The pros and cons of Open Reg in December

20 OCTOBER 2017

Buried in all the hoopla over Returning Registration was CCI's tantalizing suggestion that Open Registration - otherwise known as the Nerd Rites of Spring - will be more like the rites of early winter this year. If CCI stays on track, they say - and to give them credit, they do seem to be on top of their game lately - we might get an email in late November or early December about an Open Reg sale before the end of the year.

We also might not. But for now, let's assume they pull this off. How do we feel about it?

A few ways your thoughts might go:

  • For nerds on a budget, it's a tough time of year financially. Whether you're trying to pay for airfare for a trip home, throwing a lavish holiday party or putting gifts under the tree, December is already a spendy month. 

  • On the other hand, if you manage to somehow secretly create a Member ID for your best friend/soulmate AND get them a badge - what an incredible Christmas present. Maybe since CCI created those snazzy boxes and pins last summer, we'll get a special Christmas certificate option? With little Professor Toucan in a Santa hat?

  • Of course, if you wash out in both sales, you'll be extra grinchy over the holidays...

  • ...But you'll have time to stoically accept your fate and find an alternative Con. Which is better than deluding yourself straight up through June that you'll get a badge from someone who knows someone whose cousin works for Dark Horse.

  • And if you do get a badge, you'll have more time to land a non-sketchy Airbnb or find roommates for that expensive non-discounted downtown room. 

  • Finally - cynically - with so many people associating Open Reg with spring, maybe this will slightly reduce the number of combatants? I can't imagine anything ruining your New Year's like someone telling you SDCC Open Reg already happened and you missed it, so I guess I'd feel bad if that happened ... but not really.

Regardless of whether you dread or welcome the thought of a December badge sale, one thing is certain: any friends who want to go to SDCC with you next summer need to create their Member ID profile now. We know CCI shuts all that down before the badge sale - and with this new over-achieving phase that they're in, who knows how fast they'll move in the next six weeks.

In other words, we all need to get our friends and finances organized now. This may be the first year ever there were 4 San Diego Comic-Con badge sales. Be ready to say you triumphed twice at this historic event.

Returning Registration is October 28

18 OCTOBER 2017

In the ultimate trick or treat, CCI is springing Returning Registration on us on Saturday, 28 October. Happy Halloween!

Why is it so early? Because CCI wants us to celebrate the season of loss and death and the beyond in a very visceral way, I guess. No haunted house will scare the crap out of you quite like those critical minutes of an SDCC badge sale, when everyone else is getting a Preview Night badge and you're not. But really, I view this as good news - those attendees who get badges will have more time to settle their airfare and hotel details, where last year's late sale was a bit of a nail-biter in that regard.

And if you don't get lucky in Ret Reg, you have all winter (probably) to come to terms with the possibility of missing San Diego Comic-Con. The 2017 sales were so close together that losing out in both was like a kick in the teeth. You'll also have a more realistic sense of whether or not you should invest in a back-up Con next year. (The answer to that is YES if you don't score in Ret Reg, because Open Reg gets worse every year.)

So get your buying group together and your finances in order. If you just blew all your cash at NYCC, if you just blew even more on the ECCC badge sale, your wallet may feel the pinch - but that's only if you get lucky, so the additional spending shouldn't be that painful. Nothing feels as good as locking down a Preview Night or 4-day badge before the holidays.

The only downside is letting any bad badge sale luck ruin your Halloween parties that night - so try to remember this is just round 1. Also remember that there are other Cons, remember all the grumpy hours you spent in line this summer, and any other mind-tricks you need to convince yourself that Oct. 28 isn't really that important. Though of course it is.

Personally I'm happy about this, as I'm going to be out of the country in early November and was dreading the lack of control. Hopefully you can see the upside in an early Returning Registration too. (Though this isn't the earliest by any means, as you old-timers know.)

I'll post more about buying groups and Ret Reg rules later - though by now, you know the deal. Good luck, stay confident and don't lose your Samhain / Dia De Los Muertos / Hallow's Eve spirit. No matter what happens a week from Saturday, you'll find a way to have a beautiful Comic-Con next year.

ECCC Saturday is gone - but contests are offering 4-day tickets

18 OCTOBER 2017

Because it is a Comicon par excellence, Emerald City sold out of Saturday tickets. This follows last year's pattern, where Saturday tix were gone after about a week - which means no one should be caught off guard.

Last week there was a fair amount of kvetching when 4-day tickets sold out in about 16 minutes. Dramatic nerds took to social media to wail they couldn't go to Emerald City now, it was so unfair, whyyyy - but there remained single day badges for all 4 days. The price difference: $30. And with Saturday tickets lingering for a week, it's fair to say that if you really wanted to go to Emerald City, you could.

And you still can. Thursday, Friday and Sunday are waiting for you to buy them. You can also try to win tickets in several ways:
  •  Attend "special events" like this weekend's Treasure Your Chest benefit. It's hard to find a better way to spend Saturday night than nerding out and fighting breast cancer.

  • Join the Emerald City Comic Passport Club.This sounds like the most fun contest ever. Walk into one of 13 comic shops and start your passport; after collecting at least 9 stamps at different shops, you'll be eligible to win a pair of ECCC tickets. Not only does this provide you with an excellent excuse to buy more comic books, but even if you don't get the free tickets, you'll get an exclusive item at the Con.

In the meantime, you can get that ECCC feeling at other events - like next weekend's After Dark Halloween Happy Hour (I guess it's dark in Seattle from 5-8 pm) and the ECCC Harry Potter Scavenger Hunt. I know someone who went to the last Harry Potter hunt and she really liked it, FWIW.

So there you have it - the full, complete Emerald City experience is still possibly in reach. But even if you can't find, beg or win a Saturday/4-day ticket, you can still get 3 days - and that's nothing to sneeze at.

Today is the Emerald City Comicon sale

11 OCTOBER 2017

1:00 pm

There's no queue right now and Saturday is still available, as are all single day tickets. I wouldn't wait if I were you, if you want to get the full Emerald City Comicon experience.


Queue times are definitely longer now. Don't give up, though - if you want all 4 single day badges, you need to stay in the queue.

So far I've heard from a San Diego Comic-Con attendee who couldn't believe how easy this was and a local ECCC attendee who bitched about how difficult it's become. Perspective is everything.


All 4-day passes are sold out. I believe single days are still available but I think Saturday will go very fast.


I was just about to finish my Sheraton reservation when my tickets went live. All told, it took 8 minutes to get my 4-day badges and room. How's everyone else doing?

12:00 pm

Yep, we're in a queue.

11:49 am

Hotels still aren't live yet. I'd recommend having that page open on a separate device/browser while your queue time advances. That way you can take care of it immediately if tickets and hotels both go live simultaneously.

10:53 am

For the sake of simplicity:

You'll go here for tickets.

You'll go here for your hotel.

8:13 am

After dreaming about Emerald City Comicon for months, the chance to grab a badge is finally here. I'll live blog the sale, but here's what you need to know now:

  • Be ready with your credit cards - you will pay for your badges now.
  • Reserve some time for this. We used to be able to whizz in and out of the ECCC sale in 90 seconds. More recently we've all had to wait in queues.
  • Full tickets will sell out fast. You'll need to get right in the queue when the sale goes live - this isn't a sleepy small city Con where badges stay available for months.
  • Once the 4-day badges go, you can still get all 4 days separately. Last year Saturday took a week to sell out. I expect they will go much faster this year.
  • Hotels will go live around the same time. Start checking them before the sale goes live in case they're available - in some past years we've been able to take care of that quickly before the sale. If not, you'll be able to do so after you get your ticket.
  • Don't panic. This isn't a heart-knocking game of chance like a San Diego Comic-Con sale. Odds are you'll get exactly what you want if you're ready.

