Another year, another Comic-Con has come and passed. If I had to be honest, I’d say SDCC 2016 was kind of an off year for me. It’s never a BAD time at Comic-Con, but this year was one where I was constantly wondering where all my time went and I felt like I missed out on a lot. Anyone who’s been to Comic-Con knows that the top two things that you HAVE to set your expectations for are 1) you WILL wait in line for exorbitant amounts of time, and 2) you will NOT get to do everything you want, but the beauty of it all is that so much is going on that you’re bound to be doing something awesome regardless of whether you planned for it or not. Normally it’d be something like “Aw crap, I’m not going to make it to the Marvel panel – but OH LOOK THERE’S A ZOMBIE PARADE!” but this year somehow I always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, with nothing going on around me. I feel like a lot of it might have been because this was the first time I chased after exclusive items (shopping for big ticket items has never been a priority for me at Comic-Con), so I was finally starting to see how much time and dedication it takes to buy the super-exclusive stuff. First you wait in line to get a chance to buy the stuff, then you’re in line again to buy the items themselves at your allotted time slot (so you have to make it back to the convention hall if you’re out and about), in which it’s never a short wait for either occasion. The thing about the Lego exclusives that I wanted is that they had a different item released each day, so I couldn’t buy all four sets at once and then be done with it for the rest of the con. On the other hand I actually had some help from family and friends with buying the exclusive Lego sets, so I didn’t even spend as much time buying them as I could have, and somehow I still felt like I missed out on a lot? Just kind of a strange year for me. Otherwise, here’s my recap of SDCC 2016!
THE CONVENTION FLOOR
When you’re chasing after exclusives, you’ll be spending a lot of time on the convention floor. I felt the same way this year about the convention floor as I did last year: once you’ve seen it enough times, it starts to all seem the same every year. However two highlights on the floor for me this year were the Nickelodeon and Sanrio booths. I’m not sure what was going on at Nickelodeon’s booth, but they seemed to be recreating my entire childhood and I was LOVING IT. I got a Tommy Pickles button and got WAYYY too excited about it. And Sanrio had the creator of Gudetama there! I didn’t bother grabbing a whole lot of swag, but I get less and less swag-grabby each year, so it wasn’t necessarily a reflection on the quality of freebies.
LOTS of great cosplayers this year. Another side effect of going to Comic-Con multiple times is that you don’t pull the camera out as much for cosplayers as you do during your first couple of times going. This year there were lots of show-stopping cosplays out and about.
Conan O’Brien came back, and he did not disappoint! I went to Wednesday’s taping with the cast of Silicon Valley, with surprise guests Will Arnett and J.J. Abrams (!!!). They were a lot stricter on keeping cameras down during filming (to be honest I’m surprised they didn’t enforce this last year), so I didn’t get as many photos, but all I’ll say is that the taping ended off with a long joke about jerking people off and a good time was had. And we all walked out with a super-cool Superman Conan Funko! And just like last year, people were already asking us to sell them our Funkos as soon as we got out the door, just that this time it was SWARMS of them. HELL NO YOU’RE NOT GETTING MY SUPER COOL CONAN FUNKO GO AWAY.
The only downside to Conan O’Brien’s tapings is that the lines for standby tickets have now essentially become Hall H-lite. Lines are starting up crazy early, and the cutoffs for standby tickets are getting shorter with each taping. I still stand by my previous opinion that Conan O’Brien tapings are still a much better time-benefit exchange than Hall H, but people will definitely have to set their expectations accordingly if they don’t already have tickets to the show.
