What did you think of SDCC 2022?

 24 JULY 2022


San Diego Comic-Con 2022 is over. There's always a mix of sadness and relief when it's time to go back to real life; this year, though, it felt like we were leaving real life to go back to our false pandemic timeline. No, Comic-Con wasn't exactly like it used to be. But it still felt like a comforting piece of the past.

Did you like it? The consensus seems to be that SDCC 2022 offered more conveniences and greater ease in accessing panels, exclusives, signings, and offsites, but fewer of them to obtain. There were fewer celebrity sightings, less rarities on the show floor, not quite as many offsites - or at least, less grandeur in those offsites. Fewer events, especially on Saturday night. I liked it and appreciated the more laidback pace. Did you?

Let's break it down.

                                        
Community

Last Comic-Con, I wrote a post on SDCC aggression that not everyone agreed with. This year, I met several people who remarked on the changes in SDCC culture and felt that this year had returned to a more mellow vibe. I felt the same way for the most part. There were a few ruthless acts here and there. Our line friend Natalie was in a non-motorized wheelchair and found herself getting outpaced by the motorized ones, who zoomed ahead of her, and when her underage daughter tried to hold her spot while Natalie caught up, the daughter was shouted at and told to move by an older woman who promptly took that spot. Things like that happened. But on the whole - I felt like people were laidback and feeling euphoric to be together again. What seemed like a slightly more spacious Exhibit Hall may have given us all some breathing room.


Comics

I naively hoped that the missing presence of some studios would mean maybe a stronger focus on comics. That didn't happen, not really. And comics panels I went to were a third full at best. In fact, I made a rather depressing list of the booths, panels, and creators I used to regularly see at SDCC and realized hardly any were still there. Same with many former friends who used to go. I think this is why this aspect of the Con felt hollow to me.

The Pandemic

Inside the Con, everyone was masked - well, mostly - but outside was a mixed bag. I was relieved not to hear a sea of coughing inside the convention center, which is how my airport gate sounded on the way home. At the same time, I didn't see much signage about precautions. People seem pretty over the pandemic in general. 





The Exhibit Hall

As expected. Not a whole lot of surprises, in my book. Every year it gets harder to find unique items - that feeling of hunting down rare discoveries has given way to walking through a vaguely nerdy flea market full of plushies and shirts and blind bag toys. Of course, on the flight home, the girl next to me had a really cute bag which she got in Artist's Alley from someone I didn't see, despite doing the complete floor 4 times. My discovery powers have waned.


One of the biggest issues I heard of was the lack of carpet. I never noticed there was carpet, but attendees far more observant than myself noticed and said the hard floor made their feet sore. Why was the carpet removed? I know the convention center sheltered homeless people early in the pandemic, so perhaps that was a factor.

One of the positive changes noted by veteran attendees - cooler temperatures and better smells. There were still a few dodgy places on the floor that smelled like a garbage truck capsized in a Florida swamp, but on the whole, the Exhibit Hall was a more pleasant place this year. It was significantly easier to move around, especially after 5 pm.

Cosplay

I saw some great cosplay - but less of it. Did the mask mandates annoy serious cosplayers? Did they feel it wasn't worth their while? Or do people just not have the funds to pull together a truly stunning display? 


 

Signings, Exclusives, Photo Ops

Relying on reports here: while there were a few snafus and cancellations, most everyone I knew who was chasing down an autograph or photo got it. Exclusives were a different story; I talked to someone who was so angry over Mattel and being in a line that went nowhere that they swore they'd never come back to SDCC. 

One recurring observation: that people (creators, authors, performers) were charging a lot. I think we can all figure out why, so possibly we should have expected this, but attendees still came away with a  bitter taste in their mouths in some cases. 

Panels

I thought SDCC programming did a good job of bringing variety. I'd say the best panels I went to were Thursday night - a future-focused panel of female scientists and the following panel which was a mock trial trying the mayor of Jaws. I wanted to attend the NASA panel on the Webb telescope and a few others that didn't work with my schedule, but I wasn't all that chagrined. 

Attendees reported being surprised at how easily they could move between back-to-back panels, even those in big rooms. One said that Ballroom 20 remained fairly easy to walk into or at least wait only a short time for and that Friday in Indigo Ballroom - which usually sees a lot of all-day stays - wasn't as bad as expected. What was bad: standing in line for The Rookie panel, only to find out it was just a Zoom conference. Not the same, CCI! Going forward, it needs to be clear when a panel is virtual.

I tend to go to smaller panels, which makes me a poor reporter for the big panels people care most about. Because I did see all of Saturday's Hall H panels up to Marvel, I can report that it was all business as usual. There were cute stunts, like making us sing Happy Birthday to Paul Wesley on the Star Trek panel and bringing him a Captain Kirk birthday cake, and The Rock appeared for his Black Adam panel in thunder and dry ice. (He also gave us all free IMAX passes.)  

The biggest snoozer - House of Dragons. The whole panel seemed half-asleep, including Matt Smith. You know things are grim when George RR Martin is the liveliest panel member. All in all, I can't believe a GOT spinoff with "Dragons" in the title could be this boring but there it is. The dragon in the Dungeons and Dragons offsite was more captivating.

Hollywood

I heard lots of complaints that certain actors weren't there. That's not my priority so I can't comment, but attendees did seem to feel a bit cheated - and I noticed a drop in the number of "late night drunken celebrity encounters in the Gaslamp" genre of photos and stories that normally land on my phone between 2 am and 4 am.

Non-Attendees

New category for 2022. Here I refer to the many people who did not attend this year, who told me the Con would be dull or a hotbed of infection or have no nightlife - yet wound up tracking down the most granular details of offsite lines and Mattel scandals and texting me with questions and rumors. Did you know these people too? Did they blow up your phone, demanding details about every panel and announcement? Hopefully they go next year because their regret and yearning was clear.



The Saturday Hall H Line

This year was my first willing descent into Hell H in years. While I originally planned on doing the regular line, come what may, what ensued Friday night convinced me I would have bailed and gone back to my room. I'm just not hardcore enough like you fine people. However, one of my friends had an accident Preview Night that put her in ADA, and other friends dropped out of our Hall H line plan, and things shifted so that we wound up with a small group of ADA and attendants. 

