ECCC programming is up

28 FEBRUARY 2015

At long last, ECCC has put their programming up.

I'll post my summaries and thoughts this weekend. For now I can only bemoan the fact that the Non-Compliant/Bitch Planet panel overlaps with the Erika Moen panel which overlaps with the Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction panel.

But my overall assessment: amazing.

More comic books are coming to TV

27 FEBRUARY 2015

We comic book fans and our nerdly dollars have been making TV executives salivate for a while now. Obviously The Walking Dead is a comic book show juggernaut; we also have Gotham, The Strain, Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, Peggy Carter, iZombie, Constantine and others. Looking into the future, comic book TV gets even more intense. How many of these will show up at SDCC? Probably quite a few. 

Netflix has 4 Marvel-based shows focusing on Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones.

Preacher is coming to AMC, Outcast to Cinemax and of course Titans has landed at TNT. 

Powers is debuting 10 March on the PlayStation network.

The Archie universe will allegedly come to TV in Riverdale.

And in just the last few days, we've found out that:

The Flash/Arrow spinoff coming next season is going to feature Caity Lotz, Brandon Routh, Victor Garber and Wentworth Miller.

A Lucifer pilot has been ordered.

Sex Criminals is being adapted as a series for Universal TV. 

Supergirl has gotten a series commitment and firmed up casting.

It's worth noting these shows aren't always successful; does anyone even remember Witchblade? So it's a safe bet that some of the above will probably sputter into obsolescence fairly quickly.

And of course there are the shows that aren't made. For many fans, that's Sandman and Y The Last Man. Personally I'd sell my grandmother to get a intensely morbid live action adaptation of Death Note on cable and I'm leaning that way as well for the Wicked + Divine. But it's inescapable that TV executives feel safer betting on the basics: superheroes and zombies.

Regardless, SDCC's TV panels should look pretty interesting this year - and it'll make it harder for attendees to complain that it's more about Hollywood than comic books. Actually it'll be about both.

Ready for Creative Pro Registration?

27 FEBRUARY 2015

It's not too often attendees get to feel smug in our SDCC life. More often we feel completely subjugated and at the mercy of CCI, various security guards, Fate, etc. So I can't help smirking when I hear about other groups struggling with the same forces we do like, oh, say, the horror of registration. (It's a smirk of solidarity, I swear.)

Today is Creative Professional Registration. If you want a paid and/or complimentary guest badge,  you'll go through the same process attendees did a few weeks ago. You need to get your registration code out of your Member ID profile, enter the waiting room between 9-10 am PST and then wait for the magic to happen.

Complimentary guest badges will sell out within half an hour, according to the sage forecasters at the Toucan blog. I'm intrigued by that, because attendee Pre-reg and Open Reg each took an hour for a total of 130,000 badges, so does that mean there are roughly 32,500 complimentary guest badges available? That can't be right. Remember, today doesn't even include Trade Professional Registration. Well, let's assume this is going to be some kind of slowed-down sale so as not to stress out the sensitive creative personalities at the wheel.

Now remember - this is only to get a guest badge. You yourself, the Creative Pro, don't need to bother with these shenanigans to get your own badge. You have a whole leisurely two months to register for your "guaranteed" badge and that starts today at 11:05 am PST. And it sounds like while you might bomb out getting a free guest badge, you can definitely get a paid one: "Last year, paid professional guest badges never reached capacity." (Across the land, attendees just screamed "What?")

Again - today is just for Creative Professional Reg, not Trade. You should know which one you are, but if you don't, check your Member ID.

Good luck.

Update on last year's Zombie Walk accident

26 FEBRUARY 2015

Last summer, during the Saturday evening Zombie Walk, a driver struck a 64-year-old woman after trying to drive away from the crowds. Or in a perfect Comic-Con sentence, "The motorist tried to drive away from the intersection of Island and Second avenues after waiting for as long as 10 minutes as a raucous group of people portraying roaming corpses passed by."

The car struck a few people and broke the woman's arm; today it was announced the driver will face charges for reckless driving causing injury. He'll be arraigned on 8 March.

This wasn't nearly as bad as the Twilight fan getting killed by a car in 2012 - no one died this time, at least - but it might still inspire more calls for orderliness during this summer's Zombie Walk. Just a theory.

And the advent of scammer season is upon us

26 FEBRUARY 2015

You know spring is almost here when Craigslist starts filling up with sketchy ads for overpriced SDCC badges and hotel rooms.

They're out in force already: those people offering single day or Preview Night badges for hundreds more than the official purchase price. They know there are a lot of people still reeling from their Open Registration failure and they're ready to move in for the kill like some kind of fraudulent funeral salesman.