 Talk to you soon.

October Comic-Con thoughts

1 OCTOBER 2017

It's Halloween month! Maybe you're going to Hollywood Horror nights, maybe an Edgar Allen Poe seance, or maybe an occult-themed cosplay party. But you're also probably beginning to feel the trepidation that sets in when SDCC Returning Registration is nigh.

There hasn't been any formal announcement yet - and many attendees are not sure if Returning Reg will be in November, as it used to be, or if we'll have to wait until March again. My guess would be an earlier Ret Reg since presumably CCI isn't doing any major overhauls to the system this year. (But as with anything CCI - who knows.) In any case, it's time to think about that and a few other things.

Emerald City Comicon

Tickets go on sale on 11 October. I've noticed people who only attend SDCC or NYCC assume getting a badge to another Con is a sure thing; that isn't the case here as these tickets will go very quickly. Participate in the sale when it goes live if you want to go. If you've never considered going, think about it because this Con has a lot to offer. You can read my ramblings about it here.

New York Comic Con

It's right around the corner. If you've never been, I recommend watching the coverage to see if this Con appeals to you. It's slightly easier to get into than SDCC and it's something to consider for 2018 if you don't get a San Diego badge. While it's been a big and boisterous Comic Con for years now, it's recently picked up more and more of the Hollywood side of SDCC. People used to say, "I like New York Comic Con but it's not San Diego." These days, some still say that - but there are fewer and fewer of them.

SDCC Returning Registration

It's time to gird your loins for a possible November badge sale. That means talking to (or creating) your buying group. A lot of attendees swore they weren't coming back to San Diego Comic-Con in 2018, or are only popping in for a day, so your group may need to be pruned, grown or shuffled around by priority.

If you were a 2017 first-timer - or just a lucky attendee - you may not have a buying group. You will find a variety of options here. You can join one of the huge groups out there in the community, you can pull together some friends for a smaller group, or just ask around to join up with strangers. The third option is actually pretty common in our world, which is why you will want to get that started now so you can build trust and get an idea of who you're dealing with. I'll post more details for people who are new to this in the next few weeks.

Go ahead and spook it up this October. But be ready for an SDCC badge sale as soon as a month from now - and start making Plans A, B and C for your 2018 Con life. As with all things Comic Con, fortune favors the prepared.

Get your Emerald City ticket on 11 October


News: When are ECCC Tickets going on sale?
It's Happening: October 11 at 12:00 PM PDT
Bonus: We've made Thursday a full day for 2018!

Happy new comic book day. The Con-barren month that is September has finally offered us some exciting news: Emerald City Comicon tickets are going on sale 11 October at noon PST.

If you're not excited about this, I will provide some reasons you should be in a minute. For now, here are the practical details:

  • Tickets go on sale at noon, online only, on 11 October. Like last year, they're offering 4-day tickets and individual day tickets. (No VIP.) 
  • In honor of your interest and ECCC's magnificence, Thursday has been extended to a full day.
  • Hotels will go live same day, same time, same Bat channel.
  • You will need to be on point for this. Don't think you'll buy your tickets when you get home from work - full tickets sold out in 20 minutes last year. 
  • That said - people were able to buy all 4 days separately for about a week. I assume they'll be snapped up faster this year, because that's the pattern, but you still should be able to get the whole show some way or another if you move fast.
  • Press and pro applications open next Monday, 18 September, at 9 am PST.

Now let's talk about what makes Emerald City Comicon so irresistible. I went over the basic reasons a few weeks ago, but if you're too lazy to read that, here's a quick summary:

  • Emerald City has that feel of an actual comic book convention. It's kind of like a woolly mammoth that way, except with the best comic talent working today.
  • But they have really good guests from your favorite shows and movies too. I say this all the time, but more guests at SDCC or NYCC don't mean more guests for you - you can only attend so many panels and photo ops, after all. ECCC often gives you just as many opportunities and in a much more manageable, accessible way.
  • In fact, pretty much all of ECCC is more serene and satisfying. Lines (when they exist) are short. Hotels, events and the convention center are in close proximity. You can grab a drink or a meal without it being a major expedition. You can sleep in without missing the day's events, because you can usually get into them last minute.
  • The cosplay is amazing. Very imaginative and often more nerdly.
  • They offer more interesting events and cater to some specific fan niches. I can't guarantee your fandom will be one of them, but on the whole ECCC isn't afraid to go off the beaten path. 
  • A lot of attendees from other Cons go, so you'll have more friends there than you think.
  • Overall, people say that ECCC reminds them of how San Diego Comic-Con used to be. I personally don't feel the same way (insofar as my 2002+ attendance allows) but I get what they mean - there's a more informal, relaxed charm to this Con.

And of course - you have no idea if the fates will smile on you for 2018 SDCC. This is a great option that you don't need to stress over. It's also not terribly expensive in terms of hotel rooms and ticket prices.

A few years ago, ECCC attracted mostly comic fans. Now its reputation has boomed and it's now become one of the most appealing Comic Cons in the country. Before you sneer at it for not being NYCC or SDCC, give yourself a chance to discover all the incredible components this Con has to offer. I don't think you'll regret it.

Are you going to Emerald City?

25 AUGUST 2017

Because registration is coming and you'll need to be ready.

If you've followed the growth of Emerald City Comicon the last few years, you know its popularity has skyrocketed. For instance...
  • Saturday tickets: 2 years ago they were available for a month; last year they were gone in a week. 
  • 4-day tickets: 2 years ago the general tickets sold out in just under an hour, while the VIP and Special Access badges went hours later. Last year, only general 4-day tickets were available and they were gone in 20 minutes. All of them. 
  • Or to put this another way: ECCC full tickets sold out in 5 months for 2014, 7 weeks for 2015, 1 day for 2016 and 20 minutes for 2017. Make your 2018 predictions as you will.
  • Hotel rooms: These fluctuate more each year - a hotel seems to be sold out, oh wait, it's not - but generally the best hotel rooms go fast too.
All of which means you should sign up for the ECCC newsletter to stay on top of the ticket and hotel sales, which are coming "this fall." (Last year was October and the year before was September. I'm hoping for September, myself.) The actual Con takes place 1-4 March, 2018 in Seattle.

Do you want to go?

Maybe. Especially if you fall into the "tired of SDCC crowds" or "worried about not getting an SDCC 2018 badge" categories. I feel every Con enthusiast should have a back-up Comic Con in their pocket these days - maybe it's NYCC, maybe it's Salt Lake or Dragon Con - and ECCC is a good one. I've waxed lyrical about it before, but here are a few selling points that might persuade you:

  • It's reasonably priced. Tickets and hotels are cheaper than SDCC and it's not hard to get a decent flight to Seattle.

  • There's a lot to do. If you're new to the Pacific Northwest, you owe it to yourself to explore the islands, go hiking and - if you have the time - drive down the coast. If you don't have the time, you can just explore the city.

  • It caters to comic book readers. Not just DC and Marvel, but creators who are coming up fast as tomorrow's superstars. If you miss the old feeling of actually being in a comic convention, this delivers more than SDCC.

  • The Artist's Alley is awesome. Really talented people, lots of discoveries to make.

  • The cosplay is something to behold. You'll see some obscure pop culture and geek visual demonstrations here and it's quite impressive.

  • It's accessible. I don't know how competitive the ticket sale will be this year, but so far people who've been organized and ready to roll have gotten tickets. Lines are very reasonable (by an SDCC yardstick) and it's easy to get around.

  • It's progressive. I wouldn't exactly call any Comic Con a restrictive place, given we're all a bunch of weirdos, but ECCC goes farther to be LGBTQ-friendly and diversity-focused. Based on emails I got after this summer's SDCC, I know some of you don't like that! So I'll just say that as with every Con, it's what you make it.

