Marketing yourself at Comic-Con: Part I

18 APRIL 2014

We're 14 weeks from Comic-Con and I'm starting to get emails. Can I find an agent at Comic-Con? If I meet someone famous, is it rude to ask them to look at my work? How can I meet people in my industry?

San Diego Comic-Con has evolved in many ways, but one of the best and most practical is the content and networking opportunities for people in creative fields. In the mid-aughts, you could find a few panels on becoming a comic book artist; these days you can find panels for artists of all stripes on topic like promotion, editing, self-publishing, legal issues, collaboration and more, along with networking events. 

First let me make this disclaimer: I am not an expert on catapulting one's career through Comic-Con. I try to be as recreational and off-the-clock as possible when careening around the convention center. All the same, I do network somewhat and some of my friends are Con hustlers extraordinaire. Do know this; while there are great networking opportunities at the Con, don't envision a scenario where you can walk up to a TV producer, famous agent or acquisitions head and pitch them at your leisure. You will probably not meet an influencer in your field who can make it all happen for you - and even if you do, they'll probably have way too full an agenda to spend more than thirty seconds on you.

I’ll follow this up with two more posts: how to prepare for the below events and the soft skills you’ll need at SDCC. For now, look below at the main opportunities available to you.

Creative Panels

Take a look at last year’s panels for an idea of the discussions that go on. These may look too remedial for you; if so, fine, but don’t skip them if you think you’re not advanced enough. The best thing a neophyte can do is attend these and soak it all up for future use. As far as approaching panelists – I know it’s the dream of all unpublished artists and writers to dazzle an agent or editor at first glance. Surely they will sense your brilliance and commercial potential, etc. But be aware that everyone else will vie for their attention as well, and collectively you’ll all be as welcome as a swarm of gnats. I’m not saying to never approach someone, but to learn to read the room and do it deftly, if at all.

Regular Panels

I’m referring to panels on a certain book or TV show, when you’re just dying to approach one of the panelists afterward for advice. See above. And don’t become personally offended when someone’s handler drives you off. It’s not you getting rejected, it’s the Bothersome Stranger character you’re playing at that moment.

Portfolio Review

This is where you sign up in advance (of course) to have your work professionally appraised by industry professionals. Last year companies like Disney, LEGO, Nickelodean, Cartoon Networks and Lucasfilms participated, along with other non-household brands. It’s not just for aspiring comic book artists, but also for animators, copywriters, video editors, comic book writers, inkers, colorists, letterers, storyboard artists, background designers, monster designers, concept designers, illustrators and TV writers.

Doing it dumb: showing up with your entire portfolio and expecting the professionals to look through all of it; showcasing your favorite work, whether or not it matches the company’s brand and product; showcasing work that’s so subtle or long that it requires a private, attentive examination. Being surly when they give you feedback.

Doing it smart: showcasing a few high-impact pieces that are relevant to the company you’re meeting; doing advance research on their output and creative strategy, and tailoring your work to their qualifications; listening respectfully to whatever feedback is given.

Two nights of speed dating for writers and artists who want to find their perfect collaborative partner. You get 5 minutes to meet each artist/writer and discuss interests and skill sets, and then you decide later if anyone seemed like a possible match. There’s usually a Comic Pitch Review ahead of time to help the inexperienced practice their pitching skills and get coaching – all free.
This is only available to people with badges for the applicable days, which historically have been Thursday and Friday. You have to sign up first – and know that in the past artists could sign up for both days and writers could only sign up for one. Writers, there are just too damn many of us.

General Networking

This requires a light hand and a deft touch. I’ll cover more of this in my post on soft skills, but do look beyond the organized events to make contacts. Maybe someone at a small press table would be interested in seeing your book. Maybe a writer in your field could tell you how they got their break. Swing by Artist’s Alley – but don’t expect someone to educate you for an hour if you’re not buying anything. Nerd HQ, GamerCon, and various parties could have people relevant to your field.

Sometimes opportunities just come up and other times it pays to contact someone in advance and ask if you could have just 5 minutes of their time. Be polite, be accommodating. And be professional – even though you’re in a somewhat informal environment, you need to convey the general impression of being committed, reliable and possessed of basic interpersonal skills.

I'm posting all of this now so you have some time to plan how you can best maximize your Comic-Con trip. Check back in a few days for a post on ways you can start preparing.

