San Diego Comic-Con 2016: what did we think?

26 JULY 2016

For the last 3 days, my inbox has been flooded with SDCC attendee emails. Lots of the usual complaints have come in (the lines! the disorganization! the unfairness!) along with some jubilation (the toys! the trailers! the celebrity eye contact!) But what's really interested me has been a consistent theme of alienation among veteran attendees.

How did you feel about it? Did you have a good time? Did you stare out the plane/car/hotel window on Sunday night and wonder if all that money and stress was worth it? Were you one of the jaded attendees who snorted derisively when someone mentioned coming back next year? It's natural to run up and down the emotional scale during the Con. But once you're home, your feelings solidify into something like a decision: if you're going to return and how much energy you want to invest in it.

Here's what I'm hearing people say about San Diego Comic-Con 2016.

Overall: This year was duller than years past. It wasn't as exciting, didn't have as many surprises, was missing that ineffable spark that makes SDCC special. The cosplayer population seems to be shrinking, as if half of them vanished through a portal to some more colorful dimension, and the Exhibit Hall was oddly manageable most days. "Where is everyone?" was on repeat.

The Activations: Attendees are getting choosier about these. Well, sometimes after the fact. I heard a lot of complaints from people who waited hours for a 6-minute experience. All in all, the general feeling seems to recognize the need for quality over quantity.

The Lines: I eliminated excessive lines from my SDCC life years ago, so I'm relying on hearsay. I heard a mix of "Sloppy line management" complaints and "Hey, these lines aren't that bad this year." Obviously that depended on the event in question. I do think the wristbands, mocked and reviled as they are, help with Hall H. Despite the reputation of SDCC lines, I met quite a few first-timers who consistently underestimated line times and missed their panels.


The Lotteries: We endure lotteries for badges and hotels; this year we endured lotteries for the Star Trek premiere, the Conan pops, and other "giveaways." And frankly, it was a waste of time. SDCC is 5 days long. Attendees spend enough time waiting around. Maybe CCI/TPTB think an online lottery wouldn't be as exciting, but making people standing in multiple lines in the hot sun starts to look like pointless cruelty after a while. Hold a drawing with raffle tickets or online submissions and let it go.

The Exclusives: If you were hoping this was the year that vendors started being fair and equitable, you hoped foolishly. A lot of the same dynamics that bedeviled every year were back - vendors and some volunteers getting first crack at exclusives, toys being made available to everyone after being sold as exclusive, annoying drawings that got people out of bed at ungodly hours for no reason. Serious collectors, you have my sympathies but I don't see this situation improving.

The Programming: I thought it was just me being a curmudgeonly grump who'd been to too many Cons but no, a few attendees said what I was thinking: the panels were a bit humdrum this year. Some of the same topics presented by the same panelists year after year. Remedial advice that's fresh only to the greenest young fledglings. Publisher and studio panels that shared "news" every real fan already knew. I remember the days when panelists would actually prepare visuals like slideshows and present an engaging experience. Now it's more common for them to sit down and just ask the audience for questions. I'm not saying all the panels were bland - I went to 2 or 3 good ones - but it's hit or miss.

The Parties: Every party I went to this year was a hotel room party hosted by comics or publishing people. Didn't hit a single splashy event. So what do I know? Nothing firsthand, but I did observe a lack of those big ticket events attendees used to sign up for - and the more formal parties got so-so reports. This is a hard thing to rate, because some attendees will pant and wag their tails over any SDCC nightlife, but overall there seems to be a realization that many of the parties are just people standing around drinking and talking - like parties anywhere. It's not like Stan Lee flies in on a unicorn and sprinkles 2017 badges over everyone.

The Trailers: These range from blah to tantalizing every year, and I think 2016 averaged out in that regard. Luke Cage, American Gods, Wonder Woman, Skull Island, and a few others all got stellar marks. Others did not. The Walking Dead trailer thrilled everyone by offering up a CGI Shiva but also reminded them of the irritating cliffhanger.

The Comics: We got some welcome news this year, like Love and Rockets returning as an ongoing comic book, Roxane Gay writing a Black Panther companion title, Boom giving us a roller derby comic in November, Dark Horse bringing us Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood and Bait by Chuck Palahniuk. We also found out that The Watchmen/Rebirth story isn't happening tomorrow, and Robert Kirkman announced he'd changed the ending of The Walking Dead again.

Scandals and Surprises: Nothing too unforgettable here. Quite a few comic nerds were incensed over The Killing Joke's Batman-Barbara Gordon cliched sex scene and well, the entire film. A panel on Women in Film Production was hijacked by a male staffer there to control the mic. The Blair Witch Project rose up like Lazarus in what was actually a more skilled PR move than I would have expected from that team. Not everyone likes Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. Overall, it was a yawn of a year in that department, and sorely lacking from the Hyatt bar brawls and celebrities shoving security guards that we used to get. Or maybe I missed something?

As I said, I ran into many people who felt the magic wasn't there this year. And while I always remind people that Comic-Con is what you make it, I knew what they were talking about. I still like SDCC and I think it has a lot to offer. But I've been detaching from it for a while and this year I felt myself break off from it like an iceberg. I'll still be back next year, knock on wood. But it doesn't occupy the same place in me emotionally that it used to.

Maybe you're so high from Comic-Con that you can't wait to go back - and maybe you're less thrilled; either way, remember the other Cons out there (like Dragon Con, Boston and Salt Lake coming up) and think about other ways to keep the energy going. SDCC is just 5 days out of the year, after all.

I'm still collecting first-timer reports - so if you haven't gotten yours in yet, email me at

4 steps to attending San Diego Comic-Con 2017

26 JULY 2016

The night before I went to SDCC, I met someone who had never heard of it. That doesn't happen too often these days, and I found myself at a loss as to explain it adequately. "Pop culture convention" doesn't really cut it, after all; doesn't describe the cosplay, the panels on space and science fiction and diversity and culture, the rare comic books, the activations, the camaraderie, the parties, the sheer size of it all. So I rambled on about the Conan taping I was going to, the action figures and comics I wanted to buy, and the screenings I wanted to see, and he just said "huh." In other words: it didn't appeal. Then he called last night and immediately said, "I saw your thing on the news. How do you get tickets to that?"

San Diego Comic-Con has that affect on people. As soon as they see the cosplay photos, the celebrity interview snippets, the newcasts of the crowds, they want to be part of it.

If that's you, I have good news and bad news. The good: anyone can try to go to SDCC and that includes you. The bad: it's very difficult to get a badge, so don't count on it.

What matters is that you start preparing now. Don't file this away in the back of your mind until next year, because the next time you hear about badges going on sale, it'll be too late to get one. So here's what you need to do.

#1. Sign up for a Member ID.

This is the easy part - and it's mandatory. Only people with a Member ID can participate in the Open Registration badge sale, which will likely happen next February or March.  Do opt in to receive 3rd-party emails; I know that sounds like you're inviting a flood of annoying spam but in fact that's key to finding out about attendee-only offerings like the Conan O'Brien tapings.

#2. Study up on the art and science of SDCC. 

Managing the logistics of SDCC - navigating the badge sale, the hotel sale, parking, understanding when to line up for panels or get autographs - requires knowledge and skill. Try to be impromptu about it and you'll just wind up empty-handed. You do need to prepare. I recommend reading blogs like this one and the Unofficial SDCC Blog and others, as well as the Friends of Comic-Con forum. You don't have to get a PhD in Con life, but you will find out valuable tips. 

#3. Build relationships. 

You might be one of the lucky few to try and get a badge all on your own.  But you'll greatly increase your chances by making friends with other attendees and joining a buying group. Same goes for getting tickets to a Nerd HQ panel, or trading your Conan Pop for an exclusive, or getting into an invite-only party. The way I'm describing it sounds rather heartless and quid pro quo, but the fact is that SDCC attendees are a fun and supportive group of people who go out of their way to help each other. Get to know us; it'll make your SDCC 2017 experience so much better.

#4. Figure out your finances.

