17 Cool Things to Check out at Comic-Con Aside From the Obvious


Well, it’s that time of the year again, where droves of nerds descend upon San Diego to what in exceedingly long lines in ungodly heat for even a glimpse of some really cool collectible or footage from the latest comic book film in development, all while munching on overpriced food…god, I wish I was actually going there.

Instead, I am sadly stuck back here in Canada. But quite possibly befitting my apparent status as a Comic Con outcast, it is my duty to showcase the more miscellaneous bits of Comic Con to check out, the stuff beyond the obvious film, television, and collectible news and panels. What kind of stuff, you may ask? Well, come on in to see what else SDCC will be offering this year, from offsite events to the kinds of panels that just didn’t fit into any other definable category.

1. The FX Fearless Arena


Honestly, most of the more notable offsite events at Comic Con this year are repeats from last year. There’s The Walking Dead Escape happening on the 10th and 11th, the Assassin’s Creed Obstacle Course happening throughout the show, and The Nerdist’s Battleborn Laser Tag (previously known as Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Laser Tag), also happening throughout the whole show. I already wrote about these events last year, so if you want more info, you can can check out my previous words.

One seemingly new addition to the events caught my eye, though, and that would be the FX Fearless Arena, largely because it appears to boast a more unique lineup of attractions to check out. There’s a virtual reality mission from The Strain where you escape vampires, a giant inflatable Fargo snow globe for you to briefly live out your Minnesota-accented fantasies in, medieval duels to help promote their upcoming show The Bastard Executioner, and something to do with American Horror Story that they honestly don’t seem to be that clear on. It all sounds like a blast, with the only flaw being the lack of an FXX attraction as well that involves a full replica of Paddy’s Pub.

(Hilton San Diego Bayfront Lawn, Opposite Hall H, July 9th from 12:00 AM to 6:00 PM, July 10th and 11th from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and July 12th from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM)

2. The Blockade Runner Display


In a tribute to Oscar winner and special effects master Grant McCune, the actual Blockade Runner miniature will be on display at Comic Con. Yes, the very first ship seen in the opening of Star Wars, the iconic creation that thrilled a nation and helped craft one of the most defining moments of science fiction, will be available for you to see in person with your very own eyes. In addition, several pieces of Grant’s other work will be there, such as…the Eagle 5 Winnebago from Spaceballs?? Oh, HELL yes. Sorry, Blockade Runner, but as awe-inspiring as you are, you no longer the most important thing on display here.

(Booth #1605, July 9th to July 12th)

3. The Villain Pub


How It Should Have Ended comes to Comic Con, and brings the Villain Pub with them! So come drop by for special events such as costume contests, workshop panels, a Q&A, and the premiere of How It Should Have Ended: Jurassic World. And it sure as hell beats hanging out at that diner across the street, where you can’t seem to avoid that one dick who keeps growling his name.

(Henry’s Pub, July 8th to July 12th, with the Q&A and HISHE: Jurassic World premiere happening on the 9th at 4:00 PM, the Happy Hour and costume contest on the 10th at 4:00 PM, and the workshop happening on the 11th at 2:00 PM)

4. Up, Up and Away: 75th Anniversary of the 1940 Premiere of the Superman Radio Series


Per usual, there are a lot of events at Comic Con celebrating the events of various popular franchises. But a discussion about the anniversary of the old Superman radio serials seems particularly interesting, as several comic book luminaries including Mark Waid and Len Wein talk about the program that gave birth to classic Superman staples and characters such as Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and kryptonite. And maybe they’ll discuss how these old programs helped take down a chunk of the Ku Klux Klan as well. Seriously, if a fictional superhero show can pull that off in real life, it damn well deserves to be honored somehow.

(Room 29AB, July 9th from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM)

5. A Rare Chit Chat: Past and Future


So I guess it’s no surprise that this event just happened to pop up after Rare Replay became one of the biggest surprises to come out of E3 this year. But now that gamers everywhere have a bunch of Rare’s most classic titles on their minds again, this would indeed be the perfect time to take a look back at the origins and development of these games as presented by a variety of seasoned Rare developers. As for the “Future” part of the show, I assume that might include a possible look at Rare’s new IP, Sea of Thieves…which will no doubt be interrupted by people in the audience demanding where Banjo-Threeie and a new Battletoads game are.

