A look back: San Diego Comic-Con in 1973

28 NOVEMBER 2015

Get ready to enter the fourth dimension, because this holiday weekend we're traveling all the way back to San Diego Comic-Con 1973 - a time when Vietnam was going strong, Watergate was still in the news and Led Zeppelin was setting records for concert attendance.

That was when cosplayer Gary Ochs (his cosplayer group is KingCon Costumes) attended his first Comic-Con. He returned in 1991 and has been going ever since. Now he's going to give us his vivid account of what it was like to go to San Diego Comic-Con back before the convention center was even built.

So come with me now to a Comic-Con whose 4-day badge cost $7.50, when you could find yourself eating lunch next to the Star Wars cast in the Sails Pavilion, and you could play an LP record of SDCC panels on your turntable. We even have actual scans of the 1973 SDCC program for your viewing pleasure.

Gary, what inspired you to attend SDCC in 1973? 
We were living in Minnesota at the time and came out that August for a vacation to visit my parents. I discovered in the Escondido daily newspaper, the Times Advocate, that there was a comic convention in San Diego while we were there. 
Borrowing my folks' yellow Ford station wagon, I barreled down there for one day.  I was able to walk right up to to the door, and purchase my badge for that day WITHOUT waiting in line. Although I had been collecting comics on and off ever since I was a kid in the 1950's, I never even knew that a comic convention of any type ever existed. It just sounded like a cool thing to do. The cost to get in for one day was $2.50. The four day badge was $7.50.

Where was it held? 

At the Sheraton Hotel on Harbor Island, across from the airport.   This was the only time it was ever held at the Sheraton.

How many people were there? Rough estimate.
I am going to guess that the attendence was under 500 people, but don't hold me exactly to that number. (Ed. note - Close. Wikipedia says 1K.) It was not crowded at all, and you could freely walk around the floor, and the panel attendance (to the ones I went to) was sparse.  
What did the "Dealers Floor" look like? What kind of things were sold? 
The dealers room was in one of the hotel ballrooms. It consisted of a formation of 3 x 6 tables arranged in a large rectangle.  The dealers and/or artists were on the inside, sitting down and facing out. The attendees just roamed around the outside of the rectangle, gazing at the tables, visiting with the dealers or the artists.
I know that older comics were there, because I purchased several. Couldn't tell you what they were, now. There were some artists there, and I did purchase a copy of a Savage Sword of Conan from Alfredo Alcala, who was one of the interior artists for that series.  I couldn't believe that I actually met an artist, and got his autograph.  There may have been other collectibles, but I am not sure. Mostly comics.

Inside the guide

What was your first panel and what was it like?
I am pretty sure there were two panels that I attended. One was moderated by Roy Thomas, who was a prolific writer for Marvel Comics. He talked about upcoming projects. 
The other was a Hollywood panel promoting a movie that sadly, to my knowledge, was never released.  It was to star Sybil Danning (a famous Hollywood B action star in the 70's) as a character known as Black Diamond. I believe she was a spy or cat burglar.  Ms. Danning was actually there, and the audience was so amazed to see a famous person there. The room probably could have held 50 - 75 people, but it was only about half full. 
Several years ago, I met her at the Autograph area under the Sails at the Convention Center at Comic-Con, and actually got her autograph.  She remembered her earlier appearance!
On a day other than when I attended, I do know that Ray Bradbury was there for a panel. 

