Knowing may be half the battle but the other half is getting everything to fit in your suitcase. I have enough trouble with my myriad of outfits (see here) before even getting to the cosplay part of proceedings. And, being a woman, my cosplay outfit is roughly the size of a cheerleading uniform minus the pom poms. I honestly don’t know how the Stormtroopers manage…
Anyway, Hannah Martine over at SanDiego.com had some questions for me about how to prepare for Comic Con, especially as a first timer. See my answers below for tips and tricks to preparing for Comic Con!
NB: Where relevant, I’ve updated this guide since my second visit to Comic Con last year. All updates will be clearly labelled as such!
1. I’m going to Comic-Con for the first time ever. What should I pack in my suitcase?
Ideally, a costume! However, given that many SDCC-goers have spent every waking moment since last year’s con preparing their costume, it might be hard to pull that one out of the bag with one week to go. In which case, bring casual, comfortable clothes. Even if it’s super hot outside it gets chilly inside the convention centre because of the air con (air con being preferable, of course, to a gathering of 230,000 sweaty nerds with no air con. Although having said that, I don’t know how much the air con actually helps in the face of 230,000 sweaty nerds). Anyway, ideally, bring layers: a pair of shorts, possibly a comic-related t-shirt and a sweater would be the perfect combination. Oh, and make sure you wear comfortable shoes – the convention centre is huge inside and you’ll spend ages walking (for ‘walking’ read ‘running’) between panels, signings etc.
2. What should I bring with me every day to Comic-Con?
The main thing you’ll be doing all day is queuing for panels, signings, passes to signings, food, and panels. So bring lots of drinks and snacks, something to keep you entertained while you’re queuing or waiting for panels to start (given that it’s a comic convention, no doubt there’ll be iPads galore) and, most importantly, a camera.
SDCC is like no place on earth and there’s a photo opportunity around every corner. Bearing that in mind, it might be worth bringing chargers for your phone/iPad/camera because the most annoying thing ever is when your device fails you just as you see Stan Lee on the escalators next to you. Make sure your camera is always on, too. Sadly, I only managed to get the back of Stan Lee’s head.
Other helpful items probably include wet wipes, tissues, wallet (with money). If you’re a girl add to that make-up, make-up remover (for when aforementioned make-up smudges), mirror, vaseline and chocolate. Last year I spent an entire day in Hall H and, with Hall H, once you’re in you can’t really leave without re-queuing so I pretty much brought anything I would bring to go camping! (Bar a stove. That’s a no-no).
Comic Book Guy has the ultimate pull-out guide to what to take to a con in his Book of Pop Culture.
3. How easy/difficult will it be to travel around San Diego?
In terms of access to supermarkets and restaurants, the convention centre is a 5-minute walk from the Gaslamp Quarter, where there are tons of bars, cafes and restaurants, and a 7-minute walk from Horton Plaza, which is an outdoor mall and has a supermarket.
Cabs go regularly from outside the Marriott hotel next door to the convention centre but traffic can get pretty heavy. Most of the nearby hotels have shuttles that go to and from the con but if you’re finishing late it might be worth hopping in a taxi.
4. How do I decide what to see while I’m at Comic-Con? There’s way too much to see. Should I stick with only the people/shows that I know, or should I try some of the smaller or lesser-known booths?
Ok, the big question. When you pick up your pass you’ll get a guide to everything that’s going on. Except, despite being as thick as a legal textbook, it isn’t actually a guide to everything that’s going on at the con. For that you need to keep your eye on the daily newsletter that can be found at the entrance to the exhibition hall, Twitter and the booths themselves.
There is so much going on from panels, to signings, to exclusive giveaways, to freebie giveaways, to competitions, to cosplay. Comic Con will penetrate all your senses. For a first timer, my advice would be to make sure you spend a decent amount of time on the floor of the exhibition hall as the booths are awesome (Marvel’s last year had a life-size replica of Odin’s throne from Thor) as are the people – often in cosplay – milling around them.
A few things to bear in mind: accept that you will have to pick and choose because things will clash. The other, really annoying, thing you’ll have to come to terms with is the fact that there are queues everywhere, for everything, all the time. Expect to spend about an hour queuing for a mid-popular panel, and three hours queuing for a super-popular panel. It can also take up to half an hour to walk from one end of the convention centre to the other.
Hall H is the largest hall and is traditionally for movie panels. It is located on one end of the convention centre with its own entrance, and the queue often starts from the night before. If there’s a popular panel in Hall H it’s best to get there around 7.30-8am. You’ll get in at 11am and probably get a seat near the back (there are screens though). Ballroom 20 is inside the convention centre and is where most of the TV panels take place. Again, queues can start from the night before but you can usually allow an hour of queuing, even for a fairly popular panel.
Bearing all of that in mind, my best piece of advice is to decide which day you want to do mostly panels and which day you want to spend on the floor wandering around. Be tactical: if there a two or three panels in the same room, even if they don’t follow on from each other, stay where you are. This is because after each panel people will leave and that means you can keep moving further up front.
Last year we decided to spend Saturday in Hall H. We started queuing around 8.30 am and got in at 11am with seats near the back. By the time it got to the last panel of the day, The Avengers, we were a few rows behind the Marvel execs.
Another tip is that the fewer of you there are the easier it is to get a space near the front – when I went to panels on my own there were always some good spots in the front!
Finally, in terms of which panels, go for what you’re into whether that’s a GLBT panel on Superman or Twilight in Hall H! Comic Con definitely has something for everyone.
5. What’s the best type of souvenir to purchase?
Souvenirs are one of the best parts of Comic Con, especially because you will get lots of them absolutely free!!
First off, when you go to collect your pass, you”ll receive a giant swag bag courtesy of Warner Bros, which you can use to collect all your goodies and is also a collector’s item in itself.
The most likely places to get freebies are panels and booths. During panels you’ll often receive an unimpressive-looking token. Take this ticket to the Room of Fulfilment, however and you can exchange it for awesome goodies. Last year the best souvenir I got was a framed, limited edition print from Tangled, given out at the Disney panel. On the floor of the exhibition hall, look for swelling crowds around a booth and you’ll usually find a freebie giveaway. (Update: for a full run-down of 2011’s swag see here).
In terms of what to buy, it depends on what you’re into. There are lots of really amazing, extremely reasonably priced exclusives for sale at the booths. This year I’m looking forward to Lego, Barbie, Monsters High and My Little Pony. The really popular exclusives are sold in limited quantities, sometimes only 200 a day, so it’s worth queuing in the morning. Also, a lot of cool booths are sold out by Sunday (last year the Snoopy booth had no merch left by then) so it’s worth hitting the exhibition hall earlier in the weekend.
6. I’m visiting SDCC by myself. How do I meet some new friends to hang with?
Queues are a great place to talk to people. Cos-players are also chatty and will stop for a picture if you ask. Comic Con really is a very friendly place so there are lots of opportunities to meet people. Good places to hang out are the bar and restaurant at the Marriott hotel next door. Also, I’ll be around so if you see me say hi!
That’s all for tonight but check back tomorrow for Part 2 of SDCC preparation. Update: Check out Part 2 here!