This was my first ADA line ever. Friends had previously complained about it but now I experienced it firsthand: placing disabled people to sit out in the sun with no cover on hard cement for an entire day - and then hardly any of them got in. Kevin, our line coordinator, was impressively efficient and we all became big Kevin fans by noon - but I don't understand why they couldn't just tell everyone waiting past a certain chute that there weren't enough wristbands, that the line was capped. That's really the cardinal sin of SDCC: wasting people's time. We all know we won't get into every panel we want to see. But at least give people clear information so they can leave and spend their time elsewhere. Also - since CCI repeatedly makes disabled people sit in the same blazing hot location year after year, maybe they could invest in some canopies or tents? Or just find another location that's more comfortable for people with bad backs, arthritis, neuroskeletal and mobility issues?

As for the regular line - I heard about it but wasn't in the thick of it. People kept messaging me their updates, with their initial confidence turning to rage, then confusion, then bitterness and defeat. We knew Saturday was going to be the hot ticket. We knew CCI probably wouldn't take enough steps to manage it. And that people would form their own lines before the official line was formed, which led to mayhem when the different lines were told to combine. 

But the actual experience was still deeply upsetting for even cynical attendees. I heard of volunteers fighting with each other and Security giving up and then various officials coming out to discuss it but in the end, it was the same as it ever was. People blamed CCI, blamed the different groups that get organized in Discord and Reddit and elsewhere, and blamed the entire system.  I still don't know the answer. I do know this was probably my last Hall H visit for a while.

Note: the above applies to Saturday's line. Other days were much more reasonable, even easy in some cases.



Trailers and Buzz

Here are the winners that emerged with the strongest buzz:

The Lord of Rings: Rings of Power - Even non-Middle Earth fans seemed to come away hyped about this. Oh, and did you know that female dwarves will have facial hair? This seemed like the one soundbite to rule them all.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves delighted everyone I know who saw it.

Marvel - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever walked away with the trophy here, but there's also a lot of excitement about Marvel animation, including the Groot series, Marvel Zombies, Spider-Man: Freshman Year, and X-Men '97. Yes to all of that.

On the animation front, Little Demon seems like it will live up to the promise of Aubrey Plaza and Danny DeVito.



Sandman was my motive for enduring Hall H. I didn't come away with strong feelings. I think the show will hold my interest, but I don't expect it to reflect the cerebral, sometimes melancholy, nature of the comic. The trailer music probably threw me off as it was very generic "fantasy action hero fights bad guy" - well, that and Dream looking like a young Robert Smith from the Cure.

The Star Trek panel surprised Hall H by announcing a crossover between Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks, with the animated characters appearing in live action. I don't think Hall H gave them as robust a reaction as they expected, but I believe Star Trek fans are pleased by this news.

I found the trailer iffy, and I'm not feeling Claudia, but Interview with the Vampire seems to have intrigued many people. 

She-Hulk has got many people jazzed, and I think we can all agree that's due to the uber-talented Tatiana Maslany.



Finally, John Wick 4 and Shazam both seemed to incite a strong audience response. I think the pandemic - and general grimness of world affairs - has people craving both light-hearted, even goofy, entertainment right now and franchises with beloved stars.



And now it's time to put this Con to bed. Like our last Returning Registration badge sale - held 3 years ago! - Ret Reg will be held in the fall, probably September or October. That's not far away at all. 

I hope you had a good time; I hope you attended every screening, party and panel you wanted; I hope you returned home with that same mix of satiation and restlessness that leaves you anticipating the next Con, the next time, when even more Comic-Con adventures open up for you. See you next year - but hopefully sooner.








 



SDCC is back!

 20 JULY 2022


At long last, Comic-Con is here! With just minutes to go before Preview Night, here are a few observations:

The COVID-19 verification stations are pretty easy to locate and complete. The one in front of the convention center - which I did around 9:00 am with a 2 minute wait - is the exception now, with a massive line. I know some people want to check off all 3 steps - wristband, then bag and lanyard, then Exhibit Hall line - but they could probably head out to a different nearby station, get their wristband, and get in line quicker. 

On that note, we saw people walk all the way past that line to G to get their bag - only to be told they had to go back, get in the wristband line, and get their wristband first.



Many of the offsites were still being put together, it seemed. Including this Sandman promo - made literally out of sand.



There were some old favorites too - such as what seems like the 18th year of Walking Dead offsites. (I know it isn't really.) In fact, seeing wraps for Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire and Beavis and Butthead gave today a slightly nostalgic 90's feel. 





Some of the cosplay has been top-notch, despite it being pre-Con. What happened to cosplayers during pandemic lock-down? Did they dress up alone before their bedroom mirrors? Post a lot of selfies? That must have been frustrating. 

On the other hand, maybe some have used this time to plan extremely sophisticated cosplay and we'll all be blown away this week. This guy told me his name. Rory? Russ? (ed. - IMDb.me/RoryRoss) He looked great. No doubt we'll see more cosplay from The Mandalorian, Moon Knight, WandaVision, and other staples of our pandemic life.



As I'm sure you know, we only got 2 bag choices this year. Well, "choice" is not the right term. My friend really wanted the one with Black Adam on the back and of course, they didn't have any where we were. Same as it ever was. And, not to whine about this again, but I really miss the physical copy of the Souvenir Book.

Still, there was no wait to walk in, go up to the Sails Pavilion and grab our stuff. On the whole, today has been really manageable. Even the Exhibit Hall line was not that long when I was buzzing around up there around 3:30 pm.



What do you think so far? What have you seen? I'll report back after Preview Night. 

Is this your first SDCC?

 19 JULY 2022





How many first-timers are going to San Diego Comic-Con this week? I suppose the Open Reg badge sale that took place in 2019 scooped up the same number of first-timers as is typical, but somehow it's difficult to imagine that someone finally gets a badge to SDCC and then has to wait 2 1/2 years to go. But those people must exist, right? - and this is for them. Or you, rather.

First of all, if you're new, you may have been told that "this year isn't going to be a full SDCC" or something similar. Don't listen to that. It's going to be a great year and you will have a great time. That said, here are a few things to know.