When you went back in 1991, what were the biggest differences? The type of attendees? The Exhibit Hall? The panels?
There was such a night and day difference, going in 1991. Of course, I could say the same thing about what SDCCI has currently evolved into.  
1991 was the first year the show was held, I believe, in the San Diego Convention Center. You just showed up in a line, waited about 20 minutes, and bought your badge for the day.
The convention floor DID NOT take up the entire convention center. That didn't happen until later probably after 2000. The attendees in 1973 were mostly male, can't remember much of a family presence. And I do not remember any costumes. By 1991, there were both attendees of all ages and genders.  Some families. But it still wasn't very crowded, and you could easily walk down the aisles of the convention floor space.  
There was much more variety in the dealers. Collectibles. Black market copies of video discs. Sword and knife dealers, air soft guns. Much larger variety of program panels. 
During the early 1990's, I would attend usually just on Saturdays, and I would try to sit in on at least one Marvel and one DC panel. It was not uncommon for them to distribute copies of comics and/or posters for the attendees of their panels. It wasn't until after the year 2000 that I started going multiple days. And it was cool that you could walk up to a kiosk (waiting time 1 -2 minutes) and purchase your badge for the following year. 
Back in the 1990's, it never dawned on me that there were photo opportunities everywhere. Artists, writers, Hollywood stars and/or directors, cosplayers (although that term didn't evolve for years to come) were all there.  One year, I was having lunch under the Sails area, and at the table next to me were a number of the Star Wars actors, including THE Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Chewy.  Mostly, they were just regular folks, clowning around and there was no pile up of attendees around them. Of course, no camera!!!!  Back then we didn't have our cell phones to snap selfies every two seconds.  Even digital cameras didn't exist in the 90's. There were some costumes out on the floor, but not like today.

 Thursday's program in 1973. Memberships were up to 414 by 9 am!

What are the biggest changes you've noticed since 1991?  
Since 1991, the largest change is the difficulty in obtaining badges.  I have been very fortunate to have gone continuously since 1991, but it hasn't always been easy. And of course the crowds. Going from maybe 10,000 people to over 130,000 is pretty intense.  You used to be able to walk easily on the hall floor.  Or in the lobby.  Even on the sidewalk out in front of the convention center. And the Gaslamp District or spillage into the nearby hotels or even into Horton Plaza?? Nonexistent.  
And of course, the steady evolution of panels being dominated by Hollywood.  It was so easy to get into the panel rooms. For many years, I would show up on Friday or Saturday morning at 6 AM, and I was one of the first 25 people in line. For many years, it was easy to be in the first 5 - 10 rows in either Ballroom 20 or later, Hall H.  Now you practically have to camp out days in advance.  
And the steady grow of Cosplay is pretty cool.  My wife and I, along with several friends, have been doing Cosplay since 2005.  We custom build our costumes, but the state of the art in the beginning was pretty primitive.  Now, we see some very, very professional costumes that have taken people months and large sums of money.  We have probably ourselves crafted over 35 costumes and have been lucky to have been in the San Diego Union Tribune three times over the years.  

What do you miss most about the old days? And what do you love most about the new days?
I miss the ability to walk freely through the convention halls, going from one end to the other. Now it is very difficult to even make it through every aisle, from one end to the other.  I also miss the ability to get into the Hall H panels so easily.  And I miss the ease of purchasing badges.  
But I do love the diversity of the new days. The spillage into the Gaslamp District, the neighboring hotels, and and along the Harbor Drive.  And the diversity of the Hollywood panels. There truly is something for everyone. Artist Alley has really grown. And I have made many friends with dealers in the Silver and Gold Age aisles that I have seen over the years.  
And I also enjoy the greater access to information, whether it is the evolving Facebook and Toucan blog sites of SDCCI, or the independent blogs like www.comicconguide.com.  Also the phone apps are great.

Joan Crawford at Comic-Con!

Any other thoughts or things that surprise today's attendees?

Several thoughts. One, I wish the City of San Diego would increase its focus on enlarging the San Diego Convention Center.  Instead of trying to build a football stadium that only gets used a handful of times a year, look at the amount of growth the city would enjoy with an enlarged convention center that can be used all year long.  SDCCI has been trying out both Anaheim and now LA for WonderCon.  Do we really think that is so innocent a use?  They could have gone back to the San Francisco Moscone Center years ago.  And it was a great location. 

If San Diego can't find room for the Comic-Con, I am afraid that it could leave San Diego. And I feel that to be a shame, because part of the growth and success of this show has been the great synergy with the city.  IF San Diego can't fit an expansion into their near term picture, it would be great if the SDCCI organizers might focus on perhaps hosting the show over multiple weekends.  Or bring WonderCon as a four day event in the spring to San Diego.  Why travel to Anaheim or LA?

Although the show has evolved over the course of time, it still rings true to the evolving nature of the cultural arts. The show might never have achieved such growth and success, if it had only stayed true to the comic roots.  And now people all over San Diego County know about Comic-Con. People that I would never have guessed are big fans of the show.

