Crafting your Hotel Day strategy

23 APRIL 2017

Did you obsess over the SDCC hotel sale all weekend?  You can do Early Bird while there's still time - but if you're willing to roll the dice on Wednesday, here's what you should know.

Calling Vs Online

Everyone wants to know which is faster. You'll hear conflicting reports but overall, it is hard to get through on the phone, and I personally find it nervewracking and a big dodgy to verbally give my preferences to someone writing or typing them down. Phone requests take longer than filling out the form online and human error is more likely. Still, nothing's stopping you from doing both and seeing which gets in first.


One of the biggest - and most justified grievances - of the hotel sale is that even a whiff of duplication can get a request cancelled. Let's say you and your spouse, who share a last name and address, both put in requests, or you and your roommate do. In the past, this has allegedly caused requests to vanish. Hopefully that won't be the case this year, but try to differentiate your requests as much as you can.

Downtown vs Non-Downtown Hotels

If you're new to San Diego Comic-Con, you might be wondering which hotel is best. So I'll give it to you bluntly: you can't afford to be picky. You might hear that the Hyatt bar gets intriguing at night, or you'll see lots of famous faces at the Hard Rock, but ultimately you'll be best off considering your price point and how close you want to be - and how likely you are to get your wish. Competition for downtown hotels is steep. Many of those rooms have already been claimed by studios and publishers. And room exchanges - which has always been a fallback practiced by attendees in the know - are harder to pull off than ever. 

I've paid ungodly amounts for downtown rooms - and have an expensive Hyatt reservation waiting for me at this very moment - so I will sound like a hypocrite now by telling you that non-downtown rooms are not that bad. But it's true. You'll save money, you can take the shuttle to and from the Con, and it can be quite nice to get away from the Comic-Con madness at night. Speaking of night, if you're going to be camping anywhere overnight for Hall H or other panels/rooms/drawings - does it matter that you're staying at Humphrey's Half Moon Inn? Your hotel room is just a place to collapse at varying intervals between panels and parties and lines.

Amenities, Restaurants and Parking

A few considerations here. One: you might envision yourself getting a massage at your hotel spa or drinking tequila at the pool bar, but those visions should not steer your hotel choices. You'll be busier than you think and probably won't see much of your hotel offerings. (Although if you want to get together with your friends, a pool night is a more relaxing option than a Gaslamp bar crawl.) As for restaurants, remember that the shuttle will bus you around wherever you want to go, and picking a hotel with great restaurants is inconsequential. You'll have plenty of places to eat wherever you are. Finally, remember that downtown hotel parking can be pricey - you should count on paying upwards of $30-40 a day, so add that to your mental estimate. (Along with assorted taxes and fees that can take your nightly rate way up.)

6 or 12 Choices

So we've got the opportunity to request 6 downtown and 6 non-downtown hotels. What does this mean? It means that if you only want to stay downtown, I think you're better off skipping the non-downtown part and checking yes for the waitlist. Otherwise you'll probably wind up in Mission Valley and that'll be it. But if you just want to lock down a room, definitely use all 12 of your picks.

The Pendry and Hotel Z

There have been high expectations for the Pendry's 300+ downtown rooms to brighten the sale - but San Diego's fanciest new hotel is not listed on the sample form. It's also not available for reservation during SDCC. Did powerful Hollywood gods snap up all the rooms? Will it be on the final form? I don't know. Hotel Z isn't on the form either but their rooms are available for reservation; I think Friday night is sold out and the others were about $500 a night last I checked.

The Waitlist

There's no mention of the waitlist in the official description of the hotels sale - but it is listed on the form. Here's the question though; options include "Book me at a hotel that is closest/low rate/on the shuttle route" and "If none of my preferred hotel choices are available, disregard my request completely." Some people are questioning if choosing the latter means your request is literally disregarded completely - even if you check "Place me on the waitlist." They could have worded this with more clarity, but I believe that checking yes for the waitlist will preserve you - even if you refuse to accept anything but your preferred choices.

The Processing Order

CCI says that requests will be processed based on entry into the session. Does that mean you should give up if you don't get picked until 30 minutes in? No - hang in there no matter what. Get your request formally submitted and hope for the best. Last year people who got in later sometimes got better rooms than the earlier-picked, and there were conflicting messages about just how randomized it all was. The year before was a storm of glitches. Don't sabotage yourself by giving up. Hang in there, do your best and screenshot any problems.

The Odds

You are not competing with 130,000 other attendees. You are competing with pros and vendors who want to upgrade their existing reservations, people who don't have badges but want to come hang out, and the public at large. Plus those 130,000 attendees.