You don't have to be wealthy to go to SDCC, but having money set aside will be an enormous help. The badges are pretty cheap - 245 for a Preview Night badge this year - but the hotels are a different story, and you will probably want to buy quite a bit while you're there. Start a fund. Hope that you get lucky in the hotel sale when rooms are offered at discounted rates, but prepare for the possibility you won't.

I know July 2017 sounds so far away. But Open Registration is probably only 7 or so months from now, and once you've got your badge, the following months will fall like dominoes. Do your homework today and next summer you won't be wistfully watching SDCC coverage online - you'll be right there in the thunderous splendor of Comic-Con.

And San Diego Comic-Con is over

24 JULY 2016

Comic-Con 2016 has come and gone. If you're still lingering in San Diego, you probably already feel the drop in energy. And if you're home, you're probably busy with laundry and sorting through all your new books and action figures and shirts and autographs.

Was this a good Con for you? Mediocre? Will you be in the mix on Pre-registration Day this fall?  I'll post my thoughts about SDCC 2016 tomorrow - changes, good and bad, more news (I lost all Internet access for the last day) and the general feeling of the crowd. First-timers, don't forget to send me your stories.

And of course, it's never really over - not all the way. We'll hear a steady flow of news over the coming week, and it won't be long before news on Pre-reg is announced. Optimistic attendees (like me) have already booked hotels for next summer. So go ahead and take a break from this mad way of life we live, but only for a while. Because it'll start up again before you know it.

Saturday is here & it's going to be busy

23 JULY 2016

How is your Comic-Con going? If you've been a smart nerd, you've been conserving your energy for these last 2 days; if you've indulged yourself, like the all-nighter I just pulled, you may be dragging a little. But we've got a lot to do today, so get ready.

In the big rooms:

Hall H has Warner Bros opening the day at 11:30 and then the Star Trek panel at 2. Aliens 30th anniversary is at 3:15; at this point a certain faction will exit the rooms. Then we have EW's Women Who Kick Ass, and Marvel Studios takes over at 5:30. At last we have Kevin Smith at 7.

Ballroom 20 will be super-packed. Once Upon a Time at 10, The Vampire Diaries at 11, The Simpsons at 12, followed by Family Guy 1 at 1, American Dad at 1:45, Grim at 2:30, and then Supergirl at 3:30. Then we have Legends of Tomorrow follows at 4:15, then The Flash at 5 and Arrow at 5:45. At that point they will clear the room for the Masquerade later tonight.

The Indigo Ballroom is mixed today. We Bare Bears is at 10, followed by Powerpuff Girls; then we have Blindspot at 12, The Originals at 12:50, Lucifer at 1:30 and Gotham at 2:10. Then Syfy rolls in with The Expanse at 3 and The Magicians at 4. Son of Zorn is at 5, followed by Last Man on Earth at 6 and then the screening of Incorporated at 7. I see a steady flow in and out of this room.

Nickelodeon has really done up the Con this year, and this panel should be a hit: return to their 90s shows in 6A at 11:15.

It's Monster High time at 11:30 in 5AB. A fan costume contest will offer "fantastic prizes."

If you're not in Hall H, you can still get your Star Trek fix with "The Roddenberry Vault" at 12:30 in 5AB for rare clips and photos.

The "Kaiju Kingdom Podcast" is at 1 in the library.

"Women Rocking Hollywood" is at 2 in 25ABC.

Disney XD fans will see exclusive clips of Pickle and Peanut and Future Worm at 2:30 in 5AB.

I know a lot of you have anticipated this: Wynonna Earp is at 2:30 in 24ABC.

At the exact same time, HBO's Vice Principals appears in the Horton.

Or you can see Scooby-Doo and WWE in 6BCF at 2:45.

Back at the library at 3 is the 10th annual Lost panel is at 3 in the library.

More Star Trek goodness, this time with a free model Starship: "Star Trek The Official Starships Collection" in 28DE at 3.

Bear McCreary is honored for his musical genius at 3:30 in room 8.

Game of Thrones superfans will talk about the books and show in the library at 4.

Also at 4: BBC's new Dirk Gently show with Elijah Wood.

If you missed the Timeless pilot on Preview Night, you can see it at 4:15 in 6A.

Robert Kirkman will talk about Outcast at 5:15 in 6BCF.

In the Horton at 5:30: The Final Girls, with "a surprise slate of actual final girls from horror film history."

Lots of comics & nerdy fare today.

Another cosplay contesnt: the graphic novels of Avatar the Last Airbender is at 10 in 25ABC.

You can find out about DC's upcoming crossovers in 6DE at 10.

John Lewis is back with March: Book Three, exclusively available at SDCC right now. So if you missed him last year, report to 23ABC at 10.

You can learn all about Mexican comics and media at 11 in room 4.

Or you can find out about the comics of the future, like ones with motion sensors, at 11 in 29AB.

Marvel games, comics and more are in 7AB at 11.

Top Cow talks future and current comics at 11 in room 9 and Titan comics wants to give you "lots of free books and exclusive promo items" at 11:30 in room 8.

Boom! wants you to discover new worlds at 12:30 in 24ABC.

If you're vision-impaired and looking for new games, movies and comics, head over to room 2 at 12:30.

Archie celebrates its 75th anniversary and maybe, just maybe, offers up a cast member from Riverdale, which screens again this evening, in room 4 at 1.

Image is "Riffing on Reality" at 1 in 7AB.

TMNT fans should go to 25ABC at 1 to see Kevin Eastman and crew.

Pokemon creators are in the Horton at 1. This is not the same Pokemon Go panel as tomorrow.

Invader Zim and Jhonen Vasquez tell "horrible, horrible secrets" in 29AB at 2.

Drawn & Quarterly shows off their cartoonists at 2:30 in room 8.

Dark Horse will show off unannounced work from "some of the biggest names in and outside the industry." 3 in 7AB.

ComiXology is at 3 also in 29AB. And so is Wonder Woman's 75th birthday party in 6DE.

Celebrate 20 years of Tomb Raider at 3:30 in 24ABC. Or opt to celebrate 40 years of Fantagraphic at the same time in 26AB, or choose Doctor Who and Torchwood comics at 3:30 in 5AB.

Skybound takes over 6DE at 4:14.

Then DC wants you to be blown away by REBIRTH in 6DE at 5:30 where you will join "the industry's most creative and influential people."

Magic: The Gathering gives you head designer Mark Rosewater in 7AB at 6:30.

Black Comix takes over 28DE at 8.

Cosplayers have a few options. They can find out how to help their community at 11 in the Marriott. Then "Adding Dimension to Your Cosplay Makeup" is at 2 in the Marriott, followed by Designer Cosplay at 3. Finally Cosplay storytelling is in 6DE at 6:45.

Lots of general nerd topics today.

"The Business of Geek Fashion" features not only Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe but panelists from WeLoveFine and Hot Topic. 10 in the Marriott.

"Rise of the Fangirls" is in 25ABC at 11. Then "The Female Geek" is at noon in 7AB.

Do you want that "chiseled superhero physique?" Report to the Marriott at noon.

Nerdiest News Live is at 4 in the Horton.

"The Changing Landscape of Comics, Geekdom and Fanboy Culture" is at 4 in the Marriott. At 6 in the same room: "The Evolution of Geek Culture."

"Crazy Talk: Mental Health, Pop Culture and Empowerment" is at 5:30 in 24ABC.

Remember when this panel was called "Gays in Comics?" Now it's "Gays (and more) in Comics (and more)"- but you get the drift. 6-8 in 29AB. This will include an auction and then a very brief (like maybe 10-15 minutes) mixer.

There's also some good science to be had today.

Neil deGrasse Tyson fans will want to find out "how universes are formed with imagination and science" in the Horton at 11:30.

"NASA & Angry Birds on a Journey to Mars:" this includes not only NASA's "best and brightest" but a special preview of the new NASA and Angry Birds short. 1:30 in 5 AB.

Trek Talks is at 6 in room 5AB: find out how NASA's vision of the future mimics the world of Star Trek. But if you go to that, you can't do "Turning Science Fiction into Science Fact" at 6 in 30CDE.

