Going to San Diego Comic-Con 2020

19 JULY 2019


This might seem like an odd moment to direct your attention to next year - but there's a good reason for it. Two, actually.

If you're kind of new to SDCC but going this year:
  • Note the different hotels so they're not just names on a list, but you know where they are and the restaurants and advantages they contain.
  • Make friends. Look for people in your fandoms but also look for people from your hometown. (Your comic shops, cosplay and fan organizations and local Con will know people as well.) Assemble your SDCC tribe for future badge sales and teamwork.
  • Chat up other attendees and find out what they're excited about. Expand your awareness of Con possibilities and file them away for next year.
  • Figure out what doesn't work for you so you remember to avoid it next year. Maybe you don't need to go all 4 days or maybe you're not suited for major commitment lines. This is good - it frees you up for fresh terrain next year.

If you're brand new and interested in going to Comic-Con next year:
These are the days when complete outsiders watch all the SDCC coverage and decide that they're going next year, goddammit! If this is you, I'm not kidding when I tell you to start preparing now. Open Registration (where you'll try to buy a badge for next summer) could be this fall.

You'll want to:
  • Create a Member ID. You'll need a separate ID for anyone who's going with you. Only people with Member IDs can participate in the badge sales.
  • Get active in the online SDCC community. Study up on all the advice (there's a lot) and talk to veterans who can steer you into actual attendance. Build relationships. Connections make the SDCC world go round.
  • Accept that you may not go to the full 2020 show - and may not go at all. People do get shut out. But if you get even a partial badge, definitely go. You'll find plenty of offsite action on the days you don't have a badge.
  • Investigate a more local Con. Some people think SDCC is the cat's pajamas and that's fine, but it's not the only Con in the world. If you've never been to one, start with a local Con in your neck of the woods.

Good luck! We'll be staring Returning Registration's spinning blue circle in the face before we know it. As Virgil said, time flies, never to be regained - which is why SDCC badges go to those of us who watch the calendar.

How's your Comic-Con going?

19 JULY 2019

It's Friday, which many consider the best day of this year's Comic-Con. Whether you agree or not, you can't deny there is a lot to do.

Hall H offers your final Game of Thrones panel, the Walking Dead, The Witcher, Dark Crystal and more. Ballroom 20 has Veronica Mars, Amazon's The Boys and Carnival Row, and Indigo Ballroom is an animation feast. Spending your entire day in one of these rooms is an excellent plan.

But there's a lot going on otherwise. Plenty of cosplay panels at the Marriott, a smattering of comic panels. In the late afternoon, things get very interesting:

  • Parks and Rec take over the Horton, followed by Nathan Fillion
  • Creepshow freaks out horror fans
  • A trio of LGB panels bring in the evening
  • NASA's hunt for alien life, monsters and Ray Harryhausen fill up 26AB from 4:30 to 7:30

And then tonight Hush makes its debut in Ballroom 20 with 2 showings at 7:15 and 9:30.

Now. Let's assess the Con we've already had. The biggest issue: line failures. I'm not talking about the recurring messy issues that happen every year, but some serious chaos that has taken place within the Exhibit Hall, outside the convention center, on shuttles and everywhere else. Volunteers and staff losing control of their lines, attendees left to bake in the sun without anyone notifying them of changes, and worse. Are there new strategies in place this year that sounded good in theory but are horrible in reality? Were staff not trained well? Many experienced attendees who know the difference between a typical line complaint and a more serious one are asking.

Quote from one current press pro and former attendee: "This is my 9th Comic-Con and it is by far the most disorganized. Entry, lines, buses and more. Makes me think that new people took over. Seems nobody has thought much through."

And yesterday I was with 2 people who've come since 1996 (!) and someone else who's been around about as long as I have (2002) - in short, we're hardened attendees who've seen some serious SDCC scandals and horrorshows in our time. And we were taken aback by some of yesterday's bewildering line fails.

I also want to bring up first-timers. I had the impression that this wasn't a big year for them but I was wrong; I keep running into them at least. Their collective impression - or my impression of their impression, rather:

  • They feel they can't get into anything because of the lines. So let me say here - most lines are natural and manageable. It doesn't mean a panel is impossible to access, it just means you have to wait a bit. Make a list of your priorities and check on the line. You may need to wait 2 hours or 30 minutes or not at all. Please don't give up on your desired panels because there's a line for it.
  • They're not checking the programming. Instead many seem to be just walking around, dazzled by the sights, but ultimately not sure what they're supposed to be doing. Two girls I met didn't even read their SDCC guide or check online for panels or events. They were aware of Hall H and offsites and that's it.
  • Some of them are too cautious for their own good. The 2 girls I met were so afraid of "getting in trouble" that they were freaked out by staff ushering them away from celebrities at booths and didn't understand which exits, escalators, etc. they could take or what they were "allowed" to do. Here's the thing: you need to advocate for your own interests at Comic-Con. You can't be timid or passive. My advice is to go for what you want and if someone official says "no," then you can turn back, but don't be paralyzed by confusion and fear. As Danton said, Boldness, boldness again and always boldness. 
  • Other first-timers I met seem to have come here with zero clue about SDCC reality. The crowds, the lines, the walking. I feel like even cursory research about SDCC would yield these mentions, but apparently you don't know what you don't know so they didn't think they needed to do research. Now they know.