They'll tell you usually that they'll give the badge to you at SDCC or they'll tell you what kind of fake ID to prepare (what name and address and birthdate) to match the Member ID that goes with the badge. Or they'll tell you they work for a studio, comic book retailer or other organization with guest badges to spare, and they can sell you one to be picked up at a special desk.

While a small percentage of these people are legit - legit in the sense that the overpriced badge will get you inside - most are straight up liars. This is the Nigerian prince's SDCC cousin. Don't let your Comic-Con emotions trump your good sense here; in most cases you will be flushing your money down the drain and making a disappointing situation much worse.

Of course, many of you don't give a rat's ass what kind of devil you have to deal with to get into SDCC - so here's what you need to know:

  • You have to show your barcode confirmation and photo ID to get a badge. So if someone says they'll forward the email to you, or just gives you a name to use, they're preying on your first-timer's naivete.

  • People offering badges on the street have mostly transferred their game online, but they do exist. This used to be more common when people got sick of Comic-Con midway through, or on Sunday, and were willing to sell their badges to strangers. Last year CCI required hanging onto your badge for Pre-reg (though some wily souls just photographed it) which presumably cut down on this.

  • There's a certain amount of standing in line usually (not always) to get a badge. So if someone suggests they'll go to the convention center, wait around to get the badge then hand it over, they're either going to expect a nice profit margin for that or they're lying. Mostly likely they'll just doctor up a fake badge to give you.

  • Security guards look at your badge to make sure you have access for the day and the name matches your gender presentation. Sometimes they'll pull you aside and ask for ID. Obviously this doesn't happen terribly often but it's happened to people I know.

  • If you are desperate to get into San Diego Comic-Con, it's far better to strike up a deal with someone to share their badge. They'll go out to lunch or back to their hotel, and you'll use their badge to take a spin through the Exhibit Hall. Obviously this requires faith and trust, so either find someone you know or start building relationships now. If you work this out with a stranger, be prepared to make yourself vulnerable and accountable by sharing personal information.

  • CCI despises badge deceit and considers it a ban-worthy offense if you're caught.

In the end, all I can say is please, please, please use your common sense and don't jeopardize your wallet or future ability to go to SDCC. It really isn't worth it. If you try a backdoor route into Comic-Con, you need to make very sure you're dealing with someone on the up and up. And for those of you who are about to send me nasty comments telling me how trustworthy and noble scalpers are - your very defensiveness is indicting.

Be careful.

Early Bird Hotel Sale is live

25 FEBRUARY 2015

A few weeks back I mentioned the Early Bird Hotel Sale. As of today, it's live.

To summarize for all you first-timers, the Early Bird Hotel Sale is your chance to reserve a room at a discounted rate without suffering through the hell of Hotel Day. Here are the two choices broken down:

Early Bird. You can choose from a limited selection of hotels. They are not downtown near the convention center but closer to the airport and Mission Valley. (And they're significantly cheaper than downtown hotels, too.) You will have to pay nonrefundable rates up front.

Hotel Day. This involves a much wider selection of hotels, including those super-close ones like Hilton Bayfront, Manchester Hyatt, Marriott Marquis, Omni, etc. How it works is like this: it's another nerve-wracking event where we all plunge into the system at the same time and choose our top 6 hotels. A few days later we find out where we were assigned. It could be a hotel we listed or it could be a completely different hotel, including the same ones available right now in Early Bird.

In other words, Early Bird lets you book one of the cheaper hotels, selected by you, with all element of chance removed. If you're wondering why everyone doesn't go for this option, it's because many people want to be as close as they can be to the convention center. If you're wondering why anyone would go for this option, be aware that Early Bird hotels have shuttle service, are moderately priced compared to the Marriott, Hilton and their ilk - and finally, it can be a relief to get away at night from the nonstop circus that is SDCC.

Earlier I predicted that Early Bird would sell out this year before its 24 March deadline. I feel this is a possibility because even though Hotel Day was smooth last year, the day the reservations opened back up (for changes and cancellations and new reservations) all hell broke loose and the system crashed from so many people flooding in. So I think we'll have more anxious attendees than usual this year who aren't willing to bet on Hotel Day - plus, we've already have Open Reg so a lot more people feel confident about booking a nonrefundable room. In other words: get the jump on this if you're interested. 

For what it's worth, my Early Bird Hotel pick is the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. It's not far from the Con at all and it's a decent hotel.

ECCC Writer's Block

25 FEBRUARY 2015

I'm MIA in San Francisco at the moment but I did want to point out the Writer's Block at ECCC. Official Emerald City programming should be announced in the next few days; in the meantime writers can look at the guests involved and think about who they might like to see.

