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Comic-Con: a ride through pop culture, comic books and all things nerd

If you happened to go to San Diego on the final weekend of July, you may have seen Wookies, vampires, ninjas and other pop culture icons roaming the streets and waiting for their turn to get onto the trolley, trying to get to the convention center. There could only be one reason for the sudden swarm of pop culture enthusiasts: Comic Con was in town.

The event, which began in 1990 as a small gathering of comic book lovers in a hotel basement in San Diego, has exploded into a huge event that gets national coverage, and draws over 120,000 people a year to America’s Finest City, selling out early in the year, and leaving those who want to go to the event looking for a way through the convention center’s doors. Even San Diego’s Gaslamp District was transformed, with different shops and restaurants being renovated with comic or movie themes as a way to draw in visitors. It was pretty funny watching the usual partiers in downtown do double takes on costumed visitors.

For those who’ve never been to the event, and aren’t really sure what the appeal is, here’s a quick recap of what draws thousands of people into one location for such a small amount of time.

Celebrity sightings and first views at new movies

At Comic-Con, there’s always the chance to be one of the first to see a celebrity roaming the aisles of the convention center, or that a hot movie star will let you take a photo with them. TV and movie celebrities alike were on hand, either promoting their upcoming projects, or simply taking in the sights of Comic-Con. Just a few of the celebrities that made a quick stop at the event were Joel McHale, Angelina Jolie, Stan Lee, Sylvester Stallone, Zachary Levi, Seth Green and Michael C. Hall.

Also, a large appeal to attending Comic-Con for the lesser-known celebrities is that their avid fans are more than willing to talk about them on blogs, Web sites and chat rooms, helping them get their name out there.

Directors and producers love Comic-Con for the same reason. Movies such as Iron Man were big hits because of the hype and buzz received from Comic-Con, so the importance of being at such an event is evident. Movie execs for Tron, the Avengers and Green Lantern had large booths in the convention center, giving attendants a chance to meet celebrities of the movies and give them a first look at previews.

Celebrity panels are also a big hit, as question and answer forums are set up to give fans a chance to ask directors, actors and creators of their favorite shows and comics all of their big questions. These panels usually involve a long line, but are worth the wait.

Costumes and hard-to-find collectible and comics

Comic-Con attendees are known for being passionate about their favorite movies, comics and shows, and they are not afraid to show just how passionate they are, putting on their homemade, but elaborate costumes. There are also people dressed up in certain styles, such as steam punk, gothic and fantasy, that may not have a specific comic or movie affiliated with it, but still are being influenced by comic books. Merchandise booths allow for fanatics and costumed guests to buy up what they need to make their look complete and give a starting point for people looking to begin wearing certain accessories.

Some of the best costumes were seen at the Comic-Con masquerade, in which participants had their best costumes on, trying to impress guests and judges alike with their costuming abilities.

Rare collectibles and comics are also up for grabs at Comic-Con, with investors and collectors coming from around the world to find that rare item to make their collection complete.

Free swag, or stuff

Comic book, movie and television execs want their hottest commodities to be talked about all year long, and the best way to do that is by getting their merchandise out into the public. Because of this, free comic books, shirts, toys, stickers, water bottles, and other items are literally pushed at people as they walk the aisles. The free stuff, known as swag, is a big part of the fun at Comic-Con, especially if your swag ends up getting signed by a celebrity.

Being surrounded by like-minded people

The biggest and best reason for attending Comic-Con isn’t so much the free stuff, or even getting to meet your biggest celebrity crush. The fun of Comic-Con is being surrounded by happy, like-minded people who want to discuss their favorite topics, while meeting others from around the world that are there to enjoy themselves in one of California’s most exciting cities. This is a place for friends to meet face-to-face after months or years of chatting online, as well as an opportunity to make new friends.

If for some reason you weren’t able to attend the 41st Annual Comic-Con, don’t worry; you can buy the 42nd Annual Comic-Con tickets online soon.

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