Does San Diego Comic Con still care about comics?

I hear this question a lot — actually, more than the question, I hear it as a statement: “With the influx of Hollywood, there is no place for comics at Comic Con”

That statement isn’t true, but I can see why you would think it is.  The Hollywood influence at SDCC, more pronounced than at any other major comics convention, gives the impression that there is no room for comics at comic con and that those attending don’t care about comics.

Let’s unpack that.

San Diego Comic Con started in 1970 as the “Golden State Comic Book Convention” (I’m pulling most of the historical info from past SDCC guides and Wikipedia). It went through a few name changes in the intervening years until it is known as THE “Comic Con” — there’s a New York Comic Con and a Chicago Comic Con, but generally when people refer to “Comic Con” they are talking about San Diego, which in the past 40 years has become the premier comic book convention in the country?

Why is that?

Primarily, SDCC has grown to be what it is today because of Hollywood.  George Lucas showcased “Star Wars” there in 1977.  “Superman” was previewed there (to a few catcalls) in 1978.  Since then, Hollywood has had a consistent presence at the convention, recognizing early on that not only was it a short drive down the coast, but they could get early feedback on their genre projects.

Hollywood also recognized early on that Comic Con was a good place to find new stories and writers.  Independent artists, animators and writers were always there, hawking their latest books and independent work, so why not find the coolest and hottest properties at the convention to option and develop as future projects?

The last 10 years showed a real explosion in the coverage for Comic Con, due to the internet and blogs.  Now that people could hear about these Hollywood projects early, there was demand.  In 2005, ABC thought that it might be interesting to bring a new show to the Con, see what the audience thought before it premiered in the fall.  The response was so positive and enormous that it set the precedent for TV networks and cable — LOST became a huge hit, the pilot getting great word of mouth three months prior to it hitting the air.  Now every year, not only do established shows make appearances at the con with cast and writers, but new shows which haven’t aired yet get a chance to test the waters. Fans made it clear that they wanted this kind of attention from Hollywood and Hollywood responded.

The impression as that the Hollywood machine is so enormous now that it pushes comics, the original inspiration and medium which generated the convention in the first place, off to the side.  While I understand that feeling, the fact is that comics are still a dominant force at Comic Con.  DC and Marvel still have the largest booths in the Exhibit Hall. A vast section of the Exhibit Hall is dedicated to independent comic publishers, retailers and artists. While it is true that the major traffic jams occur in the Hollywood section of the floor, it’s because the studios bring all of their big screens, flashing lights and — well, Hollywood — flair.  It’s hard to ignore something so bright and shiny twirling endlessly before your eyes.  So while the Hollywood and Silicon Valley (gaming) sections of the Exhibit Hall create most of the traffic, the square footage of space dedicated to comics is still larger.

But what about the panels? This year there are more than 64 television shows with panels at Comic Con! If you are doing that math, that is 16 shows a day!  The film panels have dwindled markedly, as studios have had mixed results from showcasing genre films at the convention.  A few years ago, everyone expected the big attraction at the con would be the panel devoted to the long anticipated film adaptation of the beloved and groundbreaking comic series/graphic novel WATCHMEN, but a curious thing happened.  There was an undercurrent no one had really paid any attention to, except for Lionsgate which was producing a different adaptation of a Young Adult series that was quietly taking over teenage girls across the country.  The teenage girls showed up at Comic Con, once word was out among the rabid fanbase that the film would be presented at the Con with the unknowns cast in the film.

The result was TWILIGHT took the Con and everyone there by complete surprise.  My sister Julie was in Hall H awaiting the start of the panel following Lionsgate.  I received a text from her during the TWILIGHT panel in which she told me of the deafening crowd reaction to the actors as they came out on stage.  It was in that moment that we knew, a full six months ahead of its premiere in theaters that the film would be a huge hit.

Conversely, panels have a way of telling you what won’t do well.  Reviews following the panels for The Green Lantern were so decidedly mixed that the studio had to be worried about their tentpole after the Con.  Like it or not, the Con has predicted success and failure for Hollywood, and they are fools not to heed the bellweather.

But back to the issue of the quantity of panels — let’s take a look at the names of the panels in the first two hours on Thursday, the opening of SDCC this year:

  • Comic-Con How-To: Building the Foundation to a Page-Turning Story
  • The Witty Women of Steampunk
  • Marvel: Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way
  • IDW & Hasbro
  • Racebending.com: Creating Spaces for Diverse Characters and Representations
  • From Fan to Creator: Goal Setting for Creative Types
  • Flesk: Celebrating a Decade of Publishing
  • Comic-Con Film School 101: Preproduction and Screenwriting
  • TheOneRing.net: The Truth About The Hobbit
  • DC: Talent Search Orientation Session 1
  • Battlestar: So Say We All
  • How to Get News Coverage (for small press comics)
  • Comic Book Law School 101: ABCs for a Savvy and Smart Start (Up)
  • Books and Hollywood: Literary Franchises in Television and Film
  • Epic Games: Fortnite Revealed
  • Comic-Con How-To: Creating a Character-Driven Story

Those are all of the panels that begin between 10 AM and 1o:45 AM.  What do you see?  More than half of the panels are dedicated to comics and publishing.  Weirdly, we only have one TV show with a panel during this time frame, and it happens to be for a show (Battlestar Galactica) that has been off the air for years!  It’s true, not every hour of every day has this many comics panels running simultaneously, but it’s pretty close.  I would argue that while Hollywood films and tv shows overshadow these smaller panels in their coverage, they are like the umbrella which allows for all of the other panels for games, books, comics and fansites to exist.  If there was no Hollywood, there would be maybe half as many panels.  This diversity is what makes SDCC the greatest display of fandom and geek culture that exists in the world.