Some are just thrilled to come down to San Diego just to people watch. And there are many activities that do not require a badge. Think of several years ago, when Warner Bros. brought in all the Batmobiles.  And Kevin Bacon and the Fabulous Bacon Brothers gave a dynamite concert for free (to literally anyone who walked by, just outside the Convention Center and the Bayfront Hilton.)

Over the years, I have changed my tactics in enjoying the show. Since 2002, I have taken thousands of digital photos of the show. And hundreds of hours of video footage, many of the Hollywood panels. I have started working on a history of sorts of the SDCCI, including hundreds of articles and print media mentions of the convention.  I have convention programs from the years I attended, but I have started working on filling the gaps.  I just recently picked up a copy of the 1979 program.  Now I only have 1970 and 1972 to complete my program collection. 

Oh, and did you know that in one of the very early years, there was a published (and no, I don't have it) LP recording of some of the panels at the Comic-Con? There actually is a link somewhere on the internet, that has a audio playback of the record. Amazing!!

 Amazing, indeed. Thanks for sharing your memories, Gary! It's fascinating to hear about how SDCC has changed over the years - and inspiring to know it's kept the same essential magic for more than 40 years.

Pro applications & other ECCC updates

17 NOVEMBER 2015

We've had another burst of Emerald City news, both for attendees and pros.

Pro half table applications are open. If you're wondering what a half table is, it means you get 3 feet of a 6 foot table in Artist Alley. You also get access to discounted hotel rooms for exhibitors and an Artist Alley badge. Deadline: 5 pm PST on 11 December.

Professional applications are also open. This is for entry to the show and includes "the full spectrum of the Pop Culture industries." Which, practically speaking, is huge so it helps that they list these categories: librarians, writers, producers, publishers, licensers, artists, buyers, editors, creators and retailers. The deadline here is 11:59 pm PST on 26 February but they caution you to apply early - once these badges are gone, they're gone.

Minion information (volunteering) will be posted soon.

The ECCC team wants to know which fandoms should be represented at ECCC for meetups, so go ahead and tell them on Tumblr.

And as a reminder: you can still keep requesting the celebrity and comic guests you want to see. Just check to see if they've already been requested.

The 10 stupidest things your friends say after you lose out in an SDCC badge sale

15 NOVEMBER 2015

  1. Can't you just go to one of the other Cons? They have them everywhere.
  2. That is such a first-world problem.
  3. If you don't get a ticket this year, you'll get in next year. No big deal.
  4. Why would you want to be with all those nerds anyway? Eww.
  5. I heard it sucks anyhow, what with all the lines. 
  6. It's too commercial/popular/Hollywood anyhow. I don't know any real nerds who still go.
  7. I know how you feel, I didn't get tickets to Bon Iver.
  8. Haven't you already been like 7 times? Maybe it's time to let new people go.
  9. You're still into comic books and action figures and that stuff? Still?
  10. Wow, all my other friends got Preview Night badges right away.

If you didn't get a badge yesterday, you possibly woke up today in a black cloud of misery and resentment. Which is completely understandable. And it has nothing to do with knowing that at least half of everyone would get shut out, and that you can try again in Open Reg - it's about feeling that incredible disbelief and then emptiness as the badge sale ends. It feels almost like a rejection, even though you know it was a randomized lottery. Don't let anyone trivialize your feelings today. If San Diego Comic-Con is emotionally important to you, it just is and that's fine.

I will gently point out that even though you do have another shot a few months down the road, it's a fine time to look at other Cons. Are you a comic book fan? You can still get 3 out of 4 days at Emerald City. Read all my fawning ECCC posts and see if you'd want to hit up a Con that in many ways is more hip, fun and nerdy than SDCC. Think about going to NYCC in the fall. Or DragonCon in late summer. Or even SDCC's adversary Salt Lake Comic Con. I truly believe all of us should look outside the SDCC box at this point.

Because, and I'm going to say it like I see it here, Open Registration could be a major nightmare this year. It kind of was last year, in terms of the odds against getting a badge. And I think there's a strong chance that we will see a flood of scalpers this year. You still have a shot at a badge and I counsel you to do whatever you need to do to prepare, but at the same time I want to be honest about what could be awaiting us. Still participate; but also look into other Cons and try to make room in your heart for a 2016 without SDCC. Or maybe you'll come to San Diego anyhow, do Nerd HQ and all the parties and make it work.