Then there's this: "The Rise of Machine Intelligence" at 7 in 25ABC. 

If you're looking for more creative panels, SDCC has them.

You can learn how to launch and sustain a career in writing animation at 10 in room 9.

The 3-act story structure is explored in room 2 at 10.

"Take your Ideas to 3D Sculpts and Prints" is at 11:15 in room 2.

"Career Paths into Game Development" is at noon in 28DE. If you can't make that, try "How to Get a Job in Video Games" at 6 in 25ABC.

The profession of storyboarding will be in room 9 at 1.

Kim Jung Gi helps you draw your imagination at 1:30 in room 2.Or you can just learn to draw period thanks to Wei Xu, Ph.D. in 30CDE at 5.

Find out how to make your own documentary on a minimal budget in room 2 at 6.

Then it's time for your last night of raucous partying - or rather, what you do before you party.

You can settle in for a night of TV pilots in 6BCF: The Riverdale pilot is at 6:30 in 6BCF, followed by Frequency at 7:25, followed by Time after Time.

Ash vs. Evil Dead is in 6A at 6:45. This is not the Season 2 premiere - that's at 10 in 6DE.

You can see a screening of new series Designated Survivor with Kiefer Sutherland and Maggie Q and Kal Penn at the Horton at 7.

Or you can see the full Final Fantasy trailer and some footage at 7:30 in 7AB.

If you want to honor the memory of one of comics' brightest talents, the Darwyn Cooke Tribute is at 8 in 25ABC. Tough choice: this is at the same time as the discussion of 3 different films featuring Neil Gaiman in 29AB.

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is back at 8:30 in 24ABC.

And of course you have the Masquerade. Ballroom 20. If you can't get into this, you can watch in on big screens in the Sails Pavilion and elsewhere.

A busy, diverse day - but if you want to take a break from the Con today, no one could blame you.

Did you do Adult Swim yet?

23 JULY 2016

It's easy to get lost in the roar and color of outside SDCC activations everywhere you look. Some are worth the effort (waiting in line for hours for a 5 minute experience) and others - aren't. But here's one that's always fun that you shouldn't overlook: Adult Swim.

Just a few ideas:

  • Inside the Exhibit Hall, you can go to booth 3721 and play Return to Feline Fun Hole Slide Mouth for possible prizes
  • Adult Swim on the Green offers a carnival with more games, prizes and photo booths
  • The Meatwad Full Dome gives you 6 minutes of "trance-inducing hallucinations" (don't miss this)
  • Nighttime on the Green has a special Rick and Morty show tonight from 8-10 pm under the stars

If you're not at the Con, you can watch live from home at - but if you are at the Con, this should be one of your top destinations.

San Diego Comic-Con so far

22 JULY 2016

We're halfway through Comic-Con. What have we learned?

We found out about a new Rogue One character named Edrio Two Tubes. I don't find this life-altering but people seem intrigued.

After much anticipation, American Gods seemed to mostly elicit a positive response. I talked to 2 book fans who didn't care for the feel of it, but everyone else seemed into it.

Bates Motel is staring down its last season in Season 5 - and Rihanna is joining the cast.

Twin Peaks is definitely coming to us summer 2017 - and David Lynch definitely directed all 18 episodes. That's according to Ray Wise, AKA Leland Palmer.

Shiva, Ezekiel's tiger, delivers an impressive roar in The Walking Dead trailer. Unfortunately she looks like a CGI escapee from the Siegfried and Roy show, but hey, there's a tiger to brighten/maim the next season of TWD.

Speaking of, at Syfy Live they inevitably asked about the death cliffhanger. Steven Yeun said with chilling solemnity, "We will tell the story the way it needs to be told." The crowd around me groaned when he said it - his tone seemed to confirm everyone's fears.

Bruce Timm is bringing another DC original feature to Comic-Con next year: Batman and Harley Quinn.

In the "unexpected but glorious news" department: Roxane Gay is writing a Black Panther comic.

We're also getting another Batman/TMNT crossover.

And - in a franchise that we all assumed was dead and buried - it turns out horror movie The Woods is actually a Blair Witch Project sequel.

DC said that they're seeing industry growth in the bookstore market rather than the comic shop. Given that most bookstores have gone extinct, what are they talking about? All the merchandise in Barnes and Noble, I guess.

iZombie will have a Law & Order format when it returns, not just solving cases but prosecuting them too.

Justice League Action got a very positive response. So did Luke Cage - overwhelmingly so.

Trashed, Derf Backderf's graphic novel, has been optioned.

Silicon Valley said it doesn't know when it's returning to light up our Sunday nights, but it's not necessarily tied to Game of Thrones' delayed schedule, as many have speculated. They also said they normally shoot 40 minutes of material and use 30 because they feel the shorter format works better - sorry, all of you hoping for hour-long episodes.

There's been quite a bit of buzz about Gerard Way's new DC imprint and now we have a better idea of what it will bring us. While some hipster comic nerds are sneering at this, I see potential for some truly interesting comics.

Love and Rockets will return as on ongoing comic beginning this fall.

But what about the Con itself?

In the complaints department: Several cosplayers feel the weapons policy is being enforced too strictly, with things zip-tied that they didn't think should be. I can't say this is surprising.

The Exhibit Hall continues to be more navigable and less crowded than in recent years. Thursday felt more humid and odiferous than Friday. Also, the comic book aisles were more packed than usual. Did the comic nerds triumph in Open Reg?

First-timers have told me that things should be organized more efficiently, the lines are ridiculous, people keep bumping into them or walking too slow or too fast, and they're going to write an email to CCI addressing all of this. Adorable.

Interview with Grant Morrison

22 JULY 2016

For those of you who don't know, Grant Morrison is now the editor of Heavy Metal. (You can check out the 2 issues he's helmed at booth 1529, along with back issues.) During the panel, Morrison, Kevin Eastman and others talked about the possibility of another Heavy metal movie (yes, it's possible but it didn't seem much on their minds), the future of the magazine ("more sex and intensified science fiction") and what they look for during the submission process: "the buzz of novelty."

Afterward I talked to Morrison and he shared some advice for emerging writers and artists.

On balancing your own direction with the dictates of the marketplace:

"It's hard not to be dictated to because the world is going that way and there's always middle-aged people telling young people what to do. But the one thing I tell everybody is this: be honest with your own life because no one else has ever lived your life. No one else has ever seen through your eyes. You might have seen something everyone else missed. So it's really important to use your experience - if your parents die, write about it."

On skill in storytelling:

"I'm not an advocate of diary comics. You have to turn your experience into myth, symbol, something everyone else can relate to. Because everyone's had those same feelings. If you can say it in a way that reaches out to people and makes them feel less alone, or makes it more understandable and do it in a way that is genuine and truthful, you will be original. You can't fail. Always be true to yourself and don't do what you're told to do."

On partnering creativity with pragmatism:

"At the same time if you want to be a commercial artist, you have to learn some rules. Because there are rules. If you go in pitching and they demand a three-act structure, you've got to know that stuff. If you want to play guitar, train yourself to play guitar, but at the same time, play it with your heart."

So there you have it, wisdom from one of the most original writers working today. And do check out Heavy Metal - based on some of the work we saw last night, future issues will take you on a very colorful journey.

Friday is here. What's on your agenda?

22 JULY 2016

Comic-Con is in full swing. Later I'll post updates on SDCC news, a mini-interview with Grant Morrison and some panel reviews. But right now let's speculate on what will be the fullest day of the Con for many. Are you ready for today?

Hall H is a magnet with Con Man at 10:30, Fear the Walking Dead at noon, followed by The Walking Dead at 1, then Game of Thrones at 2:15. The you have Joss Whedon at 3:45 and South Park at 5. Preacher is at 6:30.

But Ballroom 20 is awesome as well with The Big Bang Theory at 10, then Bones at 11:15. The much-anticipated The 100 panel will answer "burning questions" at 12:30. EW brings you all your TV boyfriends at 1:45 in Brave New Warriors. Agents of SHIELD is at 3, followed by Fan Favorites at 4:15. iZombie is at 5:30 and then Scream Queens at 6:45. Then you, me and other nerds with excellent taste are going to The Killing Joke premiere at 9.