  • They care about their attendees. Yes, it's changed a bit since ReedPOP took over, and I haven't stopped grieving the deceased ECCC Tumblr, but I feel like the team is still dedicated to delivering what their attendees want.

  • It's far enough from SDCC that you won't get all Comic-Conned out. I struggle with WonderCon, Silicon Valley and ECCC being too close together; same with SDCC, DragonCon and Boston. Go to too many Cons and the law of diminishing returns kicks in. But there's a nice gap between ECCC in early March and SDCC in late July that's kind of perfect.

Just something to think about. You don't want to be one of those forlorn nerds next spring who don't get a badge for San Diego and realize they should have made a contingency plan. Investigate Emerald City now and suss out if it's your thing. I will answer any questions about it, should you have some. I can promise that having an ECCC ticket tucked away can mitigate the sting of a Returning Registration failure - so pay attention to the calendar and be ready.

Should you plan your 2018 Con life already? Yes.

11 AUGUST 2017

Over the last few days, a rumor squiggled through the SDCC community: that Returning Registration would be held on September 30. It appears to be untrue, but it did get many people thinking about next year - often with a certain fatigue, since it feels like we just finished the gymkhana that is San Diego Comic-Con.

But it's not too early to think about your 2018 Comic Con plans, both for SDCC and the world at large. Here's why:

  • One reason: Returning Registration could be in November. If you want to put together a buying group, or do a health check on your existing one, now's the time. 2017 first-timers who've never done RR before - your chances are better in this sale than in Open Reg, so take it seriously. Don't skip it, as I have actually known people to do.

  • Another reason is the grisly massacre that was the SDCC hotel sale this year. While I don't have hard stats, I've heard of more people booking backup rooms for 2018 than ever before. Most involve high and nonrefundable rates. Hotels can charge whatever they please for these non-CCI reservations, so expect this to factor into your ability to find a reasonably priced backup room. In other words, start looking now if staying downtown matters to you.

  • You should also think beyond SDCC - now, before the Ret Reg madness starts. Every year people come home from San Diego and say, "I don't know if it's worth it." Or they decide to just go for a day or two the following summer. This is a common reaction but I am hearing it more than ever this year. If this is you, now is the time to think about other trips you might want to take, or other ways you might want to spend that money. It's really easy to get caught up in the desperate year-round quest that is SDCC attendance, to the point where you forget to think bigger.

  • If you haven't yet, think about other Cons. I realize I always say this, but too many people wait until after SDCC Open Registration to think about this. Emerald City obviously has a special place in my heart, there's WonderCon, Gen Con, Silicon Valley, Salt Lake, New York (which requires attentive planning now), Dragon Con, etc. I can't say this enough: smaller Cons can deliver more bang for your buck than San Diego, because you spend less time in lines and have easier access to panels and events. Choose wisely and you can count on great guests and programming.

Just something to think about. I was aching to go to Boston Comic Con this weekend, because I've been homesick for New England in the summer. Destiny cruelly yanked me to New York, but I have started hunting for a Cape Cod beach house next summer for a combined Con-vacation. One of my friends is doing the same with London Comic Con and another with Comiket in Tokyo. Something similar could work for those of you who want new experiences while still getting a few Comic Con thrills.

And of course, you may come up holding a royal flush in the SDCC 2018 badge sale and decide that's enough. Either way, you'll have some kind of wondrous destination for next year - so think big and design an incredible Con plan, starting now.

More first-timers review San Diego Comic-Con

2 AUGUST 2017

After I posted my first round of 2017 SDCC first-timers, I got a few questions from attendees asking why I didn't include their stories. It turns out Gmail failed to deliver at least 3 emails - not sure why - from interesting people. So here they are.


Sergio is an aspiring illustrator who came to Comic-Con as a comic book nerd. He pawed through various back issue bins, scoured Oni, Drawn and Quarterly, Dark Horse and other publishers for new books, and poked around Artists' Alley - as you do. But it was the panels that impressed him.

"Friends had told me that Comic Con panels are pretty weak and you don't get to see the real artists who are making the best books today. Okay, that was mostly true. But I got to see Jim Lee, Mark Waid and Robert Kirkman. I got to see Jeff Smith. There is a benefit to seeing these people as people like you who found a way to work in this industry. It doesn't need to be a mysterious thing.

I got into the first night with my friend's badge and saw that I could quickly get everything I wanted. There wasn't much that was new to me, although I eventually returned on Sunday to do a longer search. But that first look convinced me to concentrate on panels. I went to workshops on coloring, animation, production and anatomy.

What do I think of San Diego Comic-Con? I think it is an initiation for people who want to find out about working in comics. But I could also see that I would quickly reach the limit of what there is to offer. It's a beginning. I'll go back next year and this time I will focus on meeting people who can help me."


Holley's husband has been an email friend for a few years, so I was able to connect them with some real-life friends as SDCC roommates. She was the first-timer in the group but like others in my previous post, benefited from having an experienced attendee at her side. Her observations are on point: making friends with other attendees is awesome, while other aspects are not.

"I didn't feel like a total first-timer since my husband has been there so many times. And, my hotel roommates (which you connected us with) were also veterans, so I got good direction from them.

My favorite thing was the ease of striking up a conversation with people (usually while waiting in some kind of line). IRL, I feel the need to mediate my conversations and have to feel people out for their level of interest or knowledge of geek culture. At SDCC, I knew that everyone had knowledge and interests, and usually wore it visibly in the manner of buttons, t-shirts, and cosplay. It felt nice to have found such a huge group of "my people."

I also enjoyed the panels. Lots of good info, and I saw some of the celebrity ones as well. I'm a huge Whovian (since 5th grade), so my favs were the Britbox panel with Doctors 5 and 6 and companion Ace, and, of course, the Doctor Who panel in Hall H on Sunday. Capaldi was genuinely moved by the outpouring of love from the crowd. It was a touching send off.

I didn't enjoy the lack of knowledge in many of the volunteers. We were told conflicting info many times about which lines to get in, etc. But, we just learned to ask several volunteers and go with the majority. There also seemed to be a major build-up of trash throughout the day, making it look like the staff wasn't on top of it. But, that could just have been the logistics of trying to get a huge trash container through the sea of people. Finally, lining people up outside in the sun (mainly the Indigo Ballroom) is a bad idea. None of these things took away from the experience at all for me."

Verdict: "I had a great time at SDCC!"


I met Ryan at the Con without realizing it was his first time. He seemed very chill about a panel mix-up that had his friends in a snit and we philosophized about the need to take a Taoist approach to SDCC. If asked, I would have guessed he'd been coming for years - so I was surprised to get an email stating it was his first one.

One reason he seemed sanguine about the whole circus is that he's been to NYCC several times. Not exactly a novice, our Ryan. So what did he think when comparing the two?

"San Diego is all-consuming. You're never not IN the Con, even when you're walking up the street or going to a club. It's everywhere. We stayed at the Marriott Gaslamp and we could hear people and street noise. There came a point when I wanted to be free of it all. In New York, you can leave Comic Con behind so easily. That is not easy to do in San Diego.

My friends hated the lines, the confusion and the way you had to type your personal info into iPads. I gave a fake name and email so I didn't care. While there are more comedy shows and readings at NYCC, and it's more like two weeks of special shows, they don't have the kind of Netflix and Blade Runner offsites like at San Diego. Again, it's that consuming feeling. It's like being in a casino. You lose your perspective of the outside world.

I will try for a Preview Night badge. You said it was crowded, I thought it was the least crowded day of the Con. I want to do more of the programming next year instead of wasting time waiting for the big panels and offsites. But if we only get Thursday or Sunday or don't get a good hotel, we'll cancel."