If you've never done the hotel sale before, you won't know immediately how you did. Instead you'll get an email on 1 May or 8 May. (Yes, that week in between is going to be a killer.) Most of us will be unhappy; we'll get a hotel below our standards or no hotel at all. Attendees will be scrambling to lock down Airbnbs, condos, spare couches and roommates. If you're one of them, remember that at least you have a badge - and that's what matters. No matter where you sleep at night, you'll be at San Diego Comic-Con during the day and that's what counts.

Good luck. Let's hope for a smooth sale.

Hotel Day is 26 April - and you'll need to make some tough choices

21 APRIL 2017


Your second most stressful day of the year is happening next Wednesday: Hotel Day is 26 April.

The sale will function much like the badge sale; you'll get an email with a link to the waiting room, log into the waiting room and wait to get picked once the sale goes live. But there are some changes you should prepare for now.

What's Different

  • One difference during the sale: instead of picking 6 hotels, you'll be able to pick up to 6 downtown hotels and 6 non-downtown hotels.

  • A difference after the sale: people will be notified in two groups, 1 May and 8 May. You'll be notified "no later than" 15 May if you don't get a room.

Consider this in the context of the expanded 12 choices. Pick all 12 and you're more likely to get a hotel of your choosing, technically speaking. Pick Town and Country as a non-downtown option? Your request was granted - and now you're stuck with it. Because this part bears careful reading: "If you receive a confirmation email and are not happy with your hotel, you can opt to take no action or notify onPeak of your intention to cancel your reservations." No action means, you don't pay your deposit and your reservation is canceled.

To summarize - you get what you get. There's no mention of if/when hotel reservations will open back up, as they have every other year when the dust settles. Oh, and this maddeningly did not change: instead of restricting rooms to people with badges, any one can take part. And trust me, they will.

As for your 12 picks, keep in mind, you don't have to use all of them; you can choose to only select downtown hotels. But that's still setting yourself up for a painful email notifying you that you have no room at all.

I'll post more advice for the hotel sale this weekend. For now, study the sample list, make your game plan, and please consider doing Early Bird. It's going away very soon.

Good luck.

Take your first step toward New York Comic Con

19 APRIL 2017

Was SDCC Open Reg really only 11 days ago? It seems like forever. If it's still on your mind, however, because you didn't get a badge and you've been moping around ever since, you should definitely consider going to New York Comic Con. And your journey can start today.

Fan Verification has opened up today and closes 3 May. Much like SDCC Member IDs, everyone who wants to get a NYCC ticket needs a profile, so make sure you and your friends all create one.

Having a profile doesn't guarantee you a badge. But while the annual NYCC sale has gotten increasingly competitive in recent years, your odds are still better than with SDCC. It's a big, beautiful show and it takes place in October, which is a great time to be in New York.

Seriously - think about going.

Reminder: the Early Bird sale won't last forever

17 APRIL 2017

I speak to you today in a spirit of pragmatic pessimism. You know that the official San Diego Comic-Con hotel sale is just around the corner. And if you're like most attendees, you're hoping to score a downtown room.

But if you lived through the last few Hotel Days, then you know how unlikely that is. Landing a discounted room for Comic-Con has gotten tougher and tougher, and the sale itself - bizarre glitches, an inexplicably high rate of failure, the frustrating lack of control - sends up an annual outcry from attendees.

(First-timers who think I'm exaggerating, Exhibit A and B and C.)

With that in mind, you may want to consider the Early Bird sale. Rooms are already selling out but there are still some hotels left (including my recommendation Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina). I know these aren't your dream hotels, but this process at least offers you some control, unlike the hotel sale proper. Shuttle service is always available, so you can still party till all hours and make it back to your room safely - for free. And if you're a Hall H camper or any kind of overnight-line person, does it even matter where you stay?

Just something to consider. Early Bird will close when the real hotel sale happens, so you won't be able to crawl back to this as a safety option should you not get a room in the sale. If you want to book a room without drama, if you want to avoid the below email - seriously, consider Early Bird.

And one final suggestion: if you're looking for a roommate, don't wait for the sale. Start asking around now so you can team up together during Hotel Day.

Promote literacy - and maybe go to SDCC

14 APRIL 2017

Contest time! This is your chance to help kids read and maybe help yourself go to Comic-Con.

This contest comes to you courtesy of IDW and Traveling Stories, so yes, it's legit. Never heard of Traveling Stories, you say? Their mission "is to help kids fall in love with reading by the 4th grade." So you know they're good people.

What the winner gets

  • Two 4-day badges to SDCC
  • Roundtrip airfare and hotel for 2
  • A stack of comic books
  • 2 tickets to the Wynonna Earp party
  • Meet and greet with Kevin Eastman of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fame

How to enter

Visit their site and make a donation to a literacy program. You can go as low as $10, if your wallet is a bit light at the moment.