Either way, there is life after San Diego Comic-Con. You just have to search it out.

Oh, and #1, 3 and 9 above were said to me yesterday by my dad during the sale. I barked at him like a rabid dog in response. Do the same to anyone who dares to shame you about caring about San Diego Comic-Con.

Thoughts on Pre-reg

14 NOVEMBER 2015

So how did everyone do?

I currently have Schrodinger's badge; the system says someone bought one for me but I can't find anyone who will admit to it. I do have screenshots, however.  (ETA: It turns out that after telling someone my badge was already bought, the system then kicked out another person and let me go through. Seriously, there's no end to the tech weirdness that can occur during a badge sale.)

Here's how it went in my world: a long period of nothingness, and then suddenly some people started getting in right after they announced Preview Night sold out. Others - slightly more than half - got nothing at all. Not even Sunday. It was very feast or famine.

I didn't see too many reports of glitches. Overall, it was a smooth sale, once we got past the waiting room bounces. And although that initial period of waiting was nerve-wracking, I kind of liked that it took a little longer than last year.

If you did get shut out and you're cursing the Comic-Con heavens, try to look toward Open Registration. I know it's a long ways away but you do have a second shot at a badge, and you're no worse off than the general public. (Hardly comforting, I know.) If it helps, last year everyone in my world upgraded between Pre-reg and Open Reg; I went from Thursday-Sunday to Preview Night. So no, it's not a lost cause. San Diego Comic-Con 2016 is still a possibility for you.

If you only got Sunday, or Thursday/Sunday, I'll repost from last year my reasons for still going:
Why You Should Go to Comic-Con Even Only for 1 Day
Thursday/Sunday Split 

Again, these sale days are draining for all of us, whether you scored a major victory, got nothing, or are floating in Badge Purgatory like me. So be good to yourself today and start making plans - either for Comic-Con get-togethers or your Open Reg buying group.

Welcome to Pre-registration

14 NOVEMBER 2015


And we're done. Pre-registration is sold out.


It took a long time to get started, then went fast. Someone bought me a badge and I have no idea who.

Currently only Sunday & a few Thursdays are left.


Preview Night has sold out.


FYI, your badge that you may or may not get will ship out 4 weeks before the Con.


Last Pre-reg at this time, they'd already announced Preview Night was running low. I do think they slowed it down. Accidentally or on purpose, who knows.


No one I know has gotten in yet. Is this sale moving slower than last year? Let's hope so.


It's about to begin. I'm controlling a few laptops & Member IDS so I'll update what I can when I can. If you hear or encounter something, feel free to share.


Okay, it's almost here. Are you settled in with a drink and your phone? Did you check your screen settings? Do you have all the relevant Member IDs and last names at hand?


"We are actively researching technical issues you may be experiencing. We will try to update you here as we continue."

Thanks, yellow bar of failure and mediocrity.


So it looks like a lot of us are getting bumped out of the waiting room. This is a bit unnerving because:
1) it's a smaller group of people than Open Reg
2) nothing in this part of the process has changed. So how did the system get worse?


Already had one snafu - was told I wasn't authorized to enter. I did it again and got in again. None of this did anything for my confidence.

Everyone else getting in okay?

8:03 a.m.

It's here. Are we ready?

I'm hung up trying to get into the waiting room. Not an auspicious start.

It's Pre-reg Eve. Are we ready?

13 NOVEMBER 2015

Good luck, everyone. I won't tell you to get a good night's sleep because realistically quite a few of us will probably wake up consumed with anxiety at various points of the night and dawn.

I'll admit I feel strangely confident about tomorrow. (Last year I was full of foreboding and indeed got only Thursday/Sunday, so maybe I'm tuned into the badge sale on some metaphysical/time slip level.) That said, the reality is most of us won't get what we want - either because we only get a few days or because we get nothing at all.

If that's you, please remember you have another shot in Open Registration. Also remember that there is so much to do outside the Con now (Conan tapings, Nerd HQ, the various events and activations) that skipping a day or two inside the convention center may ultimately be even more enjoyable than a 4 day badge. I feel like a cheap hypocrite saying that because I do want a Preview Night badge, but it's true.

