Exactly a month ago, I had the opportunity to attend San Diego Comic Convention. For someone who had that on his Bucket List for quite some time, it really felt surreal that I was actually, there standing inside the venue to what a lot of geeks would say their “Mecca of Geekdom,” or simply it’s THE PLACE for every comic geek to be in.
It was just an awesome and overwhelming experience. Seriously, like geekgasm everywhere.
The area itself, the San Diego Convention Center, was so big that one of the best advice I can really give is to WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. And also bring a sturdy backpack, because you’ll definitely be getting a lot of freebies from every booth you pass by.
Anyway, to share my experience, I’m writing down some things that you might need to know when your opportunity comes to attend Comic Con.
1. Book a decent place to stay EARLY – Yes, booking early for a place, possibly near the convention center is very practical. Be reminded that when Con Season arrives, the rates of hotels, motels and even dormitories tend to double, triple or even quadruple the price per night, so the best solution is book a place months before the event to still get a chance to grab their normal rates. From my experience, I wasn’t able to get a place near the convention center since their rates was really high. What I did was ask the help of some relatives already living in the US. Luckily, I was able to stay in a decent place, but it was a bit far from the convention center. Good thing the transportation system of San Diego is really efficient. On-the-dot scheduled buses and reliable Trolley rides made my travel going to and coming from the Con easier, and I can say that I had a stress-free commute.
2. Make a To-Do List, and (try to) STICK TO THE LIST – There are a lot of things happening during Comic Con, and all AT THE SAME TIME. For example, the Warner Brothers’ booth had a Meet & Greet with the cast of Arrow, and at the same time, the GeekNation Booth was having a Photo Ops with Stan Lee. Before going to Comic Con, make sure to really plan your itinerary so you won’t miss the activities you want to attend. Here are some sites that would give you weekly to daily updates on what to expect before the actual event:
- Comic Con’s official site, Toucan – http://www.comic-con.org/toucan
- SDCC Unofficial Blog – http://sdccblog.com/
Also, following Comic book celebrities over different social media sites help a lot too.
A month before the event, I started to compile all the things I wanted to do: Get my comics signed, get some sketches and commission from notable artists, have a photo with comic book icons (Stan Lee in particular), buy exclusive stuff from the event, and get that SDCC Shirt. When I arrived at the con, I still followed my list but it didn’t hurt to buy some additional stuff during the in-betweens between panels and events.
Part of the planning process is to be familiar of the exhibit areas. Most SDCC-related online sites and even the main site would offer an overview map of the areas during the event. I suggest that before you go to the event, you should be familiar with the areas you really plan to go to, as well as the possible routes you need to take to avoid huge crowds. There will definitely be areas that would cause huge traffic along the way, so being familiar of the area has it’s advantage.
3. Get in line EARLY – There are two things at Comic Con that everyone should experience: getting the exclusive stuff, and also the attending exclusive panels. To experience those, you have to get in line really, really early. Gates open at 9AM, but people have been known to queue up as early as the night before, especially people who want to attend the Hall H panels. This is not an exaggeration. There are really people camping out in line for Hall H Panels. If you really want to attend the Panels at Ballroom 20 or other Panels, you really have to get in line even before the gates open at 9AM.
As for the exclusive stuff that you can buy at the exhibit areas, the same principle applies. If you want to get autographs from the cast of famous films, TV series, and comic book writers and staff, you still need to get to the venue early, because by the time the event rolls around, the area would already be packed.
When you get it to the main Exhibit area, you have to really know what your target first. If you plan to get exclusive stuff from Funko and you’re running a little late, you might have to really run towards their booth, because they’ll just give just a few passes to those who get in their line (yes, another line) to buy their stuff. Or if you aim to get in line for an autograph session with your favorite movie/TV or Comic celebrity, you have to know ahead where to get the passes. For TV/Movie signings, there’s usually an area on the 2nd floor to get those passes, but for Comic personalities they are usually at the booths where they are scheduled to appear. Again, to get those passes you really have to be in line EARLY.
4. HYDRATE & FEED yourself – If you spend all day walking around the convention center and the exhibit area, you will need to keep yourself hydrated and well-fed so you will have the energy to keep going. Yes, there are some food establishments in certain areas of the convention center, but if you’re on a budget I would suggest buying a liter of water from the nearby convenient store (which is 2-3 blocks away from the convention center). Same goes with food, there are some nice places to eat around the Gaslamp District and most establishments there would even give you a nice discount if you show your Comic Con Badge.
5. PICTURES, PICTURES AND MORE PICTURES! – The area of the San Diego Convention Center is huge, about 2 or 3 times as big as most convention centers here in Manila, and the event is fully packed. Outside the convention area is the Gaslamp District of San Diego, where there are lots of SDCC-related events happening too. SDCC really does turn San Diego into one BIG GEEK PARTY area. Naturally, you tend to take a lot of pictures, so you MUST have a portable charger and back-up SD cards to keep you going. It’s really an overwhelming feast for geeks like me where you just want to immortalize your experience in photos. Just a reminder when taking photos, especially with having a picture with your favorite celebrities and with cosplayers donning your favorite character’s costume: you have to ask them nicely, and politely before taking pictures– ANY kind of picture. Be patient as well, since you’re not the only one who wants to take a photo with the X-Men or Slave Leia.
With these things I’ve shared, I hope that if you plan to go to your first San Diego Comic Con, you will be more ready and prepared.
One last note, after Comic Con is done, never throw away your badge. NEVER. You can use your Comic Con badge to validate it online at the SDCC site to get a chance at the Pre-Online Registration for the next Con, which happens in October.
Enjoy & YEY Geeks! 🙂