Big Bang Theory wants to send you to Comic-Con

16 APRIL 2014

I'm actually a few days late on this; my apologies. Blame the Blood Moon and the IRS.

Honoring their generous tradition of contests, the Big Bang Theory wants to send you to Comic-Con. And like so many contests this year, it's of limited duration. All the better for other people to miss it, I say.

When: NOW. This contest runs every day from 14-25 April.

How: Watch the show, then click the correct word of the day on the site to enter. There are other prizes, but the grand prize is a full trip to San Diego Comic-Con.

Game of Thrones Contest

12 APRIL 2014

In what will doubtlessly be the most popular Comic-Con contest this year, HBO is toying with your Game of Thrones fever and asking you to enter their #TaketheThrone sweepstakes. Yes, the winner gets a trip to San Diego Comic-Con, but daily prizes are handed out too. I can't think of another contest that can say that.

How to play: Tweet #TakeTheThrone or like and comment on their Facebook page with the same hashtag, along with the reason YOU should take the throne.

Deadline: 18 April. Act fast.

Prizes: the usual 4-day badge/hotel/airfare, along with a 7-inch Iron Throne replica, a letter opener and plaque. No word on if the throne comes with a 5-inch Joffrey voodoo doll. The runner-ups will get all that same stuff except for going to Comic-Con. The grand prize winner also gets a fat check and, if there's any justice in the world, a front-row seat at the GOT panel without waiting in line.

Open to: US residents only - sorry, international friends. You have to be 18 too.

Unlike a lot of contests that ask you to get creative and clever for a brand you've never even bothered to yawn over, this actually gives you a chance to put your existing fantasy life to good use. So be ingenious and make George R.R. Martin proud.

Dates and deadlines

12 APRIL 2014

Just to make sure you stay on top of your badge and hotel room management, below are assorted deadlines and dates for refunds and additional sales.

Deadline for requesting a refund on your hotel deposit:

30 April: for both nights refunded
1 June: one night refunded

After 2 June, no deposits will be refunded. However, you're still free to cancel any remaining nights on your reservation.

Deadline for cancelling your badge with refund: 23 May

When the hotel system opens up again: 23 April

Date of the badge resale: Unknown; probably in June.

Help for the unhoteled

11 APRIL 2014

So you hate your hotel. Or you didn’t get one at all. Here are your options.

 Leap on this condo deal now.

"This is for two 2-bedroom Worldmark Resorts available in San Diego. Check-in is Tuesday July 22nd at 4PM and check-out is Tuesday, July 29th at noon. This resort is 6.1 miles from the San Diego Convention Center.

One condo has a king in the master bedroom, two twin beds in the second bedroom, and a queen sleeper sofa in the living area. Maximum occupancy is 6. One condo has a king in the master bedroom, queen bed in the second bedroom, and a queen sofa sleeper in the living area. Maximum occupancy is 6. These can be rented together or separate: $1000 each for the entire week (about $142 per night).

Both units contain fully equipped kitchens, air conditioning, and a small balcony/deck. The resort has an outdoor pool, outdoor hot tub, fitness center, recreation room, arcade, business center, complimentary laundry facilities, and free underground parking. This is a pet-free and smoke-free resort."
Not a bad deal, though I bet it's already gone.

Wait for the hotel system to reopen and keep checking for other options.
Your best option. People do cancel and hotel rooms do open up; however, there won’t be an abundance of downtown rooms, and the few that surface will be snapped up fast. Consider splitting your hotel nights. You’ll be able to check specific days at specific hotels, so this is a possibility. You may not get your dream hotel for all four nights, but you might find a room there for a night or two. Packing up all your stuff and moving midway through the Con may sound burdensome, but for some people it’s worth it.

Look beyond hotels.
Such as condo rentals, hostels, private home and apartment rentals or campgrounds. Some people even take in Comic Con boarders, if that’s not too dodgy for you. Don’t be afraid to put out an ad, use Airbnb, Couchsurfing or just ask around Facebook.

Look at non-Travel Planners hotels.
Last year all of the below hotels had vacancies after the hotel sale. They are not discounted, they are not on the Shuttle Grid. They may be currently sold out. But they are worth a call if you’re desperate.

Harborview Inn & Suites San Diego Harbor

Estancia La Jolla Hotel

Hotel Del Coronado 

Gaslamp Plaza Suites 

Somerset Suites.

