Should you plan your 2018 Con life already? Yes.

11 AUGUST 2017

Over the last few days, a rumor squiggled through the SDCC community: that Returning Registration would be held on September 30. It appears to be untrue, but it did get many people thinking about next year - often with a certain fatigue, since it feels like we just finished the gymkhana that is San Diego Comic-Con.

But it's not too early to think about your 2018 Comic Con plans, both for SDCC and the world at large. Here's why:

  • One reason: Returning Registration could be in November. If you want to put together a buying group, or do a health check on your existing one, now's the time. 2017 first-timers who've never done RR before - your chances are better in this sale than in Open Reg, so take it seriously. Don't skip it, as I have actually known people to do.

  • Another reason is the grisly massacre that was the SDCC hotel sale this year. While I don't have hard stats, I've heard of more people booking backup rooms for 2018 than ever before. Most involve high and nonrefundable rates. Hotels can charge whatever they please for these non-CCI reservations, so expect this to factor into your ability to find a reasonably priced backup room. In other words, start looking now if staying downtown matters to you.

  • You should also think beyond SDCC - now, before the Ret Reg madness starts. Every year people come home from San Diego and say, "I don't know if it's worth it." Or they decide to just go for a day or two the following summer. This is a common reaction but I am hearing it more than ever this year. If this is you, now is the time to think about other trips you might want to take, or other ways you might want to spend that money. It's really easy to get caught up in the desperate year-round quest that is SDCC attendance, to the point where you forget to think bigger.

  • If you haven't yet, think about other Cons. I realize I always say this, but too many people wait until after SDCC Open Registration to think about this. Emerald City obviously has a special place in my heart, there's WonderCon, Gen Con, Silicon Valley, Salt Lake, New York (which requires attentive planning now), Dragon Con, etc. I can't say this enough: smaller Cons can deliver more bang for your buck than San Diego, because you spend less time in lines and have easier access to panels and events. Choose wisely and you can count on great guests and programming.

Just something to think about. I was aching to go to Boston Comic Con this weekend, because I've been homesick for New England in the summer. Destiny cruelly yanked me to New York, but I have started hunting for a Cape Cod beach house next summer for a combined Con-vacation. One of my friends is doing the same with London Comic Con and another with Comiket in Tokyo. Something similar could work for those of you who want new experiences while still getting a few Comic Con thrills.

And of course, you may come up holding a royal flush in the SDCC 2018 badge sale and decide that's enough. Either way, you'll have some kind of wondrous destination for next year - so think big and design an incredible Con plan, starting now.

More first-timers review San Diego Comic-Con

2 AUGUST 2017

After I posted my first round of 2017 SDCC first-timers, I got a few questions from attendees asking why I didn't include their stories. It turns out Gmail failed to deliver at least 3 emails - not sure why - from interesting people. So here they are.


Sergio is an aspiring illustrator who came to Comic-Con as a comic book nerd. He pawed through various back issue bins, scoured Oni, Drawn and Quarterly, Dark Horse and other publishers for new books, and poked around Artists' Alley - as you do. But it was the panels that impressed him.

"Friends had told me that Comic Con panels are pretty weak and you don't get to see the real artists who are making the best books today. Okay, that was mostly true. But I got to see Jim Lee, Mark Waid and Robert Kirkman. I got to see Jeff Smith. There is a benefit to seeing these people as people like you who found a way to work in this industry. It doesn't need to be a mysterious thing.

I got into the first night with my friend's badge and saw that I could quickly get everything I wanted. There wasn't much that was new to me, although I eventually returned on Sunday to do a longer search. But that first look convinced me to concentrate on panels. I went to workshops on coloring, animation, production and anatomy.

What do I think of San Diego Comic-Con? I think it is an initiation for people who want to find out about working in comics. But I could also see that I would quickly reach the limit of what there is to offer. It's a beginning. I'll go back next year and this time I will focus on meeting people who can help me."


Holley's husband has been an email friend for a few years, so I was able to connect them with some real-life friends as SDCC roommates. She was the first-timer in the group but like others in my previous post, benefited from having an experienced attendee at her side. Her observations are on point: making friends with other attendees is awesome, while other aspects are not.

"I didn't feel like a total first-timer since my husband has been there so many times. And, my hotel roommates (which you connected us with) were also veterans, so I got good direction from them.

My favorite thing was the ease of striking up a conversation with people (usually while waiting in some kind of line). IRL, I feel the need to mediate my conversations and have to feel people out for their level of interest or knowledge of geek culture. At SDCC, I knew that everyone had knowledge and interests, and usually wore it visibly in the manner of buttons, t-shirts, and cosplay. It felt nice to have found such a huge group of "my people."

I also enjoyed the panels. Lots of good info, and I saw some of the celebrity ones as well. I'm a huge Whovian (since 5th grade), so my favs were the Britbox panel with Doctors 5 and 6 and companion Ace, and, of course, the Doctor Who panel in Hall H on Sunday. Capaldi was genuinely moved by the outpouring of love from the crowd. It was a touching send off.

I didn't enjoy the lack of knowledge in many of the volunteers. We were told conflicting info many times about which lines to get in, etc. But, we just learned to ask several volunteers and go with the majority. There also seemed to be a major build-up of trash throughout the day, making it look like the staff wasn't on top of it. But, that could just have been the logistics of trying to get a huge trash container through the sea of people. Finally, lining people up outside in the sun (mainly the Indigo Ballroom) is a bad idea. None of these things took away from the experience at all for me."

