Where we are with hotels

16 APRIL 2018

The sun has set on Round II of SDCC hotel assignments. By now you know if you got a hotel or not. For some of you, who were pragmatic about getting picked late in the game, that's not a surprise. For others - especially those of you who thought you got picked relatively fast - today's inbox emptiness was gutting.

First let's talk about this year's trends:

  • The preponderance of king bed/single rooms seems stark. I hardly know anyone who got a downtown room with 2 beds. I'm guessing that just as studios and other VIPS get first access to downtown hotels, they may be booking up most of the suites and bigger rooms. It's also possible hotels are simply offering more single rooms because it's more profitable - same/close room rate for more rooms in the same physical space.

  • This in turn uses up more rooms among the attendee population. For instance, if a group of 6 friends was planning on cramming into a quad, they probably can't fit into a single room and will need to therefore rent two rooms. More expensive for everyone and now two rooms instead of one are gone.

  • Did anyone get the Pendry?? I've heard of literally every hotel downtown hotel being booked but this one. If it was already booked up by VIPS, it had no business being on our list and using up our selection spots.

  • Not that selections seemed to matter much. I and many others wound up at random hotels. (I got into the form very quickly and today was assigned a single room at the Sofia.) I feel like bothering to even select hotel preferences is relevant for 2% of attendees and everyone else is just put wherever they fit.

  • Timestamps were a tight cut this year. I know of people who swear they accessed the form between 9:00-9:01 and still didn't get a downtown hotel.

So what if you didn't get a room? Obviously the waitlist could save you, but you should start hunting now for a backup plan. See who needs roommates and look outside the CCI system. You can always trim a night off either end of your trip, spend those nights at a more distant hotel, camp outside or see who will tolerate you crashing on their floor for just one night. Study your transportation options.

If you're going to beg for a trade/transfer, be polite and be realistic. Every year I'll get emails from strangers saying, "Looking for MMM, Hard Rock okay - let me know." Sometimes they'll throw in a Shelter Island room as a trade. Everyone needs to realize that the ratio of people who need rooms dwarfs those with rooms they don't need - and most of us transfer those rooms to our compadres. It doesn't hurt to ask around, but be reasonable. (And yes, my Sofia room is already allocated.)

And finally, be honest about your Con style. If you're falling in and out of Gaslamp bars every night, I can see why you want to stay downtown. But if you're more likely to stay in a few nights or you like leaving behind the Con behind, having a non-downtown hotel isn't that bad. The shuttles are reliable and there are usually Lyfts that go back and forth regularly as well. Remember you're only putting down a two-night deposit. If you really hate the idea of your non-downtown hotel, you can always grit your teeth for those 2 nights and hunt for a downtown room on the other nights.

I know today is a tough day. I hope you all find some type of accommodations you can live with over the coming weeks.

The second round of hotel assignments

15 APRIL 2018

Tomorrow is Monday, 16 April, when the second round of hotel assignments go out. Last week's initial batch of emails was over and done with pretty quickly, so hopefully we won't languish all day refreshing our inboxes.

I've heard a number of misguided sentiments over the last week and wanted to remind people of a few things if they're new to the hotel sale. I can't guarantee how tomorrow will go, but I think it will be fairly predictable. In other words...

Don't expect a massive crop of downtown room assignments. 

I think some of us will get downtown rooms but also a lot of Hotel Circle/Airport/Mission Valley rooms. Expect Town and Country, Humphrey's Half Moon Inn, La Quinta and other locales to show up in your inbox. The odds of finding out you got the Marriott Marquise or Hilton Bayfront are incredibly slim for tomorrow.

I'm not trying to be a downer, but I think it's better to set realistic expectations than be devastated for the second week in a row. Also - if someone offers you a room that's downtown but not quite what you dreamed of, I'd grab it. Every year there are people whining that they wanted the Hilton Bayfront and all they got was the Sofia. At this point in the game, I'd play it safe.

Don't listen to onPeak fairy tales.

Over the last week I've heard that someone talked to OnPeak who told them only quads were assigned last week with downtown king bed rooms going out tomorrow; that multiple room requests were assigned first; that it was all random; that it was based on form submission timestamp; that plenty of downtown rooms are still left; etc. In other words, a whole lot of nonsense.

Don't get too caught up in all of that or the inevitable talk about someone's friend who got the Hard Rock despite getting into the form at 9:04. So far it looks like rooms were assigned mostly based on form entry time, with a few mysterious variables influencing that. This process will never be completely transparent and I just wouldn't work yourself into a state trying to figure it out or protest it.

You might still get a room assignment even if you took someone else's room.

Those of you who were lucky enough to get a downtown room transferred to you last week might be wondering if you'll still get your original assignment. I don't know if you will or won't, but I can tell you that I did last year.

In fact, this year's hotel sale has played out for me so far exactly like last year's - I got into the form very quickly but still didn't get a room in the first round, only to have a generous benefactor transfer me their room at the Hyatt. Last year, I did this and still got assigned the Wyndham Bayside in the second round, so having my name on a reservation didn't affect that one bit. We'll see if that holds true for tomorrow.

The waitlist is not a one and done deal.

A few years ago the waitlist had some amazing rooms available; they weren't quite as great when it opened up last year and some attendees grumbled about that. However, those who kept checking it over the coming months (and I know people who checked it twice a day) were sometimes able to pull down great downtown rooms. One guy emailed me that he wound up at 3 different hotels, but they were ace hotels. I know not everyone likes switching around during the Con, but remember that you shouldn't give up on the waitlist right away.

Good luck tomorrow. I know in many ways it will be even more nerve wracking than last week. Hopefully you get an email or an offer you can live with.

