I found a lot of like minds on this whole kerfuffle over the L.A. Times “article” (or slideshow or whatever they want to call it). I do not proclaim to be an expert about conventions or Comic Con, but I think I’ve learned a few things that the first timer should really know (stuff they don’t always put in the Comic Con magazine).
So, with that, I present to you my Guide to Comic Con (all genders welcome)!
So, here we are about a month out from the Con. You may be thinking that there’s nothing to do until you arrive in San Diego, but you would be wrong. Yes, panels are entertaining and there are lots of awesome things to see and buy (and lots of free stuff too!)…but the best part about Comic Con is bonding with others who share your interest or passion in all things comics/geeky/cool.
If this is your first time going to Comic Con, I encourage you to start finding others who will be going, through facebook, twitter, websites, etc. I always find that having a few new folks to meet up with at the Con from all over the country makes the experience a lot more fun. AND you’ll have people to plan out your Con activities with — share ideas of what to do, where to go, who to see. Some Con veterans will be able to direct you to the best restaurants and ‘secret’ Con activities (ooh, secret activities? Okay, maybe less publicized events, some affiliated, some not affiliated with the Con).
What to Take With You to the Con Every Day
Unless you are dying to carry around 25 pounds on your back, try to pack light. I’m one of the unfortunates who is there as press and must lug my laptop around to blog/tweet/write all day, so take pity on me when you see me. The rest of you should use your backpacks to carry around some of the following:
Food. You may THINK that you’ll grab a bite at the convention center, but unless you are addicted to Mrs. Fields cookies and Starbucks coffee (and don’t mind waiting in long lines for it), bring some snacks to sustain you throughout the day. You may find yourself in Hall H (the biggest room) all day for the various film panels, and trust me, once you are in one of those rooms, you may be stuck there (more on that in a minute). So, pack some snacks…if you are flying in from out of town, check the area around your hotel to see if there is a drugstore or supermarket close by. I’d also advise that you try to stick to healthy stuff — fruit, carrot sticks, granola bars — just for your overall health (you’ll be eating poorly enough probably anyway), but that’s just me trying to look out for you. Take what you like that will keep you going for a few hours. If that means candy bars and energy drinks, so be it.
Pen and paper. Yes, I know — you have a smartphone, you can jot down notes or phone numbers or what have you on that…ah, but what if you run into Stan Lee in the hallway? I’m not a huge autograph hound, but you don’t want to lose out on an opportunity. Also, smartphones die or lose power. You might want to have paper to write phone numbers, information on panels, etc as a backup. Yes, I know this sounds silly, but don’t come crying to me when you are in the middle of the vast Exhibitor Hall, trying to remember where you saw the awesome T-shirt you wanted to buy. If you had written down the booth number or given yourself some direction back to said awesome T-shirt, you wouldn’t be crying when you can’t find it again. Trust me. I’ve been there.
Business cards. If you are an aspiring artist/writer/actor/rocket scientist, bring business cards. You’ll meet a lot of people, and passing them out is the easiest way to network (and yes, Comic Con is a fantastic networking opportunity). Don’t have business cards? There are many inexpensive options to get some made and you still have time to get them ordered and delivered! What to put on the card: Your name. Your email. Your phone number. Perhaps something that describes who you are/want to be…I try to write on the back of cards i receive something about the person so I remember who the heck they are later when I’m sorting through cards. Now that there are personal addresses available on Facebook, that could also be a good addition to the card. If you want to keep in contact with new folks you meet, try to add them on Facebook as soon as possible so you don’t forget who they are!
Comic Con Program. They’ll give you a bag o’ stuff when you register and get your badge. The most important thing you’ll get when you check in is the Comic Con Program. It is large, but is your bible to the whole shindig. I usually take a highlighter to it as soon as I receive it so I can mark panels I am interested in seeing and their locations. Learn the map, love the map.
Daily Comic Con ‘Newsletter’. Every day the Con puts out a newsletter of schedule changes (and there are ALWAYS changes). You’ll find them on your way into the exhibit hall or in a few other locations throughout the convention center. It also has the daily ‘grid’ schedule of the events happening that day, but if you need the details, check the program (that’s why you are carrying it around).
