So we're probably getting a fall SDCC badge sale

6 AUGUST 2019



It is way too soon to think about Returning Registration for SDCC - for me, at least, but not for CCI. Because here we are: they've sent out their usual email about converting your child's status to "junior badge" eligibility if they were 13 or older on 31 July 2019. The deadline is 5 September.

So why do we care? This obviously applies to a small number of attendees who were 12 at Comic-Con a few weeks ago but now are the magic age of 13. I'm guessing most of us aren't/don't have a kid in those parameters. However, this email does line up nicely with last year's email - which went out on 8 August and had a deadline of 6 September. So that points to a possible alignment with last year's Returning Registration, which fell on 13 October.

An October badge sale isn't guaranteed, but it's worth keeping in mind as you make your fall travel plans and scheme with your buying group. Every year there are people complaining about not being financially prepared for the badge sale - if this is you, start a badge fund now.

And if you do have a youngster who just turned 13? Create a Member ID just like you did for yourself, but choose "Junior" and be sure to have their 2019 badge handy.






The SDCC first-timers of 2019

4 AUGUST 2019




San Diego Comic-Con ended 2 weeks ago - and I'm just now posting a round-up of first-timer experiences. Is it me or did this year create a bigger SDCC hangover than usual? I'm just starting to emerge from the Comic-Con haze.

So. First-timers. I met quite a few of the little scamps this year, far more than I usually do. Some were euphoric. Some were underwhelmed. Most seemed to expect something different. For the ones I chatted with at the Con, I'd classify their dissatisfaction into 3 categories:
  • Lines: Many first-timers came in expecting lines for panels and Hall H - but time and again I heard surprise over the lines to get into the convention center, pick up pre-ordered merch or get a signing they'd won in the lottery. That seemed to kill the mood for a lot of them. Some first-timers with Thursday/Sunday badges were indignant that they'd spent almost all of Thursday in 2 lines (to pick up t-shirts and exclusives) and felt cheated.
  • Offsites: I wasn't aware that SDCC offsites had gained as legendary a reputation as Hall H but it seems they have, because time and again I heard "Mostly we came for the offsites." They didn't mean everything that literally was offsite, but the activations like Amazon and FX and NBC. There seemed to be an expectation that these were equivalent to a Disney World ride and well, they're not - even if the lines are.
  • Communication: Broad category, but I kept hearing first-timers complain that they didn't know where to go or what there was to do. There was a feeling that some kind of critical knowledge had been withheld from them. I think part of this is underestimating the need to consult the available maps, guides and programming, and underestimating the size and complexity of SDCC. But I do agree that CCI could do a better job of communicating basic directions and status updates for some things.


Onto the ones who actually filed reports with me.

Antonio
He and his friends came for Marvel and got what they wanted. What was impressive is that they did a trial run for Hall H on Thursday to perfect their strategy. Those are smart attendees.

While they were "awestruck" by the Marvel panel and decided it was "worth it, totally" in terms of the time they put in - he admitted that Friday in Indigo Ballroom was more consistently fun and that his Hall H vigils sapped his energy. Will he go back next year? "Of course. But we'll go out more. We missed all the parties."

Jennifer
Speaking of parties. Those and offsites are why she and her sister-in-law went to SDCC. They also do Mardi Gras and other events, and seemed to expect similar levels of debauchery at Comic-Con - but alas, found that SDCC nightlife is actually pretty average! "Things shut down sooner than we thought and we did a lot of walking around, looking for places to go. I don't think we realized the real parties are invitation only, people don't tell you that."

They went into the convention center to get their bags but didn't do any panels and thought the Exhibit Hall was too crowded to deal with. Will they go back next year? "If we do, we'll bring a bigger group. It's pretty expensive for what you get."

Crystal
Every year I talk to someone who got dragged to SDCC by their friends or partner. Crystal is that person this year and - perhaps because she had limited expectations - had a smashing time. A big reason: books.

"I am a BIG reader. I thought Comicon would be just about comic books but there were authors I knew there and great publishers, so I was very happy. We also saw the Preview Night pilots, which I really enjoyed, and got to meet my boyfriend's favorite comic writer. It was crowded and I don't do well in crowds but I did okay. I would have liked to go to the Her Universe fashion show but maybe we can do that next year. I really enjoyed myself, more than I expected, and I hope to bring more of our friends next year." 