Coronado Inn 

ETA: Commenter Ferd just booked a stay at the Comfort Inn Gaslamp at 660 G Street. That's only 6 blocks away - give them a call.

Hotel assignments are here. What did you get?

10 APRIL 2014

Hotel email assignments are going out. Did you get yours? Did your heart leap in your chest and the words HOWARD JOHNSON EXPRESS flash before your eyes before you scrolled down and read your real hotel? Because that's how it went for me. (Didn't get my first choice, Marriott, for which I blame them for making me go back and start both email addresses with a capital letter; however I did land at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, so no complaints.)

 If you didn't get your email yet, don't panic. I can't stress this enough: the order of email arrival does not correspond to your likelihood of getting one of your choices. Just accept the weirdness that is CCI email delivery, and stay positive.

If you got your hotel and absolutely hate it: don't lose hope. I'll be posting options for you later today or tomorrow. I would suggest going ahead and making your deposit, which you can get back.

If CCI and Travel Planners were open to crowdsourcing our genius, I know some enterprising nerd mind could invent an app allowing people to swap rooms. Or just invent a better system period. But I do have to give props to CCI for speeding up and calming down this process. After years of technical tsunamis, they have really stepped up their game.

I know the system isn't perfect; I know many of you are disappointed right now. Lotteries are our way of life going forward, and until the convention center expands AND new hotels are built OR the Con moves, this is our lot. But at least we've evolved out of the crashes and freezes that used to slaughter so many of us.

Today is Hotel Day

8 APRIL 2014

12:05 pm

I'm seeing people get anxious because other people are already getting their confirmation emails. Here's a tip - CCI emails are always staggered. And their arrival has no significance in terms of where you placed in the lottery, so just have faith that yours will come eventually.

9:14 am

At this point, the Hotel Sale is over. I know there's no hard-stop "sold out" announcement that gets made like with badge sales, but if you call the hotline at this point, you'll probably be told you'll be put on a waiting list.

Now all that's left is to wait for your confirmation email, then your assignment email. Good luck, everyone. And I have to give credit to CCI - the system didn't crash and this all went quite smoothly. No doubt there will be grumblings over hotel assignments, but this was an improvement (in terms of stress) over former years.

9:06 am

Looks like everyone got in ok. I'm a little annoyed because the system wouldn't let me submit until both of my email addresses started with capital letters. That probably cost me a downtown hotel.

Anyone have problems?

8:55 am

Reminder - you won't be asked to pay your deposit today. That comes only after you get your actual assignment days from now. Put your credit cards away.

8:47 am

Final, and probably redundant, advice: Make sure you know where on the list your hotels are so you don't waste time searching for them.

8:41 am

Twitter is oddly quiet. Here's what I want that to mean: that so many people have already reserved their own rooms outside the system, that competition won't be as fierce and everyone is less afraid.

But I'm probably wrong.

8:27 am

The hotel sale goes live in half an hour. Just in case you can't find your email...

This is the list of hotels:

This is the link to get in:  

This is the number to call:
1-877-552-6642 or 212-532-1660

You must have a Member ID to proceed through the sale - so if you're some yokel who thinks they can score a discounted hotel room today to participate in the "outside Con," you can't.


My Hotel Day advice

5 APRIL 2014

Hotel Day is 9 am PST Tuesday morning. By this point, you’ve probably picked your six hotels, faked a doctor’s appointment to get out of work, and are fighting a knot of fear that is your stomach. Here’s my advice/novella on navigating the bloodbath.


How does it work?

It’s actually a simple process. You’ll hit the link and pick your six top hotels, in order of preference. (As to whether you get in, that’s a different story.) Or you’ll call the Travel Planners phone line at 1.877.552.6642 or 1.212.532.1660. That’s it. You don’t have to pay right then. You’ll get an email within 48 hours confirming your picks, then another email days later telling you the hotel you landed in, which may or may not be one of your picks. Then you’ll log into the system and pay a two-night deposit.

Is my deposit refundable?

For a while. Eventually, one night will become non-refundable, then both nights will be non-refundable. I don’t know when that will happen. Last year Hotel Day was in late February and you had until April 30 to get your deposit back, but this year everything is delayed.

Who is Travel Planners?

CCI’s partner in this madness. Be wary; suck up to them as much as you can at any given opportunity, of course, but be wary. Most Comic-Con veterans have a Travel Planners fuck-up story. I have several, including having my room downgraded last year after a nice lady said she would upgrade it.