Personal hygiene products. Okay, I know that seems either a) rude or b) insane, but trust me on this…and I mean this for EVERYBODY. You are going to be spending many hours hiking around inside and outside a convention center, perhaps even on the sidewalks of the Gaslamp quarter. It will be HOT. So, bring a small bottle of sunblock for when you are wrapped around in the line outside the building trying to get into Hall H. Bring wet naps for when you are munching on your snacks between events. Bring your deodorant to refresh yourself (wet naps are good for wiping down too). Last year a friend of mine invested in mini-bottles of Axe body spray. Anytime someone with a…smell issue…came into our general proximity, he sprayed it toward them. It was a lifesaver. So, if you can’t keep others smelling decent, at least keep yourself that way!
Camera, batteries, etc. The closest place you can buy batteries that won’t cost you a small business loan is a pharmacy several blocks away. So, make sure you have spare stuff with you, if possible. Trust me, I’ve made that walk. If it weren’t for the Sci-Fi ‘Eureka’ ice cream truck I encountered on my hike back to the con in the middle of the day, I might not be here today.
General Dos and Don’ts
Do talk to people around you. If that isn’t normally your thing, make it your thing! You never know who you might meet. There are lots of opportunities to strike up conversations. You’ll be standing in lines for just about everything.
Don’t panic. Yes, the Con is HUGE. Yes it is sold out and there are tens of thousands of people there. You may not get into the panel you want. Actually, you are very likely not to get into a panel you want unless you are willing to wait in long lines for it. This leads to the next item:
Do be selective, but keep your options open! Once you have the schedule in hand, you will want to pour through it, marking every panel, session or activity of interest. Here’s the thing: there are many ways to enjoy the Con. I know people who don’t set foot in a room for a panel/seminar/session etc. I know those (and have been one) who wait in a line to get into a room early in the day and stay in that same room ALL DAY. You may wish to wander around in costume all day. That’s fine too! But don’t try to do everything. You’ll only end up frustrated and disappointed. Also don’t try to go from one large panel room (like Hall H or Ballroom 20 or any of the upstairs rooms in the hallway of DOOM) immediately to another. See, here’s what happens:
It’s 9 AM. The doors open, people flood into the convention center and start filtering toward rooms. Each room has a line designated. Very often (as in, ALWAYS) those lines get long. I don’t care what it’s for. Yes, you expect a huge long wait to get in to hear about Iron Man 2, but there’s a long wait to get in to hear about Supernatural too. Last year I got in line an hour before a panel was set to begin and never made it into the room for that panel. People are let into the room as seats become available, which means the rooms DO NOT EMPTY between sessions! The good news: You get into a room early, you can get a good seat and keep it. The bad news: If you leave, you may not get back in (exception is for the bathroom passes that get handed out between panels. This allows you to dart out for a couple of minutes and back into the room again without losing your seat). For very very popular panels, expect to wait in line at least 2-3 hours before the panel even starts. This will not even guarantee you get in, though. So, in that case…
Do have a backup plan! Okay, so you couldn’t get into the Iron Man 2 panel. There are lots of smaller events going on at the same time, and often those smaller rooms don’t fill up. Last year I went to a really cool session about the Science of Watchmen. A scientist did a presentation about the scientific plausibility of Dr. Manhattan, the Owlship, and other fun stuff. Very entertaining.
Don’t forget the exhibit hall! You’ll probably be in and out of that place a lot. Many booths have giveaways, autograph sessions and demonstrations throughout the con, so if you can, check out the hall early on your first day to get a schedule of events for some of these booths.
Don’t throw away any tickets you get! So, you are walking into a room for a panel. Someone hands you a little ticket — don’t lose it! It is probably so you can get some free stuff for being in that panel (last year I got a ticket at the True Blood panel that I was able to cash in for a bag o’ goodies, including a t-shirt, a copy of the first Sookie Stackhouse novel and other fun stuff). There is now a room designated to pick up your free stuff, but the room closes about an hour before the end of each day. So, avoid going RIGHT after a panel is over (everybody else will be running to get their stuff) but try to get in there before the end of the day, so you can still claim your stuff.