And finally, be good to yourself tomorrow if this doesn't go the way you want. It's easy to be detached and philosophical about a badge sale in advance (see my preceding paragraph) but when you're in it, the stress is ungodly. Try to have some kind of consolation prize at hand.

Talk to you tomorrow.

Working out your Pre-reg nerves through preparation

13 NOVEMBER 2015

Happy Friday the 13th. It'll all be over with 24 hours from now; our anxiety, our misplaced confidence, our inability to focus on anything else. If your stomach is in knots and a premonitory chill creeps down your spine whenever you look at your CCI email, you're in good company.

There's nothing worse than pre-badge sale jitters (okay, the actual badge sale is probably worse) and one solid way to cope with that is by checking your system and running through the whole process. Even if you've done every online Pre-registration before this (it was onsite until a few years ago) you might still benefit from reviewing their handy tutorial. The Toucan blog also published a reminder of all the tech specs to keep in mind, such as:

  • Use mobile devices at your own risk. (I've known them to work for people and I did access a waiting room on my iPad last Open Reg. But I generally stick to laptops.)
  • Adjust your power save settings.
  • Use a separate browser for each session and make sure it's Safari, Chrome, Firefox, IE or Edge.
  • No refreshing or back button-ing.
  • You have Javascript and cookies enabled. "Of course I do, this isn't my first badge sale," you say. Test your device anyhow.

Remember that if you get bounced out of the system, you can log back in via your registration number and be placed again with your original group.

Also remember if you're in a buying group, don't shut your waiting room when you hear someone got you a badge. Stay in the system so you can buy for other people.

I'll repeat my advice on buying Sunday and the Thursday-Sunday split: just go for it, even if you're feeling bitter about not getting all 4 days. See my earlier posts for reasons why.

The sale will probably go very fast. CCI's example shows someone getting a Preview Night badge after waiting for 20 minutes, but in last year's actual Pre-reg, PN was almost sold out by 9:20. As I noted, I got in right as they said Saturday was running low and yet somehow both Saturday and Friday vanished in the seconds it took to select my days. It went that fast. The whole sale was done in less than an hour. This can feel extremely unfair if you don't get anything, but I think the days of two hour sales were more nerve-wracking.

Given the changes in the badge distribution process, make sure you're ready to mail out badges to strangers - and not just by stuffing it in an envelope and sticking a bunch of stamps on it. Most people I've talked to are willing to pay for certified mail, Priority mail, anything with tracking, and that's probably the best idea for people on both ends of the transaction. That way everyone has proof of the mailing and transparency into the badge's journey.

I'll be live-blogging the sale as always. Stay strong.

Do you want to host an ECCC panel?

12 NOVEMBER 2015

Amidst all this SDCC Pre-reg drama swirling around, Emerald City has been slowly emitting micro-announcements on guests. We're now expecting comic guests who've worked on indie titles and books from DC and Marvel - hi, Fiona Staples, Chris Burnham, Alex de Campi, Faith Erin Hicks, Terry Moore and so many others - and entertainment guests from The Flash, iZombie, Once Upon a Time, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and more. Given that we're still 5 months away from the Con, this bodes well.

But there's something important that isn't getting quite as much attention - the opportunity to host your own Emerald City panel. You don't have to be famous; fans are welcome to apply. (Of course there's no guarantee you'll be accepted.) Benefits include complimentary admission to ECCC, possible professional prestige and promotion, and the opportunity to make friends with fans who share your passion. And don't think that a fan panel is doomed to low attendance. Some have been standing room only.

Obviously this isn't something as easily accomplished at monster Cons like NYCC and SDCC, so it's worth looking into if there's a panel you'd really like to host or see. Think not just about your topic but moderators, panelists, your presentation style and start reaching out now to see if people are interested. Yes, that could include your favorite cult figure or niche artist.  They might love a panel in their honor and be willing to come bask in some fan adoration. If there's one thing Cons are beloved for, it's the panels dedicated to very specific, often obscure fandoms. What have you got to lose by asking?

That said, if you've only attended panels before, as opposed to sitting on or leading them, you might think it looks pretty easy - essentially sitting in a chair and talking about your work or something that interests you. It actually requires a number of skills: being engaging, managing time, communicating appropriately with the audience, fighting stage fright, corralling panelists who go awry and being able to improvise when the discussion dies 20 minutes sooner than you thought it would.

