By Joseph Noga, Contributing Blogger
What started as a small, single-day gathering of comic, movie and science fiction fans, has become the seminal convention for the entertainment industry. Comic-Con International lives and breathes out of the San Diego Convention Center for four days every year, bringing together the who’s-who of the media industry. Comic-Con’s ability to shape the future of comics, movies, TV, video games and even music proves undeniable year after year.
Attendance has been over 130,000 in recent years and has only been growing in size, forcing the convention to spill over into nearby hotels and meeting areas. The first time I attended the Con was in 2007, and everything was contained in the convention center for the most part. Now, however, you can expect the convention to take over the majority of the Gas Lamp District and affect traffic citywide. I thought the convention was already plenty overwhelming in 2007, so I can only imagine the mental anguish newcomers would experience this year simply trying to figure the whole thing out.
From 2007 to 2011, I was fortunate enough to attend, work and geek out at Comic-Con International. Work now keeps me from participating in the joyous event, but my experience has left me with a Frommer’s style knowledge of how to get the most out a Comic-Con experience. Allow me to share with you my wisdom in 5 easy-to-digest scoops:
5. Make a schedule
Go to the Comic-Con schedule website and set your priorities ahead of time. You might think that you are the only person that wants to go to the Adventure Time panel Thursday at 11am, but there will be hardcore fans camped out in-line for hours dressed like Gunter, Jake, or their favorite princess just to hear their voice actors spout off a few lines or for the chance of seeing exclusive new content before all of their less fortunate friends stuck back in Middle America. You will want to have your day mapped out and walk around to the main rooms and halls to gauge how long the lines will be/how dedicated a show or movies fan base is.
4. Get ready to wait
After you do plan out your 4-day adventure, you will still be doing hours of waiting. Hall H and Room 6A always have the longest lines. Even if you get there early you will probably have to wait an hour or two, because there will always be more hardcore fans willing to show their dedication by showing up at 4am. I vividly remember not being able to go into Hall H for a day, because the Twilight fans had created a several-thousand person line wrapping around the convention center, eager to see their favorite actors.
3. Get a huge poster bag
It is well worth missing something on early on Thursday or actually going to Preview Night on Wednesday to wait in line and get one of those huge poster bags you will be seeing around. They typically have a sleeve dedicated to housing all the sweet posters you will be picking up along the way and all the swag – aka freebies, aka semi-useless free stuff. You will get mountains of free swag on your adventure. Some of it you will keep until the end of time, some of it you should throw away immediately to save space. The fact is, if you get into one of the good panels, you will be receiving cool T-shirts, bottles, cozies, or more substantial goodies, if you muster up the courage to ask a question in front of thousands of die-hard fans.
2. Bring snacks
Getting food can take just as much, if not more time, as trying to get into some of the bigger panels. If and when you get stuck in line, you will get hungry, food isn’t easy to come by or easy on the wallet. I would often take a break to go to a restaurant in the Gas Lamp District, but anywhere decent will be packed. If you are social, you might make friends with people in-line and try to get them to hold your spot, but this is Comic-Con, the vacation spot of nerds and geeks world round. Pack some snacks and sandwiches. You’ll thank me later.
1. Go with the flow
Chances are that you will wait for hours in-line to see the cast of that one show you are completely crazy about and that you will not get in. Such is Comic-Con. However, you will be at the front of the line for the next panel. At this point you can power stomp away red faced and steaming or you can adventure into unknown territory and check out the next panel. If the next panel isn’t your cup of tea, look at what other panels will be in the room later. It might be worth waiting through some other panels in the comfort of a chair, rather than gambling hours in another line. If the lines and the panels are making you batty, relax! You can easily spend all 4 days of Comic-Con on the main floor looking at life-size replicas of your favorite characters, getting signatures, playing video games or just simply people watching. There will be thousands of people dressed up and looking ridiculous. Asking to take the picture of cos-play participants will make their day and liven up your photo album.
Go with the flow and enjoy. You’re at Comic-Con!