What's faster, the link or the phone line?

No idea. Most of us will be using the link, but plenty of people will bank on that idea because who makes phone calls anymore, and call the line. Don’t ever underestimate the cynicism people feel toward CCI/Travel Planner server issues. I will say that in 2011 I got my hotel (Marriott Marquis, no less) by phone, a process in which the operator wrote my information down by hand - because her system had crashed too.

What if I hate my hotel?

You may be assigned a hotel so awful, so decrepit, so far away, that it defies credulity. Be calm if this happens. Remember you have a while to get your deposit back, so go ahead and book it and regard it as your safety room while you scout for something better. Plenty of people will be releasing their rooms over the coming months. They may be letting go of rooms they booked long ago on their own, they may dislike their Travel Planners room, they may have buyer’s remorse after landing in a very expensive Hard Rock suite.

What if I don’t want a hotel room?

Then you should start looking 2 months ago for a condo, hostel, couchsurfing arrangement, campground, boarding situation. Throw yourself on the mercy of Craigslist and the various apps out there.

What are the best hotels? 

I already covered this in part here. The closest hotels ( Marriott Marquis, Manchester Grand Hyatt, Hard Rock, Hiltons Bayfront and Gaslamp, and the Omni) are the most popular, expensive and hard to get. Gaslamp hotels like Embassy Suites, Westin Gaslamp, Residence Inn Gaslamp, Horton Grand and Marriott Gaslamp are fairly close and put you in the thick of the action. If saving money is your top priority, Mission Valley hotels are the way to go.

On crossing the street: The main intersection in front of the center is a crowded ugly snarl of humanity. As someone who frequently goes back to her room to drop off bags or charge devices, I loathe crossing the street – so if you feel the same, know that the Marriott Marquis, the Hilton Bayfront and Manchester Hyatt are all on the same side as the center. The Hilton Gaslamp is on the other side of the street, but you can cross at a less crowded intersection.

Remember to add daily parking charges (usually around $30/day) to the downtown hotel rates if you're bringing a car.
Places I've always been treated like gold: Omni, Hilton Gaslamp, Marriott Marquis.

What tricks and strategies can I use?

Again, don’t pick the 6 obvious hotels everyone else is picking. Do that and you set yourself up to get assigned on some sadistic Travel Planners worker’s whim to a Sea World hotel.  Hedge your bets with a mix of top-tier hotels and less-desirable-but-still-ok hotels.

I hate to encourage more people to pour into the system, but if you’re traveling in a group, all of you should participate in the sale to increase your chances of landing a good room/suite.

Study the list so you know where your choices are. Time is of the essence in this race.

Problems and delays

You may or may not get into the system. Keep trying if you can’t get in – but if too much time passes, be aware you’re probably going to end up on the waiting list.

Emails will arrive in staggered fashion, as they always do. Nothing is worse than seeing all the gleeful updates and tweets from people getting their confirmation emails when you haven’t gotten yours, because you naturally assume emails are processed in order of assignment. This is not true; I was one of the last people to get my email one year, I called Travel Planners and was told that meant I probably hadn’t gotten a hotel – and then I got my first choice.

Always possible: overloaded servers, complete meltdowns, hearing about people who got a better hotel than you did despite joining the system later, not getting a room at all. (But that last should only be temporary.)

No matter what, remember you'll be at Comic-Con. A bed is a bed. I know it's easy to completely lose your religion over these frustrating online sales, but in this case you will end up somewhere and you will be walking through the doors of the convention center in July. That's all that matters.
Talk to you Tuesday.

Did you get your Hotel Day email?

4 APRIL 2014

You should get your announcement email today that Hotel Day is 8 April - which we knew already, but it's nice to see the list of hotels and rates.

No real surprises here, and that's a good thing. I have been dreading the announcement that hotel assignments would also be randomized. They won't be, not entirely. Just like last year, you'll log in and pick your top 6 choices. As with all things Comic-Con, there are strategies to be implemented; like I said here, consider picking a mix of dream hotels and not-ideal-but-acceptable hotels as you scan the list.

I'll post more advice for first-timers over the weekend. In the meantime, start thinking up your excuse to be away from work, or at least near a computer, at 9 am PST on Tuesday morning.