That isn't to intimidate you out of doing it, but rather to say that you should take it seriously and prepare if this type of thing is new to you. Most of us who've been to a small Con have sat through (or walked out of) a horribly-managed panel. No one wants to have their precious Comic-Con time wasted, so practice until you're confident about your panel game.

The deadline for applications is 7 January at 5:00 pm PST. Good luck.

CCI addresses our scalper questions

12 NOVEMBER 2015

And our international ones too. Are we feeling more confident now?

Eh. Let's start with the international questions. If you're a nerd from a distant land, but you're in a buying group with American friends, you can have all your badges shipped to someone here in the States. Which begs the question: why were we told to update our Member ID addresses when obviously we can enter in any shipping address we please? Anyhow, that's the deal.

Onto the problem of scalpers. Okay, so CCI didn't reveal a high-tech master plan to defeat them once and for all. Instead they said the main problem with scams and scalpers is counterfeit badges - so that's why it's so crowded now on Preview Night! - and that this will eliminate that. No more counterfeit nerds taking the seat that should have been rightfully yours in Hall H.

They also said that the Member ID system and the "high level of demand" makes it hard for scalpers to obtain more than a couple of badges. My response: the Member ID system is ripe for exploitation as you can create all the fake profiles you want; while each scalper might only be able to obtain a few badges, that multiplied by thousands of scalpers is still a problem; the black market will thrive. But I'm sure their usual spy team will try to ferret those badges out and turn them off. Anyhow, I'm expecting an uglier Open Reg than usual.

Also worth noting - there is no "line" anymore during badge sales. (Remember the year when we all had numbers telling us where we stood? That was fun.) We're all randomly plucked out of the waiting room and put into groups and then randomly selected from those groups. Just writing this makes my stomach clench.

It's Thursday and the clock is ticking down the minutes to zero nerd hour. I hope you're ready. I'll post more Pre-reg advice later but I think you all know the drill by now.

What do the changes mean?

11 NOVEMBER 2015

In addition to the usual pre-Pre-registration turmoil, we've been given a lot to think about since yesterday. 3 main changes seem to be stirring up the SDCC citizenry:

1) the RFID badges
2) the badges being mailed out to the buyer only
3) the price increase


Here's what I feel about the increase: nothing. I know some of you are on a tight budget and if this is going to rock your world, I am genuinely sorry. But it's a difference of what, $5 a day? And that's a small increase considering that CCI keeps expanding with new spaces at other facilities, they're continually trying to improve things for us (I know it doesn't always seem like it but they are) and we're now getting RFID badges. I remember when the whole show cost under $100. Things change. And it's not like CCI is lining their pockets; they've always been vociferous about trying to keep the Con affordable for everyone.

Onto RFID.

If you've never been to an event that uses this type of badge, it's just a way of electronically storing data within your badge, like microchipping your cat or dog. No, it doesn't mean that CCI will be tracking your movements through the Con, recording your panel attendance and embarrassing failure at Star Trek trivia. Many events that do track entry and exit separate your personal data (name, address, etc) from your demographic data (gender, age) simply to better understand attendee preferences.

If you're a privacy advocate and general watcher of Big Data culture, you might be annoyed that SDCC has gone this route. But I'm guessing most of us are thinking about scalpers. Is there really anything to stop them from moving into Open Reg en masse, equipped with an army of fake Member IDs and laptops, then selling those badges off at sky-high prices?

We know CCI has some kind of black ops team that cracks down on fraud, but I'm sure they'll be taking additional measures to prevent scalping. Mailing badges out at the last minute? Well, it can't be too last minute, because they're aware that many of us will then be mailing those badges a second time to the people we bought for.  And there's nothing to stop scalpers from targeting San Diego locals who don't need a hotel room reservation.

Will they check IDs? They already do but on a very limited basis; they might go through a Hall H line, say, and randomly check IDs while people are waiting (they can bring up the data from the badge with the right gizmo) and hope the threat of permanent banishment is enough to stop people from buying fake badges. (Though I don't think any threat will stop that.)

So that's a bit of a question mark right now. Pre-reg is somewhat more secure; every Member ID eligible is tied to a specific individual who attended the show. But Open Registration is a different story.