The reality check

This contest has been promoted at WonderCon and runs through 14 June, so you'll have plenty of competition.

Why you should enter anyhow

Because 32 million U.S. adults can't read. That's 14% of the population; and 21% read below a 5th grade reading level. So even if you don't win this contest, you'll help people have more earning power, higher political literacy, and the joy that comes from reading magnificent books and comics.

And given that 82% of kids from low-income families have trouble reading by 4th grade, setting them up for an unemployable future, contributing to literacy programs does more than help these kids on an individual basis - it creates a healthier economy and puts more incredible books, screenplays and graphic novels in everyone's future. Every writer begins as a reader, after all.

Good luck.

So you got an SDCC badge: the next 100 days

10 APRIL 2017

If you survived the extinction event known as Open Registration - congratulations. I didn't want to be insensitive on Saturday by throwing a giant Badge Holder Smugness party, but it's been 48 hours and I think we can all revel in our glorious luck. And frankly, it's time to get down to business, because San Diego Comic-Con is just a little more than 3 months away.

Here's what you should do now.

Take advantage of Early Bird Hotel sale or prep for Hotel Day while arranging a backup plan.

Locking down a hotel room for SDCC has gotten harder each year, and there's good reason to think that this year will bring a radically new process that you won't like. Here are your options: book a non-downtown room now without stress or uncertainty in the Early Bird sale; gamble in the Hotel Day sale; look for an Airbnb or other alternative situation. In fact, I'd partner those last two together, because it's so unlikely that you'll get the downtown room of your dreams.

First-timers, you may think 1) I'm exaggerating or 2) it doesn't matter where you stay. I'm not and it does. Staying in Mission Valley or elsewhere doesn't have to ruin your Con, but it's definitely more convenient to be closer. For those of you who've successfully traded reservations before on the attendee underground market, it's getting increasingly difficult to do that too. With the process changes expected this year, I'm guessing that will hold true.

What I'm saying: be scrappy and do what you can to lock down some lodgings.

Sign up for the parking lottery.

If you think you will be in the unfortunate situation of driving in and out of the area each day, you'll want to sign up for the parking lottery now. The drawing is on 25 April so don't delay. Be aware this isn't an option to drive into San Diego, deposit your car and pick it up Sunday; there's no overnight parking. (If your hotel doesn't have parking or even if it does, consider parking at the airport - it's significantly cheaper than hotel valet.)

 Save money.

I know, I know - you just paid for a badge and now you'll need to make a 2 night deposit on your hotel room. You may also be paying a hefty tax bill this week. No one is in a saving frame of mind. But you will have a much better time at SDCC if you wine, dine and shop as much as you want - and that means having a pretty sum put aside. Now is the best time to start; by June you'll see events tickets going on sale and certain exclusives will go up for pre-sale too. If you're currently having financial struggles, then you should definitely start saving now.

Get in shape.

SDCCfit is a thing now but far too many people still show up at Comic-Con unprepared for its physical demands. You can always identify them by Friday; they're sprawled in hallways with defeated expressions as they rub their feet and beg off other events. No one is ever prepared for how tiring Comic-Con is - all the walking and standing, the unexpectedly vast distances between going to lunch at the Fox Sports Grill at Hilton Bayfront, grabbing swag from the fulfillment room at the Hyatt, then heading back to Hall H. Seriously, pioneers didn't walk this much when their horse and buggy broke down. To make sure you're not sidelined by Day 2, start walking regularly and building up your endurance.

Make friends.

Here's something not many people know: a large percentage of Comic-Con attendees go alone. They don't have friends who share their interests, or their friends have kids/jobs keeping them at home, or they had a breakup when it was too late to invite someone else. There's nothing wrong with going to SDCC alone, but it's definitely more fun to meet up with friends. Start hanging out in the online SDCC communities. Not only will you find out about more events and exclusives, you'll have a better social life when you're there.

Take time off. 

Maybe you were waiting to see if you got a badge before doing this, but request vacation time off from your job now. Make sure you won't be guilted for skipping family weddings or graduation parties or summer trips, and if you need childcare help or some other kind of coverage, make those arrangements too.

Make a cosplay decision.

If you're part of a cosplay group, start working out the details now; if you're going solo, at least make overtures toward getting/making your outfit and props. This often takes longer than you think, and I know so many people who abandon their first plan mid-way and opt for something else. You can avoid getting stuck at the Con in an outfit you hate by getting started now.

Study up.

