The San Diego Comic-Con Exclusives Worth Standing In Line For
Next week, Comic-Con International kicks off in sunny San Diego, California, and like all conventions, a huge part of the experience is that there's so much stuff to buy. Unlike other conventions, however, the sheer size of Comic-Con International presents a unique marketing opportunity to sell action figures, comics and variant covers that couldn't -- and in some cases shouldn't -- be sold anywhere else: The Comic-Con Exclusives! And there are a lot of them.
So many, in fact, that the amount can be overwhelming, and with only four days to spend at show of such massive proportiosns, it's important to narrow down your goals so that you don't spend the entire time in line waiting to enter the gladiatorial arena where you'll fight to the death for the last Lion-O figure. At least, I'm pretty sure that's how it works. That's why today, your friends at ComicsAlliance have put together our picks for the best exclusive toys and comics that you'll only find at Comic-Con!First up, the most necessary item for those of you hoping to bring home a haul is something you can get just by walking through the door: Warner Bros. Comic-Con Tote Bags:
They've been using this same style of bag for a few years, and while it might not be apparent from the pictures, they are massive. They are roughly the size of a sled, and seeing a crowd of people walking around with them last year gave me the idea that everyone was legitimately concerned that the convention center was going to slide into the bay and force them to rig up rafts to get to safety, while simultaneously being really excited about the upcoming season of Supernatural. But that gigantic size means that there's plenty of room for anything you buy over the course of four days, and if nothing else, you can always turn it upside down, fill it with hot air, and set off on a race around the world!
All told, there are there are 11 different designs that turn anyone into a walking billboard, promoting properties like Fringe, the Green Lantern animated series, The Vampire Diaries, The Looney Tunes Show, and even a single actual comic book, September's Justice League #1. Personally, I hope I can get the one promoting LEGO Harry Potter.
If a grown man walking around with a personal billboard advertising a video game based on a toy based on a movie based on a book about wizards for children isn't the perfect representation of the San Diego Comic-Con, then brother, I don't know what is.
So once you've got your bag, it's time to start filling it up with stuff you can't get anywhere else, and for that, a good place to start is with convention exclusive action figures from Mattel!
Mattel's got a lot of cool stuff this year, including a super-articulated Voltron and a huge Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshmallow Man figure encased in soft, fluffy plush, but for comic book fans, it all comes down to Swamp Thing:
No joke, this thing is awesome. Besides a pretty great sculpt that makes Swamp Thing look like the scariest monster to ever rock a bouquet of daisies on his chest, his joints are great. They're all done beneath the outer layer of plastic rather than as part of it, giving him a really cool look that, since it probably feels like a squishy covering over bones, fits right in with his roots as a horror character. And even that's not the best part.
Like most of Mattel's exclusives, Swamp Thing's going to be available at MattyCollector.com after the show, but if you buy him at the con, you get a bonus: The Un-Men.
That's right, everybody: Cranius is back -- in action figure form! I never thought I'd see the day either, but here we are. Truly, Comic-Con is magical.
It's also worth noting that Swamp Thing comes in a box shaped like his own head that doubles as a mask and, in a tribute to Swamp Thing's eco-friendly nature, is completely biodegradable. Of course, the fact that that box comes inside another box and contains a chunk of good ol' petroleum-based plastic kind of defeats the point, but still, it's pretty cool.
Speaking of neat packaging, Hasbro's offering up an exclusive Sentinel figure for the Marvel Universe line that towers over the regular 3.75" figures at a mutant-hating 16 inches tall. What's really awesome: It comes on a giant version of the same card as the regular figures:
That's right: Not only does it feature robotic lights and sound, it also lets you pretend like you've been hit with a shrink ray. How many other toys can say that?
In order to make the figure easier to haul around and to keep the card from getting dinged up -- which would negatively impact the thriving eBay shadow economy that hovers around con exclusives like remora -- there's yet another layer of packaging applied:
And as yet another added bonus, you can use it as a breifcase! Assuming, of course, that your job would be cool with you using a briefcase with a picture of the X-Men fighting killer robots on it, which mine is.
Continuing the theme of great packaging, Hasbro also has a set of Avengers Mighty Muggs figures featuring Giant Man that's pretty darn clever in how it's presented:
The best thing, though, is that while everyone else has the expression that's drawn on the package,Giant Man's frown has turned into a smirk. "Oh, sorry, is this no longer mint, nerd?"
For another gigantic super-deformed figure, look no further than Mezco (Booth #3445), who are offering up a Mega-Scale Batman:
At 20 inches tall, this enormous chunk of plastic vengeance makes Giant-Man look puny, and commands an appropriately large price tag of $200. It's a lot of money (and a lot of hassle to get home), but consider this: Studies that I just made up have shown that putting one of these on your lawn is 1000% more effective at preventing clown-based crime than the leading alarm system. Think about it.
