It's time to be practical and pick an Early Bird room

22 JANUARY 2020

The Early Bird sale is live! Most of you already know what that is and how you feel about it; this blog post is for the rest of you.

Tender young first-timers have no idea of how grim the SDCC hotel lottery really is. All of the special luck and positive karma you normally have will fail you during that lottery, even if you lead a charmed life otherwise. A very few people wind up with downtown cream of the crop rooms; most get a distant room or nothing at all. There's the waitlist, there's the wrangling and trading and dealing of rooms that go on between attendees, but by and large it's just a horrendous and devastating process.

But then there's Early Bird. This opportunity - unsung, unloved but immensely useful - lets you book a room now. You need to pay up front and it's nonrefundable. The room won't be downtown but it will be on the shuttle route. You can book it and settle back, serene and secure from now until July, while the rest of us crawl over broken glass through hell. Just be aware: the Early Bird option will only stay live for a few weeks and then shut down before the lottery. So you can't wait and see how you do, then grab a room. You have to choose now. It's a quintessential Comic-Con dilemma, isn't it?

My hotel pick for Early Bird is once again Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. It's a very quick shuttle ride up Harbor (just 3 miles so any Ubering isn't going to kill your wallet either) and you'll still feel reasonably close to the action. This hotel is better than what many of you will get in the lottery - so please consider it.

You can book your Early Bird room here.

Let's talk about SDCC hotels

12 JANUARY 2020

Happy New Year. It's kind of a weird time for an SDCC nerd, isn't it? We're past the badge sales - and have started making alternate plans in some cases - and we're still months out (probably) from the hotel lottery and other sales. It feels like winter is the season to sit back, settle in with Star Trek: Picard and catch up on any comics we've missed.

But it isn't! Not completely, at least. See, this is also the season to think ahead to your Comic-Con lodgings. Nerds in the know are already booking back-up hotel rooms in anticipation of the annual bloodbath known as Hotel Day, Hotelpocalypse and the San Diego Comic-Con hotel sale.

How You Can Book a Hotel Room

I know there are lots of first-timers swimming through our virtual aquarium this year, so I'm going to review the hotel reservation process for those of you looking forward to your inaugural SDCC. Warning: it's grim.

1. You can book your own hotel room whenever you please. However, because of the vast number of people pouring into the area during SDCC - not just attendees but vendors, creators, studios, staff and guests - the prices are sky-high on the regular market. There are hostels available but the reports coming out of these are pretty dismal. Airbnb and the like are an option, but of course the demand for these is also competitive.

2. You can wait and book your room through CCI for a more reasonable price. They offer two options:
  • You can book a room through the Early Bird sale. I recommend this because you can choose your hotel and the prices are good and it's completely stress-free. However, you must pay up front, it's non-refundable and the hotels are not downtown.
  • You can participate in the hotel lottery. This is far worse than the badge sale. You can request your top picks but there's no guarantee you'll get one - or get a room at all. Only a tiny number of people actually get a downtown room in walking distance of the Con. Most of us wind up assigned to a motel out in the hinterlands or we get that tragic email informing us we didn't get a hotel at all. At that point, some people start trading rooms and offering to room with or take in strangers. Then people wait for the waitlist to open, at which point they scramble for the scraps that are left.

It's not for the faint of heart. I have played every role possible in the SDCC hotel mayhem. I've gotten the dreaded "no hotel room for you" email. I've wound up assigned at Town and Country. Last year I got the Marriott Marquise in some kind of incredible lucky strike fever dream. I've traded rooms away and received them from benevolent strangers.

But one thing I always do, because I am an intensely practical sort, is to book a safety room whenever possible.

Booking a fallback room used to be a lot easier. There were years when friends would sigh because they "only" had a fully refundable backup room booked at the Horton - you know, right next to the Con. Now most of us would sell a kidney to be guaranteed a room that close. It's tough out there and while some new hotels will spring up and offer a crazy good rate one year, they're wise to us and raising their rates the next.