First-timers! What a journey of discovery awaits you. I know you've seen San Diego Comic-Con on YouTube and you've heard wild stories, and you probably think you have a decent idea of what to expect. You are wrong. It's bigger, louder and more multi-faceted than you can imagine, like a monstrously huge cephalopod that sucks you in and forces you to stumble, lost, through its many tentacles. That's why so many first-timers come home from SDCC dazzled but slightly resentful; they know they were in the midst of something incredible, but they also know they missed a lot of it.

Read up real accounts of people who've gone, and all of the advice on navigating what can be a bewildering experience. Hear what your first-timer ancestors thought - here and here and here and here. Oh, and here and here too.

Pay attention, starting now.

Comic-Con may seem far off but certain developments are already stirring. SyFy announced it will be broadcasting live again for instance; various exclusives will quietly go up for pre-sale and sell out before you found about them (already happened with DC Bombshells figures this year); tickets will be given away but only to people subscribed to a certain newsletter who happen to be online 15 minutes before go time. This takes knowledge and skill, and if you're new to Planet SDCC, it may be really frustrating how everyone seems to know this stuff but you. Make sure your Member ID account is checked to accept third-party offerings and stayed connected on social and the blogs so you find about events and sales in time. The Conan O'Brien tapings are a great example of people not understanding how to get tickets.

The next 3 months are going to whip by. We are firmly in Comic-Con season and there's no turning back - so get ready.

What to do if you didn't get a badge

8 APRIL 2017

Today was your last opportunity to get a badge for San Diego Comic-Con 2017. And if you're like most people, you didn't get one. 

Open Registration seemed more futile than ever today. I was working with a sizeable group of people and none of us got picked as the first minutes ticked by. We watched our screens in disbelief as Preview Night sold out and all the while my phone was buzzing with the same text from friend after friend: None of us are getting in. Are you?

Eventually some of us got picked and one of the 6 sessions I was handling came up in time to nab a few Sunday badges - but the overwhelming majority were never selected. While CCI doesn't release the number of people in the sale, it does seem demand was record high today. And that's not good news for any of us. Even those of us with 2017 badges can't count on going next year.

Let's go over your options.

Go anyhow. 

You can show up in late July, photograph the cosplayers, lose yourself in the crowd and go to the outside attractions. (Some of them. Some require a badge to get in.) Would I recommend you do this? Not unless you already have friends who will be there, and you can make solid worthwhile non-Con plans. Misguided people often think they'll be tripping over celebrities and strolling into A-list parties as long as they reach the area. This is incorrect. You'll just be suffering through a lot of crowds and long wait times for restaurants. 

See if you know someone who knows someone who knows someone.

People do occasionally luck out and find a studio, publisher, retail or industry contact with a badge to spare. If you live in LA, this isn't a Herculean feat. Otherwise it's hard to pull off, but go ahead and try.

Stoically prep for next year.

This is the most sensible option. Make friends in the SDCC digital community and get their advice, then work with a reputable group next Open Reg. If you don't trust online people, put some effort into building a local nerd-fan network. Comic shops, film clubs, cosplay organizations and gaming clubs are all places to meet people who would be interested in going to San Diego Comic-Con. You don't have to be best friends with them - just keep in touch.

Start researching other Cons. 

The other sensible option. NYCC, DragonCon, Silicon Valley, Denver, Gen Con, Boston - there are so many options out there for you. Don't assume they're all some kind second-rate geek carnival offering a subpar experience. While most of them don't have the same Hollywood starpower as SDCC, they will have some and the experience is usually smoother and more productive than San Diego, where you spend half the time in line.

Keep an eye out for Comic-Con jobs.

The pay usually isn't great, but some places will need help setting up and tearing down, manning a booth, passing out swag and promotions, or being a glorified gopher for busy talent and executives.  Sometimes you'll have to send in a headshot and look pretty, and sometimes not. Before you commit to anything, see if you actually get badges and access. If you don't, or you only get 45 minutes a day to roam the convention center, it may not be worth it.

Probably none of the above has left you feeling any better. I understand how wretched you may feel. I can only encourage you to look to other Cons and transfer your excitement in that direction. You will have a good time. And maybe next year you'll be luckier.

Welcome to Open Registration

8 APRIL 2017


I'll total up my stats later, but here's what I know right now: hardly anyone got in today. I'm talking to people who had 5-8 sessions going and got nothing. This was a brutal sale and it's obvious demand is higher than ever. I know this feels awful, and my advice to go to other Cons will not feel particularly soothing. But it's clear that every prospective SDCC attendee needs a Plan B.

I will post my findings later on who got in, who didn't, and why that might be.


And it's over. I had six sessions running for other people and only one got picked at the bitter end.

9:46 am

Friday is almost gone. Yes, you should still stay in the game for Thursday and Sunday.

9:43  am

Saturday is gone.

