This is the real ghost train.
San Diego, Wednesday night, downtown, after dark. All that's here is a smattering of oases of light, from cheap drug stores to greasy spoons offering a "really big Taco Plate" for $3.50. The streets, for now, are mostly empty, and those riding the trolley around you are dirty and old, with faces that bespeak hard labor for too little pay...and judging by the content of their mouths, no dental insurance.
The allegedly spooky rides at the OC Fair have been easily bested by reality here. But a does of unreality is creeping in. Invaders with lanyards, many overweight with ponytails or goatees, rarely both. And on this ride, they're nit-picking the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Good thing I read fast and got through it all last Saturday night. Like many a Comic-Con goer, these folks don't seem to notice how loud they are, and they come up with elaborate nit-picks most wouldn't even conceive of. But to go into detail here would be to spoil as badly as they do, and besides, tuning them out proved helpful for this author's sanity.
Two hours earlier, the Comic-Con opened its doors for the first time this year for Preview Night, and it was like we had never left it. The obsessions may change -- this year, Iron Man and Beowulf are the major themes -- but most of the booths are where we left them, and some, like the Sci-Fi Channel booth, look exactly the same.
No exciting costumes here today; they're not worth displaying for a mere two hours. Except for Scorch and his Republic Commando Clonetrooper buddies. Each costume is colored differently -- this may be the only place where clones, rather ironically, don't look like each other.
Some of the booths are subdued, hiding items to be announced later. Toy pickings are slimmer than one might hope. The DC Direct Catwoman doll I wanted for my birthday is nowhere to be had, so far, nor is a figure of Terry O'Quinnn as John Locke that I didn't get when I had the chance. But there are the exclusive Star Trek figures to procure, spread out among four stands scattered throughout this half-mile hall.
With each one I attain, the same question is asked -- "Just one?"
Isn't that enough? Four of these, and $64 is out of my wallet. The fifth is a freebie, Genesis Khan, who is not in fact the long-lost brother of my colleague Janine Kahn; just a toy resembling a bloody, bruised Ricardo Montalban. The game's not over. I will, at some point, contemplate customizing a Pastor Dylan figure from Mad Cowgirl out of the Chekov figure. Those plans will likely not come to fruition, realistically.
Sideshow Collectibles are annoying the way they make too few of their Star Wars dolls, but the prototype on display of Snow Bunny Padme is a thing of beauty, a dead-on Natalie Portman lookalike, something Hasbro has not managed in 8 years. Hasbro wins some and loses some here -- they're gonna show a new Indiana Jones figure later in the week, and Transformers are kicking butt. But Marvel Legends is a line being screwed up, and this is how you know -- every year for the past whenever, Marvel Legends have been cash cows for the dealers. This year, prices are being slashed. Good time to fill the holes in your collection.
Shocker Toys have a bigger booth than usual, and nothing much to show for it. Quelle surprise.
San Diego gets decked out in relevant advertising -- buses display ads for MGM's forthcoming slate of milking dead franchises even drier, with a fourth Species movie, a WarGames sequel, and a Spaceballs animated series. Don't say John Candy would roll over in his grave -- Candy had no shame in picking projects when he was alive. But since Barf is half-dog, he might roll over anyway.
Thinking the trolleys stop at 10, motel is headed for early. Turns out they run until 1, which is good news.
But nothing near motel is open, and supper was not had.
Gas station -- sign on the door says that it's locked, but come to the night window. Sign at night window says only gas and cigarettes are sold through night window. This needs to be confirmed.
"Only gas and cigarettes?"
"Yeah, only gas and cigarettes."
"I really need double-A batteries."
The man looks behind himself, sees them. Picks them up.
"These are $6.35. But if you have five dollars cash on you, we'll call it even."
The trade is made. Then he sees the Comic-Con badge.
"Hey, can you hook me up with a free one of those?"
"Nahh, man, but just publish something online and say you're press."
"You can't get me one? I'm helping you out here."
"I arranged it weeks ago."
"Yeah, I feel you."
Many photos to upload and email. Miles to go before I sleep.
UPDATE: Check out our first slide show. More where that came from.