Writer's Block will offer panels on writing, literary trends, Q&As and book signings. As always, these types of panels at smaller Cons usually allow for better networking, interaction and advice than at huge SDCC creative panels - so don't write these off. And if you're a new or unhatched writer who thinks they're not "ready" for a panel on writing methods, I say balderdash to that - go anyhow. Even if you don't currently have a project going, you can soak in all the advice of the people around you and come away with a more grounded sense of your vocation as a writer.

So you got a badge. Now what?

24 FEBRUARY 2015

We are 19 weeks away from Comic-Con. If you were one of the lucky ones who got a badge Saturday, that might sound interminably long to you, or it might sound not long at all.

You'd be right in both cases. Although we have some sales ahead of us - hotels and parking, namely - the next month or two are kind of a dead zone in terms of anticipation; more wishful thinking than solid news. (See the panel talk on my 2015 page for an example of baseless speculation.) The drumbeat of steady coverage and announcements won't start until May or so.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing for you to do.

Save money.

The obvious one. You're going to want to spend hard at SDCC, whether it's on drinks or comic books or collectibles, so put money aside now. And if you're freaking out about hotel bills - as in, you want to stay at a pricy downtown hotel but Mission Circle is more in your budget - you can find that extra 100 a night if you start a fund now.

Get in shape.

I say this every year and I think everyone ignores it. You don't have to be Jillian Michaels, but you do have to be able to walk long distances (sometimes fast, to make that panel) and endure sitting or standing in long lines. Don't think this doesn't apply to you; it applies to everyone. No one is carried around Comic-Con in a palanquin. If you want to enjoy your SDCC experience, rather than end up sore and stiff with blistered feet that can't walk one more step, get in shape. I know two comic book artists who are on their feet all 5 days and even though they're both basically fit people, they start hitting the exercise bike every winter.

Sell off your back issues and exclusives now, not at the Con.

First-timers tend to think that the Exhibit Hall is the ideal place to sell off their unwanted stuff. It isn't. Those vendors have enough physical merchandise they're trying to unload, and they won't give you top dollar for yours. Sell it off now when you can hold out for a good price.

Think about what you want out of Comic-Con.

I know this is vague. But it's important. You'll hear me say this about eight more times over the coming months - don't just show up and do SDCC on the fly. It's too crowded, chaotic and multi-faceted for that. I understand well the urge to be spontaneous and go with the flow and trust that Fate will steer you wisely, but that isn't how it works. (Well, for the most part. Some people do luck into a certain Con serendipity.) Unless you figure out what you want to see, where and when it is, and what you need to do to make it happen, you'll miss it. The crowds, the Exhibit Hall thunder and dazzle, your friends' ideas, will all pull you into currents that take you away from what you originally wanted.

I'd suggest looking through last year's programming, just to get a rough idea of the panels and activities that are available, and think about the kind of Con you want to have. Maybe you're all about seeing the Hollywood panels; maybe you want to network with industry people; maybe you want to go to parties and meetups; maybe you're all about completing collections or cosplay. It's good to at least sort out your priorities now.

Join your hotel’s rewards program

You don't know your hotel yet - but once you land after Hotel Day, join their rewards program. The free Wifi and continental breakfast are nice perks that can add up, and generally speaking, if you arrive at the hotel as a current member, rather than having to be talked into it at the reception desk, you get that extra layer of service - room changes and such.

Plan your costume. 

 First off, you don't have to dress up. Outsiders think we're all tramping around in costumes at SDCC like it's a huge nerdy Halloween party but cosplayers are the minority. Most of us wear street clothes. But if you do decide to dress up, start planning it out now. You might need to order something, sew something, change something that turns out to be itchy and uncomfortable or falls apart. I'm speaking, of course, to regular people. Hardcore cosplayers have been preparing their looks for months and they're usually ready to sacrifice comfort for aesthetics.
Prepare your materials.
A fair number of attendees come to SDCC to network and market themselves. If this is you, don't wait until the last minute to create sample art/pages, business cards, demos, scripts  and portfolios. Design and production can take longer than anticipated, so it's good to at least make your plan now. I've heard countless horror stories about expired domains, printing errors, disappearing partners - it happens. Trying to cram it all into June is to invite stress and mistakes, and the work won't be as polished and impressive as it could have been. If you need to ship anything, or print material at the Con, start figuring out the right facilities now for that too.

Come out of your cocoon.

If you want to be a social butterfly at Comic-Con, but you don't know many people there, you'll find many people in the same boat. Over the coming weeks you'll see people looking for others to have fan meetups with or happy hours or collectible and universe-based events. It might seem early to think about that - but if you're a shy person, there's no better way to make friends than to help organize something. If you decide to simply show up, often you'll talk yourself out of it. So for people who really want to meet others and branch out beyond the 2 friends they came with, start hunting around online now. If you have an idea, suggest it. There are 130,000 people coming to SDCC - some of them will share your interests. Don't forget to use the ConnectiKon app for this.