9:36 am

I'm calling it now: I think this is the toughest badge sale I've ever seen.

9:30 am

If you can't believe you're doing this badly, you're not alone. I am hearing from dozens of people and only 2 have been picked so far.

Not much comfort, I know.

9:26 am
Preview Night is gone.

8:45 am

It's almost here...

8:21 am

That UNAUTHORIZED error message from last year is back. Just try again if you run into it.

8:14 am

It's here! You can log into the waiting room, bite your nails and prepare yourself for the slaughter/golden ticket that awaits you.

Make sure your power save settings are altered to maintain a live screen for over 2 hours, get your snacks and drinks ready, have your credit card at hand, and open the lines of communication with your friends or group.

If this is your first sale, it'll be over with in about an hour. Preview Night sells out first, then Saturday, then Friday, then Thursday, then Sunday. Saturday/Friday vanish very close together and so do Thursday/Sunday. 

Try to stay philosophical and remember, if you don't get picked, that it really is just 4 days out of the year. You will find another great Con to go to if this one doesn't happen for you. But if it does... Congratulations.

Ready for Open Reg tomorrow?

7 APRIL 2017

It's Open Registration Eve! Tomorrow a massive crowd of nerds will pour into the San Diego Comic-Con badge sale waiting room - and only a fraction of them will emerge victorious.

Veteran attendees, you know the drill - be prepared, get a good night's sleep, convince yourself tomorrow won't really make or break 2017 for you (even though it will), etc.

First-timers, you're a different story. You have no idea what you're in for. (Unless you've tried and failed before.) Here we go.

What You Need to Do Now

Watch the above video.

Make sure your credit card has room on it for your best outcome. If you get picked and you want to buy 3 badges, you'll need to pay just shy of $800. If you're a profligate spender who's constantly flirting with your card limit, call your credit card company and find out where you are. If you're using a card you never use, as I did last month in Returning Reg, you might want to warn them so they don't freeze the transaction. Mine called to confirm the legitimacy of my purchase so it wasn't a big deal, but it's still another way for something to go wrong.

Exchange Paypal information, Member IDs and last names with your buying group. Get very clear on the order you're buying in. Have everyone touch base tonight, especially if someone is acting sketchy. Review the rules.

Make sure your technology is ready.Take the little browser test - better safe than sorry.

Warn your housemates, spouses, parents and anyone else that you require a period of freedom and quiet tomorrow morning, and are not to be trifled with. Make it absolutely clear. They need to know you cannot be interrupted and that interference will have repercussions.

If you have intense social plans for tomorrow night, reconsider. This depends on how well you shake things off, but failing to get a badge will usually sink you into a dark mood.

What to Expect Tomorrow

You'll click the link in your email and go into the waiting room between 8-9 am PST. Is there a correlation between time logged in and who gets picked? Based on my data, no. I had 4 of 8 sessions picked in Ret Reg and all of them had gone live in the waiting room at different times. My 2 Preview Night sessions were - interestingly - the first and second to last ones.

Once the sale goes live at 9 am PST, you'll know. No one can enter the room after this time. It used to be that there was a long period of them sorting everyone but last month the sale started moving people through very quickly.

While you're waiting, you will see a spinning blue circle that tells you your session is live. You'll also see various nerd-themed jokes appear in a yellow bar, along with messages about badge inventory. Let me be clear: this can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of your life. I've lived through muggings and car accidents that did not stress me out like an SDCC badge sale. As you see the messages like "Preview Night inventory is running low," your stress level will shoot into the stratosphere.

If/when you get picked, you'll need to calm your shaking hands, type in the right names and Member IDs and make sure you pick the right badges. (One of my greatest badge sale fears is that I'll accidentally click something that undoes all the days I've clicked.) If you click Preview Night, you lucky dog, everything else is selected automatically. Otherwise you'll need to click each day that you want.

Then you'll pay. CCI quite nicely gives you a confirmation screen that spells out everyone you bought for with the days they got and the prices paid. Screenshot this and send it to the other people, then save it for your records.

Then you'll grieve or celebrate accordingly.

 My Advice

I know Twitter is like a community bonfire during badge sales, and we all huddle around it to encourage, congratulate or console each other. But while you're waiting to get picked, it can make your anxiety worse. You will see person after person crowing over their badges and it creates the impression there will be nothing left for you. You'll also hear conflicting reports of what's sold out. Try to minimize social while the sale is actually happening.

If you accidentally get bumped out of the waiting room or session, just use your registration code and you'll go back in - as long as you originally logged in before 9 am PST.

Screenshot every glitch, and your confirmation screen.

One session per browser, and don't crowd too many browsers onto one device.

Don't be a princess about only settling for a 4-day badge. There is nothing wrong with just getting Thursday and Sunday, and even just Sunday can be good.