In recent years, indie comic producers have felt that they are losing real estate in the convention hall — a valid complaint, given the limited space and growing demand for it.  Some of them decided to move out of the convention center and set up shop in a building nearby.  Heck, even some of the Hollywood folks have been crowded out of the convention center and have found places to establish a headquarters in the sprawling Gaslamp district a block or two away.  This has only grown the Con more, as more and more options make it easier for people to enjoy elements of the convention without needing a badge TO the convention.  After all, the con has grown so large, it is difficult to buy a pass, whether for a single day or the entire weekend.  The solution has come in a most unexpected way — take some of the offerings and events outside of the convention, available to anyone and everyone.  Until the San Diego Convention Center expansion project is completed in about four years, this will have to suffice.  In the  meantime, I doubt that anyone will really mind.

One of the most anticipated events during this weekend is the annual Eisner Awards ceremony, celebrating the best in comics and graphic novels for the preceding year.  If there were no comics, there probably wouldn’t be a convention.  Is it fair to call it “Comic Con” anymore?  From a traditional point of view, the purists say ‘yes’, though even Comic Con itself bills the event as a celebration of popular culture, recognizing that the reach has expanded far beyond its original intent.

So, does SDCC still care about comics?  I think they do.  Hollywood certainly does, as so many films and tv shows have come from comic roots.  So long as there are comics, I think it’s fair to say that Comic Con will care.

Long Live Comic Con!

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna on July 3, 2012

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San Diego Comic Con Mania!

Yes, we are consumed with planning and organizing for SDCC.  I thought someone might be interested in my post-mortem article I wrote last year for Seat42F (a great site with lots of SDCC news), so here it is:

San Diego Comic Con 2011: The Rise of the Sideshows  

by Shawna Benson

In the last five years, San Diego Comic Con passes have sold out before the doors even open on the first day of the convention.  This year the con was sold out weeks (and really, months) in advance of the event.  Unfortunately, the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center is still a few years off, so the number of passes which can be sold will continue to be capped (by some estimates there are approximately 130,000 attendees, between exhibitors, press, professionals, guests and paid passholders.)  So how can more people experience the array of activities at Comic Con without actually being at Comic Con?

Some enterprising companies, organizations and even celebrities seem to have the solution.  There have always been a few outside events for convention attendees to investigate in and around the Gaslamp district adjacent to the Con, but this year, the number of offsite events exploded.  A visitor to San Diego during Comic Con this year could really experience the convention without ever setting foot in the convention center.  Granted, the experience wouldn’t be quite the same, but you could still see a lot of the personalities, get photos and autographs, and partake of swag and contests in the many venues which popped up within blocks of the main event.

Directly across the street from SDCC at the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center, a small independent comics event called Tr!ckster set up shop.  It became a place for hardcore comics fans, tired of being overshadowed by the film and TV influences on the Con and craving a return to the roots of the show to interface with some of the master storytellers and emerging artists in the comics world.  Not only could fans chat and relax with a nice glass of wine, but they could also purchase small independent titles and get autographs and photos with participating professionals.

If your focus for the Con was to see some film and TV stars in smaller, more intimate settings that the big panels at the convention center, you could buy tickets to events at NerdHQ, an event sponsored by The Nerd Machine, Zach Levi’s brainchild for nerd outreach.  All of the proceeds for these events, which included panels with Levi, the cast of Firefly and other greatly revered Nerd Idols, went to Operation Smile, a charity devoted to helping children receive surgeries to correct cleft palates and other facial disfigurements.  The NerdHQ also hosted parties and autograph signings and emphasized that it was open to all, not just the elite Hollywood types who dominate the party circuit in the evenings during the convention.  Hugh Jackman came to San Diego to promote is new film “Real Steel,” but there was no panel for the film at the convention.  Instead, Jackman participated in a presentation outside the convention and handed out some tablet PCs to lucky attendees.

There were lounges with free food and drinks, sponsored by various companies – the South Park experience, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Comedy Central series set up in a parking lot a block away from the convention center.  SyFy took over the Hard Rock Café on Fifth Street as they have for the past three years at the convention, turning it into “Café Diem,” the hangout from their original series “Eureka.”  The food served was off the Hard Rock menu, but with names which represented the shows and characters of SyFy, like “The Strathairn” omelet or The Frakking Cylon salad.

Wired Magazine has had huge success with their Café, set up at the Omni hotel and made available for one day of the convention to readers of the magazine who sign up to attend.  Wired has for the past few years set the standard for an oasis to escape the hustle and bustle of the convention itself, bringing in shows like HBO’s “True Blood,” The History Channel’s “Top Gear,” and sponsors ranging from Budweiser to Pringles.  AMD set up a lounge two floors below at the Omni to demonstrate the remarkable 3D gaming capabilities of their processors, providing visitors with energy drinks and free t-shirts for stopping by and checking out their equipment and demonstrations.  Gaming oriented lounges were set up by Sprint, CNET and IGN for gamers looking for a place to try out new games and learn about upcoming releases.  Some of the cast of the Cirque du Soleil show “Ka” performed excerpts from their show outside Petco Park at dusk on the first day of the convention – a free show for all.  Conan O’Brien brought “Coco-MoCA,” to the con, an art show devoted to “The Fine Art of the Flaming C,” which featured artwork by professionals and fans related to Conan O’Brien’s superhero alter ego.  There were demonstrations and giveaways everywhere, set up in restaurants, parking lots and galleries, all rented out during the convention to provide spaces for fans and guests to interact with each other.

The con itself has stretched into both the Hilton Bayfront Hotel and the Marriott Marquis Hotel on either side of the massive convention hall.  The likelihood of spending the entire day in the main hall is dwindling as the exhibitors find new ways to circumvent the space limitations and the challenge of capturing the attention of the masses who shuffle through the crowded exhibit floor.

