How Open Registration goes is anyone's guess

 18 NOVEMBER 2023

10:25 am

And it's over. So sorry for those of you who were unable to claim a badge. My observations...

Overall, from announcement to finish, CCI's badge sale culture has vastly improved. I like the clarity of the instructions, the new site design, the communication overall. People say CCI doesn't listen to its base but I think they do. 

That said, the UX still needs work. They really need to just treat Preview Night like another badge day. Stop putting it in weird places with strange processes. Have it appear Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It creates chaos for us and I'm sure it was more work for them to create that strange new option for people who had 4 days. Can this really not be streamlined?

The sale was less glitchy than most I've been in, but some people did experience strange things. Passwords (copy pasted) not working the first time, then working the second time. People deemed ineligible even though they had less than the full package. Me with a session refusing to show me any days though they were all available. 

On the whole, I suspect that demand for 2024 has dropped. I say that because I see a far higher percentage of "I got all 4 days" and only a few "I got nothing." The wails of getting shut out used to reach a fever pitch. This year - of course I still feel terrible for those people but they don't seem as legion as they used to be.

Maybe I'm wrong. How did you do? Was today a day of tragedy or victory for you?

9:35 am PST

So far - a much smoother sale than Returning Registration. 

I got in fairly quickly but my session would not show me any badges. Nada. Just was not there. Someone else at the same time bought Preview Night for me and all 4 days were available.

Next snafu - those of us with 4 days could buy Preview Night at first. Then some of us with 4 days couldn't - but we could buy Preview Night for other people who had nothing.

So that was annoying, but on the whole, this sale went far more smoothly. How did you do?

8:17 am PST

It's finally here, the last badge sale for 2024 San Diego Comic-Con. Presumably CCI will do more badge auctions next year - but that's expensive so realistically, today is your last chance to attend.

My prediction: I think the sale will go slowly but more smoothly than Returning Registration. I still think someone cranked up the pace at one point and a lot of us got screwed in the process; if that's true, they won't do that this time.

Still, I'm not feeling confident. Not only is Open Registration more competitive, it will have quite a few people who crashed and burned in Ret Reg.

I am sort of one of them, in that my Preview Night session got bounced at the finish line, but I did manage to get 4 days in another try. I want to get Preview Night today but my first priority is helping friends whose sessions died and so they currently have nothing.

What are you hoping for today? Are you hopeful?

Don't get too excited about the Preview Night Email

 14 NOVEMBER 2023

Today some of us received a surprising missive from CCI. With the heart-skipping subject line of "Are you interested in Preview Night?" (the silliest question ever asked), the email congratulated me and my brethren on obtaining all 4 days of SDCC in Returning Registration. It then reminded us we could still try for Preview Night this weekend. 

We know, CCI! But what we didn't know was the somewhat oblique process to obtaining it. You have to click the Preview Night option in the top menu bar, confirm you're eligible, etc. And then you can buy for others. I can't replicate the whole thing here so please study the email closely if you received it.

Most importantly, the email specifies "If you are selected for a session and if inventory is available" - so please don't jump to the conclusion that Preview Nights will be handed out like party favors, which some people seemed to think. The sale will be as competitive and stressful as always. It's just guiding you through the process if you have 4 days already.

Why did we get this email?

Now. I'm not entirely surprised this email went out, because I know of a few people who were confused on how to buy Preview Night in Ret Reg. (Or in my case, how to remove Preview Night before it would let me check out, only for my entire session to go down in flames like the Hindenburg.) The process wasn't clear in the moment to everyone.

And - this is still theoretical - many people have speculated that because some people who DID get Preview night originally (like the person who tried to buy for me) wound up in limbo, a number of Preview Nights went off the shelf but were never actually attributed to anyone. So there may be a slightly higher number of Preview Nights for taking. I repeat, this is theoretical. And probably just false hope.

If you didn't get this email today, you probably are not in the "All 4 Days But No Preview Night" club that I'm in. In that case, don't worry your head about it and proceed as normal.

Are you ready for Saturday?

Open Registration is November 18


While many of us are still waiting for CCI to answer our emails on the shitstorm that was last Saturday, they have announced Open Registration: November 18!

As always, anyone with a Member ID can buy a badge, whether they attended SDCC this past summer or not - so if you thought Saturday was competitive, this round will be worse.

I don't really have a lot of encouraging words. I think the best thing you can do is plan a good strategy but also prepare emotionally for not getting the badge you want - or not getting a badge at all. 

Also, please remember there are many good Cons out there. If you don't get into SDCC, you've got so much time to make alternate plans for 2024. It's only November.

Early Bird hotel sale is REALLY early this year

 6 NOVEMBER 2023

I know you all remember last year's hotel sale. It was especially tough IMO - so perhaps that's why CCI has served up the Early Bird hotel sale so soon for SDCC 2024. They want to get these rooms booked while the frustration of last spring's hotel sale is still fresh (or at least present) in our minds. Or maybe they're trying to be responsive to the complaints of, why can't we just book our rooms right after getting our badge like other Cons?

If you've not done Early Bird before, it's an opportunity to serenely book the non-downtown hotel room of your choosing, albeit for an upfront and nonrefundable payment. Is it worth it?

That's your decision to make.