If you're in a buying group and someone else buys your badge, don't shut down your session - stay in the game and help out your comrades.

Your window to buy badges has a ticking clock, so don't waste time announcing to everyone that you got in, or texting your friend to find out why her Member ID says someone else has already bought her badge. Just move on to the next person who needs a badge.

Come to term with the odds: not in your favor. You're competing with a vast number of people. But remember that there are many, many other Cons out there.

I'll be live-blogging the sale, on Twitter, and sending lucky wishes to all you questing nerds. This is the first year in a while that I nabbed Preview Night in Ret Reg/Pre-Reg, but I'll still be running sessions for other people and nervous on their behalf.  I hope to hear about your victory tomorrow - and to see you at San Diego Comic-Con this summer.

Open Reg code emails are going out

5 APRIL 2017

By now you've probably heard the rejoicing from people who've gotten the CCI emails with the link and the codes for Saturday's Open Registration. If you haven't gotten yours by Thursday afternoon, email CCI. That said, your code will also be in your Member ID account.

Keep an eye on your inbox.

Make sure you're eligible for Open Reg

3 APRIL 2017

If your mind has been awhirl with thoughts of taxes, Spring Break and the Final Four, you may have been able to forget - sort of - about Open Registration for San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. (But probably you've been obsessing over it like any normal red-blooded attendee.) If you've been online at all today, you know that some people are already getting their emails that say, "Congratulations! You are eligible to participate in Comic-Con 2017 Open Registration!"

Some people haven't gotten them yet; if you're in this category, don't worry. But there is something you might want to do: log into your Member ID account and see if you're marked as eligible for Open Reg. If you are in the attendee category - you're not a pro, a vendor, etc. - your account should show the green sign up top unless you got a Preview Night badge in Returning Reg. Then your account will show the red NO sign.

If you log in and don't see your eligibility indicated, and you believe you should be eligible, contact CCI now. Once the emails with the codes start going out later in the week, they'll be far busier and may not have time to get you sorted by Saturday. Contact them now.

And if you and your friends made your accounts a long time ago, it's a good idea just to make sure you all have the right Member ID names and passwords, and that your addresses are correct. (Your badges will be mailed to you and you can't change your address after a certain point.) If this is your first badge sale, don't put this off. Be sure your finances are in order as well.

I'll post more advice about Open Reg in the coming days. Good luck.

How to go to San Diego Comic-Con

31 MARCH 2017

Warning: this post is only for people at the dawn of their Comic-Con existence.

Next weekend is the San Diego Comic-Con badge sale. If you're just catching wind of it over social, and you've made the understandable but misguided decision to join the sale too, you'll probably be chagrined to realize you can't. If you didn't create a Member ID account by the March 24 cut-off (it wasn't announced, so don't feel bad) then you can't participate in the sale. Short of winning a contest or finding a well-connected friend, you won't be going to SDCC 2017.

I know that's harsh, but I wanted to give it to you straight. The good news: you can greatly increase your chances of going next year. If that's too far in the future for you to think about, then let go of any plans ever for Comic-Con: it may only last 4 days, but the required maneuvering is all year round, on and off. You have to be patient, wily and tenacious to go. Or just lucky.

Here's what you need to do:

Sign up for a Member ID. Have all your prospective Con companions do the same. Everyone who goes to SDCC as an attendee must have a Member ID.

Start reading the blogs and hanging out in online Con circles so you can:
  • Pick up a ton of tips on booking hotels, getting badges and navigating the whole mad circus.
  • Make cool friends who may one day share event tickets, invite you into their buying group, tell you about parties and generally make your Con more fun.
  • Find out which other Cons are making the grade with veteran attendees.
  • Grasp the vivid difference between the SDCC image you probably have and the reality - which can help you decide if you really want to go.

Look into going to a more accessible Con. Non-attendees see all the SDCC celebrities on TV and think that no other Con will do. Those days are over; other Cons can offer a great experience (sometimes better) and help you figure out if Con life is even your scene or not. It's best to find out you're in the "not" camp before investing a small fortune on plane airfare and hotel rooms. Traits like not being able to handle crowds or waiting in line can disqualify you fast, so start with something local.

Set realistic expectations. SDCC badges are sold through a lottery. Demand is so high that your chances are less than 1 in 10 of getting one. If you do get a badge and need to book a hotel room, that's another lottery that leaves many disappointed. You'll be notified of these sales through emails that go to everyone with a Member ID - typically in the spring before the Con.

Did I just suck all the joy out of your Comic-Con anticipation? I didn't mean to. If anything, you can only validly get excited about SDCC once you've committed to the journey. Put the wheels in motion now and next year you'll be glad you did.