Booking Your Backup Room

Here's what I would advise. Yes, look around now (if you haven't already) and see what you can grab. Obviously your ideal backup requires no deposit and/or is fully cancellable and refundable. I booked such a room - not at my dream lodgings but the hotel is in walking distance and I can jettison it if I do well in the hotel sale. I also saw a different downtown room about half a mile from the Con for 279/night or so - nonrefundable and not luxurious by any means, but that's still a good deal to lock down IMO.

First-timers, in your anticipatory flush of joy, you may think any room is good - but you'll still benefit from taking the reins in your hands. Think now about:
  • What $$$ are you willing to spend on your hotel room?
  • How close do you want to be to the Con? Do you want to party all night in the Gaslamp? Get away from the noise and crowds? 
  • How much stuff might you buy and take back to your room?
  • Will you be cosplaying and want a room nearby for repairs and changes?
  • Who are you rooming with? What's their budget?

Maybe the Early Bird shuttle life is fine with you. If so, do it and don't look back when it goes live. But if you are one of those downtown-or-die people (I am) then start hunting around online. And be flexible. Maybe you and a larger group of friends agree to go in on a more expensive but refundable room just in case, and then you're able to find something better in the hotel lottery and can cancel it. Maybe you book a backup that's not great, but you're able to grab 2 nights at a much better hotel off the waitlist. Be creative and develop tiers of options so no matter how well or how badly the lottery goes for you, you have a room you can live with.

And don't fall into despair the first time you start looking for a room. This is an ongoing process that can take months. You will find something. Starting early, being strategic and patient, and working with others is the key. Good luck.

It's time to spin the Nerd Wheel of Fate: SDCC Open Registration is here

16 NOVEMBER 2019

10:17 am

So that was a pretty balanced badge sale, I feel. Patterns I noticed:
  • People who did well in Returning Registration did not do well in Open Reg. I'm in this category, although I did get picked while there were still Thursday/Sunday badges live.
  • A decent number of first-timers scored good badges. While this may not feel positive for those of you who got nothing, it's fun to add new blood to the community and see SDCC through fresh eyes.
  • Preview Night seemed harder to get than ever. If you really wanted it and didn't get it, remember that recent Preview Nights have featured amazing offsites like ScareDiego. You'll find plenty to do.
  • People seem less dismayed about getting Thursday/Sunday. I attribute this to the greater interest in offsites - attendees know they'll stay entertained in or out of the convention center. And veterans know that taking a break mid-Con can save their sanity (and their feet.)
  • But overall, an SDCC badge sale is a tough challenge and you really can't count on a victory.

If you didn't get a badge today, you may feel pretty miserable. Give yourself a few days to lick your wounds, then start making Plan B. Emerald City STILL has all 4 days available. New York Comic Con is attainable (mostly) and just as big and fun as SDCC. Dragon Con is a great alternate for a summer Con. You have lots of options so don't be myopic and think SDCC is the only show in town. It's not.

If you just got your first SDCC badge today - congratulations. The hotel sale is still months away so all you need to do right now is learn about the Con and make some friends. Visit digital communities like the blogs, Friends of Comic-Con, etc. and ask all the questions you want - someone will help. But also read up on available resources because you can learn a lot that will help you get the most out of your Con. Yes, just being there is fun but it can also be chaotic - so figuring out the lay of the land in advance will help you have a great time.

It's only the middle of November.  Whether today was good or bad for you, we're a long way from SDCC - so I hope you have a beautifully nerdy winter.

9:26 am

Tough sale for me and everyone who's checked in with me. Not one of us out of at least 30 sessions has gotten picked. Brutal!

How are you faring?

9:01 am

And we're on. CCI has dedicated this badge sale to late president John Rogers, which is very sweet. 

8:23 am PST

It ends today - your uncertainty as to whether you'll attend SDCC 2020. Remember when we thought 2020 would mean a massively expanded convention center and enough badges for everyone? Obviously that didn't happen. Which means we're still battling as fierce odds as ever.

