Adults dressed like their favorite childhood action heroes. Previews of upcoming movies, TV shows and video games. An actual invisibility cloak from Harry Potter and a line of chattering die-hards waiting to see it.
This must be Comic-Con.
For the 41st straight year, the international comic book convention is in San Diego. For the first time, I'm at it. On Wednesday, the NBC San Diego web team sent me to Preview Night, a three-hour soft opening to the four-day event where I received a first look at what's in store this week.
Coming into Comic-Con, which takes place mostly at the San Diego Convention Center as well as the neighboring San Diego Marriott Hotel, I had high expectations, especially when it came to people's costumes.
Because the crowd was largely composed of media, retailers and other professionals, the costumes were a bit watered down in comparison to what they'll be over the next four days. There was still, however, plenty to see.
I began my excursion at the corner of Exhibit Hall A where one exhibit wall was displaying more abs than last month’s Men’s Fitness Magazine. There were 22 — yes, count them — 22 different posters from the “Twilight” movie series. That’ll get the 13-year-old girl in you going.
Even with the occasional "Twilight" exception, as far as I can tell, Comic-Con is a man’s paradise. Just ask any of those who spent their evening taking pictures of/with the many scantily dressed women in attendance. (If you’re a lady going to Comic-Con this week and have a special costume lined up, brace yourself for that.)
When not playing photographer, many men had plenty to keep themselves busy in the video game section.
Take the Playstation 3 game “The Fight: Lights Out,” for example. Comic-Con visitors can test Sony’s move and navigation controllers, which won’t be in stores until Sept. 17.
It’s pretty much a Nintendo Wii copycat, albeit a nicer version with glowing purple and yellow controllers apparently designed with Lakers Nation in mind. As for the effect, imagine boxing on Wii Sports but with far better graphics and details.
The game itself, for those wondering, allows you to fight as fictional street characters. In the next version, it’s rumored that you can select to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr., but then the game freezes because an agreement could not be reached.
Not surprisingly, Comic-Con has over a million comic books for retail. Among them include a $15,000 copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, featuring the first appearance of Spider Man, and a $500,000 copy of Red Raven 1.
For all you bargain hunters, Chuck Rozanski, owner of Red Raven 1 and MileHighComics.com, said he’ll take a 10 percent discount ($450,000) if offered cash, so be sure to stop by the ATM on your way to Comic-Con.
And when all the world’s comic books, posters, video games and action figures lose their touch, people watching will not let you down. But I warn you: it can get a little tricky finding out who's dressed up and who's not.
One girl, for instance, had pink hair with more tattoos and piercings than a Jesse James mistress. Not a costume. Another person, I thought, was dressed up like a vampire. Turns out he just had bad teeth, so watch out for that.
With the three-hour Comic-Con Preview Night winding down, I felt bold enough to check out some of the anime screenings inside the Marriott.
Real fast: A movie poster shot of “Skyline,” in theaters Nov. 11, covers the hotel’s top 20 floors. The movie’s tagline: “Don’t look up.” Now you don’t have to.
As it'd turn out, my attempts at experiencing anime for the first time in my life ended up being a complete bust. First, I stumbled into a screening of “Red Cliff,” a non-anime Chinese film that came out a couple years ago. Then I found an anime screening room, which I was ready to brag about to all the anime friends I don't have, but turns out it was just “Inuyasha,” a now-syndicated TV show that debuted in 2000. Oh well.
Back on the main floor of the convention center, I found a place where you can take your photo with realistic (read: gory) zombie props. The exhibit will then “zombify” you and email it wherever you choose, in case you want your Facebook profile picture to turn heads or just creep someone the heck out.
Among other solid photo opportunities, you can pose in front of the many larger-than-life Iron Man figures on exhibit. If you love terribly written Michael Bay films and didn't get enough Transformers after that monstrosity of a sequel, a giant Bumble Bee is inside the convention center while an Optimus Prime is standing outside the front driveway of the Marriott.
After my three-hour tour of Comic-Con ended, a girl walking out may have summed up Preview Night best.
“This is nothing,” she said to a friend. “Wait until tomorrow. There will be twice as many people.”
We can't wait to capture it.