Scion wants to send you to San Diego Comic-Con

3 APRIL 2014

Image courtesy of Scion, just like your trip

Here's another contest that requires some effort and ingenuity. That's a good thing; it means the competition will be vastly reduced from the typical sweepstakes. To enter, submit photos and videos on Twitter or Instagram, and tag @Scion with the hashtag #EPICFRS. The content should include a Scion vehicle or a Scion, Scion Racing or Scion AV reference, natch.

You'll be judged on your unique use, creativity, "positive representation" of Scion and clever use of the brand. Why do I suddenly feel this is a marketing ploy to get free campaign creative. Anyhow, the winner gets the typical pair of badges, airfare and hotel; three runner-ups will get different prizes, including an Ogio backpack, Volcano Portable Speakers and Scion gear.

Scion veep Doug Murtha says in a very natural and non-corporate way, "This contest allows us to elevate everything truly epic across the Scion brand. We can't wait to see what Scion fans will create to help share the story of originality and individualism that makes up the Scion brand." Hmmph. I'd read the fine print on what they're allowed to do with your entry, particularly IRT if it becomes their intellectual property. But you probably don't care about that, do you - you just want to go to Comic-Con.

Sideshow Collectibles Contest - ends 31 May

1 APRIL 2014

This is a straight-up sweepstakes contest that has been around forever, which means it's probably flooded with entries - but if you're desperate enough, entering can't hurt.

You and your companion get airfare, hotel and - this is the interesting part - "three-day admission passes." Which three days? I guess if you're entering contests at this point, you don't really care.

This contest is open to international as well as US nerds, so all you farflung fanboys and girls should definitely apply; most contests are domestic only. Also, this contest has a second place prize: a $1K gift certificate to

Deadline is 31 May, and you'll be notified if you won between 6-10 June. Visit the giveaway page to enter.

Only a week left for the Early Bird Hotel Sale

30 MARCH 2014

Just a reminder - if the thought of Hotel Day looming ahead of us fills you with dread, if you wish you could somehow avoid yet another gamble with your Comic-Con fate, consider the Early Bird Sale.

Hotel rooms are still available, but the sale goes dark 8 April. If you want to get a reasonably priced room, with the full understanding that you will not be staying downtown, jump on this now.

Pick your hotels now for Hotel Day

25 MARCH 2014

Hotel Day isn't until 8 April, and we don't know exactly how the process will go - if CCI will carry their randomization mania into this endeavor too, or if it'll go like last year. Either way, it's safe to assume there will be an element of choice in there somewhere. Which makes this an ideal time to start contemplating your desired hotels.

You can do this by looking at last year's list. First-timers, you will want to really study this, especially if you've never been to San Diego before.

First off, this is how it went last year. You logged in, listed your top six choices and hit submit. Supposedly everything was time-stamped, and rooms were assigned first come, first serve. You got your assignment a few days later and that was that - that was your room. You could go back into the system a few weeks later and see what was available and try to switch it up, but obviously there were no suites at the Hard Rock just hanging out there for anyone who wanted them.

That's why Hotel Day is such a source of anguish for people - because landing at a hotel you hate can put a cloud on your Comic-Con experience. That said, it doesn't have to. Below are some advantages and disadvantages to consider when picking your top choices.

Downtown/top-tier: Yes, everyone wants to stay downtown, preferably as close as physically possible to the convention center. The reasons are obvious. However, bear in mind that the closest hotels like the Hilton Bayfront or Marriott Marquis are the most expensive and the most in demand - not just by your fellow attendees, but by visiting professionals and celebrities. If you only list these as your choices, you've increased your chances of getting placed by the airport.

Downtown/Gaslamp: This is a good halfway point, where you're close to the convention center (walking or shuttle) and right in the middle of the action. These hotels can be even better than the Hilton Bayfront or Marriott Marquis, given how much time you'll likely spend going to bars and restaurants and parties in the Gaslamp. Screenings, promotional attractions, meet-ups and other events occur all over the Gaslamp and you may see and do more if you're staying right there. Choices like Best Western or Embassy Suites can be wallet-friendly while still keeping you in the thick of it.

Mission Valley: Usually the only people who head here by choice are the budget-conscious. But saving money isn't the only good thing about staying on Hotel Circle. It actually can be very restful to leave behind the Con each night. Often staying downtown leads to a lot of aimless wandering in which nothing much of significance happens, yet significant money is spent, and you eventually return to your room tired, broke and unfulfilled. Staying away from the Con forces you to make solid plans and spend your time more wisely.

