The pre-ECCC events waiting for you

22 JANUARY 2017

39 days until Emerald City - are you ready? Are you going to make it through these final weeks??

If not, you have options.

Fremont Brewing has again crafted the chosen beer of ECCC, Dark Heron - and you can go to its launch party on Thursday, 2 February at the Fremont Brewing Urban Beer Garden at 1050 N. 34th Street in Seatle.

On 6 February you can go to a night of "Comicprov" featuring comedy, cosplay, giveaways and photo ops. At Unexpected Productions - 1428 Post Alley, Seattle.

Or you can run your little heart out at the Cosplay 5K Fun Run on Monday, 25 February at Green Lake. This is a race you can run in your cosplay - so make sure yours is comfortable.

Most of the emails I've gotten have asked me about nighttime Con events, though - film screenings, parties and such. I'll cover those as we get closer. Don't worry about having nothing to do at night; there will be plenty going on.

ECCC kid tickets are running low

18 JANUARY 2017

If you're taking a youngster to Emerald City Comicon and they're between 6 and 12, get their ticket right now - ECCC has sent out an official warning that child tickets are running low.

Interestingly, Friday is still available with only 6 weeks to go. That's quite a span between the 4-days and Saturdays going so fast, and then Friday hanging on to almost the bitter end. Why is that? Are people having a hard time getting it off from work?

More Outlander VIP tix will go on sale at noon PST

13 FRIDAY 2017

If you missed the chance to buy ECCC's Outlander tickets - which includes a special VIP meet and greet, autographs and photo ops - more tickets will go on sale at noon today. The Rob Liefield package is currently available too.

To be clear, this doesn't waive your need to buy a regular Emerald City Comicon ticket - you'll need a Friday, Saturday or 4-day ticket. Friday tickets are still available, so you have a shot.

Now - I know some of you are mildly resentful, because you wonder how many more of these special packages are going to be offered, and will they sell out while you're trapped at a job or stuck in a DMV line or some other imposition. All I can say is that as I noted below, we are officially in Emerald City season and you'll need to pay close attention to announcements. That's Comic Con life.

And yes, there will be more guests and events announced in the coming weeks. The ECCC hype is just getting started.

Your ECCC To Do List

13 JANUARY 2017

Happy Friday the 13th! Are you making a San Diego Comic-Con badge sale conjure bag right now? Writing PREVIEW NIGHT in dragon's blood ink on a mandrake root?  Well, put SDCC aside and think ahead 7 weeks - specifically to the first week of March, when Emerald City Comicon lights up our lives.

There is a lot to plan if you're going, and it's possible you're so sick of their flying man loading screen that you're afraid to check their site. So to help you stay current, here are a few developments the ECCC team has sprung on us:

  • The ticket mailing deadline is 27 January. Not far away at all. You can still buy after that, but then you'll need to pick up your tickets on site. If you'd rather have them arrive in the mail, buy now.

  • In fact, I would recommend checking out the ever-growing guest lists, both comics and entertainment: I know we're all sad that Carrie Fisher won't be there, but ECCC has added some nice guests and will certainly add more over the coming weeks. 

  • You can also buy tickets to a Thursday night erotic fanfiction competition based on Sandman. No, this isn't a bunch of subway poets morosely identifying with Dream and Despair; the writers include ECCC fave Matt Fraction, Seanan McGuire, Scott Westerfield and a few others, and you'll vote on their work. I'll post more about this tomorrow.

  • But what if you're an attorney who wants to get schooled on the law as it pertains to the comic book industry? Emerald City is presenting two new classes, in association with the Washington State Bar Association and Thomas A. Crowell. This is for attorneys only; you can't pop in and ask a presenter if your publishing contract is on the up and up.

  • And if you want to learn art tricks from "the most knowledgeable and experienced artists in the industry," you can sign up for the Schoolism Live workshops. You don't need an ECCC badge for this.

We're just getting into the season where more outside events will get announced, as well as more guests and panels and exclusives. So I'll be posting more on Emerald City going forward - and if you still haven't decided if you're going, hopefully you'll jump off the fence and buy a ticket.

New Phoenix Comicon volunteer policy on hold

5 JANUARY 2017

Due to protests over the proposed Phoenix Comicon pay-to-volunteer plan, director Matt Solberg and the rest of the convention organizers have gone back to the drawing board. An email today stated that Solberg will not remain on the board of Blue Ribbon Army, the organization which prospective volunteers would pay to join, and will have no voting stake.

Meetings have already been planned with volunteers and staff; those meetings will discuss other options, such as a smaller but paid workforce and/or unpaid volunteers recruited through a nonprofit. While it sounds like Blue Ribbon Army will still be the nonprofit of choice, there will be an increased degree of separation between PHXCC and BRA. In theory.

I don't think there's going to be a perfect solution here that makes everyone happy - but the recognition of community feeling is a positive development, as is the solicitation of input. I'm sure the dialogue over the coming weeks and months will be an interesting one. Whether it's an effective one remains to be seen.