(Ballroom 20, July 9th from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM)

6. Creating Multiplayer Worlds: Storytelling in MMOs and MOBAs


This is kind of a coincidence, seeing as how this actually relates to an upcoming subject I have planned for our next Robotic Gaming Monthly column (which will be delayed by a week this month due to Comic Con coverage such as this, ironically)…which also means that I can’t really say much about why this discussion is one to check out without spoiling my own future opinions. I will say that this does involve various important figures from Blizzard, Riot Games, and ArenaNet discuss the challenges in creating successful stories, worlds and characters that capture the hearts of enough gamers to ensure a deluge of fan art every time a new League of Legends champion is announced, so yeah, I’d say this might be worth taking a look at.

(Room 29AB, July 10th from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM)

7. Rise of Aqua(wo)man


Umm…you know what, I’m just going to let the official description for this one speak for itself…

“As millions have seen via free diving videos on YouTube, humans have never been closer to becoming aquatic beings, reminiscent of the ideal set by Atlanteans like Aquaman, Namor, and other subsea heroes. The world record for breath holding is now an astonishing 22 minutes, thanks to the efforts of coaches like Kirk Krack (founder, Performance Freediving International), and thanks to breakthroughs in physiology and technology, there are now humans like panelist Mandy-Rae Krack (world champion free-diver and record-holder) who have descended to 289 feet on one breath. Moderator Steve Broback (co-founder, Dent the Future) will discuss with panelists how divers are living undersea for extended periods, how science is extending the abilities of humans, and what tips and techniques can make us all a bit more like Aquaman.”

Soooo…yeah, it’s basically about how human beings can turn into Aquaman.

I…I have nothing else to add to this.

Except that Guybrush Threepwood is still the king of holding one’s breath underwater in my eyes, dammit.

(Room 7AB, July 10th from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM)

8. Stunt People of Your Favorite Movies a.k.a. Getting Beat Up For A Living


Considering that our own LYT has gone on the record mentioning the importance of spectacular stunt work and how it should even be honored by the Academy, it only seems proper to showcase a part of Comic Con where you can listen to stuntmen from Jurassic World, 300, Iron Man 2 and more talk about their experiences in such a thrilling area of work and how a lot of stunts go down. Plus, you really just can’t ignore anything with an alternate title such as that. It’s a fact.

(Grand Ballroom D at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, July 10th from 4:15 PM to 5:15 PM)

9. Care Bears and Madballs: A Look Back and A Look Ahead


Okay, I’ve noticed a lot of panels and events at this year’s show where two or more different franchises owned by one company essentially have to share the same space (because we apparently had to make room for 27 different discussions about steampunk), like Regular Show and Uncle Grandpa taking up one program together. But with that said, I still don’t know why Care Bears and Madballs are together here, save for the link of them both being ’80s toys…unless we’re getting some Care Bears-themed Madballs out of this, which ought to be a sight. But what we also have is look at the pasts of both of these franchises and a look to their future, which includes new comic books from Lion Forge in what I presume is an attempt to try and Friendship is Magic the hell of these ’80s relics. Still, a lot of you are probably nostalgic for Madballs and/or kind of want to bizarrely see these two together again, so here’s your chance.

(Room 8, July 10th from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM)

10. Queer Representation in All-Ages and Youth Media


I’ll be honest in that a good chunk of what drew my attention to this panel is the fact that it apparently combines Lumberjanes and Steven Universe in one place, which my brain is hardwired to immediately notice and not resist. But in all seriousness, with LGBT relationships and characters becoming more common in all-ages entertainment such as the titles mentioned, a discussion on how to represent such a movement and how to properly present it to younger crowds is definitely something that warrants our attention. Plus, Lumberjanes and Nimona writer Noelle Stevenson will be a panelist, which is always a plus.

