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When you get to Comic-Con, you head inside to pick up your badge. The nice lady at registration gives you said badge, plus a ginormous bag with a hefty shoulder strap. You might think “what? there’s no way I’m going to need this big of a bag.”

And you’re wrong. You’re gonna need an even bigger one. Multiple bags, even. If you take everything you’re handed, you won’t be able to get it all home. You have to get picky.

For the second year, I decided to not be picky and just take everything I was handed, both inside the convention and out on the streets of San Diego. Here’s some of my favorites from around the show.

Swag So Insanely Popular That It Nearly Incited A Riot:
ABC’s Pan-Am Luggage

panambag 385 [Comic Con] The Best & Worst Of The Free Swag At Comic Con 2011

This fall, ABC’s got a show coming out called Pan-Am about the golden age of air travel. It’s basically hot stewardesses, from what I gathered. What better way to showcase this than a simulated plane ride?

You got one of these Pan-Am messenger bags by getting in line for a “boarding pass,” then returning to the booth at a certain time to “board your flight.” You went into the fake cabin where a stewardess had you sit down, turn off your phone and take off on a short fake flight from Heathrow to JFK — complete with rumble seats and a fake landing. During the flight, you were shown a clip of the show. After the flight, you were “given your luggage.” Neat, right? (Most people got a cloth version, while a select few got the leather one pictured above.)

With the whole fake plane thing they had limited seats, and the bag was so popular the poor women working the booth were bombarded with a crush of people that, at times, security was brought in to disperse. Nevertheless, the damn things were on everybody’s shoulder by the end of the convention.

I’ll admit — I never got my hands on this one. After several days of trying, I had to break down and ask a publicist to please let me just take a picture of it for the story. Sigh.

Swag You Can Scare Your Neighbor’s Kids With:
Oddly Patriotic Clown Mask

scaryclownmask 385 [Comic Con] The Best & Worst Of The Free Swag At Comic Con 2011

This appears to be promoting something called Payday, though I’m not sure if that’s a book, a movie, a TV show, a video game or what. I do know it probably triggers some sort of post-traumatic stress in bank tellers.

I get they’re trying to sell something involving a heist, but I don’t know about this giveaway. I didn’t see a single person wearing this thing.

Most Practical Swag If You’re A Drinkin’ Man:
FX’s Sons Of Anarchy Metal Flask & It’s Always Sunny Shotglass

flask 385 [Comic Con] The Best & Worst Of The Free Swag At Comic Con 2011

I’m cheating here, because as far as I know this wasn’t being given out on the floor. This was in the gift bag at the Maxim party, which was serendipitous because after attending the Maxim party, I needed to carry a flask for a little hair-of-the-dog the following day.

The shot glass was also in there with the flask, if you don’t need to be discreet.

Swag That Made Me Look “Super Cool,” Until I Left Comic-Con:
Hasbro’s Cardboard Transformers Truck Hat

truckhat 385 [Comic Con] The Best & Worst Of The Free Swag At Comic Con 2011

(Hat modeled by my associate, Mr. Lampwick)

Okay, it’s easy to get swept up in the convention. It’s fun. Okay? So you can’t blame a guy for going to the Hasbro booth, getting a cardboard Transformers hat, wearing it for hours then forgetting he had it on, walking outside and going about his business around San Diego.

If nerds were Superman, the convention center would be Earth’s yellow sun. The further you get from it, the less power you have. And by the time you’re at your hotel, people just think you’re an idiot with a cardboard hat on. Not that this happened to me. It might have, though.

Most Practical Swag If You’re A Lazy Man:
The CW’s Ringer Stool

ringerstool 385 [Comic Con] The Best & Worst Of The Free Swag At Comic Con 2011

The CW has a new show called Ringer that stars Sarah Michelle Gellar. She plays herself and her own twin sister — one of whom’s successful, and one of whom’s not so much. The successful twin kills herself mysteriously, and the not-so-much takes her place.

As far as I can tell, this stool has nothing to do with any of that. They’re just preying on a fundamental weakness of this crowd: none of them want to stand ever, and Comic-Con forces them to stand always. Why not give away portable fold-up stools?

I say this, though, to all those who would let The CW give you this option. This is the most workout we’ll get all year. Let us stand together, my brothers and sisters. Let’s stay on our feet for once.

Longest Possible Line For Not Much Value
Cartoon Network’s Free Pizza from Cicero’s

(no picture, but imagine a gigantic line of people that stretches on forever)

Cartoon Network decided to take over a pizzeria in Downtown San Diego and give out free slices of pizza. It was to promote the show Adventure Time. A nice, clean, simple concept.

The line stretched for, I’m not kidding you, a f**king mile.

I didn’t partake of this free pizza, because if I had, I’d still be standing in the damn line. I did ask a Cartoon Network employee to please verify this line was actually to get a free slice of pizza. He said yes. I scoffed. As a consolation prize, he gave me this little fellow:

adventuretimeguy 385 [Comic Con] The Best & Worst Of The Free Swag At Comic Con 2011

Worth it.

Most Times I Got Asked “Where Did You Get That?”:
Discovery Channel’s Shark Week Bag

sharkweekbag 385 [Comic Con] The Best & Worst Of The Free Swag At Comic Con 2011

Mmmm, Shark Week. Jawesome.

On Friday morning, I was walking to the Convention Center when I saw someone carrying one of these bags, still folded up. I scanned the crowd and saw a few others carrying them as well. I stood on my tip-toes, looked over the crowd and followed them back to the source: a single Discovery Channel street-teamer with a box of them, just handing them out all willy-nilly. I raced to her and snagged the last one.

For the rest of the weekend, I felt like a rock star. People needed this bag. They had to know where I got it. Because it’s Shark Week. And really, look at it. One look at this bag, and you know you need it in your life.

I’m going to pin it up on my wall like it’s a Teen Beat cover.

Swag That Made Me Feel Kinda Dumb:
GoNoGo Binary Decision Making Tool

decisionmaker 385 [Comic Con] The Best & Worst Of The Free Swag At Comic Con 2011

I’ll admit I over-thought this one. It bills itself as some sort of mystic device that allows you to make foolproof decisions. It’s a black and a white stone — you mix them up, put them in your hands then pick a hand. If it’s the black stone, you don’t do whatever it is you’re trying to decide. If it’s the white one, you do it.

Some of the instructions include “Do Not Attempt To Trick The Stones,” a stern warning that the stones cannot be fooled, “Do Not Ask The Stones Stupid Questions,” “Keep The Stones Together,” and “Only Open One Hand, Or The Process Will Fail.”

Yeah, I tried to figure out the secret of this bad boy before I realized I’d been had. Well, I didn’t ever actually realize I’d been had. I asked the stones and they confirmed it.

Comments (2)
  1. You wanna hear about an awesome piece of swag? After the Legendary Pictures panel, the tickets they handed out were redeemable for a collector’s edition Legendary Pictures Hot Wheels van and a copy of Mass Effect 2 for either the Xbox 360 or PS3. The PS3 version is still selling in stores for about $40, making this the most expensive thing I picked up for free. On top of that, the two people sitting in front of my friend and I didn’t want their tickets, meaning we got 2 copies each.

    1. Marc Chambers | Writer says:

      That’s amazing!

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