Interview: Phoenix Comicon volunteer speaks out

4 JANUARY 2017

Another day, another update in the controversy around the new Phoenix Comicon volunteer policy. If you've missed it so far, here's the deal: to volunteer at PHXCC, you'll need to join social club Blue Ribbon Army and pay $20 for that membership. Outrageous? Logical? Absurd? You decide.

Every Comic Con involves multiple factions - vendors, attendees, guests, volunteers, laborers - and some of those factions matter more than others from a business perspective. While there's a general nod to volunteers as the unsung heroes of any convention, they really don't get enough credit for all of the help they provide in presenting attendees with a great experience - and with helping for-profit event organizers stay successful.

To find out what actual volunteers think about the changes, I interviewed James Palestini, a Phoenix criminal defense attorney and long-term Phoenix Comicon volunteer who has moderated top panels.

James' responses are his opinions and nothing more - so please take them in that spirit, rather than a factual accounting of this issue.

How did you become a volunteer? What inspired you - are you a typical nerd?

4 years ago I answered a "casting call audition" to volunteer.  And no, I'm not. I love everything pop culture. One of the main reason I got involved with Phoenix Comicon was seeing how much it was helping Phoenix and the downtown, by bringing events of that magnitude to the area. I wanted to be part of it.

What kind of shifts did you work?

I'm a moderator, which means I was there 24/7. I've moderated every kind of panel - comic authors, graphic novelists, big movie stars like Jason Momoa.

Ah yes, I was at that panel. A fan offered up a candle for St. Momoa, Patron Saint of the Lustful. What kind of training did you have? I've been to some panels moderated expertly and some that were amateur hour.

The year I auditioned, it was an intense process. We had to submit headshots and they had us read over 3 scenarios. Then we had to get on stage in front of 10+ judges, who picked a scenario and had a coordinator serve as a mock guest. We were judged on intros, handling questions from the audience - they do that to avoid moderators who can't relate to the crowd and then they bomb and make Phoenix Comicon look bad.

It becomes a full-time job with the training and everything else.

When did the change in volunteering get announced?

PHXCC Director Matt Solberg came out with an email last week that sent the nerd community into a frenzy. He talked about decreasing the number of volunteers going forward.

Did he say why?

I don't recall reading why, but there's a professed issue of no oversight on top of these volunteers and making sure they're doing what they're supposed to be doing.

So the official complaint is that some volunteers skipped out and left others holding the bag - which implies a shortage of labor, yet they're going to reduce the force. That doesn't make sense to me. Is there going to be a restructuring so the same amount of work can get done with fewer people?

Not that I know of. As attorney, my perspective is that this could be a smokescreen for avoiding certain volunteer caps and paying minimum wage, and was dressed up as a volunteer accountability thing.

Is your perspective shared by others?

I've spoken with quite a few volunteers - they know I'm an attorney and have asked me about the legal implications. I think it's legal, I think it would stand up to any lawsuit. I'm not saying ethically I support it, though.

Solberg is the director of PHXCC and sits on the board of the BRA. This may be legal, but from a PR perspective, it creates an image of a cabal running things behind the scenes, rather than being open to community input. Do volunteers feel they still have a voice, especially after giving blood, sweat and tears to the Con for years?

No - I don't think they don't feel that way at all. This came straight from Matt. It was an order, not a discussion, though apparently there are a few meetings set up to discuss it further. So maybe things will change. But I doubt it.

This doesn't go against 501(c)7 requirements, and the requirement from the IRS is to make information available to the public, so I don't think Matt would violate that or profit directly from it since he has to be up front.

There's the legality of the issue, but also the community fallout. Comic Cons are popular in part because they're a very accepting environment where outsiders feel at home. Do you think this issue has poisoned that perception locally?

You can see it on the BRA Facebook page. People are posting their dissatisfaction on how it's being handled, critics are trying to quash that and delete posts, people have called each other idiots - it's a terrible thing to see. You want to include everyone, create that feeling of "We're all in this together to have a good time and make friends." But the last week has eroded that pretty heavily.

Will there be difficulty in getting 1300 volunteers for PHXCC 2017?

Not at all. I think Matt knew there would be backlash, but he could take a risk like this because he'd still have enough volunteers.

You're an insider. You know what it's like to volunteer. Do you think there really is an issue with people abandoning their posts? Getting their badges, slipping off into the night never to be seen again yet still somehow enjoying the full Con?

I'm sure there's a small, very small, issue with this. But most people who volunteer do it because they love the Con, not for free tickets. I think this is a smokescreen. And why blame the volunteers? Go after the managers. Put the onus on them and make sure they're following up. Find these people and pull their badge. That might sound difficult but with how well everyone knows each other in the community, I guarantee that could be happening.

They do have oversight. And they do follow up, from what I've seen. So I don't think that's the issue. I think it's more about avoiding paying minimum wage - which is smart from a business perspective. But when you've got volunteers who poured their hearts into this, I think they feel betrayed.

I can see that. It's not just the volunteer shift, it's the meetings, the training. It can feel like a slap in the face to be told hey thanks for your years of free labor, but now you need to jump through more hoops and you still may not get picked.

