Going beyond Comic-Con with The Strain, Ant-Man, Gotham, The Simpsons

San Diego Comic-Con kicked my butt. Every year, I attend the massive, immersive pop culture event thinking I'm going to achieve more than expected: See more panels; get more work done; be more productive ... get more sleep, eat better, drink less.

And every year, I fall short of that goal (although I did get a couple nights of 6-hour sleeps, and that’s most impressive).

Then things got weird.

The days blurred into each other and the experience became one extended day where time became the very definition of wibbly-wobbly -- unless that was just me due to exhaustion. Either way, here’s the remainder of my beyond conning at SDCC ...

Assassin’s Creed: Unity/Shick Hydro Shave Station

I hate shaving and try to avoid it at all costs, but I also found myself pretty scruffy on a day at the con when I needed to have zombie makeup applied to smooth skin (more on that later). While attendees worked hard leaping through a parkour-inspired French Revolution obstacle course behind me to support Assassin’s Creed: Unity, I kicked back in a chair as a barber took a Schick Hydro blade to my throat. I have always wondered about the point of getting a professional shave, since I can do it easily enough myself, but this was relaxing. As soon as the hot towel enveloped my face, I was ready to pass out, and I did actually doze a little. About 10 minutes later I was a smooth criminal. Now I’m aware you can get pampered at SDCC.

Ant-Man at The Microsoft Lounge

I randomly encountered the Marvel Ant-Man team of Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and director Peyton Reed at the Microsoft lounge when I was on a mission for coffee. Rudd was funny; no big surprise there. He spoke about seeing someone cosplaying as a bottle of Sriracha, and said he’d like to dress up at Douglas’ D-Fens character from Falling Down. As for Douglas -- who wanted to dress up as Liberace at the con -- he was game to play up ant imagery. He kept smacking invisible ants, and at one point Rudd said one was a costar, so “there goes reshoots.”

Walker Transformation

The effect pros at KNB EFX turned me into a Walker from The Walking Dead for The Walking Dead Experience at Petco Park. As cool as it was to have KNB boss Greg Nicotero weighing in on the transformation, the best part had to be leaping out of a trunk in a street scene to terrify “survivors” running by. Keep an eye out on Blastr TV for video of the encounters, but here's a glimpse of me lying in wait, feeling pretty dead tired.

I got arrested ... well, sort of

The San Diego Police Department was accepting donations for the chance to get thrown on the hood of a patrol car and cuffed. How could I miss an opportunity to try out something I hope to avoid in real life? Ten bucks later and I was scared straight. The cops were incredibly cool, but you learn pretty quick that it’s nice to just pretend to be locked up instead of having no choice in the matter. But the playful SDPD actually contributed to the already-jovial vibe of the late-night street scene in the Gaslamp District. Plus, this elf was wanted on 13 counts of magicking without a permit.

The Strain screening

On Saturday, FX screened two episodes of The Strain at the Reading Cinemas Gaslamp with Guillermo del Toro and cast in attendance. But the biggest guest at the event was The Master himself, who made a surprise hologram appearance to welcome/frighten/warn fans in a very cool, high-tech way. There were also multiple props from the show on display, such as the Master’s cloak, his coffin and a beating, infected heart. Attendance was granted to con-goers who collected special VIP wristbands from the FOX, HarperCollins and Dark Horse booths in the convention center.

SuicideGirls: Blackheart Burlesque

For a “con after dark” event, the SuicideGirls’ burlesque show was rowdy, sexy and weird. The sold-out event at the House of Blues featured dance numbers inspired by Donnie Darko, Zelda, Michael Jackson’s "Thriller," A Clockwork Orange and a whole lot of superheroes. My personal favorite was a Planet of the Apes number that featured the music from the “A Fish Called Selma” episode of The Simpsons. There’s something so appropriate at Comic-Con about seeing a half-naked performer with an ape mask on dancing to Troy McClure singing as Charlton Heston’s character. Just typing that sentence was fun. Sure, there was pseudo nekkidness on display, but the show was a lot of fun and really creative; it was performance art meets geeky art.

Every Simpsons Ever Experience

Speaking of The Simpsons, the Springfield citizens invaded the field next to the convention center for a carnival installment. Blue cotton candy resembling Marge’s hair was handed out and a midway game was set up where visitors shot water through a donut hole for a chance to win a pink donut pillow. People also participated in a paint-by-numbers Simpsons mural, which set a new Guinness World Record. The best part, however, was the Homer Simpson Dome: A giant Homer head dotting the landscape, and I entered to the sweet smells of donuts. Then I was treated to an observatory-esque show that combined all of Homer’s experiences from the 522 episodes -- which FXX will be airing chronologically 24 hours a day, from Aug. 21-Sept. 1. To prep for “Every Simpsons Every,” the network handed out a survival kit that included water, an energy bar, beef jerky and other goodies.

Gotham Zipline

To promote its Batman prequel series Gotham, Fox set up a zipline across the Gotham cityscape. The zip through the crime-ridden city was brief, and while it didn’t inspire me to fight crime, it did provide a fairly cool ending to my final day at SDCC. Although I think I look more like Peter Pan than the Caped Crusader, the installment was really clever and a lot of fun. Getting off the constrictive harness was less so.

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