None of this, by the way, is to make SDCC sound like some laborious school project. But if you do some basic prep work in advance, you will have a better time and get to more of the stuff on your Con bucket list - I promise.

Tell me about your first time

24 FEBRUARY 2015

Hello, you innocent fresh-faced first-timers.

Every year I collect the stories of people making their inaugural visit to San Diego Comic-Con. It's highly instructive and entertaining to hear the difference between their expectations and their reality, and probably more useful for others to read about as opposed to hearing my jaded impressions.

So if you're headed through the convention doors for the first time this July, I'm ready to hear your story. What you thought of the lines, what parties you went to, what exclusives you got, what panels disappointed you. Your shattered illusions, your Hall H triumphs, your cosplay glory. Even if you're there on a single day badge, you're guaranteed to emerge from SDCC with a tale. I'm all ears if you want to tell it.

All you need to do is shoot me an email once you're home. But don't worry about it now - I'll post another reminder in the weeks before the Con.

Where and when you'll pick up your badge

23 FEBRUARY 2015

If you got your confirmation barcode email, you'll see a weird little grid on there that tells you where you can pick up your badge. Let's break it down.

First of all, yes, you have to pick it up in person. If you're coming to SDCC from other Cons, I can see why you'd expect your badge to come in the mail, sparing you the hassle of waiting in some ungodly line thousands of people long. But this is SDCC and you do need to show your ID and barcode confirmation in person to get your badge. It may well involve waiting in line. Sorry. The good news is, badge pick-up lines aren't nearly as bad as they used to be.

As far as where, there are two locations doing badge pick-up: the convention center and the Town & Country hotel at 500 Hotel Circle North. Anyone can pick up their badge at the convention center but only some people can get their badges at Town & Country.

"Consolidated" Four Day Badges with Preview Night: You can't go to the Town & Country. And you don't need to, because you can get your badge at the convention center at any point in the Con, during normal Con hours, beginning at 3:00 pm on Wednesday. That's what they tell you, anyhow - in reality you can show up earlier in the day and get badged, no line. I usually wander in after lunch, around 1, and there are already several hundred people in the exclusives line. This is one of the greatest benefits of a Preview Night badge so take advantage of it. Show up early.

"Consolidated" Four Single Day Badges without Preview Night: You have two choices. What I recommend: picking yours up in advance on Wednesday at the Town & Country Hotel from 3 pm - 8:30 pm. (While I've never done the T&C thing, I've heard they also let people in well before 3.) You can also get your badge at the convention center at any point in the Con, during normal Con hours, beginning at 8:30 am on Thursday.

Thursday Single Day Badge: Same as above.

Friday Single Day Badge: You can pick these up at the convention center on Friday, beginning at 8:30 am.

Saturday Single Day Badge: You can pick these up at the convention center on Saturday, beginning at 8:30 am.

Sunday Single Day Badge: You can pick these up at the convention center on Sunday, beginning at 8:30 am.

Multiple Single Day Badges: Here's where it gets tricky.

You can pick up multiple single day badges at the convention center, beginning at 8:30 am, on your earliest badge day. You can pick all of your badges up at that time - but please note that this does not apply at the Town & Country. Only at the convention center.

Say you have Thursday, Friday and Sunday badges, like some of my friends. You can only pick up Thursday at the T&C. The others you'd have to get at the convention center. Your other option is to pick up all three Thursday morning at the convention center.

People have argued this point before but CCI has said it clearly: "The only badge holders available at the Town & Country Hotel are 4-day consolidated and Thursday holders. For all other daily badge holders, you will need to visit the Attendee Badge Holder Pick-up Desk."

Now I'm going to point out an inconvenient reality. As you may have heard, some panel lines are overnighters. That means that if you have a single day badge and need to get in line for it that day, you cannot join, say, the Hall H line in time unless you have an already-badged friend holding your spot. Just something to keep in mind when making your plans.

One item high on my SDCC wish list is for them to make badge pick-up available offsite (either at the Town and Country or some other closer hotel) in advance. Like if you had a Sunday badge, you could swing by some hotel ballroom on Saturday between 9 am and 9 pm and pick it up then so you could freely join all the Sunday lines. I would happily pay extra for this and I think a lot of attendees would as well. But CCI seems to favor cost savings over convenience, so I don't expect to see this anytime soon.

All of this is on my 2015 page and I'll go over it again right before the Con.

Hang onto your barcode confirmation

23 FEBRUARY 2015

This is the kind of thing I think everyone knows - but then I remember how many newcomers we have this year (by my informal calculations, quite a bit) so maybe it's worth a reminder.