So what rooms should you pick? I'd select a mix of locations, just so you have some statistical influence in the process. But mostly, remember that you will not be spending much time at your hotel. It's a bed to collapse on. That's it. They all have shuttles, and a shuttle ride is nothing more than a chance to get off your feet for a few minutes. Be strategic now and stoic later if you have to - because no matter what, you got a badge for San Diego Comic-Con. You already won the lottery.

Submit your entry now for The Masquerade

21 MARCH 2014

Now that spring is officially here, it's time for cosplayers to rev their engines and sign up to compete in The Masquerade. If you have a character you're dying to portray - from film, TV, comic books or your own imagination - this is your night. 

For the first-timers, The Masquerade is a cosplay talent competition. The costumes are quite impressive and all homegrown; no professionally-sourced costumes are allowed, although The Masquerade does often serve as a stepping stone for people interested in professional careers in costume design and makeup.

While it's never been my thing, it is a major event at Comic-Con and attended by thousands of people. Awards are given out for Best in Show, Judges' Choice, Best Re-Creation, Best Original Design, Best Workmanship, Best Presentation, Most Beautiful and Best Young Fan; every category winner gets a free four-day badge to Comic-Con 2015. And those are just the category awards. A number of vendors hand out cash, collectibles and other prizes as well.

The deadline is 3 July, but early submissions are strongly recommended. You can find out more and apply here.

18 weeks until Comic-Con

19 MARCH 2014

So now that your major life question of 2014 is answered - yes, you're going to San Diego Comic-Con - you no doubt wish it was July right now. Instead we're headed into that dead zone between the winter anxiety of registration and the early summer drumbeat of media coverage. But Preview Night is only 18 weeks away, and there are things you can do now to get ready

Design your Comic-Con strategy.

If you've been to SDCC before, you know how easy it is to lose entire days in a blur of Exhibit Hall thunder and outdoor lines. And then you get home and read about all the parties, panels and exclusives you missed, and realize you just blew a ton of cash without experiencing half of what you hoped for. Instead of squandering another trip, think now about the kind of Con you want to have. Do you want to market your creative talents? Do you want to cosplay? Do you want to be more social? Figure out how you'll make it happen.

Save money

You know you're going to spend, spend, spend this July, so start putting away money each week now. Your credit card bills won't look quite as monstrous in August. 

Get in shape

This is not a statement on general nerd fitness. It is a statement on the grumpy people you see sprawled around the Convention Center, rubbing their blistered feet and looking tragic.You'll be walking and standing more than you realize, so get ready. 

Join your hotel’s rewards program

If you land at a major chain hotel, join their program. It's not about the accumulating points as much as benefits like free Wifi and continental breakfast - little perks that can save you a nice sum over 4 or 5 days.

Unload your old stuff now

Pro tip: the Exhibit Hall is not the place to make a fortune on your back issues and unwanted action figures. Put all of it on Ebay now, hold out for the right price, and clear some shelf space for the prizes you bring home this summer. 

Plan your costume. 

If this is the year you decide to dress up, plan it out now. I realize true cosplayers had their look planned out months ago, and are willing to sacrifice comfort for aesthetics; I'm speaking here to regular attendees. First of all, know that cosplaying is not de rigeur. Most people wear street clothes. And costumes can be hot, unwieldy, prone to disintegration and uncomfortable to travel around in, so factor that into your plans. 

Finally, if you do knock it out of the park with a great costume - say, a mindblowing concept of the Yellow King (please someone do this) - realize you will be stopped constantly to have your picture taken. If you're not prepared to be courteous and patient about this, or prefer to roam the Exhibit Hall without interruption, wear the same frumpy clothes as everyone else.

A different kind of Comic-Con contest

17 MARCH 2014

illustration courtesy of Her Universe

Happy St. Patrick's Day. If you're not drinking away your Registration Day sorrows, and you happen to be a fashion designer, you will want to hear about a Comic-Con contest just for you. I can't actually tell if it will garner you a Comic-Con badge; it seems like it should, but that doesn't mean it will.

Her Universe is sponsoring a fashion design contest at San Diego Comic-Con for "geek couture." They will select 30 designs to be presented at the Her Universe Fashion Show on 24 July at the Grand Manchester Hyatt. This is not a cosplay contest; these are "fashions" and must be based "on anything that is celebrated at Comic-Con." (i.e., hot girls dressed up in sci-fi splendor, and not the sartorial laziness of nerd t-shirts and bad haircuts that really is celebrated at Comic-Con.)