Michael
Michael is the kind of first-timer I never heard from a few years ago: completely prepared and educated on the convention center rooms, line strategies and other tips. One of his friends was on his 3rd Con and led them through what sounds like a fairly mapped-out plan to acquire signings, do Rick and Morty things, and go to Team Coco House to see Rory Scovel. But - and this happens to all of us at some point - hardly anything went their way.

"Comic-Con sucked at first. We got shut out of everything, guards yelled at us for sitting in the wrong place, someone who was supposed to trade tickets screwed us over, and we missed the Rick and Morty talk. We ended up drinking a lot and just kind of gave up and did whatever. After that, it got more fun. But it's too much hassle. You set yourself up for failure, essentially."

Will he go back? "Not sure yet."


Kelsie and Friend
I met these girls on Thursday. They were intimidated by the crowds, by rules, and were shocked by how sprawling Comic-Con is. I know this isn't a thing, but they are the kind of attendees who could have benefited from a paid SDCC sherpa. My advice to them was to be more assertive (something that came to seem ironic as the Con wore on and people became increasingly aggressive) and steer their own Con, as opposed to letting it wash over them. By Sunday, they reported having gone to a few good panels, running into some of the It Chapter 2 cast, and meeting other attendees at Prohibition who wound up taking them around the Gaslamp. "I would say all in all, it was an adventure. We're ready for next year. We'll know what we need to do next time."


Ash
Ash is from LA. He reached out to me after reading my post on going to SDCC alone, which is what he did for Thursday and Friday before helping out at a friend's booth on Saturday and Sunday.

"Comic-Con was about what I expected. I worked in a comic shop where everyone used to talk about these parties where they met this famous person or that and I didn't see anything like that. Comic-Con seems very vanilla to me. But I went to panels and bought a lot and that felt like I was finally seeing the real Comic-Con. Working the table was tiring but the people were easygoing and no one got out of line like you reported. We'd just eat and pass out later, so I missed whatever happened Saturday night. On Monday, the whole city felt different and I felt like I did miss something but I don't know what. I think I wouldn't work there again. It stops you from having the full experience."

Roger
I met Roger Thursday night at the Banana Splits screening, then checked back in with him. His report: he liked the offsites and found that while the lines were long, the people waiting with him were "fun and friendly" and he thought the offsites and freebies were worth the wait.



What he didn't like: "nothing can prepare you for the tidal wave of people at every turn. Especially on the exhibition hall floor, you could barely move, inching along at points, and you did so while running a gauntlet of backpacks that continually hammered you as people moved and turned, oblivious to these large extensions off of their bodies." He suggested that exclusives and artist signings be moved off the floor to allow more booth browsing and lessen the logjam.

Will he go back? He's not sure. "I'd definitely bring an umbrella to block the sun while in lines. I'd also like to do some things, like attend panels, that I didn't have time for because there was simply too much to do and too little time."




After reading through everyone's emails, I kept thinking about one of last year's first-timers who told me he wasn't going back this year. He actually did go back. What changed: he originally approached SDCC with the expectation that CCI and the vendors and offsites were all there to cater to attendees with some customer-centric experience that was all about winning our loyalty. That isn't how it goes, of course, inconveniences abound and no one really cares if you're impacted! He was offended by that, then came to accept it and went back this year with a different mindset.

I don't know if it worked for him or not. But it did make me realize that Comic-Con is an outlier in today's digital age where companies want to simplify and streamline their offerings for maximum appeal. At SDCC, no one's feverishly innovating to make you feel catered to. The Con is like a massive lumbering woolly mammoth who doesn't care if you get squashed under its paw or not - because 10 people will line up to take your place if you leave.

It's definitely not for everyone. And with so many specialized Cons multiplying across the landscape, I think the SDCC hegemony is dissolving as people realize they have choices beyond Massive Humid Pop Culture Convention and nothing at all.

Probably some of the first-timers I met are one and done, and that's just fine. But I would bet some of them were more captivated than they realize by the SDCC mystique and will be fighting alongside us in the Returning Registration badge sale a few months from now.




Last call for first-timer stories

28 JULY 2019




San Diego Comic-Con ended a week ago and yet I am still digging out of emails. My aggression post set off a small bomb and I've been deluged with stories (some rather startling) ever since. So bear with me for about 2 more days before I post for the last time on SDCC 2019.

That post being what first-timers thought! If this year was your first San Diego Comic-Con, tell me your Con secrets - what you bought, what you coveted, what pilots dazzled and which offsites did not, who you met, who you liked, who surprised you and who disappointed. Most importantly, tell me if you want to return. (Though this conviction may wax and wane over the coming months.)