Hotels

If you arrive early enough that the your sky-high hotel is still fairly empty, ask for a room on a lower floor - you won't want long elevator waits or rides, and being able to take the stairs can be a blessing. Never mind the view. Also don't be afraid to inquire about upgrading your room. I've known people who went from a single bed to two beds, for instance, just by checking in on Tuesday and asking.


Power and Connectivity

Don't count on being able to charge at the convention center. (Your best chance of finding a free outlet in upstairs in the room 27 area - but not guaranteed because a lot of people sprawl around up there to hide from the chaos.) Bring power packs or extra batteries. If you're absolutely out of luck, head over to the Marriott next door and look for an outlet in the corridor with the Starbucks and couches.

Bag check and Shipping

There are different ways of managing all the loot you'll accumulate. In the convention center, take advantage of Bag Check so you can roam free and unencumbered. Just pick up your items by closing. You can also ship things home at any of the local hotel FedEx/UPS offices - so don't worry about buying too much for the plane trip home.

Walking and Riding

You'll have your choice of Lyft, Uber, cabs, pedicabs, buses and trolleys. You can also take the ferry to Coronado to get in some beach time. My advice is take transport whenever you can instead of trying to walk - because you want to save your foot power for getting around the convention center and Gaslamp. Also realize that the ferry isn't 24/7.

Celebrities
There's a firm law of Comic-Con that you will only run into the celebrities other people care about while they will run into your favorites. It's just how it is (with some exceptions.) The most likely places to see them: the lobby and halls of the Hard Rock, in hotel elevators, and in the Gaslamp very late at night. It should go without saying to be polite, non-creepy, and respect their wishes if they shun you.

Parties and Events
If you registered for a party online, have a "confirmation email," yet find yourself in a long line that hasn't moved in an hour - move on. It's a deplorable practice but some event organizers let literally everyone sign up while only letting VIPs in. Don't waste your night.

And on that note - if you really want to attend a certain event, show up on time. This isn't like a bar where you want to sashay in at a glamorously late hour. There's always the risk you may get edged out.


Cosplayers

You will see many cosplayers, some quite comely. Obviously you know better than to grope, harass, or whisper something creepy as they're smiling for the photo (right?) but what you might not be as conscious of is making physical contact. Cosplayers pose with a lot of people and it can get kind of gross for them to have sweaty stranger after stranger pressing up against them. Try to honor their personal space. 

Restaurants
The Gaslamp isn't the be all and end all of Comic-Con dining. Skip the lines and head for the Headquarters on the other side of the Hyatt, with restaurants that can usually seat people relatively quickly, or go to Little Italy or even Coronado Island.

Exhibit Hall

Bring cash. Lots of it.

Be cynical. The floor is not (in most cases) where you're going to find an amazing deal, unless it's Sunday, when vendors want to unload as much product as possible. You can often find the same stuff for a lower price online. Check your phone and see if that book is really "out of print" or if that toy is selling by the dozen on Ebay. What the floor can be good for is locating a long-lost back issue or rare artifact from your childhood, or discovering brand-new work.

Barter strategically. This is something you get a feel for over time. It's fine to ask about volume discounts (and if you pretend to hesitate between buying 2 or more items, often the vendor will propose one). You'll see lots of markdowns on Sunday, but go ahead and ask about getting a deal if you don't see anything advertised. Just be polite about it.

Also be gracious when someone steps on your feet, knocks your head with their cosplay, or swings their enormous bag into your ribs. It's just what happens in such a crowded space. You'll probably accidentally do the same to someone else.

If you find the item of your dreams but can't buy it at that moment, photograph the booth with number visible so you can remember where it was.

Don't clog up the aisles with long photograph sessions or multi-person conferences - take it out to the lobby or the back terraces. On that note, it's almost always faster to go out to the lobby and walk down to the part of the floor you're trying to reach, rather than move through a torpid floor crowd. 

Before you grab what looks like a free postcard or sticker off a table, ask if they're for sale. Some vendors make their income off those.

This year we have lounges on the floor - how crowded will they get? I don't know if they'll be like the husband chairs at the mall, where middle-aged men look disgruntled while their wives shop, or if they'll be hives of activity. Either way, it's probably best not to monopolize them for too long.

Meeting People
As I alluded to in my post about going to SDCC alone, you're going to make friends. They may be 2-hour friends that you talk to in line or turn into friendships that span years. Panels, MTG tournaments, cosplay photo shoots, offsites and parties tend to encourage friendly conversation. Now - hooking up is a different story. There's a common perception that SDCC is a big nerd sexfest but I haven't found that to be true. Obviously people do get together, but not as much as your partner back home worries. In general, whether you're looking to make friends, expand your SDCC circle, or meet your soulmate, my advice is the same - talk to people.

Media coverage

No mattter how well you've planned and prepped, you'll still want to check online coverage for events and collectibles and surprise guests you'd otherwise miss. If you're stalking a certain actor, TV show, or fandom, glue yourself to the right Twitter accounts. You may get lucky and hear about a surprise party or meet and greet.

Panels

If you get up to the microphone at a panel, be succinct. Fans can get lost in the moment and keep talking and talking. 

Don't hold your iPad or camera above your head for a prolonged period, blocking the view of the person behind you. 

Don't try to save an entire row of seats for your friends. Usually people are understanding about 1 or 2 seats with your bag/jacket on them.

Most rooms will give out bathroom passes. If you don't want to negotiate that in the dark, locate the bathroom pass person before the lights go out. Note where people come in and go out because it's often on opposite sides of the room.

Security guards and volunteers

You'll see a lot of people in uniforms walking around. Let's clarify: volunteers are usually trained for one specific task (though they often know more than that based on their attendee experience) and convention center staffers can tell you how to get where usually, but don't know programming specifics. Your best source of information is other attendees. We have encyclopedic knowledge of Comic-Con - not every aspect, but our own areas - and we share it generously. If you have a question, you can always ask someone wearing a badge.

Security guards have a variety of attitudes and need to be handled strategically. Some are quite nice. Some are probably nice 99% of the time, but are currently frustrated by their Con interactions and are about to snap. Others are on a major power trip. All you need to know is this: you will not win a confrontation with an SDCC security guard. If one is rude or controlling with you in a way you think is unfair, don't engage - just walk away and find another way to get what you want.