And that's it for 2017 first-timers. There doesn't seem to be a common theme - they don't like the lines but neither does anyone else. Most of them seem to think it was a worthy trip; some aren't going back and that's okay. San Diego Comic-Con isn't for everyone and I don't understand why some attendees get so defensive when it's criticized. I think for many people, it's a bucket list destination where one visit is enough - and for many of us, it's an annual rite and essential part of our summers. Some veterans reach the end of their interest and that's okay too. What matters is that attendees find a way to make Comic-Con work for them when they're lucky enough to be there.

The first-timers of SDCC 2017

30 JULY 2017

San Diego Comic-Con ended a week ago. There's been plenty of analysis (in my circles at least) on what could be improved, what worked well and whether or not each of us will be in Returning Registration. But we all know whose opinion really matters - those attendees who walked into SDCC for the very first time. What did they think?


Matt used to go to Comic-Con with mutual friends back in our kitten days, circa 2002-2006. Then he got married, procreated, and sank into a quagmire of adult responsibilities that eliminated SDCC from his budget. Last week was his first time back in 11 years and despite being warned, he was in shock for the first 3 days.

"Obviously I knew it would be crowded but nothing prepared me for the lines, the impossibleness of buying what my son wanted and how much time it would take to get anything done. I feel like I did more in one day before than I did all of Comic Con this time. The crowds were bad, really bad. I didn't have a Saturday badge and thought I would find things to do but I didn't. This year was to see if the kids could do OK there and I don't think they could."

He and his family are headed to WonderCon maybe, but probably not SDCC anytime soon.


I met Mia at the bisexual panel and later at a party, where she expressed her dissatisfaction with the social side of the Con. She is a non-geek whose friends got her a 4-day badge (not bad, given the bloodbath that was Open Reg) and promised her that SDCC was one party after another. The party scene turned out to be less than vivid for them. She wound up sticking her toes into the world of comics and anime since she was in the thick of it and is so far enjoying what she bought. But she and her friends were so bored with the Con by Sunday they wound up going to the beach. Now that she's home, she regrets the money she spent on her badge and hotel.

Is she going back? "Maybe for 2 days."


Devin's Con began on a bright note when a friend picked up 4 exclusives for him on Preview Night, freeing him up on Thursday to do Hall H. He got in - but left after two panels because he was bored. This proved to be the unforeseen failure of his Comic-Con experience: he just didn't have the patience to either wait in line and/or sit in the same room for hours. Given that he came to SDCC mainly for the biggest Hall H panels, he didn't know what else to do. After one round of the Exhibit Hall on Thursday afternoon, he felt done with the Con.

At that point, he began to focus on partying which led to (at different intervals) sunburn, hangovers and dehydration, to the point where he almost passed out and was taken into a restaurant to drink water and rest. "If I had a room in the Gaslamp, I think I would have had a better time. But taking the shuttle back and forth is too slow and I spent so much on Lyft rides, it just wasn't well planned." He was also disappointed by SDCC on an amorous level, as he'd heard it was "Geek Spring Break" and was hoping to meet someone. He didn't.

Will he be back? "I don't know yet."


Andrea is a "huge geek" who tried for a badge the first time this year and got Thursday and Sunday. She and her friends spent their time wisely: "So Thursday we went to a couple panels, we got into Voltron. We visited the Exhibit Hall and we were OVERWHELMED to say the least. I barely bought anything the first day because I was so shocked at the crowds and the artist talent and all the booths and aaaaaagh it blew my mind. We also were lucky enough to get into Hall H for the Bright panel, Will Smith is the best. We also went to the Netflix experience, so cool. Sunday we lined up early and got into the Supernatural panel. We literally died, it was so awesome. Then we hit the Exhibit Hall again, this time I actually bought some pretty cool stuff and got a lot of free stuff too. Overall my first experience was amazing and hope to come next year and the next and the next and forever and ever. "

Despite being literally dead, it sounds like Andrea will probably return.


Have you ever bought SDCC badges with your significant other and then broken up before the Con? It's the worst, right? This happened to the luckless Gabe, who found himself alone in his room at the Westin and more or less alone at the Con. He knew two other couples there but felt like he was "imposing" on their activities and consequently had a rather lonely inaugural Comic-Con.

But he hasn't ruled out next year: "I did like it. I bought a ton of stuff on the floor. I didn't go to Ballroom 20 or the Hall H but I saw some of my favorite show panels in Indigo room at Bayfront. I just had nowhere to go at night and felt like a loser. I want to go next year with a full pass, with friends."

What he didn't like: the Playback room. "Waste of time." Also in disfavor: the off-sites. "I had nothing to do Sat so I waited for Game of Thrones but finally gave up. Just too hot out. I did the Kingsman pub and that was good, but the Tick and the Netflix ones weren't worth the wait."


Tami is another lucky first-timer whose oldest friend, a five year SDCC veteran, got her a 4-day badge and "helped me map my journey." She wrote a very detailed account of Thursday, so I'm including a truncated version.

She awakened at 3:30 am to catch the first tram downtown and meet friends who'd been holding their spot in the Westworld line since 10 pm the night before. "First lesson of SDCC: you had better know how to queue properly.  Line etiquette dictates that you may hold spots in line for other people, but the agreed cap is for 3 other people.  If you hold the line for a party of 15, people behind you begin to snarl and foam slightly at the mouth."

While in that line, she had a lone celebrity sighting: Eric Roberts. "Second lesson of SDCC: Pay attention to who is around you.  You never know who you may run into."

After successfully getting a Westworld appointment, they got sucked into a Hall H vortex via typical SDCC chaos. "To our left slightly, we notice that the giant line to Hall H is moving.  We decide to investigate.  Turns out all of the people who were in the line that snaked over by the Bayfront are being moved over by tents closer to the convention center.  We watch as one worker is letting people cut through by the side of the building to those tents; while another worker is telling people they have to go all away around.  While they argue, BFF and I follow the people who go by the side of the building. I do see this quite a bit at SDCC: workers that don’t quite know what is going on."

In Hall H, they saw the Kingsmen panel and got to see Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges and "watched Halle Berry chug down the Kingsmen brew that they brought.  I hope to god that wasn’t real booze.  Isn’t she a type 1 diabetic?  Anyway, there were lots of movie clips, some swag, and my recollected crush on Colin Firth to keep me satisfied and happy with the whole ordeal." After that they did the Westworld experience, filled with "creepy actors, super strong drinks, and a free cowboy hat." That night they did the Fandom party at the Hard Rock Hotel where she apparently met my friend Robert, because as ginormous as SDCC is, it's also downright tiny in some ways.

Tami thought the smaller panels were "totally underrated" and listed 3 dislikes: getting yelled at by staff in the Exhibit Hall ("If you don’t want people to take pictures of the Marvel actors signing autographs and clogging up the walk ways, then move the signings somewhere else") and people lining up for Saturday Hall H on Thursday, pointing out, "I get the lines, I really do; but these people are missing all of rest of the whole SDCC by standing in line for one event for two days." She also had a negative experience where the Netflix offsite was supposed to start at 11 but didn't open until noon, which meant the people who'd waited in line for 5 hours had to rush through it to meet other obligations.

In short, Tami was an unusually high-functioning first-timer and came away with a valuable lesson: "As I learned over the four days I was at SDCC, you need a plan or you are dead in the water."

I also heard from other first-timers with complaints: there was too much Trump-bashing, the Con didn't offer enough for gay people, activities were too spread out, there wasn't enough going on to justify the badge price (what?), there were too many people in the Exhibit Hall, staffers couldn't answer questions, people were mean, transportation sucked, the panels were boring - you get the idea. I decided to not include the ones that were just a litany of grievances, because everyone's already heard them. One couple I've been speaking to for months was so furious over the lines (and an exclusives kerfuffle I can't quite comprehend) that they refused to discuss the Con at all with me. And then there was the woman who wrote very earnestly, "I don't think the organizers know what they're doing!" That was cute.