Mailing Badges

AKA "Advance Fulfillment." I'm still all about this, though the weird twist CCI threw at us has dimmed my ardor slightly. Whoever buys the badges during Pre-reg will have all 3 (or however many they bought) mailed to them. And since Comic-Con is a world where people who've never met correspond daily and trust each other with their money and SDCC futures, that means many of us will either be receiving and mailing out badges to people we've never met, or trusting them to do the same.

Yes, it's weird. Yes, it would be easier if CCI would just mail each badge to the physical address associated with that Member ID. Probably some of you would prefer to go back to the old way of picking them up onsite. (Though let's admit that eliminating Town & Country & its parking situation is a nice bonus.)

But I don't think anyone should be too skittish about this. The person paying still takes the lion's share of the risk. If your buyer never mails out your badge? You can contact CCI and have that badge turned inactive, and pick up a new one at the Con. On the whole, though, you are entrusting this other person to mail your badge properly - get the address right, buy the right postage, etc.  Again, it adds another layer of anxiety to the whole process.

Hopefully the changes haven't unsettled everyone too much. Personally I'm more worried about a system glitch than any of the above. That said, today and tomorrow are opportune times to talk to people in your buying group and see how everyone feels about the changes. Maybe someone doesn't want to be responsible for mailing out badges; maybe you have international people who won't be able to mail them out; maybe your lineup will change slightly because someone no longer wants their badges in the hands of a stranger.

In the meantime, think positive thoughts about Saturday. I'll post more tips on Pre-reg later.

Pre-reg will be this Saturday morning, 14 November

10 NOVEMBER 2015

The date is finally here: San Diego Comic-Con 2016 Pre-registration will be this Saturday, 14 November, at 9 am PST.

This was the expected date at this point so no surprises there. Still, the actual announcement unleashed a flotilla of butterflies in my stomach and probably yours too.

(Again, this is only for 2015 attendees. Everyone else, you can stop reading.)

And we do have some changes to mull over, so let's break them down. But first, if you were a 2015 first-timer and Open Reg was your first sale, be assured you won't have to master an entirely new system; Pre-reg and Open Reg will be pretty similar.

Now about those changes.
  • We're getting RFID badges. I love this. One, I love the fact that CCI is willing to change; if you're new to these parts, you won't appreciate it so much, but traditionally they've moved like a dinosaur in a tarpit. CCI is really stepping up their game lately. And two, it's just the practical way to go. So, RFID - all about it.
  • Yes, our badges will be mailed to us in advance - IF we're in the US. International nerds, you will have to pick yours up in person. Which brings us to....
  • Badges will be mailed to the buyer. Which has huge implications for buying groups. If your buying group is comprised of online friends who live hither and yon, now the trust contract goes both ways - the buyer to trust they'll be paid; the bought-for people to trust the buyer will mail out the badges. 
  • Prices went up. I'm bracing myself for the complaints but I still think SDCC pricing is incredibly reasonable given everything you enjoy access to.
  • Child badges also need to be picked up in person. 
  • The waiting room can be entered only an hour in advance this time.
  • There's a nonsensical feature where you can "remove" badges from your shopping cart. Who are these people that get to that point in the process and think "Eh, maybe not"? CCI's example features a last-minute phone call where Clark Kent decides to go to a show instead of Comic-Con but the idea of anyone pausing their Pre-reg process to answer their phone is insane. The methodology here is to grab what you can and worry about refunds later.

The Process

CCI put together a comprehensive Pre-reg walk-through, which I'd advise reviewing. It's pretty close to before BUT again this time you'll only log into the EPIC waiting room an hour in advance. That's 8 am PST.  You'll enter your special registration code (sent to you in email but also found in your Member ID account) to get in.

Beginning at 9 am, you'll be "randomly sorted" with everyone else into line. This is where you'll slowly go mad from the spinning blue circle and CCI's awkward nerd jokes. You'll watch in fury and disbelief as the system tells you "Preview Night/Saturday/Friday/etc badges are running low." Eventually you'll get in - or you won't.

Like before, you'll be able to enter the Member IDs of up to 3 people - but only 2015 attendees. Those other friends who created a Member ID account but didn't actually go to SDCC 2015 can't get a badge Saturday. (I know this is a bitter pill for those of you who have a new soulmate or best friend you want to bring next summer.)