Expectations
Specifically - manage them. The Con will disappoint you in some ways. You will almost definitely fail to get something you really wanted. However, Comic-Con also has the capacity to surprise and captivate you. You're on an adventure - expect the unexpected, summon your inner Zen master, and make the most of what happens. There are some panels I really want to attend this year that I won't be able to make. I also got picked for a Funko exclusives session right during the Sandman panel. That's SDCC in a nutshell. Master the art of letting go, and be flexible enough to enjoy wherever you find yourself.

Good luck. You're going to have an incredible adventure.

Staying healthy before - and at - Comic-Conn

 18 JULY 2022



The Angel of Plague

It's so easy to get sick at Comic-Con. "Con Crud" is not an urban legend but something that plenty of people fall prey to, returning from the Con with a cough and general malaise. We are, after all, constantly touching things at SDCC: graphic novels, plushies, cosplayers' shoulders, escalator handrails, restroom doors, each other. Comic-Con was a superspreader event when COVID was just a twinkle in a plague god's eye.

But it's not just flu-type illnesses you need to watch out for. If you're not used to walking, you can easily strain or sprain something or aggravate your plantar fascia. A slowly deflating air mattress leaves you with a stiff back, four hours in the Next Day Line sunburns your scalp. Crowds and general Con frustration can exacerbate any mental challenges you're struggling with. If your fitness level deteriorated during lockdown, you might tire a lot faster than you did at your last SDCC.

And - let's just be honest here - instead of leaving SDCC with an illness this year, many of us will arrive with it. I appreciate CCI doing what they can with requiring a vaccination card or negative COVID test result, but I think it would be far safer if we all had to provide a negative test result there on the spot. Untenable, I know. But many vaccinated people are getting sick with BA.5 right now. I was in a mini-superspreader event last week involving people from the Bay Area and New York and a lot of alcohol and what do you know, people are waking up with sore throats and testing positive. Many of them are triple vaxxed.

I'm fully expecting this week to infect many people. How much control we each individually wield over that is debatable, but we're all making the choice to be in a space with thousands of people in it in a part of the country experiencing high infection rates. If I lose my COVID virginity to SDCC, I won't like it but I won't be angry. It's a choice I made. That said, there are some things we can do to protect our general health like...

Boost your immunity.

There are all kinds of immunity boost magic pills and shots out there. Even if you think they're snake oil, it doesn't hurt to bump up on some echinacea and vitamins. Get adequate sleep too and drink lots of water. 

Wear masks, obviously.

I'm sure plenty of you out there think masks don't work. Experience has taught me they help, even cloth masks when filters are added. Even if you normally don't mask at home, you might want to consider masking full-time in San Diego - not just inside the convention center but everywhere else. I doubt many people will, though.

Bring chairs, drugs, supports.  

Sunscreen to protect you in line, moleskin and bandages for blisters, ibuprofen when panels are a little loud for your delicate skull, muscle ointment - if you don't bring it with you, at least learn where the Gaslamp CVS is. And don't be ashamed to bring a portable chair with you if your feet/back just aren't built for long lines.

Don't overindulge.

I realize indulgence is the entire point of SDCC for many of you. Just remember that you can get hammered back home and that people who are too high to remember the name of their hotel are a burden on their friends. Also consider eating wisely. If you live off fried bar food and a box of donuts in your room, your energy levels will hit rock bottom. Stay hydrated and follow the classic hiking rule: "If you're halfway through your water, you're halfway through your hike."

Take advantage of SDCC resources.

CCI offers a lot of on-site support, including medical professionals, free first aid, private areas for nursing mothers, ADA resources, wheelchairs, ASL interpreters, rest areas, and assistance for the disabled. All of this is there for attendees to use, so don't stoically ignore your pain. I've taken people to first aid - they're happy to help.

Arrange preemptive help for behavioral needs. 

Plenty of nerds have mental health needs that can get exacerbated by SDCC crowds, noise, and disappointments. Telepsych visits can help; so can asking a close friend to be there for a video chat; if you're in recovery, find out where the meetings are and line up some sober activities. 


Finally, take breaks when you need to. Comic-Con is a lot. I think this year is going to be incredible and rewarding in many ways after 3 years of SDCClessness, but it's also going to be risky. Let's look after ourselves and each other.










 

 



 



6 things to do on Monday and Tuesday

 17 JULY 2022



I know, I know: there are a million "how to prepare for San Diego Comic-Con!" articles flying around right now. As if you're not swamped enough, right? So here are a few things to do Monday and Tuesday to make this week a lot less stressful:


1. Tell coworkers, friends, and family you can't be disturbed during Comic-Con. No exceptions. Be firm. Bring it up proactively on Monday - and blame it on connectivity challenges. It's just impossible to get wifi in the convention center and your hotel, tell them, and you'll be out all the time in loud environments where you can't hear your phone alert, and in many SDCC places, they make you shut your phone completely off! Maybe some of that is true and maybe some of it isn't, but you'll do yourself a massive favor by cutting that kind of intrusion off at the root. No text messages, no conference calls, no Zoom meetings. If you have the kind of job or family where you absolutely can't go off leash, set a daily check-in time. 

2. Organize your documents. Group your badge with the lists of any exclusives or back issues you're picking up for friends, print any tickets that need to be printed, etc. Put everything on your phone that you can, but have a backup in case your phone dies.

3. Get your money in order. Transfer whatever funds around you need to, and confirm who's paying what for hotel rooms, meals, tickets and other stuff before you get there. Load up on as much cash as you can so you can avoid ATM lines and those credit card freezes that happen when your staggering number of purchases suggests the card has been stolen.

4. Make a list of 3-5 priorities - not 20. It's fine to have a backup wish list, but if you focus on too many things, you'll be lucky to achieve any of them. Pick your top 3-5 must-haves (signings, panels, events) and organize your days and choices around those things.

5. Let go of any half-baked cosplay plans. Every year someone I know waits until the last second to come up with a cosplay idea. Then it's a race to hunt through stores for the right clothes, tools, and theatre makeup, and all SDCC anticipation is smothered by anxiety as the cosplay looks mediocre and unfinished. If this is you - just let it go. It's not happening this year. And bad cosplay will eat up your Con time in terms of repairs, adjustments, and dissatisfaction.