Full disclosure: this summer I paid upfront for a downtown (non-CCI) backup hotel for next summer and I hated doing it. And my room is fully refundable up to July something. It's just not fun to hand over $1K-2K a year in advance. So I frankly can't imagine paying up front for some Mission Valley room now when you know that money will never come back even if you need to cancel. 

And let's be honest: after the hotel lottery, there will be the usual deluded tweets that say "Looking to trade Town and Country for Hilton Bayfront." Lots of people who get Mission Valley rooms dump them back in the pool. It's just not that tough to cough up a distant room, so I'm not sure why people will plunk down their cold hard cash so far in advance.... but I'm sure some of them will.

As always, my pick for this is Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. It's a quick shuttle ride from the Con and you won't feel as stranded in terms of coming home from a late night or going home from the Con and then coming back to the Gaslamp for dinner. That's honestly the only hotel I think is worth it if you really want to escape the agony of the 2024 hotel sale.

Which, speaking of, might be a little early as well next year? We can only guess. CCI is a wily minx that keeps their cards close to their chest - so for now, we'll just focus on getting through Open Registration.

Returning Registration is here

 4 NOVEMBER 2023

12:40 pm PST

Okay, several people have told me they had passwords not working; others got in at the Thursday/Sunday portion of the sale and still got bounced out.

Others have said they didn't see as many tweets/posts claiming Preview Night badges as usual and are speculating that the "sold out" figure included those people who got bumped at Process Payment - that their carts with PN badges were floating in limbo, essentially, but never fully processed. This may just be a last stab of hope that Open Reg will have more PN badges than usual available.

I have no idea. I was drowning in tech glitches and frantic Discord voice chats through the whole sale so I have zero idea how many people posted what. 

And I have zero idea if CCI will honor anyone's screenshots; I'm not holding my breath. I do know they need to correct the system so it is one Member ID, one session. Not a free for all where people can get dozens of bites at the apple. 

Open Registration will likely be a bloodbath. Gird your loins for badge sale battle!

10:01 am PST

Wow! Worst badge sale in a while. And I don't have a Preview Night badge for the first time since 2008. 

I'll summarize our technical difficulties:

  • Deeply slow, "page unresponsive"
  • Showing Preview Night for some people, not for others
  • Wiping out 2 of 3 people I completed badge choices and then when I redid them, it wiped out the first person and I had to go back and re-do them
  • The billing address I entered kept getting wiped out, and I had to re-enter several times
  • While it USED to hold your badge choices in your cart, I was told to remove "Wednesday Attendee" and when I tried to do this, it bumped me back to the badge choices instead of letting me just take it out of my cart
  • Process Payment was a monstrosity, hanging me and others up for minutes. Several people timed out at this stage. I didn't time out but after hanging for about 3 minutes, I was kicked back to beginning with a wait time of more than an hour.

I suspect there was a period where they let too many people into the system because the people I know who got right in, had a smooth experience, and when I got in a second time after Preview Night sold out, it was also smooth sailing. 

In other words, I blame CCI/Configio entirely.

Multiple people assured me that the Process Payment aborted sessions still went through. Our current status: the session someone else did that included me did not go through, and I was able to buy for all 3 of us in another session. However, my own initial session that got kicked out may be in limbo as we're unable to buy for them. 

What a mess! How did you do?

8:25 am PST

It appears the lack of a link/email has stymied some people, who've been watching their inboxes. You just need to go into the Member ID section, possibly complete an annoying Captcha, and then you're in.

8:09 am PST

Well, here we are, ready to lock down our fate for San Diego Comic-Con 2024 - the Part 1 of locking it down, anyway. By now, you're probably in the waiting room and feeling your heartbeat accelerate, your palms sweat, as you wait to see what hand you're dealt.

Remember to have your credit card at the ready if you didn't put in your payment details yet; make sure everyone in your buying group has their information updated; get your drinks and snacks ready and sequester any pets who might jump on a laptop and send your SDCC plans to hell.

I feel like today will be calm. How do you feel?

Returning Registration is almost here

 2 NOVEMBER 2023

Maybe it's me, but there seems less fanfare about Returning Registration for SDCC 2024. Are we all just inured to the process? Maybe so, but CCI's email today did hit on 3 good points - test your Member ID access, pre-save your payment information, and slap your buying group into shape. (They didn't put it that way but this IS the time to make sure your most scatterbrained friend has shared an accurate version of their Member ID name.)

San Diego Comic-Con 2023 wasn't the splashiest Con of all time, but don't let that lull you into a false confidence. This Saturday morning will be competitive, stressful, and disappointing for many. Prepare as carefully as you normally would - and don't try to cheat the system. Last year (I think it was last year) people shared their waiting room URL if they had a good spot in line - and their badges got cancelled.

Good luck!

Do you want to visit Salem? Maybe you do.

 11 OCTOBER 2023

Welcome to a non-Comic-Con post. It qualifies as nerdy only by the barest of margins - that being relevance to horror nerds. If you've ever contemplated a visit to Salem, Massachusetts, particularly during the crowded, expensive, yet glorious month of October - something that is becoming more of a mecca every year - read on.

I don't remember when Salem became so crazy, but it was already pretty bad years ago when I lived in Boston. Back then, Salem was a favorite destination of mine in the summer, when its brick sidewalks, tree-lined streets, yet ominous air gave off a small-town-in-a-Ray-Bradbury-story vibe. But I would inevitably get dragged up in October by friends, at which point the carnivalesque chaos would make me nuts.

