Written by: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
It’s t-minus 6 days until the craziest weekend in San Diego: Comic-Con! From celebrated comic book creators to beloved celebrities, from exclusive TV and movie screenings to demos of new video games, everyone is bound to find something they enjoy. Are you ready to embark on an adventure full of surprises and geeky goodness? I know I am!
In all honesty, SDCC can be outright overwhelming to a first-timer (or even an old-timer). This will be my fifth year attending and I admit I’m never mentally and physically prepared. While SDCC is fun, it’s also crowded and chaotic. And every year, it gets more intense! Whether you’re a novice to SDCC or a returning player, it’s good to remember a few tips to make the most out of the badges you endlessly waited in a queue line to get.
Compiled from experience, I’ve created a survival guide to aid in any culture shock that may occur. Fair warning, I’m a minimalist and a comic book fan, so take this into consideration. Now take a deep breath and exhale. Here is my SDCC Survival Guide!
1) Plan out your schedule at least one day before to optimize your time. Know what panels and exhibits you want to see, and when and where signings are. These in particular are time sensitive, so take into account the time it takes to walk across the convention floor and wait in lines. Don’t forget to eat and re-energize!
2) Bring a bag you can maneuver and feel comfortable in all day. Some con goers use backpacks. I take a small messenger bag that’s big enough to carry a 1½-inch stack of comic books, smartphone, wallet, camera (unless it’s a DSLR), sharpies, and a pen. You should also make room for snacks and water, but to each their own! Warning: Luggage or rolling backpacks are not allowed in the Exhibit Hall.
3) Wear comfortable shoes. You will thank me.
4) If it’s your first day, don’t be alarmed by the swarm of people entering the convention. Simply follow the crowd into the convention, and ride the escalator to the second floor where you’ll be ushered toward a check-in line. Have an ID card ready. All will be well.
5) Warner Bros. Bags – After checking in, you’ll receive a large WB-themed bag holding two event booklets. Prepare to carry this bag all day or have it crammed in another bag if your hotel isn’t nearby. While I kind of like receiving them as long as my favorite show is on it (you get them randomly), I find them to be a nuisance and impractical. I end up cutting the ones I like into posters as shown below.
6) If you easily get cold, bring a jacket. It’s warm in the Exhibit Hall, but freezing in the upper floors where all the panels are.
7) Respect cosplayers. Seriously, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to you.
8) Be courteous to other con goers. Avoid intentional line cutting and don’t stand in the middle of the aisle if you’re in a big group. If you notice that you’ve accidently whacked someone with your bag, apologize. Yes, sometimes you have to stop walking. Yes, you really want to see that creator or celebrity. Yes, there will be free stuff and you will be tempted to get to it. But let’s be civil. Everyone wants to have a good time.
9) There are lines for EVERYTHING! There are even lines FOR lines. Be warned!
10) Wristbands – This goes along with #9. If you want to enter a signing for a popular comic creator (e.g. Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Robert Kirkman), a signing for celebrities (e.g. Doctor Who, Supernatural, Walking Dead), or a line for purchasing an exclusive item, you’re most likely going to need to get in line for wristbands.
The whole convention technically opens up at 9:30am, but the Exhibit Hall floor will be opened about an hour earlier. Get there early and go to the booth that will hold the signing or sell the exclusives. Wristbands are first come, first serve or they’re raffled off. Pictured below is a wristband-only signing for creators Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder in 2013.
11) Seeing comic creators – Don’t wait until you get to the con to find out when your favorite creators are doing signings. Follow them on social media ahead of time. Most will tell you exactly where they are. However, do get to a booth like DC Comics or Marvel early to see who may make a surprise appearance.
12) If you can find a creator at Artist Alley or the booth of a smaller publishing company, go there instead. For example, it’s easier to meet DC Comics writer Jeff Lemire at Top Shelf Productions, and DC Comics artist Francis Manapul at Artist Alley.
13) Avoid Hall H and Ballroom 20 if you can. This is where big name shows and movies will hold panels with the cast, like Supernatural, Arrow, and How I Met Your Mother. Why? Because you’ll waste time sitting in a LONG line that began the night before. Fans will literally take up space by sitting through panels they don’t care for to guarantee they make it to the panel they actually want to be at.
Sure there’s something glamorous about being in a room full of celebrities, but at the end of the day it’s not worth it. You may not get in and if you do, the view could be awful. Trust me, I want to see Stephen Amell and Jensen Ackles as much as the next person, but you’re better off going into a cast signing line, or walking by the actual signing to see the cast. Still, if you want to go to Hall H or Ballroom 20, go there VERY early.
14) Go to panels and cast signings that are lower key, in their youth, or at an unexpected booth. Being a dedicated Falling Skies fan, I found out it was holding a cast signing at the Dark Horse booth. I needed a wristband, but the line for the raffle was short and you can go in multiple times. If you have friends who don’t care about a signing, bring them along to up your chances.
15) Cast signings usually begin 15 minutes after a show/movie’s panel.
16) Purchase non-exclusive merchandise on Sunday. Vendors start to mark down prices on the last day, but if you must have something or you’re afraid an item is going to run out, by all means make your purchase!
17) Don’t want to hold your bags? There’s a bag check available at the convention for $2/bag. You can also mail merchandise home if you live far from San Diego. There are shipping services available within the convention center, and post offices and UPS centers nearby.
Alright, as long as this list was, it is not extensive and definite. I had to hold some tips back for another time. Now get out of here and have fun at San Diego Comic-Con. You deserve it!
Author: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
Laura is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently resides in Southern California. She drinks too much milk tea, talks too much about Green Lantern, and would marry Barry Allen if he were real.