The one super-hero figure that I'm most excited about, though, is at the opposite end of the scale in terms of size, and comes from ArtAsylum's line of MiniMates.
ArtAsylum and Diamond Select are bringing a ton of neat exclusives to the show, with a focus on palette-swapped verisons of their Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds line, featuring King Arthur from Ghosts 'n' Goblins, Deadpool, a very Christmasy version of Darkstalkers' Morrigan and a huge (yet still tiny) Red Hulk. But the one I'm excited about comes from the Thor: Stormbreaker box set:
Beta Ray Bill! Walter Simonson's Kirby-inspired space horse, represented right down to his crazy boots in chunky, pocket-sized glory. The set also comes with Thor, Sif and Loki so that you can re-enact battles against the God of Evil, Asgardian Romance, and even the battle between Bill and Thor on the fiery terrain of Skartalfheim -- where even a god may die!!
What? Don't act like I'm the only one who wants to play with these things.
While we're on the subject of adorable versions of Marvel Characters Tokidoki (Booth #4731) is bringing their signature ultra-cute style to the convention floor as well in a shirt where Captain America is seen reading about his own adventures:
Tokidoki's also got an exclusive Captain America hat (or Cap-Cap) that runs a cool $40. Such is the price of fashion. If, however, you're already well stocked in terms of comic-themed clothing, you can still check out their awesome Frenzies, a set of 20 tiny figures that can be clipped onto keychains, uru hammers, or adamantium/vibranium alloy shields:
For Venture Bros. fans, which I imagine translates to "most everyone reading this article," Entertainment Earth (Booth #2343) has an awesome piece that's only available at Comic-Con: The Rusty Venture Lunchbox:
The lunchbox itself has been featured on the show a few times, but rather than a thermos, the Comic-Con version contains two MEGO-style figures of Dr. Jonas Venture and his son Rusty (future father of Hank and Dean, the Venture Brothers) from their heyday as adventurers. There are also new figures of Dr. Girlfriend, Hank Venture, Dr. Orpheus and Phantom Limb available, although the latter sadly isn't based on Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick's original idea of just having a torso rattling around in a box.
Entertainment Earth also has a Twilight Zone figure with a pretty interesting hook: It's based on William Shatner, with interchangeable clothes so that you can re-enact his starring roles on two of the series most famous episodes:
But really, why stop there? With enough time prowling through vintage figure dealers for the right clothes, you could have yourself a Bob Wilson/Don Carter/James T. Kirk/T.J. Hooker/Denny Crane figure! That's five in one!
The Toys 'R' Us booth has a host of exclusives, including classic versions of the Transfomers' Rodimus Prime and Thundercats' Lion-O, a Sonic the Hedgehog figure that's been flocked for to give his hair a plush feel, and the aforementioned Morrigan/Red Hulk/Zero/Iron Man MiniMates set. The most fun one, though, is this:
A two-pack of Mattel's DC Universe and Masters of the Universe classics featuring Bizarro against Faker. The battle of the Imperfect Duplicates is just a great idea, especially since even the packaging is playing off the Superman vs. He-Man two-pack.
If you're looking for two other toys that go well together, Pullip's line of fashion dollas has a pair of exclusives based on two of DC's most popular heroines, Catwoman and Batgirl:
These actually look pretty cool if you're the sort of person who's into delicate, immacculately coifed dolls with insanely large heads, but I'll admit that they're just not for me. Something about the proportions, the way they're posed... those eyes, constantly staring... seeing everything... plotting to kill...
Sorry, these things freak me out. If, like CA's Bethany Fong, you enjoy both Batgirl and terrifying dolls, however, feel free to jump on. Just... just put them in the giant bag so I don't have to see them, okay? Let's move on.
Since you'll be doing all this shopping at Comic-Con, it might be a good idea to actually pick up some comics, and there are plenty of great exclusives along those lines, too. IDW (booth #2643), for instance, is doing a major push for Locke & Key (which inspired a television pilot that's also being screened at the con), offering up not just a Con-exclusive version of Locke & Key Volume 4, but also actual, real-world versions of the keys seen in the comic:
To be honest, I haven't read Locke & Key yet, but seeing how great these things look is making me want to check it out even more than I already did.
Beyond those, though, IDW has some great books for art fans. In addition to an exclusive version of the oversized Artist's Edition of Walter Simonson's Thor that reprints the legendary creator's work at the size at which it was originally drawn -- with Simonson on-hand to sign them, no less! -- they're also putting out a variant cover for their Complete Collection of Sketches and Studies by the late Dave Stevens:
The book collects the four out-of-print sketchbooks produced by Stevens, the creator of The Rocketeer and one of the best comic artists ever, along with a ton of previously unpublished bonus material, and it's definitely worth checking out.