I need your stories by Tuesday, 30 July. Send them to sdccguide@gmail.com.

San Diego Comic-Con 2019: the good, the bad and the ambiguous

24 JULY 2019




Comic-Con is done. Now it's time to settle in and analyze what we saw and did and learned. What shows and movies are we anticipating? What bombshell announcements rocketed in our worlds? What panels made us wish we had just slept in?

Hits

Marvel. Just in time to give you a new comic book world to read in the last month of summer, Marvel announced The Eternals - and splashed serious star power all over the Hall H stage. Salma Hayek! Benedict Cumberbach! Angelina Jolie! Chris Hemsworth! I think people were less jazzed about Natalie Portman as the female Thor but we can just focus on the rest - like Shang-Chi and Mahershala Ali as Blade.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Not listed simply because it was my #1 panel goal. Fans of the beloved book art have hoped the look of the movie creatures would be true - and this panel proved that del Toro and Andre Ovredal completely landed the jump. 



Terminator: Dark Fate. This seemed to convert a lot of disinterested people into ardent pre-fans. Linda Hamilton looked absolutely commanding and the movie seems like a good ride from start to finish.

Dark Crystal. I heard words like "magic" and "imaginative" from attendees who normally don't use words like that. I think this shot up to the Top 5 Must-See List for a lot of people.




Star Trek. I'm including the panels, the offsite, the Captain Picard wineglasses, everything. But the description "a new Star Trek show made by people who love the old Star Trek shows" is especially hard to resist.

ScareDiego. I never thought there'd be a Wednesday night offering that could satisfy more than Preview Night but I believe ScareDiego fits that bill. Sorry to have missed it; I heard only glowing reports. 

The Walking Dead movie. TWD has earned its share of scoffs in recent years, but panel attendees were begrudgingly entertained by the panel - and then excited by the news of a movie (and yes, Rick is in it.) 


Misses

Comics as a whole. This isn't a lament on how SDCC is no longer about comic books. I've known that for years! The dusty, bagged-and-boarded old comic book in my heart now lives in Emerald City Comicon and it's happy there. Still. There just wasn't good hunting this year - not in the Exhibit Hall, not in the programming. I raided Fantagraphics and a few other spots but it speaks volumes that my shipping bill this year was half what it normally is. That said, an exhibitor told me exuberantly that their booth had done very well. Exact words: "Comics are back! Everyone thinks so." Apparently his and other people's sales have been rising the last 2 years.

Lines. I know lines are always bad. But this year was worse than usual. People were forced to line up in odd areas or on uneven terrain, or snaked around together so closely that all lines merged as soon as movement started. Staffers lost control of their lines. Actual signings were canceled because of boisterous behavior. Too many lines were combined to create one confused and ungovernable mass of humanity. Are there line or crowd control consultancies that can provide CCI with some fresh strategies? Because there has got to be a way better than this.

HBO.  Probably not their fault that certain showrunners bailed on the Game of Thrones panel, but it still created a tense and unsatisfying final SDCC appearance. The Watchmen "in world experience" in the Gaslamp also fell flat - why did they even bother? With Silicon Valley returning for its final season in October, that would have been a worthwhile appearance - their panel a few years ago was the hardest I've ever laughed at SDCC. We did get a pretty Westworld trailer, but on the whole, HBO made a poor showing this year.

The Witcher. It's on Netflix so I'm sure we'll all give it a roll, but nothing I heard sounded too appetizing. In fact - I'll be brutal - I mostly heard laughter. Maybe it was just the SDCC presentation? Sometimes it just doesn't land right.

SDCC50. Oh, did this happen? I must have missed it. After build up for the last few years, we got a few "days of yore" panels, a special hashtag and a few offerings at the not-yet-open museum. It was all very subdued. Not that I expected Jack Kirby's ghost to jump out of a cake, but it seems like the festivities could have been turned up a notch. That said - I did think it was nice that CCI honored John Rogers.




Maybes

Offsites.  I didn't go to a single one, not even the Tech Hall of Innovation, because I was that busy. So I'm reporting on mere hearsay... But that hearsay wasn't positive. People seemed to think Amazon was visually impressive but not overwhelming. Brooklyn Nine Nine seemed to win fans over, maybe because expectations were low? Pennyworth struck the same note as "that wasn't bad - but it wasn't phenomenal" - and then we had the real winner, Star Trek, which inspired multiple attendees to show me pictures on their phone.

