From Zombie Obstacle Course To Star Wars Relay, Comic-Con Spinoffs Become The Main Event

Miss out on San Diego Comic-Con tickets? No worries. You can still (cos)play along through several unaffiliated events from Los Angeles to San Diego, offshoots of the world’s largest pop culture, sci-fi, gaming, and comics festival.

From Zombie Obstacle Course To Star Wars Relay, Comic-Con Spinoffs Become The Main Event

San Diego Comic-Con has gotten so massive–with an economic impact of $180 million and 125,000 fans and industry reps spilling (or stumbling) out into venues across its Gaslamp district–that now, even riding its coattails can generate significant revenue, brand enhancement, and expanded customer/fan bases.


Following is a list of some of the spinoff events tapping into nerd culture and the momentum of the July 11-15 festival.

Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Industries, Lucasfilm, and marketing firm Octagon are laying claim to the untapped promotional opportunities presented by the Comic-Con build-up. The 136-mile light saber relay race lets participants run in costume, with stops along the way featuring bands and other performers. Additional sponsorships will raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The event culminates on July 11 at 12:30pm in a live concert by The Dan Band at San Diego’s Balboa Theatre.
July 7-11: Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Pier to San Diego’s Crystal Pier and Balboa Theatre

Jennifer Fabos Patton, founder of the Los Angeles art model collective, The Gallery Girls, models for artists at last year’s Trickster. The Girls return again this year. Photo by Ted Mathot.

After its controversial debut last summer, this antidote to the Hollywoodization of ComicCon–founded by award-winning Pixar artists Scott Morse and Ted Mathot, and puppeteer Anita Coulter–returns to San Diego, most notably to a venue that serves food. Geared toward creator-owned comic product and the enhancement of artistic process, Trickster offers a nightly DJ’d life-drawing salon, gallery of original art for sale, pop-up shop of creator-owned art, and morning workshops on creative and business aspects of the industry. But mainly, it’s a party-focused hangout for veteran and aspiring talent, and fans.
July 11-14: Wine Steals and Proper Gastro Pub, 795 J Street, San Diego; times vary

Actors Nathan Turner (left) and Michael Minto spar in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog Live” at last year’s Gam3rCon. This year, Turner stars in “Spiderbaby: The Musical.” Photo by Lex Millena.

This collision of artistry and geekery–founded by author/playwrights Brian Bielawski and Walter G. Meyer, with title sponsors Coleman University and USAopoly–celebrates the world of video games and interactive entertainment. Returning for its third year, the venue features a lounge with cutting edge and vintage games, evening rooftop concerts (one, which raises money for Get Well Gamers to buy games for hospitalized children), industry panels, and gaming-inspired art exhibit, screenings, and theater productions.
July 11-15: 10th Avenue Theatre & Arts Complex, 930 10th Avenue, San Diego; 12pm-12am daily

Courtesy of The Walking Dead Escape

This two-mile urban Zombie vs. Survivor obstacle course traverses four levels of San Diego’s Petco Park. Presented by Skybound–the Image Comics imprint of The Walking Dead creator and SDCC special guest Robert Kirkman–and Ruckus sporting events, the course celebrates the 100th issue release of the Eisner Award-winning comic series. Participants race through the zombie-infested evacuation zone either as Walkers–done up by none other than Walking Dead’s zombie effects guru Greg Nicotero and his team–or Survivors, everyday folk trying to avoid the clutches, nibbles, and scratches of the undead. The catch: You won’t know if you’re infected till the end of the race…
July12-14: Petco Park, 100 Park Boulevard, San Diego; times vary.

Scott Bakula is flanked by The Nerd Machine co-founders Zachary Levi (left) and David Coleman. Photo by Eric Blackmon.

Chuck’s Zachary Levi and his multimedia company The Nerd Machine are back with their second annual Nerd HQ. This kinetic hangout features panels and video games, this year unveiling the exclusive first demo of Square Enix’s rebooted Tomb Raider. The popular unmoderated Conversations for a Cause celebrity panels benefit Operation Smile through ticket sales. This year, digital partner Break Media will live stream Conversations, an original series, and nightly highlight reports hosted by Levi.
July 12-15: Block No. 16 Union and Spirits, 344 7th Avenue, San Diego; 9:30am-2am daily.


Angelenos, at least, can get into the SDCC spirit with Thomas J. Misuraca’s original musical chronicling the adventures of a group of geeks navigating a comic book/sci-fi convention. Tickets are available for its final weekend.
June 5-July 8: Write Act Repertory Theatre, 6128 Yucca Street, Hollywood, CA; times vary.


About the author

Susan Karlin, based in Los Angeles, is a regular contributor to Fast Company, where she covers space science, autonomous vehicles, and the future of transportation. Karlin has reported for The New York Times, NPR, Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, and Wired, among other outlets, from such locations as the Arctic and Antarctica, Israel and the West Bank, and Southeast Asia