6. Confirm your hotel arrangements. Many of us have roommates, have transferred rooms to friends, have nights to add or subtract, or need to pay/collect on a deposit. Now is the time to make sure everything is correct and in order. One year, I transferred a room to someone who somehow never changed the name on it, then asked the hotel for an upgrade and told them to cancel the "duplicate" room under my name - my actual room I was keeping at the same hotel. I only learned I was homeless (and was able to fix it) because I'm methodical about confirming hotel rooms. Also, if someone is being squirrely with you about paying their share, collect right now or tell them they're not in the room. I've seen people get stiffed before. 

I know people say comparison is the thief of joy, but I think stress is - so take care of the little things now so you're not stressing later.



Going to Comic-Con by yourself

17 JULY 2022



Below is a modification of something I wrote right before our last SDCC. It occurred to me it's more relevant this year, because I keep encountering people who are going to Comic-Con alone. A lot of them planned on attending with friends who've lost interest or gained other responsibilities over the last 3 years. One person said he didn't want to go by himself and might cancel. Others are going, but facing an SDCC where they have less spending money (paying the entire hotel bill themselves) and no one to go out with at night. 

None of this is a tragedy. Going to SDCC by yourself can be awesome. No compromises, no roommates keeping you awake all night, and full freedom to change plans and priorities at the last second. And best of all, you are far more likely to meet new people and have new adventures.

After the last time I posted on this topic, some people emailed me and said they went solo to Comic-Con year after year. A lot of them disagreed with me and said it wasn't great at all. Some said no one talked to them at SDCC, that they expected to meet their tribe there but felt surrounded by cliques who ignored them. There was considerable sadness, self-blame and cynicism. So I wanted to talk about it again.

There are really two themes here. One is going to SDCC literally on your own and the other is being isolated when you're there. Let's break it down.

First of all, a lot of attendees go to SDCC by themselves.

You wouldn't know this from the 8 jillion happy group photos all over Instagram, but lots of attendees fly solo. People take the train down from LA or fly in from all over the country, other countries. There are a few reasons for this:
  • Some of us really embody the shy introverted nerd stereotype and don't have many friends to begin with. 
  • Some of us have a lot of friends but they don't share our nerdy passions.
  • Some of us start out with Con friends but then they have kids or mortgages or just lose interest and one day we're the 40-year-old whose friends think Comic-Con is childish. 
  • Sometimes we're all set to embark on an SDCC adventure with a boyfriend or girlfriend and then we break up 17 days before. 
  • Some of us like going alone, usually because we like to indulge ourselves and control our schedules completely.
  • Some of us are technically solo but have Con friends we always meet up with.
  • Some of us technically attend with someone, usually to share a hotel room with, but do everything on our own.
Regardless of what category you fall into, here are a few tips that might help.

Even if you're a lone wolf, Con life is much easier with teammates.

I'm not just talking about buying groups. I'm talking about line shifts, having someone pick up an exclusive while you're watching Preview Night pilots, bringing you food or holding your seat. Most attendees are pretty nice people who will honor your place in line while you hit the restroom but overall, it helps to join forces with someone. On that note...


If you don't want to bring someone, consider being part of a Comic-Con group. 

If you hang out online in various nerdy/Con spaces, you eventually drift into these digital tribes where everyone supports each other in badge sales, hotel sales and even panel/offsite access. Consider making this effort even if you're very shy in real life. You don't have to become boon companions once you're at the Con but a little support is nice. It might seem odd to you to become line partners with someone online but these arrangements tend to work out reasonably well once you get there. Give it a shot.


But don't bring someone just for the sake of companionship.

You may disagree with this. But if your current paramour says "I want to go!" even though they're not into Con stuff at all - don't listen to them. They're actually envisioning a trip where you do SDCC for a few hours every day and then take off with them to go surfing or visit their college friend in Carlsbad. I've dated so many people who think this is reasonable. Outsiders do not get how all consuming Comic-Con is and they get impatient when you dive in and don't come up for air.

Now - I have seen a few people "flip" their SO during the Con. But the SO has to be willing to explore the possibilities.


Talk to people once you're there.

Oh, you hate small talk? So do I. But SDCC works this mysterious transformation where everyone somehow easily converses with everyone else. There's always something to talk about - your hotel room screwup, a drunk celebrity in your elevator, the inevitable gossip about badge or wristband fraud, the piercing injustice of a Hasbro exclusives line. Just participating in these conversations (and they will spring up around you) can help you make interesting connections. Remember - these people share your interests. This isn't like being forced to talk to your coworkers at the office Christmas party. And there are no burdensome social obligations since you'll never see them again.

 
Look for fandom meetups and happy hours.

You'll probably feel awkward walking in but remember most everyone else there is a stranger too. This includes people who "know" each other online. Meeting your favorite forum or Twitter friends in real life can feel even weirder than meeting a regular stranger. No one is what you expect! So just roll with it and see what happens. You will usually click with at least one person there, if not several. And don't worry about the "odd one" - it's Comic-Con. 


If you're looking for company, be blunt.

I can't count the number of semi-strangers who've outright said, "Can I hang out with you guys?" after some conversation. People like adding strangers to their wolf packs, so just ask. SDCC attendees are pretty casual that way.



If you're convinced you have zero social skills or appealing traits, force yourself to make conversation.

Several attendees have confessed to me that they are wretched souls scorned by all, and they're doomed to wander Comic-Con alone. They were sure I couldn't possibly understand how hard it was for them. No doubt they're right on that score, but I do know that socially handicapped people need to practice to get better. And you never have to see any attendees again, even if they flee in horror from you. Which they won't. Use SDCC as batting practice.


Appreciate the upside of being alone.

The first half of my SDCC existence was spent with my ex who, may she rest in peace, put up roadblocks constantly to my Comic-Con joy. She wanted to stay in when I wanted to go to a party. She complained about my panel choices but refused to leave my side. She drank too much and got so sick we had to go home early. Etc. You'll hear far more grim stories from some people in tightly-knit groups: fights, control issues, sacrificed event tickets and missed opportunities. Lasting bitterness. So enjoy your freedom and autonomy, go out on the prowl, and do exactly what you want. You are the envy of many.