But here I am, going back. And it's become something akin to Comic-Con in some ways, in that it requires planning almost a year in advance, and many more people want to go than actually can. Whenever I say, "No, I can't go to NYCC, I'll be in Salem," some people get a faraway look and say, "Maybe I should go next year!"

This year, an astounding number of people I know have expressed envy, interest, and determination - so I thought I'd provide some guidance.

Talking Board Museum

Why you might want to go to Salem

Overlooking the fact that the Salem Witch Museum was recently pronounced the #2 tourist trap in America, which to me announces something magnificently tacky, Salem does have a lot to offer for the right people. Are you one of them? You might be if you're interested in...

American history in general and the witch trials in general. You'll have to travel round to surrounding towns like Peabody or Danbury (the site of most of Salem Village back in 1692) to see some sites and ruins of interest, but Salem itself (once Salem Town) does offer some interesting sites. The Witch Dungeon Museum made a huge impression on me when I was young, the aforementioned Witch Museum is a horrifically vulgar affair of wax figures and strange voiceovers, there's the "Witch House" (where Judge Corwin lived - in a different location) and a plaque announcing where the condemned were actually judged. And there are the memorials, the newer one at the recently determined hanging spot behind the Walgreens. The Peabody Essex Museum is offering an exhibit of actual objects from the trials. Point being - you'll find plenty to interest and intrigue if the trials are your thing.

Proctor's Ledge, site of hangings

Paganism and witchcraft. There are so many witch shops in Salem. Also a Witch's Ball on Halloween, plenty of public rites, and for tourists, the occasional "ritual" involving just watching, mostly. I'm not sure if paranormal/ghost hunting falls in this category, but this is another draw for many people - the holy grail being to stay in a "haunted" hotel room. This is an entire YouTube/TikTok genre.

Halloween, horror, and Hocus Pocus. I'm blending these together. Salem has a Halloween museum, several horror museums (with some gorgeous gift shops), the local theatre will play horror classics and some more obscure old films (where else can you see Dracula in Spanish?), and of course there are the Hocus Pocus filming spots. This last seems to be a huge attraction for die-hard fans.

Halloween Museum

Cosplay. If you've always wanted to strut your stuff on a cool fall day or crisp fall night, rather than a humid convention center, this is your chance! People do dress up as whatever they please, but the majority align with the witch/horror/spooky theme.

Parties and events. Salem and the surrounding areas offer some unique events. You might catch a candlelit seance summoning the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, a Wiccan burlesque show, true crime dinner theatre in a nearby castle, a Hocus Pocus drag show, a reenactment of the witch trials, etc. These vary year to year. And there are the good old-fashioned parties across town every night, which tends to feel like Goth Mardi Gras every night in late October.

Fall/New England. Maybe you hunger for the type of falling-leaves-and-cider sweater weather autumn shown on TV shows. Maybe you grew up somewhere like that but moved away, like I did, and you wistfully dream of revisiting autumns past. The North Shore of Massachusetts is gorgeous in the fall (so is Vermont) and Salem itself offers some beautiful streets of old Victorian houses decked out with glowing pumpkins for Halloween. 

Essex Street

Why you might hate going to Salem

The crowds. Oh my god, the crowds. If you want to do the witch trial stuff and that's it, don't go in October. Go some other time and save your soul. The traffic alone can trap you for hours in your car. And parking? Forget it. Every year they beg people to take the train and not drive in. You can wait hours outside a restaurant. Museums and attractions can sell out within a minute of going live.

It's expensive. Hotel room rates go way up (last year at the Hawthorne was about 400 a night for me; this year, I'm paying about 1000 for 3 nights at the Salem Inn, which isn't terrible, and the bed and breakfasts can hit 700-900 a night or higher) and even things like Ubers can get crazy expensive because traffic is slow. 

It's tacky. If you recoil from neon-colored sideshow exhibits and wax figures and torture museums and overpriced spell kits, you may be too refined for Salem! Be proud of your good breeding and leave the vulgarity for the rest of us plebians.

Salem Witch Museum

It's exploitive. Is it? I don't know. 1692 was a long time ago. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the trials, lessons about nonconformity and profit-motivated magistrates and scapegoats and misogyny and religion as a political cat's paw and well, I could write a whole essay on that. But there's no denying that the town - which for centuries tried to duck its shameful past - now leans in hard for tourism dollars. Maybe not every citizen, but the town collectively has lurched in that direction. 

So if you want to go? Treat this like a popular Con; plan well in advance, and that includes booking a Salem hotel as soon as you can. Popular hotels like the Hawthorne or the more luxurious bed and breakfasts like the Merchant House sell out immediately and can open reservations a year in advance. Once you have your dates and hotel locked down, study what you want to do so you don't waste time on the more tasteless attractions (unless that's your thing.) Your best resources: Season with the Witch by JW Ocher; Derek Millen videos on YouTube; and the Spooky in Salem group on Facebook.

As you get within a month or two, book restaurant reservations where you can (so you don't spend 2 hours in line) and identify the museums, tours, and parties that sell tickets online only. (So many people show up only to discover that everything they wanted to do is already sold out.) 