A few last minute tips - stay in the game to the bitter end. Even if you're watching all badge types sell out and you are outraged at the idea of you, an A-level elite nerd, possessing merely a Sunday badge - just grab it. Make a weekend out of it, do the offsites, and then swing back into Return Registration next fall for a victory march. Also important: if you're working with a group, don't bail just because you secured your badge. Stay in and see if you get picked so you can help out your mates.

Finally, screenshot everything if you have a problem. CCI is pretty reasonable if you can prove you were a victim of a glitch. And double finally - pay people quickly if they buy you a badge. Don't take advantage of our little community's goodwill, because it's one of the nicest things about SDCC.

Regardless of how things pan out for you today - please remember there is always another Con. San Diego Comic-Con can be magical but it can also be frustrating, expensive, humid and tedious. If you don't get a badge today, it's natural to feel devastated. But please remember there are other great Cons you can go to.

That said - good luck. I'll post what I hear.

Prepping for SDCC Open Reg

13 NOVEMBER 2019

Open Registration - your last chance to attend San Diego Comic-Con 2020 - is this weekend. Some of you may be prepared; many of you probably aren't. I say that based on the number of people (okay, not that many, but a few) who contacted me in the middle of Returning Reg to ask if I could get them a badge. And these were existing attendees who should know better!

If you don't know better, you're not reading this - because those people manage their Comic-Con life in a haphazard manner. But if you're still new to SDCC and maybe navigating your first badge sale without an experienced guide, you might want to review these tips:

  • Be prepared to not get a badge. Go in with an attitude that it's nice if you get one, okay if you don't. There are other Cons. Try to make yourself believe it. Because Open Reg is brutal.

  • Follow the instructions. There's no wiggle room in terms of late entries to the waiting room or trying to use a registration code twice. If you haven't already, test your tech. Have a good credit card on hand. Use a real laptop in a stable location instead of trying to do this on your phone in a parking lot. And let your household members know that you are entering a pressure cooker of an hour where you're liable to snap if they try to bother you.

  • If you do get picked during the sale, calm down and take your time. Even laidback people get flustered during an SDCC badge sale. The last thing you want to do is pick the wrong days or forget to include someone - so don't rush. That said, don't waste too much time trying to track someone down because their Member ID isn't working. At some point, move on.

  • If you get in toward the end of the sale and discover that only Thursday/Sunday or just Sunday are left - grab them and check out. You can debate the merits of those days with yourself later. Personally I believe they are well worth it, especially for first-timers looking for a toehold in the SDCC ecosystem. But if you decide otherwise, you can always turn them in.

  • Finally, if you don't receive an email with a registration code - check your Member ID account. It should be there with the link.

My own badge is squared away, but I will be in the sale to help others - and I'll live-blog the sale as always. Good luck.

Today is the ECCC badge sale

23 OCTOBER 2019

1:09 pm

4 day tickets are sold out.

12:58 pm

Celebrity and Comic Fan Premium Packages are sold out - 4 day are still available.

12:16 pm

 And it's over for me. How about you?

Word of caution: when you confirm your tickets, there is a teeny little link to book your hotel. Don't miss it.

12:02 pm

We're in the queue....

10:23 a.m.
It's a special day for PNW nerds - the day when the (digital) gates to Emerald City Comic Con open and we lock down our badges.

If you're an ECCC veteran, remember that you can choose from premium packages this year; if you're new to ECCC and/or ReedPop, be aware that you can book your hotel at the same time. Also be aware that your odds of getting a full badge are good only if you get into the queue on time. This isn't as nuts as an SDCC badge or hotel sale, but it's still competitive.

I'll be in the sale with you and I'll post what I hear and see.

Will we have 2 ECCC badge sales next year?

21 OCTOBER 2019

This Wednesday, 23 October at noon PST, tickets and hotels for Emerald City Comic Con go live. In some ways, this ticket sale will be exactly what you're used to. You can buy a 4-day package for $145 or buy each day separately for slightly more.