It's insulting.

People keep telling me, "It's going to become about favorites." Nerds aren't always the most socially outgoing people and there are many shy people who volunteer to make new friends and feel more a part of things. If you now need to be a member of a club, some people may worry they need to go to certain events, schmooze, be part of the cool kids to get picked - whether that's actually the case or not.

That's already happening. Friends have told me BRA is full of cliques and some feel excluded. And with all the in-fighting now, I can see it getting worse.

What's your prediction for the future? I don't think people have soured on the event, but I do think this has become divisive enough to spark alternatives for the pop culture and nerd community in Phoenix.

There very well might be. I wouldn't be surprised if something like that came up. It might be necessary as a protest, a reminder that says, "You went about this the wrong way." Right now people think the protesters are going to drift off but I don't think that's the case.

On the other hand, PHXCC has instituted policies before where there was a backlash and Matt changed them. So that could happen. I don't know what's going to happen here.

And on that note of uncertainty, we'll conclude. There's an all-hands meeting this weekend to discuss this issue; I won't be there but some friends are going to report back to me. Stay tuned!

On the Phoenix Comicon volunteer drama

2 JANUARY 2017

A small controversy has been blowing around the Con sphere these last few days, picking up enough momentum to outrage attendees everywhere. I wanted to stay out of this because I know some of the people involved. But everyone has been asking me about it so here it is.

Phoenix Comicon is making its volunteers pay for the privilege - sort of.

Essentially, to volunteer at Phoenix going forward, you'll need to be a member of local organization Blue Ribbon Army, which costs a minimum of $20 a year. (PHXCC director Matt Solberg is on Blue Ribbon Army board, if you're wondering what the connection is. That's part of the debate.) Joining BRA doesn't guarantee you a volunteer position, either; it just makes you eligible to volunteer. Virtually 100% of the Phoenix attendees/past volunteers I've spoken to feel negatively about this.

So is this unfair and horrible or is it a reasonable solution to what PHXCC says is a real problem - people abandoning their volunteer posts and burdening their fellow volunteers? Here are the factors in play so you can judge for yourself.

  • Joining the Blue Ribbon Army doesn't mean you get to volunteer. It just puts you on the list. In fact, while there will be about 1300 volunteers for the 2017 Con, they are hoping to only need 950 for 2018. But joining BRA isn't just about volunteering. You pay to join a non-profit organization  (a fan organization turned social club) and enjoy benefits beyond just the eligibility to volunteer - early access to hotel reservations and the BRA lounge, entry to other events, for instance.

  • Much coverage of this kerfuffle has positioned Phoenix Comicon as a top Con. I'm going to say that it's not. The attendee numbers may be respectable (106K in 2016) but I feel that's because it's in a city where not much happens, especially for nerds; also it caters to a younger demographic (I've never seen so many high school attendees at any other Con) by offering tons of events while offering limited panels of substance. The numbers may be there but the offerings aren't, not in my book. I felt the same way about Alamo City Comic Con, as well as other Cons that manage to draw in half the city without offering the type of talent you'd see at SDCC or NYCC. I am not saying that's bad, because obviously these Cons are delivering something great for the people who love them; I am saying that you can't judge a Con in conventional ways by its attendance numbers. From instance, most of the artists, writers and retailers I've spoken to were vastly disappointed in their Phoenix Comicon sales - the attendees were not their typical fans and customers. I say this not to be mean, but to gently correct the recent suggestions that Phoenix is at par with NYCC and SDCC. You can see my past reviews here.

  • The struggle over volunteering and other past PHXCC challenges - like the badge system going down last year and thousands of people being kept outside in 117 degree heat, some of whom required medical attention - are typical of Cons that grow very quickly. Bigger Cons have had the luxury of learning over many years, or they got snapped up by organizations like ReedPOP that know how to handle logistics more smoothly. This Con has doubled in size in the last 3 years. They're going to make missteps and adopt strategies not everyone agrees with. However, the acrimony of this particular debacle suggests to me that we will see significant change over the next few years - either with a new organization/event, or a regime change. 

  • Much has been made of Phoenix being one of the poorest cities in the nation, with almost 1 out of 6 people beneath the poverty level. Say it isn't so! Oh wait, that actually lines up with much of America. People know that about 1 in 5 American children are beneath the poverty level, right? Forgive my bitterness, but I'm not sure why people who normally overlook real poverty issues - like going hungry or forgoing medical care - are suddenly concerned when it comes to spending $20 for a Con badge. Don't get me wrong; I want everyone to be able to afford to go to Comic-Con. But given that you'll spend that much on a parking garage each day for this Con, I have a hard time seeing this as a  massive financial burden. Of course, it's a bigger deal for broke attendees who count on volunteering to cover their badge, and now will have to shell out almost $100 for the whole shebang. Unfortunately, this is an issue at every Con: you can't count on volunteering for a free ride in most cases.