Snowpiercer. People I spoke with seemed evenly split on whether it was blah or interesting. There seemed to be a "it will never be as good as the movie" sentiment before the Con - but the panel promised a better budget, better sets and seemed to convince at least half the audience to tune in. And it's nice to see Jennifer Connelly in action.



His Dark Materials. More mixed reports that were extremely divided. "Boring and "contrived" were said but also "good replacement for Game of Thrones." People I trust mostly shrugged over it, but YMMV. I'm willing to give it a shot. I think it just comes down to the different tastes of who saw the panel.

Veronica Mars. I thought this would be a heartwarming panel welcomed by all; I was wrong. Some of the ambivalence seems related to the show itself, but Hulu's decision to drop it during SDCC - which meant fans didn't have time to watch but got spoiled on social - was puzzling.

Batwoman and Pennyworth. Batwoman seemed to get a gentleman's C; nice to look at, nothing profound. And people were disappointed Ruby Rose wasn't at her promised panels. Pennyworth earned higher grades in general, though I also heard some skepticism.



So that was SDCC. After we fought and won the registration battle, suffered through the hotel sale, speculated for months on what wonders awaited us - we got the above.

I did hear a lot of disappointment over the lack of fanfare and the absence of certain studios. But most of the feedback I heard was about etiquette and bad behavior, and also what people repeatedly called "disorganization." Shuttle issues, mismanagement, erroneous information, events canceled without notifying people in line. Many people said it felt like a new team was at the helm. I actually didn't encounter much of that, likely due to my preference for smaller panels and staying right next door at the Marriott - but I heard it again and again from attendees, exhibitors and staffers. And it came from people who are experienced Con-goers and know what a typical level of efficiency looks like. 

I had a good Con. Sometimes it seems like the roll of the dice. I think it's key to manage your expectations, set reasonable goals and anticipate what will and won't work for you. And to go in hard when you really want something, like the people who dedicated their all to seeing that Marvel panel. But sometimes luck just has its way with you, good or bad.

I hope you had a magnificent Comic-Con and that I'll see you next year.







A very aggressive Comic-Con

23 JULY 2019




San Diego Comic-Con ended 2 days ago. That means you're probably still reveling in your after glow - or realizing that sleep deprivation really can have disastrous effects - and trying to preserve that feeling for as long as possible.

Which means I'm reluctant to bring this up, but feel I have to. I know everyone is still excited about this year's Con, and I'll publish my summary tomorrow. I truly hope everyone had a great time. However, there was a disturbing dynamic in play this last week. I've been going to SDCC since 2002 and I have never seen such a ruthless group of attendees.

I'm under no illusion that Comic-Con has always been a bastion of angelic behavior. Attendees tend to be generous with each other, freely offering advice and help with badge sales and hotel rooms, but that's always coexisted alongside a certain amount of fighting and swindling. Tempers flare in an exclusives line, someone challenges a staffer. There was the unfortunate time someone stabbed someone else with a pen over a Hall H seat. These things happen in any big event.

But this Comic-Con felt different. At first I thought it was just me. On Thursday a man watched me walk across a parking lot, then approached, said "Hey, honey" and slugged me hard in the arm. I don't know why. It was bizarre. But I wrote it off as a weird incident - SDCC can bring out the crazies - until other people began mentioning problems. Such as....

  • An unbelievable amount of line cutting and cheating. People kept contacting me with stories of people brazenly inserting themselves in offsite and panel lines ahead of them and refusing to move - and local staffers doing nothing about it. 

  • Open hostility and roughness in the Exhibit Hall. One massive man carrying big bags on each shoulder just plowed through a crowd deliberately smacking taller people in the face - painfully. One guy had to be restrained from fighting him. One of my friends was repeatedly pushed in the back by a stranger to apparently force her through the crowd.

  • Vendor line shenanigans. I posted about a guy who got bounced out on Preview Night after getting belligerent in the Hasbro line (and allegedly was later seen in the Gaslamp complaining they'd taken his badge.) People wrote me about other attendees getting confrontational with vendors and staffers to a point that made them nervous.

  • I got physically shoved out of the way by two rugby-player-sized men so they could get good seats at a panel. I was waiting at the end of a row for the current people to slide out; the men literally pushed me away, climbed over another woman and forced the exiting people to shrink back into their seats. They were huge and just moved attendees out of the way like furniture so they could claim the row.

