If you have been attending San Diego Comic Con regularly over the past few years then you can probably attest to how much the annual convention has changed from its humble beginnings. If you are just now attending, or realizing just how many of your favorite stars, networks, shows, movies and games are marketing the event, it can seem a little overwhelming.
Comic Con is an elaborate beast, it’s packed, loud and designed to over stimulate you the moment you are within a mile of the convention center. Over the next few days the words ‘Comic Con’ will dominate the headlines, and the hashtag #SDCC will show up in almost all of your news feeds. The annual event takes place in beautiful San Diego, California where all of the world’s cultural icons flock to celebrate their favorite mediums and genres. For the last 40 years fans of all things pop-culture have traveled from around the world to attend the event and this year is no different.
[quote_left]It’s an ordeal to say the least, it’s like backpacking through Europe, only in one building[/quote_left]What once was a hidden-event for the true comic-fan has turned into one of the most expensive marketing blitzes in pop-culture. Networks are selling their upcoming series, movies are showing off their new blockbusters, games have stands that rival E3 and every aspect of modern-entertainment is accounted for in the grand halls of convention center.
More than 150,000 people attend the event, it’s the Olympics of the entertainment industry and it brings close to $75 million dollars to the city every year. It took less than 2 hours for SDCC to sellout of the passes for this year’s event (which went on sale last February to the public). Before that the press and exhibitors were filling out forms, booking hotel-rooms and reserving cars. We were scheduling our plane tickets and preparing our expense accounts, arguing over who was going to go and readying our electronics. It’s an ordeal to say the least, it’s like backpacking through Europe, only in one building. A four-day pass allows you to enter the Convention Center from preview-night to the end of the convention on Sunday. These are usually the first to sell out, but fans can also buy daily passes. These are usually best for taking your kids, since after one-day of waiting in lines (and believe me, there’s waiting) your little one will be done for the day.
As of 12 days ago the final line-up and scheduling of all the panels, booths, autograph-tables and speakers were set in stone. That’s when the real logistics of Comic Con begin for the attendee. You can not see everything, it’s not possible. So many events and panels are taking place at the same time that it just can’t happen. That being said, the convention does a pretty great job at staggering out the main attractions (thought that’s mostly because the press has to be there as well). There are apps like the official SDCC scheduling app to help you find your way around and plan your day. Then there are unique apps like the DC Entertainment App to help you find their stuff only. It’s incredibly taxing, sometimes stressful and very confusing for your first time attending.
If you do ever go to Comic Con, you’ll need Picture ID, your badges, simple food like power-bars or granola-bars, tissues and hand sanitizer (do not get the Comic Con flu!), normal supportive shoes for waiting and standing (I don’t care what your cosplay is), emergency cash if debit system gets overloaded, your smartphone or camera, an emergency charger, and a notepad helps) Also a light bag that isn’t stuffed already (boys and girls), nothing HEAVY (do not put your stuff down unattended) to hold all your gear and your free swag.
If you aren’t attending then you will start enjoying Comic Con from afar on Thursday. You will start to get news headlines, a ton of pictures, some great trailers and word of surprises from directors, actors and guest-speakers from terrific editors like myself, who started writing this at 6am for our readers as I look at the mobs of people already waiting outside my hotel.
So here is the horrible truth about Comic Con if you’re not in the press…the waiting. While the showroom/expo is filled with booths and events and fun, (it’s exactly like a carnival or state fair) the rooms the panels are in are limited (like a hundred people in some, while glorious Hall H can hold 6,500). Let me remind you that 150,000 people come to this event, not at the same time of course, but not everyone fits everywhere. If you don’t make it to the front row don’t worry, there are screens set up so everyone can see, and popping down front for a picture and quickly returning is allowed.
Now if you want to get into Hall H or Ballroom 20 then you will need to make this commitment. Just like the first day at a One Direction concert, people will be lined-up before hand…hours and hours before hand. Everything is first come, first served with no exceptions (except for press, sorry) and they don’t kick people out afterwards. So you do get some people (that I hate) who get into Hall H and just sit there all day. The panel assists these people with a bathroom pass (which will also workout for you probably), it’s the exact same thing you had in primary school, it lets you go to the bathroom and return, without losing your seat.
[quote_center]Don’t feel like you HAVE to dress-up, you won’t standout if you don’t, it’s fun and perfectly acceptable to come in whatever you’re comfortable in while you attend.[/quote_center]
The lines for events like ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘Ender’s Game,’ or ‘Godzilla’ will wrap around all over the place, and no one is counting to see if you are going to get in or not. You can sit in line for hours and hours and end up being too far back to gain entrance. It happens to everyone once in their trips.
The lines suck, no way around it but to make up for it, the people of Comic Con are amazing. People really go all out in Cosplay and the feeling of excitement and wonder fill the Convention Center each day. The people are almost always terrific, they will take pictures with you, ask you to take pictures, they will help you with directions, food, questions and will tell you where they got the best swag. It’s awesome to see fans dress-up (and some barely dressed I should say) and it’s a terrific atmosphere all around. Don’t feel like you HAVE to dress-up, you won’t standout if you don’t, it’s fun and perfectly acceptable to were whatever you’re comfortable in while you attend.
Afterwards you can party, a great time at Comic Con is when a studio, magazine or website throws a get-together. They will rent out some of the best locations in all of San Diego and they aren’t celebrity only, glamorous glittery socialites that attend (there are those parties don’t get me wrong) but there is something for everyone so be social, talk to your fellow line-groups and get a feel for what is going on that night. Almost every bar and restaurant in the area has special events for the people attending, and your hotel most likely has some as well. It’s a terrific time and you will have great stories, galleries of pictures, free gear and probably some terrific online friends after you are done.