How to get the most out of your time at Comic Con.
San Diego Comic Con can be a wretched hive of scum and villainy… at least when it comes to getting badges and a hotel. But once you have emerged victorious and gain entry to the world’s greatest pop culture event, how will you get the most out of it? How will you get into the hottest panels? What ways can you stretch your dollars which are better spent on collectibles? And how will you remain steadfast waiting in all those long lines?
This San Diego Comic Con Survival Guide has the answers to these questions, plus ones you haven’t even thought of yet!
BEFORE THE CON
- Double bag your luggage
Take a cue from those cute Russian nesting dolls and pack an extra piece of luggage outside your actual luggage. The San Diego Convention Center and your hotel do offer shipping services, but it’s going to be expensive. Since you are likely paying baggage fees if you are flying in, make it easy on yourself and double bag your luggage. You will need it if you find that extra special Batman slot machine from Japan that you simply must have.
- Make a plan, then be prepared to deviate from that plan.
Research not only the panels, but any off-site events. That way, if your first choice leaves you high and dry, your second option can be put into play. The last thing you want to do is sulk in your hotel room when you could’ve attended one of the many off-site activities not officially affiliated with the con.
- Bjorn that baby
Let’s face it, babies at cons are annoying. Cute, but annoying. And strollers often cause pedestrian road rage. If you simply must bring your little Kal-El (assuming your child is cosplaying as a young Superman), then use a Bjorn. Your baby and everyone at the con will thank you.
- Stock your room
There are a few grocery stores located in downtown San Diego and plenty of corner stores with all of the items you’ll need. Water, soda, snacks and more will be much cheaper at one of these stores than at the hotel. Either bring a cooler or buy a cheap disposable one to cool your goods (hotel refrigerators are in high demand, so don’t assume you can get one). Unless you enjoy paying three or four times as much at the hotel sundries shop, make one shopping trip and you’ll save a bundle.
- Follow social media
Create a Twitter list with all of the top San Diego Comic Con twitter accounts. Use this list to keep up with events and parties and to communicate with new friends you’ll meet at the con. Here are a few:
- @Comic_Con – Official Comic Con Twitter
- @OutsideComicCon – For events happening outside the con
- @Crazy4ComicCon – A Comic Con News Feed
- @SD_Comic_Con – A Comic Con Expert
And don’t forget to follow @Gemr – I’ll be live-tweeting from the con on this account and you’ll find plenty of news on exclusives and collectibles. If you simply must follow me personally, then you’ll find me @ThatChrisGore.
Also follow the official Twitter account for your hotel and tweet at them if you have any issues. You would be surprised how responsive hotels can be when you use social media.
THE DEALERS ROOM
- Find the one thing you must have, but do not need.
The one thing you need is probably rare and in limited supply. Just remember that when you find it, don’t expect it to be waiting for you when you decide you must have it. The last thing you want to get into is a cat fight at a con, which, in all likelihood, could be with someone dressed as Catwoman.
- Get a deal or walk away.
The best way to get a deal is to buy multiple items and pay in cash. That gives you the clout to ask for a better price. Remember that cash is king since dealers save on banking and credit card fees. Also remember to shop smart… shop S-Mart.
- Exclusives rule.
If something you find at the con is available at a store near you, it’s really not worth taking up room in your luggage. Move along… move along. Rare San Diego Comic Con exclusives are worth waiting in line for. Not only are they not available in stores, but they also tend to hold their value. So if you run out of shelf space upon your return, you can sell it online for a profit.
- Seek out up and coming artists in Artist’s Alley.
Don’t you wish you had met The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman when he was a young and struggling writer with a tiny table at the con? Too late. But you can meet the Robert Kirkmans of tomorrow if you take a trip to Artist Alley. You’ll find hand made books by the creators themselves and form those early bonds that will get you to the front of the line when they remember how much you supported their work early on.
DOING THE CON
- Backpacks do not have nerve-endings.
If I had an action figure for each time I was smacked, bumped and pushed around by a backpack, I’d have… well, a whole second room of action figures. Backpacks are necessary and handy, but with the floor of Comic Con already so packed, there’s going to be mishaps. Just be aware of your personal space when wielding a menacing backpack. Remember, a backpack can be a dangerous weapon when whipping it off, so safety first.
- Line etiquette.
Hey, you’re all bound by your love of fandom, so get to know your neighbors and introduce yourself. There are several advantages to this. 1) There is someone to hold your place in line when you can no longer hold it. 2) New friends!
- Panel up! The secret to getting into the panel you really want.
The secret to getting into the panel you really want involves one thing… waiting. There’s no way around waiting for a panel, whether you’re in line for the one you intend to see or you’re going to see a panel to save a seat for the one you really want to see. This is where making friends in line really pays off. By following twitter feeds or exchanging cell numbers, you can get a report on a line status as one person from your group holds a spot.
- Stay on target… for your panel.