With so much going on outside of the convention, a person could justify a visit to SDCC without even having a badge to the main event – with movie screenings and all of the aforementioned events, there’s a satisfying experience to be had without waiting in the massive lines to get into Hall H or Ballroom 20, the two largest rooms for presentations and panels by Hollywood studios and television networks.  That leaves only the challenge of finding a hotel room – while the number of available rooms has grown every year they are still in very short supply.  Fortunately for convention attendees, an agreement was reached with the hotels in San Diego to cap the room rates in future years, to prevent potential abuse of hiked rates and more importantly, as an incentive to keep the convention located in San Diego.  It is widely known that the immense growth of the event in the last few years has brought other prime convention cities, like Anaheim, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to come calling to lure the event away.  Currently the convention is expected to remain in San Diego through 2013, at least.

Finally, there is another way to experience the convention without leaving home – the internet.  Videos of panels and events pop up on Youtube within hours of them happening, and some events are streamed live.  So much of the news which breaks at Comic Con is now available instantly on websites such as Seat42F, ready to feed an audience hungry for the latest announcements and photos of their favorite stars.  Though it can’t replicate the actual experience of wandering through the Gaslamp or hustling through the convention center to get to the next event, watching the events unfold from the comfort of your home is certainly less expensive and time consuming.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t be back next year.  The four days of Comic Con really can’t be replicated or replaced.  Despite the heat, the lines of people and the exhaustion, there is no place as exciting or alive as San Diego for four days in July.

Posted under randomness

This post was written by Shawna on June 29, 2012

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2010 San Diego Comic Con Guide

** This guide, while still valid, is 2 years old. If you want updated info for this year, please go here: 2012 Guide

There are actually a lot of updates to important information this year, and it looks like it will keep streaming in over the next couple of weeks, so I’ll be publishing this to a permanent page on the site so it can be found at any time and used for reference (much like the Screenwriter Twitter listing I have here).

Today Comic Con released their newsletter/magazine.  Contained within were several changes from last year.  So let’s start with those.  To read all of the changes in detail, go get the Comic Con Spring/Summer Magazine NOW.

If you have an iPhone or iPad Touch, download the Comic Con app.  It’s free and from what I can see, it will be even more useful this year.  GET IT.

Hotels

They’ve added some more hotels for the con.  That means a few more are offering special rates if you book through Travel Partners on the Comic Con website.  The first thing you’ll notice is that the new hotels are all out away from the convention center, but that may not be a bad thing, because…

Shuttles

…they’ve expanded the shuttle offerings to these hotels!  That means not having to park downtown every day!  Usually you have to add the daily cost of parking to your hotel costs, but with the expanded shuttle services, you can now book a cheaper room further away and still have the ability to get around on the shuttles.  This is a HUGE change and will be a very interesting development this year.  Note:  “To provide faster service, the shuttle route for Mission Valley will run from 7:00am to 8:00pm from a location near the Omni Hotel (at the foot of L Street in downtown San Diego). Using this drop point during heavy daytime traffic periods will increase the frequency of shuttles. After 8:00pm this shuttle route will originate from the Convention Center front driveway.”

Parking

You’ll want to get the details in the magazine or on the Comic Con blog, but there is now a way to pre-pay for your parking.  This can be a big advantage if you’d rather charge it all on a card before you arrive, rather than having cash on hand every day for the lots.  There are some instructions and rules around this, so if this interests you, read up on it.  You can purchase your parking pass here.

Off-Site Registration

They’ve added a location for picking up your badge (only for Attendees — not press, professional or other badge holders) in Mission Valley.  This should help anyone who is arriving on Wednesday but does NOT have the Preview Night pass.  Will also help those of you that arrive the night before your first day at the Con.  You can now pick up badges at the California section of the Atlas Ballroom at the Town & Country Hotel Convention Center.  Hours for this badge pick up: Wed 7/21 3-8:30 PM   Thurs 7/22 8:30 AM – 12 Noon.

So, there’s one other interesting note I’ll reprint here in full from the Comic Con blog:

“You can take the Comic-Con shuttle to the Town & Country; however, you will need to have a Shuttle Pass.

Please note that Shuttle Passes are available ONLY when booking online with official Comic-Con hotels. Shuttle Passes will be available at the front desk upon check in. One pass for each person listed on reservation.”

So, you need a shuttle pass this year.  Keep that in mind, kids.

Bag Check – Expanded Services

Let me cut/paste from the blog once again:

“In addition to the expanded shuttle route, Comic-Con is expanding Bag Check services at the Convention Center.

The Bag Check station is located near Hall A and underneath the escalator in the lobby of Hall E, on the ground floor level of the Convention Center. The charge is $2.00 per bag.

So feel free to check your bags before heading out to dinner or catching an evening program. Finally you won’t have to make a special trip back to your hotel or be stuck lugging your stuff around at night. Simply check your stuff and head out for an evening of fun. But remember, you need to return to the Bag Check before they close as items cannot be left overnight.”

Bag Check Hours:

Wed. 7/21 2 pm – 9 pm

Thurs – Sat 7/22-7/24  7 am – 2 am

Sun 7/25 7 am – 5 pm

Okay, on to some questions…

“I don’t have a badge for Comic Con – they sold out!  Is there any way I can still get one?”

Keep an eye on the Comic Con Twitter Account ( @Comic_Con) Last year tickets which were returned for various reasons were put up on eBay for sale.  You never know when and what kind of ticket it will be, so you’ll have to stay frosty to get what you want!  Happy hunting.

“I didn’t get the hotel I wanted…”

Yeah, me neither.  Them’s the breaks.  You can always check closer to the Con as some people will cancel rooms at the last minute.  I only recommend this course of action if you have a room booked SOMEWHERE.  Otherwise, you might end up sleeping in your car, or in line with the Twihards for Hall H…

Speaking of Hall H, here’s a question from formspring :

What’s the best way to prepare for Hall H madness? Since “Twilight” obsessives camp out? BTW I’m not a fan, lol.