  • That said, I'm not sure that paying $20 is going to make a volunteer stick around. People don't volunteer at Cons just to save money. Some people like being behind the scenes, some are looking for a way to meet other people or chat up hot cosplayers, and some people feel a sense of contribution in putting on a great community event. And it's likely that a lot of the people who flake out on their shift are just bored, irresponsible, got invited to happy hour, have a panel they don't want to miss, etc. I understand the problem the Con is trying to solve - I just think there are better solutions, like compensating someone for their badge after they complete their volunteer shifts. Hardship cases can have their own process.

  • While the media attention around this has intensified in this last week, I'm told by BRA members that the policy itself is not a sudden decision and has been brewing for a while.

  • This isn't a one-off issue. Other Cons have struggled to compensate volunteers fairly - check out ECCC's class action lawsuit. I don't think this is an easy issue to resolve, unless Square Egg Entertainment (PHXCC's owner) wins the lottery and is flush enough to pay their volunteers - and monitor them closely. Even then, as Comic Con culture continues to swell, we'll see this arising in other convention and fan organizations.

I may interview some BRA members and volunteers for their take on this; as a non-volunteer my opinion isn't worth nearly as much as theirs. For now I will say that a few years ago my Phoenix Comicon badge fell off me 90 seconds after I got it (they didn't have lanyards so I had to pin it on my shirt) and they refused to replace it, so a volunteer named Felipe stepped up and gave me his volunteer badge. So I can tell you that some Phoenix Comicon volunteers are wonderful people and I hope they can still volunteer this year if they choose. (I still love you, Felipe.)

Stay tuned.

Let's talk about our SDCC 2017 resolutions

1 JANUARY 2017

Happy New Year! What did you do today? I'm guessing your day looked something like this:

1) You crawled out of your hangover - whether induced by alcohol or the miasma of misery that was 2016.
2) You made a list of New Year's resolutions that will utterly transform your life in 2017.
3) You thought about writing down "Go to San Diego Comic-Con" and decided....
           3a) Not to bother because you're brazenly confident OR you've never been and figure it's hopeless
           3b) To write it down because you understand the careful effort and attention going to SDCC requires.

 Hopefully you picked 3b! Everyone, this applies to you, whether you've hit 8 Comic-Cons a row, lost out in 5 badge sales in a row, or just wistfully dreamt of San Diego Comic-Con from afar. Registration - both Returning and Open - is right around the corner and it's time to get organized.

For First Timers

Sign up for a Member ID. Don't put this off; do it now. Today.

Talk to your friends and figure out who is serious about going. We all know those people who say they want to go and then back out when it comes to forking over money for hotel room deposits, plane tickets, etc. Don't bother with them, don't try to convince or badger them into going. SDCC is a demanding experience and you want your companions to be 200% on board.

Get educated. Read the SDCC blogs and forums and talk to experienced attendees about what it's really like to go to Comic-Con. Because it's a far cry from the glittery parties and accessible celebrities you see on the TV.

I recommend reading my advice on prepping for the first time as well as going to Comic-Con even if you're destitute.

 For The Unlucky

So you've gamely tried for a badge these last few years and each time you get left on the curb. It's the worst feeling, isn't it? I can't promise you a surefire method to get a badge, but I can make a few suggestions:

Team up with a buying group. You don't have to join one of the mammoth ones, or have 36 SDCC best friends, but if you can join forces with at least a few people, you will significantly better your chances. See me if you can't find anyone.

Look into other Comic-Cons. SDCC is not be all and end all of Con life, even if the E! network acts like it is. Look into New York, WonderCon, Emerald City, Silicon Valley, Gen Con, Dragon Con, Salt Lake and others.

For the Experienced

You've got it knocked, right? Well, maybe not. We all know how CCI likes to launch changes we never saw coming (while refusing to make changes we beg for) and there's always the crushing demand of those outsiders to compete with. Plus the sale process has changed a bit for WonderCon, so you might want to check that out just in case.

But you also might want to think about your Con strategy in general. Is 2017 the year, maybe, when you decide to swerve off course and try another big Con instead? Maybe you'll just swing by San Diego for 1 or 2 days instead of the whole enchilada? This isn't sacrilege; it's possibly opening up a new path.

Or maybe you want to have a different San Diego Comic-Con. Maybe you'll finally come out of the cosplayer closet in all your costumed glory. Maybe you'll submit a film for the IFF. Maybe you'll decide to shop your own comic around or spend more time with friends and less time networking. This isn't quite as urgent as actually getting a badge, but it does bear thinking about now as it could influence your choice of traveling companions and preparation.

All of which boils down to this: you want to go to San Diego Comic-Con or you wouldn't be reading this. And even though it might seem far away today, at the dawn of the year, it really isn't. First-timers, if you want 2017 to be your first SDCC, start preparing now. Luck does play a small role in your Comic-Con fate, but skill and tenacity play a much bigger role. If you get serious now about going this July, there's a good chance you'll make it happen.

Our SDCC temple is getting a makeover

21 DECEMBER 2016

Happy Yule/Winter Solstice! Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet? Here's one to put on your list: getting a San Diego Comic-Con badge so you can enjoy the upgraded convention center in all its fancy new cutting-edge technology.