But - plot twist! This year, ECCC has come out with "premium packages" for the dedicated fan who also has a little extra cash to burn. While these packages are intriguing in themselves, what really interests me is that each promises "Access to 2021 Advanced Ticket Presale." That's explained further as "2020 Premium badge holders will have first access to ECCC 2021 tickets Cost." (No typos - that's exactly what it says.)

In other words, much like NYCC, we're apparently looking at two ECCC badge sales next year - but instead of dividing between last year's attendees and the general public, it will be between premium attendees and the rest of us. Yes, just when you decide you really don't need a fancy overpriced premium ticket, you realize you probably will need to buy one if you want to lock down 2021. Tricky, tricky, ReedPop.

These packages include:
  • Celebrity Fan - $299: private lounge at the Hyatt, reserved seating for 2 Main Stage panels, fast pass for photo ops and autographs, various merch.
  • Comic Fan - $275: private lounge by Artists' Alley, early access to the floor, advance access to guests, various merch.
  • Family - $350: good for 2 adults and 4 kids. Again, access to a private family lounge, food vouchers, some early access, merch discounts.
I don't know how I feel about this. I fully support premium packages that offer perks like reserved seating. The idea that I'm handicapped for next year's badge sale unless I pony up is annoying. I don't really care about private lounges and I'm long past the race-for-the-floor stage. So while I initially decided to roll out for the Comic Fan package, doubts are beginning to creep in. I'm curious how others feel about it?

If you're on the fence for the entire show, remember that Lyte is there to relieve you of your tickets, should life interfere. Tragically, this was me last year - and Lyte made the whole process very easy. Presumably it's just as easy to await tickets for sale as well. So if you find yourself on either end of that exchange, whether you can't go or you didn't buy tickets in time, you should be fine.

That said, don't bank on tickets being turned in. If you really want to be at Emerald City in March, be in that queue on Wednesday. Badges will go very quickly. Make sure you lock down your hotel room as well.

I'll live blog the sale Wednesday, with an eye on which tickets sell out first, the general or premium.  Stay tuned.

Returning Reg is happening

12 OCTOBER 2019

9:54 am

Well. That was one of the smoothest badge sales ever. I worked with a small local group this year and we did quite well. My ancient (but badge sale-lucky) laptop that wheezes like an old man died at 8:53 a.m.. Ominous, but I was able to adapt and I got a Preview Night badge faster than I could believe. Then it seemed like nothing happened for a while. People were saying badges must be going slowly... but ultimately it didn't seem radically off from previous years. Someone in my group was able to buy all 4 days at 9:40 am, right before Saturday sold out, apparently. If you remember the horror show days where people regularly got booted out of the system or the whole shebang would crash, you have to admit CCI is running a decent operation now.

Most everyone I spoke to online/texted got badges but there were a few sad nerds today. If that's you, buck up and do what you have to do to prevail in Open Reg - which probably isn't far away.

How did your morning go?

8:24 am

The day we've been waiting for is here! Hope you are not sleep deprived and over caffeinated like I am, and you're approaching this with some semblance of calm and perspective. But probably you're just as anxious as everyone else.

Problems so far: nothing terrible that I've heard, other than a resolved issue with getting kicked out of the waiting room. I'll keep posting what I hear. Share what's happening to you!

Are you ready, steady?

SDCC badge sale refresher

9 OCTOBER 2019

San Diego Comic-Con Returning Registration is just 2 days away. Are you ready? Are you nervous? Have you already practiced all the steps several times in your mind?

You probably don't need to; SDCC badge sales have been pretty consistent for years now. But if somehow other people have bought your badges for you and this is your first time at the wheel - let's review.

How it works

1) On Saturday morning, you'll click the link you got in your email from CCI today (which is also in your Member ID account) and input the code that was also in that email/your Member ID account. You want to do this before 9 am PST. A minute late and you won't get into the sale.