But don't forget about the celebration of everything animation in the Indigo Ballroom. Steven Universe launches animation day at 10:15. Robot Chicken is at 12:15 and then Harg Nallin Sclopio Peepio at 1:15. Rick and Morty is at 2:15, then Samurai Jack at 3:15. Bob's Burgers is at 4, then Archer at 5.

If you're not in the big rooms, you still have lots of TV and movie panels to entertain you.

Consider 6A. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are 11:45, giving you a sneak peak of Season 4. Later, Dead of Summer has a panel at 2:15 in the same room. Then Bates Motel is at at 3:30, and Salem follows at 4:45. Then starting your night off on a creepy note, The Exorcist (new show, not the old movie) will screen at 6:00.

If you missed People of Earth's pilot on Preview Night, you can see it at 2:00 in 6BCF. Powerless follows at 2:30.

Line up very, very early: American Gods attracts everyone within a 10 mile radius to 6BCF at 3:15.  It's followed by Orphan Black at 4:30, and then Vikings at 5:45.

Or go to Bold Voice of Contemporary Horror, also at 6, in 7A.

Nickelodeon's Women in Animation panel is in room 24ABC at 6:30.

Talk about the movies and shows you love and hate in the Rotten Tomatoes panel at 6:45 in 6DE.

"Supernatural Super" offers your favorite paranormal show hosts in 7AB at 7:00.

Today is a stronger day than yesterday for comics and collectibles.

Marvel: Civil War II kicks off at 10 in 6 DE.

Halo Wars 2 is in 6BCF at 10:15.

Grant Morrison talks more about Indian Superheroes at 11 in 32AB.

Image talks about the new worlds they've created in 23ABC, also at 11.

DC's Rebirth meets Mattel at 11 in 25ABC.

Aspen Comics fans can find out about future projects in room 9 at 11. Star Wars fans can find out about new comics and books in 7AB.

The creative teams behind DC's villains talk Suicide Squad and Harley Quinn at 11:15 in 6DE.

Fan of Boom's Might Morphin Power Rangers? Head to 5AB at 11:30.

You can celebrate 20 years of Resident Evil in 6BCF at the same time.

3 words that definitely belong together: "Shatner Singularity Universe." 12:45 in 6BCF.

What's the latest in the world of Star Wars Collectibles? 1:00 in 7AB.

Star Trek: 5 Decades of Comics will be in room 8 at 1:30.

Lovers of exploratory art will attend Dave McKean's "Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash New Graphic Novel" in 7AB at 2. Then you can discuss Dark Horse literature at 3 in the same room.

"Teen Superheroes: Hormones and Super Powers" is in 25ABC at 2.

It's The Tick's 30th anniversary. Celebrate with surprise panelists at 2:30 at the Horton.

DC Rebirth focuses on the Justice League at 3 in 6DE.

Horror and thriller authors talk about your "deepest and darkest fears" in 29AB at 3.

Did you know the CDC and others made a motion comic focused on HIV and STI prevention? See the first episode and find out more about the series in 32AB at 4.

Explore your dreams of owning your own comic shop in 28DE at 4.

At 5, you can get a look at the upcoming Mouse Guard Coloring Book and get a live reading of a Mouse Guard story from comedian Hal Lublin.

Sure to be popular: DC's Young Animal panel with Gerard Way. 5AB at 5:30.

Cosplayers have some good choices today in the Marriott.

"Cosplay Makeup 101" starts the day at 10 - then you'll find out how to take your cosplay to the next level in "Cosplay 102" at 11.

Want to cosplay with your kids? Return to the Marriott at 2. Then you can stop being frivolous and go to "Cosplay: Let's Get Serious" at 4. And if you want to take your cosplay skills to the big time? "From Cosplayer to Hollywood Creative" is at 5.

Creatives get a boatload of panels today.

f you're doing Comic Creator Connection, come to listen to the "All Stars" at 10 am for tips on making it a success.

Margaret Atwood discusses "Geek Girls & Catbirds" at 10 in 25ABC.

Are you a master of the short comic form? Talk to other masters at "Short Form Comics" at 10 in 28DE. 

Or you can learn "The Tools of Plotting" at 10 in room 2. 

Storytelling and VR and AR: it's here and you can learn all about it at 11 in 29AB.

And also at 11, Publishers Weekly helps you with "Turning Your Ideas into Graphic Novels."  In 28DE. 

Learn "Advanced Digital Inking Techniques" in room 2 at 11:15.

How revolutionary: "Guerilla Tactics for Sharing Your Art with the World." 12:30 in room 2.

"Draw Pretty Girls" tells you how to make female characters "cool and sexy without objectifying them." 1:30 in room 2.

If you can't make it into that one, "How to Draw Convincing Hand and Facial Expressions" is at 2 in 30DCE. 

Or you could just go to "Hollywood Location Scouts" at 2 and hear real scouts tell you what's involved and answer your questions. 23ABC.

Do you want to launch your own comic book company? Room 8 at 2:30.

Another panel on "Breaking Into Comics." 3 pm in 30CDE.

Adam Hughes teaches you how to draw like him at 3 in room 2. Or wait until 4:30 and find out the same from Jim Lee in the same room.

Are you an indie creator? You may want to attend "Acquiring Distribution through Diamond Comics" at 3:30.

Writers can "Ask An Agent" at the same time in 24ABC. 

If you're a sci fi writer, you may want to go to Science Fiction/Future Now at 4:30 in 26AB.

Both artists and writers are invited to perfect their pitch before attending the Comic Creator Connection at 5 in the Santa Rose room at Marriott.

"Mold, Resin, 3D Printing and FX Techniques" gives you behind-the-scenes peeks in 30CDE at 5. 

Want to explore our nerdy culture?

"Queer Representation in All Ages and Youth Media" brings you comic stars discussing the LGBTQAI+ world for youngsters.

The Black Panel is back: room 5AB at 10 with possible surprise guests.

Are you trying to launch a nerd-based or pop culture startup? You'll have your very own Shark Tank to pitch your idea and get coaching. 32AB at 1.

What's happening in China? Superfans everywhere, apparently. Find out about this "lifestyle" in room 9 at 2.

Transgender representation in pop culture: find out about it in 28DE at 2.

The tie between horror and LGBTQ: explore it at 7 in 28DE.

Not as much science today, but it's still pretty good.

"Star Wars" the Science Awakens" is in 7AB at 10. NASA and Mars is also in 7AB at 4.

Are you curious about real Trek tech? Report to room 5AB at 6:30 to learn about "Science, the Smithsonian and Star Trek." Not only will you get a glimpse of the restored Enterprise, you'll see clips of the upcoming 2 hour special "Building Star Trek."

"Science and Comics" will discuss AI, robots and rockets at 8 in 25ABC.

Friday night at the Con brings many wonderful options. Behold. 

At 7, you can see the 17th Annual Animation Show of Shows.

Howl's Moving Castle will be shown at the Horton at 7.

Sharknado fans will want to visit with the cast at 7:15 in 6A.

7:30 brings the Geek & Sundry How Geeky Are You? trivia panel in room 8.

The Star Wars trivia panel is at 8 in 7AB.

The Eisners are at 8 in the Indigo Ballroom.

The Hollywood Science Fiction Museum will present photos and news at 8:30 in 24ABC.

The Christian Comic Arts Society Mixer is at 8:30 in 26AB.

The Killing Joke is at 9 in Ballroom 20. Who's coming with me?

Heavy Metal: The Movie is on at the same time in room 28DE. Side note: the Heavy Metal panel yesterday said another movie is a possibility.

The Floyd Norman documentary is also at 9 in room 9.

Or you could choose "zany fun" with Super Geeked Up Live at 9 in 29AB.

Hall H and Ballroom 20 playback kicks off at 9 at the Marriott.

Screen Junkies are at 9:15 in 6DE.

Spike and Mike are in 6BCF at 9:30.

See you in the rooms.

It's Thursday. Where are we going?