Don't get excited; there isn't a new Hall H or extra mile of Exhibit Hall being built. But as a future SDCC attendee, you will be able to enjoy LED lightning, "modernized" escalators and other infrastructure upgrades - what the Board of Directors chair calls "cutting-edge technology that improves our efficiency and enhances the experience of all of our guests." Supposedly 50 people a day are busy performing the center enhancements.

This isn't just about catering to our very special nerd demands, of course - it's about keeping the facility competitive. If you've followed along with the tortuous saga of the Convention Center Expansion That Never Was, you know the expansion was justified on the grounds that a bigger center could attract other events. San Diego Comic-Con may be the cat's meow of San Diego happenings, but alas, even our magnificence is not enough to sustain the center all year round. And as CEO Clifford "Rip" Rippetoe pointed out, other facilities in other cities aren't quite as hindered by local politics. Anaheim is already completing its 7th expansion.

As for our expansion - well, it's best to think about something else if you want to keep your holiday spirit. "A plan to make the center larger has been held up by litigation and land that was going to be used for a bigger footprint is no longer available. Rippetoe said there is currently no timeline for getting the expansion underway." We know.

At least we still have modernized escalators to look forward to. And the looming badge sale, at which point we'll begin our long nerve-wracking 2017 slide into Comic-Con mayhem.

Your December agenda for ECCC


ECCC Happy Holidays

Right now, you're probably enjoying the lack of Comic-Con angst in your life. We still have at least a month of reprieve from SDCC badge sale stress, and any financial maneuverings on your mind probably relate more to holiday spending and tax deductions than Con costs. And between Christmas parties, family visits and end-of-the-year work stress, Comic-Con can seem as distant as another planet.

But there are a few things to be aware of now if you're headed to Emerald City in March. The first: it's not that far away. Less than 3 months - 87 days, to be precise. So if you haven't yet dealt with hotel rooms, airfare, cosplay manufacturing and such, now's the time to do it.

Now is also the time to move in a few other areas, such as:

  • Buying single day tickets for Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Saturday's gone and not coming back, but 3 days is still a good deal. You can see the comic guests and entertainment guests so far if that sways you. Friday will sell out at some point - all of it will - so don't be lazy about this.
  • Apply to host a panel. The deadline is 8 December, so apply this week if you have special knowledge, fan passion or something else to share with the masses.
  •  Buy an ECCC holiday certificate to give your favorite nerd. Is there a better stocking stuffer/tree envelope than that?
  • Save your $$$. Depending on your Con plans for 2017, the first few months could put serious demands on your wallet between present Cons and badges and hotel room deposits for future Cons. Start saving now, and if any relatives are still asking your mom what to get you for the holidays, be very clear that you need Visa gift cards. They spend so nicely at exhibitor booths and restaurants.

2 March will be here before you know it - even if we're currently besieged with the same 8 Christmas songs on every radio station and mall sound system. Be ready.

Are you an average SD convention center attendee?


At most Cons, there's not much point in thinking about the facility around you. You hope the bathrooms are clean, the escalators work, and the rooms are easy to find as you hotfoot it from one panel to the next. That's about it.

But San Diego Comic-Con is a bit different, of course; its convention center has been the center of much drama and controversy as the possibility of its expansion - and different forms therein - hangs in the balance, throwing into question the future location of SDCC. Recently a number of proposals went down in flames but the issue is far from dead. And it's not just of interest to attendees; locals have many feelings on the expansion and who will pay for it.

Some of those calculations come down to us: how much do we spend in the fair city of San Diego, and are we worth catering to?

The convention center has focused on that spending in its new 2016 report. Alas, some people doubt its monetary authenticity. Heywood Saunders, for instance, author of the esteemed Convention Center Follies - possibly the best title that has ever existed - scoffs at the reported attendee spending. However, he also seems to be unaware of the clamor for hotel rooms, stating "People aren't staying anywhere near four nights and they never have." He also has this to say about the various California center expansions: "It is not plausible that all will succeed or any will succeed." Okay, then. I'm sure he'll enlighten us more in his sequel The Comic-Con Curmudgeon.

Here are the numbers the convention center is reporting on the "average" FY16 attendee. See if you fit the bill:

  • Lodging: 428
  • Food: 143
  • Shopping: 80
  • Local transportation: 18
  • Total: 1,179

You get the idea - these numbers are way lower than what you and I drop at SDCC. Yet even though Comic-Con is listed as the king of all convention center events, the report doesn't focus on us too much, instead exploring - yawn - medical convention attendees.

You may not be a report person, but if you are interested in our impact on San Diego - besides how magical and beautiful we make it every July - you might want to check it out. That said, I don't think our taxi and drink budgets are the biggest factor in keeping the Con in San Diego. We come, we spend, many of us definitely stay for 4 nights, and then we leave. The city could survive without our money. But they also enjoy a certain prestige in being the city of the most famous Comic-Con, and CCI has their roots there, and all in all, I just don't see the two of them breaking up with each other.

