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Amid the foot-shuffling, elbow-bumping crowd tussle of Comic-Con, more than a hundred stood Friday in a tightly twisted line for a longshot inside a black box.
John Hemet, 47, of Oceanside, found himself among the patient, again.
A marked ticket in the box meant a free limited edition Batman Lego figuirine. In the afternoon, there would be a Green Lantern. Only 750 of each were made, but there was about a 75 percent chance Hemet's ticket would be blank and his 45-minute wait wasted.
"I got a pair of them yesterday,” said Hemet, who has been to Comic-Con for 32 straight years and 33 overall. “Nothing today yet so far … The thrill of the hunt. The thrill of the chase.”
The price for a Comic-Con badge is stiff, and the competition to purchase one is even stiffer. But once inside, attendees might as well have left their checkbooks at home.
Free shirts covered with free buttons and free stickers
Free bags stuffed with free fliers and free merchandise.
Anthony Tran, 23, scored free autographs from “Big Bang Theory” television series actors Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Johnny Galecki, and creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady.
On his free “Big Bang Theory poster,” there was a sticker, which alerted him he won a free copy of the series' fourth-season DVD.
Elsewhere at the San Diego Convention Center, authors held raffles to win their newest, yet-to-be-released book.
At the front of the Lego line, Tom Chow and his family of four were finally winners. They waited in line three times, or more than two hours, before winning a pair of Batman Legos, much to his 8-year-old and 5-year-old sons' approval.
"We're very happy,” Chow said. “We can actually enjoy the rest of Comic-Con now."
Feet outside the line, Michelle Waxman of Los Angeles stood beside her two children, Max, 11, and Madison, 7. The kids wore complimentary Optimus Prime Transformer paper hats, perhaps the Comic-Con equivalent to Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland.
Waxman said she's after the “ultimate fandom S.W.A.G.,” a colloquial acronym for Stuff We All Get.
Her favorite SWAG so far is posters of Hunger Games, a popular book trilogy that has inspired a 2012 film.
She predicts it will be the next big thing, following closely the footsteps of the “Twilight” franchise.
“I'll frame (the poster),” said Waxman, a four-time Comic-Con guest. “I'm going to put one in my office. I'm going to put one in my home. I've got ones for people at work, too, because I got them into reading the trilogy. Anybody who picks it up is totally sucked in.”
Waxman's mother, Sue Contant, is at her side, representing a third family generation at Comic-Con.
Contant likes Hunger Games, too, but her specialty is making clothing from the four-day convention's free bag.
“I'm in the process of doing it with last year's bag because it's made out of a softer material,” Contant said. “But this year's bag, I might make a backpack out of it, like a real, cool backpack for next year's Comic-Con.”
Waxman said free goodies, for all their greatness, is not what the four-day convention is about.
“It's not's just about the free SWAG,” Waxman said. “It's about all the people. They're all kooky like us. It's fun.