Welcome to the hotel sale

4 APRIL 2018

12:26 pm

After collecting reports all morning, I'm not feeling so confident about my chances. I got into the form in under a minute but I'm hearing from other people who got in just as quick and some people who skipped the green man entirely.

And annoyingly, my safety room which I booked last year, and still have an email clearly stating the deposit won't be charged until 72 hours of my arrival, is now demanding a non-refundable payment on 17 April. No matter where you turn, these hotels get shady around Comic-Con time.

A final note: if you did badly in today's sale - all the hotels were gone when you got in or you didn't get in until 9:20 - I would advise looking now. Don't bank on a trade or the waitlist. Now is the time to explore your options.

9:18 am

So how did we do? I got in quite quickly, like last year, although it doesn't bolster my confidence much; last year my fast entry only netted me the Wyndham Bayside. We'll see.

My sale was made more chaotic than usual by a friend who absolutely could not comprehend the form. I got over a dozen texts from her: "What should I put for 'Company?' All the hotels I want are unavailable. Should I just pick random ones?" Etc. This is why everyone should review the form ahead of time - there's no time for incompetence during an SDCC sale. And there's no time to be interrupting your comrades either.

Let's talk time. I got in quickly but didn't complete my form until 9:07. Not sure why it took me so long. Most people I've talked to didn't get in until 9:06 or later. Just unlucky? Or did the sale move slower this year? As my sample group grows, I'll have a better idea.

How did you do?

8:35 am

It's here: the ugliest sale of San Diego Comic-Con. If your stomach isn't aflutter right now, you haven't been paying attention.

You should be in the waiting room by now. There shouldn't be too much to report during the sale - you get picked or you don't - but no doubt we'll sort through the usual pile of complaints post-sale. Form weirdness, disrupted onPeak calls, panic over submitting the wrong hotels, etc.

Buck up and stay strong. Today is just the beginning. Most of us will anxiously await those special emails on 9 April and 16 April, but attendees who wash out completely - say, you don't get in until 9:16 or something - you can and should start hunting down alternative lodging right now.

Good luck. I'll post what I hear.

Are you ready to conquer the hotel sale?

2 APRIL 2018

Wednesday is Hotel Day. Did you pick your dream hotels yet and review the sample form?

You still have a final chance to swerve off the path to Hell and choose the more peaceful and guaranteed road of Early Bird. Some rooms are still left. And while you may think you're far too lucky or connected to settle for a distant room - many people will indeed find themselves locked out of downtown. That's just how it is these days. But I'm guessing that if you've eschewed Early Bird this far, you won't change your mind now.

Back to the sale. You should know the drill by now: after logging into the waiting room, you'll wait to be randomly assorted into groups to be picked. Last year we all watched a little green man quickly or slowly progress down a bar. Once in, we picked our hotels, completed our information and then waited - for the first batch of assignments and then an agonizing week later, a second batch.

My little man accelerated in almost immediately and that "almost" meant a room at Wyndham Bayside in the second batch of assignments. In other words, only people who got in super fast got those coveted Hard Rock, Marriott and Hilton Bayfront rooms. I don't want to kill your confidence, but it's important to know what the odds are: not good.

But you can worry about the actual assignment emails and the ensuing deposits and exchanges later. Right now you just have to worry about getting through the sale. No payment is required Wednesday and all you need to do is pick your hotels and enter your information.

If you're new, you can read an overview of last year's hotel sale bloodbath here and here. A few strategy tips to keep in mind:

  • If you can afford to pick the "book me into any room closest to Con regardless of rate and shuttle" - your top 6 rooms aren't that critical. They're nice to haves, but you still have that extra cushion that can buy your way into a fancy suite in walking distance.

  • However, if you don't want to choose that option, you might want to be more strategic in your choices. Be realistic: if 5 minutes have already passed, it's unlikely that you'll be assigned the Hilton Bayfront. At that point, it's better to choose hotels that may still be available. 

  • Let go of your Pendry fixation or any other hotel-specific obsession. It's just a place to sleep. If you love a certain hotel, you can still go in and eat at its trendy restaurant and swim under its pool waterfall even if you're not booked there. (Usually.)

  • Use at least 6 choices. Every year I hear from someone who makes just 1 hotel choice instead of 6 or 12, as if their single-minded intensity is going to impress the onPeak staff into assigning them a room there. It doesn't work like that.

  • If you're not sure you're coming for every night of the Con, worry about that later. For now, book the maximum nights you might need. Your 2-night deposit is refundable before Friday, 11 May, and you can still trim off additional nights after that (usually) right up to the week before the Con.  

  • If you're thinking of choosing the "book me into the lowest rate room available" option - you shouldn't be in this sale to begin with. You should have gone for Early Bird.

  • Do not choose the "if none of my choices are available, disregard my request completely" option unless you already have a back-up available. Getting a room you don't want can possibly give you leverage for making a trade. Worst case scenario, you just let go of it. I have gotten terrible room assignments in the past and people did want them.

  • Look at distance in terms of your social plans, not just the convention center. Staying deep in the Gaslamp is a good choice if you'll be bar crawling all night, but only traveling to the Con once or twice in the day. 

Let's not kid ourselves: Wednesday is going to be terrifying. And unlike a badge sale, where you know within an hour how you did, we'll spend almost the entire month in a state of suspension. The first batch of  assignments will go out 9 April, the next on 16 April, and then the utterly rejected will get their email no later than 23 April. We'll spend those weeks bitterly complaining about timestamps and rude onPeak reps, trying to trade rooms, figuring out how many cots or sleeping bags a room with 1 king bed can hold, and wondering if NYCC has these problems. It won't be pretty.

So just try to keep your eyes on the prize - walking into San Diego Comic-Con this summer. Once you're there with your friends having fun, your hotel really will be just a place to snooze between parties and panels.