(Remember, if you're a first-timer - I want your story.)

As far as programming and panels and events: seems to be a typical year. Some attendees are thrilled, others feel it's a more humdrum Con. I ran into some very old comic nerd friends who shared my sentiment that this is not a year for comic fans. The Exhibit Hall doesn't seem to be igniting anyone's consumer passions. Offsites: I still don't know anyone personally who went through Amazon but did hear a good report from Pennyworth's club offsite. The Fandom party was supposedly good. I think by tomorrow morning we'll have a stronger sense of how things are shaking out.

Today's going to be a long one for me but I'll report what I can. Enjoy your day and make the most of the splendor around you.

Preview Night report

17 JULY 2019

The night we've been anticipating for - well, a year - has come and gone. San Diego Comic-Con 2019 blazed into life tonight and it was pretty much business as usual.

Preview Night opened its doors slightly earlier than usual, which was nice. What wasn't: the lack of line information. As everyone walked down toward G, they gradually realized they were already in line - or assumed so at least. It wouldn't have taken much to post a few people along the way to confirm that, but instead people kept asking each other, "is this a line? Should we turn around? How does far the other line go? Is this the same line as those people?"

Though it's year 50 for SDCC, you could be forgiven for mistaking this for any other year. The same booths, the same vendors, the same stuff you bought last year. I showed up ready to shop but spent little; some people expressed the same lack of interest while others were clutching deeply prized things.

Lines moved slowly - as they usually do. Miscommunications and inconveniences abounded, but no more than usual. One guy got so belligerent in the Hasbro line that he was escorted out of the convention center. I know tempers flare in these situations, but really - you fight for a Preview Night badge, wait months for Comic-Con, then get thrown out in under an hour? Not worth it.

I managed to make a cursory pass through every aisle, but mostly got stuck at certain points for long periods of time. My badge also didn't work (which none of the staffers noticed, oddly) so I spent some time at the RFID help desk in lobby A. Mercury Retrograde, I guess.

I thought the Exhibit Hall was reasonably spacious and the right temperature - both past challenges.

Pilot reports: didn't see them but heard that Batwoman was typical CW fare and Pennyworth was impressive - "all actors well cast and talented."  What did you think?

ScareDiego looked really fun and earned glowing reports from people who went. Having experienced Preview Night, I think ScareDiego was the better evening. A bigger time commitment, but fun.

Overall I think Preview Night continues to be worth it mostly for its fresh shopping. You'll have a much easier time getting what you (or your friends) want, and it's great to snatch up everything on your list in 1 night so you can enjoy the rest of the Con without worry about it. But I don't think anyone who doesn't have Preview Night should feel they're missing something incomparable - even though we all feel that way during the badge sales.

It's Comic-Con Eve

16 JULY 2019

Happy Comic-Con Eve. It's a full moon tonight - and inside the convention center, volunteers and exhibitors are working feverishly to give you a nerd Christmas. I'm not there until tomorrow morning but my favorite volunteer Ace has shared some photos.

Like the NASA booth:

Or Funko - what poor volunteer has to open all these boxes? Can you imagine having all these Pops in your hands and knowing you can't keep them?

The cool:

The disturbing:

More boxes to be unpacked; how late will these people work tonight?

And CCI is full of admonitions as always. Note the 25+ minutes warning - they're not kidding. If you're new, it's not like the doors fly open and you sprint straight into the bosom of the Exhibit Hall.

San Diego Comic-Con starts tomorrow. Rest up tonight and be ready for your best 5 days this year.

When should you get in line?

16 JULY 2019

If there's one question SDCC newcomers ask, it's about lines - specifically, when they need to get in them and what the "tricks" are for outfoxing their fellow line-waiters.

To answer both of those:
There is no definitive time (and people don't like to post times because then everyone shows up before them, and it becomes a hellish cycle)
There are no tricks for getting to the front of a line other than getting there early.

Make no mistake, lines are the biggest grievance at San Diego Comic-Con. Some people cope by simply eliminating the big rooms (Hall H, Indigo Ballroom and Ballroom 20) from their lives or turning away if they see a line for something else. You can live this way and have a stupendous Comic-Con. But if your heart is set on something line-worthy - and for most of us, it will be at some point - here are some ideas to mull over.

When is a line worth it?

I'm a big believer in enjoying the Con you're at - and it's hard to do that if you spend all of it in a line. Some people work in groups with complicated systems involving assigned shifts, but the vast majority of attendees just have their friends to rely on. So here are a few considerations before you get in line:
  • Would you be okay seeing the panel on YouTube or in the Playback room?
  • Will you be disappointed if your favorite cast member only speaks once, while the director and some other cast member dominate the panel?
  • Will you be annoyed if you get stuck so far back in the room you have to watch the panel on a screen anyhow? Or if the offsite experience is over with in 3 minutes and doesn't offer significant swag?
  • Is there anything else at the same time you want to see?
Always compare what you're getting with what you're giving up. 

