When you brave the hordes in the Exhibit Hall of Comic-Con, you're going to run into every version of Batman that has ever existed. And Superman. And Spider-Man. And just about every other superhero who whose name may or may not be more recognizable than some prominent world leaders.
But wait. What's crawling back there, behind the rows and rows of mainstream action figures?
San Diego Comic-Con hosts giant franchises, sure, but it's also home to amazing independent creators. They dream up toys up that take the shape of Cthuloid creatures, an army of humanoid plant warriors, alien worms that want to do nothing more than scarf pizza, and many a species of mutant rabbits.
The alchemy of fandom and creativity generates endless wells of creativity, resulting in otherworldly entities and fantastical worlds. Here are some of the coolest toys we saw at this year's SDCC.
That’s not a typo — it really is feeping, not meeping — because Feeps are just what Feepmaster General Dylan Edwards wants to call these adorable candy-colored micro-monsters. Evolving Worm, Eyestalk Monster and their friends look like someone merged various types of mollusk DNA in the best possible way. Nonbinary purple blob monster Trevor stars in the Feep comic Ugly Little Beast, which will resonate with anyone who has ever been misunderstood.
Frogs vogueing for the mirror. Frogs singing opera. Frogs in space. The amphibious Lily Pond characters jumped from the hands of claymation master Shelley Daniels Levken, the brains behind the faces of Sally and angry Jack in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Her attention to detail is unreal. From the winged hat on the opera singer to the Pond name tag on the astronaut’s space suit, you would think these creatures are ready to leap out at you. Commander Toad fans, you need this, like, yesterday.
Brought back to life by Barry Gregory and Steven Butler from a forgotten Golden Age comic, John Aman mysteriously walks into America with an antique trunk holding billions of dollars’ worth of diamonds and has looked 35 for at least twice as many years. That might have something to do with how he can knock off thirsty vampires and fight an army of evil plant-men genetically engineered by a homicidal botanist.
These intergalactic rabbits aren’t really zombies. Unfortunately, the human race is so infected with zombie fever that we’ll inevitably run shrieking from anything that keeps repeating the word “brains”. The truth is that these misunderstood space rodents that spawned from the imagination of Jimbo Hillin suffered brainfreeze, and when they landed on Earth, they ended up with massive headaches. That doesn’t keep them from getting into even weirder trouble than normal bunnies would.
Melvin the Sad…(ish) Robot
Remember all those AIM icons with Sad Robot back in the late ‘90s and early 00’s? He’s now been recharged in 3D as Melvin the Sad…(ish) Robot by Joshua Margolis, who has given him some wonderfully weird friends so he doesn’t always have to be a gloomy hunk of metal. There are one-eyed things, animal-faced things, a humanoid ladybug, and a creature with the hagfish teeth of Guillermo del Toro’s nightmares. At least he only uses them to devour pizza.
Wuvable Oaf’s cats
Want to adopt a kitty that’s lavender, green-eyed and terrified of everything? How about a white cat with a beard who craves neon pizza? Just visit Oaf’s Home for Wayward Kitties Who Are Really Cute & Need Lotsa Love. These cats are usually shedding on Wuvable Oaf, the brainchild of Ed Luce, whose award-winning LGBTQ+ comic about an Oaf who just wants to wuv someone has captured the hearts of comic fans everywhere regardless of who they love.
Even a certified lei-wearing, Jimmy Buffett-loving parrot head has never seen Tikis like this. Creator George Davis has taken the Tiki concept and morphed it into everything from skull Tiki to water dragon Tiki to King Tut Tiki (which is something everyone should have). Some of the characters, which creator Davis meticulously sculpts into statues by hand, make waves in their own Kung Fu-slash-Polynesian adventure comic. You will never look at a Tiki bar the same way again.
Unlike Zombie Bunnies, Skull Bunnies are actually undead and may or may not know it. What they do know is that they can play video games, break dance, ride camels, captain a pirate ship, swim with mermaids, play ping pong with dragons, and charge forward on a horse topiary in full samurai regalia. You can now take one of these cuddly Black Sheep Comics characters from Usagi Jane and the Skull Bunnies home, but don’t leave it unsupervised.
Vamplets are exactly what they sound like: baby vampires from the Nightmare Nursery of Gloomvania that want to suck your blood, except out of a bottle. Created by My Little Pony designer Gayle Middleton, these strangely cuddly bloodsuckers are the spooky answer to all those saccharine plushies out there. There’s a Ghost Pony, an Abominable Snowbaby, a Vampire Bat Baby, a Baby Undead Dragon, Bitemares that protect against dark dreams…is that enough for all you darklings?
Moon Minis kind of look like bunnies, or at least some kind of lunar aliens in bunny suits, and they have cake. Many, many moon cakes. Niall Westerfield imagined her own iteration of the Moon Rabbit, which, in East Asian folklore, is a mythical rabbit that supposedly lives on the moon and makes mooncakes to keep the Moon Goddess immortal. These characters, which bounded right out of her original comic, are much brighter than a shadow on the moon.
Yes, she has turned into a Funko Pop, but Lupe of the Eisner-nominated supernatural comic Quince really earned the honor after blasting onto the indie scene with previously unknown superpowers at her fifteenth birthday bash. Except those powers and that killer pink spandex suit will only last while she’s fifteen, so she has a year to figure out exactly what to do with them. At least the fifteen-year-old version of her will get to keep her powers forever now that she’s been immortalized in Funko vinyl.
Verdacomb Orb Suit
If fighting in an electromagnetic death match is your idea of fun, you may want to put this on first. Not that it really helps when the game is rigged. This futuristic Orb Suit comes from the world of Dan Berry’s Verdacomb, where people are so addicted to virtual reality they stay immersed in the digital world except for that one day a year when bodies pile up in the arena because no one else but those in combat really cares about the bloodbath. Admit it, you’d still want to ride one of these mechs.
Ah Heck!! angel and demon bunnies
Rabbits were really multiplying at Comic-Con this year. We’ve had skull bunnies, moon bunnies, zombie bunnies that weren’t really zombies, and now furry angels and demons flying around in the afterlife. They come from Mary Bellamy’s underworld of Heck, where good and evil spirits might as well be bunnies because everything is just so adorable, despite the fact that this is the place where a rebel teen has been forced to live an eternity of servitude.
Wolfie, the Little Wolfman
SYFY medal winner Rebecca Hicks, whose stories about little vampires scared of bats and their mischievous little werewolf sidekick have enchanted horror fans with their creepy cuteness, has now made Wolfie even cuddlier. He wears his trademark hoodie with a working zipper and that goofy fanged smile you always see when he’s adjusting Frankenstein’s knobs or beating Dracula at video games. She needs to transform Sassysquatch and Surlysquatch into plushies next.
This creature from Alcheringa
Whatever it is, it’s like Cerberus if you swap out the three heads for three eyes and add three antennae. It gets to keep all the teeth. In less snuggly form, the beast claws and chews its way through Alcheringa, a comic about a girl with recurring nightmares who braves them by entering the Dream World to find out what her true purpose is. At least this version of the creepy-cute dog-thing wont’ get you in the jugular while you’re asleep.