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Posted at 11:25 AM ET, 07/24/2008

Five Things to Know About Walking the Exhibit Hall Floor

By Jen Chaney

If you've never been to Comic-Con, then you haven't had the distinct pleasure of entering the Exhibit Hall, a place not unlike the floor at a typical trade show. If, you know, that trade show featured super-sized statues of Jabba the Hut and grown men lining up to play "Lego Batman."

During last night's preview night, Liz and I joined the Comic-Con masses to storm the Exhibit Hall floor, checking out thousands of booths where purveyors of pop culture were promoting and selling their products, from Dwight Schrute bobbleheads to backcopies of "The Watchmen" from the early '80s. It was an eye-popping, body-jostling, swag-filled journey. And naturally, we learned a few things. If you're making your novice trek to Comic-Con this weekend or are just Comic-Con-curious, here are five things to know about the Exhibit Hall experience.


People will go nuts for free stuff. ANY free stuff. The swag force is strong among the Comic-Con faithful. If any booth is giving something away, everyone wants it. The Wonder Woman bag mentioned in today's Morning Mix was a natural hit. But I even witnessed two separate incidents at the Walt Disney booth in which people pushed and shoved to get their hands on complimentary wings to promote the upcoming "Tinkerbell" DVD (somewhat understandable, the wings were cute) and T-shirts hawking the 50th anniversary of "Sleeping Beauty." (Um, a little less understandable since most of the people grabbing were adults who might look a little silly in a "Sleeping Beauty" tee.) Afterward, I heard one woman say to another: "That shirt looks a little small." The other replied: "I'll squeeze into it somehow." In other words: It's free, I got it and I'm wearing it, fit and age-appropriateness be damned.


Expect to stand in more long lines. If you are anxious to purchase a toy that's only sold at Comic-Con, you will likely queue up for a while to get it. At the Hasbro booth, you had to get a ticket in order to secure a place in line, which would potentially, if you're lucky, allow you to buy an exclusive Nemesis Prime Transformer or collectors exclusive My Little Pony. The nearby Mattel booth didn't require tickets, but boasted a line that stretched all the way from San Diego to, approximately, the Toys 'R Us in Rockville, Md.


Everyone wants a picture with Jabba. And Pikachu. And Nite Owl's massive ship from "The Watchmen." There are plenty of big ol' displays sprinkled throughout the Exhibit Hall space, so expect traffic jams as people pause for that must-get snapshot.


Go to the far end of the Hall, near the small press pavilion. It's nice there. Most of the action and major crowds are down where the big corporate boys, like Warner Bros., Paramount, Lego and Sony, play. But there's also lots of cool stuff on the other end of the floor, where graphic novels, interesting prints and posters and back issues of classic comics, among other things, are sold. Bonus: Much easier to navigate from booth to booth because the crowds are (a little) lighter.


There will be costumes. Yes, in keeping with all those geek stereotypes, some Comic-Con attendees do like to dress up. Yesterday, I saw lots of light sabers, a girl with a huge, plush Hello, Kitty mask strapped to her head, people in anime regalia and, oddly, a dude dressed as Alvin from Alvin and the Chipmunks. The etiquette on this: Pause to admire. But please, don't stop and stare. It slows down the traffic flow. Also, you'll seem like a nerd ... oh, wait a minute. At Comic-Con, that's a good thing.

Bonus: For more comic action read today's interview with Marvel Comics' editor-in-chief Joe Quesada in Comic Riffs.

By Jen Chaney  | July 24, 2008; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  Comic-Con  
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