Okay, I'm done. Last time I said that attendees have the power to make their Con as social as they want it to be - and I understand now why some people got miffed and felt I was dismissing their challenges. So I'll admit that's not entirely true, but I still believe attendees have more agency than they think here. Good luck and remember the words of French revolutionary General Danton: Boldness, more boldness, and always boldness.

 I hope you make a new friend at Comic-Con.

Planning Your SDCC Line Strategy


13 JULY 2022



If there's one consistent pre-SDCC vibe in the air, it's fervor. People are jumping on every ticket and event they can and creating radical strategies to ensure Hall H entry. It's obvious that (Special Edition not withstanding) the 3 years since our last SDCC have created a state of deprivation. Attendees are even more zealous than they used to be and that's saying something. 

Most of this comes down to lines, with everyone trying to estimate how bad they'll be this year, the best time to line up for which room, and how to outfox their fellow attendees. If you're an SDCC veteran, you know that line times went off the rails in the last decade and that while the wristbands help, it can still be gruesome. And with so much online chatter about Hall H this year, people are proposing some really crazy times to line up. Some of which won't actually do them any good.

Remember that a Con without Hall H (or Ballroom 20 or Indigo Ballroom) can still be an incredible Con. You can attend more panels and events because you're not spending hours in line. But if you are determined to get inside one of the big rooms, here are a few considerations.

On camping - If you last went to SDCC during the Twilight years, when people set up literal campsites on the grass for days at a time, it's not like that now. If you try to line up too early, before the flag officially goes down to form a line, you've just wasted a lot of time. It used to be that it would happen after the NDL line got wristbanded at night, but I think in 2019 the official line started in the morning the day before.

On the quality of the panel experience - Imagine a scenario where you get into Hall H but are sitting at the back at the room and have to watch it on the screen. And your favorite actor or director is on stage, but they barely speak, while an actor you dislike does most of the talking. Is it still worth it? 

On Playback Room - I don't do this but it's an option if you missed your favorite panel. If a recording of the panel is emotionally satisfying for you, do this.

On sacrifices - Before you spend 20 hours in a line, make a list of everything you will give up for those hours and the hours you're in Hall H. If your goal is to see a certain trailer, which is going to be on YouTube in 1 day anyhow, it might not be worth it.

On holding spaces for other people - The official rule is 1 person can hold a spot for 5 people. Anyone who's watched a line suddenly acquire hundreds of people 30 minutes before wristbands are passed out knows that many people ignore that. Which is poor form in my opinion, but it happens. My advice is to make friends with the people in front of and behind you and let them know you'll be joined by 4 friends later so no one gets testy about it.

On bullies, fake wristbands, mobbing, and other past devils - It's all still fresh in our memory, right? While I still think most attendees share a sense of honor and community, I (and others) have noticed a rising aggression and mercilessness at the most recent Cons. If that happens again, do what you can to let a staffer know but don't expect them to do much about it. I've long believed that CCI needs to enforce line order with trained and paid security (not volunteers) but I doubt that's happening anytime soon. 

On Covid - We last lined up for Marvel and GOT in a different world. Will CCI take measures to ensure we're all spaced appropriately as we wait? Again - I doubt it. 

On competition - Remember that good panels in other rooms will draw off some of the heat. Someone might decide thar the Indigo Ballroom Friday panels are too good to pass up, which means they can't do the Saturday Hall H line on Friday.

On confirmation - It's easy to get the wrong information from a volunteer or staffer. When is the NDL officially forming; where is the line going to wrap around; how will wristbanding work; you can get answers that have nothing to do with reality. Always confirm what someone tells you.


I say this every year and I'll say it again: always remember that this Comic-Con could be your last. Who would have thought back in 2019 that a global pandemic would cancel SDCC20202 and SDCC2021? You can never really guarantee you're getting a badge next year - so think carefully about how you spend your Comic-Con time. 

See you in line.






12 SDCC Things to Buy on Amazon Prime Day

11 JULY 2022




Amazon Prime Day starts tomorrow, running July 12-13. At the same time, Target and other retailers are trying to muscle in on their profits by offering their own deals. All of which means it's a good time to order the little (or expensive) amenities that make SDCC so much better. 

I have no idea if you'll find an actual Prime deal on any of this stuff - but it's worth looking.


#1. Orthotics and/or supportive shoes. By now, you probably have your Con shoes ready - but it doesn't hurt to buy some cushiony orthotics or extra support.  When it comes to SDCC footwear, a general rule of thumb is that the dorkier it looks, the better your feet will feel.

#2. Backup batteries and power supplies. Comic-Con is a vampire that sucks the power from phones and cameras - and it can be hard to get a good charge within the convention center. Bring all the extra power sources you can.

#3. GoPros, cameras and phones. If you're going to upgrade anyhow sometime this year, do it now. Give yourself enough time to play with the camera and voice recorder - I bought a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra last week and I'm still figuring out all the photography tricks. Also, if your current film gear is heavy and cumbersome, consider getting some smaller and Con-friendly devices.

 #4. Air hammocks and portable chairs. When is the last time you dragged out your old Hall H line gear? Make sure your chair still folds/unfolds/sits you well - and maybe just look at what new advances have been made in the world of portable chairs. Same for air mattresses, if you're cramming a bunch of people in one hotel room. 

#5. Earplugs and sleep masks. Speaking of sharing rooms. Roommates creep in and out at all hours at SDCC and some hotels are really noisy, especially Gaslamp hotels with rooms close to street level.  

#6. Braces, splints and other supports. It's too easy to aggravate your plantar fasciitis, bad knee, slipped disc, etc. at SDCC. If you have any kind of structural weak spot, give yourself support before it starts hurting.

#7. Cosplay components. It's always a good idea to buy back-up wigs, props, theatre makeup, fixative sprays, and sewing kits, just to be safe.

#8. OTC drugs. At some point in SDCC, it's a safe bet you or someone in your group will have sunburn, constipation, a hangover, blisters, a surprise period, a headache, a stiff neck from a weak pillow, eye strain, or some other ailment. And hotel gift shop prices are pure robbery for even a tiny pack of Advil or small bottle of sunscreen.

#9. Good water bottles, coolers, and lunch packs. It's amazing to think of how we all used to bake in the sun for hours in line with just a small plastic bottle of water for hydration. Now insulated lunch packs and tumblers can carry us really comfortably through a long day of panels and lines.

