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San Diego Comic-Con Wrap Up 2016

Written by: Abel S. Pinedo

July 25th, 2016

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Another incredible Comic Con has drawn to a close. There was so much to do and see that it was hard to experience it all. Even though I know I didn't do as much as I wanted to, which is impossible anyways, I still had five days just jam packed with excitement. Let's take a look.

So there I am on Wednesday, otherwise known as Preview Night. I got my targets picked out. Those of you that know me, know that my number one goal on Preview Night is to get as many exclusives as I can, particularly my Hallmark ornaments. I got really lucky and was in the first wave of people to be let in and with that, the mad scramble was on! I have noticed in recent years that Preview Night has become more and more crowded. Since there are no panels, just a few pilot screenings, there are a lot of people like me who want to get their exclusives on preview night, so as not to have to struggle to get them over the remaining days.

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My next stop on preview night was the incredible Artist Alley. I can't stress enough how I think everyone should visit both the Artist Alley and the Small Press Pavilion. You never know what gems you're going to find. My goal was to pick up a print of a Jawa holding a martini glass by Otis Frampton. Instead of the classic Jawa saying 'Utinni!', he's saying 'Martini!'. A perfect compliment to my home. I also got my token from Super7 to gain access to their offsite store. More on that later. Items secured, it was time to get the lay of the land. I was happy that there were no major changes to the floor plan this year. After visiting a few more booths and making a few mental notes of what was located where, it was time to head out and rest up.

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Thursday morning, the fates shined upon me as I was able to secure a ticket to enter the Hasbro booth. If you've heard the stories then you already know that getting access to the Hasbro Store is akin to finding the lost ark. Best of all, I scored a ticket that granted me first access in the morning. I think I waited a mere twenty minutes. After I scored some amazing exclusives from Hasbro I set off for the Shout Factory booth. Once there I was able to get my exclusive horror movie pin set and pick up an early release of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers Blu Ray.

My panel highlight of the day was the look back at the films of 1986. I make it a point to not miss this panel as it consists of a round table discussion of classic (and not so classic) movies from 30 years ago. Films discussed included Aliens, Labyrinth, Howard the Duck, Back to School, Ferris Bueller's Day Off (including a funny anecdote about Sir Paul McCartney), Top Gun, Highlander, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and so many more. It's such a good panel that I always leave wanting more.

My other highlight of the day was taking part in the X-Men Tomb of Apocalypse experience. Essentially this was a smaller version of an escape room where you have to work in teams to solve clues, lest the reign of Apocalypse begins! It was a lot of fun, not to mention nerve racking as we spent eight minutes solving four different puzzles. Sorry to say though, we didn't win. (Sorry Earth, we tried.) But at least we got free t-shirts! What impressed me was the look and design of the whole set up. This wasn't just a quickie cardboard and wooden facade. One of the designers told me that it took over a month to build and weighed close to one ton! It was all hand crafted and painted to look like an ancient pyramid.

As the day wound down, I made my way back to the exhibit hall floor to visit our friends at Golden Apple Comics and try my luck at their raffle. No big winner here, just a few comics and tchotchkes, but I vowed I'd come back and try again. At the Tokidoki booth, I wanted to buy one of their exclusive shirts but the line was capped for the night. Strike two! Ok, time to head back to the hotel to rest up for day two.

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Friday morning arrived and I was full of energy. My goal was to conquer as much of the exhibit floor as possible. My first stop was the Factory Entertainment booth where Stan Lee was doing a signing in the afternoon. As you might expect the turnout was huge. Despite the massive crowd I was still lucky enough to get a photo of the man himself! After all that excitement I hit the streets for some Friday evening fun. One of the best highlights of the night was seeing Chris Hardwick perform his stand up comedy routine at the Balboa Theater. If you've never seen him in person, you should. His comedy routine is greatly skewered towards the Comic Con crowd. After a late night dinner with my roomies it was off to bed.

Saturday was my day to tackle some of the offsite events around the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego. My day started early and I was first in line for the Super 7 offsite store. I'm a big fan of Super 7 and the retro stuff they've been churning out. After securing exclusive rights to the Masters of the Universe franchise the future definitely looks bright for my favorite retro toy company. Now to gain access to the Super 7 store visitors had to secure the awesome Power Token! I was lucky enough to get one for me, and one for a friend.

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Once I was done with the Super 7 store, it was now time for an art exhibit. Specifically, an exhibit dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. This was a must see event for any Star Trek fan. I even caught a glimpse of Nichelle Nichols, Uhura herself, coming out of the exhibit as I made my way in. Finally, I went to the offsite event hosted by Square-Enix. The Square-Enix experience was designed to promote three of their upcoming video games. The fun atmosphere, cool midday breeze and libations provided for a great experience.

Ok, time to head back to Con. My goal for the afternoon was to check out the panel dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Tomb Raider franchise. All facets of the franchise were discussed, beginning with the first game, then onto the comic books and the revival, a brief touch on the films and up to where the game is today. There have been significant changes to Lara Croft since her first adventure. All of this and more will be detailed in an upcoming book this fall dedicated to the history of Tomb Raider. We got a sneak peak at some of the pages and heard directly from Noah Hughes, the creative director of Crystal Dynamics about what the future holds. We also got to hear from Camilla Luddington who provides the voice and motion capture for the current incarnation of Lara. She talked about the challenges of bringing something new to Lara and trying to differentiate from previous performances. Not to mention how it can be quite challenging to act in the motion capture suit with tiny cameras inches from your face!

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When the panel ended, I made my way back to Golden Apple to try my luck at the raffle again. And I struck out on a major prize again. I did manage to secure the last of the exclusives I was after, the variant cover of Justice League #1 from Golden Apple. Arms weighed down, I dropped my gear at the room and made my way out to an exclusive Happy Hour. Time to hydrate and then turn in.

Sunday. Last day. Time to finish strong! Lots of last minute running around in the morning. Before long, I was standing on the lawn in front of the Bayfront Hotel where FX Network had an offsite event to promote a few of their shows. Side note, it was quite warm this weekend and the free suntan lotion was definitely welcome. The real highlight for me was the American Horror Story Fearless VR Experience. In a nutshell, you enter a room, lay down and are covered with a sheet up to your neck. You wore headphones and a VR headset. What proceeded was five minutes of awesome! You really felt like you were on a gurney being wheeled into a morgue. Then I was buried. Next thing I knew, I was hoisted up and burned at the stake. It really was an immersive experience and one that I would love to do again and again. That was definitely one of highlights of the Con for me.

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I said my final goodbyes to my roomies, had my final lunch in San Diego, and stopped by Golden Apple for one last try at the raffle. Lo and behold, I pulled TWO golden tickets! I won a Tardis bluetooth speaker and a Watchmen hardcover artifact edition. Big winner over here! Knowing that there's no better way to end my Con, it was time to head out.

And that is a wrap on Comic Con 2016! I'm bruised, beaten, tired...and can't wait to do it again. Special thanks to Kevin from the Friends of CCI blog, Joey from Tokidoki, Josh and Luke from Super7, Ryan from Golden Apple Comics, and the many others who helped make my Con experience truly the best. Now, hurry up, Comic Con 2017. I'm waiting for you!

About the Author: Abel S. a.k.a. "Honest Abe" has written reviews for Dark Horizons, JoBlo and MusicTap.  He has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. He can usually be found at his keyboard ranting and rambling about the human condition or watching Beavis & Butthead.