Male or female designers are welcome to participate - one submission per person, three separate designs per submission - but the fashions are for females only. You must provide your own model, styling, makeup and hair design, AND pay for your own travel and hotel accommodations. (I'm going to assume Her Universe at least put aside rooms for these people, because otherwise they're asking the impossible of their contestants.)

Deadline is 4 April. Finalists will be announced via email no later than 18 April. The two winners will be guest designers with her Universe to design a Hot Topic collection.

So do the finalists get a badge to Comic-Con? I feel they should - but upon reading the fine print, this contest seems to be Con-adjacent as opposed to officially being part of it. Still worth investigating, though.

Find out how to submit here.

Win a trip to Comic-Con - but act fast

16 MARCH 2014

If you're still sulking over yesterday's sale, fear not. A new contest is waiting to raise and dash your hopes again. 

This contest comes courtesy of the Nerdist, Hot Topic and Her Universe (seriously, does anything make for unlikely bed fellows like an SDCC contest?). It's an Instagram contest and it offers a chance to show off your brainy and technical chops by making a video for Pi Day. The winner gets 4-day passes, flight, hotel and tix to the Nerdist PodcastLive.  

The contest runs until 31 March, so move fast. Get more details here.

So you got a Comic-Con badge - now what?

15 MARCH 2014 

So you got a Comic-Con badge. Maybe it's your first time; maybe you're a grizzled veteran who's watched the show mutate from a laidback comic book expo into the behemoth it is today. Either way, I bet you're still flush with excitement from today's sale and ready to claim your next trophy.

So while I hate to rub salt in the wounds of those who crashed and burned today, let's move on to the pressing matter of hotels.You have two options for booking a hotel room.

Early Bird Sale:  happening now. You must pay up front and you won't get your money back if you somehow need to cancel your Comic-Con trip. But you do get to pick your own hotel and avoid the horror of Hotel Day. If you had enough anxiety today, that alone can seem worth skipping downtown hotels.

This year's early bird crop are in Mission Valley and by the airport mostly. The Sheraton on Harbor Drive isn't a bad choice at all. And while those hotels may not jibe with your dreams of riding an elevator at the Marriott Marquis with Nic Pizzolato, the reality is that Hotel Day could land you somewhere better, but could also land you somewhere worse.

Finally - as I've said before - staying away from the Con can be an unexpected blessing. You'll get more rest, save money and get your sanity back each night. Staying right next to the Con is kind of like going to Vegas and never leaving the casino.

Hotel Day: happening 8 April. That's a Tuesday, so clear your calendar now. I don't have details yet but last year Hotel Day was a matter of picking your 6 top choices and hoping for the best. If you haven't gone to Comic-Con in a few years, the days of logging into the system, picking a hotel and viewing availability by the night are long gone. Last year you got an email within a few days telling you which hotel you were assigned to, and supposedly it was all based on time stamps. Will they randomize it this year? No idea.

If that's how it goes, I'd suggest tempering your choices with a mix of top-tier and eh-tier hotels. If we all pick the same six, your odds increase at getting none of them, and winding up assigned to Humphrey's Half-Moon Inn.

What not to do: panic and pay some ungodly nonrefundable sum for another hotel "just to be safe." You are safe. You have a badge. The safest thing you can do is go through the Early Bird Sale, and it'll be economical too. Unless you're a jillionaire and don't care about throwing your money around, in which case, go ahead and fund San Diego's economy.

If you've never been to Comic-Con before, I'd suggest reading my FAQ page and following my 2014 page, which will stay updated with news, exclusives, announcements and events as we draw closer to July. I'll also be posting an ongoing countdown of ways to prepare, starting next week.


If you didn't get a badge today

15 MARCH 2014

Are your nerves shot? Did you pledge your hatred and enmity against San Diego Comic-Con forever and ever? I know it's horrible to not get a badge. It's especially aggravating when Comic-Con is your thing, and you've dedicated so many summers and dollars and memories to it. And then you wind up exiled while undeserving people scream with joy about their badges.

