San Diego Comic-Con: The biggest, most rabid onrush of nerd-forward pop culture the Western World has to offer. Badges vanish faster than cheesy poofs from Eric Cartman’s pantry, while securing a hotel room within close proximity of the Convention Center is about as likely as Chewbacca treating himself to a Full Body Wax.
But that doesn’t stop 167,000+ people from gobbling up downtown San Diego in an annual wave of frenzied fandom. Comic-Con manages to expand as each year passes. With “official” exhibition space at a premium, increasing numbers of events and promotions have sprung up in and around the city’s Gaslamp Quarter. Surrounding streets often resemble the Convention Center’s interior; navigating Fifth Avenue leaves one feeling like a blindsided participant in Where’s Waldo: Nerd Edition.
Yes, it’s intense. At times, downright bloody bonkers. But above all else? Comic Con is fun. Downtown San Diego bursts at the seams with spectacle and activity, a good chunk of which can be enjoyed without a pass.
Following much deliberation, I’ve picked 10 highlights from the ocean of extravaganza that is 2016’s Events Schedule. Behold!
Neil DeGrasse Tyson presents Space Odyssey
Science is quite ridiculously cool. Or at least, that’s the case when Neil deGrasse Tyson delves into it. The Cosmos host (who, by the way, is in strong contention for owning the Best Twitter Account Ever) presents Space Odyssey, featuring ultramodern VR events like “NASA’s Journey to Mars,” “The John Wick VR Experience” and more.
It all goes down at the Spa at the Hilton Gaslamp Hotel. Hours:
• Wednesday, July 20: Open Preview: 6:00–9:00 PM
• Thursday, July 21 & Friday, July 22: 9:00 AM–8:00 PM
• Saturday, July 23: 9:00 AM–7:00 PM
• Sunday, July 24: 9:00 AM–5:00 PM
Suicide Squad Off-Site
Fancy getting tattooed at Harley Quinn’s very own parlor? Or how about a VR scuffle against her fellow Suicide Squad members? Ink/brawling fans, get thee to the Hard Rock Hotel, where over 6,000 square feet has been transformed into the Belle Reve penitentiary, home to the “Worst of the Worst.“ For those seeking a memento that isn’t etched into one’s flesh, special photo-ops are available in a recreation of one of the prison’s cells.
Open Thursday – Sunday from 10AM-7PM.
You’ll find more info here.
Coffee & Kitties
A proud and dedicated Cat Lady (who just happens to be a bloke), I can so get behind the idea of escaping lines and crowds to relax at The Cat Café. For $15, kitty-loving caffeine cravers score themselves a drink or food item plus 30 minutes of playtime with friendly cats from San Diego’s Humane Society.
Space is limited, and as occasionally hinted at by the Internet, cats are popular. So be sure to reserve a spot ahead of time!
Vikings Vipers Den
Pissing off a Viking: not recommended. These Norse seafarers were quite the connoisseurs of pain and suffering, with select enemies unlucky enough to meet their grisly demise via a snake pit. For a Comic-Con experience decidedly less delightful than the Cat Café, History Channel is offering fans opportunity to face the “raw fear of being surrounded by real snakes in a dark, dank abyss with no immediate escape.” Better yet, those brave/bonkers enough to enter the den will “have their screams and writhing captured on camera in shareable rapid gifs. Survivors will receive a Vikings Viper Cuff as a token of their triumph over death.”
I wonder if History Channel is also available for children’s parties…
San Diego Convention Center, Booth #4215 Details here.
THURSDAY, JULY 21ST
Final Fantasy Symphony
Final Symphony, the award-winning concert featuring music from the Final Fantasy video game series, kicks off its official North American tour at Comic Con. Taking place at San Diego Symphony’s Jacobs Music Center, the concert features the sounds of composers Nobuo Uematsu and Masashi Hamauzu in full, astounding orchestral suites.
Orchestral overtures not your thing, eh? Fear not, metalheads—Slayer has got you sorted! Having announced a three-issue series of comic books to be published by Dark Horse, Slayer will play a special live performance at the House of Blues. The legendary thrash band is also signing on Friday with Dark Horse Comics (booth #2615) and Nuclear Blast Records (booth #501).
FRIDAY, JULY 22ND
Ghostbusters Mass Hysteria Fan Party
Bustin’ makes you feel good, but can it top an all-day Ghostbusters extravaganza at the Werewolf Bar? Returning for their 3rd annual Mass Hysteria party, Ghostbusters fans present this mighty schedule of events:
• 8am-1pm: Ghostbusters Brunch, hard night of getting slimed, come on in and relax and enjoy good food and Drinks.
• 2pm-4pm: Jr. Ghostbusters and Buster families. The family that busts together, stays together. Ghostbuster Grab Bag for the first 40 Kids. Photo ops with On Duty Ghostbusters in full gear. Also enjoy good food and cool beverages.
• 4pm-6pm: Ghostbuster Happy Hour, Ghostbusters in full gear, (flight suit also acceptable) get special drink prices for all the hard busting that you do “It’s Miller Time”.
• 6pm- till close: “Mass Hysteria” Licensing partners Q&A throughout the night, Giveaways from Ghostbuster licensing partners, 80’s Music, Ghostbuster themed food and beverages, and some other surprises. Prepare for a disaster of biblical proportions! Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes… The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… MASS HYSTERIA!
The event is free, open to all ages until 9:00pm, then 21+. Entry will be first come, first served. More here.
Game of Thrones panel and Q&A session (Hall H)
Sigh. The wait until summer of 2017 to see seven more episodes of Game of Thrones will be a long one. Helping bridge the cavernous void is the show’s official Comic Con panel, featuring cast members John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton), Liam Cunningham (Ser Davos Seaworth), Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei), Conleth Hill (Varys), Faye Marsay (The Waif), Kristian Nairn (Hodor), and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark). GoT director Michael Sapochnik and executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss will also appear on the panel, moderated by Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).
• Panel: Hall H, 2:15pm – 3:15pm
• Signing: Warner Bros. booth (#4545), 4:15pm
SATURDAY, JULY 23RD
Pokemon Go! Meet Up
Pokemon Go! has seen cell phone owners embark on the most frenzied hunt for otherworldly creatures since the introduction of Tinder. So why not nab yourself a few more trophies at Comic Con? Balboa Park has an initial meet-up scheduled for 12pm on Saturday, with more gatherings set to follow.
Keep an eye on the group’s Facebook page for updates.
Fancy yourself as something of an undead make-up artist? Reckon you can grunt and groan with the very best of ‘em? Add to the mix some sinister shuffling across the streets of San Diego and you’ll be set to join this year’s Zombiewalk! It’s kinda like an ominous conga line. Only with more brain-devouring undead abominations.
The walk kicks off in the Gaslamp Quarter at 6PM, with the exact location to be announced on its official Facebook page.
SUNDAY, JULY 24TH
Sailor Moon Cosplay Gathering
Sadly for Comic-Con goers, I’ll be taking a break from my Sailor Moon cosplay this year. There’ll be no shortage of others partaking, though, with a gathering set to take place on Sunday outside of Hall H.
No badge required, with more information on the group’s Facebook page.
See you on the other side, brave attendees!