Is it worth it? If it's always Halloween in your heart, if you love a classic New England autumn or vulgar tourist attractions or wax figures of Old Hollywood film monsters - yes, definitely. And consider this selling point: you can blend a Salem trip with a NYCC trip quite easily. Personally 2 days of Salem is enough for me and many others, so if you're a Con nerd and a Halloween/horror fan, consider that action for next fall. 

Happy hauntings.

Returning Registration is November 4

 10 OCTOBER 2023

Did you breathe a sigh of relief today? It seems no one was ready for Returning Registration quite yet - so having a few weeks to prepare for the November 4 badge sale was a nice revelation.

CCI offers up detailed instructions on its pretty new site, and basically it seems like not much has changed. So go ahead and indulge yourself in the Amazon Prime sale or at NYCC - you've got a few weeks to get your money together. 

CCI updates SDCC badge prices, hints that badge sale is "soon"

 9 OCTOBER 2023

Courtesy of

Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day! If you're looking for something to focus on besides the distressing weekend news, you will want to visit and check out CCI's latest hints that Returning Registration is almost upon us. 

While it's merely listed as TBA, they do say "on sale soon" and point out that new attendees still have time to create a Member ID account (hint, hint.) They also list the new prices: $350 for a full Preview Night badge.

I'm resigning myself to an October 14 badge sale, though I really hope I'm wrong. Whether it's next Saturday or not, it's imminent enough that we should all prepare. That means logging into your Member ID account and making sure it all looks good, confirming you have the $$$ to pay for your badge and whoever else you're buying for, and organizing your buying group details. And get your first-timers set up with their Member ID accounts now.

If it is next weekend and you're going to be at NYCC when it happens (East Coast time puts you right in the convention center with the Con in full swing), I wouldn't count on doing this on your phone. Just my advice. 

We'll see what announcements the week brings.

Do you want to become a Legend? And when is Returning Registration?

 4 OCTOBER 2023

There's been a lot of speculation on which Saturday morning will be claimed by Returning Registration this fall. Because of the Junior Badge email CCI sent out, many predicted an early sale. (Though what qualifies as "early" is debatable: last year it was October 15.) Quite a few people thought we might get Ret Reg this weekend. But if you were waiting for a CCI email today announcing a Saturday, Oct. 7 badge sale, you got something else instead: an invitation to empty your coffers to become a Legend member at the Comic-Con museum. 

A membership which includes a full Preview Night badge. A membership which costs a mere $1900. (Missing the visual gasp of a $2000 price tag by a whisker.) CCI assures us that "the memberships will sell out quickly" (will they, though?) and that you get all kinds of discounts and previews and a docent tour - for one year. Yes, this is not a lifetime membership. That $1900 and the ghost of compound interest floating behind it is an annual fee. Not tax deductible, I believe, but correct me in the comments if I'm wrong. I know museum membership tax rules aren't clearcut. 

It's entirely possible to have the badge sale right before this Legend launch, of course. It officially starts Saturday morning at 10 am and involves museum staff who won't be involved with the badge sale. But that's a lot to pack into one morning so I'm going to assume we can cross Saturday off our Ret Reg list of possibilities. 

Should You Become a Legend?

If I lived in San Diego, I'd probably do this just to be a good supporter (and I really like the Museum) so maybe there are many other people who feel the same. But if you are contemplating this solely to lock down a badge - I wouldn't advise it. CCI will likely put some badges up for auction like always and you can probably pay about the same or less to score one that way. That's just my advice - but if you're one of those luckless people who've been striking out in Open Reg for years, I can see where this would appeal.

Anyhow. The membership sale starts Saturday morning at 10 am for people with a current SDCC Member ID and runs through Monday night. Then the general public gets their shot on Thursday. Oct. 12.

I'm hoping CCI then catches its breath, skips over October 14, and serves up Returning Registration on October 21. Or October 28 or returns to November. Anything but October 14 as I'll be enjoying the tacky Halloween pleasures of Salem, someone else in my group will be traveling for the eclipse, and thousands of SDCC people will be wandering around New York Comic Con. It's just not a great day. And it would be pretty savage to schedule an SDCC badge sale during the next best-known Comic-Con.

But who knows what our cunning overlords will do.

How to Become a Legend

The process for becoming a top-tier Museum member is strangely analog. You have two options:

1) Visit the Museum in person on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

2) Watch for an email with a link to an online form where you will not purchase your membership, but "express interest." Then a museum staff member will call you to process your payment. I feel like this is extremely inefficient - will they call right away? Are you supposed to hang around waiting so you don't have to recite your credit card number from yoga class or a screening of The Exorcist: Believer or wherever you happen to be when they call? I feel like there's a story behind their attempt to avoid online payment, but we're never going to hear it.

So! Will you become a Legend at the Museum - and the very first verified attendees of San Diego Comic-Con 2024? Do you have any Returning Registration dates you're hoping for? Any dates you're worried about? Share your theories.

It's badge sale season. Yes, already.


If you've settled into CCI-email complacency, thinking you can safely ignore their pleas for donations and mentions of junior badges - it's time to wake up! They casually mentioned in today's email that registration is "right around the corner" and advised us to check our Member ID passwords and credit card information. They referred to this as being "reg ready" which I guess is like when fitness magazines ask you if you're "bikini ready" every spring. God knows it's more stressful.

So! It looks like an early badge sale is coming - any time after the Fall Equinox, really. Did I say "stressful?" It's time to get our money in order, organize our buying groups, coach/threaten that one person who always gets confused as soon as they're picked to buy badges, and generally steel ourselves to spin the wheel of Comic-Con fate.