Good luck. I'll live blog the sale on Wednesday.

Hotel Day is 4 April

27 MARCH 2018

Today CCI answered the question that's burned in our hearts for months: when will Hotel Day happen already?

The answer is a week from tomorrow, 4 April. Like many Comic-Con announcements, the relief of knowing is juxtaposed with a new wave of anxiety. We all know how Hotel Day goes. It's brutal. It seems to get worse every year. The days of, "Well, I suppose I can tolerate the Gaslamp if I can't get the Marriott" have given way to "Please just let me be close to downtown."

First-timers, I'm hoping you all wisely signed up for Early Bird. If you didn't, and you're counting on the hotel sale to deliver unto you a nearby and reasonably priced room, you may want to brace yourself. Most people do not get a downtown room these days. What people do instead:

  • Pile up like a litter of puppies in a single downtown room
  • Make peace with the shuttle and the quiet nights on Hotel Circle
  • Beg their way into an Airbnb or someone's condo
  • Embrace the various lawns and lines around the convention center as their nightly destination
  • Make Faustian deals to trade on their connections/offerings to get a room someone else doesn't need

That last is harder and harder to do these days. But I'll post more about that later. What you can do now is this:
  • Still grab onto an Early Bird room 
  • Review the list of hotels and their rates
  • Study the process* and get your information and selections ready
  • Start talking to roommates and other groups now
  • Hunt for rentals and other non-CCI accommodations

*I'll post more on the process later.

What you shouldn't do is take this for granted. Hope springs eternal when it comes to SDCC attendees - it's just who we are. Someone has already texted me, "We're going to stay at the Pendry." And there's nothing wrong with that as your Plan A as long as you also have Plans B, C, D and E - because it really can get that bleak.

We're all in this together. Stay tuned.

CCI wants you to name their new attraction

6 MARCH 2018

I blinked in disbelief tonight when I saw a Comic-Con survey in my inbox. Naturally, I assumed it was from ECCC - who already sent out one survey invitation - and then I looked closer. "Comic-con.org" was in the return address. Color me astonished.

CCI typically does host Talkback panels at their Cons, but that feedback is obviously limited to a small percentage of their attendee base. And they just haven't solicited input and opinions from attendees as openly or frequently as other Cons have. So it's a nice feeling to have them reach out and actually ask us what we think.

In this case, we're not being asked just what we think about SDCC; rather they want to us to help "shape the vision" for the pop culture museum/attraction they're building in Balboa Park. (Hilariously, the survey does ask what SDCC "does really well" but doesn't ask for any criticism or development areas.)

Now - while I urge you to take the survey if you haven't already, you should be aware of 2 points:

  • CCI asks you to actually name this attraction. So come up with something clever before you start the survey. I couldn't think of anything catchy under pressure.
  • CCI also proposes having a membership for this attraction and asks what different perks would interest us - nonchalantly including, "Early access privileges for Comic-Con badge sales."
WHAT? I responded they would have more members than they can handle. Did some random market research manager throw that in, unaware of our raving hysterical mania? Because there is no alternate timeline where someone says, "Oh, yeah, and if you become a member, you get early access to a badge sale" and someone else says, "Eh, no thanks."

At any rate - I like the way they're thinking. Not only are they asking our advice, which makes me downright tingly, but they're clearly trying to create a year-round community that extends the excitement and engagement people feel each July. That's great news for everyone who likes Comic-Con but it's especially great for people who don't get a badge. They'll still have a way to be part of things.

So go ahead and name our future Balboa Park headquarters something cool - and take advantage of this chance to be candid with CCI.

ETA: I realize not everyone has gotten this survey. They may be conducting them in batches or picking people at random - there are a lot of us, after all. I'll see how many other people get them and update you.

ECCC is over

4 MARCH 2018

Emerald City Comicon has ended. Did you have a good time?

I'd rate this year as being pretty typical, with no major surprises. My observations:

The swag was decent; ECCC isn't the place for astounding deals but most Cons aren't these days. Vendors offered up the usual "buy 3, get 1 free" type deals when it came to trades, plushies, shirts, games and other stuff. I thought the show floor was a good mix of the expected and the rare.

The events were good. I think SDCC and NYCC can have so many things going on that it's hard to choose, you find out about them after they're sold out, and you inevitably feel like you missed something. ECCC has a smaller number of parties but I think it works.The bar life is also better in my opinion. If you've been to the Gaslamp during SDCC, you know how many randos fill up the bars and restaurants just to join the party. I found Seattle bars had a higher concentration of attendees and nerds and people were more chill and interesting to talk to overall.

However, the cliquish-ness of this Con continues. I've noticed this other years; people tend to be cagey about who gets invited where and who's friends with who, where attendees at DragonCon, San Diego, New York and others tend to be more friendly and inclusive. YMMV. I reconnected with a girl I met last summer at SDCC and she and her friends outright stated they want ECCC to be "their people" as opposed to the more diverse mix they saw in San Diego, so I guess some people like that.

Speaking of DragonCon - just as Emerald City has been branded as the superior alternative to the SDCC/NYCC juggernaut, DragonCon seems to have risen up to claim that mantle for people who aren't into comics. ECCC still dominates for comic book fans; but I talked to multiple groups of attendees who are more into cosplay and parties and special events - and they all mentioned DragonCon as their priority destination.