However, Heywood Saunders and his ilk have a point - convention centers are more than their biggest events. We may be a carnivorous demographic in our need to consume every meal, hotel room and Sailor Moon shirt in sight, but the San Diego Convention Center can't justify a costly expansion just for us. They haven't so far; they've spoken of attracting other events as well. But the report is still a good reminder that we are not the be all and end all of the expansion.

Should you be thinking about SDCC? Probably.

12 NOVEMBER 2016

Is your head throbbing with a post-election headache? It's been an ugly week, and many of us are facing acrimonious Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving dinners bound to feature aggressive debates. If like me, you have relatives furiously correcting each other between Holland, New York and San Francisco, the rest of 2016 may look pretty contentious too.

So here's a happier idea to contemplate: San Diego Comic-Con. Okay, the badge sale part is far from happy, but right now you can keep your eye on the prize and fantasize about all the idyllic panels and parties you'll experience next summer. You can almost feel that Ballroom 20 seat underneath you, right?

And of course - I know you know this - that means good planning. 2017 Pre-reg will take place early next year, with Open Registration not long after, and that really isn't so far away. To anchor SDCC 2017 in your mind and your future, you might want to start mapping all this out now:

1. Your buying group. Discuss your methodology and rules. Not to be all stodgy about this, but so many "groups" are people promising to be all in, while really belonging to multiple groups and shutting down as soon as someone gets them in. Think about who you can trust and start talking now about it.

2. Your safety hotel room. A lot of people have been on this for months but that doesn't mean all the rooms are snatched up. Other hotels haven't even made any rooms available yet. Start calling and Internetting around and see what you can get. And remember, this only matters if you want to stay downtown. If you're okay with staying far out, you can rely on the Early Bird sale.

3. Your back-up Con. We're facing 2 sales in a smaller timeframe, which might mean washing out might pack a tougher emotional punch. So think now about where else you might like to go if you don't get a SDCC badge. Obviously I'm an Emerald City fan but Salt Lake, Dragon Con, NYCC, Gen Con, Boston, Denver, Silicon Valley, Phoenix, and so on are all contenders. Start researching alternates now and pick one that gets you somewhat excited so your badge sale failure won't feel quite so fatal.

4. Your traveling companions. I know the SDCC cliche is a gang of friends all having fun together, but there are thousands of people who either go alone or would like to go but don't have friends that share their interests. If that's you, don't let that stop you from going to Comic-Con. It is fun by yourself and you'll meet a lot of people who feel like immediate friends. Plus a lot of people who go "together" barely see each other because they're always at different panels and events. But in the event you do want to go with someone, if only to share hotel expenses, start looking around now. Ask coworkers, long-distance friends, fellow fans, and don't feel weird about it. Expanding your social network is part of what's great about Comic-Con life.

5. Your budget. Saving money is always smart when it comes to Comic-Con; you might not get a discounted room in the hotel sale, a roommate might bail at the last second, your car might die and you need to buy a plane ticket, etc. And of course you'll always want to spend spend spend when you're there. Make a savings plan now, and if you have the kind of family members who like to be generous around the holidays, don't be afraid to ask Santa for a Comic-Con contribution.

I really do think the badge sales will come up fast. The holidays are always busy, and then there we are plotting our badge sale domination, our Hotel Day strategies, and it just accelerates from there. If you've been to SDCC before, you know that planning is the key that opens the door to a fulfilling Con. And if you haven't? Study up, kids, starting now. You've got a wild road ahead of you.

Say goodbye to ECCC Saturday badges

27 OCTOBER 2016

Did you get around to buying your Emerald City Comicon badge, slacker? I hope so, because Saturday tickets are gone and they're not coming back; they won't be sold locally around town at comic shops so if you didn't snatch up all 4 days yet, you're out of luck.

Fun fact: this is just a few days later than Saturday sold out last year. Except that sale was much earlier than this one, which means we went from Saturday selling out in a month to selling out in a week.

Nothing too surprising here. All the cool kids want to go to Emerald City Comicon. For anyone who thinks Cons are just for Hollywood fans now, this is proof that comic-oriented Cons are still a hot ticket. If you're thirsty for comic book talent, fun and offbeat panels, incredible cosplay and great events, ECCC is your jam.

That's not to say you don't get great entertainment guests too at Emerald City, because you do. I just returned from Halloween Horror Nights where no one I talked to had heard of ECCC (I had to discuss my 4-day ticket, what can I say.) Some of the people I talked to - people who love Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad - seemed skeptical that a Con in Seattle could attract any actors they'd want to see.

Wrong! Big stars from big shows and movies regularly offer themselves up to hungry fans at ECCC. So if you're thinking should I go for 3 days, is it worth it, I don't know - yes, it is. And don't think having a Saturday gap ruins anything. You will have plenty to do.

Look at it this way - thousands of fans who feverishly buy up ECCC tickets faster and faster every year can't be wrong. So pounce on those remaining tickets if you want them.

Your strategy for buying ECCC single day tickets

19 OCTOBER 2016

As the sun sets on the first day of the Emerald City Comicon ticket sale, all single day tickets are still available. You may hear a lot of histrionics about how "ECCC sold out in 10 minutes!" But it isn't true.