21 JULY 2016

Everyone ready for their first full day of Comic-Con? Let's see what our options are.

This isn't Hall H's strongest day, but it's still got a lot to offer. Dreamworks is at 10, followed by Snowden at 11:45. The afternoon brings Valerian at 1, then Feral Audio Live podcast and geeky festival fare in Under the Radar at 3:30.

Ballroom 20 will probably be a bigger draw. You've got CBS giving you Scorpion, American Gothic and MacGyver from 12-3, then The Strain at 3:15 and Teen Wolf at 4:30. Finally you get to see Luke Cage at 5:45. That's just a good, comfortable TV day.

Indigo Ballroom is more eclectic. Musical Anatomy of a Superhero kicks off at 11, then we have Geek & Sundry at noon, followed by Chris Hardwick's Nerdist Panel at 1. Then there's Comic-Con's HQ at 2. Then the day turns with the premiere of The Good Place at 3 with Kristen Bell and Silicon Valley at 4, then Van Helsing at 5. Finally, we have Comedy Central's Drunk History & Legends of Chamberlain Heights at 6. While all of this is appealing, I think there will be some mass exoduses throughout the day that makes this room somewhat accessible.

Outside the Con, you can catch MAC's release of their Star Trek makeup line at their store, do the Game of Thrones Hall of Faces, or do Syfy's Live from Comic-Con or EW's Con-X. There's also the Adult Swim extravaganza.

But let's look at the "smaller" rooms - some of which have some very big panels.

Hollywood shows and movies abound. 

Sure to be popular: Nickelodeon celebrating 25 years of animation in 6A at 11:15 a.m. with talent from Hey Arnold! Invader Zim, The Fairly OddParents, Rugrats, and Danny Phantom.

But you can also see producers and cast members of Teen Titans Go! at 10:15-11:15 a.m. in 6DE, and then see the new Justice League Action in 25 ABC at noon.

"Relaunching the Battlestar Franchise" is at 10:30 in 6BCF.

SpongeBob and the Simpsons are at 1 in 23ABC.

The first of several Star Trek panels kicks of:f: the 50th celebration of Star Trek is in 24ABC at 1:30.

The premiere of Falling Water is at 1:45 in 6A if you're in the mood for a pilot.

Arrive early for this: Colony has a panel with cast and creators at 4:45 in 6BCF, followed by the Mr. Robot panel at 6. And the Mr. Robot fanbase is not to be trifled with.

Sausage Party with Seth Rogen is at 5:45 in the Horton. This hasn't gotten much attention but I think it will be fun.

It's a good day for comics and gaming, though not the best day of the Con.

Disney will explain how movies become comics in 28DE at 10.

It's the 30th anniversary of Jim Henson's Labryinth - and a bunch of new books are coming out. Find out about them at 11 in 5AB.

Or you could join me in room 9 at 11 to hear The Hernandez Brothers talk Love and Rockets,

DC wants to give you "all access" at 11:30 in 6DE. You'll find out about Rebirth, upcoming digital books, etc.

You can fight censorship by "Navigating the Power & Perils of Banned Books" with CBLDF at noon in 30CDE. They're also having banned authors do a live podcast in the library at 4.

The "Comixologist Traveling Podcast Party" is in the library at noon. They're also holding an AMA at 2:30 in room 8.

The Joss Whedon fandom society meets at noon in 23ABC.

Grant Morrison is back with another panel on his newest comic involving Indian mythology. Room 24ABC at 12:30.

"Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare" will be in 6BCF at 1. Then "Warcraft: The Road to Legion" is at 3:30.

Image is at 2 in 23ABC.

"Skybound's The Walking Dead" panel will discuss the comic book at 4:30 in 6DE.

"The Core of Collecting" will offer you experts from Dark Horse, LootCrate, Gentle Giant and more.
5:45 in 6DE.

The "Queer History in Comics" is in 28DE at 5.

We can also get scientific on a variety of fronts.

Don't forget the VR Con over at the Hilton Gaslamp.

You can also listen to IDW & the Reuben H Fleet Science Center explore the intersection of comics and science at noon in room 9.

How do you make science plausible in the Hollywood world? That's in room 8 at 1:30.

Then there's more VR wizardry is in "State of the Holodeck" at 2 in 32AB. Expect this to be super popular.

Cosplayers have a few panels on deck.

Beginning cosplayers may want to attend "Cosplaying 101" at 11 at the Marriott. Others can find out about foam costume and cosplay fabrication at 2 in the Marriott.

The 501st Legion explains their costuming brilliance at 8 in the Marriott as well.

Like every SDCC Thursday, there is a motherlode of creative panels.

If you want to move from fan to creator, visit 23ABC at 10/.

Aspiring bloggers, podcasters & others can find out how to be a "Master of the Web" at 11 in 7AB.

Brian Haberlin helps you turn your idea into a graphic novel at 11:15 in room 2.

What role does an art model play in our world? Find out at 11:30 in 24ABC.

You can also find out news about Capcom Pro Tour news and "Street Fighter Nation" at 11:45 in 6BC.

Or you can firmly launch yourself into the comics industry by going to room 28DE at noon. If you miss this one, you can learn how to break into Marvel Comics at 1 in 25ABC.

Become a pro at noon at pitching and development in "The Pitching Hour" in 7AB.

"Art as a means of reaching hard-to-reach kids" will be at 12:30 in room 2. This includes special needs kids and those who are at-risk and incarcerated.

Balancing creativity with comics industry realities: talk about it at 12:30 in room 4.

"Digital Color for Comics" is at 2 in 30CDE; also at 2 is "Comic Book Women: Understanding Coloring and Letting" in Comics in 28DE.

Want to cut your publishing ties and go it alone? Find out how in "Tales from the IP Jungle" at 3 in 28DE. Or, if you're just getting started as a scribe, try"Writing 101" in 30CDE at 3.

Important: Financial smarts for creatives is at 4 in the Marriott.

We also have quite a few panels on nerd culture. 

Want to start the Con on a healthy note? Go to "Nerdstrong" at 10 in the Marriott Marquis. Then you can teach your offspring to be "Self Confident and Successful" at noon in the same place.

"Geek Cosmetics" is a thing, and some of its stars will explain why at 1 in the Marriott.

The year 1986 is explored for its movie magnificence at 3. room 5AB.

"Fandom Diversified" is at 5 in the Marriott.

The LGBTQ geeky year in review is at 6 in 28DE.

Then the sun goes down and we have what seems to be the busiest night of the Con.

At the convention center, you can go see Spike & Mike at 7:15 in 6BCF or play "Ghost of Name That Movie" game show at 8 in room 9. You've also got the Dr. Horrible Sing-A-Long screening at 8:30 in 6BCF.

And this will be a big draw:The Rocky Horror Picture Show from 8:15-10:45 p.m. in 6DE. The same goes for The Cartoon Network Costume Ball at 8:30 in 7AB.

But outside the Con is where the real action is. Nerd HQ is hosting a party at their home in the Children's Museum, and you've also got the MTV Fan Fest in Petco Park. If neither of those appeal, there's also the Power Rangers party, also at Petco. There's also the Slayer concert and Fatman on Batman with Kevin Smith.

And of course we have the Her Universe fashion show at the Hyatt, Wootstock, the Archer yacht party, and Boom's party and the Rave of Thrones.

Today will be a day and night of hard choices - so choose wisely. Friday will be even more demanding.

Preview Night report

20 JULY 2016

Did you go to Preview Night tonight? If so, I think you and I were in the minority; this was the most spacious Preview Night I've seen in years, Aisles were easily navigated, many booths were nearly ignored, and most of the exclusive lines - while long - seemed orderly. Let's break it down.

Bag and lanyard pickup: Got multiple answers on this from multiple staff and volunteers. It was in the Sails Pavilion! No, it's at the Marriott. Wait, the Marriott is only for people picking up badges. The bags and lanyards are back in the Sails Pavilion. Etc.