I didn't have the time to make as many as panels as I normally take in. And to be truthful, I wasn't all that captivated by the offerings. ECCC definitely has a certain slant and it's one that I have grown away from. That said, I do appreciate that this Con allows for certain offbeat topics that you wouldn't likely find elsewhere, since other Cons tend to prioritize the most mainstream areas. I can't imagine finding out at SDCC, for instance, that Wonder Woman's creator William Marsten wrote an out-of-print book called "The Emotions of Normal People" (favorite title ever) and actually getting to read excerpts from it. If you don't care about weird little jibbets like that, you may not appreciate ECCC - but I like that this Con still dishes up some erudite and unusual vendors and panels.

At the same time, ECCC still brings out the classics - if you're a Funko freak, a fan of American Gods or Back to the Future, if you just wanted to sit down and play MTG with other zealots - you could wallow in your interests. And I saw more classic collector and nerd stuff for sale here than I see at bigger Cons. I'm sure that's a matter of floor space being more affordable. It's really nice for nerds and pop culture collectors who are hunting for the type of toys and collectibles that used to signal COMICON more than the freshly printed trades that dominate today.

I skipped the Main Stage as always but the people I talked to seemed mostly pleased. I met two guys who came from New York for the first time. They were relieved by the accessibility of the main room, stunned at the (comparatively) short lines and highly enthusiastic as a result. I also met a D23 cosplayer who thought ECCC was an easier place to keep her kids engaged and entertained. She intends to come back next year. I try to always get feedback from people who target different interests from me - parents, celebrity fans, cosplayers, people under 30 - and pretty much everyone I spoke to seem satisfied.

What Emerald City Comicon does so beautifully, of course, is the Artist's Alley. There's just no comparing it if you're used to big Cons that treat AA like an afterthought. It's a perfect mix of superstars like Jaime Hernandez (interview coming in a few days) and newer talent to discover. I remember when I first went to SDCC, I saw mostly pin-up girl art in Artist's Alley with some dragons/sci fi work thrown in. At ECCC, I saw a range of fantasy art, takeoffs of classic literature, original universes, Halloween-themed art, animal art and so on. Part of the thrill of going to a Con is finding that work that speaks specifically to you, and Emerald City Artist's Alley definitely has the variety to deliver.

Just as nice: seeing how many attendees were swarming the AA rooms. This Con attracts people who are passionate about art and comics and design, because they know they can find it here. I suppose I will sound like a snob if I call other Cons philistine in comparison, but there's a palpable difference in ECCC attendee interests. It's a comforting feeling for those of us who've watched other Cons turn into a Hollywood flea market.

One thing I need to mention: Musicalley didn't seem like a big success to me. Possibly I missed its best moments. Overall, it seemed like an admirable attempt to make the Con more well-rounded while giving local talent a spot in the nerd sun - but it just didn't work, what I saw of it. Other attendees didn't seem entranced with it either. Again, maybe there was some kind of stage glory happening and I was elsewhere. It's entirely possible.

Finally, I have to praise the ECCC staff. Maybe I just met the best of the best, but every volunteer/staff member I spoke with was a pleasure to talk to. None of them had that frenzied, ready-to-snap stress level of bigger Con volunteers, which tells me the organization and training is exemplary.

All in all, I'll continue to recommend Emerald City. I didn't feel quite the same magic this year as other years but that's more my jadedness than the Con itself. I think ECCC offers an ideal blend of Hollywood, gaming, comics, cosplay and events. You're not spending hours in line, you're able to have fun in Seattle and stay close to the Con, and it's just a much easier and often more fulfilling experience than the chaos and demands of a bigger show. For those of us who are sick of the latter, Emerald City feels like a final refuge of old-school nerd enjoyment.

ETA: ECCC next year is 14-17 March. Since some of you asked.

Kicking off ECCC

2 MARCH 2018

Emerald City Comicon is underway! Due to a plane malfunction, I got in at the tail end of yesterday but managed to arrive in time to see everything looking - and smelling - like a busy, thriving Comicon. I know some ECCC attendees still think Thursday is the "off day;" there were actually plenty of good panels and guests to be had. Just something to keep in mind for next year.

Here are a few things to see and remember as you squirrel your way around the convention center today.

Syfy Live is worth catching. It's on Level 4, booth 1850, right on the floor, with a schedule posted of the different interviews. You'll see a variety of people and topics, from comic book creators like Brian Michael Bendis and Tim Sale to body painting and cosplay workshops to actors like the Firefly cast and Shannon Purser. There is a line for the more popular slots, so swing by, look and the schedule and plan accordingly.

Autographs and photo ops are in the Sheraton. Just in case you didn't know.

Speaking of locations, Artist's Alley is up on Level 6. Yes, it's a lot of escalators but it's worth the visit. I've already spoken to several people who've had popular posters, comic issues, magnets and other items sell out and it's only Friday - so be sure to visit sooner, rather than later.

Skybound has a number of offsite events if you want to get away from the Con. However, you do need to RSVP. Today these include:                                   
1:30pm - 3:30pm / Geeks OUT! (RSVP HERE)       
4:00pm 6:00pm / Comic Book Women (RSVP HERE)         
On Saturday we have:                                           
11:00am - 1:00pm / Summoners War Meet Up (RSVP HERE)        
1:30pm - 3:30pm / Skybound Insiders Meet Up (RSVP HERE)        
4:00pm - 6:00pm / Women in Tech Meet Up (RSVP HERE)    

Also offsite tonight - Guardians of the Sexy burlesque show, which is sold out, and Kracklefest 8, which is not. That's right down the street at the Hard Rock Cafe. And there's a Thick as Thieves release party at the Nii Modo Gallery.

I've heard people say, "The PDX Broadsides are playing tonight" - but while they are in Musicalley, they actually take the stage at 5:30. So don't roll in at 9 looking for a show.

That said, you could do some late night gaming instead.  Just go to Level 2 and you'll see all kinds of tournaments, games and demos. Also note that in addition to their regular booth at 316, Skybound has a dedicated games booth at 815.