You need to hang onto the barcode confirmation email that's showing up in your inbox. Why? Because you need to print it out and have it on hand with a photo ID to pick up your badge. Actually, there was a time when if you didn't print it out, you had to go to the convention center FedEx office and pay a fee to print it out - but I believe they can scan it from your phone now. Regardless, you need to preserve the sanctity of this email.

Badge pick-up details are in the email; these can be confusing so I'll post a clarification shortly.

More SDCC special guests announced

23 FEBRUARY 2015

They are:

Michael Cho - writer/artist for Shoplifter
Tom Grummett - artist for Fantastic Four, X-Men Forever and Teen Titans
Chip Kidd - author and designer for Peanuts: The Art of Charles M Schulz and Batman: Death By Design
Jen Sorensen - cartoonist
Bernie Wrightson - artist for Swamp Thing and Frankenstein

So far it looks like a good range of work has been represented. You can see all of the special guests so far here.

Calculating the odds on Open Registration

23 FEBRUARY 2015

Let me start with a caveat: the below is not meant to be scientifically sound or predictive, just interesting. I'm no Nate Silver.

Over the weekend a fair number of results and experiences trickled in from my friends regarding who got picked and who didn't for Open Reg. As you know, CCI does not release the number of Member IDs in existence, which always makes registration something of a question mark. What are the odds of getting picked? How many people do you need to team up with? Being obsessed with numbers and statistics, I was fairly keen on finding out who got picked for what out of how many people.

Here's what I know. By "people" I mean Member IDs/registration codes.

  • My group had 7 people in it. (I ended up not buying through my group because my ex had a free spot in his group when he got picked, which was how I got my Preview Night badge.) Out of the 7 of us, 1 Member ID got picked (mine) in time for Thursday, Friday and Sunday badges. 1 other Member ID got picked at the very, very tail end - as in, they were still paying when the SOLD OUT announcement happened. However, because they had other people to buy for, two of my people, both first-timers, got nothing.

  • Another group had 4 people. 1 got picked for Preview Night. The other 3 Member IDs never got picked, at all.

  • Another group with 4 people went through the exact same thing, except they got 4-days for the one that got picked.

  • Someone who did it on his own got picked right away for Preview Night; the other 3 people who did it on their own either didn't get picked at all or just got a Sunday badge.

  • A group of 9 people got picked twice, both for Preview Night.

  • A group of 3 people got picked once, for Thursday/Sunday.

  • A group of 4 didn't get picked at all.

  • A group of 3 didn't get picked at all.

  • A group of 2 got picked once, for four day badges.

  • A group of 5 got picked once, for Thursday, Friday, Sunday.

  • Another group of 3 didn't get picked at all.

So those are my results so far. If you want to share yours, please do.

Obviously the situation is pretty grim. There are a lot of people/Member IDs in the mix and the odds of getting a badge - any badge - seem smaller than ever. Experienced attendees have perceived the same difference; many were stunned that they were shut out so entirely despite working with friends. For instance, one of the above groups of 4 was a family, two parents, two kids. My friend was so confident that at least 2 of their Member IDs would be picked that she went ahead and got badges for herself, her husband & her daughter when they got picked; since they were never picked again, her 14 year old son is badgeless.

You can see in the above numbers that 1) getting picked is pretty random and 2) working with groups is the way to go, but still doesn't guarantee anything. And as with all things SDCC, attendees will keep refining their methods and exploiting the system, upping the ante and increasing the desperation. It's what we do.

I used to say that I consistently heard from people who didn't get a badge to people who did in a 3:1 ratio. Not only is that a better ratio than reflected above, it probably was skewed slightly since people complain in higher numbers than they express positive sentiments. Regardless, those odds are far better than what we seem to face right now - unless I just happen to know unlucky people.

I always feel like a hypocrite and an ass when I tell people, from my Preview Night throne, "Hey, it's not that bad! You'll find another Con!" But this is the point when I do just that - not just those of you who washed out but those of you who are looking at future years, myself included. You cannot count on going to San Diego Comic-Con. You just can't. So my advice to you is to start looking around and finding other events to enjoy, instead of putting all your eggs in an overloaded basket. That way, if you get badges next year, you're good - and if you don't, you have other Cons to fall back on.

For those of you who did get badges? I know I haven't addressed you yet. I will later and tell you how you can start preparing now and what you need to do over the months ahead.

Reminder: ECCC cosplay contest deadline is 27 Feb

23 FEBRUARY 2015

If you're intending to flaunt your cosplay glory next month at Emerald City, you've probably already signed up for the Saturday night cosplay competition. But if you haven't, you only have a few days left: the deadline is 27 February.

I look forward to being dazzled by all of you at ECCC.