Access: I came straight from Conan.  Again, there were multiple answers on where badged attendees could get in. One person insisted we had to walk all the way down to Lobby G. We moved one more down to C or D and got in. It was 6:08. Tip: if you are sheparded into a line that goes up the escalators and winds through the entire center and brings you back down again, you don't have to follow the leader. If you come up the main escalator, break off and go left at the top until you come to some stairs, which will take you right back down into the lobby and let you into the Exhibit Hall.

Exclusives: While I barely dipped my toe in, I did come across the same dynamics; vendors not telling people they were sold out of items until they'd already waited 40 minutes, confusion over where to wait in line, confusion over multi-step lines (wait in that line to pick up a button, then bring it over here and get in line and exchange the button for a ticket, etc), and bitter complaints over items selling out or not being exclusive.

Pilots: I caught the 2nd half of Riverdale. The audience liked it a lot. To me it seemed to hit all of the TV teenage cliches and wasn't quite as weird as promised, but it does look good. If you're looking for something to do Saturday evening, seeing the 2nd showing of the pilot might be good. The others? I've heard mixed reviews.

The Exhibit Hall: How do I say this politely? It was pretty much identical to every other year. Yes, some of the video games and photo ops have changed but it's mostly the same vendors, companies and publishers selling the same stuff. The Archie booth seemed a little sparse. Fantagraphics has some beautiful work available, including some great box sets. Boom, IDW and such have what you expect. The big loud studio booths weren't cranked up to full capacity, so it was quiet. All in all, it was like a Preview Night from years gone by.

What did you think?

Welcome to Comic-Con!

20 JULY 2016

It's finally here - after all your heart-pounding badge sales and hotel room deals and anxious waiting, San Diego Comic-Con starts today.

Well, in my opinion. I know it "officially" starts tomorrow but Preview Night is Comic-Con at its core - crowded, exciting, avaricious and loud. And look at what else we have on the docket:

  • More than a thousand of us are going to Conan O'Brien this afternoon to see the cast of Silicon Valley
  • Umpteen jillion of us are lining up for the ticket drawing for the Star Trek premiere - and a smaller number going to the actual event
  • Hundreds more are going to the Fandago party, the Enchantment Under the SDCC party and the HitFix party

And that doesn't even include smaller but still important events, like the preview of "Neil deGrasse Tyson Presents Space Odyssey" at the Hilton Gaslamp. (Press preview from 3-6 pm; everyone else preview from 6-9 pm. If you want to test out all the space/VR/NASA fun before the masses, consider heading over when you're done with the Exhibit Hall.)

So yes, Comic-Con starts today. If you're here and badged, decide if you want to do Ballroom 20 pilots or the Exhibit Hall. Get plenty of cash so you don't lose out on a sweet exclusive while you run to the ATM. Check the map again so you know exactly which aisle your #1 booth is in. And if you're not badged, walk around and see the sights. It's always fun to see the activations go up.

I'll report back on Preview Night - which I'll probably be late to after Conan, unless someone spots me a jet pack.

Comic-Con Eve: are you ready?

19 JULY 2016

It's the night before the big show. A full moon is over the convention center and the streets are mostly quiet. The Marriott pool is almost deserted.

If you're already here, enjoy this last quiet night. Rest up for tomorrow -  and keep the below in mind:

Happy Comic-Con.

The obligatory packing for SDCC post

18 JULY 2016

I know - there are about 32 new posts a day titled "What to Pack for San Diego Comic-Con." I was going to skip it because hey, you're not stupid. You know how to pack for a few days of fun, right?

Then I recalled all of the many "I wish I had brought..." or "I can't believe I forgot my..." comments I hear every year. So here we go.

What should you bring to Comic-Con?

Something warm to wear. San Diego nights can get chilly in my thin-blooded opinion, so I always bring a sweater or two. If you're going to camp under the city stars, you'll really want something warm. Just be aware that the mornings can turn hot quickly, so be ready to dress for up and down the thermometer.

Something comfortable to wear. Especially if you're getting snazzed up for the Star Trek premiere or some other fancy nightlife doing, or wearing elaborate cosplay - you'll eventually want to crawl into the most comfortable shoes and pants you have. Think you're too vain to look schlumpy at Comic-Con? After a few days and multiple lines, you won't care.

Cosplay repair. It can all go awry so quickly. And it only takes one malfunctioning mask or torn dress to ruin the whole effect. Bring either an alternate costume or repair tools.

Extra batteries, headphones and chargers. Don't count on charging up when and where you need to. It's faster and more reliable to just pop in a fresh battery.

Contact cards. Even if you're not marketing yourself in some capacity, you will meet people you want to stay in touch with. Bring something that can be quickly exchanged instead of making someone unlock their phone and type in your number.

Food and water. I'm baking tonight because as much as I eat out at SDCC, it's just handier to have snacks in your room. Plus having fruit or pretzels or what have you can save you from splurging on an expensive meal you didn't want that much anyhow.

Contact info of your friends. It seems like we'd all be able to find each other through our interconnected accounts, but sometimes you realize you can't text your ex-roommate because they got a new number and oops, there goes your whole night.

Aspirin, bandaids, eyedrops, drugstore cures. Travel can do a number on many of us, but add in the noise and stress of Comic-Con and headaches, constipation, dry eyes and sore muscles become an epidemic. Instead of forking over 20 a pill in the hotel gift shop, just bring it.

Earplugs and sleep mask. These aren't just for ladies of leisure who sleep till noon. If you don't sleep well in hotels or are sensitive to city noise, earplugs and sleep mask can help you get genuinely restful sleep. I travel with an entire insomnia kit involving melatonin, lavender oil, my own pillow and a white noise app on my iPad. It helps.

Condoms. Let's not be coy about this: people hook up at Comic-Con. To avoid bringing home the wrong kind of memento, bring condoms if there's even the smallest chance you might meet someone. When it's late at night and you're tired and have no idea where the nearest drugstore is, it's really tempting to be stupid.

Sketchbook. A different kind of chance encounter: that amazing artist is suddenly right next to you, there's no line, and he's willing to sketch. Instead of scrambling for a promotional flyer with a white back, have a nice sketchbook on hand. You can keep collecting sketches and autographs at different Cons and create a really cool keepsake.

Bathing suit.  Even if you're not a big swimmer per se, just getting in your hotel hot tub or sauna is a nice break. Or maybe you'll get sick of the Con and decide to hit the beach.

A water bottle. Comic-Con is really dehydrating, so just get in the habit of carrying a bottle around that you can keep refilling.

YOUR BADGE. There aren't enough panic attacks in the world for the moment you step off the plane and realize your badge is back home in Minnesota.

What shouldn't you bring?

A ton of different outfits and 6 pairs of shoes. You can probably get by on your support shoes and one pair of going-out shoes..

Shipping materials. The UPS and Fedex stores (in the convention centers and nearby hotels) will have all the boxes and tape you need.

An entire of suitcase of back issues and old action figures to sell. The vendors aren't interested unless you'e got something super special.

Your laptop. You can upload all your photos to social from your phone. You really won't be in your room that much anyhow.

Anything extra, since you want room to bring home the goods.

It's almost zero hour!

Yes, you can feel safe at SDCC

17 JULY 2016

When it comes to safety, it's natural to be at least a little self-centered; we hear about mass tragedies & immediately, hypothetically, connect them to our personal worlds. "What if...?" It's hard to think otherwise with the state of the news these days.

So if you were at all antsy about SDCC being a target for violence, you can rest a little easier; "a real life team of public safety, city, county and federal agencies" will be protecting you at Comic-Con. There will be numerous officers on foot, in helicopters, in patrol cars, on bikes and undercover - and the trolley will have armed officers and bomb-sniffing dogs.

I know this isn't pleasant to think about, but it's the world we live in. Hopefully you can enjoy yourself a little more this week by knowing that security professionals are watching over Comic-Con.

Understanding the size of your Comic-Con world

17 JULY 2016

If there's one thing that takes many first-timers by surprise, it's the physical size of Comic-Con. When you look at the programming, and see facilities described as "adjacent" and others as "2 blocks away," it all sounds so manageable. If you need to hop from a panel in 28DE to the Indigo Ballroom or the public library, you'll just hustle and make it happen, right?