I'm still on the floor so I'll post more about specials and exclusives in a bit. Stay tuned.

Things to do at ECCC

27 FEBRUARY 2018

Is Emerald City Comicon really just a day away? Apparently so. And while you're clearly going to be focusing on the magnificent Artist's Alley, gaming, the writer's block, Musicalley and all those other parts of the Con, below are a few things you might not want to miss.

Get a preview of Seattle's upcoming Marvel exhibit at booth 1510 - Museum of Pop Culture.

Fix any unfortunate cosplay mishaps at the Cosplay Repair Station on TCC L2.

Present your best Doctor Who at the panel's cosplay contest Saturday at 12:30 pm.

Take your picture with the DeLorean from Back to the Future at the Sheraton.

Test your nerd knowledge at Inconceivable! Thursday evening at 6:30 in TCC L3 – Room 2.

Catch the last Saturday night show of Guardians of the Sexy vol. 3.

Draw your own character in a "dodle-ing" contest at booth 618 for a chance to win a $50 gift card.

Get a sneak peek at the new Netflix series Dreamworks Voltron Legendary Defender on Thursday night.

Strike a pose in the Dark Horse Happymatic Photo Booth.

Watch a live draw of a new Rick and Morty story at 2:45 pm Saturday in WSCC 309.

Explore the glittery world of nerd makeup at Espionage Cosmetics (1416.)

Learn how to make your own Jedi costume on Friday at 12:15 pm in TCC L2 – Room 2.
Pick up ECCC exclusive variants at Dark Horse (1708), Vault (1601), Oni (216) and Image.

Visit the public library for educator-focused panels.

Go to the Emerald City Supervillains party Saturday night at Seattle Funhouse.

Of course there are a jillion more things to do - and I will tell you about them when I land on Thursday. And if you're not going to be there? You can watch interviews, gaming tournaments, live art shows, panels and more right on your phone thanks to the magic of Syfy Wire. You can stream the coverage from Syfy.com or from ECCC.

See you Thursday.

Support LGBTQ with a cool ECCC shirt

16 FEBRUARY 2018

We all know t-shirts are an essential component of the Comicon experience. And if you caught ECCC's latest email, your eye may have spotted a rather vivid shirt not currently available on the merch page.

That would be the rainbow t-shirt above. These shirts will be available only at ECCC and some of the proceeds will go to Lambert House in Seattle. Essentially you can celebrate ECCC, show off your LGBTQ pride and help people who need it all at the same time.

While the shirt will only be sold at the Con, any shirts left over will be put online. But if you don't want to risk waiting, you can still get Thursday, Friday and Sunday tickets and pick one up yourself.

Did you get your SDCC hotel room yet?

14 FEBRUARY 2018

Happy Valentine's Day! If you were a normal person, your thoughts tonight would be on romance and gifts and the highway robbery that is the price of a fancy dinner reservation - but because you're a San Diego Comic-Con devotee, you're probably just thinking about hotel rooms. And not for Valentine reasons.

We are in traditional SDCC hotel room season. You know how these weeks feel. Early Bird rooms are available and you can't decide if you should be practical and resign yourself to a lot of shuttle rides or gamble on Hotel Day. You want the actual sale to happen but you dread it too. There's never a perfect answer where you can get a reasonably priced room that's refundable and downtown and a sure thing. Your options are pretty much:
  • Pay an obscene rate to book a downtown room of your own accord
  • Pay a cheap rate for an Early Bird room that is ... not downtown
  • Pray to the SDCC gods to get lucky in the Hotel Day sale

You know it's brutal if you've survived the last few sales. It really does seem to get more hopeless each year. And it's not just the sheer bad odds of it all; there's always some kind of unforeseen glitch that gives you the wrong form, boots you out entirely, freezes you, erroneously cancels your room because someone else has the same last name, etc. Hotel Day has become far more stressful than the badge sales for most of us - and let's be honest, this year won't be any better.

On that cheerful note, let's talk about two things - the Early Bird Sale and the hotel sale date.

The Early Bird Sale is still live. However, the best hotel in my opinion - Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina - is sold out and so are 4 others. 6 hotels still have rooms, including the reliable Town and Country. One reason you should pursue this option: because chances are high that you won't do any better during the actual hotel sale. That includes those of you who are lucky and special and sympatico with Fate. I used to always score too - something I chalked up to my glowing Comic-Con karma, and then one day I got this:

Another year I landed at Town and Country. Last year I zipped right into the sale in moments and wound up "downtown" at Bayside - still involving a shuttle ride. If you're well connected, you might feel confident about landing a trade. But there are increasingly more people wanting to trade than willing to make a trade. And a weirdly deluded group who think someone's going to give them their Omni room in exchange for La Quinta Inn.

I know you're probably going to bet the farm on Hotel Day. That's just the kind of risk-takers we are. But remember that it's one or the other - Early Bird shuts off before the sale.

Speaking of, we still don't know the date of Hotel Day. CCI has created a tradition of emailing me my worst results while I'm at Emerald City Comicon - so maybe Feb. 28 (2 weeks from today) will be the magic day. I cancelled an Oregon hiking trip on this day and 3% of my reason was the impending hotel sale. But it's just as likely that the first 2 weeks of March will be the time, and slightly less likely that the latter 2 will. Given how unpredictable CCI has been with sale dates, who really knows. They love to surprise us.

Most of the good backup rooms have been snapped up if you're looking to book on your own. But you should still look and work whatever San Diego connections you have to see who has a condo, guest room or timeshare they might loan out. Lots of attendees are open to finding roommates.  If you're the type who just wants a pillow, a couch and a shower, consider teaming up with a larger group. You'll have more options at a cheaper rate.