I don't hate it, honestly. As long as it's not October 14, when I am pre-Halloweening in Salem and other friends are at NYCC. (CCI wouldn't be that evil, right? Right?) If anything, it sounds like it might be sooner - Returning Registration, that is. 

So are you reg ready? 

What first-timers thought of SDCC

26 JULY 2023


For years it seemed San Diego Comic-Con attendees were a fixed group of people who steadily accumulated attendance years under their belt. We all belonged to buying groups, we all knew the tricks of the trade when it came to competing for tickets and exclusives and hotel rooms, and so there didn't seem much room for newcomers - though a few got in every year, of course.

It seems the pandemic reswizzled the mix, though. Special Edition obviously welcomed in many first-timers, SDCC 2022 attendees bought their badges in 2019 (yes, those are the right years) and ... then we had our current Con. Which brought a surprising number of first-timers to my door. Was that just me or did you notice that too?

A few weighed in:


17 years old, Ava is a budding artist who had attended a small city Con before. Her impression was that Cons were largely about walking around and looking at cosplayers. And that's probably what SDCC would have been for her on a large scale had I not intervened. (Sorry to give myself credit, but it's just true in this case.) I know Ava's mother and so I hovered over Ava's SDCC journey like a slightly interfering angel, trying not to smother her while still making sure she got a good experience, and it gave me a great idea of where some first-timers get lost. 

In this case: really not grasping the basics. When I pointed out the CCI Toucan blog and other information, she and her friends had no idea there was anything to learn. They tried to park downtown, then drove back out and took the train in. Somehow they heard Jamie Lee Curtis was there, which they considered a big celebrity get (if they only knew) and then tried to use the Exhibit Hall Map to figure out where her room was. At this point, I realized first-timers can walk right into the convention center without even realizing they're supposed to go upstairs and get their bag and books. 

Their 2 days at the Con were thrilling and included a Great British Bakeoff encounter and some creative panels. Verdict: they returned home exhausted but ecstatic and plan on going back.

Victor and Luke

These two college students are from my area, and I actually hired one on the spot since he had a skill set I need. These guys found the Con underwhelming - crowded, yes, with a lot of choices in terms of panels and activities, but they found most of what they chose to be a little more humdrum than they expected. I think this might be because the two of them have different interests but felt they had to do everything together. I get why people do this but really, it helps to have the freedom to just pursue your dream Con and then meet up for dinner or something. 

What they did like were the Shatner and Star Trek panels. I know for Con veterans, Shatner might seem like he's been at every Con ever but for these two first-timers, it was a special experience. They also learned more about the Star Trek universe and found out what they hadn't seen/consumed; they were especially excited to buy an episode script. 

Their biggest complaint: the food. Too expensive and mediocre quality, and apparently that was across most of the places they went. They were bitter about how much they spent eating out and will be better prepared for next year.


Leah attended with her boyfriend at his request; going was his dream, not hers. But she said she found it "incredibly well organized" which is literally the first time I have ever heard someone say that. She was impressed by the sheer gargantuan size of the Con and how many different nerd interests were represented - gaming, anime, science fiction, comics, etc. 

Leah basically tagged along with her boyfriend all week, which led her to a bittersweet Sunday, when she realized there were many things there she might have enjoyed herself but missed out on. She never bothered to look up the programming, read the guide, or do any research, and wound up kicking herself.

But now she knows. I think there are a lot of people like Leah, who associate SDCC with hardcore nerddom and assume their own interests are too mainstream to show up there. Wrong! 


I met this guy in line for the Haunted Mansion. He came to SDCC by himself for... wait for it... the offsites. Now, I know attendees who prioritize offsites but they're still interested in the Con itself. I didn't realize SDCC offsites had gained such a prominent reputation that people would attend solely for them. And frankly, I don't really get dealing with the stress of a badge sale and the hotel lottery to stand around sweating in long lines for a fleeting promotional experience.

But this guy loved them! Especially Paramount! He was so pumped talking about them that even the tediously long Haunted Mansion line couldn't dim his enthusiasm. (We separated inside so I don't know what he thought of it.) He liked Jurassic Park and AMC Immortal Universe/Vampire and really just had a grand old time. I asked why he didn't just go to Universal Studios or Disneyland or whatnot but he felt SDCC was in a league of its own.

Also Unnamed

I met an older couple who had come to SDCC as a bucket list thing. Honestly, their feedback was a litany of complaints. I think they were a classic case of assuming SDCC was all glamorous red carpet parties and celebrities, which it isn't even on a good year - but this year was especially disappointing for those expectations. This couple was baffled that SDCC is as popular as it is. I told them it probably just wasn't their scene but they are determined to come back when SDCC is back in the Hollywood saddle.

Was this your first Comic-Con? What did you think?

SDCC 2023: maybe not the best year ever, but still pretty fun

 23 JULY 2023

So the most beleaguered Comic-Con in recent history has come and gone. (I'm not counting the virtual Con of 2020 for obvious reasons.) What did you think? Did you pine for the celebrities who weren't there? Did the empty chairs in Hall H give your heart a pang? Or did you adventure off in other directions that turned out to be kind of great?

