If you weren’t aware, it’s July; specifically the 21st of July. For most pop culture enthusiasts, fanboys/fangirls, comic book fans, cosplayers, video gamers, nerds, tv fanatics, and yes, even Twilight Moms, this means only one thing: COMIC-CON! The massive event is held annually for one weekend in July at the San Diego Convention Center and for anyone with any sort of interest in media or pop culture, it’s a huge deal and often the highlight of the year.
Unfortunately, I won’t be there this year and will have to watch and read all the updates from home, but I have been lucky enough to experience this crazy weekend twice, both in 2008 and 2010. I’m here to offer some of my own tips and tidbits as someone who isn’t the biggest comic book fan, but is a television geek (sort of), and a broke ass college student. So here we go!
1. Ralph’s will be your savior. One of the best and worst things about SDCC is the fact that they do not clear out rooms after the panels. The good thing is that you do not have to get back in line to see another panel in the same room; the bad thing is you’ll more than likely be stuck in the same room for hours to see the panel you want. Although it’s nice to get a glimpse of a movie or television show you may not have been interested in before, it’s horrible not being able to leave the room in fear of losing your seat. This is why prepared snacks and meals are a MUST. The convention center does offer food, but I really don’t think anyone is up for paying high prices for greasy pizza. Ralph’s is only a few blocks from the con and you can stock up on all of your snacks, sandwiches, and of course water! In the past I’ve bought a few of their wraps (not bad), granola bars, and SmartWater bottles (those bottles are huge and can definitely be reused throughout the weekend). Another smart thing to do would be to buy a gallon of water and refill your bottle before each day. Oh, one last thing – the employees at the store get really into the entire Comic-Con theme and last year were all sporting superhero themed t-shirts!
2. If you need to go out and eat/drink/dance, Yelp is your best friend. The first year my friends and I went, we researched the restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter and shared the places that fit within our budget and sounded delicious. Many Yelp’ers have created lists specifically geared towards con goers so do a quick search on the website before heading out. For those hoping to save a few bucks, a few restaurants this year are offering discounts to SDCC attendees who also present their badges. You can find the list here.
3. Hold on to that badge like it’s your child. Trust me, this is the key to all panels, the convention floor, and many other SDCC activities. I mean, as I mentioned above, it’s the key to discounts at restaurants now too! Seriously though, make sure you have your badge with you the entire time you’re at the con. SDCC provides a nice lanyard for you to clip your badge onto, but accidents do happen and it’s possible for that little hook to slip off that safety pin on the back. So while there will be times when you’re sprinting over to Hall H or through the throngs on the convention floor to get to an autograph booth, try to remember to continually check that the badge is still with you, whether its on the lanyard or safety pinned to your body.
4. Plan and schedule for all of your must see panels, autograph sessions, screenings, and off-site activities before hand. As I mentioned above, one of the best/worst things about Comic-Con is the fact that they don’t clear out the rooms. That means if you want to see a panel and you know it’s going to be popular, you may have to start lining up hours beforehand. Case in point, last year, one of the main reasons why I headed down to San Diego was the Scott Pilgrim vs the World panel. Like I mentioned in my Attack the Block review, I’m a huge fan of Edgar Wright and I loved following the filming process for the movie. The entire cast was going to be there and I knew I COULD NOT miss the panel. Unfortunately, it happened to be the very last panel of the day and I knew that I would have to spend the majority of the day in Hall H. If I had left the room anytime before the panel, I would have had to get back in the massive line and try to get into Hall H in time. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but this line is CRAZZZZZZZY . So yes, definitely make plans hours ahead to see a popular panel. As for autograph sessions, check the SDCC website to see who has their own booth and who will have scheduled signings. For the more popular/scheduled signings, fans will have to either get their early and obtain a wristband or attempt to draw out a stamped ticket. For the wristband signings, many booths, such as Fox, will give them away very early in the day so make sure to drop by the day before and ask when specifically they’ll be giving out wristbands. For the stamped ticket signings, more often then not, they’ll be in the Autograph Area. Look for the line of people waiting for what looks like nothing. Once you spot them sticking their hands into a bag, you’ll know you’re in the right place. And finally, many networks, movie studios, books, whatever will be promoting their goods throughout the Gaslamp Quarter. Last year’s Scott Pilgrim experience was definitely a highlight as fans could check out the video game and receive free SP-related tshirts! I remember Machete also had a huge block party with music, food, and freebies. The best place to view all of the off-site events is the SDCC Blog’s Off-Site Events page.
5. Don’t go crazy with freebies. This is a hard one, especially if you’ve spent all that money making the trip to the greatest pop culture convention in the world. Everyone will be shoving their postcards, posters, pins, bags, and more into your hands and it’ll be hard to say no. Everything just looks so cool, so sleek, so shiny, so free. However, you know that many of the items you’re grabbing won’t be of any use to you at home. Sure, that comic book that you got from that random guy crossing the street at the same time as you, looks cool, but are you really going to read it? And you know all those postcards for that cheaply made zombie film aren’t going up on your wall anytime soon. Learn to say ‘no’ and take only the things you’d be willing to possibly pay for and/or carry home. If you still have trouble parting with your freebies and are stuck with them months later, look around to see who might want them. Maybe someone who couldn’t make it to SDCC will be more than happy to take them off your hands.
6. Your camera should be with you at all times! It’s a given that you’ll want to snap tons of photos during the celebrity packed panels, but there will also be fantastically dressed up cosplayers roaming the convention, as well as moments you won’t see anywhere else. Maybe it’s a random celebrity spotting outside the convention center or it’s your own friends sleeping on the grass outside Hall H at 7:30am as you guys wait to get in for the Harry Potter panel (actually happened). One of the best things about Comic-Con weekend is the insane amount of things happening all at once. There will be thousands of people dressed up, celebrities presenting their movies or tv shows, artists showing off their work, fans trying out video games, and so much more. There’s so much to experience at SDCC that you can’t anywhere else. It’s important that you have something to document all of those special moments (mostly, to shut up all those “pics or it didn’t happen” folks).
7. Rest up and be nice! I combined these twos because I believe they’re related to one another. Days at Comic Con are long and tiring. Despite the fact that you’ll be sitting down for the panels, there will be long periods of time where you’re standing in line or running to get to another place. Try to sleep the night before so you’re not exhausted, physically and mentally. You’ll hate yourself if you accidentally doze off during the panel you most wanted to see. And of course, sleeping means there’ll be a smaller chance of you being cranky. Putting yourself in a densely populated area and amongst other people who are just as passionate and dedicated as you are will create situations in which you’ll want to roll your eyes, shout at someone, or in an extremely rare case, stab someone with a pen. Try to brush off the smaller stuff and just think about how lucky you are to be at Comic-Con. Seriously, do you know how many people are seething with jealousy because they aren’ there?! People spend thousands of dollars trying to get a badge after the event sells out! And so I will end this long post with probably the most important tip: Have fun and enjoy every moment of the best weekend of the year.