COMIC-CON 2011: From ‘Spider-Man’ to ‘Captain America,’ see the wonders of the Preview Night floor

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“Men in Black.”

Men in Hulk green.

Women as chartreuse as Poison Ivy.

As San Diego Comic-Con 2011 kicks off, the early-arriving fans were already flying their funky colors.

Preview Night in the Exhibit Hall has its own distinct sense, like being at a Super Bowl venue before the cameras flicker on and the telecast actually starts. The floor bustles with the early arrivers. These are the preview geeks (the “preeks”?), the fans who meander amid the multiplying tables and packed glass cases and glistening Hollywood signage, soaking up the scene the eve before it becomes The Scene.


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On Preview Night in the Hall, costumed Star Wars nerds and other cosplayers aren’t yet out in full Force, either. It’s the relative calm before the Stormtroopers.

The celebrities and concessionaires and full circus sideshows are mostly still elsewhere. This is about the “preeks” lacing up and warming up before the Iron Man triathlon of Cons, as it were.

So with that in mind, we walk so you don’t have to. Comic Riffs contributor Tom Racine , he of the most excellent Tall Tale Radio podcast, was on hand Wednesday night, camera and notebook in hand.

Here is Tom’s four-minute video from the Preview Night floor, as well as his opening impressions:

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It’s a good thing I don’t believe in omens, because the first sight that greets me walking to the San Diego Convention Center is a 50-foot-tall inflatable Smurf.

Talk about ominous.

The madness that is the Comic Con has started, and the logistics are staggering, yet the process efficient. From the line to get your pass (I had my Professional/Press pass in less than 15 minutes), you’re shuttled upstairs to “The Sails Pavilion,” a large and enclosed and sunlit space where the autograph tables will be located. Here’s where the fans get badges, souvenir books and the coveted “giant bag” to carry it all. This year, the bags are quite varied; I got a “New Justice League” bag, complete with the shockingly red-underwearless Superman that is causing geek uproars everywhere.

There are Harry Potter Lego bags, “Twilight” bags, “Big Bang Theory” bags — and the new “ThunderCats” show bags.that were the early hot item (a handful of people are trying to trade for them). Every year I’ve been here, I’ve seen at least a few girls wearing the previous year’s bag as a dress they created, impressively using it as fabric.

Wednesday isn’t that big a day for the costumed folk, so there haven’t been all that many. A couple of Stormtroopers were wandering about, but honestly, I think those guys wear those outfits to work anyway.

We get the official souvenir book, which includes a long article that celebrates the 20th anniversary of Jeff Smith’s amazing “Bone.”

The doors open up at 6 p.m. West Coast time Wednesday for a preview of the main exhibit hall. “Preview Night” — doesn’t that sound like a small reception of a few dozen people, with maybe trays of wine and cheese and a string quartet playing some Baroque music in the corner? Well, that’s not exactly the same as some 15,000 people storming in to get the first shot at some special offers and freebies. Still, it’s a joy to behold when someone is jumping for joy because he or she managed to get a Galactus figure or a limited-edition pink Darth Vader.

Preview Night is crowded — wall-to-wall people. Got on line at the Marvel booth to snag some swag, but it soon melted down into a chaotic group of people grabbing for posters. I blame the line people at the booth…you have to have people laying down the law and constantly pointing to the back of the line, or it rapidly becomes something out of ”Lord of the Flies.”

Another Funny/Scary Thing Happened Within This Forum. The big booth for the swell Disney kiddie-cartoon show “Phineas and Ferb” is next to AMC’S “Walking Dead” booth, whose giant display has a door being opened and closed by a dozen zombie hands trying to “break in.” Sure, space is hard and this might have slipped through the cracks, but, wow: It’s like a “Mary Poppins”/”Exorcist” double feature.

A spoonful of wry humor helps this Preview Night go down.

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MORE: Celebritology covers Comic-Con’s Hollywood scene.

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.

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