July 8 2015 02:11 PM

From SuicideGirls and Walking Dead haunted houses to superhero art shows and Nerdist carnivals, there's plenty to do without a pass.

A mural by Hugo Crosthwaite on view at “Word Balloons” at SDSU Downtown Gallery.
Photos by Mark Murphy

Comic-Con is certainly great, but getting a badge for the annual nerd mecca has become somewhat of a "promise us your first born"-type undertaking. One thing that's been great about Con becoming such a coveted destination is there are now plenty of geeky destinations and events that don't require patrons to show their passes.

True fanboys should have already bought tickets to Nerd HQ '15 at the New Children's Museum (200 W Island Ave.) which features geeky activities and "Conversations With a Cause" with celebs like Joss Whedon, Guillermo Del Toro and "The Dude" himself, Jeff Bridges.

The National Geographic Channel is also hosting Nerd Nite on Friday from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at SILO in Makers Quarter (753 15th St.) in East Village. This event has free food, drinks, trivia and, more importantly, actual nerdy things like lectures on topics ranging from "The Science of Jurassic World" to "Making a Living in Taxidermy." 

If you want to get a glimpse of some homegrown comic talent, the "Word Balloons" exhibition is opening on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the San Diego State University Downtown Gallery (725 W Broadway) and features comic book-inspired illustrations from SDSU faculty, alumni and students. Same with "Randall Christopher: The Modern World" at Chrome Digital (2345 Kettner Blvd.) in Little Italy. Opening on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., it features new works from the local comic artist behind titles like Kleenan and Mike and Bear and Fox. O'Reilly Tattoo (519 Broadway) is hosting Superhero Sideshow 2 from 6 to 11 p.m. on Friday and showcases dozens of local tattoo artists' comic-inspired art. Mike Hess Brewing in North Park (3812 Grim Ave.) will have a ComicArt show up throughout the weekend that features comic and cartoon art from dozens of local artists. It opens on Wednesday night from 6 to 10 p.m. "Comic Conga" at the Centro Cultural de la Raza (2004 Park Blvd.) in Balboa Park on Friday from 6 to midnight includes art from both sides of the border, as well as live music, food, poetry and interactive activities. And, be sure to stop by the Central Library (330 Park Blvd.) for its first gallery exhibition, "The Art of Comic-Con".

Chuck Jones Gallery (232 5th Ave.) always has a full docket of events during Con week. There will be art shows throughout the week and weekend that feature Loony Tunes, Mortal Kombat and Star Wars works. But save the date for Saturday at 7 p.m. when William Shatner stops by to promote his new graphic novel, Man O'War. Hold out hope he'll yell, "Connnn!" at some point in the evening. y 

Those into music may want to check out the San Diego Symphony Summer Pops offerings at Embarcadero Marina Park South (200 Marina Park Way). While it's hard to imagine the target demographic that'll show up for the Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions concert on Thursday, it could be cool to see the Symphony provide the score to classic Pikachu battles. Still, we're holding out for the Star Trek: Into Darkness screening on Saturday with, again, the symphony providing the score to the film. Trekkies are divided on Into Darkness so it'll be entertaining to see if there's any popcorn throwing or Vulcan ear pulling.

Another music option is the annual w00tstock: A Night of Geeks + Music concert on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Balboa Theatre (868 4 th Ave.), but it certainly isn't limited to music. Celebs like Adam Savage, Wil Wheaton, Alton Brown and the duo Paul & Storm perform a concert that also incorporates short films, comedy and tons of audience participation.

SuicideGirls Blackheart Burlesque

You don't have to actually attend Con to drool over pretty women cosplaying characters we suspect they know nothing about. On Thursday, SuicideGirls holds their annual Blackheart Burlesque show at the House of Blues (1055 5th Ave.) which features semi-nude ladies stripping off their requisite comic book or pop culture costume. The American Comedy Co. (818 6th Ave.) will be holding a more low-key burlesque event the same night at 8 p.m. called Comic Strip that'll feature cosplay ladies in between sets from local comics. 

Speaking of comedy, don't be too sad if you didn't score tix to the Conan show tapings. There are other stand-up options (pun intended) if tickets haven't already sold out by the time you read this. Pete Holmes will be doing a live recording of his podcast, You Made it Weird, on Thursday at American Comedy Co. Fellow podcaster Chris Hardwick (The Nerdist) will have a solo show on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Balboa Theatre (868 4 th Ave.), and there are live tapings of The Nerdist on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. that will see Hardwick interviewing Ben Kingsley, Peter Capaldi of Dr. Who and Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams. Also on Friday at the Balboa Theatre, geek favorite Bo Burnham will do a set at 10:30 p.m.

The Nerdist will also be holding their annual Nerdist Conival on July 9-12 at Petco Park (100 Park Blvd.). There's laser tag tourneys, gaming stations and Amy Poehler's Smart Girls will provide the arts & crafts booths. There will also be on-stage interviews from dozens of celebs including Michael Ian Black, Daniel Radcliffe and the casts of Workaholics and Orphan Black. Bonus: it's all free.  

Those into haunted-house-type events have a couple options this year. At Petco Park on Friday and Saturday, The Walking Dead Escape provides fans of the AMC show the opportunity to walk (or run) through a zombie-filled gauntlet. There's also a $75 "Walker" package that includes a zombie makeup makeover. The Great Room Escape (424 Market St.) will be open the entire week. It also has a zombie theme, but centers more on problem-solving and working with a team to escape a haunted laboratory.

Oh, and if come Sunday, at the end of all this madness, you're leaving Con with a bunch of unwanted freebie comics or you just want to get rid of Chuck Austen's entire run on Uncanny X-Men, you can donate them at the True Hero Comic Book Drive at the Hard Rock Cafe (801 4th Ave.) where the chain restaurant will be shipping all donated books to Marines fighting overseas. hardrock.com And if this list isn't enough for you, there are literally hundreds of other options on sdccblog.com, sanfis.org and outsidecomiccon.com.


See all events on Wednesday, Dec 7