San Diego Comic-Con Day Two: Beyond the Con with Samuel L. Jackson and sharks

Another day down at San Diego Comic-Con, and another day of celebrating all things nerd, randomly running into celebrities and just generally embracing the wonderfully weird world of SDCC. Instead of hanging out in the convention center, I went beyond the con in search of adventure. Here are some highlights from Friday at the con.

Microsoft VIP Lounge

I went to the Microsoft VIP Lounge in the Hard Rock Hotel for a quick bite to eat and to play some of Halo: The Master Chief Collection (coming in fall 2014). This was a pretty chill environment and a respite from some crowds, so I stayed longer for coffee and to goof off in the photo booth with the TNT Teddy from Sunset Overdrive (also debuting in the fall) -- which I then previewed. The geekout resulting from HTMCC was alone worth the visit, but things became progressively more interesting when Samuel L. Jackson popped into the lounge to do Samuel L. Jackson stuff (which pretty much amounts to just being cool at doing anything, including getting a picture taken in a photobooth). Shortly after, I was able to watch as the Let's Be Cops cast of Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr., Keegan Michael-Key and Nina Dobrev showed up and started playing Halo as well. He would likely agree, but Riggle is a funny dude, though not necessarily the best gamer.

Sharknado 2: The Second One Party

I almost needn't type more than "Sharknado 2 party" to give you a sense of the surreal, fun atmosphere of this shindig at the Solamar hotel rooftop pool. Sure, stars like Sharknado star Ian Ziering, Wil and Anne Wheaton, the cast of Defiance and more were there, but know what else was? Sharks. Not live ones, but enough models, toys, pillows, animations projected in the pool and more to make you feel like a maneating tempest had just swept through. And kudos to the party folks for actually assembling a wide array of shark species. I don't know if anyone else noticed, but they clearly did their homework. I also think the party planners win an award for weirdest photobooth at a con party. I mean, I got to wear a shark head and a foam chainsaw. 

Nerd Nite Comic-Con

Held at the SILO in Makers Quarter, a really cool outdoor space that has a music fest vibe, Nerd Nite San Diego sponsored by National Geographic Channel felt like South by Southwest crossed with TED talks. Experts gather to talk about brainy stuff, but there's a lot of beer and shouting from the audience involved. Nerd Nites are held all across the country, but the SDCC iteration is particularly special (and not because I was one of the presenters, there to talk about Batman's 75th). For instance, folks with plastic cups filled with an assortment of adult beverages gathered to watch David Rees -- host of the new NatGeo series Going Deep -- talk about the most effective way to make a paper airplane. The topic sounds deceptively simple, but it gets pretty involved, and the end result was a crowd of folks throwing their pulp-crafts all over. The scene was R-rated; laid-back, bawdy, engaged and engaging nerds dropping plenty of F-bombs.

Batman: Arkham Knight Cape/Cowl/Create Exhibit

By far one of the coolest things I've encountered at the con so far is the Cape/Cowl/Create event at the Hard Rock Hotel, in the Legends room. Celebrating Batman's 75th anniversary, and supporting 2015's next installment of the Arkham videogame franchise, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and VICE reached out to artists and celebrities to offer their own interpretation of the Caped Crusader's mask and cape. The result from Will Arnett, Zack Snyder, Apex, Sara Blake, Mister Cartoon and more is a dynamic exhibit that speaks to how much Batman has made a bootprint on culture. Lining the walls in rotating displays, the environment was moody yet trippy. As a periodic light show kicked in and scenes from Arkham Knight played, it felt like a slightly insane day trip to the asylum. And that's a compliment. Buff Monster's take had to rank as a favorite; the brightly colored pink, melting ice cream cone imagery with the happy critters from his world just worked incredibly well here.

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