(Room 28DE, July 10th from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM)

11. Super Video Game Land at Mission Brewery


Local San Diego artist Anthony Bulcao celebrates the golden age of video games in the ’80s and ’90s with over fifty unique works of art paying tribute to the pixelated titles of our youth, all available for purchase (and quite impressive, from what I can tell), and all topped off with a musical performance by popular rapper and chiptune artist Mega Ran. Plus, beer! Yayyy!!!

(Mission Brewery, July 10th from 6:00 PM to 12:00 AM)

12. Your Opinion Sucks!: Rotten Tomatoes Critics vs. Fans


Like the title says, what we have here is a showdown as the editors of Rotten Tomatoes take suggestions from the audience concerning their favorite movies and TV shows and discuss them, and then the fans reply with their own scores via “Personal Tomatometer Paddles” to compare with the opinions of the critics. No word on whether or not actual tomatoes will be involved and flung around, or if our own LYT will be joining (and what side he’ll take), but if the answer to both is “Yes” then consider this a can’t-miss event. [Sadly I have never been invited to this one, but they usually manage to corral some awesome friends of mine – LYT] For bonus points, when they’re taking suggestions, shout “Sucker Punch!” and then leave before the opinions come in and the brawl breaks out.

(Room 5AB, July 10th from 7:30 PM to 8:30 PM)

13. Welcome to Night Vale: The Novel


Going to be honest here, I have no real idea what the hell Welcome to Night Vale is beyond the basic fact that it’s a podcast about a fictional town called Night Vale that involves the surreal and paranormal. But I still know that it’s really damn popular amongst a lot of you, and now there’s a book on the way as well, so I figured it’d be best to let you know that the show’s producers and writers will be talking about the new novel here as well. You’re welcome.

(Room 9, July 10th from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM)

14. The Kaiju Kingdom Podcast


It’s an entire live podcast devoted to all things kaiju-related with free gifts. If I need to actually say anything more about why you should attend something like this, then clearly there is something wrong with those of you in the audience.

(Neil Morgan Auditorium at the San Diego Central Library, July 11th from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM)

15. Storytelling in the 21st Century


Come join legendary video game designer Will Wright (creator of The Sims, SimCity, Spore and other titles) as he discusses how advances in interactive technology over the years allows people to come up with even more unique methods of both telling and sharing the stories that they come up with. You know, like the story you crafted in The Sims about a family of nudists who all died in their own bedroom after the door mysteriously vanished. In all seriousness, I welcome any unique discussion about video game narratives, so yeah, I definitely suggest taking a look here.

(Room 26AB, July 11th from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM)

16. The Art of Japanese Video Game Design


Learn about the artwork behind some of the most popular Japanese video games from none other than Gochi Suda, AKA Suda51, AKA one of the nuttiest game designers and auteurs in the business. Suda will essentially be showing everyone how to make one’s video game stand out from all the rest, and as the man behind Killer 7, No More Heroes, Lollipop Chainsaw and more, it’s safe to say that he definitely has a lot of experience in that area. This is followed up by a Q&A with Suda, where he might possibly discuss his upcoming game Let It Die…which now that I think about it, was curiously absent from E3, so even more reason to grill him about it.

(Room 8, July 12th from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM)

17. Growing Galaxies: The Star Citizen Story


Aside from the fact that I am required to mention this discussion in order to appease the guy in the comments who won’t stop bringing up Star Citizen at every opportunity whenever I write something about upcoming video games, this is your chance to see the team behind one of the most ambitious space sims ever in person, and get a first look at the latest developments in a game with over $84 million of crowdfunding money behind it (needless to say, let’s hope all of these developments are worth it).

(Room 7AB, July 12th from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM)

…So those are some of the many miscellaneous programs and activities to check out at this year’s San Diego Comic Con (which involved a lot more video game-related stuff than usual, I noticed). Did we miss anything? Well, of course we did; we naturally can’t cover every single thing that will be happening there. But if you know of something else going down at SDCC 2015 that deserves additional attention, just shout it out in the comments for others to look at, and happy Comic Con to all! Good luck out there!

Previously by Kyle LeClair:

The 30 Best Games of E3 2015
6 Reasons Nintendo Should Make More Games Like Splatoon
50 Songs That Should Be In Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live
6 Reasons Grim Fandango Still Holds Up As One of the Greatest Games Ever