Thursday, Jul 26 2012 05:11 PM

STEFANI DIAS: Wham! Pow! What a great Comic-Con!

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    Movie memorabilia (like these Wonka bars from the 1971 film "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory"), exclusive toys and product previews are on display throughout the exhibit hall at the San Diego Comic-Con.

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    The most cooperative Doctor Who character willing to pose for a photo — a young weeping angel — at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con.

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    The main takeaway as a "spectator" of the Walking Dead Escape: a poster commemorating the exclusive "Walking Dead" issue 100 cover created for the event.

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    Weyland Industries employed a surprisingly friendly Engineer for its street recruiting during the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con.

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    Wired magazine's Wired Cafe was on of the off-site events catering to celebrities, press and lucky attendees with activities and giveaways.

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    What may be the most pedestrian portion of the course for the Walking Dead Escape, which pitted "survivors" against zombies in an elaborate obstacle course. At left, a helpless victim (earlier seen tweeting) talks with a zombie.

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By The Bakersfield Californian

As a rule, journalists strive to provide an unbiased, factual and possibly entertaining account of events. I'm shooting for at least two out of three with my experience at San Diego Comic-Con International, five days of celebrities, swag and, of course, comics.

For my seventh year attending, you'd think this might be old hat, but that's the magic and madness of the confluence of comic books, movies, TV shows and all other manner of pop culture that ran July 11 to 15. Sadly, there is very little photographic evidence. (But I can show you the most awesome 4-second video of Arthur Darvil -- Rory from "Doctor Who" -- signing autographs as I creepily edge into the frame.)

There was no plan going in, which can be a big mistake if there are exclusive toys to purchase and must-attend panels to get in line for the night before. Even now, nearly a week later, it's a blur of excitement, near-misses, food, fun, friends and adventure. So here are some of the adventures.

One of the wonderful elements of SDCC is being up close and personal with people whom you've only seen on a movie or TV screen or you follow on Twitter. I had a trio of friends in town who, while attending the convention, also enjoyed a lot of the periphery events and downtown nightlife. Along with meeting Rosario Dawson and Judd Nelson at a movie premiere after party, they more importantly waited in line with Robb Stark, aka "Game of Thrones" actor Richard Madden, for pizza -- until an overeager fan scared him off.

Speaking of scared stars, the cast of "Doctor Who" -- Darvil, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan -- were all over San Diego, possibly because they darted fearfully from place to place. As a fan of the recent series, I was disappointed to miss the trio not once but twice. First was outside of the Omni Hotel, where they had just left the Wired Cafe, put on by the magazine of the same name. They swept by before I could grab my camera.

The second run-in was much worse as I was only a couple of feet from the actors. Sadly, my cameraman was unable to switch the setting to photo from video, so I have some awkward clips but no good photos.

The dozens of panels held throughout the convention hall guarantee celebrity viewing -- if you're lucky enough to make it through long lines, which could be more serpentine than the recreated snake pit promoting the release of Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures five-disc set on Blu-ray.

Day three, also known as Hall H Saturday, began in line at 4:30 a.m. to ensure a place to see panels for "Django Unchained," "Pacific Rim," "The Hobbit" and the upcoming Marvel slate. This long day depleted the battery and booster pack on my iPhone, killing my social media updates, but my friend powered through with his iPad, live-tweeting the Marvel panel ("Ant Man"! "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"! "Iron Man 3"! "Guardians of the Galaxy"!). Meanwhile, I just enjoyed watching the antics of Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., who kicked off his appearance dancing down the aisle to Luther Vandross' "All My Love."

But more so than the actors, it's the comic book celebrities who make the event for me. This is where I geeked out by reverting to childhood shyness. I bought the "Casanova: Avaritia" paperback from artist Fabio Moon, who was at his booth with twin Gabriel Ba, who signed my copy. Despite the fact that these Brazilian brothers created "Daytripper," one of my all-time favorite limited series -- everyone should read it -- I was unable to say more than "thank you" when I took my signed book.

Feeling like the kid who hadn't done her homework, I also avoided Kurtis J. Wiebe, the writer behind "Green Wake" and "Peter Panzerfaust," who was signing at the Image booth. I bought the second volume of "Green Wake," but since I had yet to read the Vol. 1 on my bookshelf, I was too embarrassed to go by.

The plan is to redeem myself next year, having caught up on all my titles, plotted a little small talk and possibly a cocktail before hitting the floor. Heaven knows the libation would help to deal with the big crowds, especially a few days in when some folks get a bit ripe.

Speaking of ripe folks, the zombies struck back at the Walking Dead Escape, an obstacle course pitting survivors against menacing zombies new to Comic-Con. For $70, survivors were allowed to run the course, while spectators paid $15 to access the walkways above the course in Petco Park for a bird's-eye view. Survivor accounts tell a gripping tale of endurance and dodging falling runners. For onlookers, like me, the experience proved quite the opposite as the only vantage points not jam-packed with people had a lackluster view of the race to the evacuation zone.

I crowded into a spot over a sad section with three half-hearted zombies, who had also paid for the privilege and may have been there for hours, who weakly reached for survivors as they ran by. If they plan to return next year, course organizers should reconfigure the spectating. Otherwise I might sleep through the zombie apocalypse.

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