What actually happened is that the 4-day tickets - where you get a complete set for a slightly lower price than you'd pay for each day separately - sold out. And it was in about 20 minutes. You can still buy a complete ECCC experience by buying the single day tickets.

I realize that if you missed out on a 4-day ticket, you may be slightly grumpy about paying 40 dollars more. Or maybe your finances are very precarious, and that 40 dollars represents something vital to you. Either way, remember this; you don't have to buy all 4 days.

Thursday is a half day and will focus mostly on comics. It's also your chance to shop on the showroom floor while the booths are at their fullest state. But if you skip Thursday, is it really going to ruin your weekend?

Friday and Saturday are of course the days that traditionally have major celebrities and panels. If those are important to you, buy those days now - they'll be the first to sell out. You can decide on Sunday and Thursday later.

Sunday usually has good offerings at ECCC. But if you party it up on the preceding nights, you may just wind up sleeping in Sunday anyhow. Maybe your flight leaves in the afternoon. Maybe you spend Sunday catching up with friends. Unless you know you absolutely cannot miss Sunday - skip it for now.

And don't forget, you out-of-towners, that the area has beautiful hiking to offer and lots of worthwhile day trips. If you've never been to Seattle before, don't let ECCC be all you see of it - take some time off and go explore.

I'm sure there are some disgruntled nerds out there today, lamenting their inability to get their hands on a 4-day ticket. But it's not the end of the world, even if you can't or won't pay extra for a complete set of single day tickets.

Welcome to the Emerald City Comicon sale

19 OCTOBER 2016


I feel compelled to put this in historical context:

Last year 4-day badges sold out in 50 minutes. Celebrity tickets went a few hours after that and Special Access a few hours after that. Since they abolished those VIP levels and made 4-day the top tier, that means what took most of the day last year took 20 minutes this year.

Unless of course they made mostly single day badges available. Which is possible, but I don't see why they would radically reduce the number of 4-day tickets.

Now we just have to see how fast Saturday sells out. Last year it took a month. The year before that, multiple months. But people are already buying up all of the single days right now.


4-day passes just sold out. Entirely. Single day tickets are available so please get yours now if you want to make all 4 days of this Con.


The queue has barely a wait at all. So yes, anyone who really wants an ECCC ticket is going to get one today - if they're on top of it.


Just a note on the hotels - if you're not seeing the days you want (like Weds) don't freak out. It's possible more days will be added later, which happened last year.


And I've already gotten 1 "ECCC is turning into SDCC" gripe-text. Nah, not really. This is eating ice cream on the beach while serenaded by angels compared to an SDCC badge or hotel sale.


So I spent about 2 minutes in queue before getting in on the first one, and 4 minutes on the second, experimental one. I know this is frustrating, but the 4-day tickets are still available and if you're in queue right now, I'm sure you'll be fine.


It took me 3 minutes to even get into queue. 5 minutes on my other laptop. Anyone else?

11:31 am

Just a half hour till the sale goes live. At this point you should have your credit card in hand, your hotel already booked, and your dreams of hanging out with Carrie Fisher and Chewbacca firmly in place.

I'm really hoping today doesn't bring any snarly surprises. Yes, ECCC tickets have gone faster and faster every year. This could be the year that all 4 days - both packaged and separately - sell out in a snap. But last year all 4 single day badges were available for about a month, so there's probably no need to worry this year.

That said, I'm sure we'll set a new record this year. 

Emerald City hotels are live

19 OCTOBER 2016

And they're already going fast, so grab yours now.

Tomorrow is the ECCC sale. Are you ready?

18 OCTOBER 2016

Remember when the ECCC team said their ticket sale would be in mid to late October and it sounded so far away? Now it's tomorrow. Are you ready?

This sale isn't a complex web of navigational tactics, unlike other Comic-Con badge sales, but there are still a few basic rules to follow:

1) Don't wait. Be ready a few minutes before noon PST when it goes live.

2) Have your money ready. You're allowed to buy 16 tickets, 4 of each type, so that could equal a fair amount of credit card space.

3) Carve some time out of your schedule in case you get stuck in the queue. The days of completing your transaction in 83 seconds are over, unless you get super lucky. I wouldn't advise trying to pull this off while you're on a conference call or surreptitiously using your phone at your retail job.

4) Don't freak out if you get stuck in the queue. You'll get your tickets, most likely.

5) Keep your eyes peeled for hotel news, which ECCC has been close-mouthed about so far. If you remember last year, when a dozen things went live all at once, they seem to have adopted a different (and calmer) course this year.

I'll be live-blogging the sale, but hopefully nothing too dramatic happens. See you tomorrow, companeros.

Emerald City Comicon Sale Countdown

9 OCTOBER 2016

Do you know what a week from Wednesday is? One of the most important dates of the year for any comic book nerd with a dream of Seattle in their heart, that's what. Emerald City Comicon tickets are finally going on sale on 19 October, noon PST.