It's ok if your confirmation email hasn't come yet

22 FEBRUARY 2015

I haven't gotten mine yet and neither have quite a few friends. So don't fret about it or keep obsessively checking your email. It'll show up.

That said, if you got your credit card receipt and you notice anything missing that you're sure you bought, contact CCI.

Yes, you should go to SDCC even for 1 day

22 FEBRUARY 2015

                                     San Diego Symphony Summer Pops Comic-Con Concerts

Now that the smoke has cleared from the badge sale, two groups of people have probably come to terms with how they did: those who got 4 day or Preview Night badges, and those who got nothing. There's not much to decide there, after all.

But people who landed in the more nebulous zone of a one day badge or Thursday/Sunday have to decide now if they really want to go after all. My vote: yes. Unless the airfare is going to be outrageous and you're already strapped for cash, you should definitely go to Comic-Con. Even just for one day.

I discussed the Thursday/Sunday split when I landed in it last November. But I want to point out a few other reasons you should attend, especially for first-timers who've never been to SDCC before. It's easy to visualize Comic-Con as something that happens within a building, like a soccer game or concert would happen inside a stadium. You're either in or you're out. But the Con is quite different. It is a sprawling octopus of a phenomenon with tentacles that can accommodate anyone - whether they have a badge or not.

Let's say you have a Thursday badge. You have access to a freshly stocked Exhibit Hall and you can get into the massive MTV party that night - it's free to anyone with a Thursday badge, features multiple bands (Linkin Park headlined last year) and fandom awards. The whole thing is broadcast on MTV that Sunday night. If you only got Sunday, you'll have all those Exhibit Hall deals to take advantage of - lots of marked-down stuff - and a fairly eclectic variety of panels. (Which isn't to say you won't have major ones too. Check out last year's Sunday programming.)

But mostly you'll have a dazzling array of outside events to attend. I'm not talking about vendors or cheap carnival exhibits. I'm talking about really fun high-caliber events and promotions that can be more enjoyable than anything inside the convention center.

Here's just a small sample of the events last year:

The CBLDF party
The Image Expo
The Outlander red carpet premiere
The Adult Swim Fun House and Jammy Party
The Strain screening and fan event
The Walking Dead Escape
San Diego Symphony Summer Pops Comic-Con Concert
The Nerd-A-Thon with MC Front-a-lot
The Zombie Walk and the Zombie Prom
The Orphan Black Meetup
A combined Welcome to Night Vale/Thrilling Adventure Hour performance
The Incognito cosplay party with Adam Savage
Chris Hardwick's @midnight and live Nerdist podcast
The Haunted Hotel/Zombie Apocalypse Store
Geek and Sundry's ongoing party
The Crave Online party with MGMT and Grimes
Free gamer arcades at various bars and locations
A Nerdist laser-tag party
The Assassin's Creed obstacle course
The Game of Thrones Experience
The Sleepy Hollow virtual reality experience

And I'm not kidding when I say that's just a fraction of what was happening.

Of course there's also Gam3rCon - not just gaming but art shows, bands, and panels - and of course
Nerd HQ. Last year Nerd HQ offered up Joss Whedon, the Orphan Black cast, Nathan Fillion, the Supernatural and Walking Dead cast - lots of fan favorites show up there. Check out this list of panels.

Most 2015 events are yet to be announced, but we do know some - for instance, that Conan O'Brien will be taping from Spreckles Theatre every night of the Con. And of course there are beaches, taking the ferry to Coronado Island and lots of local museums that offer special nerd-themed exhibits during SDCC.

So 5 benefits in all to your partial badge situation:

1) You can avoid getting worn out. If you haven't been to SDCC before, you can't imagine how exhausting it is. I say this as a high-energy person who can hike for miles without getting tired. When you're at the Con, a day to sleep in, eat some leisurely meals and then kick around doing whatever you feel like is pure heaven.

2) You can actually spend time with your friends. Every year I have long-distance friends at the Con and while we say we're going to catch up, it never happens because we're trapped in panels and interviews and obligations.

3) You can go to all the fun outside events the people in the Hall H line will never experience.

4) You can avoid going down this hellish rabbit hole next year if you find out now that you actually don't care for Comic-Con. Hey, it happens. A lot. If it's not for you, better to find out when you've only invested in a 1-2 day trip.

5) You will have two chances at going to SDCC 2016, since even a one-day badge gets you into 2016 Pre-registration. And you're only competing against 2015 attendees in that round, unlike the horde of hopefuls in Open Reg.

Did I convince you? Don't ask for a refund. Just go.

So you're not going to SDCC after all

21 FEBRUARY 2015

First of all: I'm sorry. I really mean that - especially for those of you who go every year and it's an integral part of your soul and then wham, it's taken away from you.

So a few suggestions.

