Tales From a San Diego Comic Con Newbie
This was my first year at Comic Con. I can say right now that I will be returning next year and getting there a day early to boot. It was quite an experience and one that I suggest everyone have if you are into Comics, Star Wars or Toys. This is my tale of newbness at SDCC 2006.
I had heard about Comic Con for years but always thought it was for...well guys into Comics. I heard they had toys, but didn't really realize how many toys until I kept reading from multiple sources that the San Diego Comic Con was one of the big events for toys. Huh? I think due to the growing popularity of toys, Comic Con is now 1/3 toys. Given the size of Comic Con, that's A LOT of toys. Furthermore, many toy manufacturers large and small use SDCC as the place to release exclusive toys, versions and variants. This is why I wanted to go. I wanted exclusive toys. Stuff you can't get anywhere else. Many of the toys will only be sold at SDCC and no where else at any other time, excluding the aftermarket of course. I heard there are some guys that make the LIVING buying as many exclusive toys as they can and re-selling them for 3x, 4x on eBay. I believe it. If I was to sell everything I bought, I would easily double my money. But it's not like you can go up to every vendor and say: "I'll take 2 pallets of those toys". No, many times, you're very lucky to get even one exclusive toy.
SDCC officially begins with Preview night on Wednesday and the show floor opens to the public on Thursday and runs through Sunday. I made the mistake of flying in on Friday morning around 11:30am. I should have come in Wednesday afternoon and avoided the crowds. I rented a car, which is a good thing because like Los Angeles, most people drive in San Diego. My second mistake was parking at Qualcomm Stadium and taking the trolley car to the Convention Center. On paper, this sounded like a good idea because parking is free, but what I didn't realize is how far Qualcomm Stadium is from the Convention Center. It took an extra 45-minutes to get to the show! At this point I was pissed. From the time I landed to the time I actually got to the show, 2 freakin hours had passed! My only and I mean only saving grace was that I had pre-registered with a Press Pass.
So I'm in the show with my fancy press credentials (which no one cares about anyways) and I enter the hall. I'm blown away. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't been to the San Diego Convention Center, but this hall is HUGE and utterly GINORMOUS! This single hall, which is ranked the 20th largest in North America, has close to 526,000 square feet of contiguous floor space. It's 1,910 feet long, which is SIX football fields end to end and it's as wide as ONE football field! You can fit almost 3,000 10 x 10 booths in here! This thing can accommodate 50,000 people sitting down and was able to handle over 100,000 Comic Con attendees over the four day period. It's an amazing facility and the largest show that I believe I have ever attended. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is similar in scale, but because that show is divided into several different halls, the enormity is not as obvious. If you were to walk from one end to the other without stopping and if it wasn't crowded with people, it would still probably take 20 minutes. With the throngs of fans, especially on Saturday, it could take up to an hour just to cross the floor without stopping. It's so big that when you get to an area you like, you generally stick around for a bit. There is no "circling around" the show floor – it's just not efficient.
Similar to the video game show E3 which is housed in Los Angeles every year, SDCC had a lot of big name manufacturers like Hasbro and what not that spent A LOT of money on their booths. It's quite overwhelming to the senses: lights, bells, whistles and freakdom at every angle. I have to say that there was a definite lack of booth babes when compared to E3. However, there were porn stars that had their own booths to sign autographs and pictures of themselves (in better times) that somewhat made up for it (actually, not really – porn stars never look as good in person as they do in films or magazine).
I think any veteran SDCC attendee will tell you that having a plan mapped out before arriving is a must. Although it seems like work (and it is), it's critical to your toy success to know where all the booths you want to visit are, and more importantly, know what day and time those exclusive toys are going to be released and hopefully signed by the toy designer themselves. Your plan will also vary depending on what kinds of toys you are in the market for. If you are looking for vintage Star Wars toys, then you can forget about all the toy exclusives and focus solely on the umteen booths that have every kind of vintage Star Wars toys you could want and them some. Either way, a solid plan will save you time and money on the long run.
The really good news is that there is something for EVERYONE at Comic Con. No matter what you're into, you will find it at Comic Con. Toys, comics, Star Wars, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, etc. Except Star Trek. Those guys get their own convention, so there wasn't alot of Star Trek around. There are hundreds if not thousands of vendors and artists at this massive show willing to take your money at every turn. The interesting thing is that for many of these vendors, there is so much demand that fans will wait in really, really long lines to get an exclusive toy or signature. One of the more interesting activities that I witnessed was the "yearbook" effect. These damn clever kids would take their $50 and buy a blank Dunny, Munny or whatever figure. A Solid white figure / blank canvas. They then waited in these lines to get all these ultra-hip fashionista artists to doodle and sign their figures. It was quite cool to see because naturally each artist wants to somewhat outdo the other artists that had doodled on the figure. I saw some really amazing little drawings and faces from several well-know designers. In the end, the kid has a one-of-a-kind figure signed by all these famous artists!
