Comic Con 2015: 130,000 fans arrive like Game of Thrones White Walkers on the US’s biggest pop-culture rally

Tim Walker was in San Diego to see the hordes catch a glimpse of new footage from Batman vs Superman, or the cast of the original Star Wars films reunited

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The Independent US

They arrived like White Walkers invading Westeros: 130,000 superhero nerds and sci-fi nuts, fantasy fanboys and gaming geeks, Trekkies, Warsies and Jon Snow truthers, descending on the San Diego Convention Centre this weekend for the annual pop-culture bonanza known as Comic-Con. Some came for the headline acts: a glimpse of new footage from Batman vs Superman, or the cast of the original Star Wars films reunited four decades on. Others came to spend all weekend watching Japanese anime movies, or to fill their deep complimentary swag bags with merch.

Me? I came to see what all the fuss was about. After negotiating the labyrinthine ticketing process and booking the last hotel room in San Diego, I had to join a half-mile queue just to pick up my pass. But hey, queuing is Comic-Con’s core activity. There’s a queue to get your photo taken with a speeder bike from the new Star Wars; there’s a queue to have Hobbit ears applied by make-up artists; there’s a queue to get a comic signed by the venerable Stan Lee. Wear comfortable shoes.

 

Some of the longest queues are for collectible memorabilia. The Texas art gallery Mondo commissions beautiful fan art and attracts a long line of buyers for its limited- edition movie posters. A commotion on the morning of 9 July turned out to be caused not by the arrival of Jennifer Lawrence, but by the opening of the Funko store, which sells rare, Comic-Con-only versions of its plastic pop-culture toys. A young man with two vast bags filled with Funko exclusives drew a crowd of jealous admirers. How much had he spent? “About $1,500,” he said with a shrug.

Comic-Con contains multitudes, but there’s one stark choice to be made: should you spend most of your long weekend queuing to gain entry to the hallowed Hall H – the 6,500-capacity venue where the blockbuster movies and shows make their presentations? Many of those who hoped to secure a seat at the Lucasfilm presentation on Friday night were already camped out by Thursday lunchtime. When I asked Peter Sciretta, editor of Slashfilm.com, for Comic-Con advice, he said: “Get into Hall H somehow, and stay there all day.”

But then, Star Wars: Episode VII will be out in a mere six months’ time and I’ll see it then; there’s so much else at Comic-Con that I can see only here and now. As we waited for the doors to open on Wednesday evening, I turned to a convention veteran named Larry. What were his top Comic-Con tips, I wondered? “If you’re buying comics as an investment, only buy pre-1970,” Larry told me. “And take plenty of pictures of the cosplay girls.”

Cosplay – “costume play” or fancy dress to the uninitiated – is so ubiquitous at Comic-Con that I did a double-take at a gaggle of San Diego cops, mistaking them for Judge Dredd impersonators. For a single Instagram shot, I managed to gather two Pokémons, a Mayor McCheese, Jar Jar Binks, TARS (the robot from Interstellar) and Kermit the Frog. There are a lot of blokes dressed as the Joker, and a lot of women dressed as Princess Leia in the gold bikini.

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Harrison Ford joined Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher to promote the new Star Wars film, scheduled for release in December (AP)

My first panel was for Amazon’s Hand of God, a new drama series starring Ron Perlman, a Comic-Con favourite thanks to his role as the title character in Hellboy and Hellboy 2. The room erupted in applause when someone asked him if there would ever be a third. “We owe the world a finale to Hellboy,” he said. “I don’t wanna do Hellboy 4 or 5. I just wanna finish the fucking trilogy.”

For Perlman, though, TV today is a more fulfilling medium than movies – and at least as popular. The panels for Game of Thrones and Walking Dead are hot tickets, while the billboards plastered on buildings close to the convention centre are for shows such as The Strain, The Last Ship and Minority Report, a series based on the 2002 Steven Spielberg film.

Later, I head for a panel for Supermansion, an animated comedy series about a league of washed-up superheroes led by the geriatric Titanium Rex, who is voiced by Bryan Cranston in his first small-screen project since Breaking Bad. An audience member asked Cranston what superpower he’d like to have once he reaches Rex’s advanced age. “I hope when I get that old I can control my bladder,” Cranston replied. He’s a Comic-Con natural.

In contrast Scott Snyder, the comics writer currently responsible for the Batman series, was out of sync with the mood when he said during a DC Comics panel that he “hates knowing anything” about superhero films before they come out. He might be the only person at Comic-Con who feels that way; everyone else is camping overnight just to see some spoilers.

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Batman and the Joker (one each of many) at Comic Com (Reuters)

Ridley Scott’s next movie, The Martian, stars Matt Damon as an astronaut who accidentally gets left behind on Mars by his crewmates. One of the nerdiest panels of the convention included Andy Weir, the author of the bestseller on which it is based; Victor Glover, a young astronaut who might be one of the first real humans on Mars; and Todd May, a top Nasa engineer building the rocket to put him there.

It says something about the power of Comic-Con that May, wearing a Star Trek T-shirt, seemed more excited about having just seen Adam Nimoy, the son of the late Leonard Nimoy (Mr Spock) than about sending men to Mars.

“I am so geeked out to be here,” he said. You and me both, Todd.

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