If you didn't get a badge today, you can do the following:

  • Wait for the badge resale. People have until May 23 to turn in their badges for refunds; those badges will all go up for sale around June. It might seem incredible that people cancel and seek refunds, but they do. Life happens.
  • Contact CCI with any evidence of glitches. What I saw today: people freezing in the waiting room, people getting error messages that their Member ID was invalid, people getting bounced out of the credit card section. Let CCI know now and provide as much evidence as possible; they held a private sale for such people last year and could do that again, though it's not guaranteed.
  • Try to win a contest.
  • Ask any retailers you're close with if they'll have extra badges or need help at their booths. (Don't assume everyone has already asked; you'd be surprised at how blase retailers and industry people can be about their free badges.)
  • Remember how expensive and exhausting Comic-Con can be. Remember that most of the panels will appear on YouTube, a lot of the exclusives are easier to get from Ebay, and think of all the lines you won't have to stand in, the hotel bills you won't have to pay. You can spend that money now on a vacation that's actually relaxing.
I know none of this helps much and I'm sorry. Genuinely.

Open Registration is now

15 MARCH 2014

10:24 am

And it's over. Comic-Con 2014 is sold out.

10:21 am

Only Sunday left.

10:16 am

Thursday is running low.

10:09 am

I recognize this is a wholly personal decision, but I do wish people would reconsider their "Preview Night or nothing" attitudes. I know for out-of-towners, it's hard to cough up for 4 nights in a hotel with two days missing from the Con, but there is A LOT to do around the Con. Nerd HQ, Gam3rCon, the beach, the attractions in various parking lots and boats, and of course the parties.

Yes, if you're all about seeing the Game of Thrones panel, you're screwed. But if you just generally feel like Thursday and Sunday badges are second-rate, you're wrong. On Thursday, the Exhibit Hall is fully stocked. Sunday has plenty of discounts and deals. Both days have good panels. It's worth it, trust me.

Also remember that even a one-day badge qualifies you for Pre-reg next year, effectively doubling your chances for 2015.

10:06 am

Apparently we've reached the anger stage of the badge sale. Lots of "fuck you, Comic Con" tweets.

10:01 am

Friday's gone.

10:00 am

Friday running low; Preview Night and Saturday are gone.

9:57 am

Preview Night and Saturday are running low.

9:50 am

Apparently some people are having an actively spinning blue circle and a stuck yellow bar, and can't tell if they're actually stuck or not. Contact CCI pronto if this is you. You want to document all issues by 1) screenshotting them and 2) putting some kind of timestamp via Tweet or email on them as evidence. Tweet @Comic_Con and email

9:45 am

Still nothing sold out. Stay positive.

9:34 am

My friend just got Preview Night, for what that's worth.


Don't refresh, don't back space, don't give up. DO NOT get discouraged as you see all the jubilant reports from people who just bought badges. Just hang tight.

9:20 am

CCI claims to be moving people through every 120 seconds. Maybe they did improve the system.

9:16 am

People are started to buy badges. Cross your fingers and do not freak out as the minutes go on. You still have a great chance of getting a badge even if you're not picked right away. Don't lose your religion over this. (Although it's worth noting that I'm a complete hypocrite - I was picked early during Pre-reg and even so, I was in heart-pounding, gut-twisting anxiety for the seven minutes before that happened.)

9:10 am

It looks like the waiting room yellow bar is regurgitating the same patronizing messages and stale jokes from Pre-reg. They seriously should have outsourced that to famous comic book writers. At least then people wouldn't flinch with dread every time the bar refreshed.

9:00 am

And it begins. Remember, it's going to take a few minutes to get all of you sorted into order.

If you run into trouble, let CCI know by tweeting them @Comic_Con and emailing them at If you get bounced out of the system don't give up; log back in under your registration code and you allegedly will return to your former place in line.

8:55 am

Almost game time. I hate to go negative, but I have a feeling today could have more glitches and will definitely have more disappointed people than Pre-reg did.

I'm especially curious to see if the process really does only take an hour, as CCI predicts. If it does, that means they either massively improved the system in just a few weeks or already sold the lion's share of badges during Pre-reg.

8:08 am

Apparently some people are trying to enter their registration code more than once and getting an UNAUTHORIZED message. If you do have more than one code - like you're trying for you and your friend on the same laptop - use a different browser for each.

7:30 am

The day is here. Did everyone get their email with the link? If you're already in the waiting room, go do something else - waiting through the sale will be hard enough. Distract yourself while you can.

But first change your power save settings so that your computer doesn't go to sleep on you. You'll be facing long periods of inactivity this morning and you don't want anything to accidentally bounce you from the system.