Here's what you can do in these last days:

  • Talk to your comrades and decide how many badges you need and what kind. You can buy 4 tickets per type, 16 tickets total.
  • Have enough money on your card to cover all of that, plus any hotel deposits.
  • Find a way to block some time away from your job if you can. You might think this will be one of those easy badge sales where you click a button, snatch up your preferred ticket and check out, but last year we were put in a queue. I got in and out quickly enough, but that doesn't mean you won't spend some time in line. And trying to multi-task during a badge sale is the worst.
  • Don't stress. Even if full badges sell out immediately, you'll probably still be able to pick up all 4 days. Last year we did have a brief tech snafu where the site went down, but that wasn't on day 1 and everything recovered pretty quickly. My advice prevails: do be ready at zero hour, but don't toss and turn all night before like many of us do before SDCC Open Reg.
  • Talk yourself into going if you're still on the fence. Remember that this Con is pretty economical (full badges are just 110, hotels under 200 a night) and that ECCC offers some of the top comic book and Hollywood talent around - without the stress of SDCC. And it's in Seattle, so of course you're going to meet interesting people and dine and drink magnificently. Give yourself an early Halloween present.

And finally - sorry to cast a macabre specter over this sale - if you're an SDCC attendee, you know you can't absolutely count on going next summer. Yes, I know you have your strategies and buying group and previous volunteering to fall back on. But just in case things don't go your way for San Diego, you'll have this in your pocket.

This ECCC sale already feels a little different from previous years; we've lost their comforting Tumblr and instead have their annoyingly redesigned website. But the guests so far - Stan Lee, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Jon Bernthal, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, among others - feel both familiar and promising, and there's no reason to think that the ECCC 2017 will deviate from what we've had in the past, other than getting even better.

I'll be with you during the sale, and I'll cover any developments before then. Stay tuned.

What is the significance of Returning Registration?

5 OCTOBER 2016

In life there are tax returns, Saturn returns, and the inevitable return of your most evil ex. And even more stressful than those events is the annual return of the San Diego Comic-Con badge sale. But now we SDCC regulars who've been awaiting Pre-reg have been dubbed a return ourselves. Specifically, returning attendees who have our own badge sale called Returning Registration.

Why did they change the name from Pre-registration? Honestly, who can fathom the CCI mind. I think most of us know they've had some administrative and vendor changes. But really, Pre-reg hasn't fit as a name since the days - let's all sigh together with nostalgia - that you could buy next year's badge up in the Sails Pavilion. Since it moved online (I'm ignoring the hellish year it was in the Hyatt with that farce of a scoreboard) it's been more like Registration Part I.

Here's what we all really want to know: will the ratio of badges shift between sales? It's a bit ominous that CCI's post opens with "Out with the old, in with the new" but that isn't what concerns me. Nor do I dislike waiting until "early 2017" for the sale - I appreciate not having to endure the election and Pre-reg in the same month. However, I have a hotel booked already for SDCC 2017. Attendees who were waiting to get a badge before booking a room now have to wait another 2 months.

What I think could be tough mentally is having the 2 sales - Returning and Open - in quick succession. Open Reg will allegedly occur "shortly" after Returning. So if you come up short in the first sale, you won't have much time to come to terms with it before rolling the dice a second - and final - time.

Since we have at least 3 months of SDCC nothingness ahead of us, this might be a good time to check out other Cons. Recent conversations have taught me that more and more attendees are already doing this, either because they've gone off the SDCC madness, they're worried about not getting a badge, or they're just thirsty for new Con horizons. So remember that the ECCC sale is 19 October (and I know you want to hang out with me in Seattle) and you can think about WonderCon and Silicon Valley Comic Con and other spring events too.

Plus ca change, nerds. Be ready for Returning Reg, but try to also enjoy having a few months' reprieve from this craziness.

ECCC tickets go on sale 19 October


So we found out a few things today about Emerald City Comicon :

Oh and their site is having loading problems. Mercury retrograde or massive ticket sale interest?

I'll observe a respectable mourning period for their Tumblr later (but hey, they have Google Plus! Because that's relevant) and focus on the badge types available to you and I.

  • Kid are badges are 20
  • 4-day badges are 110
  • Thursday is 20 (half day again)
  • Friday is 40
  • Saturday is 50
  • Sunday is 40
And that's it! No line-jumping, aristocratic, extra-special VIP badge for you. All 4-day people have to mingle together, supernerds and the hoi polloi alike. Limits are 4 badge per type for a total of 16.

So what does that mean in terms of getting a badge? Well, you can't spend your way in, obviously, but I still don't think it's going to be impossible to get all 4 days. Maybe the 4 day badges will sell out immediately but you should be able to get all single days if you move reasonably fast. I'll speculate more on strategies later; for now, create a fictitious dentist appointment and block that time on your calendar so you don't get called into a meeting as happened to me last year during the ECCC sale. (I just didn't show up till I had my tickets; I know my priorities.)

They also posted some comic guests and included this macabre invitation: "Join us for Stan Lee's final ECCC appearance!" I know he's probably just hanging up his dance hall shoes, but it sounded a bit ominous. You can also apply to host a panel.

But seriously, why did ECCC kill their Tumblr?