So What is Comic-Con, Anyways?
Comic-Con in San Diego (also known as SDCC) is the biggest comic, entertainment, gaming and pop-culture festival in America.
It lasts 4.5 days and is the busiest, most exhilarating, most exhausting event with upwards of 130,000+ present.
This is at least our 5th year attending (probably our 6th; no one can quite remember).
It takes up the entire San Diego Convention Center. Like most conventions it has a series of panels and a giant exhibition floor. You can easily spend an entire day wandering the exhibition hall floor. The floor is always packed and takes a long time to get anywhere, so be patient.
There are also offsite events too.
There are an enormous amount of panels. We counted 168 official scheduled panel events on Thursday ALONE. So planning ahead is essential.
Hall H is the biggest single venue, where all the Hollywood studios present their TV and upcoming movie panels. It holds 6,500.
Ballroom 20 is the next largest room, and it holds 4,000+.
The other panel rooms, and there are many, hold varying amounts and attendance can fluctuate wildly throughout the day.
There are many, many ways to experience Comic-Con, and everyone does it differently. But here are 10 tips to help you make it a better experience overall:
1. The Only Currency You Have Is Time
At some cons there is a certain level of of stratification. This stratification directly corresponds to the amount of greenbacks you will have exchanged previously with the aforementioned con. That's not unusual (D23 Expo) and we don't judge (New York Comic Con), but Comic-Con doesn't play that. It really tries to be as equitable as possible, and that means taking "First Come, First Served" to the extreme. If you want to be in the panel for THE WALKING DEAD in Hall H, you need to think about how much time (and for that one think in terms of hours - plural) it is worth to you, because that will be your method of payment.
As Our Girl put it, "Would I like to go to the panel for THE HOBBIT? Sure I would. But I don't want to ride the Hall H Crazy Train that starts in SleepDeprivationville, stops for a extended period in LongBoringWait Town and finishes in the punchy land of I-Haven't-Had-A-Hot-Meal-All-Day-and-I-Have-To-Pee."
Know that there are other plenty of other people at the con who want to attend the same things as you, so fully commit, and this is even more so with the high profile panels. Better to overestimate how long to wait than underestimate. No one at SDCC ever got mad because they got in line too EARLY.
|Me and Felicia Day. Get in line early for her!|
But at some point you're going to need to accept that pretty much anything you want to do, from eating, to panels, to signings, to using the potty, is going to have a line, and you are almost never going to be the first person in it. Whether or not you are the 5th person in line or the 5,000 person is where the real strategy/luck pays off.
Of course, how you deal with being the 5,000th in line is important too. This is when your Human may really need some snuggles. And they should also...
2. Have A Backup Plan
When Hall H fills up, your Human will need something else to do with their time besides be Ticked Off. Of course, they may want to spend some time being Ticked Off (Humans seem to like this from time to time). But the shorter amount of time they spend being Ticked Off, the sooner they can move on to their Plan B. There's plenty to do at the con, so investigate some alternatives and have them at the ready.
3. Be Clean
You'll be meeting people and having your picture taken more than a diva at a Hollywood premiere, so make sure you are up for the occasion. I had my yearly bath recently for my Club 33 trip, so I'm ok, but take a ride in the washing machine, sponge off, spray with Febreze, whatever it takes so you can look your best. Tell your Human to shower every day too. Humans can get grubby.
4. Don't Eat Your Human's Snacks/Drink Their Water
You're probably stuffed in a backpack, like me. And maybe you play with the iPhone, and nap, in between your photography sessions, and it's natural to get peckish. But don't eat your Human's snacks. They need those snacks. If they don't get their snacks, they're more likely to stab a total stranger with a pen over a seat in Hall H.
|Me and @TravelingMocha at SDCC!|
Speaking of snacks, here are some good ones that don't get too crushed:
--dried fruit (I like apricots)
--granola bars/power bars/protein bars
--apples and oranges
--any lunch kits that do not require refridgeration
5. Don't Run Down Your Human's Battery Either
See above. Low battery, the need to Tweet or text, a Ticked Off Human, a pen as a weapon, and next thing you know, the constable's been called and you're in an evidence locker.
6. Bring Some Cards To Give Out
Maybe they are your business cards, or personal "con cards" or in my case, Bunny Cards (I have cards! Ask for one!) but have something so you can exchange information with people, whether you are networking professionally or just making a friend.
7. Be Open-Minded While You Panel-Squat
Some of the best and most memorable times we have ever had at Comic-Con were when we sat through panels that we had literally zero interest in so we could get to the panel we actually cared about. Why? Because we were exposed to something new that we subsequently became a fan of. It's fine to sit at the back and text or tweet, but if you may discover something really cool that you didn't know about before if you pay a little bit of attention.
|Me and @Iamthebear at SDCC|
In 2009, My Humans and I sat through panels with Gerard Way talking about his UMBRELLA ACADEMY series and the now-legendary raucous BOONDOCK SAINTS panel in order to get to the FABLES panel. Takeaway? They bought the Umbrella Academy TPB and rented Boondock Saints and liked them both.
This is reflected wherever you go - the experience is what you make of it. Being friendly and good-natured goes a long way towards contributing to a positive environment at the con.
8. Don't Be Afraid to Tweet the Pros
If you are a fan of any particular artists or writers, tweet them to ask about their SDCC signing schedule.
This is important because there are a lot of signings on the exhibition floor that aren't on the official Comic-Con schedule. Pros can show up at their own behalf or as the guest of a publisher or other vendor, so it can be confusing tracking them down. And there's nothing worse than finding out your favorite comic book writer was at booth A113 all weekend long and you never realized it. So make your own autograph schedule and don't forget to bring materials for them to sign!
|The Houghton Boys, creators of Reed Gunther|
9. Create Lists on Twitter and Save Hashtags
This will make it easy to have all the tipsters, comic guests, etc. at a glance. Because you don't need to follow the San Diego Convention center the other 11 months of the year, and you really do need to know how long the lines are for Hall H - whether you are going there or not. I have a handy list below of people/hashtags to follow.
People to Follow on Twitter:
Hashtags to use:
10. Brevity Is The Soul Of Wit
If you find yourself at the microphone or face to face with a writer, artist, actor or some other creative talent and you're not sure what to say, you can always just go with "I can't tell you what X has meant to me." Because you can't. And maybe you shouldn't. It's easy to get starstruck and tongue-tied, but what's important is that someone created a piece of art that spoke to you, and in the grand scheme of the bizarre thing that is the Human condition, that's something pretty special.
|Me and Babe at the Fables panel|
Bonus: And One Thing You Won't Have To Worry About at SDCC:
11. The Weather
Wherever you are coming from, the weather at least is bound to be an improvement: it will be gorgeous sunny, mid-70s temperatures Wednesday-Sunday.
Sites to help:
In the spirit of Comic-Con, let's all let our geek flags fly!