When should you get in line?

The perennial question. The basic answer is: early enough to get a good seat but not so early that you miss out on the Con. There's no Magic 8 ball here. You can check Twitter for real time updates on line length or swing by to monitor it. Smaller panels really aren't that competitive, unless you want to stake your claim to get the very best seat. Often people will sit through the panel(s) ahead to ensure that, but this is a subject of some contention.

Will the lines be about the same as last year?

Not necessarily. The number of attractive offsites can disperse a crowd across many lines or concentrate it in a few unbearable ones. The big room lines depend on what the day's line-up is. Something that's penetrable one year can be a madhouse the next. And if the hottest panel of the day is early, then often the room will clear out to let another swarm of attendees in.

When's the best time to do offsites?

Depends. In general, offsites are best done early on in the Con because the lines grow throughout the weekend. Or you can try popping in at the very end of each day or Sunday. Typically, a few activations will get the best buzz and have ungodly lines by Saturday. Do be aware that registering for something doesn't mean skipping the line in most cases. Often those online registrations are just about getting your data. There's a reason they're hosting the offsite.

Should I give up on Hall H entirely?

No! Some panels will be walk-in or have manageable lines. You can also find people to partner with in line. Obviously titans like Marvel, GOT, Riverdale, Supernatural and Westworld are going to be highly competitive. But you've got a good shot if you dedicate yourself to the cause.

Also consider the context of other lines. Let's say Hall H is having a highly popular day Saturday and a not so in-demand day Thursday. Saturday will draw more people out of your Indigo Ballroom line - but on Thursday, your line could be more crowded and competitive.

How many line spots can I hold?

Hall H has the 5:1 rule, but in general, most people are fine if a friend or two join you in line. What they're not fine with - and it's been a major problem - is when 10 friends jump in at the last second. You can start out being #133 in line and wind up being #640, despite putting in the hours that other people ahead of you didn't. When a room capacity cuts off just a few people in front of you, it's galling. So be considerate about how many people join you.

Can I sleep in line?
People do. SDCC is not a crime fest, and though there are urban legends about wristbands being stolen off sleeping attendees, I think you're pretty safe. Just chat up the people around you - it's not like getting stuck talking to your seatmate on a plane, you can easily withdraw - and they'll look out for you. And yes, some people go out, get wasted, then stagger into line and sleep it off.

What are common line mistakes?

There are usually multiple lines at any given moment - which makes it very possible to join the wrong line. Verbally confirm which line you're in or you might spend 90 minutes in a line for something you don't care about.

Volunteers and staffers are lovely people, but they're not omniscient. Use common sense. If they're tell you "Oh, they're still letting people in" 10 minutes after a panel has started, move on. Take control of your destiny at SDCC; there's a lot of confusion flowing around and sometimes you need to recognize rubbish when you hear it.

Time your food and restroom breaks carefully. It was years ago, but a Twilight fan was killed by a car when running to rejoin a Hall H line that had finally started to move. You can always ask for a pass when you're in the room (most rooms.)

Always remember that this Comic-Con could be your last. Badge and hotel sales are too unpredictable to count on being here next summer. So live this Comic-Con as intensely as you can - and don't spend all of it in a line.

5 last minute Comic-Con reminders

15 JULY 2019

There's a lot of "how to prep for SDCC" details flying around right now - so here are the 5 things that can help you simplify your Con while getting what you want.

Make of a list of 3-5 Comic-Con priorities.
Showing up with a huge list of "must haves" is a fast track to failure. You'll spend time and energy on irrelevant trinkets. Narrow down what you want to 3-5 absolute can't-miss things - your top comics, exclusives, panels, people, signings, destinations, etc. Schedule your Con around them.

Set expectations with your family, coworkers and significant others.
Be ruthless. Tell them Comic-Con is sacred and there's no "downtime" for you to dial into a conference call or answer unending text messages. At the absolute minimum, schedule a daily check-in time and restrict them to it. If they really squawk, tell them connectivity is just so iffy and there's nothing you can do about it.

Build each day around a goal. 
Plans fall apart at Comic-Con - and we tend to underestimate how difficult it is to achieve multiple panels and events in one day. Have one primary goal each day and base all other decisions and schedules on your ability to achieve it.

Do a document check.
Check 7 times that you have your badge. Make sure you've printed any tickets, have contact information for everyone you're going to Conan, dinner or parties with, and understand exactly what you're picking up for your coworker or nephew. Have your hotel reservation info at the ready for when you check in.

Get your money in order. 
Transfer your funds around, bring a credit card with ample room and bring a healthy amount of cash. There's no such thing as being too flush at Comic-Con. And paying in cash can avoid those annoying credit card freezes where your bank wants you to verify that you really did just spend $817 in one hour in a new city on vendors with odd names.