The point is that you can take control of your fate - sort of - by amassing a few options, which will make Hotel Day feel a lot less fatal. Because it's coming and we all know it'll be gruesome. Do what you can now to build yourself a safety net.

Give the gift of ECCC for Valentine's Day

11 FEBRUARY 2018

Emerald City Comicon is just days away - are you ready?

Maybe you think you're not going. If so, consider this: every day is still available but Saturday. That makes a Seattle Comicon the perfect romantic gift to give your most beloved nerd on Wednesday. And if you're sadly without a Valentine, consider spicing up your life by going alone to ECCC - where you can:

Game it up. Level 2 has it all for you, board games, arcade games, RPG, demos and more. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights have gaming after dark for those of you over 18.

Catch a burlesque show. Or gay it up at Qomix, bask in the genius of Jonathan Coulton or go to Kracklefest. Lots to keep you busy at night.

Get educated. Panels for librarians and educators will be at the Seattle Public Library, with topics on planning library programs, graphic novels for kids, lesson plans, LGBTQ work and more.

Try the official ECCC beer. Dark Heron will be available at the beer garden but also at various bars and restaurants. On that note, if you're not familiar with Seattle, you should check out the food guide. Everyone tends to gravitate to the Cheesecake Factory across the street where you have to wait an hour but just walking a block or two gives you great options.

Go to a Schoolism LIVE workshop. These cover character design, gaming, animation - you get the idea.

Sample the small businesses of Seattle. Speaking of avoiding chain restaurants, ECCC is bringing you Homegrown, a collection of local artists, bakers, entrepreneurs, musicians and more. You have to admit, this is a refreshing change from Cons that only put out the same generic, mass-produced offerings you can get back home.

Pick out your panels. Yes, there's a decided bent to ECCC panels and sometimes it seems like there's 134 different panels on "How to Be a Plus-Size LGBT Cosplayer Who's Editing A Comic Anthology about Diversity." But there are plenty of fan meetups, book and comic topics and really anything you might be looking for.

Take your little nerds to Family HQ. Legos, cosplay, Star Wars - this is clearly where the action is.

Activate your badge. That's required, actually.

And if you're overwhelmed by all this, check out the fan guides for day by day assistance. And if you haven't yet, I recommend downloading the app - it really will help you keep your panels and activities straight.

17 more days.

Celebrate your dark side for the 2018 Souvenir Book

29 JANUARY 2018

CCI has once again solicited your creative genius for the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con Souvenir Book - and this year's anniversary celebrations go in one of my favorite directions.

If you're new to SDCC, the Souvenir Book is a paperback keepsake of art and articles you'll receive upon arrival. You are welcome to submit your work for it (art, content or both) as centered around the important nerd anniversaries of the year.

Last year wasn't exactly rich with anniversaries; this year is all about the goth nerd in you. Consider what we're celebrating:
  • 10th anniversary of the Marvel cinematic universe. You could go in on a thousand angles on this one. Obviously it will be a competitive category so be insightful. 

  • 25th anniversary of Hellboy. I feel like Hellboy fans don't get nearly enough chances to stretch their creative legs, so this should be a welcome door to walk through.

  • 25th anniversary of Vertigo. From Swamp Thing to The Invisibles to Sandman, you could fill 66 Souvenir Books on this topic.

  • 25th anniversary of the X-Files. Wait, 25 years? Really? Don't I feel geriatric. I'm guessing a lot of people will go for the "Scully inspired me as a woman of science" narrative but personally I'd work the alien angle so hard.  

  • 200th anniversary of Frankenstein. There's really no end to the possibilities here. Your Villa Diodati/Lord Byron musings, your essay on the godmother of science fiction being a teenage girl, etc. As someone who owns a full set of Frankenstein-themed serving trays, I can't wait to see what people produce.
In case your fingers are already itching to write a story about Cigarette Smoking Man bumming a smoke off John Constantine - you can't write fan fiction and you can't commingle universes. (I mean, you can, but not for the Souvenir Book.) CCI specifies that "articles should be of a historical non-fiction nature" which is an awkward way to say "essay."  You also need to follow a range of formatting and submission guidelines, which you can see here.

Deadline is 13 April; CCI points out that's Friday the 13th so put a lodestone in your conjure bag and hope for the best. Good luck.

The Comic Con trademark battle keeps spreading

20 JANUARY 2018

If tedious lawsuits are your thing, and you were disappointed by the seeming resolution of San Diego Comic-Con's lawsuit against Salt Lake Comic Con in December, I have good news for you - it's ongoing and more players have jumped into the mix.

Here's where we are currently:

  • Salt Lake has spent over a cool million in fees on this case and is now considering crowdfunding to pay it all off.

  • There apparently will be a documentary about the case, which I am so here for. 

  • Salt Lake's reason: asking for a reconsideration on the genericness of the term Comic Con; also that the court precluded evidence and gave the jury improper instructions.

  • CCI's reason: they don't like the tiny settlement they were awarded ($20K) and they want a stronger verdict regarding the "willfulness" with which SLCC violated their trademark. They want a new trial, some of SLCC's profits, $4.5 million in legal fees and a pound of flesh - or at least, a recognition that Salt Lake's attorneys engaged in an "all-out war" and "staggering" misconduct in that they "preyed on the sympathies of the jury."
And they may need that $4.5 million for future lawsuits. While other Cons have proactively changed their names to avoid being sued by CCI, one of those Cons, Phoenix Comic Fest (formerly Phoenix Comicon) has filed a motion to strike down SDCC's "Comic Con" trademark and have CCI pay their legal bills. Nervy!