My answer would be neither/both - I could feel the palpable absence of, well, several elements I wish were there, but I still enjoyed buzzing around the Con. If you were sad, my advice is to set your sights on next year. The dates: July 24-28. And we can probably look forward to panels on the next Alien film, Beetlejuice 2, Captain America: Brave New World, and Joker: Folie a Deux. Well, unless a new global pandemic, industry disaster, or AI uprising has destroyed life as we know it.

You can also look forward to the Comic-Con Cruise in 2025. More on that later.

Overall, this wasn't the most groundbreaking Con but I don't think it would have been even without the strikes. I apparently am in the minority in this line of thought, because so many people said to me with heartfelt conviction that if the strike hadn't happened, this would have been the all-time greatest Con ever with stupendous events and record-shattering trailers and big splashy promotional surprises around every corner. I'm not sure what this belief is based on but many people expressed it to me. Are you in this camp? If so, what were you expecting?

I'll post buzz winners and my report from first-timers in the next few days, along with some guidance on how to apply for your own SDCC panel. Until then - I hope you found something valuable and beautiful this past week, and that it keeps you inspired until our next bigger, richer, and more vibrant Comic-Con.

What do you think of San Diego Comic-Con so far?

 20 JULY 2023

So we're here, in the thick of it, and all questions have been answered as to what kind of Comic-Con we've been dealt. Some of the answers being....

Yes, Hall H turnout is paltry. 

The photos are out there. It actually makes me a bit sad, and also reminds me of my tender youth when my girlfriend and I casually walked in and took a seat to see Neil Gaiman promoting Stardust. 

Allegedly, as I type, there is a healthy line for the afternoon. Listen: Hall H will be back with a vengeance. I'm sure of it. This is just a weird year. Speaking of....

Turnout overall seems slightly less than pre-pandemic levels, but still good.

That's my perception, at least. All those attendees announcing they weren't coming apparently weren't big enough a group to make their absence felt, not really. I did think last night felt a little too calm in the Gaslamp and there was less late-night activity around the convention center when I walked back to the Marriott. But I think the turnout overall is decent. I also think people may be overestimating it because...

The Exhibit Hall IS the Hall H of 2023.

Yowza. Very, very crowded. Preview Night has been more crowded for years - if you recall years ago when only a portion of attendees got a PN badge, you'll remember how it used to be - so last night didn't faze me in any way but people seemed shocked at the crowds. That's a trend that started pre-pandemic and is now continuing.

Even Exhibit Hall lines have morphed into Hall H lines somewhat. Remember when everyone used to crowd in front of the doors and then swarm in? Now the pre-dawn line is so intense that everyone is forced to form into a snaked line, which invariably merges into one messy crowd right before they open the doors. Lots of complaints about that this morning. I saw one attendee meltdown and one staffer running up and down a roped-off area like a rat on meth and attendees persistently asking why why why do we have to stand in line to which another staffer cuttingly replied: "To keep you civilized." Zing!

The efficiency level of organization, management, and control does seem to have dipped.

And it wasn't great to start with. From certain observations, I think there used to be security and volunteers who returned year after year, or maybe there were training facilitators who returned year after year and now those people are gone. This whole class of people just seems very inexperienced this year. More so than other years, which also featured new recruits to the world of SDCC management.

The offsites aren't getting quite as much buzz this year but it's still Thursday.

I'm about to head out to the Interview with a Vampire one, which was praised highly to me. For others I haven't heard a whole lot of raves; Jurassic Park turned in mixed reviews, though those might be from pre-Con experience. If it's the same here, it's nothing  that would inspire me to do the standby line, though I would do it if guaranteed access. 

By tomorrow morning, we should have a clear buzz winner. What offsites have you done and what did you think?

Finally, I have encountered more first-timers than I expected. They seem baffled by SDCC culture and practices, so here are a few tips:

A lot of things won't seem logical or make sense. You can protest all you want but you're pissing in the ocean. I think people who are more dominant or authoritative by nature tend to balk at their powerless in the Comic-Con flow of things, but it's just an adjustment you have to make. The way lines, exclusives, lotteries, panels, swag, signings, cancellations, etc. are handled can be mysterious and maddening, I agree. But getting angry and belligerent about it will get you nowhere.

If you do run into a roadblock, be gracious and tenacious at the same time. Stay polite but ask if there's a solution. Sometimes there just isn't. Sometimes someone will suggest a workaround or do you a favor, like the guy yesterday who let me join a capped line. The exhibitor selling my #1 wish list thing this year got sick and didn't show up BUT I nicely asked the people who took over her booth about it and they texted her and she asked me to DM her and we worked something out. Advocate for yourself and you might get a break.

Don't get swept away by the grandeur and bombast of the Exhibit Hall and the Con in general. A first-timer last night at dinner gave me one word: overwhelming. Heard that before! We talked about how easy it is to miss things in the Exhibit Hall because there's so much to look at. Go ahead and enjoy that dazzled feeling, but ultimately you'll want to study booths and really look at what they've got, find out on social what other people are buying, and map out some kind of strategy.

And also - look into other parts of the Con. The Exhibit Hall isn't everything. Go check out the awesome gaming and pinball arcade in the Marriott, or the offsites, the screenings, the library panels, the film festival. You might have ignored the events guide but you really should look through it and get an idea of where to go.

