updated us that Mr. Smith was still at least a couple of hours away.  All that waiting for nothing, we headed out to the dealer's room to see what we could see.
waiting in line

Besides all the things there are to buy, there are autographs to be had!  Lotsa famous people are either giving out or selling their signatures.  It's a great way of getting the autographs of people you like.  Below, David Prowse (Darth Vader) signs our limited edition Star Wars poster.  It was signed by Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, the artists who originally painted the poster.  We would like to get as many signatures on it as possible.
Dave Prowse

Right Next to David was Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Episodes 2 and 3.  Two down, several hundred to go...
Jango Fett!

Later, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) was also signing, so signature number 3! (We got yelled at for taking this picture.  Apparently some celebrities don't want their pictures taken.  Maybe Ms. Fisher doesn't think the years hav been good to her...)
Princess Leia

Not all the celebrities are well-known.  Some are very popular in their niches, but the niches are not that large.  These two guys are examples of this.  They are voice actors for a TV show called "Fullmetal Alchemist."  The kid on the left is Aaron Dismuke, who plays Alphonse Elric.  The guy on the right is Vic Mignogna, who plays Big brother Edward Elric.
Ed and Al

Vic pauses in his signing for a moment to pose with us.  He was a great guy.  He informed us that he had never actually met Aaron (who's character interacts very extensively with his own on the show) until well after they had recorded and wrapped the show.  That is fascinating and disturbing.  It makes me wonder how much better the conversations would be if the actors could actually interact with each other.
Us with Ed

For those of you unfamiliar with "Fullmetal Alchemist", here I am with the main characters.  The big brother, Ed, is on the right.  The little brother, Al, is on the left.  If you want to know why the younger brother is much larger and wearing armor, check out the show...
Al and Ed in statue form

This is Comic-Con.  That means that there are comics and comic artists here.  I got Stan Sakai's autograph in his new book.  He is the author of "Usagi Yojimbo", the story of a Ronin, a masterless samurai who ventures through an alternate Japan, fighting for the underdog.
Stan Sakai

Not all the celebrities are there to present or sign autographs.  Some just are there to enjoy the convention.  While waiting in line to get Aaron and Vic's autographs, Sheila suddenly pointed and said "That's Lewis Black!"  I ducked out of line and asked if I could get his picture.  Mr. Black was very gracious and asked if his minion could take it, so we could be in the picture together.  If you are not familiar with Lewis Black, watch Comedy Central.  He appears on the "Daily Show With Jon Stewart"  He does a feature called "Back in Black".  He also has several specials that appear on the network.
Lewis Black

Back to cartoonists.  Keith Knight (Who calls himself "Keef") is one of my favorite cartoonists.  He has several strips that run in many magazines and newspapers, including "The K Chronicles", "(Th)ink" and "Life's little victories".  Last year we bought this picture from him. 
His inspiration was watching some parents giving their toddler a drink at Starbucks.  Keef thought that maybe this was not the best idea.

This year, I commissioned Keith to do a "Life's little victories" for me.  It was one of those moments that I wanted to remember, and Keith caught it perfectly...  Thanks, Keef!!!!
My personal Keef

Then, our customary trip to Big Kitchen and home again!


It's time again for Comic-con!  And once again, we got a room at the Marriott. 
our hotel

Despite a few minor inconveniences with the automated reservation system we still managed to get a nice room.  Last year we were on the 18th floor, this year we got a room on the 10th. 
The view

Here is the view from the pool level.  If you look near the center of the picture, you can see Sheila looking over the edge of the balcony.
Looking up

And the view from the other side of the pool, near the grotto.
Another up view

Once we were settled into our room, it was off to the convention!  We spent a bit of time perusing part of the vendor's room (it's so huge it would take hours just to walk all of the aisles) then it was up to the Sails Pavilion to the autograph area.  Why?  Because Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax fame was going to make an appearance and sign!  We got to the pavilion early, because we anticipated a line.  We were not disappointed.  The minions who came in to set up the booth were amazed at the line.  Apparently, they were anticipating setting up the booth and then having somebody show up every once in a while.  By the time Mike showed up, at least a hundred people were waiting...

