If youre a reader of Airlock Alpha, you have probably heard of Comic-Con, the pop culture convention located in San Diego, Calif. Its a four-day long mashup of television/movie/comic fans, guaranteed to overwhelm any novice.
I am a long-time convention goer, and even I was a little thrown by the enormous scope of Comic-Con. But I found a way to survive. And so can you.
Below you will find some tips I learned by attending Comic-Con, as well as other conventions. Most of it may seem like common sense, but even if you get one thing out of it, its worth it.
Before you go :
Comic-Con has a huge dealer room. It also has many freebee items handed out by the large media companies. It also has a huge freebee table once you register, where you can pick up posters, newsletters, comics, etc. And lets not forget your program.
Now that you have all of this stuff, you need a place to put it. This leads us to the first tip. You need a bag. There seem to be two choices where carrying your stuff is concerned, backpack or messenger bag. Both have their pluses and minuses, but I have found the messenger bag to be my bag of choice.
First, you can wear the bag so it rest on your hip, not on your back. You wear it with the flap facing you, so the contents are secure. And it has plenty of room. Backpacks do too, but do you really want to walk around looking like you belong in the bell tower of Notre Dame cathedral?
One thing to remember, no matter how movies and television have drawn crowds, Comic-Con is still primarily a comic book convention. So, if youre interested in art. Comic-Con has an area called Artist Alley, where you can find both established and up-and-coming artists.
So you should bring a sketch book. And it shouldnt be one of those blank page bound books. Some times an artist wont like the way something is going, and will want to remove the page. I have a spiral sketch book that makes it is easy to remove if necessary.
If Comic-Con has one big feature, its the lines. Between the walking and the lines, you will be on your feet a lot. So Comic-Con is not the place to wear a new pair of shoes. What you need to bring are a pair of warn in, comfortable shoes. If your feet are aching on Thursday, youll be in agony by Sunday.
Cameras also are a big ticket item to bring. But remember to bring spare batteries. You dont want to have your camera die on you at an inopportune moment. Also, bring plenty of film, or extra memory cards, depending on your type of camera. Its four days of costumes and celebrities. You dont want to miss a shot.
You need to have some suntan lotion, and a hat, or a small umbrella, especially if you are planning to see anything in Hall H. The lines for this hall are outside, and there is no shade in the courtyard where they line you up.
Getting There :
When you arrive, you are first put into the pickup line, where you can get your badge. If you have a four-day badge, Comic-Con has set up alternate pick-up sites. More details can be found here.
There is no actual registration at the convention center. Dont head down there expecting to buy tickets. And please, dont try and buy passes from scalpers. More often than not, you are buying something worthless. Then you are out of cash, and still dont get to see the show.
Comic-Con sells out early, but you can go to the Comic-Con website and look for returned memberships.
If you didnt get a hotel in downtown San Diego, keep public transportation in mind. The trolley is a fun ride, and there are several hotels along the trolley line to the north. There are also buses that can get you around town.
And of course, dont forget the Comic-Con shuttles. The shuttle runs to and from many of the hotels in the city. For more shuttle line and schedules, check here.
At the Con :
In 2009, attendance of Comic-Con was around 140,000. Thats a lot of people. Prepare yourself mentally for the crowds. If you have phobias about crowds (like our site coordinator, Michael Hinman), you might want to re-think going.
Given those numbers, long lines are to be expected. It will be rare if you go somewhere that doesnt have a line. With that thought in mind you have to prepare.
Go through the program and pick out which panels you want to see. Then look at when they are presented. Allow line time for each panel. Accept that with so much going on, you wont get to see everything you want to see.
Also remember that the schedule changes daily and there are newsletters around the hall with updates. Make sure you pick one up every day, and adjust your plans accordingly.
Many times you should plan to enter the hall for the panel before yours. I used that tactic, and was only shut out of one panel I wanted to get into.
While waiting in line, dont be afraid to chat with the people around you. They came to the same con as you, and are waiting in the same line. You most likely have something in common. If Comic-Con is nothing else, its a social event. Theres nothing wrong with making new friends.
I met friends in a line on a Thursday, ran into them again on Friday. When Sunday rolled around, they let me into line with them when I was running behind.
And please, dont get annoyed with people cutting the line. Its a necessity that groups may split up, or people get into place with new friends. With the enormous lines, you do what you have to. But remember line etiquette -- never assume you are given a cut, wait for the person in line to invite you.
Bring a friend. Lines and panels are more manageable when done with a partner. Who else is going to watch your place in line or in the hall when nature calls. And this leads to another hint. Keep your phone charged. If you are there with a group, its your lifeline to know whats happening.
Now you got into the hall, one panel before the one you want. Remember to keep the noise down and be respectful. There are people there who came to hear that panel, and you should let them. Dont ruin their fun.
Once in the hall, you may find you need to use the restroom or need a drink. You are allowed to leave the hall while the panel is proceeding, but you need to leave at the right doors. They will give you a ticket that allows you to reenter. This does not work when the panel has ended. If you leave after a panel, you have to wait in line to reenter.
If you are an autograph hound, there is a designated autograph area. It has a posted schedule. This too can change daily. But this isnt the only place you can find celebrities for autographs. Many media companies have autographs at their booths in the dealer room. Check with them and see who and when.
Also, some dealers and comic companies may have celebrities signing. Two years ago there was a dealer selling 8-by-10 pictures, and they had a constant supply of celebrities seated and giving autographs. Just keep your eyes open for those elusive autographs.
Comic-Con is well known for its costume ball. And many people come dressed as their favorite characters, or in unique creations. Dont be afraid to ask these people if you can take their picture.
I never ran across a person in costume who refused. They are there to show off, and lets face it; Its an ego boost to have people want your picture. If you cant help watching them, remember the old saying ... take a picture, it lasts longer.
Now youve made the rounds of the dealer room, and have a ton of cool stuff. You also have a bag overflowing with freebees. How are you getting this all home? If you were within driving distance, its no big deal. But what about us flyers?
In the convention center, there is a UPS store. Ship your goodies home. I bought my son a collectible Star Wars lightsabre, and shipped it home. When I fly, I only use carry-on, and certainly didnt want an expensive and fragile collectible handled by airline baggage handlers.
It arrived home two days after I did, in perfect condition. Its a smart move if you can part with your goodies for the time it takes for it to get to your home.
I hope that youve found something useful in my little collection of tips. But remember the most important thing about attending Comic-Con: have fun.
If youre attending Comic-Con, drop us a line and tell us your stories of the con.
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