On the whole I noticed fewer first-timers this year, and those I did meet were better prepared. It's not like 2011 where starry-eyed attendees would show up and immediately crumple from the chaos, like Bambi getting shot. The Darwinian nature of the badge and hotel sales seem to winnow those people out, with only prepared and educated attendees successfully clearing the various hurdles. Unfortunately that same dynamic has made the Con more extreme in some aspects, as the pool of attendees equipped with tricks for getting badges and rooms and standing in line grows ever larger - making even basic Con skills not quite enough.

I hope you had a beautiful Comic-Con. If you didn't, remember there are other Cons - you can still get tickets to Dragon Con and Boston Comic Con (which I may be hitting) and the Emerald City sale is right around the corner. You might find someone letting go of a NYCC ticket. There are plenty of options, is my point. And if you were a first-timer who found SDCC falling short of your dreams, don't necessarily write it off - figure out where it came up short and then decide how you can rectify that next year.

Thanks to everyone who sent me their stories. I'm sorry I couldn't include them all.

Do you have any information about the Hall H fake wristbands?

26 JULY 2017

As you all know, it's believed that a group of people made or obtained fake Hall H wristbands and used them to gain access to panels - leaving legitimately wristbanded attendees shut out after waiting for 20 hours or more. CCI would understandably like to get to the bottom of this. If you saw, heard or know anything, please email me at or contact CCI directly.

People who traditionally skip Hall H may consider this a trivial matter, but it's not. Many attendees invest considerable time and money traveling to SDCC specifically for Hall H. They were robbed.

We have a great community - hopefully we can come together and share what we know. Please ask your friends if they observed anything as well. Thanks.

SDCC 2017: Did you have a good time?

24 JULY 2017

By now most of us are home from San Diego Comic-Con: doing our laundry, organizing our piles of comics and t-shirts and exclusives, and maybe contemplating what we should have done differently. 2017 was not the smoothest year by any yardstick - and while every summer brings a crop of attendees who swear off SDCC forever, this year seemed to move even more people across that line.

So how did this year go?

Hall H

Let's just get right to it. The Hall H line is always a tour through hell, but this year it reached new levels.

The initial scandal was a dispersed line that was replaced by a later line. Unfair! We thought that would be the Hall H line scandal of 2017; little did we know that someone apparently made fake wristbands to let other people cut in ahead of the people who were legitimately wristbanded.

Right now different stories are still coming out so I'm going to report pure hearsay and gossip:
  • My friend's friend saw someone let in a massive crowd of people ahead of him.
  • Someone else reported seeing an actual bag of the fake wristbands - though I'm a bit dubious of this story.
  • People believe it was an inside job, aided by a volunteer or staffer.
What we do factually know: that  roughly 400 people with wristbands were locked out of Hall H. They were given 4-day badges for 2018 in compensation, but this still caused an uproar. In the talkback session, attendees suggested RFID wristbands (see all those happy faces below); I kind of doubt this will happen but it's obvious something has to be done.

I think CCI has stepped up its game in many ways over the last 5 years - the smoother badge sales, the Toucan blog - but the issue with lines is an area they need to tackle more adeptly. The wristbands aren't enough. I know no one wants a  Hall H lottery but I do think that would be the fairest and most peaceful way of allocating access. In general, there is no easy answer that will make attendees happy. Often attendees have a rather childish attitude here; they know we have 30,000 people who feel entitled to entering a room that holds 6,000 but they expect CCI to develop a system that can painlessly cater to their individual needs. Hall H can't accommodate everyone, it's that simple, and as long as it's a battle of wits and tenacity, we'll see more crime and deception in the mix. Just my opinion; I always welcome hearing ideas for fair and efficient Hall H access.


This year set a record in the number of people I know who never set foot in the Con. They were all about offsites and events. I kind of love these people because I'm the exact opposite and it keeps them out of my panels and lines - but I do question how long this population can increase. Attendees who come solely for that purpose must realize that offsite lines are becoming the new Hall H lines, with people lining up earlier and earlier. Eventually we'll have attendees battling the badge and hotel sales to spend a grand total of maybe 2 hours all weekend in actual offsite participation.

While the Game of Thrones experience delivered with its little videos, more people seemed impressed by Blade Runner (below). The Westworld experience also wowed, but ultimately left a sour taste in many attendee mouths, give how it was open to fewer than 500 people the entire Con. After sending out elaborate invitation emails, it felt like a tease. I thought the Netflix offsite was better than Blade Runner, though I'm not sure who agrees with me. I didn't do anything with the Tick and haven't heard much about it either - it might have been great, but it was overshadowed by Blade Runner and Netflix buzz.

The Tech Pavilion was my favorite offsite, but ignored by most attendees. While the robotics weren't all that impressive, some of the other technology was worth checking out. Not only did it offer better VR than Blade Runner (and let attendees chill out on beanbags while watching 360 dome films of trippy Vedic mythology and Neil deGrasse Tyson cosmology lessons), it was easily navigable, involved no lines and actually offered something you can't get at home. The kind of offsite would have been the dream of SDCC attendees 15 years ago; alas, most of today's attendees would rather spend 6 hours in the sun hoping to see Barb from Stranger Things.


As always, I chatted with other old-timers about the changes at the Con. Most seemed resigned and adaptive, but two told me they decided this was their last Con. (A thought I entertained at length on Preview Night.) Several pros I know couldn't afford to come; the Archie booth was gone; the big Bud Plant booth, one of my top 3 favorites, shrank to the tiniest size possible. I bought armfuls of books from Fantagraphics and Prism and a few other comics/books and that was about it.

I thought both Preview Night and Sunday were more crowded than last year, while Saturday was more manageable. The entry processes weren't great, with some confusion on what kind of lines people should stand in and how they should be let in. I feel this should have been more smoothly organized.

This isn't exactly a change, but the demographic this year felt less geeky than ever. Another veteran attendee and I agreed to stop referring to attendees as nerds, because the vast majority are celebrity hounds and mainstream fans. I don't mean that to sound elitist (as I'm sure it does) but maybe 1 out of 12 people I meet at SDCC can talk comics, science, anime or gaming. That sense of nerd community has become faint. I realize we live in an era where people think watching "Rick and Morty" makes them a nerd but I'm not willing to evolve on that language point yet.  

In terms of what didn't change: Several people made a now-recurring complaint that the same panels are offered year after year. I think CCI is trying to stay current by bringing us panels on AI and diversity and LGBTQ rights, and people like Roxane Gay, but I also think there's a reason we see so many "How to Break Into Comics" and "Women in Comics" panels - people go to them.

Otherwise, while there were a few switcheroos here and there, it mostly felt like business as usual. I don't view the Hall H debacle as a change but the next logical development in an ongoing dysfunction.

Attendees and Staff
Most of the staff were just fine - but I did encounter some aggressive security and volunteers. Some seemed legit ready to snap. One actually barked in my face when he blocked my path to a women's room and yelled at me to use the restroom behind me, which was a men's room. Long day, I guess. A first-timer couple I know were shaken by a bad experience with a staffer, who they felt overreacted to them asking why they couldn't enter a certain area. In general, people just seemed exasperated and defensive this year.

However, what bothered me more was the change in some - not most, but enough - attendees. Is it me or is there a new ruthlessness in our ranks? It's not just the Hall H fake wristband issue. And yes, I know we've always had those cutthroat attendees who would sell their grandmother to get into a Marvel panel. But there seemed to be more people willing to use more underhanded tactics to get what they wanted. It was very disheartening. I posted a few months ago about an increase in people who contact me to demand extra tickets, badges and hotel rooms without so much as a "Hello" - I don't know what laboratory this strain of attendee is being bred in but they need to be discontinued.