2) Once you're in the waiting room, you'll probably nervously text your friends, check Twitter, worry about the flakiest person in your buying group/circle of friends. If you're working with enough people, inevitably someone will experience a dead laptop, hangover or personal crisis that prevents them from participating in the sale. OR you'll have the opposite happen in a bit of luck - someone will send you their code to use since they've decided not to go to SDCC next year.

3) Finally it will be zero hour and the sale will start at 9 a.m. PST. And... not much will happen at first. There will be a spinning blue circle and a yellow bar of CCI's nerd jokes. They'll assure you that people are being moved into random groups. You'll wonder if people are finally buying badges yet. Then you'll see someone crow about getting a Preview Night badge - and at the moment, your real anxiety will begin as you wait to be chosen.

4) Once you're picked for a session, your waiting room will automatically convert to a very intuitive interface that asks your member ID and last name and how many people you're buying for. Do not screw that up. In fact, don't rush at any point through this process. You've got time. Slow down and make sure you input the correct information. The last thing you want is to give up a spot or only get your friend a Sunday badge when Preview Night was available.

5) You'll do the same for the other people you're buying for, inputting their last names and Member IDs and then choosing the days you all want - and doing all of it very carefully. Note: just because it's your code that got you into the waiting room (or someone else's code), that doesn't mean you have to enter the Member ID and last name associated with that code. In fact, if someone else already got you a badge, you can buy for 3 other people when you get picked.

6) At this point, you will advance (after double checking everything) and pay with a credit card. Again, slow down and make sure you enter everything correctly. It's not uncommon for hearts to pound and hands to shake through a badge sale, so try to be calm and focus on being accurate. Errors are common and I know attendees who are carrying grudges to this day because of a friend accidentally costing them a badge years ago.

7) Once you pay, you're done - there's no next stage of booking a hotel like there is with some other Con ticket sales.


  • Screenshot everything you can. I always send a picture of my final screen with all the names and days on it to whoever I bought for - it's a little piece of reassurance for them until their email confirmation comes in. And screenshots can save you if something doesn't go through.

  • Double check last name and Member ID spellings before the sale - but if you still can't get someone's to validate, check with them and then move on to someone else if they don't respond.  Don't waste a spot because someone flubbed their own information.

  • Even if you're disappointed because you couldn't get Saturday/the whole show, take what you can get. This is Returning Registration; you can try to upgrade in Open Reg. And even if you get "only" a Sunday or Thursday/Sunday, it's still worth it.

  • Test your technology and lock down your funds ahead of time. If you're the first one picked in your buying group, can you afford to buy 3 Preview Night badges on your credit limit? If not, borrow someone else's card.

  • Follow good buying group etiquette - be organized and stay in real time communication to troubleshoot any difficulties and understand everyone's badge status. Pay promptly. Share screenshots. And remember CCI's threat to cancel all badges bought in the same session if 1 of them is sold on the black market. You want to make sure you're working with people you trust.

  • Take your whole weekend into account, especially if you're emotionally invested in this badge sale. (And who isn't?) Don't descend into some chemical-fueled wormhole Friday night and then crawl hungover to your laptop on Saturday morning (or wake up hours after Ret Reg is over.) And think about how you'll feel if you don't get a badge. That's always a possibility so carve out some Saturday space where you can afford to marinate in self-pity.

Finally - I know many of us are being orbited by first-timers ready for Open Registration. Make sure they make a Member ID account now. Do not wait. CCI will shut that down without warning. And it's quite likely that Open Reg will be in November, though that's not certain.

I'll be live-blogging the sale like always. Good luck.

SDCC Returning Registration is 12 October


Consistency feels nice, doesn't it? Many of us speculated that Returning Registration would fall on 12 October since it lined up with the schedule of other emails and announcements - and CCI provided us with that very announcement today. It was comforting.