...And we were at the front of it all.  Behind Mike, the minions are busy discussing whether they have enough DVD's to cover all the folks who might want to buy them.  While we bought one of each,  we had Mike sign a scrapbook page Sheila made about the MST3K convention in 1994.
Mike Nelson

Later, Mike joined Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett at the "The Film Crew" booth downstairs.  They signed more DVD covers, and Kevin and Bill admired the scrapbook pages before signing them.  Kevin's first comment was "Who are these young guys????"
The film crew

Rogue Pictures was at the convention, as well.  They were promoting The film "Hot Fuzz", the Ultimate Cop Action Film.
Hot fuzz

The really cool thing was the fact that both Edgar Wright, the Writer/director, and Nick Frost, the co-star would be appearing to sign autographs.  The really uncool thing was the fact that about a million folks would be in line to get their autographs.  So, how were they going to deal with this?  Well, it turns out they were going to do what they did last year for Kazuo Koike, hold a lottery.  You had to line up draw a ticket.  If you were lucky enough to draw a ticket with a lightbulb stamped on it.  The line just to draw a ticket took a couple of hours.  Those few lucky enough to get one of the magic tickets would have to get in line again later on to actually get the autographs...

But first, we had to win a golden ticket.  And only about 10% of the people were going to win that ticket.  Last year I failed to win a ticket to Kazuo Koike.  This year, would I be luckier???

The Golden Ticket!

Here, Nick Frost, the co-star of "Hot Fuzz", "Shaun of the Dead" and "Spaced" smiles for his adoring fans.
Nick Frost

Here, Nick signs the Comic-con special DVD cover for the not-yet-released "Hot Fuzz".  (We already had a copy, because the DVD was released in England two months ago, and we ordered our own copy from there...
more nick

    By this time, Nick had been signing for a good 2-3 hours.  We were close to the back of the line.  In this picture, Nick is pretending to listen appreciatively as I explain that I really liked the pretend gunfight scene in the TV show "Spaced", and that I thought it explained a lot about the male psyche.  I'm quite sure that Nick, through no fault of his own, was already thinking about a cold pint somewhere.  I can't imagine what it would be like to sign a bunch of stuff for several hours, all the time making nice to a bunch of strangers and listening politely as they tell you things...

Anyway, thanks Nick, we appreciate the fact you were there!
Still more nick

Not all celebrities are people.  Witness the awesomeness that is George Barris' Batmobile!
The batmobile

More batmobile

Even more batmobile

Funimation was doing their usual thing of promoting their animation and having some of their voice talent signing autographs.   Here, Sonny Strait and Caitlin Glass sign autographs.  They were the voices of Maes Hughes and Winry Rockbell in "Fullmetal Alchemist".
More Voice talent

 Maes HughesWinry

Some Star Trek actors show up at Comic-Con, too!   This time we got LeVar Burton and John DeLancie's autographs.  Sheila wanted LeVar's signature for her kids, because they watch "Reading Rainbow" a lot in kindergarten.
LeVar Burton

Not all the celebrities are... well... real, I guess.  This guy is Shin Chan.  He is the kindergartner nobody would ever want in their class.  Wise beyond his years, and devoted to sarcasm and potty humor.  For some reason, we really like this show.
Shin Chan

One of Shin's favorite games is called "The Ass Dance".  Exactly why he drops trou is beyond me.  Sometimes Anime is just weird.  But we still like it...
Ass Dance!

Jabba the Hutt was there!  I was forced to be a slave girl for the duration of the photo.
Me and Jabba

In recent years, G4 TV has set up a booth and conducted both live shows and pre-recorded segments from Comic-con.  They happened to set up right next to Sheila while I was checking up on a line elswhere.  She managed to grab a few blurry shots through the jostling crowd as they were shooting a toss for one of the shows. 
G4 presentation

There is a concert Venue by the marina near the hotel.  There are concerts all summer long, and after the concerts, there are fireworks!  They look nice from our balcony. 

more fireworks!

And that is our summary of Comic-con for 2007.  See you next year!

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