I also ran into more people who seemed unable to handle the crowds, lines and general inconvenience of Comic-Con. Were they first-timers? I don't know. On Sunday, one guy was literally pushing my back in the Exhibit Hall and almost toppled me onto a stroller with a baby in it. I turned and told him I couldn't go anywhere and to stop shoving me. He griped about how slow-moving the crowd was. You think? Welcome to Comic-Con.  Another guy snapped at a little girl so harshly her father stepped in. Usually everyone is polite and understanding about the claustrophobic swarm that is the Exhibit Hall, so I'm hoping I just saw the few exceptions.

I thought the cosplay was average. My favorites were a Sid and Nancy couple, a refreshing change from the 437 Wonder Women strolling around. Most of what I saw was fairly traditional. Of course there's always world-class cosplay at SDCC, but I feel like Dragon Con and Emerald City are becoming the destinations for the really innovative cosplayers.

Announcements and Trailers

Two people said to me they thought this year was "weak" in terms of bombshell announcements. Was it shocking to find out that Wonder Woman 2 was happening? That American Horror Story's new season would be called "Cult?" Not really. I don't think DC announcing a "Shazam" movie rocked anyone's world either.

The most controversial announcement was "Confederate," the new series helmed by the GOT team that will focus on what would have happened if the South won the Civil War. Ben Affleck hinting that he may be leaving his Bruce Wayne days behind wasn't exactly lamented. And we found out Doctor Who actually can be called Doctor Who and not just The Doctor, which settled a long-standing debate.

Matt Groening's "Disenchantment" coming to Netflix was well received. What we saw of CW's Freedom Fighters, featuring a gay superhero in a Nazi-victorious world, got mixed reviews. I think most people are wary of potential Supernatural spin-off Wayward Sisters. And I know people are extremely wary of the new Netflix Death Note, and not just because of whitewashing. (Though I maintain that Willem Dafoe as Ryuk is perfect.)
I thought some of the comic book announcements were good, especially the resurrection of old favorites like Sandman, Arkham Asylum and The Invisibles. Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica will be a surefire hit. Especially intriguing: Andrew Aydin (of John Lewis's "March") may be writing more graphic novels about the civil rights movement, and one could just possibly concern Maxine Waters.

DC admitting its sales troubles was interesting. They announced a new strategy of evergreen stories that sit apart from the monthly titles; we'll see if they help. The Gerard Way Young Animal crossover with mainstream DC could be invigorating - and I'm fairly optimistic about DC's new The Terrifics (cough, not at all like The Fantastic Four, I'm sure) who will be part of their Dark Matter imprint.

I'm still collecting reports from first-timers, which I'll publish in a few days. I might also do a post on their questions, as I heard from many people who were stunned at the lines and chaos (despite being warned.) And news will continue to flow out all week: who got the best buzz, who failed, deals that were made and problems that arose.

If you came away from San Diego Comic-Con with a feeling of something unfinished, my advice is what it's always been:
  • Be more proactive about shaping your Con destiny, instead of waiting for it to be delivered. I don't just mean getting in line early enough or doing the right research. Think about what you really want out of Con (more parties, more career advice, more art and media discoveries, etc) and dedicate yourself to making it happen. Often that means sacrificing other parts of the Con. 

  • Identify what bothered you and find a new Con where it's not as much of an issue. If you want more of a focus on comics, go to Emerald City with me next March. SDCC may be the most hyped Con but it's not the only game in town by any means. Also consider other types of conventions. I know former attendees who now spend their time at cons for anime, books, death, science and specific fandoms and they're much happier.

  • Think about stepping away from Con life in general. SDCC is right smack in the middle of summer. It can be hard to plan other vacations or summer travel with so much time and resources flowing to Comic-Con. Maybe it's time to put it to the side and go see the world.

But I know most of you are committed to next year. You're already hunting down hotel rooms, deciding which of your friends to initiate, and planning your Returning Registration strategy. The next badge sale might be months away but SDCC life is never really over - because most of us don't want it to be.

Comic-Con news so far

22 JULY 2017

After a prolonged period of no Wifi, I'm back online. So what have we learned?


Biggest news: Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham are doing Arkham Asylum 2, featuring an adult Damien Wayne.

We're also getting The Tempest, another League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. This is a year away.

And there's this: Frank Miller is going to take on Superman and give him the Dark Knight treatment. What is in the water this SDCC?

Joelle Jones will tell us what happens when Batman proposes to Catwoman.

SEGA will publish New Sonic comics through IDW - not Archie. Also getting IDW series: Transformer Unicron and female Ghostbusters.

Marvel is bringing you a new Thanos series.

Archie and DC announced a crossover that everyone will want: Betty, Veronica, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Weird combination, but compelling. Out this fall.

I'm less certain about this crossover: Doom Patrol and JLA. Could be good, I guess.

Very big news: we may be getting new Invisibles, Sandman.


Stranger Things was a major offsite and a major panel for attendees - and we found out that while Barb will not be returning, she will be "avenged."

As a Halloween lover and stop-motion fan, I can't wait for the SpongeBob Halloween special "The Legend of Boo-kini Bottom."

Krypton is coming and reactions are mostly meh.

99.9% of us were not allowed to enter the Westworld experience but we did see the season 2 trailer, which features Dolores on horseback, gunning down humans. There was no definitive word on how much we'll see of Samurai World.

The Tick is one of those shows that got a lift from SDCC. Not many people I know thought twice about it before this weekend, but there's reasonable interest now.

The Defenders also is getting positive buzz. Everyone I know had only good things to say about it.

The next season of Archer will be Danger Island, set in the South Pacific in 1939. I'm ready for it.

It looks like Riverdale's second season will continue Jughead's melodramatic voiceover. Who shot Fred Andrews? Etc.

iZombie shared a sizzle reel and season 4 news about new zombie rules and wars. I feel like this show is running out of steam.

I heard The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones panels were lackluster, but we did get an interesting look at elderly Rick and found out the show will never try to cure/solve the zombie issue. For GOT, we got some intriguing hints about Dany partnering up with Melisandre. Maybe.


We're getting Wonder Woman 2. Of course we all knew this, but the official announcement is nice.

Thor: Ragnarok seemed to wow everyone with its trailer.

Were you expecting Michelle Pfeiffer to be in another superhero movie? Me neither, but she'll play Janet Van Dyne in The Ant Man and the Wasp.

DC always delivers news of its next animated feature but this year they announced four: Gotham by Gaslight, Suicide Squad/Hell to Pay and the two-part Death and Return of Superman. I was surprised by the eye-rolling that greeted this news; I'm all for it.

Black Panther got a standing ovation in Hall H.

We saw the first footage of Ready Player One and reactions were .... mixed. People who hadn't read the book seemed more into it than readers.

The reaction to Justice League was more positive, although I think all of us are pretty much dying for Aquaman to come out already.


There's no shortage of talk here. We'll start with Conan, where something went drastically wrong this year:  on multiple days, people with tickets were sent home or received emails telling them not to show up. The Spreckels Theater was extremely hot - two people next to me on Thursday night got up and left before the show started. Overall, it was a very different experience from the previous 2 years. It's been suggested that demand surged this year, so everyone actually did show up for the tapings - where before they could count on a certain percentage never claiming their tickets. Not sure if it's true but hopefully next year will be smoother.