I went to two panels this year, Mr. Robot and Sherlock. The Mr. Robot panel was a fun time, but OMG SHERLOCK. I wasn’t originally planning on going to the Sherlock panel. Nowhere close. It was scheduled for Sunday, which is when I usually try to do last-minute things before heading home, it was in Hall H (good luck trying to get in), Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman weren’t going to be there, and I’d already seen a Sherlock panel before (I know, I know, #ComicConProblems). I was already feeling a bit deflated on Sunday morning because I felt like a lot of my time at the con had slipped away from me, but when I checked twitter when I woke up, I saw reports that as of 7:30am there were still plenty of spots for Hall H, and that Benedict Cumberbatch had been a new last-minute addition to the panel. I’M GOING. LET’S DO THIS. LEROYYYYY JENKINSSSSSSSS. I hopped in line, ended up in Hall H with zero problems, and finally got to see Benedict Cumberbatch at a panel for the actual show that I loved seeing him in. The last time I got into Hall H to see Benedict Cumberbatch was for Penguins of Madagascar, a movie I had ZERO interest in, but wanted to see Benny-boo without having to camp out in line for days for the Hobbit panel. GAME DAY DECISION PAID OFF SO HARD.
I think another part of why this year seemed like an off year is that the outside activities were squarely in either the “meh,” or “LOL sorry you’re not getting in” category this year. Petco Interactive was highly underwhelming this year (WTF was with the $2/ride ferris wheel?), but NerdHQ and Adult Swim had a good thing going like they always do, even if they weren’t that different from previous years. I heard that it was near-impossible to get into the Suicide Squad experience if you weren’t in the Samsung express line, and even then it wasn’t worth the wait. Friends told me the Game of Thrones experience this year was also highly disappointing, so I didn’t bother getting in line for that one either. The one that I DID want to go to, but couldn’t because they constantly capped the line was Abigail, the yacht from Fear the Walking Dead. One way or another it was a stark contrast compared to last year, where the outside activities and promotions were amazingly fun, efficiently run, and lots of good quality freebies were being given out.
My swag haul gets lighter and lighter each year as I become more selective about what I grab, but otherwise I’d say it was pretty good! My favorite item is the exclusive Kidrobot Shredder vinyl figure that I found! A reporter was doing a twitter hunt of her own for exclusive Kidrobot vinyls, and I just happened to be nearby when she tweeted out that she was giving out the Shredder vinyls. I busted my ass on over to her location, and I walked out with a shiny new Shredder in my hands. My first thought was “holy shit, so THAT’s what it feels like.” Scavenger hunts are fun, heh.
THE BEST PART. THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY CON. This might have been an off-year for me in terms of the convention itself, but DAMN was this a great year for drops for me. I had a 100% response rate! YASSSSS! This was the first year that I didn’t do any drops inside the convention center, and I think I’ll probably move more towards that trend in the future. There’s better hiding spots outside, and it gives those who don’t have badges a chance to get in on the fun. I think I’ve also finally found the sweet spot in terms of making clues that are just vague enough so that the critters don’t stay in hiding for TOO long, but still long enough where people won’t snatch them up within seconds. Some you have to figure out from text clues, others you might have to zoom in on the photo to find identifying factors. They could always be trickier, but I’d say this year the clues worked out pretty well. Here’s where everyone went:
This one was such a feel-good moment for me. A few weeks before Comic-Con journalist Beatriz Valenzuela contacted me to request for an interview, and to see if she could tag along with me for a drop so she could write a story on it. We met in San Diego on Thursday morning and we were off for the first drop of the con! I scouted out a drop spot for Iron Man – I initially wanted to leave him somewhere near the Game of Thrones experience so I could make some sort of lame joke about the last name Stark, but there were too many people around, so I dumped him off in a planter outside of the Omni. Clearly I did a TERRIBLE job hiding this one, because as soon as I walked away someone came up to check out this little flash of red in the planter. Beatriz was peering around corner and told me “They’ve found it! They’re looking at it…they’re picking it up!” Once the person picked up little Iron Man she went over to speak with them while I stood by around the corner because I’m an awkward monkey like that. Turns out it was a boy and his mother, where the kid was a HUGE Iron Man fan and was super stoked to find little Iron Man! They didn’t have badges, and they come out every year just to explore the outside events, so this was an extra treat for them. Beatriz told me it was smiles all around. Guys, THIS is why I do this. This was also my first time in YEARS that a random passerby had found one of my critters, so that was an added surprise for me! Little Iron Man has found a new home in Mira Mesa, CA!