Finally, on lines - yes, there are lines for everything. I had lunch at Lou and Mickey's and some people next to me were expressing disbelief that there were lines for restaurants. Yep, those were 2 people who did not grasp what SDCC is really like. There's no shame in that but do realize you are in a small area of the city with more than two hundred thousand people all competing for resources. So bake that into your plans - if you want to eat lunch before a 2:00 pm panel, for instance, account for waiting in line instead of thinking you can easily search for a restaurant at 1:00 pm and make your panel.

I hope everyone is enjoying themselves on the first day of SDCC. We're just getting started, right?

Happy Comic-Con Eve!

 18 JULY 2023

It's almost here! Despite all the moaning about a celebrity-less Con, I think (or hope) that we're all feeling excited. So here are 4 last-minute reminders.

Set expectations with your family, coworkers, and paramours.
I think many of us live in a world where our associates expect 24/7 availability, even on "vacation." My advice: ruthlessly cut them off now. Tell them the convention center is so loud you can't hear a phone ring and the connectivity so poor that it's difficult to get texts. Emphasize that Comic-Con is sacred and there's no "downtime" for you to dial into a conference call or check email. If you absolutely must, schedule a daily check-in time and restrict them to it. 

Make sure you have your badge and other documents.
Check 7 times that you have your badge. Make sure you have any tickets, have contact information for everyone you're seeing, and save any emails from coworkers who want you to pick something up for them. Save your boarding pass and online hotel check-in information.

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

Pack appropriately.
Depending on where you live, the weather forecast could look warm or chilly to you. But we will see days in the 70s, nights in the 60s, which I feel represents different sides of the wardrobe spectrum. If you're part lizard like I am and get cold easily, bring a sweater or jacket - and bring a swimsuit since you'll probably have more time for your hotel pool than usual. And don't forget any extra cosplay components - repair tools, sewing kits, zombie makeup wounds, alternate wigs etc.

Advice for SDCC first-timers

14 JULY 2023

In all the griping about SDCC programming this year, it's easy to forget that this will be some attendees' first Comic-Con ever. I know 6 first-timers, ranging from age 16 to 50something, and I vacillate between wishing they were walking into a better Con and thinking at least they won't know the difference. 

This year also seems to have brought back a lot of people who stopped going a decade+ ago. I'm guessing that's a delayed pandemic effect - maybe these people yearned for a big splashy event during lockdown and last fall was the first badge sale they could access.

If you're going to SDCC for the first time or the first time in a long time, here is some advice.

There will be plenty to do and see and buy.

Ignore all the dark mutterings about this Comic-Con. (Including mine.) You will experience an Exhibit Hall that seems jam packed with treasures, have your choice of screenings and tournaments and exhibits and panels and parties. Just let the experience take you.

But set priorities - and don't try to see everything.

It's really easy to get distracted at Comic-Con. Make a plan now that details your top panels, events, and exclusives, organize it by day, and then build each day around your top 2-3 things. First-timers often roll up ready to go gangbusters on SDCC, with full page checklists for each day - but that is setting yourself up for frustration. Rank your objectives and let go of the less important stuff.

If you want to change your hotel arrangements, you can - sort of.

You won't get your deposit back. But you can cancel the remaining nights. This might be an attractive option if you dislike your hotel and you're seeing rooms open up at closer hotels like Hilton Bayfront, Omni, Hilton Gaslamp, and Hyatt. 

When you check in, ask for a room on a lower floor if your priority is to quickly get in and out. The higher up you are, the longer your elevator rides are. And it's fine to try to upgrade your room at the desk and even ask about booking a room with no deposit for next summer. Will it work? Probably not but I'm surprised at how often the front desk people accommodate me.

Save your feet for when you need them.

Comic-Con is so active. There's no shame in popping open a chair when you're in line or taking a pedicab or even a Lyft across the Gaslamp. Save your foot power for getting around the convention center.

The Exhibit Hall is a battlefield, so armor up.

You'll want to:

  • Approach "deals" with a healthy dose of cynicism. Check on your phone and you can often find the same thing cheaper online. That includes everything from "out of print" books to Funko Pops to trades. 
  • Bring a lot of cash. Yes, most (not all) vendors take cards but sometimes it won't go through and a lot of vendors will drop their price a bit for cash.
  • Barter politely but cunningly. I've seen attendees assume everything is up for negotiation and it's just not. Don't be abrasive, thinking you're showing the vendor how street smart you are. 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). Sunday is your best day for big markdowns.
  • Visit toward closing hours if you hate crowds. Early hours used to be good, but now tend to get pretty busy. The middle of the day is an enochlophobe's nightmare, and an affront to olfactory senses everywhere.
  • Keep it moving. When friend groups or families clog up the aisles to talk or take photos, they are bringing movement to a halt, which starts a backward domino effect. It's best to go by the restrooms for a conference, and to go out to the lobby and walk down from Lobby A to Lobby E.
  • Ask if all the cute postcards and buttons and bookmarks on small press/artist tables are actually free. They're usually for sale - so don't just grab them! This is a complaint I hear from many artists.
  • Because this year might be congested, I'd advise snatching up what you want when you see it. If you absolutely can't buy it at that moment, photograph the booth with number visible.
  • Support artists and vendors if you can. The pandemic+ has been economically tough on creatives and this Con might be hard too. If you can afford it, ask for a commission or buy some nice framed art. There are so many wonderfully creative people at Comic-Con and while you won't like everything you'll see, you'll definitely like something. I skipped the early Halloween Bath and Body Works sale this morning precisely because I'd rather buy little gothic knickknacks that are actually unique and put revenue in the artist's pocket.