Offsites have been a main attraction for a few years now, but I've never known quite so many people to focus on them so intently - sometimes to the point of skipping the entire Con. I think Blade Runners takes the honors here because it partnered so many good elements - great VR, a t-shirt, shots of Johnnie Walker, free food, an atmospheric experience - while the line was much more reasonable than Game of Thrones. Netflix was also in high demand and then we had the Westworld experience, which only admitted 120 people a day.  I still maintain that the Tech Pavilion at the Omni is worth a look, but of course most attendees are skipping it. Even though I think some of the VR there was as good as Blade Runner.

Now - onto the Hall H line. My, my. Just when you think you've lived through every type of Hall H line drama possible, 2017 happens. From a line being forced to disperse, while new people took their places, to attendees getting wristbands and not getting in, this year was a mess. Apparently some people report waiting 30-40 hours, only to have so many others cut in front that they wound up with D wristbands or nothing at all. Staff pretty much shrugged off complaints.

But the biggest issue - reportedly - is that some people created fraudulent wristbands to get in. Everyone is reporting this as fact but I haven't seen it verified. At any rate, 2 full chutes of wristbanded attendees got left out in the cold after waiting upwards of a day. The good - and unprecedented - news is that CCI actually gave them 4 day badges for next year!

I have to admit I didn't expect that one. But while it was a nice gesture, it's obvious CCI has to do something about Hall H. The wristbands were a step, but now attendee madness has incorporated them into their desperation. CCI has to take stronger measures. I think assigned sections, handed out via lottery, would be one way to do it, but there are others.

Anyhow. Tomorrow is the final day of the Con. Hopefully the Hall H line will go a little smoother for Supernatural fans. And if you're one of those only-offsite people? Put your badge to use and give the actual Con a try. You may never get to go again.

How to know when a line is worth it

21 JULY 2017

By now, you've heard the stories about Conan and the Game of Thrones experience: people waiting 12+ hours in line and sometimes not getting in. Then there's the Westworld offsite, which only admits 120 people a day - so people are determined to line up earlier and earlier to sign up each morning.

I am a big believer in enjoying the Con you're at - and it's hard to do that if you spend all of it in a line. I know some people work in groups with complicated systems involving assigned shifts, but the vast majority of attendees just have their friends to rely on.

Obviously the Conan situation was new - a few people who actually had tickets were turned away because they overbooked, and the standby line for both A and B shows were sent away. In previous years, some standbys did get in. The Westworld offsite limitations weren't communicated well either. But the Game of Thrones offsite line wasn't a surprise and there are lines in every direction for other events.

You can read my Q&A on lines here but I'm going to repost this: knowing when a line is worth it. Last night I talked to several people who didn't even set foot in the Con because they spent all day in line without seeing their intended destination. Not a great way to kick of Comic-Con.

Deciding when the wait is worth it partly depends on your fandom level. But you also need to ask yourself if:
  • You would be okay seeing the panel on YouTube or in the Playback room
  • You'll feel let down if your favorite cast member only speaks once, while the director and star dominate the panel
  • You'll be disappointed if you get stuck so far back in the room you have to watch the panel on a screen anyhow
  • You'll be disappointed if the offsite experience is over with in 3 minutes and doesn't offer significant swag.
  • You haven't gotten a chance to thoroughly explore the Exhibit Hall
  • There's anything else going on at the same time that you really want to see.
If you answer yes to most of those - I wouldn't spend more than a few hours in line.

I'd also advise checking Twitter for real time updates on lines - not just for what you want to do, but what you've already written off. My first-timers assumed that Hall H and Ballroom 20 would be impossible but both were walk-in at various points of yesterday.

Also, look around at other offsites. It's probably better to do 3 B-level offsites than wait 8 hours for an A-level offsite you never even get into it. Hit up Netflix at Hilton Gaslamp or do the Tech Pavilion at the Omni. (I'll review this later - it's worth visiting.) The Blade Runner experience is getting popular but it's worth a try; same for the Kingsman offsite; there's also the Tick and so on. I realize coming home from Comic-Con with those cool GOT videos of yourself is a major get - but make sure you're okay with sacrificing an entire day for them.

Finally, as Conan taught us, don't count on this year being the same as every other year. Crowd preferences change, new management teams institute new policies, and attendees get more skilled at accessing certain activities. Something that's penetrable one year can be a madhouse the next.

I'll post an update on the various Con announcements and developments later today. Till then, have a happy Con and make smart choices.

Preview Night: what did you think?

18 JULY 2017

A few months ago, a select group of nerds achieved their wildest dreams as they were plucked from an online waiting room to buy the ultimate Comic-Con badge: Preview Night. Social media was filled with cries of joy, relief and gratitude, as if people had won the lottery.

Today those same people filed into the convention center to enjoy the fruits of their good luck. Preview Night had come at last. And yet - no one seemed especially grateful or emotional. On the whole it was a fairly neutral crowd I saw moving through the Exhibit Hall. So let me ask you: what did you think of Preview Night?

My experience: my friend and I showed up a few minutes before 6 and wound up at the end of the line. THE line, you understand; it wasn't like the years where various sets of doors would swing open and we'd all storm in like villagers attacking the Bastille. In recent years, they've opened only limited doors, forced us to march through the center, across halls and down escalators and generally hampered our entry - but today seemed especially onerous. By 6:10 the line was still immobile and then suddenly a guy opened the doors in section G where we'd been and we filtered in.

I wasn't on an exclusives hunt, and spent 2 hours checking specific comic tables (Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, etc) or just kicking around - a rather aimless PN for me. So I can't say how frustrating or easy it was to raid certain exclusives booths. I also can't report on the pilots, but everyone I spoke with expressed a general disinterest. This just wasn't a compelling year in that regard.

As far as the Exhibit Hall goes, it didn't hold too many surprises. Even the Walking Dead photo op - sitting in a chair next to Shiva - was unsurprising. Like a lot of people, I headed to Netflix but the booth action - passing through a video - was kind of a letdown. Hopefully their offsite at Hilton Gaslamp will be better. Other booths seemed fairly predictable. I covered about 87% of the floor and didn't make any bold discoveries. Maybe you did?

The crowd itself seemed to harken back to 2014-2015, when Preview Night seemed almost as thick and populous as a Saturday. Last year was fairly spacious on PN, but this year the crowds were back. In terms of lines, I saw the Preview Night line move inside just before 11; they said they'd been in line 5-6 hours. And it wasn't long before we were hearing about Conan and Hall H lines, sometimes incredibly far in advance.

So the perennial question remains: is getting Preview Night really the be all and end all of the Con? I'm going to say no. I didn't experience anything tonight that couldn't have waited until tomorrow. Collectors may feel differently, of course. But I do think that as SDCC becomes increasingly predictable, some attendees will loosen their grip and be more content with a partial badge (or even sitting out a year.) Maybe I'm just too jaded to tap into the vitality of the Con (likely) but I also think tonight proved that we may tend to build the Con up in our minds just a bit much.

Tomorrow brings the start of the Con proper. Lots of good panels; lots of great ways to have a stellar day. Rest up and be ready.

Eating well at Comic-Con

19 JULY 2017

Happy Comic-Con! Whether you have a Preview Night badge or not, you may already be floating around the area. So before we plunge into the madness, let's talk about something very basic: where to eat.

CCI does have a restaurant guide, although it's more of a list. And you'll hear a lot of recommendations from attendees and hotel staff. But when it comes to eating out at SDCC, there's more at stake than the food - because how much time and money you spend on it will directly impact what you can buy and see at the Con.

Think of it in these terms.


How much time do you want to spend on eating - getting to your restaurant, waiting for a table and then waiting for the food and walking back? If you have a full day of panels and events planned, you probably can't spare 2 hours to walk into the Gaslamp, put your name on a To Be Seated list, and then wait an eternity for lunch.