Open Registration is 8 April

27 MARCH 2017

No real surprises here; we knew Open Registration wasn't going to be WonderCon weekend or Easter weekend. And we have a healthy amount of advance notice, which means you have time to make arrangements with your buying group, borrow your brother's credit card, and fake a convincing illness for your job.

When we get closer I'll post some crystal-clear advice for first-timers, who often have no idea what they're in for. (You can read this and this and this in the meantime.) Until then, get working on every hoodo spell you know.

8 April: your final reckoning with your San Diego Comic-Con 2017 fate... Until the hotel sale, that is.

Financial reminder about Open Registration

27 MARCH 2017

Open Registration for San Diego Comic-Con is just around the corner. Whether you're trying to upgrade a Returning Reg badge or anticipating your first badge sale ever, your thoughts are probably consumed with the outcome: if you're getting a badge at all.

But there is something else to think about now and that's money. I talked to some first-timers this weekend who were struggling to come up with the price of a Preview Night badge (that's all 4 days plus Preview Night for you neophytes.) They were thinking that IF they get lucky in the sale, they'll have to pay $265. They were not happy when I pointed out that the badge sale lets you buy 3 badges - so whoever gets picked and buys for himself and his 2 friends, will actually have to pay $795.

Credit cards are the only accepted form of payment. Whoever you buy for might Paypal you the money right away, but you'll still need enough room on your cards to get all 3 badges. Conversely, if someone else buys for you, you'll need to have the cash on hand to send them.

So consider this a polite reminder: if you're struggling financially, or have some type of credit/cash flow issue, it's best to get your funds worked out now. CCI does let you fix any card rejection that might occur, but you'll still need to come up with payment within a short window of time. This is the last thing you want to worry about during the sale, when you'll already be anxious - so do what you can now to make sure the money is there.

You made a Member ID account, right?

24 MARCH 2017

Because if you didn't, you can say goodbye to your dream of going to San Diego Comic-Con 2017.

The ability to create new Member ID accounts for SDCC 2017 has been shut down; we know from that Open Registration is nigh. If you never got around to making one, well, there's a reason Victor Kiam said procrastination is opportunity's assassin. Go in and make yours now and get ready for SDCC 2018.

Everyone else - the final round of your Comic-Con badge fate is almost here. 

Early Bird Hotel Sale is on

23 MARCH 2017

If you scored a badge in Returning Registration and you want to spare yourself from entering the hellmouth that is the SDCC hotel sale - then you'll be happy to hear the Early Bird sale is on.

What it is: your chance to book a room now at the hotel of your choosing. The catch: the hotels are not downtown. Most are on the shuttle route and they tend to be reasonably priced, though, so this is a good option if you're not aiming for the Hilton Bayfront. The other catch: you have to pay upfront and it's non-refundable.

As always, I have to recommend the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. It's a quick shuttle ride to the Con (3 miles or so) so you don't have that same stranded feeling you can get out on Hotel Circle. I stayed there in 2005; it didn't impede my social life at all.

I know a lot of you don't have a badge yet, or you're hoping to upgrade in Open Reg - so you don't know if you should jump on this or not. One option is to split the reservation with someone and book just the weekend or Weds/Thurs; then you can still come down, do the outside events if you don't get a badge, and not waste a lot of money. If you do get a full badge, you can look for a downtown hotel for the other days. Or you can book all 4 days and find someone to take over your reservation for you if you get lucky elsewhere.

We all know the hotel sale has become increasingly hellish each year - so don't write this off. I know we all want to stay at the Marriott Marquis, but it's an option for only a tiny percentage of us. If you don't have the stomach for the horror of Hotel Day - Early Bird is your best bet.

ETA: Early Bird typically lasts a few weeks. With Open Reg in early April, it'll probably still be live then, end shortly after the badge sale and be followed by Hotel Day a week or so later. Just my theory.

Interview with Zach Davisson

22 MARCH 2017

Interview time! You may know Zach Davisson from his work for Dark Horse, Drawn and Quarterly, Wayward,his numerous books, and his translations of Shigeru Mizuki. He's an interesting writer for many reasons, but I wanted to talk to him in particular about his ability to pursue a specific passion - in his case, Japan and the supernatural - and turn it into a career. So we talked at Emerald City Comicon about comics, ghosts, the creative life and committing to your passions. Here's what he said.

Let's talk about creativity. You seem to have specific interests. A lot of times, people who want to get work have the attitude of, "I'm a gun for hire and I'll create what you want me to." But you seem to have followed a specific direction about what you want to do creatively.