The basic annual caveat: Returning Registration is only for those of us who went to SDCC this past summer as an attendee. If that's you, you can buy a badge for yourself and two other people - but they also must be 2019 attendees. You can't sneak in another friend who wasn't there. You have to wait for Open Registration for that.

Speaking of - while we can't be certain that will also follow last year's schedule (10 November) - we can and should play it safe by realizing that Open Reg could happen soon. That means prepping all your first-timer friends by having them make a Member ID account and generally impressing upon them the life-or-death nature of an SDCC badge sale. No flakes allowed.

I'll post a refresher course on Ret Reg - but for now, clear that Saturday and the Friday night before (no hangovers allowed also) and get your money and buying group in order. SDCC fortune favors the prepared.

SDCC & Emerald City badge sales are nigh


Happy Autumn Equinox. The past week brought welcome nerd news. The Emerald City Comic Con ticket sale is 23 October and the San Diego Comic-Con Returning Registration sale is... soon.

Emerald City
Let's start with ECCC. I advise making 2020 your first year at ECCC if you've never been and you like comic books. You can read why here. 

As for the ticket sale - it's a fairly simple process. When tickets go live on noon PST 23 October, you will join the queue and buy the tickets of your choice. While 4-day tickets will probably sell out in real time, you should be able to buy all four days separately if you're there in the mix. You can also book your hotel right then, which I highly advise.

For now, subscribe to their newsletter. And think big picture about your Con destinations in 2020 - because unless you have unlimited leisure time and unlimited funds at your disposal, you'll need to pick which Cons to prioritize. Don't be afraid to mix it up.

San Diego Comic-Con

Onto SDCC. Returning Registration is approaching - a day that rivals an ancient Pagan celebration in its capacity to inspire dread and jubilation. This sale is only for attendees who swiped their badge at SDCC 2019 - also known as SDCC50. (I don't feel that ever really took off, but that's how CCI wants us to think of it.) Since you've already been through a badge sale, you know the drill. Just remember to get your money in order and communicate clearly with your buying group. Last year's RR was the worst I have ever experienced in terms of collecting $$$ from the people whose badges I bought, and it almost turned me off from ever participating in a buying group again. Don't be that person.

Dates: Because this year's junior badge validation emails aligned with last year's, it's tempting to think that Returning Reg this year will also align and take place on Saturday, 12 October.  (Last year was the 13th.) But CCI is a saucy minx, so don't bet the farm on that date. As someone who needed to pick an October weekend for Disneyland, I did choose October 18-20 as safe dates to have the sale over with. I'd guess the 5th at the earliest and say the 12th is the most likely. I'd definitely keep your Saturdays on those 2 dates open. (Hard to do if you're NYCC-bound.) But anything is possible.

For you first-timer hopefuls who want to go to SDCC next year but were not an attendee this summer, you'll need to wait for Open Registration. That's also likely going to happen this fall, so make sure you've created a Member ID for yourself and your companions. 

Taking a Gap Year
I want to address those of you who are in the middle - you think you want to go to SDCC 2020 but you're not sure but you don't want to miss out, but but but. There seem to be quite a few attendees contemplating a Comic-Con gap year. Was it because this year was a bit contentious? Are we restless for new lands to conquer? I guess the reason doesn't matter - only that a healthy number of people have mentioned it to me, and they're worried that once they step off the SDCC train they'll never be allowed back on. It's a reasonable fear.

So if you're currently vacillating, remember this:
1) You can always turn your badge in for a refund.
2) If you do jump off the SDCC wheel of fate and can't catch it again - there are other Cons you can go to and fan fests like D23. Also, I feel that we've reached Peak Con in terms of SDCC demand. I could be wildly wrong about this, and obviously it's still very difficult to get a badge. But I do think that even if you flunk a few badge sales, you'll eventually be able to claw your way back in by working with the right people.

Back to what matters. It's officially badge sale season! Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and stay tuned.

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.

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."

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."

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 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 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."

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

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?


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.) 


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.


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.