As I said last year, it’s all about strategy.  If you want to avoid the masses of Hall H…don’t go there.  Seriously.  I went to Hall H for ONE event last year, and I know a lot of people who never set foot in that room once.  If you are going to panels that are important to you and they are in Hall H, you’re going to deal with some madness.  Keep in mind that’s exactly what the “Twilight” fans are doing – planning for the one thing they are there to really see.  Call them crazy, but they are committed.  You have to be too, if you are going to be successful.  I will refer you to last year’s guide in the discussion of strategy:

Do be selective, but keep your options open!  Once you have the schedule in hand, you will want to go 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.

Another formspring question:

Are most of the parties I am hearing about post-con (EW, Wrath of Con etc) media only? If so what do most people do on con nights?

I do mention some strategies for finding out about evening activities in last year’s guide.  Let me also direct you to another valuable resource: The Unofficial SDCC Blog.  That link will take you directly to their page detailing off-site events taking place through the con weekend.  This looks like a good place to find parties, special events, movie screenings, etc that you might be interested in attending.  As for some of the “big” parties – they are usually for media and professionals, but there are some chances to win passes to some of these parties through participating websites, most notably those who sponsor the “Masters of the Web” panel — they give away tickets to the Wrath of Con party every year to attendees of the panel.  You may find more chances for these kind of opportunities on their websites also.

One more from formspring:

I’m coming from abroad for Comic Con. Sales tax. I understand it on most things, but taxing old comics at market value (which traders will charge) means a lack of competitiveness V Internet. Am I going to pay 8% above market because I am in California?

The competitive pricing at the convention comes from multiple vendors who will be trying to get your business.  Most of these booths will include tax in the sticker price, so as to alleviate time consuming calculations (after all, there are usually a lot of people trying to buy things.  It makes it easier if they set the price ahead of time).  However, you will find that you can haggle with some of the retailers, particularly as you get close to the end of the convention on Sunday.  For some mint or hard to find items, you may not be able to get a lower price, but it never hurts to ask.  You don’t always have that luxury on the internet either.  I do want to leave this open to anyone who has more knowledge of the tax situation who might be able to provide a better answer than this, so if anyone out there does have something to add, please do so in the comments.

2009 Guide to San Diego Comic Con

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 go 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.

Why don’t they look?

The San Diego trolley barrels it’s way through Harbor Blvd. approx. every blink of an eye so time your street crossing appropriately.  The traffic cops will stop you right on the tracks to allow the car cross traffic to snail by the convention center, so be careful that you aren’t ON the tracks or swung onto the tracks by some dudes ginormous swag bag.  The tracks have also become an inappropriate place for promoters to hand out freebies.  Avoid these at all costs as they’re usually just a postcard or flier promoting some horrible local San Diego nightclub or the like.  Also, you will be pummelled by the rest of the conventioneers in their feeble attempt to grab said freebie, so do yourself a favor and plan your route around these roadblocks to make your way even faster to the restaurants and hotels in the Gaslamp district.

Backpacks = more swag room, but also more personal girth

You might be the smallest/thinnest person tiptoeing your way around the exhibit floor, but once you put on that massive Hello Kitty backpack complete with water bottle side panels and an extension zipper compartment, you have now become a stomping Gamera who’s attention is distracted by the ADD-ness of the posters and flashing lights on the floor causing you and your Hello Kitty to swing like a wrecking ball at passersby.  Add an extra foot to your personal radius to avoid unknowingly hitting someone (me) in the face.

Bathrooms rule at SDCC

Yes, you heard me right – ladies, you have little to no lines at Comic Con….do the math.  And from what I’ve heard, the guys don’t need to stress either, the lines are short and fast as most of us take care of business quickly to race back to those panels and events (Wash Your Hands!).  That being said, you costumers (and you know who you are) that take up a bathroom stall for what seems like hours on end while you readjust your Wonder Women tights – do us a favor and CARRY ON!! That’s right, you have EVERY RIGHT to take forever in order to get your costume in tip top adjustment.  It’s Comic Con for goodness sake!

There’s chairs in the Sails

The Sails Pavilion, although busy with registration, autograph sessions, freebie table, blood drives, and artist portfolio reviews is actually one of the quietest and brightest locations in the convention center.  There’s tables AND CHAIRS in this room so it’s a great spot to meet up with your friends and family for a quick picnic lunch, dividing the swag, and planning the rest of the days events.

Autograph ticket distribution sucks

Not since we were 12 have Shawna and I devoted our precious comic con time to obtaining autographs, but on the few times I bothered to do so, I found the experience exasperating.  You now have to plan time in your schedule to line up for a ticket (only a certain number are handed out) which guarantees you a spot in line for someone’s autograph, but doesn’t necessarily guarantee you an autograph.  Yes, you read that correctly.  So if you REALLY want someones autograph, don’t miss the ticket distribution time (which is sometimes a different day completely) and just show up in the autograph line – you will be disappointed.  Shawna and I, however, will sign anything at anytime ticket stub or not.  So you’ve got that going for you…

Walking in groups

There’s nothing more intimidating or annoying than a group of half a dozen friends walking in a HORIZONTAL LINE like a group of Chorus girls throughout the hallways (not to mention the exhibit floor).  You’re rudely taking up space and this is not the opening sequence to West Side story.  Single or double file should suffice.  Really nothing more to say about that, but be on the lookout – happens all the time.

Let’s address some questions:

Bentoboxx June 19, 2009 4:09 pm
hand sanitiser is also great to have. I dunno how many peeps got “Con Crud”. So many people there…someone is gonna show up sick! protect yourself before ya wreck yourself! Word!