Be good to yourself today. I don't know anyone who's all, "Eh, if I get a badge, good - if not, I'm okay." People are in this to win it. Our mouths go dry and our hearts pound and every time the screen flickers, our blood pressure soars sky high. Even if you get a good badge, the whole experience wrecks your nerves - and if you don't, it can plunge you into serious anger and despair. I know other people think I'm being melodramatic, but they don't realize how stressful this can be to many attendees. So try to be good to yourself this weekend; sleep in, indulge yourself with an extravagant meal, buy something with the money you won't be spending on SDCC.

Don't buy from scalpers. I've talked about this numerous times and no doubt I will again as spring comes on, but please don't traffic with these people. They're mostly out to scam you with fake badges and cannot be trusted. Sometimes in the days before the Con, retailers and professionals will sell off their badges - these are usually legit but it's hard to know until you arrive to pick it up. Every year I get emails that describe blowing hundreds of dollars on a fake badge. 

Go to other Cons. I know, I know - you want SDCC. There is no substitute. Except that - did you know NYCC is now bigger than SDCC? That Salt Lake is hot on its heels in attendance numbers? There's still WonderCon, Special Edition in NY, Dragon*Con, Phoenix Comicon, Denver and a bunch of others. The main differences boil down to a smaller Hollywood/celebrity presence. BUT you often end up going to more panels and events because you're not waiting in huge lines, and when you do meet the celebrities there, you tend to get more interaction with them.

Contact CCI with your tale of technical woe, if you have one. I've heard of a few glitches, not many. Certainly nothing like previous years. But if you genuinely got compromised in some way, and have the screenshots to prove it, go ahead and contact them.

Try to win a contest. Odds are slim when it comes to winning Comic-Con Powerball, but why not.

Consider that you've just saved time, money and stress. Maybe you've never been to SDCC, so allow me to tell you that it's not always what it's cracked up to be. It's tiring. It's expensive. It's a lot of standing in line - especially for those big splashy panels that are probably high on your wish list. Sometimes you wear yourself out to buy that one exclusive and get into that one panel and then you get home and you realize they weren't all that special - and one is on Ebay and the other on YouTube.

I know some of you are hovering in that gray area - you got a single day badge, maybe two, and now you don't know if you want to go at all. I'll present an argument as to why you should later today or tomorrow. Everyone else - again, I'm sorry. And I can't say I have an optimistic outlook for the future; people are exploiting every loophole they can and it's all getting pretty dire. So if you got denied today, know you are in excellent company - and that there really are viable alternatives for you out there. You just have to give them a chance.

Open Registration is here

21 FEBRUARY 2015


I just checked my email and I have a few messages from people who are complaining the link doesn't work. Did this happen to a lot of people?

One thing worth noting: 2-3 years ago I would get tons of outraged emails and comments on badge sale days. Now I barely get any. So I do think the process itself is smoother and less inclined to glitches, even though it still disappoints many people.

For those of you who didn't get any kind of badge today, I'll post some ideas later on. And again - I'm sorry.

10:00 a.m.

And it's over.

Sorry for disappearing. I ended up manning more devices than I anticipated.

Today was quite an ordeal.  SO competitive or maybe I just exist in an unlucky sphere; of 7 people I was working with, only 1 got in at the point where it was down to Friday, Thursday and Sunday; another 1 got in to nab Sunday.

I got Preview Night, for which I am inordinately grateful. But I'm still gutted that 2 of my first-timers got nothing. You always go into this day knowing it's a roll of the dice, but it's still hard to see your friends disappointed.

Today has convinced me that there are more people than ever in the mix. I'd say the expansion can't come soon enough, but we know that story.

How did everyone do?

8:45 a.m.

Everyone ready? I've already had 1 wonky device, which I swapped out for another, and locked up my treacherous cat who kept weaving in and out of my laptops and trying to walk across the keyboard. Open Registration: not cat-friendly.

I also got yelled at for manually refreshing a page, even though all I did was scroll. The EPIC waiting room is so sensitive.

7:50 a.m.

As we get ready to go into the waiting room, a few more reminders...

You can get back into the waiting room if you get booted for some reason - just re-input your registration code and you'll go back in.

If you freeze while you're in there, contact CCI immediately. @Comic_Con or Screenshot everything as evidence and timestamp it through Twitter, email, etc.

Because so many people are buying in groups today, it's highly possible you'll try to buy for a Member ID that doesn't validate as it's already been used. Just skip over it and buy for the others. There's really nothing else you can do, and it's pointless to waste time contacting that person - they can't do anything about in that narrow timeframe of badge-buying.

6:57 a.m.

Our day of reckoning is here. Just to be safe, I'll repeat the basics: remember to adjust your power save settings; remember to use different browsers or devices for each Member ID.

