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July 13, 2012

Comic-Con: ‘The Walking Dead: Escape’ is no joke

Posted in: Comic-Con

photo 1 Comic Con: The Walking Dead: Escape is no joke

Signs outside Petco Park warn visitors about zombies. (Patrick Day / Los Angeles Times)

TV is big at Comic-Con International this year, and the ultimate proof of that can be found across the street from the San Diego Convention Center at Petco Park.  Home of the San Diego Padres for most of the summer, for three days of Comic-Con it’s ground zero for the zombie apocalypse.

“The Walking Dead Escape: San Diego” is an interactive experience tied to the publication of the 100th issue of “The Walking Dead,” which is also, of course, the basis of the hit AMC TV series. The participants, called survivors, have to make it through an intricately designed obstacle course on the periphery of Petco Park, all the while dodging surly zombies. The object is to make it through the course untouched by any of the ghouls.

An estimated 10,000 visitors are expected to participate in the three-day event, paying $70 a head to run the course. Another 4,000 visitors can watch the action from observation decks for $15.

The event features 650 zombies lurking in the park each day. It took six months of planning and four days to build,  and was put together by Evenergy, an events and sponsorship company; RaceWire, which provides electronic disposable-chip timing for endurance events; Absolutely Experiential, which designs aerial adventure parks, zip-line canopy tours and adventure obstacle courses; and Ruckus Sports.

People running the course duck, crawl, climb and dodge their way past the ravenous zombie hoards, while fog machines obscure their vision and fake TV news reports of the apocalypse distract them.

comic con logo Comic Con: The Walking Dead: Escape is no joke

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Anyone expecting a light funhouse romp should head back to the convention center. A signed release form is required before running the course, and some time spent near the exit revealed a number of participants with bloody injuries. Which is not to say the banged-up participants were disappointed.

“It’s like a haunted house at 100 miles an hour,” said 24-year-old Tustin resident Kevin Hall as blood trickled down his shin, the result of a  mishap on a rope bridge. “They don’t tell you anything. So when you go in, the stress level goes through the roof!”

Another participant, CarolAnne Fernandez of Long Beach, hobbled out with a deep gash on her thigh. She was leaping over a zombie when she cut her leg open on an exposed bolt.

“It’s not something you’re thinking about when you’re running away from a zombie,” she said.

But for Fernandez, the experience was still a pleasant one. “The zombies were very nice. They looked at me sympathetically and hugged me.”

– Patrick Kevin Day

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