Okay, not so much a question as an astute comment.  Yes, by all means, bring anything that you feel will get you through the con!  Hand sanitizer, Advil/aspirin/Aleve, tums…whatever it takes.  If you are unfortunate enough to come down with a cold just before or during the event, I know you’ll try your best not to pass around your germs.  You don’t need to wear a mask *coughswineflucough* but do remind yourself occasionally to wash your hands.  Last year, there was an estimated 126,000 people at Comic Con.  Try to take home only swag and memories…rather than any nasty bugs.

mm June 19, 2009 4:21 pm
i would add to carry a water bottle at all times & you can fill them in big halls. any advice on how to learn more about the super secret events, esp movie screenings?

Again, another great piece of advice — water bottle. That is one of the great ‘free’ things at the Con — water in the convention rooms! If you don’t want to pack a water bottle to bring, at least refill a bottle you purchase on the first day, and keep it filled. Some enterprising young people made a killing selling water outside the convention center for $2 a bottle while we were trapped in line for Hall H and it was 80+ degrees outside.

As for the question posed here…keep reading. This will be addressed shortly.

Coraline June 19, 2009 5:15 pm
Would really love to see some suggestions about avoiding Con waste! Every attendee should try to keep their con print as small as possible. Take only the flyers and swag that you know you’ll use. Pack out what you bring in. Don’t just grab items because they are free and shiny. ComicCon and DragonCon have huge environmental footprints, and it would be great to see the geeks lead the way in “greening” the Cons.

This is so very true.  When you enter the exhibit hall, there is an alternate state of mind that most attendees slip into.  It involves picking up every single piece of paper or trinket offered in the hall.  It never fails — I go every year saying ‘not this time — I’m gonna be picky about what I take.  Inevitably, I end up each day with a bag full of postcards/stickers/fliers/mangas/catalogs that I will never look at again.  While the freebie table can be a fun place in the Sails Pavilion (as Julie mentioned in her post), usually there isn’t a whole of great value to be found there.  Does that mean you shouldn’t take anything?  Of course not!  If you want that shiny postcard at the WB booth, take it!  But don’t think you need to join every mob of people with arms outstretched grasping for anything.  Yes, you may be excited about the 300 life size shield you score, but how will you get it home (and what will you use it for?  Note: I actually got one of these 2 years ago.  It sat in my bedroom for months until I finally threw it out.  Why I grabbed it, I’ll never know.)

tezero June 19, 2009 7:39 pm
We are signed up as volunteers as well. Anyone have any advice for THAT?

First off, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the organization of the con.  While it may seem scary and overwhelming to you, don’t panic.  The con will instruct you on what you need to do as a volunteer.  My only additional piece of advice is, try not to let the idiots and negative people ruin your volunteer experience.  I haven’t volunteered at Comic Con before, but having volunteered to work other types of events similar to this, it can be very challenging to deal with difficult people all day.  Remember that some people are just lost and frustrated, and are not directing any hostility they may have toward you specifically.  As attendees, we should also remember that the people directing us into and out of places and barking instructions are doing their best.  Even if a volunteer gets frazzled, try to be a pleasant convention guest.  What I’m trying to say is, courtesy in all things, whether you are working at the Con or just attending.  Can’t we all just get along?

Jon Reeves June 19, 2009 11:25 pm
– Charge your batteries every night, even if they aren’t dead yet. Laptop, camera, cell phone, etc. Then again, you probably won’t be taking 1000 photos a day, so this may not be as important as it was for me…
– If you need some quiet down time (and you don’t have a Pro or Press badge), two words: Con suite. Admittedly, SDCC’s con suite is a big disappointment to people who are familiar with SF conventions, and it’s inconveniently located, but that just means it’s really quiet and laid back. And still stocked with free sodas and light munchies.

I’m really grateful to all of you who added such great suggestions in the comments!  As an addendum to the second item, the con suite is usually located in the Marriott hotel adjacent to the convention center.  Again, when you receive the convention guide at check-in, you’ll find all of this information with maps and directions.

Krys June 20, 2009 2:23 am
– Under your ‘General Dos and Don’ts’, you said that the convention hall doors open at 9AM. I’m particularly paranoid about going to one panel (my initial and biggest reason for buying a pass this year), so I’m planning on waking up extra, extra early. My question (and I’m sorry if this sounds incredibly dense – good thing I’m not planning on trying to ask a question at any Q&A sessions!) is: if you get there early, is there just a mob of people waiting outside the convention hall doors? Or is there some semblance of organization and lines are formed? I’d hate to get there early, only to get stampeded on my way (once the doors open) to whatever room is holding the panel I’m interested in. Thank you so much if you can answer this! I really appreciate it!

I’m really excited about the number of first timers who have commented! I think you will all have a fantastic time, so don’t be too scared by what I’m telling you. It is all a matter of priorities. If you are going for something very specific (say, the ‘New Moon’ panel, which I know has brought a lot of people to Comic Con who have never attended before), make that your priority. If that means camping in line for a few hours before that one panel, so be it — that’s why you came to the Con, right? Why risk missing the one thing you really want to see and do? Now, more specifically about the lines…

Yes, there is a line for everything, which can seem really daunting, but is far better than a mob of people rushing through the doors.  When the doors open, the line moves in an orderly fashion — no stampede.  If you aren’t sure what the line is for, ask.  You don’t want to find yourself in line for the wrong room for several hours.  Even if it feels like you are too far back in the line, remember that the largest room, Hall H, holds a lot of people… A LOT.  You can be snaked around the back of the building outside and still get a good seat in there (provided this is before the Con opens for the day.  All bets are off at any time during the middle of the day if you find yourself in that same place in line).  When in doubt, ask the volunteers.  They may not have all the answers (remember, some of them are newbies too!) but there’s a good chance you’ll find one or two vets who can advise you on where to go.  It is not unheard of for people to line up at 5 or 6 AM for a 9 AM panel.  In fact, you’ll find people camped out (literally) all night for Hall H.  That doesn’t mean you have to be one of those people, just know that no matter how determined you are to see something, I bet you’ll find someone else even more committed to it.

