My first adventure into the comics store was the winter of my freshman year. The long, cold snowy months had driven the student body inside. I remember thinking that if there were one more discussion about the nuances of grill cheese, chili fries, and beer I was going to lose it. I needed some stimulation and fast. A friend saw my crazy-eyed look and made an executive decision: “We are going to the comic store.” That moment started my love affair with sequential art, visual storytelling, and geek girl fandom.
My love affair with conventions started three months later at a Hyatt Hotel in Rye Brook, New York. It was called Lunacon. That first con taught me many things. For instance: carry cash, be nice to the person sitting next you at the panels, don’t drink anything that a Klingon would drink.
I have continued to go to my share of cons over the years and every time it’s been an adventure. This year, for the first time, I am going to San Diego Comic Con! So, I have spent time researching and obsessing about it. I think I have come up with a great list for surviving the mother of all cons.
BEFORE YOU GO
1. Plan, plan, and plan some more: You should think about going to con early and often. Then follow all the advice you get about getting tickets, and pray to whatever gods you worship that you make it through the crucible: getting into the waiting room to purchase your tickets online. The show sold out in ninety-two minutes this year.
2. Plan your gear: Dress like you’ll be standing and walking around all day. Make sure to pack comfortable clothes and shoes, and a great bag of holding. The San Diego Convention Center is HUGE and walking the entire show will be a marathon. You might also want to pack earplugs and a sleep mask, hand sanitizer, breath mints, and aspirin. These items are key to your happiness at any Comic-Con.
3. Schedule your events: Make a list of what panels and events you want to attend. The schedule of events is usually posted at least a week prior to the show. All the veterans say it’s best to make those decisions before you hit the show floor and you’ll be a little less frantic among the crowds.
4. Double-check reservations: Make sure your badge purchase and hotel deposits have been processed as instructed. Check, double check, and triple check that all your reservations and transactions are complete.
5. Tech prep: Decide what tech you want to take. If you want anything new, buy it right now and get familiar with it. Make sure you have extended battery support, and the right backpack or carrying case. A laptop and chargers will come in handy for those long days! You can start downloading pictures, sharing the madness, and staying connected. For me, I am going to start editing pictures and writing blog posts at night before going to bed … I hope.
6. App prep: There are many Apps out there to help make your ‘con-going’ a less stress-inducing experience. It seems the best apps are Yelp, San Diego Transit, ProCam, San Diego Smart Travel Guide, and, of course, Comic-Con International app. If you have better suggestions, please send them my way!
7. Figure out who to follow on Twitter: All the advice out there states following the right Twitter accounts for Comic-Con can affected your ‘con-going’ experience. There are a ton of great super-fans out there who have committed themselves to help maximize SDCC experience. Start following them now.
ONCE YOU GET THERE
8. Get up early: Be prepared not to sleep from Preview Night until the end of SDCC on Sunday evening. If you want to attend a panel in either Ballroom 20 or Hall H, you’re going to have to put in the time. Last year, a friend arrived in line for Ballroom 20 at 5am for a 4pm panel and she barely got in.
9. Don’t forget to eat and bring snacks: Make breakfast a priority. Gathering from what’s been posted, a place called Ralph’s on 1st and G Street is a lifesaver. The Convention Center food is pretzels, nachos, and the like. These are not things that will keep you going to throughout the day. Buy power bars, fruit, crackers, and water bottles to keep with you. Also have your hotel room well stocked, if possible, for pit stops throughout the long days and nights. Gaslamp restaurants are usually overpriced and crowded. However, it might be worth venturing out into the area for meeting up after a long day, so you can plan your long night.
10. Have cash: While many Comic-Con vendors accept credit and debit cards, many of them don’t. Avoid time in the ATM line (and the ridiculous service fees) by bringing as much cash as you’re willing to spend. Remember to keep your cash safely stashed.
11. Don’t be shy: You will have questions, so just ask. You never know where it might lead or what info might surface. You might make a friend for life or discover a new fandom.
12. The Seat Savers System: Being nice and making friends makes the con-going experience amazing. It also helps if you really want to attend a panel in either Hall H or Ballroom 20. One can use the seat saver system as seen in The Guild. This system works really well for a group of four or five people. The system is simple: You and your group go to a much earlier panel and sit in the back. When the panel looks like it is about to end, the seat savers start stalking people who intend to leave. Then the group slowly moves toward the front of the room. So by the time your panel is on, you will have great seats.
13. Get the bathroom passes: The bathroom passes are a great way to see other stuff in between panels you are waiting for. Just make sure you have a seat saver (#12) with you to save your seat. You could also shop or just stretch your legs. Apparently, you will spend at least one full day in Ballroom 20 or Hall H so it is definitely needed. Just do not lose the pass or you will NOT be allowed back into the room.
14. Go and meet your favorite artists: All the veterans say one of the best things about Comic-Con is meeting the creators of your favorite comics, or discovering a new talent in Artists Alley or the Small Press section. If you are feeling brave, strike up a conversation. Ask them about their craft and what they love to read. You could possibly end up buying an original sketch or print or end up with a new friend. Essentially, things you can only get at a con. Also, check out who’s scheduled for an autograph session in the 2nd floor autograph area. It’s really worth it.
15. Enjoy the show: There will be plenty of amazing things happening at San Diego Comic-Con and you can’t do them all. Stay open, remember to have fun, and go with the flow. It will be overwhelming at first, but a totally worthwhile adventure.
If you have any advice or suggestions, please comment. See you at the show!