In other words, CCI may lose their trademark, letting Salt Lake and other Cons freely use "Comic Con," "Comic-Con," "Comicon" and any other permutations of the name - setting them back where they started but millions of dollars poorer. It's dizzying to contemplate. Even if they stay victorious in all these lawsuits, it's hard to foresee an outcome where they come out on top of their attorney fees.

In the meantime, we're left with our questions.Will the lawsuit documentary be screened at the SDCC film festival? Will other smaller Cons jump on, burying CCI in lawsuits like velociraptors attacking a T-rex? How will the new trial turn out, if we get one? We'll just have to wait and see.

ECCC photo ops, parties and more

11 JANUARY 2018

Emerald City Comic Con is only 48 days away - and it's time to take action to make sure you get everything you want.

Buy a Photo Op

If you want to frame a photo of yourself with the hottest love goddess on TV, you can buy a photo op with Yetide Badaki and other celebrities now. Don't delay on this - these do sell out.

Prepare for the Funko Lottery

Essentially it's a ticket raffle. Study up on where to go and when if you love Funko.

Think About Your Night Life

There will be night panels and various Seattle doings to hold your attention - but there are also some ECCC events and parties you might want to add to your agenda.

Guardians of the Sexy Vol. 3

"When fandom and burlesque collide live on stage." You have early and late shows on Friday and Saturday to choose from and yes, you have to be 18 or older. Sorry, baby nerds.

Qomix: Queer Comicon Party

Will you be in town on Weds, 28 February? Are you that way, as they used to say? Then you will want to mingle with your fellow rainbow nerds and maybe enter a cosplay contest. Also, if you are a queer nerd who's still contemplating ECCC attendance, know that this is a very LGBTQP+ friendly Con. You won't feel like an outsider.


Changing gears, this offers you stand-up comedy and nerd rock on Friday, 2 March. 21+.

You can get tickets to these fine events here.

Check Out the Exhibitors

Just to get excited. The Homegrown vendors will be all local, from bakers to artists to brewers and more. The regular showroom vendors you can examine here.

Buy Tickets

Thursday, Friday and Sunday are still available. If you buy before 16 January, they'll be mailed to you and you can skip the line to pick them up. Another option: participate in their ECCC Passport game and maybe win tickets.

See you in 48 days.

Are you going to Comic Con in 2018?

1 JANUARY 2018

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays involved lots of parties, presents and Christmas cookies - and if you were freezing in the Northeast like I was, a fireplace. I also hope your New Year's resolutions include some kind of Comic Con plan, especially if you didn't get an SDCC badge last month.

If you traditionally go to SDCC or some other spring/summer Con, the season may seem far away. But now's the time to think about where you really want to go and when you need to make it happen.

If you're still new to Comic Con life and all of its reservations, badge sales and budgeting, you might think of going to a Con as some kind of fun activity that either "works out" or it doesn't. But that's just not true. While luck does play into it (sometimes mercilessly), there is a fair amount of planning involved that ultimately determines whether or not you walk through the doors of a major Con.

Here's what you need to think about.

Which Comic Con do you want to go to? 

You already know if you're going to SDCC. But if you're not and you wish you were, you can set yourself up to go in 2019 by signing up for a Member ID, reading blogs and forums like Friends of Comic-Con, and getting a realistic idea of what is involved. San Diego can be nirvana but it can also fall devastatingly short of a first-timer's expectations. Get a grip on what's required now.

The key here is understanding what you want from your Comic Con experience. Don't think that the biggest Cons are necessarily the ticket to making your dreams come true. Let's say you want to meet celebrities. They are often more accessible at smaller Cons than the biggest ones. Or maybe you want to collect really obscure back issues. You'll definitely want a more comics-focused Con like Emerald City as opposed to Cons which have "Comic" in their name but focus mostly on Hollywood.

Maybe you'd like to host a panel of your own. Figure this out before you invest in a giant Con like NYCC or SDCC that's probably too competitive for you. Ditto if you want to network or promote your work - just because certain influencers are afoot at those Cons doesn't mean you'll have access to them. Cons like Salt Lake, Denver, Emerald City, WonderCon or C2E2 are rapidly become a more appealing choice for many people for this reason.

A word on New York Comic Con. You may hear people say that getting a ticket is now "as bad as San Diego." It's not. While the badge sales are pretty competitive, you're far more likely to get a NYCC badge. Ditto hotel room - it's New York. So don't write off NYCC as the East Coast San Diego Comic-Con just because it's big. This is a top choice if you got shut out of last month's SDCC badge sale.

On a related note, don't assume your local small-time Comic Con is a smaller version of the more famous ones. A lot of Cons boast high attendance numbers these days without boasting anything close to SDCC or NYCC guests, events, vendors and panels. I've been to several Cons with 100K+ attendees that were basically an indoors swap meet. If you want the magic of a major Comic Con, you'll probably have to travel unless you're lucky enough to live in Seattle, New York, Atlanta, San Diego/LA, Chicago, etc.

Which Con works with your budget and schedule? 

Size isn't the only thing that matters. Some of the newer or smaller Cons like Boston and Silicon Valley already have great reputations. SVCC is described as "where science fiction blends with science fact" and features new tech along with comics and fandom offerings.

You'll also need to figure out how many Cons you can realistically consume before the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Emerald City is in early March, which gives you breathing room before the summer season: Phoenix Comicon happens around Memorial Day weekend, Denver Comic Con shortly thereafter, SDCC in late July, Gen Con and Boston in August, Dragon Con on Labor Day weekend and Salt Lake Comic Con in September. Then NYCC is in October. That doesn't even include the 100+ Cons sprinkled all over the world.

