Purge supplies, Clone Wars tears, and shrimp cocktail carousels: the best things we saw at San Diego Comic-Con 2018

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San Diego Comic-Con may have had a relatively light year this year since many of the con’s usual major presenters — including Disney / Marvel, Netflix, and HBO — scaled back their presence, but even a reduced schedule at the second-largest fan convention in the world is overflowing with news and events. While many of those moments were easy enough to catch up on — new trailers for Aquaman and Glass, the lowdown on DC’s new streaming platform DC Universe — the weekend contained some hidden gems that could only be highlighted if you were there when it happened. Below, we’ve rounded up some of our personal favorite moments of SDCC 2018, so if someone asks, it’ll be like you were there, too.

Laurie Strode saves a life

As a place where fans are afforded the opportunity to finally come face-to-face with their favorite actors and creators, conventions have long been a major hotbed for outpourings of emotion. But Universal Pictures’ Hall H showing this year featured a moment that was exceptional even for Comic-Con. During the Halloween panel that featured Jamie Lee Curtis and the director and producers, they discussed rebooting the iconic horror franchise.

Toward the end of the half-hour discussion, a fan came to the audience microphone to thank Curtis (who had spent most of the panel emphasizing the movie and her character’s themes of trauma and recovery). He claimed that he had experienced a violent home invasion, not unlike those of iconic Halloween villain Michael Myers, and thinking about what her character Laurie Strode would have done to protect herself helped him survive the ordeal. His tearful recollection was met with a standing ovation from the crowd, including Curtis, who asked him to come up to the front of the room for a long hug and brief off-mic discussion.

“These are all movies, and we like to get scared, but [they have] to be based in a reality you can believe in,” she told the crowd once she’d returned to the stage. “That man’s emotions just now, Laurie Strode has been carrying that around for 40 years. That just now, that was evidence of that.” —Devon Maloney, internet culture editor

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Purge City

Devon Maloney/The Verge

At The Verge, we love thinking about Purge-related hypotheticals, so USA’s pop-up “Purge City” activation — an “emporium” made to look like a Party City geared toward the alternate universe that passed the 28th Amendment and built as a promotion of USA’s new television adaptation of the anarchistic franchise — pushed all the right buttons for us.

The shelves were lined with everything from water barrels and 12-hour emergency candles to greeting cards and “I DON’T PURGE BUT I SUPPORT THOSE WHO DO” bumper magnets to post-Purge cleaning supplies. Meanwhile, a host of overly chipper employees in blue aprons gave tours of the store’s wares based on con-goers’ personal plans for Purge Night. God bless Purge America. —DM

The Good Place forking kills it

When I stepped into the bright, heavenly lights of The Good Place activation after a video of Ted Danson’s character Michael cheerfully greeted the fans, I’d never been happier to be fake dead. Inside was an idyllic little replica of the actual Good Place, complete with a shrimp cocktail carousel and a shop called “The Suggestion of Yogurt” handing out froyo vouchers. We were allowed to enjoy ourselves for about 10 minutes. After all, we had earned our places here by answering our afterlife interview questions correctly to get inside. (These included questions like, “Have you ever paid money to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert?” — which, obviously not.)

The entryway to NBC’s The Good Place activation at San Diego Comic-Con 2018.
Photo by Devon Maloney / The Verge

But then infiltrators from The Bad Place blew our cover, and all hell broke loose. Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” blasted from the speakers as Good Place spokespeople yelled at us through bullhorns that we weren’t actually supposed to be there. We were quickly ushered out through the “Infinite Light” tunnel to be spat back out into The Bad Place: real life. —Dami Lee, social media manager / reporter

Taco Bell Celebrates Return of Nacho Fries and Demolition Man 25th Anniversary With Futuristic Dining Experience Photo by Araya Diaz / Getty Images

Taco Bell uses 25th anniversary of Demolition Man as an excuse to wile out

As a youth who up in Los Angeles with to-die-for Mexican food always at my fingertips, I never developed more than a passing enjoyment of Taco Bell. But it was hard not to be at least a little charmed by the fast-food joint for going hard to the point of absurdity at this year’s SDCC. While (officially) Taco Bell was in town to promote the return of its nacho fries, its marketing team clearly used the 25th anniversary of the movie Demolition Man as an excuse to nerd out with an insane budget and set up shop at a local steakhouse, transforming the room into a near-exact replica of the fancy 2032 Taco Bell from the Sylvester Stallone film.