(Whew, are you still reading? I think I’m getting long-winded.  I’ll try to shorten up my answers going forward.  Of course, if you print this out, it’ll take up lots of time to read while waiting in line!)

Gillian June 20, 2009 4:20 pm
Overall good tips. As a female that has attended for over 12 years, I wanted to add that as a grown up you should not only try to avoid stepping on children, but short people as well. As a 5′2” female I spend most of my time on the convention floor being mowed over by tall guys. By Friday I’m ready to hit back. By Sunday they may find bodies stuffed under unused booth tables during teardown.  IF YOU HAVE A BACKPACK, please try to mentally add it to your perception of the space you take up. You are now a cloth turtle, please don’t go around whacking everyone with your shell when you move. Hardback books HURT. After 4 days of this people start looking at my boyfriend like he beats me.

Bathe, every day, more if needed. It used to be Saturday or Sunday before people started smelling like an open sewer. In the past few years the strong scent of convention hygiene has been overpowering during preview night.

Take a few extra minutes each day for common courtesy. Letting someone cross an aisle that intersects yours when they’ve been trying to for 5 minutes, answering a question you overhear when you know the answer, giving someone directions, leaving the front seats open on the shuttle for someone less mobile, not shoving your way past people, etc. 99% of the time you won’t be missing out of a vital part of the convention experience and one act of decency per attendee would make this a whole diferent ballgame. The Convention Center is packed to capacity and hell really can be other people.

Awesome advice.  Reprinted your comment in full because I agree 100%.  I was sitting at my usual cafe yesterday and I noticed a family at another table, who looked very confused.  At this particular cafe, you order at the counter and they give you a number so the food gets delivered to your table.  The family was sitting at a table with menus, as if waiting for someone to take their order.  I got their attention and instructed them on what they needed to do.  Did I save the world?  No, but I did save them many minutes of confusion and frustration (I actually wish I had noticed them a few minutes earlier!)  Be generous with others.  It’s amazing how much positive energy you can create if you go through your day seeking opportunities to be helpful rather than trying to shut out the rest of the world around you.  I’m gonna say it again — TALK TO PEOPLE!  A convention is by nature a way to meet other people like yourself.  There are 126,000 other people at this convention for you to meet.  In my opinion, it would be tragic to attend the event for 4 days and NOT meet anyone new!

While working on this, I thought of a few other things to mention:

Parking. There are lots of parking structures.  They are NOT created equal.  The closer you get to the convention center, the more expensive the parking.  Take note of the operating hours of the parking structure or lot.  Some are flat fees for all day, others are by the hour.  It is common to park 7-8 or more blocks away and walk toward the convention center.  The structures next to the con fill up very early and very quickly.  If you are staying at a hotel on the bus route, I encourage you to take advantage.  If you are staying further away, make use of mass transit if you can (just add lots of extra time to get to and from the convention center).  Last year I stayed many miles away from the convention center and found it easier to drive in and pay the parking than deal with the trolley.  Consider all of your options and then make a plan.

Parties and Evening Activities. Okay, you’ve heard there are all kinds of events after the con ends each day…and there are!  Some are well publicized in the Convention guide – screenings, the masquerade party, and official SDCC events, for example.  Others take a little more research to find.

First, check the Exhibitor list on the SDCC site.  Large and small you’ll see a myriad of companies will be represented at the Con.  Also, check your favorite fansites and or news sources ( G4, Cinematical, etc) for upcoming contests or promotions.  Last year there was a panel for several different websites.  If you attended the panel, you had a chance to recieveaticket to an exclusive party sponsored by those sites/publications!  Very often the way into special events is about being in the right place at the right time.  If trying to attend these kinds of sponsored events is a priority for you, have some patience and be methodical.  Keep your eyes and ears open — watch Twitter feeds for contests and special invites.

Many fansites will also plan meetups.  They may not be lavish affairs, but they are usually well attended and a lot of fun.

If all else fails, make your own party!  You’d be amazed how many other people will join you to watch Torchwood in your hotel. (Just follow the rules of your hotel of course.)  Also, I’ve been banging the drum to meet lots of people.  You never know who you might meet and what they might be doing.  Last year a friend of mine was hanging out in the hotel bar at the Hyatt (a popular evening hangout) chatting with someone he had met earlier in the day.  As they were talking, friends of this new acquaintance joined them in the bar.  Turned out they were a bunch of comic artists and writers!  Not only did he get his own private time with people he had seen at Q&As earlier in the day, but he was able to get invited to a party with them!  It can happen (usually when you aren’t looking for it, of course).  The key is to be open to opportunities.  Some events will fall in your lap.  Others you’ll have to search for.  The larger your network of contacts at the convention, the more likely you are to hear about some cool evening event.

Since writing part one, I discovered other EXCELLENT guides online to the Con.  It would be silly of me not to point them out to you, as they contain their own insights and fantastic tips.

The Comics Reporter 100 tips to surviving Comic Con!

All Things Fangirl (I think this blog writer and I may have been separated at birth — eerie similarities in tips and prose!)

POVOnline – a good general guide to convention going.

Wikipedia – lots of good history and general information about the con too! (Just don’t live by all it says…it is Wikipedia after all).

Feel free to add links to any other guides you may find useful in the comments.

I hope that this information has been useful to you.  Thanks to all who have read it, passed it on and provided their feedback!  Now, let’s all go to San Diego and have a fantastic time!

Posted under randomness

This post was written by Shawna on June 23, 2010

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Real Guide to San Diego Comic Con, Part Two

Welcome back!  Now, where were we…?

First, let’s address some questions in the comments for Part One:

Bentoboxx June 19, 2009 4:09 pm
hand sanitiser is also great to have. I dunno how many peeps got “Con Crud”. So many people there…someone is gonna show up sick! protect yourself before ya wreck yourself! Word!