Q & A Okay. I want you to hear me now and believe me later. Perhaps one of the most PAINFUL thing about these panels is when they open up questions to the audience. If you want people to like you, try to keep your questions short and sweet. We don’t need to hear your life story, how you got to the Con, your career aspirations, your costume details, etc. Yes we KNOW you love their work/their show/their writing, etc. Don’t waste time with the accolades. It gets annoying. Oh, and could you please make sure it is a QUESTION and not some general comment you just must make known to the other thousand(s) of people sitting in the room? Please, be interesting. Ask a good question. This is your one chance to ask your favorite comic writer/artist/actor/director/important person on a panel a burning question. Do you really want to be known as the guy/gal who asked them something stupid? And if you aren’t sure if your question is stupid…well, it probably is. Part of the reason people disparage fanboys is because of the Q & A. Seen the William Shatner SNL sketch? Yeah, learn it and love it. Try to be a good fanboy/girl. Okay, off my soapbox about that now.
When in a panel, try to be considerate of those around you. That means, no standing in front of your seat to take pictures or video, talking on the phone, spreading out all your crap in the aisle or taking up multiple chairs. We all want to see/hear/enjoy the panel. I’ll never understand why some people choose to remain so ignorant of how their actions affect those around them. Try not to be one of those people. Yes, it’s hot, it’s stuffy and you are tired. We all are. The Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) has never been so important.
The Exhibit Hall That place can be a jungle. Mobs of people moving through the booths, some trying to pick up every bit of free stuff, others trying to take pictures…the worst thing you can do, seriously, is block a walkway. If you must stop and adjust your bag or costume, try to step out of the flow of traffic. Stopping abruptly to ogle the ginormous props or posters isn’t always avoidable, but do try to get out of the way as you do it. If you are chatting with someone at a meet and greet or autograph session, don’t take all day. You are not the only person in that line, and I’m sorry, you are not the most important person in that line. Yes, it’s kind of an assembly line. Say your piece (I like your work, etc), get the autograph and MOVE ON. HAVE YOUR CAMERA READY. You will be hated if you get up to take a picture and your camera is not on/ready/etc. Remember that there are a lot of kids at the Con. As a grown up, you have a responsibility not to step on children.
It’s hard sometimes…you’ll be having a great time at the Con and then something happens, and your mood does a 180. Last year I was in the worst mood most of the time — I didn’t get into panels I wanted to see, or I got battered like a pinball in the exhibit hall, and so on. Take a few moments for yourself — find a quiet corner, remind yourself why you are there. If you aren’t having fun, stop what you are doing and take a step back. No it isn’t going to be fun every second of every day, but if you aren’t enjoying yourself at all, perhaps you are trying to do too much.
Spend time in Artist’s Row and the Small Press Tables. Not only will you see really great independent art and comics, but you’ll meet some great people (yup, I’m big on meeting people). I’m always sad to see these areas neglected because they aren’t giving out some free piece of crap that you will probably throw out anyway.
Want to feel good about yourself? Donate Blood. Every year the Con holds a blood drive, and they even give you some cool free thing for your trouble (and blood). Sign up early though, because the blood drive does tend to fill up quickly, which, in my mind, is a very Good Thing.
What to do when the Con ends each day. You’ll hear about film screenings, parties, and other events throughout your day. Check to see if you need to RSVP for an event before you show up there. I always have a few friends I like to meet up with for dinner one night of the Con, just to trade freebies, catch up on events, dish the dirt. If your hotel is close enough, you may want to grab a nap before going back out at night. Comic Con can be an endurance test, but don’t feel like you need to keep up with everyone. Go at your own pace. If you are not usually very active, you might want to take the next few weeks to do a little walking. I know it seems silly, but a little ‘training’ doesn’t hurt! You could be walking up to 10 miles a day at the con. If you aren’t used to that, it can be extremely exhausting.
Okay, that’s the end of Part One (yes, there’s more to come!) Have questions? Please leave them in the comments and I’ll address them in Part Two, which will take me a few days to put together, but I promise to make it worth your while!
Posted under randomness
This post was written by Shawna on June 19, 2009