Set your priorities before you arrive at the show. If there are certain figures that you know you want to buy, hit those vendors first, commit your cash and secure the toys. Reason being is that especially with the exclusive figures, they won't be around for long so don't think there are thousands of these toys to go around. There aren't. There were plenty of guys complaining that by the time they got to so and so booth, the toys were sold out. Yes, this does mean that you will have to lug your haul around the show, but it's worth the piece of mind that you actually have the toys in hand. Alternatively, you can utilize the onsite shipping service, which will mail back all your stuff to your home. I probably should have done this, but I really didn't want my toys out of my sight!
If you complete your priority shopping, then the pressure is off and you can relax a bit and enjoy the show and settle in for the spontaneous toy shopping. This would be the toys that are not on your priority list. Maybe you have never seen them before, maybe you have- but not in person. Some of the best toy discoveries are in the spontaneous mode where you see something new, which catches your eye, and you pick it up. I was able to score the secret figure from the DA Junior Gorilla series and had the artist Tim Tsui sign it personally! No waiting in line!
By this time, your priority toys are secured, you have found some spontaneous toys and now you're hungry. Although you will be tempted to stay on the floor and eat the food at the snack bar inside the show, AVOID the food at all costs. I kid you not. I had the WORST cheeseburger in my life at Comic Con. This is a bold statement as i've had some really bad burgers - especially the ones they give you in elementary school! Worse, it was like $9 for this monstrosity. The fries were not bad and my only saving grace. Do yourself a favor and as risky as you may think it is, go ahead and leave the show for lunch. Just make sure to do this after you have completed your priority toy shopping. I had one of the best turkey sandwiches across from the convention center at this little deli. For the same $9 bucks, you get a really fresh sandwich, chips, fruit, drink and a cookie! How can you go wrong?!
One of the highlights of the show was definitely Sideshow Toys. I'm not sure how long these guys have been around, but they sure make a quality figure. It's actually really hard to call them toys. I would say they are very high-end figures. The prices for the size of figure that you get relative to other toys at the show are not bad. $300 for a really large premium sized figure is not unreasonable at all. The quality, sculpt and paint jobs on these things are really connoisseur level. These are collector pieces and not something you would give your kids to play around with. They are meant to be displayed and oogled from a distance to capture all of the sweet majesty of these works of art.
It was here at the Sideshow booth that I met up with El Presidente himself, Frank Patz Batista. We have never met in person so it was really cool to do so finally. He definitely looks younger than he sounds over the phone. Even though you can see his picture on Eternal Collector, he looks even younger than that. He looked like he was having a blast and being invited to all the super cool parties and after-events. You can bet all these vendors and attendees read Eternal Collector! He told me he picked up the Jabba the Hut set from Sideshow which includes the fat man himself, the throne and Princess Leia in the sex slave outfit for around $500? Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Yes. What did I end up getting from Sideshow? Well, I really, really, really wanted this Iron Man statue. You have to see it in person to really appreciate the scale of this bad boy. It's gotta be two feet wide! I mean it's bigger than my newborn! At around $300, not a terrible deal when you think of it as a work of art. The metallic flake paint scheme was unbelievable. These pictures with the glass and the crappy light don't do it justice at all. Sideshow had a ton of Terminator figures including a life-size metal skeletal version with blue LED's that rocked! It would make the perfect door man! They also showed off the gun ships from Terminator 2 as well. Essentially, these are movie props. You could easily start filming with any of these figures. They are that detailed.
One of the other booths that I spent a fair bit of time at was Kaching Brands. These guys produce toys with a number of artists and have some really cool and interesting toys coming out. It appeared that 12" figures might be coming back in popularity (maybe they never went out of vogue?). Kaching brands showed off some very detailed and really cool prototypes of a series of 12" figures featuring the Dragon himself Bruce Lee. They showed his likeness from several different movies including Enter the Dragon and Game of Death (notice the yellow track suit that Tarentino paid homage to in Kill Bill)
After 2 days of sheer toy madness, I left exhausted and completely broke, but with my toy appetite almost satisfied. There are still more toys to buy, but i'm saving up for next year when we can hit it all over again.
There are more stories to be told about San Diego Comic Con, but for that, you will have to go to toybotstudios.blogspot.com to read more!