I started going to Comic-Con when I was a kid with my dad. Back then, the convention only occupied half of its current space in the convention hall and there was no Hall H or Ballroom 20. We were able to walk into any panel room without queueing and at the risk of sounding cliche (which itself is ironic), the convention floor was filled with comic books, toys, and memorabilia – not studio booths.
There are many articles each year decrying the change in Comic-Con. This isn’t one of them. It has changed. In some ways for the better; it has become almost like a four day festival for the world’s nerd population. In some ways for the worst; the convention sells too many tickets and even those are nearly impossible to get. Fortunately, for those craving a more accessible convention, there are smaller alternatives to Comic-Con popping up around the U.S. In Los Angeles, Stan Lee’s Comikaze comes closest to what Comic-Con used to be like.
For those who are shut out of Comic-Con, but still want to participate in the nerd experience, the nice thing is that there are now a ton of offsite options. This year, rather than push my way through the crowded exhibit hall, I stuck to press rooms and outside activities. With limited time, I was only able to experience a small portion of what there is to do outside Comic-Con. A couple of things stand out, though, that I wanted to share.
The Complete Vikings Experience
Just as they did last year, History’s Vikings created a fun and elaborate Viking village across from the convention. There was an opportunity to meet the cast and shield maidens in training could receive Lagertha-inspired hair styles.
Zip Lines and Simpsons Delights
On the lawn between the convention center and the Hilton hotel, FOX set up an interactive zone that had a lot of fun options for families. In anticipation of its new show, Gotham, FOX created a mini skyline complete with a zip-line. They also had Simpsons carnival games and cotton candy inspired by Marge’s hair.
The Walking Dead Escape
This event is particularly good for families. Survivors run through Petco Park and try to evade the zombies. When I first heard about the event, I imagined that it was one big area with zombies milling about. But it’s not. It’s more like an obstacle course. You can hear people screaming as they try to evade the zombies. The course finishes in an area set up for costume contests and other activities. Here is a short clip of what the last leg of the course looks like to give you an idea.
Petco Park Interactive Zone
There were a variety of booths and events in the Interactive Zone, located in a parking lot across the street from Comic-Con. FOX brought a Sleepy Hollow Ocular experience, headless horsemen, and the cast and producers. George R.R. Martin and Norman Reedus made appearances at Mariott’s Courtyard @ Super Hero HQ. Adult Swim hosted numerous activities, including the Meat Wad Virtual Roller Coaster. There was even a Hello Kitty house where people could get their nails done.
The fact is Comic-Con is a completely different animal than it was in its earlier years and that is unlikely to change. If you’ve never had a chance to go to Comic-Con and have struggled to get tickets, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least head down to San Diego during this event. There will be plenty of events outside the convention to occupy your time. Costume optional.