Don Bauder 5:38 p.m., May 20
Not unlike Rainbow Gatherings, Renaissance Fairs, and Insane Clown Posse concerts, the crowd at Comic Con is far more interesting than the event itself. A stroll through the entry to the convention center exhibits the usual pastiche of Twilight fanatics, hot nerdy chics in Sailor Moon garb, a dog in biker gear riding a motorcycle, backpack style schwag bags everywhere, Spider Man posing with college kids from Nebraska, Beatrix Kiddo, a stormtrooper (though not a single slave Leia!), elves, Captain America, and esoteric Street Fighter characters whose names I’ll never know.
At the corner, a mob waits for the crosswalk and a man visibly takes great joy in offering “lama tattoos” advertising deviantart.com to the loud passersby.
Across the street is a giant South Park village. It’s like walking into the opening credits of the show. Big balloons of Kenny, Kyle, and Cartman sway in the afternoon breeze. An archway reminds you that this is, in fact, the “Year of the Fan.”
“This is like Burning Man if all you were allowed to do was buy stuff,” says my roommate Eli, later noting “If this isn’t a Babylonian mind matrix, I don’t know what is.”
He's right. The whole thing is set up like an elaborate homage to Consumerism itself. Advertisements careen in from every vector: semi-truck trailers spinning loops around the block, scooter mobs, whole buildings turned into exalted movie posters.
The Adult Swim truck gives us ice cream and says we can get into their after party with Kid Koala if we say the password: their newest show. We pawn the task off on some passing high school kids and, iPhones at the ready, they soon have our answer.
It's a clever ploy, but all I remember of the drawn-out title now is “national security” and “sports utility vehicle.”
The Gaslamp is teeming with pedicabs, Chun Lis, roving gangs of ninjas, magicians stuffing silks into false thumb tips, Fin from Adventure Time. A Spider Man in a rubber suit runs past at full speed. An old man howls from his guitar on the sidewalk.
We refuel at Downtown Johnny Brown’s, away from the cartoon droves. When we return, it really is like a scene from The Matrix. Maybe thirty people stare into video game consoles hidden from the sun by an awning which holds a band playing dopey pop metal anthems.
The devil horns come out.