.... Not always. Just meeting up with your friends within the Exhibit Hall can take longer than you'd imagine. You're in Lobby A, they're down by F, and you've got to fight all kinds of crowds and strollers and lines and cosplayer photo clusters to reach them. Or maybe you're traveling outside - and you didn't realize how long it would take just to cross the street, (see below) let alone navigate the blocks to the Horton Theatre.

Here's something that can help: looking at an aerial view of the convention center like this one.
That's the center in the middle. To your right, you can see the Hilton Bayfront where the Indigo Ballroom is. On the other side of the convention center is the Marriott Marquis, where quite a few panels and film festivals are, and rising up beyond it is the Manchester Grand Hyatt, home to the blood drive, the daily Conan Pop giveaways and other things. You can tell from looking at it that simply hurrying isn't going to easily get you from one place to the next in all cases. So factor that into your plans.

You can save yourself a lot of walking and a lot of time by researching where your panels and booths are in advance. Look at the convention center floorplan just to get an idea of what you'll be navigating. You can see the room capacity for the rooms on your list, which will help you put lines in context. If 6BCF holds over 2,000 people, a line down the hall isn't that foreboding. But if you're trying to get into room 8, which doesn't even hold 500 people, then maybe that long line is telling you to go elsewhere.

This probably sounds very dull, but again - it can save you a lot of time and help you make smarter choices on where you go and when.

13 tips for masterminding your line strategy

15 JULY 2016

At this point, you probably have a good idea of your Comic-Con priorities. You at least know which panels you want to see, which exclusives you want to get, and which events you'd like to attend. And now you need to calculate the lines involved for all of them, collaborate with partners on who can stand in what line, and then discard the smaller game you'll sacrifice to get the bigger kill.

Take the Star Trek premiere Wednesday night. You will line up for a drawing earlier that day. We don't know exactly how many tickets are available, but we do know that many of us will draw losing tickets. People without Preview Night badges may not be in town early enough to participate - and people with Conan tickets for that day need to get in that line that morning. Factor all of that into your decision on when and if to line up for this drawing.

Same with waiting in line for drawings on autographs and exclusives. Weigh what else you're missing at the Con against this possibility of winning or losing.

Hall H is a different story. The wristbands give you some guarantee you'll get in and while many people make fun of them (including me, in the past), I do think they've reduced the chaos and conflict of the Hall H line. The 3-days campouts, people cooking on tiny grills, fights over cutting in line, that woman getting hit by a car because she was so afraid of losing her spot - it was pretty much anarchy for a few years. It's definitely calmer now. But you'll still need to dedicate effort and time to getting a good wristband.

Here are a few general practices that can help you make wise decisions on lines:

#1. Pack provisions. Batteries for your devices, water, snacks, blankets if you're outside in the San Diego night; you don't want to put 2 hours into a line and then throw it all away because you're starving or cold.

#2. Talk to the people around you. This happens naturally at Comic-Con, even for introverts who loathe small talk. One, it's not small talk; we all have interests in common. Two, SDCC fosters an atmosphere that is friendly yet chill, with everyone feeling pretty comfortable. So get to know your line friends. They'll hold your place while you run for coffee, they'll tell you about events or signings you didn't know about, and they may have valuable information about the fandom you share. Plus it's just a fun way to pass the time.

#3. Always check which line you're in. It's too easy to be told the wrong thing and spend 90 minutes in a line for something you don't care about.

#4. Be very proactive about finding out where lines are. Volunteers and guards don't always know, or will feed you some weak excuse just to get you to go away. For instance, last year a girl at my NASA panel missed the Spirited Away screening because multiple volunteers couldn't tell her where to line up for Horton tickets. Later I ran into the same problem (the Horton line is usually opposite Ballroom 20 doors, right by the Sails Pavilion, FYI.) Another year I was in line for a Neil Gaiman panel that went on forever. The volunteers kept telling us they were letting people in. The panel started, 10 minutes passed, 15 minutes, he assured us we'd get in. Finally we sent a scout to the front of the line who reported that the doors were closed, no one else was getting in. You do have to take control of your destiny at SDCC because there's too much misinformation flowing around.

#5. On that note, go ahead and ask people in uniforms for help - but it's your fellow attendees who usually know the answer. That's not to trivialize volunteers in any way, but volunteers only have the information they're given.

#6. When it comes to the Exhibit Hall, lines can get contentious. And it's not uncommon to get conflicting directions from different types of staff and guards. Every year attendees get furious because they're told the line is closed for a certain booth - then someone lets new people wait, who buy up the exclusives, and it all gets rather ugly. There's no surefire trick here. Just keep asking different people and if someone challenges you, say, "That person told me I could stand here/wait/buy that." Usually this buys you time as they conference and you get closer to your goal.

#7. Remember that the big room panels (Hall H, Ballroom 20) usually have their panels played back that night. If you only want to see 1 panel and don't want to wait 4 hours to get into the room and then sit through another 3 panels, this is a good option. I know everyone wants to be within the physical presence of their favorite casts, but when there's 4,000 people between you in the room, it's not going to feel that physical anyhow. Going to the playback sessions at night (check the programming for times and rooms) can free up your days to do other stuff.

#8. That said, don't assume every big room panel is inaccessible. It's been quite uneven in recent years, with some walk-in Ballroom 20 and Hall H panels, and others requiring an all-night vigil. Overall, the big room lines have gotten much more reasonable; I think people are just over it.

#9. Standing in line with friends definitely helps free you to fetch takeout or stretch your legs. Everyone expects to see that kind of shift work. But don't be the person who waits alone in the 6BCF line and then is joined by 13 other people moments before the panel starts. That's going to piss off the people behind you who put in the time, just like it would annoy you. When this happens over and over, you can wind up with an extra 200-300 people ahead of you who didn't wait like you did.

#10. If you're unsure of how people take care of business in these long waits/room vigils, some panel will give out tickets so you can slip out for a bio break. Hall H has restrooms in the space. You can also use the lobby restrooms overnight. Some restaurants deliver to outside lines. And yes, the rumors about certain celebrities handing out donuts or pizza or coffee to the Hall H line have been true in the past but it's nothing to bank on.

#11. Offsites are best done early on in the Con because the lines grow throughout the weekend. Remember, a whole new crowd floods in on Saturday. If you're really attached to visiting the Fear the Walking Dead yacht, don't put it off. Get it done early on if you can.

#12. Try to calculate how much of the crowd will clear out for your panel. Let's say you want to see Archer on Friday at 5 pm. Indigo is a popular all-day activity for animation fans on Friday, but it's a safe bet that some attendees who got in line while it was dark out for those first panels will pack it in by afternoon and go get a meal and a shower. Not that I'd advise showing up at 4 pm, but I wouldn't say you need to be there at 5 am either.

#13. If you're interested in a panel and can't guesstimate how bad the line will be, try to swing by the general area and monitor the situation. Ask people which panel that line is for. When NASA first came to the Con, people were still getting in line just minutes before the first panel - apparently they assumed it wouldn't be that in demand. (They didn't get in.) It's easy to both underestimate and overestimate how many people will try to get into a panel. Check Twitter for panel line estimates and post your own - attendees appreciate it.

I've mostly talked about panel lines here. Mattel, Hasbro and that whole carnival involves a different strategy, and I would advise searching out tactics on the specific company you're targeting. Not to be a gloompuss, but almost every "regular" collector I know has come away from SDCC in the last 4-5 years angry and empty-handed because it's so difficult to triumph over what can feel like a rigged system. I don't want to steer you awry, so please ask for specific tricks and tips from attendees experienced in that particular domain.

In general, my feeling on lines is this: it's always best to enjoy the Comic-Con you're at because it could be your last. Your enjoyment could be catching up with friends in a line camp-out (because really, how often do any of us just sit down and talk for hours these days?) or it could be a day mixed with offsites, the Exhibit Hall, and one panel. Only you know what's most urgent in your Comic-Con heart. And you could easily fail in both badge sales for 2017 - so before you spend all of this Con in one line after another, think about what will make you happiest.