Baja Blast mocktails, cheese fries chilled on dry ice, and, yes, those tiny, tiny gourmet chip platters all made appearances on your dinner table as a pianist upstairs serenaded you with jaunty renditions of the Folgers and Oscar Mayer jingles. It was hard to tell whether I was having a good time because of the geeky experience or because I couldn’t stop laughing about the lengths to which brands will go (not to mention the obscene amounts of money they’ll spend) to promote literal cheese fries at Comic-Con. In the end, I think I decided I didn’t care. —DM

Neopets had a 21+ SDCC party in 2018

Remember Shoyru?
Photo by Dami Lee / The Verge

Comic-Con is as much about the parties as it is about the actual convention, so imagine my surprise when I was idly scrolling through a list of parties when “NEOPETS” caught my eye. Those who were lucky enough to register early were able to attend, and a limited number of tickets were available for $15, which quickly sold out. Fans on Twitter and r/neopets (which is surprisingly still active) begged for SDCC-exclusive codes and updates from the party. As for the event itself, it was kept to a pretty small venue, which was decorated with… vintage fursuits.

Developers from JumpStart, the company which now owns Neopets, were there to show off the upcoming puzzle fighter game, and CEO David Lord confidently announced they would be back in a bigger space next year to celebrate the release of their imminent mobile app. Neopets has been through a lot in the past few years of acquisitions, and the site’s definitely not what it used to be in its heyday, but the audience (now all grown-up and old enough to drink, hence the 21+ party with free booze) is still there and waiting. I’m all for a Neopets comeback in 2018. —DL

#CloneWarsSaved

Back in 2008, Lucasfilm began its animated show The Clone Wars with an animated movie in theaters, before transitioning into a weekly show that ran for five seasons. I was one of the fans who got caught up in the show: I dressed up for the movie and followed the show for a long time, so I was sad when it was abruptly canceled following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. Since then, the show’s fans have asked creator Dave Filoni if the show would ever return, and at the 10-year anniversary panel, he gave us a definitive answer: yes.

The audience for this panel was packed with fans of the series. I spotted a ton of people dressed up as clone troopers, as Ahsoka, and as Jedi Knights, and we all listened attentively as Filoni and guests recounted the production, and generally praised one another for their efforts to bring the show to life. At the end of the panel, Filoni did a “one more thing”-style reveal, dropping a surprise trailer, confirming that the show was coming back. For the first couple of seconds, there was silence in the room as the camera panned past an endless line of clone trooper helmets, and I thought that it was going to be a neat retrospective.

But when the words “A war left unfinished… until now” flashed across the screen, the room erupted into a wild roar when everyone realized what we were watching. The show that everyone wanted to come back was returning, and I saw at least a couple of people crying at the news. It’s one of those moments in Star Wars fandom that feels noteworthy, not only because it was a room full of fans who were united in their appreciation for the show, but because it comes at a time when it feels like Star Wars fandom is trying to work out some issues. — Andrew Liptak, weekend editor

Star Wars fandom not being horrid

Speaking of Star Wars fandom, I’m a member of the 501st Legion, a Star Wars cosplay group that aims to replicate films’ costume designs as closely to what you see on the screen as possible. Big cons like San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic Con, and Star Wars Celebration draw in many of our members, and this year, I ended running into a ton of people from other chapters.

They’re easy to spot as they’re often sporting jackets or shirts with logo patches. I sat next to a couple of members during the Clone Wars screening and ran into them at various panels on the floor. While there were many people I’d never met, those brief meetings felt like catching up with long-lost friends. (Mark Hamill claims to have infiltrated our ranks over the weekend, disguised as a Force Awakens-era stormtrooper.)

This isn’t something that’s unique to any particular fan club. This was an experience that I saw countless times on the floor. People dressed up as characters from Transformers or Ghostbusters or Marvel’s films were meeting one another throughout the weekend, exchanging pictures and making new friends. In a time when fandom increasingly feels like a bad thing, it was heartening to see people come together to bond over a shared interest.—AL