Take advantage of bag check and shipping. 

Your arms - and your hotel room - might fill up quickly with bags of heavy stuff, so use bag check in the convention center lobby (not overnight) and ship things home via the FedEx/UPS offices onsite, at the Marriott, and in the Gaslamp.

Stay connected.

Hopefully you bought a portable charger on Amazon Prime Day. Trying to charge at the convention center is a fool's dream, but if you must, head upstairs in the room 27 area or over to the Marriott hall past the Starbucks. It's usually easy to find a chair and an outlet there. But really, it's just easier to bring extra batteries and power packs.

Don't hurl yourself at celebrities.
Not that you'll see any this year, but you never know. The Hard Rock lobby will be a ghost town and the Gaslamp bars late at night will feel incomplete; but should you spot a famous face, it's fine to ask for a photo. Just respect their boundaries.

Don't spend your entire night in line.

We do that enough in the day, right? And the reality is that many parties will accept your "registration" and even send you a confirmation email, but will never let you in unless you're Someone. Just keep it moving.

Respect cosplayers.

Cosplayers get groped, harassed, sweated on, and generally invaded in a hundred different ways so be respectful of their space. They pose with a lot of people and it can get kind of gross for them to have stranger after stranger pressing up against them. Remember they're people, not props. That said, it is acceptable to address them by their character name. You'll often hear people calling "Catwoman! Leia! Facehugger!" to get someone's attention and the cosplayer will usually answer to that name.

Eat well and go outside the Gaslamp.

Attendees seem to promote the same mediocre places over and over out of... nostalgia maybe? Try to set aside time to eat proper meals (shouldn't be difficult this year) and look for real restaurants instead of the gimmicky places that offer a bunch of Con specials. You may pay a little more but you won't spend nearly as much time in line and you'll have a better meal.

Also stay hydrated and try to get at least 1-2 good nights' sleep.  There's nothing like finally getting into Hall H and sleeping through 2 panels. This year, you can probably afford to sleep in without missing anything, so there's that.

Make an effort to make friends.
As I alluded to in my post about going to SDCC alone, if you find yourself in line, you'll find yourself in conversations. "Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime" applies here - you can meet all 3 categories at SDCC. Generally speaking, talking to other attendees is a great way to find about things, swap tickets, get invites, and generally expand your Con consciousness.

As far as hooking up goes, I've never found SDCC to be the big nerd sexfest everyone thinks. For some people, obviously, it is. For most people - eh. In general, whether you're looking to make friends, join a new buying group, or meet your soulmate, my advice is the same - talk to people.

Check media coverage.

Even when you're in the thick of things, you'll still miss events and collectibles and surprise guests. Check your favorite sources every day to find out who's having a sudden concert, who got heat stroke and cancelled their panel, or what the hit exclusive is.

Follow panel etiquette.

This has really gone downhill in recent years, but here goes: 

  • If you get up to the microphone at a panel, be succinct. Don't get lost in the moment and keep talking and talking - this happens a lot!
  • 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.

Make sure you're standing in the right line.

Last weekend, I was at a small horror Con with a really long line on my way out. I asked what it was for and multiple people said "the X signing/buying a ticket." Yes, two different lines had somehow merged into one, creating a longer wait for everyone. Always check that you're joining the proper line. 

Don't antagonize a security guard.

Security guards come in a variety of personality types 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 now they're 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. Asking an attendee is often more helpful, given our encyclopedic knowledge of Comic-Con.

I don't entirely know what to expect next week, but I do feel safe making one prediction: that Comic-Con is mostly what you make it. You have the power to make connections, attend events, organize your Exhibit Hall hunting, and take the extra steps to enjoy those offerings just outside the convention center. Be open to adventure, be flexible enough to let go of whatever isn't working out, and make the most of what does happen. If you can do that, you'll have an incredible time.

SDCC strikes out

 13 JULY 2023

With the announcement of the SAG strike, and the cancellation of many panels, it looks like we are headed into a rather dismal Comic-Con. I want to make it clear I support the strikes - and I'll spare you my accompanying diatribe - but at the same time, the timing couldn't be worse for SDCC. This year wasn't going to be exactly electric anyhow, and now it feels like most of the few remaining lights have flickered out.

I've seen a few people reminding everyone that Comic-Con should be about comics anyhow, and who needs actors and television shows, but they seem to forget:  SDCC mutated into a big Hollywood juggernaut years ago, and now there's little else left. It's not like comic book nerds like me can just shift our attention to the major comic talent/panels because there's barely any of it there. 

And sure enough, we're seeing some attendees simply cutting their losses and skipping the Con - even though they'll lose their hotel deposit. I do understand this decision, especially for people who have suffered a layoff or are simply struggling under inflation and would prefer to take an airfare credit and not spend on restaurants.

But I still believe the rest of us will have a good time. Gaming, screenings, art shows, the IFF, and a decent number of parties are in play, and so are plenty of panels! This year's spoils will definitely go to those attendees who love discussing arcane topics or playing trivia games or going deep into Star Trek analysis. Or those who decide to just party every night and ignore the days.

We'll see what tomorrow and the weekend bring.