#10. Sketchbooks and journals. I feel like scrapbooking is no longer what it used to be in Con circles; same with collecting artist sketches. But I'm sure some of you still do it.

#11. Digital business cards. Something like a Popl can make it really easy to connect with people - because pulling out a paper business card feels so corporate and yet "I'll find you on Instagram" hardly ever comes to fruition. You can format it however you want, such as including your social accounts, your online portfolio, and a line or two about what you actually do. It's the fastest way to ensure your new contacts can follow up with you.

#12. Masks. Remember, you have to wear them inside the convention center - so even if you plan on hunting down masks from your specific fandom, you need to bring a few with you.

 

And of course now is the time to buy the really vital stuff you can't get on Amazon - any prescription drugs you're taking and almost out of, new tires/oil changes if you're driving, or a last-minute salon appointment to fix your wild pandemic hair. Also - maybe consider a booster if you haven't gotten one yet. True, it won't be fully potent by the time you arrive, but it's still some extra protection. 

How ready do you feel?



Saturday and Sunday round out a pretty good SDCC

 10 JULY 2022




Now that we have all SDCC programming laid out - what do we think?

Saturday Highlights

Hall H is so bright today it blots out the sun and all other panels. At least, that's how I felt about it. Black Adam, Sandman, Star Trek, Kevin Smith, House of the Dragon, and more - getting in will be a bloodbath.

Of course, Friday's panels are great and sacrificing them to stand in the Next Day Line is tough. So for everyone who isn't battling their way to a Hall H wristband, what else do we have?

NASA offers up an enticing panel on simulations - and later there's a panel (not from NASA) on our future space residences.

Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Forry Ackerman - this panel comes around and again, but it's always enjoyable even if you've seen it before. 

Lots of comic panels - from a creative, publishing, and an academic stance. People who complain that SDCC is no longer about comics should find plenty to quench their comic thirst.

A few interesting panels:

The Mandalorian goes into the psychology of the character, the piloting of the crafts, and other details of the show. In other words, not a standard Q&A with cast but a really incisive presentation for fans who like to think about the show. And there's a similar panel at the library for fans of Game of Thrones, and another at the Marriott for X-Men. 

From the files of people you didn't expect to see at Comic-Con: Kesha has a panel. Apparently she has a paranormal show described as a "docu-series" coming out and you can get a sneak peek. Also in that category: NBA stars talking about their love of anime.

And Bill Nye the Science Guy also has a new show about "epic global disasters." Yes, please.

Ballroom 20 has The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad and... Interview with a Vampire?  No idea AMC was coming out with that.

At night, you have the gay mixer, the Masquerade, the beautifully named Hamster & Gretel, a documentary about Dave Stevens, and a whole lot more.


Sunday Highlights

I find today middling at best. That's okay - Sunday to me is a day to sleep in, pack, and look for close-out deals in the Exhibit Hall - but you may feel differently.

Today is apparently Nostalgia Day: we have panels on Emily the Strange, Power Rangers, Sonic the Hedgehog, Pac Man, and Blade Runner.

Sunday is usually for kids, and sure enough, we have spotlight panels on creators who create YA and younger work, as well as things like a Lightyear screening.

We have also have panels on Asian representation, mental illness, and being black and queer in pop culture/comics.

And of course, we close out Sunday with Comic-Con Talk Back - your opportunity to tell CCI what's working for you and what isn't. 


So what do you think? What's your best day?

Friday programming brings the thunder

 July 8



Let's just say it: SDCC is bringing plenty of firepower this year. We may be missing a few items from our wishlist but there is plenty to get excited about.


Look at Hall H - which brings you Lord of the Rings, Walking Dead, Dragon Ball, and Keanu Reeves on Friday. That's a lot.

Ballroom 20 isn't quite as enticing to me today - but I know many of you will be interested in Marvel and EW's "Brave Warriors"/TV Boyfriend panels.  Paper Girls is my pick.

Indigo Ballroom brings a cornucopia of animation thrills. Gremlins, Secrets of the Mogwai; Little Demon (with Aubrey Plaza, not Screamin' Jay Hawkins); Archer - it's just another phenomenal animation Friday. I could park myself in here all day if I wasn't called elsewhere.

We also get more good science on Friday - Gaaays in Spaaace (please make this into a TV show), a panel on holograms, a look at genetic magic and dinosaurs, etc. SDCC has really increased the caliber of their science content over the last 5 years and I'm so into it. The easy winner today: NASA's panel on the Webb telescope, which releases its first images just days before SDCC. Line up early.

The spotlight panels today should draw a crowd, focusing on Scott Snyder, Frank Miller, Dan Parent, Terry Moore, and others.

In addition to the aforementioned Gaaaays in (Actual) Space, we have a few other rainbow panels, including Queer for Fear - a Shudder document on the role of queer representation in horror that looks incredible. 



I imagine many people will be interested in the Mike Mignola documentary; there's also the Christian mixer, the Eisners, a Princess Mononoke screening, Spike and Mike, and a lot of other nighttime options. It's nice to see them continuing the Friday night Ballroom 20 DC premiere tradition with Green Lantern; that would be my pick.


What do you think? Are you feeling it? Are you now smirking at all your ex-attendee friends who told you SDCC 2022 would be boring?

We'll see what Saturday brings.

Thursday programming looks good

 8 JULY 2022


So! CCI has offered up half of San Diego Comic Con's programming. What do you think?


Thursday Highlights


Thursday has traditionally been a strong day for creatives and this was somewhat the case again. There are panels for artists, photographers, writers, game creators - both creative and practical, such as maximizing tax deductions for freelancers and getting news coverage. Normally I skip these panels but I am interested in the one about using AI to break through creative barriers.

There is also a fair amount of panels focusing on diversity - from Indigenous storytelling to "supporting LGBTQIA+ and Neurodiverse communities" to increasing diversity in comics.

Unbelievably, the Lost panel came back! I guess the pandemic didn't kill everything. As a former Lost fan, I've long since lost the desire to discuss the show but I appreciate that the flame of fandom can burn for decades in some hearts.