To save time, you can bring your own food in with you or eat the convention center cafe choices. There are a few Starbucks on site, but of course they serve muffins, banana bread and other carbfests that don't really comprise a good meal.

If you want to go out without spending a lot of time, the Fox Sports Grill at Hilton Bayfront has always been able to seat and serve me quickly. I favor the Headquarters in the other direction, on the other side of the Hyatt, because not too many attendees seem to head here. The Cheesecake Factory there is usually busy but Seasons 52 (my fave) and the other restaurants in the complex can usually seat you immediately. If you're staying at the Hyatt like I am, it's extremely handy but you can also take the blue shuttle to the Hyatt and cross the streets or just walk there.

Seaport Village is also a convenient choice for people staying near the convention center - and Little Italy seems to have more places than ever.  It's not that far and can be a nice escape from the Gaslamp craziness.

But if you want the Gaslamp craziness, you've got options. You can keep it quick with Subway and Gaslamp Pizza or you can go to popular spots like Dick's Last Resort, Tin Fish, the Broken Yolk and Rockin' Baja Cantina. Lots of people assume they must be fantastic since they often have lines, but it's worth looking beyond them at other restaurants that offer as good or better food - with little to no wait. Again, I favor Phulkari (a bit slower than the others), Blue Point Coastal and de Medici, and eat breakfast quite often at McCormick and Schmick at the Omni. They all tend to be more peaceful than your typical Con crowd screamer.

A lot of attendees who aren't in a hurry, want to plant themselves somewhere with street seating so they can watch everyone promenade up and down the street. Nothing wrong with that, but you will need to wait a while for a table. Another option if you've got time to burn: going to the beach and eating beach food like shrimp tacos or burritos. Or you can catch the ferry to Coronado Island (behind the convention center) and indulge yourself somewhere like the Hotel del Coronado.


If you're on a budget, and a lot of people are, you can eat well and protect your wallet. Some of the local food trucks are inexpensive (and some aren't); bars like McFaddens often have Con specials if you don't mind typical bar food; you can also perform the venerable attendee rite of buying a sub at Subway, then living off it all day long.

The Horton Plaza has fast food, and some hotel cafes are offering "grab and go" options for attendees who want something other than bagels and coffee. And if you're not familiar with the area and want to get some basic groceries, you can walk to Ralph's grocery store on G Street or take the blue line shuttle there.

Late Night Dining

It's hard to define your schedule at SDCC; panels release you into the night at odd hours, you might sacrifice breakfast to join a line, or find yourself getting by on a borrowed power bar for an entire day. Often you find yourself hungry late at night. The options aren't plentiful, but they exist. Subway ran 24 hours last I knew; some pizza slice places are open late; the Syfy Cafe used to stay open till 3 am but these days they close a little earlier; the Marriott Marquis serves a limited menu after midnight. Bar kitchens will also accommodate you for a reasonable period of time.

But don't forget your ultimate option: ordering pizza or room service. Sometimes nothing is better when your feet hurt and you're sick of crowds.

Most likely you'll end up eating wherever and whenever is convenient. But if you can take the time to make choices, choose wisely - because it will make a difference in your Con.

Final advice for first-timers

18 JULY 2017

If you've been to Comic-Con before, you can skip all this. Everyone else, here are a few pieces of guidance for the rest of the week.

If you haven't yet, make a list of the exclusives you want, the booth numbers they'll be at, and the panel times and room numbers. Use the CCI app or make a list on your phone. It's a very safe bet you'll be distracted by the circus around you and forget otherwise. Also make a list of which back issues you need.

And while I don't want to kill all the joy of Exhibit Hall shopping, definitely use your phone to see if you're being wildly overcharged. Sometimes you'll see books marked as "out of print" when there are 62 used copies available on Amazon or action figures marked as "rare" when there are always a dozen circulating on Ebay.

If you try to barter, do so strategically. If you go in and try to haggle aggressively like you're at a swap meet on Thursday, you'll get a cold reception, unless you're buying in volume. (If you want 2 or more of something, pretend to look back and forth between the items and deliberate; often the vendor will propose a discount.) On Sunday, prices get more flexible because vendors want to unload as much product as possible. You'll see lots of markdowns, but go ahead and ask about getting a deal if you don't see anything advertised.

Also - be prepared for the Exhibit Hall to smell like a biohazardous swamp at some point. If you have a sensitive nose, bring something to dab underneath it

This one might seem weird - but check online SDCC coverage. When you're in the thick of things, it can be hard to spot some of the coolest collectibles or hear the rumors about the best surprise guest ever expected at a certain panel. Tapping into online coverage can help you stay on top of things.

Don't bother with all the tried and true Con favorite restaurants that are spilling over with crowds. I'll talk about this more later in my Eating Well at Comic-Con post - but in general, take a chance on the emptier places. The Headquarters on the other side of the Hyatt can usually seat people almost immediately at various restaurants, and the higher-priced places are always a faster bet. It's mindblowing to me that people will wait an hour outside a crowded, loud, mediocre restaurant to avoid paying the extra ten dollars that the relaxing, more delicious restaurant up the block would cost.

Panel etiquette: If you get up to the microphone at a panel, be succinct and resist the urge to tell your life story or ask 4 questions when each person is allotted 1. A lot of times this isn't intentional; people get lost in the moment and keep talking and talking. Also, don't hold your iPad or camera above your head for a prolonged period, blocking the view of the person behind you.
Bring your own chargers and spare batteries when possible. Getting a good charge can be tough in the convention center - and that's if you can find an open outlet. (Try upstairs in the room 27 area - that tends to stay one of the most spacious, coolest areas of the center.) But if you find yourself at a low percentage and have no other recourse, Hilton Bayfront and the hallway lounges in the North Tower at the Marriott can usually accommodate you.

Use Bag Check if you're buying tons of stuff. It's in the lobby near A and E and usually costs just a few bucks so you can roam around free and unencumbered. Be aware that you can't leave your items here overnight. Also take advantage of the local hotel UPS and Fed Ex stores to ship your stuff home mid-Con, rather than letting it pile up in your room.

In terms of meeting celebrities, this is not something you can plan. People will stalk certain areas to see celebrities and their handlers emerge, or linger in the Marriott lobby. These plans rarely work out. Instead you'll get in an elevator on Friday morning and find yourself face to face with some famous old actor your mom would kill to meet and you'll exchange that neutral elevator smile and that'll be it. 

But if you DO run into someone, be polite, non-crazy and respect whatever signals they're throwing out. Don't swarm them, don't follow them, don't make them hate coming to SDCC. Some attendees behave horribly when they see someone famous at Comic-Con. One of my most terrifying SDCC experiences was getting swept into a Jack Black Exhibit Hall vortex that reached claustrophobic proportions. Don't be that fan.

Be polite when getting photos of cosplayers. The general etiquette is to ask first. However, if someone is already posing for 6 cameras, there's no harm in jumping into the mix. In terms of taking pictures with cosplayers, remember that you're often going to be in a humid, crowded environment; if you're damp with sweat, don't press up against the cosplayer.

Be aware that borrowing badges is a risk. The staff does check IDs sometimes and there are penalties for badge fraud. Also be aware that swapping a badge back and forth isn't that easy and nimble unless you're literally staying next door. Just getting inside and either doing the Exhibit Hall or going to a panel is a serious endeavor. Also be aware that most everyone I know who's done this has wound up furious at their partner in crime, because someone stayed at the Con way longer than they promised. It's inevitable.


Finally, be prepared for the Con to amaze and surprise you in some ways and to let you down in others. There's always some expectation that doesn't get met, some disappointment or sense of deficiency. At the same time, there's a lot of adventure to be had and most attendees have at least one thrilling surprise each Con. Try to keep an open mind and you'll have a more enjoyable experience.