In terms of money, you'll want to start your Con cash stash right now. After you account for plane fare, badge, meals and hotel, you'll still be tempted to spend on a number of things - original art, action figures, comic books, party tickets and more. Maybe you've ascended to a higher plane of consciousness where such things don't tempt you, but if you're like most attendees you'll covet at least a few Exhibit Hall finds. Start squirreling away money now so you can indulge your nerd hungers when the opportunity presents itself.

You'll also want to talk money with your Con companions now. If you've been going to Comic Con for a while, you've probably had friends beg to go with you, then fade away when it came time to book a plane ticket or go through the various badge sale hassles. You rejoice over scoring a room at the Hilton Bayfront - then months later your friend suddenly has a wedding to attend and you're paying the entire tab alone. It might seem like a tall order to get people to commit to Con costs now but it's a good way to suss out who's serious and who's not before you buy tickets and put down hotel room deposits. It's also smart to vocalize this in your social circles; you might know several people who would love to come but just don't know how to get started.

What logistics do you need to take care of?

This is what separates the attendees from the people who watch Comic Con updates from home. Some Cons are still walk-in status but the best ones usually sell out tickets and hotels. You'll need to figure out when these go on sale, how to register to even be eligible to get the email announcing the badge sale - you get the idea. It can be tricky to navigate.

And because the actual Con website is going to be full of marketing hype and cute graphics, you'll want to get active in digital communities for inside tips and advice from Con veterans. The community is generous about helping newcomers, from joining a buying group to knowing which hotels to avoid.

Another thing to check - what your badge or ticket actually gets you. I'll probably write a post on this, but right now know that more and more Cons are charging additional fees for top signings and panels. I find this beyond irritating but it's the way things are going at some Cons. Ace Comic Con, for instance, is charging more than $900 for a Chris Evans/Tom Holland "Dual VIP" experience for what boils down to autographs and photo ops and good panel seats. Phoenix Comicon is charging for a Meet and Greet with Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder that's actually a signing and photo op; you can also buy a "one-on-one moment" with Tim Curry from $200-300.

In other words, dig into whatever Con you're targeting and make sure you'll be able to see, meet and experience who and what you want. If shelling out $100 is a big deal for you, but you think it's worth it to meet your favorite artist - and then you find out that'll cost you another $150, which you don't have - you're not going to be too happy.

If all of this sounds like too much effort - and there's an excellent argument to be made that it is -  then stick to smaller Cons. Life is too short to exhaust yourself training to become a Comic Con ninja unless you really enjoy it. This is survival of the fittest and the Comic Con experience is not for everyone. But if you think it is for you, get ready now - and you'll reap the rewards a few months down the road with incredible Comic Con memories.

Good luck. Here's to an exciting and beautifully nerdy 2018 for all of us.

It's comic book heaven at Emerald City

21 DECEMBER 2017

Happy Winter Solstice. If, like any sensible person, you've allocated the snowiest days of your holiday vacation to reading comic books, you may be headed to Emerald City Comicon in March - now just 69 days away. Or maybe you're not, because you have this damaging Con myopia that limits your vision to San Diego and New York.

If you're in the latter category, you should really reconsider. Especially if the following conversation, which I have at least 23 times a year, rings true:

Them: San Diego Comic-Con just isn't about comics anymore. It's all about Hollywood now. They've completely forgotten their comic book fans and I'm so sick of it.

Me: Well, actually, Emerald City Comicon is very focused on comics and has great writers and artists -

Them: Nah, I only want to go to San Diego.

This is such a misguided attitude. So if you can find room in your heart for more than one Con, know that ECCC is widely considered a comic lover's Con - a place where you can buy coveted back issues, discover genuinely creative titles and go to panels featuring interesting talent, instead of just the same established artists and writers who always get trotted out at SDCC or NYCC. There's a reason people from all over the country fly to this Con.

And they've already announced some great people for this year - including one of the brightest stars in comic book heaven, Jaime Hernandez of Love and Rockets glory. It's hard to come up with anyone who can match the Hernandez Brothers in terms of the longevity, depth and complexity of their oeuvre, not just in comics but in all of literature. So obviously Jaime is a compelling reason to hit up ECCC but they also are offering people like James Tynion, Terry Moore, Chris Roberson, Dan Parent, Tim Sale, Chris Claremont, Colleen Coover and more, including guests who have yet to be announced.

The Artists' Alley is stellar and so is the shopping - it goes way beyond San Diego Comic-Con (which I think does still make an effort to balance TV/movies with comics, despite the ongoing public lament), especially in terms of small press and independent offerings. You know how sometimes you restlessly prowl through the SDCC Exhibit Hall aisles, looking for that new title or book or artist to blow your mind - and you realize you're just seeing the same titles you see on the shelf at your Barnes and Noble? That won't happen at ECCC. You'll make discoveries. I guarantee it.

The panels are good too and because you won't spend much (if any) time in line and it's all very centralized, you won't have to sacrifice 4 hours to make 1 panel.

 Love and Rockets

And because I know you're wondering, they bring the Hollywood starpower too. This year gives you Mark Sheppard, Felicia Day, Shannon Purser, various Walking Dead and American Gods stars - all without a Hall H line. And we're also getting Musicalley, which they describe as "Artist Alley for the Seattle nerd music scene." They have the cosplay championship, the Writer's Block, a vigorous gaming area, a family area with workshops for kids, the Schoolism Live workshops for artists and well, you get the idea.

But really ECCC has comics - comics in panels, comics at night events, comics spilling out of boxes and booths, signings and sketches and graphic novels and ancient back issues and whatever else you might want. So if you're wistfully hoping SDCC will one day return to the comic show it used to be (it won't) or just grumbling over your terrible luck in Open Registration - go ahead and get your ECCC tickets. Saturday is sold out but Thursday, Friday and Sunday are still available.

And then you'll be only 69 days away from your next magical Comic Con.