Set your alarm for the Nerd HQ sales

14 JULY 2016

There's a lot to love about Nerd HQ, but let's not kid ourselves: the Conversations for a Cause are at the top of the list. And now that some of them have been announced with sale dates of tomorrow, Friday, 15 July, at 6 or 7 or 7:30 am PST, you've got your work cut out for you. You need to decide which ones you'd like to attend and then divide and conquer with your Comic-Con sale squad.

If you've never been to a Conversation before, here's the good news: it's smaller and therefore more personal than a typical SDCC panel with the same people. The conversations get more candid. On the flip side, because they are smaller, you're competing with a ton of people for a smaller number of seats.

Take a look at the schedule and then set your alarm. If you don't get the tickets you want, ask around and keep asking. People will decide to do other things that day, or will be willing to trade you for something else, etc. And be aware that it's likely other Conversations will be added. Keep watching and be ready to act.

Portfolio Review & other SDCC opportunities

13 JULY 2016

Did you notice anything about the programming this year? Well, you probably noticed quite a few things but let's focus on this: the copious number of "how to write/draw/design/succeed" panels. From becoming a voice actor to sharpening your digital illustration skills to understanding characterization, SDCC seems to offer all kinds of education and assistance to the fledgling creative.

If you're one of those attendees earnestly hoping to accelerate your career at Comic-Con, I would suggest going in with an open mind and realistic expectations. Every year I see people go to the "How to get your novel published! How to turn your indie comic into a viable income!" panels - and while sometimes attendees pick up a few good insights, those panels are rarely a career-altering event. Definitely go by all means, but don't get too attached to the outcome. And remember that many panelists are holding panels precisely to pad their bio or promote their products. If you're new to SDCC and have your creative career top of mind, you may want to read about who benefits from SDCC, as well as the soft skills you need to network and the materials to bring and the touchpoints available.

Because there are absolutely some solid opportunities to network, learn or promote - and CCI announced the schedule for one today, Portfolio Review. The name often leads attendees to believe it's only for visual artists and that's actually not true. Here's what is.

Who's Involved

Portfolio Review is an opportunity to get your samples in front of companies like Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Hasbro, Lego and other titans.

Who Can Participate

Video game designers
Copywriters and TV writers
Storyboard artists
Colorists, inkers
Comic book writers, editors and artists
3-D modelers

How It Works

In the morning, you'll sign up for the Portfolio Review list - and fill out a ticket for your target company. 15 minutes before that company's review time, they'll post a list of the randomly selected people they'll see.

How To Prepare

Bring your best work, samples that show your range and depth. But you should also be prepared to answer questions - not just your professional history but your goals, your collaborative skills, your self-perception of your own talent and other potentially squirmy topics.

You may or may not get seen by your ideal company; you may or may not get valuable feedback; you may or may not get an invitation to a working relationship. But I think Portfolio Review can still be a worthwhile exercise, especially if you're fairly new in your career. The more experience you get pitching your work, the better you'll be at it - less nervous, more natural and eventually, more compelling.

And as with everything at SDCC, you never know who you'll meet. Be open and see where Portfolio Review takes you. Good luck.

10 tips for staying healthy at Comic-Con

13 JULY 2016

Next week is going to be grueling - early mornings, late nights, long lines, and nefarious human germs lingering on every elevator button and exhibitor booth. (Sorry to be gross but it's true.) Obviously you want to keep yourself in prime physical condition, so I'm posting my usual advice on protecting yourself, mentally and physically.

#1. Take care of your feet.

You'll be walking a lot, which means you'll want to wear supportive footwear, bring moleskin and bandaids, and try not to do a lot of unnecessary walking. I wear high heels everywhere, but I still break out dorky supportive shoes for SDCC. It's so worth it. If your cosplay involves uncomfortable footwear, make sure you give yourself some downtime.
#2. Bring drugs.

Aspirin, ibuprofen and other painkillers can save your life at SDCC. If you're prone to headaches, the Exhibit Hall volume can do a number on your skull. Your plantar fasciitis can flare up or your hotel pillow can bother your neck. A slipped disc or bad knee can flare into a major issue at Comic-Con. And even if you aren't normally prone to such trouble, sitting or standing in line for long periods can be difficult. Lots of people are bringing small fold-up stools or even pillows to make their line waits more comfortable.

#3. Get assistance if you need it.

Don't make things harder on yourself than they have to be. CCI provides a wealth of resources to help out attendees who need it. This includes rest areas, private areas for nursing mothers, a first aid team, wheelchairs, ASL interpreters and special seating for large events. If you have mobility issues or any other circumstance that could benefit from a helping hand, go ahead and ask for it.

#4. Boost your immunity

If you're the first to catch colds and viruses, practice whatever faux-medical juju you normally do through echinacea, bee pollen, Emergen-C, a B-12 shot, etc. I've never gotten sick from the Con but other people swear that Con Crud is real. And you will be touching escalator railings, book covers, photo op props and other surfaces recently contaminated by dozens or hundreds of others.

#5. Eat well.

Some people like to eat lightly at SDCC; others feel powered by eating luxurious monster meals. In general, try to eat well. Don't skip a lot of meals. Don't live off a box of pop-tarts in your room. You're going to undergo a physically draining and sometimes emotionally frustrating experience, so set yourself up to be energized and in a good mood. I eat a lavish breakfast every morning, carry apples with me into the Con, and make time for a good meal at night, no matter what. But everyone has their tricks.

#6. Stay hydrated.
Con-going is thirsty work. And buying bottled water on site adds up fast. Bring enough water to get you through the lines and the exertion. As a hiker I follow the "If you're halfway through your water, you're halfway through your hike" rule; consider the same for SDCC and monitor how fast your water goes your first day. You'll understand how much more you need the next day.

#7. Be moderate in your debauchery.

Obviously people like to party at SDCC. For every "official" party you see listed, there are hundreds of private hotel room parties, unadvertised shows and underground events and bar crawls between friends. But if you're serious about getting in a full Con, I'd caution against overindulging. Even if you can pull off all-nighters at home without feeling much pain, SDCC is a much more demanding experience. You'll be irritable and tired and probably wind up collapsing at some point. I've talked before about the year a friend was so hungover we missed all of Sunday, and another time a friend's friend got so high that he got lost and we were looking for him until 3 a.m. It's just not worth it. Save your chemical excesses for home so you can enjoy the Con to the fullest.

#8. Prepare mental and emotional resources.

Maybe you're sensitive to crowds and noise. Maybe you're traveling in a group with someone whose every word is irritating you. Or maybe the Con isn't at all what you expected and you're on the verge of tears for multiple reasons. Make sure you have friends back home you can call and unload on. If you're in therapeutic care and you think the Con might push your buttons, see ahead of time if you can call your therapist. Bring any meds you need. Look up nearby meetings if you're in recovery. Comic-Con can be stressful for everyone and there is no shame in getting some help if you find yourself struggling.

#9. Take breaks.

Often you don't realize how tired or numbed out you are until it's too late. It's always a good idea to cut yourself off from the chaos for a bit. Go hang out in the dark Playback Room at and just isolate for an hour or two. Go swimming. Tell your friends you need some time alone and ask everyone to let you have the hotel room to yourself for a bit. And if you've got some cash to burn, schedule a massage - it'll be like the heavens opened up and poured relief down upon your stiff Comic-Con muscles.

#10. Get your rest.

When I first started going to SDCC, Younger Me would have various escapades all night, return home around 4, sleep for 3 hours and bounce out of bed ready for the day. And even then, it caught up with me. Now I make a point to be in bed no later than midnight or 1 a.m. If I'm going to be out super late, I nap first. Obviously this depends on why you're at the Con - if you're there to carouse all night, have at it. But if you're there to actually do panels and compete in gaming tournaments and explore the activities, you'll want to be fairly peppy.

And that's my wellness advice. If you've never been to San Diego Comic-Con before, you might think I'm exaggerating the demands it puts on you. But for those attendees who like to live the Con to the fullest, being in top shape isn't just important, it's required. I know you want to have a magical time next week. Take care of yourself and you probably will.