And speaking of fandom.... hats off to whoever put together the genius idea of a Jaws trial panel. Last summer at a random horror Con, I met the actor who played Chrissy, the skinnydipper who got eaten in the opening moments of the movie. She was an interesting woman; it was one of those unexpected Con moments that make everything worthwhile. I love that some devoted Jaws fans created an entire trial to work out their feelings - the intersection of creativity and fan passion is what makes SDCC so irreplaceable. 

The museum gets a few panels as well, including what seems to be a focus on the Archie exhibit. I know I'm being repetitive, but I really hope attendees will make the effort to catch a shuttle over to the museum. I feel like it will probably get overlooked by most, though.

Also nice on Thursday: some brainy science panels that offer explorations of AI, robotics, medicine, futurism, and NASA's next jaunt to the moon.

In terms of the big rooms.... I don't think any of them are unattainable, provided you're willing to do your line time. I very much want to see Beavis and Butt-head Do Comic-Con at 4:45 in Ballroom 20 but will be at the Love and Rockets panel until 4, so that might not work for me. But if you have your heart set on something in Hall H or Ballroom 20, I feel like your standard big room line strategy will suffice.

Once the sun goes down, we've got some exciting options: the annual Kung Fu extravaganza, an advance screening of Harley Quinn season 3 episodes 1 and 2, the "Un-Masquerade" where cosplayers reveal their secrets, and a chance to hear from Spanish comic creators.

All in all, a good day. Onto Friday!







It's Programming Eve and we've got announcements

 6 JULY 2022


                                      

Like a last-minute Santa Claus, CCI showered us with announcements today. Let's review.


Souvenir Book Cover

If, like me, you still think wistfully of the Ray Bradbury-riding-a-dinosaur cover that never made it to print in 2020, you might have had high hopes for this year. I really love holding the Souvenir Book in my hands every summer and I know some of you do too. Alas, this year's will be a PDF - "filled with lots of full-color articles," CCI says, like that makes up for no print version. 

I get it, they're trying to save money, it's the Digital Age, and so on. And this year's Souvenir Book does promise to have some good articles. But as a literary dinosaur who loves print, I will miss the physical copy.


International Film Festival Schedule

At some point in the thunder and sweat of the Exhibit Hall, you might feel like you're going to snap - which is the perfect time to go somewhere quiet and dark. Like the Marriott next door in Grand Ballroom 6! This is where you can take in 50 movies from filmmakers from all over the world working in every genre you can think of. This is a competition of sorts, with awards passed out on Sunday, but it's also a nice opportunity to take in some real creativity at the Con. Take a look at the schedule and see if something catches your eye.





The Exhibit Hall Rules and Regulations and MAP - Pandemic Style

The map of your future credit card debt has landed. I know there's been a lot of gloomy theories about how good vendors might not be around this year, so I think we can now put that to rest. Forget the DC Warner booth we're not getting - you won't miss it. There's plenty of old favorites returning. Check out the map of the Exhibit Hall - and Small Press and Artist's Alley and such - and correlate it to the exclusives you want to buy.

Also - don't just breeze past the rules they list. They actually help create a more pleasant Comic-Con for everyone. Things like not taking 5 minutes to photograph 1 cosplayer and keeping to the right really do restore some order to an inherently chaotic situation. And make sure your mask fits their guidelines.

You might have to help me with this one: 'We have established designated lounge areas throughout the Exhibit Hall to use at your leisure - feel free to use these areas to meet up with friends or just chill out for a bit!"

Is this new? I don't recall a "lounge area" in my almost-20 years of SDCCing. I've been lucky to find two contiguous square feet to get some breathing room. Or are they referring to the tables where people eat the Cafe Express food? "Lounge area" sounds like it should be decked out with luxurious sofas and low lighting like a 19th century opium den.


The CLEAR App to Prove Your Non-Infected Status

I know a lot of you didn't go to Special Edition in November. I did and showing my vaccine card (in Hall H, which was weird) was a non-issue. However, that was a much smaller population than we'll have this summer. So it's a good idea to make showing your negative test result or vaccination status as easy as possible The CLEAR app lets you create an SDCC Health Pass to make this quick and easy. Once you've got your pass, you'll show it to get your wristband - you don't have to even bring your vaccine card.


Tomorrow the Preview Night pilots and the Thursday programming should be released. Exciting!






Pre-planning before SDCC programming is released

 4 JULY 2022


Happy Independence Day! Since you've already attended at least one SDCC if you have a badge for this one, you've probably done the math and calculated that we are mere days away from the programming announcements. That's always an exciting time - but considering that we have been waiting literal years for this Con, this week is going to be really satisfying. 

(In case you've forgotten, or 2019 was your first time - CCI traditionally publishes the programming 2 weeks before the Con, day by day. We'll also get an Exhibitor Hall map and other information in the coming days.) 

If you feel our long hiatus has rotted your SDCC skills, now is the time to plan your planning process - over-organized as that might sound. A few things you could do include:

  • Brush up on this year's line policies and locations. Yep, they look a lot like 2019's wristband practices, but read up anyhow so you can maximize your chances of getting a great seat at the Sandman panel.

  • Leave space to go to the Museum. It's worth the trip. Unfortunately, the Charles Addams and Gene Roddenberry exhibits are no longer there (they were incredible) but we still have the PacMan arcade, the Archie exhibit, and of course the new Spider-Man exhibit and some other stuff. If you don't have a Preview Night badge, consider going to CCI's Night at the Comic-Con Museum event to watch Spider-Man get inducted into CCI's Hall of Fame.



  • Give panels a chance. There's a sizeable number of attendees who roll their eyes at attending a panel. They're there for parties, celebrities, and exclusives. If that's you, take a look at the programming anyhow. You probably will find something intriguing and it'll make for a nice break from Con chaos.

  • Plan as a team. Doing the Hall H line in shifts, picking up an exclusive for someone while they pick up tickets, or enlisting extra help in a lottery will make your SDCC so much easier.

  • Read the whole guide/site. I know it's a lot, but it's the only way to learn of all the obscure but satisfying panels that won't show up in your Twitter or IG feed. From comic book creators to AI and robotics to retired fandoms and niche collectors, SDCC manages to serve up programming for the farthest flung corners of the nerd multiverse. So do your research and don't just wait to hear about the big name panels.


17 more days. After 3 years, it doesn't quite seem real, does it?