And while they're not exclusive, IDW's also debuting four new titles from creator and archivist Craig Yoe over the weekend, including a collection of Archie's Mad House and a collection of unpublished Krazy Kat strips. There's also Amazing 3D Comics, featuring work by Alex Toth and Jack Kirby that goes back to the '50s to tell the story of the original 3D comics craze and the boom and bust that came with it.
I've never been all that keen on 3D comics, but Yoe has a gift for making pieces of obscure comics history sound as fascinating as they ought to be, and when you get right down to it, a book of Jack Kirby art that pops right off the page is definitely something I'd be interested in.
The one I'm most excited about from Yoe, though, is a collection of comics by the legendary creator of Scrooge McDuck, Carl Barks:
The Big Book of Carl Barks' Barney Bear reprints these strips for the first time in color and in English, and while I've never heard of it before, it's high on the list of things I want to pick up. As much as I love Barks' work on the Duck books -- and Yoe's previous collections of "lost" classics like Dan DeCarlo's Jetta -- this one's an easy sell.
Speaking of Carl Barks and his most famous creation, the folks over at Boom! Studios (Booth #2743) have their own bunch of exclusives that include a huge, signed and numbered "Definitive Edition" hardcover of Mark Waid and Peter Krause's Irredeemable, but I'd be lying if I said that I wanted anything as badly as I want the DuckTales #1 variant, signed and numbered by writer and Epic Mickey creator Warren Spector:
I rarely bother with variant covers, and I know in my head that purchases motivated by nostalgia are wrong, but there was a time in my life (specifically 4th grade) when I wanted the DuckTales NES game so badly that I would've gladly done without lesser items like water or oxygen just to get hold of it. This pushes exactly the right buttons of something I want to be able to look at, and really: There's no arguing with the Scrooge McDuck seal of quality.
Our own David Brothers pointed out that Archaia (Booth #2635) has a book debuting that I've been waiting over three years to read: Brandon Thomas and Lee Ferguson's The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury v.1:
When it originally hit shelves in 2008, Miranda Mercury was meant to be a six-issue mini-series that started at #295 and went all the way to #300, telling the story of the final adventure of the world's greatest action heroine, building off of 25 years of stories that never actually happened. I loved the concept and Thomas and Ferguson pulled it off very well -- they even made a 42-panel double-page spread of Miranda and her sidekick solving a Rubik's cube work, which is no mean feat -- but unfortunately, #295 was the only issue that came out.
Now, though, the entire story is being collected in a $25 hardcover, and while that format loses the gimmick of having issues build to #300, it doesn't change how good this comic actually is, and it's well worth checking out.
The Oni Press booth (#1833) is also debuting a handful of new books at the con, including Ray Fawkes' One Soul and Phil Gelatt and Tyler Crook's Petrograd, both of which wil come with a limited edition signing card. Beyond the books, though, there are some great bonuses being offered, like the "SPKO Thumb Wrastlers" that come with copies of Jarrett Williams pro-wrestling epic, Super Pro K.O.!, one of my favorite graphic novels from last year.
There's also, of course, a lot of Scott Pilgrim merchandise, including wristbands, metal charms, shirts and gig posters. One of the most requested items, though, is a set of prints of Bryan Lee O'Malley's art for the Japanese editions of the Scott Pilgrim comics:
They're hand-numbered and limited to only 200. And they're also pretty rad.
But out of all that, the Comic-Con Exclusive that I personally want the most comes from Hasbro and G.I. Joe. The item that's been getting a lot of press is, of course, the crossover box set featuring Cobra Commander and a non-Transforming Starscream in jet fighter mode, playing on the fact that both characters were voiced in cartoons by the late Chris Latta:
It's a pretty neat idea for fans of both franchises, but for my money -- and my time spent waiting in line -- it's nowhere near as awesome as this year's exclusive single-carded figure: Zarana, who comes in both her classic cartoon colors and a more updated design:
Now admittedly, Zarana's not my favorite bad guy from G.I. Joe. Heck, if we're honest, she's not even my favorite Dreadnok, but there's one detail that makes her one of my favorite figures of all time: her Cold Slither t-shirt.
Hasbro, not making Cold Slither Reunion Tour shirts for San Diego is leaving money on the table. What would Tomax and Xamot think?
So those are the exclusives I'm excited about, but with hundreds of comic book pubilshers and media companies setting up in San Diego, there are a lot more out there to be had in every aisle. So we turn to you, ComicsAlliance readers: What should we be on the lookout for when we hit California next week?