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Comic-Con Invades San Diego

Convention Scheduled July 18 - July 21

Above: San Diego Comic-Con International.

Aired 7/18/13 on KPBS News.

Just ahead of Comic-Con day one, KPBS Morning Edition's Deb Welsh talks with KPBS arts reporter — and longtime Comic-Con attendee — Beth Accomando.

— The 43rd Comic-Con officially kicks off today with more than 130,000 people converging on San Diego for North America’s largest pop-culture convention. Long-time attendee KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando spoke with KPBS Morning Edition's Deb Welsh.

Q: Beth, you were at Comic-Con’s preview night last night. What was it like, and how did the crowds compare to previous years?

A: I don’t think the numbers have changed but it felt surprisingly less crowded. What seems to be different is that the floor plan for the exhibit hall has changed. The aisle ways feel more spacious and more importantly the heavy traffic booths for Hollywood and video gaming that used to all be at the far end of the exhibit floor toward Hall H have been split up. Hollywood booths still dominate the area around Hall E but gaming has moved toward Hall A. The result is a crowd that is more spread out, and some of the folks in Artist Alley and Small Press are hoping that this will create more foot traffic for them.

Q: Last night attendees focused on grabbing Comic-Con exclusives from places like Hasbro and Mattel. But today the 600 hours of programming goes into full gear. What do attendees have to look forward to?

A: TV shows are extremely popular this year possibly eclipsing movies. According to the Comic-Con’s scheduling app, Game of Thrones (Friday, July 19 at 2:50 p.m.) The Walking Dead (Thursday, July 18 at 4:15 p.m.), and ABC’s new Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Friday, July 19 at 1:45 p.m.) are the most popular panels in terms of who is signing up for them. This is followed by interest in the comic book inspired sequels to Thor and Captain America (Saturday, July 20 at 6 p.m.) and a new Kick-Ass movie (Friday, July 19 at 12:15 p.m.).

Q: These are the big panels in Hall H and Ballroom 20. Are there any smaller panels you’d recommend?

A: Well, as a zombie fan, I got a kick out of a panel that was at WonderCon and that gets an encore tonight, it’s called "Not Guilty Due to Zombification” (Thursday, July 18 at 8 p.m.). This is put on by the groups Law and the Multiverse and Broadcast Thought, a group of lawyers and doctors that join forces for a panel and mock trial about zombies, psychiatry, and the law. Here’s what Dr. Vasilis Pozios has to say about it:

"We had an idea to do a mock trial for quite some time but using a zombie really is the ideal fictional character to conduct a mock trial when you are dealing with the issue of not guilty by reason of insanity. And that’s because a zombie essentially isn’t conscious of what they are doing when they are out eating brains."

Q: Any other highlights?

A: A couple of old standbys that are always worth checking out are Quick Draw, cartooning improve, and Starship Smackdown (Sunday, July 21 at 3:30 p.m.), a geekfest about what ship and what captain is best. On Friday evening there are panels on Japanese and Korean comics, and the video game Assassins Creed has taken over the Star of India and sailed it behind the convention center. Plus there is a Godzilla Encounter just a few blocks form the Con.

Q: Comic-Con sold out back in February. Is there anything that San Diegans who didn’t get tickets can do and still feel a part of the pop culture excitement?

A: Well anyone can see the Star of India and there are a number of Gaslamp businesses that have been taken over by companies for the next four days and themed to things like gaming. There is also Gam3rCon, a convention geared towards gamers who were not able to get into Comic-cCon. Here’s co-founder and chairman Brian Bielawski.

"We love Comic-Con, it’s such an amazing event and they’ve just reached a size capacity and some of the smaller venders who would really love to be a part of it, don’t get a chance to get in on the action and so that was one of the reasons that we went forward with Gam3rCon because we felt like it was was a way for them to still reach the crowd, the Comic-Con crowd, the geek crowd, in San Diego."

Q: So where is this at?

A: It’s at 10th Avenue Theater which is within walking distance of Comic-Con and even gets Comic-Con attendees, says co-founder Walter Meyer.

"And a lot of people show up with their lanyards on from Comic-Con and that’s why we actually invented the button system because you’re already wearing one thing just give them something we can stick on that and then it is people who have no interest in what Comic-Con has become with the Hollywood scene and things like that and all they want to do is game, when I started going to Comic-Con, ten years ago, people were playing games in the upstairs hallways, that’s not possible any more because it’s too crowded."

Q: Any last tips?

A: Plan ahead, be prepared for lines and enjoy the company of fellow geeks as you wait, and keep plenty of water and snack with you at all times in case you get stuck in line longer than you expect. And as always check out artists alley and small press.

Comic-Con runs through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center.

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