You can check out the story about little Iron Man’s super-quick hiding stint here.
I also gifted Beatriz a little Spider-Man before we parted ways…she’d mentioned that Spider-Man was her favorite because Peter Parker is also a journalist. I felt it was only appropriate to give her one as a thank-you for the writeup!
GUEST CRITTER: Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy was left in a planter (because OF COURSE she’d be with some plants) outside of Petco Park and has found a new home in Kansas City!
I posted a non-descript picture of hipster zombie behind an iron-wrought fence, with the caption “Zombies, gargoyles and craft beer, oh my!” Stone brewery’s logo is a gargoyle, which would lead you to the Stone Brewery Taproom right next to Petco Park. He’s got a new home in Irvine, CA!
Batman was left in the hand of a statue. He’s got a new home in Fontana, CA! And from a repeat finder, nonetheless! POWER HUNTER STATUS UNLOCKED.
I handed Captain America to a contact of mine who was wearing a Dragon Ball Z shirt. No photo clues, just the text “find the man who’s over 9000 in the adult swim t-shirt line and ask him if he’s from Brooklyn!” I stepped away to scope out the rest of the Adult Swim carnival for seriously just a MINUTE after I posted the clue, and when I went back in line someone had already gotten Captain America! SUPER FAST. Time from clue posting to update tweet was 4 minutes flat, which means he was found even faster than that. I asked my contact how it went, he said when the finder asked if he was from Brooklyn he just handed over Captain America. I told him “You mean you didn’t say ‘I’m not, BUT THIS GUY IS??'” That contact has been suspended from critter drop duties until he can receive further training on doling out cheezy lines. Captain America’s got a new home in San Diego!
GUEST CRITTER: Dr. Strange
Dr. Strange was shoved into the crevice of a statue that conveniently already had a bunch of fliers shoved into it too. He’s got a new home in Toledo, OH!
Rey + BB-8
Rey and BB-8 were planted (hehehe) in a classic hiding spot. I’ve repeated this one annually over the last 3 years. Somewhere in the trees, in this park:
I LOVE this hiding spot. It’s a tricky one, and it’s served me well. Rey and BB-8 were found and have a new non-desert home in San Jose, CA!
Superman crash-landed into a planter outside of a hotel. Thankfully he was rescued and is flying off to his new home in St. Louis!
I had an accomplice help me out with this one! I have a friend who carries a unicorn mask with her, and I KNEW I had to ask her to help for Deadpool (anyone who’s seen the movie will know what I mean by this, ha!). The only clue I posted was a photo of a blue bench and instructions to find the unicorn and tell her “Happy International Women’s Day.” My friend told me Deadpool’s adopter said he’d been waiting 3 years to find a critter! He’s got a new home in Sherman Oaks, CA!
GUEST CRITTER: Poe Dameron
Poe also crash-landed in San Diego (man, all the fliers are having a tough time here) near a plaza (not sure the name of it?). He was found and is going to a new home in Santa Ana, CA!
To be honest I was kind of nervous about this one. I’d put a lot of time into making little Harley, so I didn’t feel comfortable with dumping her off somewhere and walking away. I decided to hand this one off personally, but I’ve spent the last 5 years doing this incognito, so I wasn’t sure how it’d go if I had someone approach me directly. Either way I found a street corner and stood around (like the other kind of hooker, ha!), posted a photo clue to my location, and had instructions for the finder to tell me a joke to get Harley. And guess what? IT WAS AWESOME. Harley Quinn’s finder was super fun and awesome, we chatted, we gave each other hugs, and when a few runner-ups came by they also hung around to chat for a while before we all parted ways. Dammit, I freaking love Comic-Con. The joke? What do you call a camel with 3 humps? PREGNANT. Haaaaaa! Harley Quinn’s got a new home in Redlands, CA!
The convention itself might have been an off-year for me, but the drops were definitely the highlight. Thanks to everyone who hunted for making SDCC a great time for me, and I’ll hope to be back next year!