It's going to go fast today, so you'll know pretty quick how you're faring. Fast might sound better than slow, like ripping off a band-aid, but I actually think it's worse. A two-hour badge sale at least allows you to come to terms with your dwindling hopes. Finding out within minutes that Preview Night is already gone and oops, so is Saturday, can be a kick in the gut.

I'm handling a quartet of first-timers today, who are unrealistically confident. I'm in the mix too, looking to upgrade my Thursday/Sunday badge. I can't base this on anything but my own email and general intuition, but I feel that there's a greater number of combatants in the game this year. How many badges are in play? I'm guessing about half, since CCI is predicting the same one-hour timeframe that Pre-reg took. Maybe a 40/60 split between Pre-reg and Open Reg? I really don't know.

I'm going out for breakfast now but I'll be back here and on Twitter shortly. Again - I don't think there's going to be much to update this morning, since it's going to go swiftly, but I'll post any updates, problems or news that I hear.

My origin story of SDCC insanity

20 FEBRUARY 2015

If this is your first badge sale (or if you're just an observer who thinks we're all batshit crazy), you might wonder how registration for a comic book convention got to this point. While I can't claim the serious veteran status that some attendees can, I have been going to San Diego Comic-Con for almost all of my adult life and remember when it looked quite a bit different. My SDCC life didn't start out with panic and anguish; I pretty much assumed back then that if I wanted to go to SDCC, I'd always be able to go. Years later, here I am. Here we all are.

This was my initiation into Comic-Con insanity.

2002: I had just moved to the west coast from NY and really wanted to go to SDCC. I was dating another comic book fan at the time so we called around Friday night, booked a room at a Comfort Inn and drove to San Diego. We walked in the doors late on Saturday morning and bought badges - not a line in sight.

2003: The next year we booked a room for 4 days - at a now-extinct hotel whose ghost hovers over Petco Park - and drove in. There was an incredible line for badges that we stood in for about 2 hours.

After that I bought badges online, usually at the last minute, until...
2007: I was waiting in a checkout line at Whole Foods when a friend called and said, "Did you hear that 4-day badges just sold out?" I apparently looked so distraught that the cashier gasped and asked if I was ok; she thought I'd been told someone died. I rushed home and bought the (also-extinct) 3-day badge: Thursday, Friday and Sunday. As soon as I arrived at the Con, I bought my badges for next year - like a jillion other people.

2010: I got my badge at the Pre-reg desk, right before it sold out onsite for the first time ever. I could see the future and it was ugly.

2011: CCI shifted 2012 Pre-reg to the Grand Hyatt down the street, announcing they would only sell a limited number of badges each morning. Everyone lined up in the pre-dawn hours on Thursday and eventually shuffled through a ballroom where huge monitors broadcast the percentage of each badge left - a meaningless statistic since we didn't know how many were on the dock to begin with. A weird hybrid of fatalism-hope-denial settled in as everyone tried to connect their place in line to the dwindling percentage on the board. Preview Night sold out about 30 people ahead of me. Everyone turned to each other and said, "Tomorrow I'll get here at 3 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.!" And everyone did, except for the people who arrived at 1 a.m., 11 p.m., etc. I skipped it and later prevailed in the online sale.

2012: SDCC announced there would be no onsite Pre-reg for 2013 at the Con - it would be an online sale. And the cycle of two online sales a year began, at first on a "first come, first served" basis and then as the lottery we have today.

So no - it wasn't always this bad. And when you hear old-timers grumble about how crazy it's gotten and how it's not worth going anymore because nothing can compare to the halcyon days of the past - know that they're not just bitter, they're kind of right. Obviously SDCC is still fun. But there was a time when it was guaranteed, too.

Final thoughts on tomorrow

20 FEBRUARY 2015

At this point, less than 24 hours from the badge sale, you probably know everything you want to achieve tomorrow and how you're planning to do that. So here's my final thought - even though most of us are hoping for a Preview Night badge, it's not the be all and end all of San Diego Comic-Con.

The lines for the other days aren't as bad as they used to be; Preview Night is pretty crowded, with lots of antagonistic rules about how and where you can wait to get exclusives. So when the inevitable announcement is made that Preview Night is sold out - Saturday is sold out - don't feel like your SDCC 2015 experience is utterly ruined. It's not. You won't even miss half the things you think you will.

I'll be live-blogging the sale like always tomorrow, but it looks like it's going to go pretty fast. It's probably going to be the kind of sale where you live or die and there's not a damned thing you can do about it. CCI posted what I think was an unintentionally humorous good luck message: "We know that many of you will enter the waiting room tomorrow and leave empty handed. We share your disappointment."

There will be a lot of rage tomorrow - there always is - and a lot of rejoicing too. All I can say is good luck.

Talk to you tomorrow.