Okay, not so much a question as an astute comment.  Yes, by all means, bring anything that you feel will get you through the con!  Hand sanitizer, Advil/aspirin/Aleve, tums…whatever it takes.  If you are unfortunate enough to come down with a cold just before or during the event, I know you’ll try your best not to pass around your germs.  You don’t need to wear a mask *coughswineflucough* but do remind yourself occasionally to wash your hands.  Last year, there was an estimated 126,000 people at Comic Con.  Try to take home only swag and memories…rather than any nasty bugs.

mm June 19, 2009 4:21 pm
i would add to carry a water bottle at all times & you can fill them in big halls. any advice on how to learn more about the super secret events, esp movie screenings?

Again, another great piece of advice — water bottle. That is one of the great ‘free’ things at the Con — water in the convention rooms! If you don’t want to pack a water bottle to bring, at least refill a bottle you purchase on the first day, and keep it filled. Some enterprising young people made a killing selling water outside the convention center for $2 a bottle while we were trapped in line for Hall H and it was 80+ degrees outside.

As for the question posed here…keep reading. This will be addressed shortly.

Coraline June 19, 2009 5:15 pm
Would really love to see some suggestions about avoiding Con waste! Every attendee should try to keep their con print as small as possible. Take only the flyers and swag that you know you’ll use. Pack out what you bring in. Don’t just grab items because they are free and shiny. ComicCon and DragonCon have huge environmental footprints, and it would be great to see the geeks lead the way in “greening” the Cons.

This is so very true.  When you enter the exhibit hall, there is an alternate state of mind that most attendees slip into.  It involves picking up every single piece of paper or trinket offered in the hall.  It never fails — I go every year saying ‘not this time — I’m gonna be picky about what I take.  Inevitably, I end up each day with a bag full of postcards/stickers/fliers/mangas/catalogs that I will never look at again.  While the freebie table can be a fun place in the Sails Pavilion (as Julie mentioned in her post), usually there isn’t a whole of great value to be found there.  Does that mean you shouldn’t take anything?  Of course not!  If you want that shiny postcard at the WB booth, take it!  But don’t think you need to join every mob of people with arms outstretched grasping for anything.  Yes, you may be excited about the 300 life size shield you score, but how will you get it home (and what will you use it for?  Note: I actually got one of these 2 years ago.  It sat in my bedroom for months until I finally threw it out.  Why I grabbed it, I’ll never know.)

tezero June 19, 2009 7:39 pm
We are signed up as volunteers as well. Anyone have any advice for THAT?

First off, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the organization of the con.  While it may seem scary and overwhelming to you, don’t panic.  The con will instruct you on what you need to do as a volunteer.  My only additional piece of advice is, try not to let the idiots and negative people ruin your volunteer experience.  I haven’t volunteered at Comic Con before, but having volunteered to work other types of events similar to this, it can be very challenging to deal with difficult people all day.  Remember that some people are just lost and frustrated, and are not directing any hostility they may have toward you specifically.  As attendees, we should also remember that the people directing us into and out of places and barking instructions are doing their best.  Even if a volunteer gets frazzled, try to be a pleasant convention guest.  What I’m trying to say is, courtesy in all things, whether you are working at the Con or just attending.  Can’t we all just get along?

Jon Reeves June 19, 2009 11:25 pm
– Charge your batteries every night, even if they aren’t dead yet. Laptop, camera, cell phone, etc. Then again, you probably won’t be taking 1000 photos a day, so this may not be as important as it was for me…
– If you need some quiet down time (and you don’t have a Pro or Press badge), two words: Con suite. Admittedly, SDCC’s con suite is a big disappointment to people who are familiar with SF conventions, and it’s inconveniently located, but that just means it’s really quiet and laid back. And still stocked with free sodas and light munchies.

 I’m really grateful to all of you who added such great suggestions in the comments!  As an addendum to the second item, the con suite is usually located in the Marriott hotel adjacent to the convention center.  Again, when you receive the convention guide at check-in, you’ll find all of this information with maps and directions.

Krys June 20, 2009 2:23 am
– Under your ‘General Dos and Don’ts’, you said that the convention hall doors open at 9AM. I’m particularly paranoid about going to one panel (my initial and biggest reason for buying a pass this year), so I’m planning on waking up extra, extra early. My question (and I’m sorry if this sounds incredibly dense – good thing I’m not planning on trying to ask a question at any Q&A sessions!) is: if you get there early, is there just a mob of people waiting outside the convention hall doors? Or is there some semblance of organization and lines are formed? I’d hate to get there early, only to get stampeded on my way (once the doors open) to whatever room is holding the panel I’m interested in. Thank you so much if you can answer this! I really appreciate it!

 I’m really excited about the number of first timers who have commented! I think you will all have a fantastic time, so don’t be too scared by what I’m telling you. It is all a matter of priorities. If you are going for something very specific (say, the ‘New Moon’ panel, which I know has brought a lot of people to Comic Con who have never attended before), make that your priority. If that means camping in line for a few hours before that one panel, so be it — that’s why you came to the Con, right? Why risk missing the one thing you really want to see and do? Now, more specifically about the lines…

Yes, there is a line for everything, which can seem really daunting, but is far better than a mob of people rushing through the doors.  When the doors open, the line moves in an orderly fashion — no stampede.  If you aren’t sure what the line is for, ask.  You don’t want to find yourself in line for the wrong room for several hours.  Even if it feels like you are too far back in the line, remember that the largest room, Hall H, holds a lot of people… A LOT.  You can be snaked around the back of the building outside and still get a good seat in there (provided this is before the Con opens for the day.  All bets are off at any time during the middle of the day if you find yourself in that same place in line).  When in doubt, ask the volunteers.  They may not have all the answers (remember, some of them are newbies too!) but there’s a good chance you’ll find one or two vets who can advise you on where to go.  It is not unheard of for people to line up at 5 or 6 AM for a 9 AM panel.  In fact, you’ll find people camped out (literally) all night for Hall H.  That doesn’t mean you have to be one of those people, just know that no matter how determined you are to see something, I bet you’ll find someone else even more committed to it.