Continuing from the above, hold other people’s place in line and maintain the line’s integrity. Otherwise, the Crimson Bolt might wallop your face with a giant wrench! See James Gunn’s excellent film Super (the movie he made before Guardians of the Galaxy) for the gruesome results of not maintaining line integrity.
- Ask a good question!
There’s nothing more embarrassing for, well, everyone, than when a Comic Con attendee asks a rude or off-color question. It’s fine to be clever, but cut to the chase and ask something really good or don’t waste everyone’s time. It helps to bounce your question off the new friends you made in line. Remember, when you ask a question of a celebrity or panelist, you represent other fans. Don’t make us look like jerks.
- Celebrity photo etiquette.
No one likes a creeper, unless it’s the actual character the Creeper from DC Comics, then it’s okay. Don’t take creepy shots from a distance, which are not going to turn out well anyway. Always ask. And another thing, while shaking hands is nice, it’s also the number one way that germs are spread. So bring some hand sanitizer. Or better yet, let’s just all agree to fist bump. You never heard of anyone getting the flu from a fist bump, did you? We can even agree to call it something cool, like the “Hulk Smash of Friendship!”
- Attend a panel outside of Hall H.
Remember the plan B that you made? When that Hall H panel eludes you, (and it will, Hall H is an unforgiving beast) then have that other panel on your personal schedule ready to pull out of your pocket and enjoy the unexpected. The most fun I’ve had is often at a panel I did not expect to see.
- Costumes make the con.
You can make fun of people wearing costumes or you can just join us. There’s no better conversation starter than a costume. Heck, if you’re lazy, just get a “Hi, my name is” sticker and write Bruce Wayne on it (because I’ve actually done that).
THE CON AFTER DARK
- Get away from the Convention Center and seek out other events.
Last year, Petco Park was turned into a zombie-filled nightmare courtesy of a Walking Dead promotion. An art gallery near Comic Con hosted an event with art inspired by Conan O’Brien. Flynn’s Arcade opened in the gas lamp area surrounding the convention center, and those who found it got cool Tron collector tokens. Be sure to walk through the surrounding area at the con to discover these hidden nerd getaways.
- Thrifty drinking.
If you’re not lucky enough to attend a party with an open bar, then you’ll be paying upwards of $8 for a beer. Yikes! The best way is to buy one drink then pull out your Spider-Man flask (do they make those?) and nonchalantly pour another glass. Your bank account will thank you.
- Party crashing
I’m the king of crashing parties, so here are a few master class tips. If you’re not on the list, just think about what Comic Con celeb you might look like and then you might imply some connection. You might walk up to the person with the list at the door and say something like, “Hi. I’m Chris Abrams. Is JJ here yet?”
If you don’t bear any resemblance as a potential sibling to a famous convention attendee, try walking up to the door man casually holding a drink (apple juice in a pint glass shook up a bit to look like beer) in your hand and say, “Is it okay if I take this outside?” If the doorman buys the idea that you’ve already been in the party, he might respond with, “No, you can’t take that outside. Get back in the party!” Allowing alcohol outside the venue is the only thing a doorman can be fired for.
And my final tip, it helps just to be nice. Being nice and polite will actually get you somewhere during Comic Con. It might not get you into that party, but it will get you far at the con.
- Hotel bars is where you meet your heroes.
If you’re not on the list or don’t have the guts to pull off the above-mentioned party crashing, just hang at the hotel bar. I’ve met Stan Lee, Morgan Spurlock, Kevin Smith, Guillermo Del Toro, Doug Jones, Adrianne Curry and more just by hanging at the hotel bar. Don’t be shy, we’re all nerds!
- Sleep on the way home.
Four hours a night is fine. You can sleep on the plane or on the way home, assuming you’re not driving. If you really want to avoid the zombie apocalypse-like exit from San Diego, stay an extra night and leave on Monday. And don’t forget to say goodbye to Comic Con… I always get choked up at the end.
- Friend requests.
Remember all those friends you made in line? Preserve those friendships for future cons by sending friend requests or honoring those friend and/or follows on Gemr.com (so you can see all those collectibles your new friends bought), Facebook, or by following them on social media. You’ll not only be able to keep in touch and meet up next year, you’ll have friends to help you get that elusive four-day badge or secure a hotel room when the going gets tough.
- Tag those pics!
Upload and tag those pics fast, don’t wait a week. There’s more glory in being first, so if you haven’t been uploading while at the con, be sure to do it the minute you get back. Your pics will get noticed first and you don’t want to be the 50th guy to post the zombie Batman pic.
- Brag. (But do it nicely.)
The secret to really enjoying Comic Con is about time management, so spend as much time on your plan B as your plan A. Real superheroes have to do this all the time! But mostly superheroes are fighting some villain intent on destroying the earth, not trying to get into a panel. Which leads to another important point: Don’t take it all so seriously. Enjoy your time at the con. You are at Comic Con! And anyone who didn’t get to go is already envious. So enjoy the bragging rights you’ll have for the next year as you plan to do it all over again in 2018.
See you at the con!