Just like before, you'll check the days you want. If you're lucky enough to check Preview Night, that automatically checks every other box. Then you'll pay via credit card AND enter your shipping address - and then you'll heave a huge sigh of relief, knowing that you are among the first in the world to be a confirmed San Diego Comic-Con 2016 attendee.

In short, it will be like buying your 2015 badge, whether you got it from Pre-reg or Open Reg.


Screenshot everything relevant. Even if you don't encounter a glitch, screenshot anyway. If nothing else, you'll enjoy looking at your confirmation screenshot while you wait for your confirmation email.

Ignore wild rumors of sold-out categories on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. It's official when CCI says so.

Don't storm off in a huff when Saturday or Preview Night or whatever sells out. Even if only Sunday is left - buy the badge. You can always turn it in for a refund later. Even one day at Comic-Con is better than sitting at home in a snit. The Thursday-Sunday split has more to offer than you'd think. And you can always upgrade during Open Reg.

If you're in a buying group, you may encounter this: you enter a Member ID only to be told that a badge has already been purchased for that person. If so, accept it and move on to the next person you're buying for. Don't stop and text or message your comrades for confirmation. You'll waste valuable time. Just complete your purchase.

Also be aware that the more elaborate you get with your buying group, the more potential there is for someone to mess up. Every sale I hear about someone who slipped through the cracks while all their friends got badges, due to a misunderstanding about who was buying for who in what order. Be very precise and be sure everyone has identical marching orders.

If you're not in a buying group but would like to be, you can either form your own by asking around on social or try to join one already in existence. Be prepared to demonstrate some kind of credibility/identity, since you may be asking a complete stranger to pay for your badge up front - and you'll be trusting them to mail your badge to you. I had 3 people drop out of mine so I'm willing to take a few more people - email me if interested.

Finally, I'll say what I say every badge sale and suggest leaving your Saturday open to recover from the stress. Unless you're a Zen master, SDCC badges can hit hard, draining your adrenals and scrambling your mental state. Maybe you'll be reeling from the shock of getting totally shut out; maybe you'll want to celebrate a 4-day badge. Either way, it's good to leave time open to regroup and indulge yourself.

I'll share more advice over the coming days. For now, get organized and try not to be too nervous. This is only Round 1. If the worst happens and you come up empty-handed on Saturday, you'll have another shot in Open Registration.

: I've had 2 questions about the whole "buyer gets the badges" thing. I'll post my thoughts on this later but I do want to point out that since the badges are RFID, you have the power to have your badge "turned off" if for some reason you paid the buyer and he/she never mailed them out. Then you can pick up your new badge onsite. I'll talk more about this later.

Where, oh where, is our Pre-reg email?


So many questions.

  • Did the whole "you may need to have a valid physical address to complete your purchase" thing involve an update to the system? Please god let there not be some new disaster-glitch that'll torpedo the whole thing.
  • People are reporting that the Member ID page was inaccessible earlier today. What does that mean?
  • CCI says "We will post helpful preregistration tips and information in the weeks preceding preregistration." Rather than take this literally, I'm guessing they meant "days," as in one or two. Right?
  • Would they really give us just one day's notice? Is it a strategy to cull the herd? Or have they decided to give us more notice than usual and will soon announce Pre-reg is on the 14th?
  • Does CCI enjoy tormenting us?

I think it's still possible (but unlikely) that Pre-reg will be Saturday morning. While they usually say we'll be given at least 48 hours notice, the Pre-reg page and our August emails didn't say anything of the kind. We could get an email tonight or tomorrow morning.

But mostly likely it will be the 14th, which is disappointing. I think most of us have been working ourselves into the right frame of mind for this Saturday; waiting another week feels anticlimactic. And on a personal note, my parents will be visiting, which is going to completely disturb my badge sale mojo.

The 21st would probably be even worse for a lot of people, as it's the Saturday before Thanksgiving and people will be traveling that weekend. Ditto the following weekend. So really that leaves the 14th and... December. CCI doesn't want to ruin Star Wars month, right?

If for some reason they did run into technical difficulties with the address update or some other change, then Pre-reg could be delayed indeed. We'll just have to wait. In the meantime, keep your eyes on your inbox.