(Whew, are you still reading? I think I’m getting long-winded.  I’ll try to shorten up my answers going forward.  Of course, if you print this out, it’ll take up lots of time to read while waiting in line!)

Gillian June 20, 2009 4:20 pm
Overall good tips. As a female that has attended for over 12 years, I wanted to add that as a grown up you should not only try to avoid stepping on children, but short people as well. As a 5′2” female I spend most of my time on the convention floor being mowed over by tall guys. By Friday I’m ready to hit back. By Sunday they may find bodies stuffed under unused booth tables during teardown.  IF YOU HAVE A BACKPACK, please try to mentally add it to your perception of the space you take up. You are now a cloth turtle, please don’t go around whacking everyone with your shell when you move. Hardback books HURT. After 4 days of this people start looking at my boyfriend like he beats me.

Bathe, every day, more if needed. It used to be Saturday or Sunday before people started smelling like an open sewer. In the past few years the strong scent of convention hygiene has been overpowering during preview night.

Take a few extra minutes each day for common courtesy. Letting someone cross an aisle that intersects yours when they’ve been trying to for 5 minutes, answering a question you overhear when you know the answer, giving someone directions, leaving the front seats open on the shuttle for someone less mobile, not shoving your way past people, etc. 99% of the time you won’t be missing out of a vital part of the convention experience and one act of decency per attendee would make this a whole diferent ballgame. The Convention Center is packed to capacity and hell really can be other people.

 Awesome advice.  Reprinted your comment in full because I agree 100%.  I was sitting at my usual cafe yesterday and I noticed a family at another table, who looked very confused.  At this particular cafe, you order at the counter and they give you a number so the food gets delivered to your table.  The family was sitting at a table with menus, as if waiting for someone to take their order.  I got their attention and instructed them on what they needed to do.  Did I save the world?  No, but I did save them many minutes of confusion and frustration (I actually wish I had noticed them a few minutes earlier!)  Be generous with others.  It’s amazing how much positive energy you can create if you go through your day seeking opportunities to be helpful rather than trying to shut out the rest of the world around you.  I’m gonna say it again — TALK TO PEOPLE!  A convention is by nature a way to meet other people like yourself.  There are 126,000 other people at this convention for you to meet.  In my opinion, it would be tragic to attend the event for 4 days and NOT meet anyone new!

While working on this, I thought of a few other things to mention:

Parking. There are lots of parking structures.  They are NOT created equal.  The closer you get to the convention center, the more expensive the parking.  Take note of the operating hours of the parking structure or lot.  Some are flat fees for all day, others are by the hour.  It is common to park 7-8 or more blocks away and walk toward the convention center.  The structures next to the con fill up very early and very quickly.  If you are staying at a hotel on the bus route, I encourage you to take advantage.  If you are staying further away, make use of mass transit if you can (just add lots of extra time to get to and from the convention center).  Last year I stayed many miles away from the convention center and found it easier to drive in and pay the parking than deal with the trolley.  Consider all of your options and then make a plan.

Parties and Evening Activities.  Okay, you’ve heard there are all kinds of events after the con ends each day…and there are!  Some are well publicized in the Convention guide – screenings, the masquerade party, and official SDCC events, for example.  Others take a little more research to find.

First, check the Exhibitor list on the SDCC site.  Large and small you’ll see a myriad of companies will be represented at the Con.  Also, check your favorite fansites and or news sources ( G4, Cinematical, etc) for upcoming contests or promotions.  Last year there was a panel for several different websites.  If you attended the panel, you had a chance to recieveaticket to an exclusive party sponsored by those sites/publications!  Very often the way into special events is about being in the right place at the right time.  If trying to attend these kinds of sponsored events is a priority for you, have some patience and be methodical.  Keep your eyes and ears open — watch Twitter feeds for contests and special invites.

Many fansites will also plan meetups.  They may not be lavish affairs, but they are usually well attended and a lot of fun.

If all else fails, make your own party!  You’d be amazed how many other people will join you to watch Torchwood in your hotel. (Just follow the rules of your hotel of course.)  Also, I’ve been banging the drum to meet lots of people.  You never know who you might meet and what they might be doing.  Last year a friend of mine was hanging out in the hotel bar at the Hyatt (a popular evening hangout) chatting with someone he had met earlier in the day.  As they were talking, friends of this new acquaintance joined them in the bar.  Turned out they were a bunch of comic artists and writers!  Not only did he get his own private time with people he had seen at Q&As earlier in the day, but he was able to get invited to a party with them!  It can happen (usually when you aren’t looking for it, of course).  The key is to be open to opportunties.  Some events will fall in your lap.  Others you’ll have to search for.  The larger your network of contacts at the convention, the more likely you are to hear about some cool evening event.

Since writing part one, I discovered other EXCELLENT guides online to the Con.  It would be silly of me not to point them out to you, as they contain their own insights and fantastic tips. 

The Comics Reporter 100 tips to surviving Comic Con!

All Things Fangirl (I think this blog writer and I may have been separated at birth — eerie similarities in tips and prose!)

POVOnline – a good general guide to convention going.

Wikipedia – lots of good history and general information about the con too! (Just don’t live by all it says…it is Wikipedia after all).

Feel free to add links to any other guides you may find useful in the comments.

I hope that this information has been useful to you.  Thanks to all who have read it, passed it on and provided their feedback!  Now, let’s all go to San Diego and have a fantastic time!

Posted under randomness

This post was written by Shawna on June 23, 2009

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A REAL Guide to San Diego Comic Con Part One

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

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