I was just having this conversation with someone. I curate my material. Like, if I take on a project, it has to be something I'm emotionally involved with. I turn down a lot of work, not necessarily because there's something wrong with it but because it's not me, it's not in my wheelhouse. I'm not going to do a romance comic because I don't think I would do a good job at it, it's not in my skill structure.

So much of working in comics is this lonely life, sitting at a table with a computer; you have to love it. I put a lot of myself into all the work I do. I think it's important that you aren't just a gun for hire, that you're attempting to curate your bookshelf. So when I translate or write something, I think of it as a Zach Davisson Production. Which sounds a little pretentious, but that's how I think of it.

Where does your interest in Japan come from?

When I was like 7 or 8, my mother conned me into going to see the movie Seven Samurai. It was the first time I heard a foreign language spoken and I was fascinated, wondering what it was like inside their heads. This gobbledygook made sense to them and they could think in it.

From then on out, I was fascinated. In my third grade class picture in 1983, I'm wearing this t-shirt that said JAPAN on it. So it's been a fairly lifelong thing for me.

When did you go over and live there?

I was much older - 31, 32. It was one of those things when I'd been trying to study Japanese for a long time and I realized that going to school will only get you so far. If you want to make a commitment, if you want to do it, you have to jump into the deep end of the pool.

So I moved there and it made me realize that stuff I'd seen in America is carefully curated by the publishers. You're not getting a general sample of what's available, you're only getting what the publishers think will sell. So when I moved there, I discovered Shigeru Mizuki who is so omnipresent in Japan. He's a foundational part of the culture, like on a level with Walt Disney or the Brothers Grimm here. But even people who are into manga here have never heard of him. That was a shock. One night I was with a friend and I had too much to drink and I climbed on a table and said I am the one who will bring Shigeru Mizuki to the West! I made this big announcement. And then I got back and went to all these publishers and it took years - but I finally did it.

Let's talk about Wayward.

Wayward was interesting because I always loved American comics as much as I loved Japanese comics. Someone heard that Jim Zub was doing this new comic about supernatural Japan and wanted someone who could be a consultant and maybe write an essay for the first issue. I only knew Jim Zub as doing the comic Skull Kickers, so I was terse in my first response to him: Sure, I'll look at your script.

And it was really well done. It was clear he'd done a lot of research. It impressed the hell out of me. So I wrote him back that not only would I write an essay for his first issue, I would write one for every issue going forward. So I just kind of invited myself onto the team permanently. And we've gotten to be good friends and I think the comic is phenomenal.

Your interest in ghosts - did that start before your interest in Japan? Was it separate or intertwined?

Separate - I've always liked ghostly, spooky stuff. I used to watch this show called In Search Of, I always loved Bigfoot, folklore and the supernatural and Greek myths.

But when I got to Japan, it was like I'd hit the jackpot. Japan has so much folklore and it's a living part of the culture in a way it's not in the West. And the more I explored it, the more I realized a lot of it had never been made available to an English-speaking audience. And I thought again about being a gateway for that work.

Do people get personal with you about their ghost stories?

Yes, totally. I love ghost stories. I tell mine too.

Can you tell one now?

My wife and I lived in a haunted apartment in Japan. In Japan, if your apartment is haunted, it has to be listed as a haunted apartment. It's part of the law and that makes it cheap. So we lived there and it was officially spooky. We'd hear weird noises and so on. We had quite a few ghost experiences.

What do you have coming out in the future?

My next book coming out is about the supernatural cats of Japan. I amassed all this knowledge about cats from Wayward, so I said to my publisher, why don't we do that. Hopefully that's coming out this year.

That sounds incredible. For fans who are into your work, what would you recommend to deepen their knowledge of Japan and other areas?

When it comes to manga and anime, that's a gateway but it's also where a lot of people stop. You can't learn about Japanese culture through manga and anime; that's like trying to learn about American culture through Spider-Man. It's all fake. So my advice is to move beyond that. But don't read pirated stuff - that's bad.

You heard it here, kids. Don't pirate. Last question: what advice do you have on turning your passion into a livelihood?

... Pure willpower. For me, the career I wanted didn't exist.

You'll be rejected multiple, multiple times. I got rejected by every publisher you can think of. If you quit the first time someone says no, or the 10th time, you're in the wrong business. Use the options open to you. I made a website and networked and slowly those "Nos" began to turn into "Yeses". It really takes the first person to take a shot at you and then you have that proven success and you can slowly build on it.

It takes a lot of patience. Someone asked me about this recently, about how long it might take, and I said it took me about 7 years from deciding to be a translator to my first book. I could tell from her face that wasn't the answer she wanted to hear - she wanted to hear "next week."  But this is not a "next week" career.

It takes perseverance, patience and willpower. And talent - if you can't do the work, it doesn't really matter.

Thanks, Zach!