  • I also saw people try to save a ridiculous number of seats, including random seats that were nowhere near them. One woman screamed aggressively at anyone who sat in an empty seat that her friends were still in line and she was saving it, until a volunteer forced her to stop.

  • I myself tangled with a satanic volunteer for asking a fair and polite question. I didn't even ask her but a volunteer near her and she stepped in and went on a tirade that was unhinged. Again - bizarre and purposeless.

  • People reported a known Hall H line bully who terrorized people again this year. He not only cut in line but brought an estimated 40 people with him - and when people protested, he told the men "you better keep your chicks in check" (seriously) like some bad biker movie. Things got contentious; attendees recognize him apparently and so some of them filmed the whole thing and showed staffers - who did nothing. 

  • Attendees also reported anywhere from 200-300 people cutting into the Hall H line at the last minute, so that they kept getting shoved back despite originally being close to the front. This happens every year but apparently this year was especially awful.

  • This may not seem like a big deal, but I repeatedly encountered people making scornful virgin jokes and disdainful comments about nerds, the Con and various content - like these women at the National Geographic Nerd Nite  party who called the neuroplasticity presentation "stupid," "boring" and a "buzzkill" and talked over it. Guess what? If you think you're superior to Comic-Con, science and the nerds who love it, just leave. We won't miss your philistine ass.

  • I met a staffer who was visibly upset after an encounter with attendees who were rude to her and said, "Everyone's so impatient this year. Everyone's in a bad mood."


Maybe none of that sounds earthshattering. It wasn't like we all descended into Lord of the Flies madness. But it was upsetting to see and experience - and I know of multiple attendees who left lines or the convention center in tears after being shouted at, bullied or cut out of a panel or purchase.

I don't know the solution; staffers told me they were short-handed this year and feeling it. I really hope this isn't Comic-Con's future. Because honestly, SDCC is stressful enough. The crowds, the lines, the glaring sun, the realization that you're not getting into the panel you waited for all year. Usually other attendees grasp that and try to make our little community a friendly one. And that was still in play for most of us, but it did seem that a significant number brought their worst selves.

Hopefully next year is more organized, less frustrating and, well, just more civil. Because no one wants to go to a Con this cutthroat.

I'll post my 2019 summary tomorrow.


San Diego Comic-Con 2019 is over

21 JULY 2019



It's Sunday night. Comic-Con is over. This was a notable year in many aspects, from some truly magnificent panels to some astounding disorganization. Every attendee has a different Con and so far I've heard a range of reports - joy, alienation, frustration, enthrallment. Hopefully your Con brought you something incredible.


I'll post my first-timer reports and an overall summary in the next coming days. I also want to talk about a disturbing pattern of ruthlessness that was really noticeable this year. For me, it started with a random guy walking up to me and punching me hard in the arm and continued from there, and many other people reported aggressive incidents - from line cutting and bullying to shoving to extreme rudeness. Since the SDCC community has always been known for its helpful and easygoing camaraderie, I really hope this year was an outlier. I'm not going to go to a Con where attendees twice my size push me away from a chair so they can sit in it.



First-timers - while it's true that we're just wrapping up this year's journey, it won't be long until we start this cycle all over again. You'll be eligible for Returning Registration this year so stay alert and be prepared to triumph in what will probably be another fall badge sale. (Though it could be later.) And think critically over what you liked and didn't like this past week. While your first Comic-Con is always exciting, the second one is usually more satisfying - because you'll know how to navigate and hone in on your prey.

Send me your stories. I'll get my summary up as soon as I can. Until then.

Going to San Diego Comic-Con 2020

19 JULY 2019

 



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


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


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

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

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






How's your Comic-Con going?

19 JULY 2019



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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


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



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


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

Preview Night report

17 JULY 2019




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

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


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



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

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

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




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

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


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





It's Comic-Con Eve

16 JULY 2019





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

Like the NASA booth:



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



The cool:


The disturbing:


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





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




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

When should you get in line?

16 JULY 2019





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

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

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

When is a line worth it?

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

When should you get in line?

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

Will the lines be about the same as last year?

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

When's the best time to do offsites?

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

Should I give up on Hall H entirely?

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

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




How many line spots can I hold?

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

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


What are common line mistakes?

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

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

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





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


5 last minute Comic-Con reminders


15 JULY 2019


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

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


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


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

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

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