Verdict: "I had a great time at SDCC!"


I met Ryan at the Con without realizing it was his first time. He seemed very chill about a panel mix-up that had his friends in a snit and we philosophized about the need to take a Taoist approach to SDCC. If asked, I would have guessed he'd been coming for years - so I was surprised to get an email stating it was his first one.

One reason he seemed sanguine about the whole circus is that he's been to NYCC several times. Not exactly a novice, our Ryan. So what did he think when comparing the two?

"San Diego is all-consuming. You're never not IN the Con, even when you're walking up the street or going to a club. It's everywhere. We stayed at the Marriott Gaslamp and we could hear people and street noise. There came a point when I wanted to be free of it all. In New York, you can leave Comic Con behind so easily. That is not easy to do in San Diego.

My friends hated the lines, the confusion and the way you had to type your personal info into iPads. I gave a fake name and email so I didn't care. While there are more comedy shows and readings at NYCC, and it's more like two weeks of special shows, they don't have the kind of Netflix and Blade Runner offsites like at San Diego. Again, it's that consuming feeling. It's like being in a casino. You lose your perspective of the outside world.

I will try for a Preview Night badge. You said it was crowded, I thought it was the least crowded day of the Con. I want to do more of the programming next year instead of wasting time waiting for the big panels and offsites. But if we only get Thursday or Sunday or don't get a good hotel, we'll cancel."

And that's it for 2017 first-timers. There doesn't seem to be a common theme - they don't like the lines but neither does anyone else. Most of them seem to think it was a worthy trip; some aren't going back and that's okay. San Diego Comic-Con isn't for everyone and I don't understand why some attendees get so defensive when it's criticized. I think for many people, it's a bucket list destination where one visit is enough - and for many of us, it's an annual rite and essential part of our summers. Some veterans reach the end of their interest and that's okay too. What matters is that attendees find a way to make Comic-Con work for them when they're lucky enough to be there.

The first-timers of SDCC 2017

30 JULY 2017

San Diego Comic-Con ended a week ago. There's been plenty of analysis (in my circles at least) on what could be improved, what worked well and whether or not each of us will be in Returning Registration. But we all know whose opinion really matters - those attendees who walked into SDCC for the very first time. What did they think?


Matt used to go to Comic-Con with mutual friends back in our kitten days, circa 2002-2006. Then he got married, procreated, and sank into a quagmire of adult responsibilities that eliminated SDCC from his budget. Last week was his first time back in 11 years and despite being warned, he was in shock for the first 3 days.

"Obviously I knew it would be crowded but nothing prepared me for the lines, the impossibleness of buying what my son wanted and how much time it would take to get anything done. I feel like I did more in one day before than I did all of Comic Con this time. The crowds were bad, really bad. I didn't have a Saturday badge and thought I would find things to do but I didn't. This year was to see if the kids could do OK there and I don't think they could."

He and his family are headed to WonderCon maybe, but probably not SDCC anytime soon.


I met Mia at the bisexual panel and later at a party, where she expressed her dissatisfaction with the social side of the Con. She is a non-geek whose friends got her a 4-day badge (not bad, given the bloodbath that was Open Reg) and promised her that SDCC was one party after another. The party scene turned out to be less than vivid for them. She wound up sticking her toes into the world of comics and anime since she was in the thick of it and is so far enjoying what she bought. But she and her friends were so bored with the Con by Sunday they wound up going to the beach. Now that she's home, she regrets the money she spent on her badge and hotel.

Is she going back? "Maybe for 2 days."


Devin's Con began on a bright note when a friend picked up 4 exclusives for him on Preview Night, freeing him up on Thursday to do Hall H. He got in - but left after two panels because he was bored. This proved to be the unforeseen failure of his Comic-Con experience: he just didn't have the patience to either wait in line and/or sit in the same room for hours. Given that he came to SDCC mainly for the biggest Hall H panels, he didn't know what else to do. After one round of the Exhibit Hall on Thursday afternoon, he felt done with the Con.

At that point, he began to focus on partying which led to (at different intervals) sunburn, hangovers and dehydration, to the point where he almost passed out and was taken into a restaurant to drink water and rest. "If I had a room in the Gaslamp, I think I would have had a better time. But taking the shuttle back and forth is too slow and I spent so much on Lyft rides, it just wasn't well planned." He was also disappointed by SDCC on an amorous level, as he'd heard it was "Geek Spring Break" and was hoping to meet someone. He didn't.

Will he be back? "I don't know yet."


Andrea is a "huge geek" who tried for a badge the first time this year and got Thursday and Sunday. She and her friends spent their time wisely: "So Thursday we went to a couple panels, we got into Voltron. We visited the Exhibit Hall and we were OVERWHELMED to say the least. I barely bought anything the first day because I was so shocked at the crowds and the artist talent and all the booths and aaaaaagh it blew my mind. We also were lucky enough to get into Hall H for the Bright panel, Will Smith is the best. We also went to the Netflix experience, so cool. Sunday we lined up early and got into the Supernatural panel. We literally died, it was so awesome. Then we hit the Exhibit Hall again, this time I actually bought some pretty cool stuff and got a lot of free stuff too. Overall my first experience was amazing and hope to come next year and the next and the next and forever and ever. "

Despite being literally dead, it sounds like Andrea will probably return.


Have you ever bought SDCC badges with your significant other and then broken up before the Con? It's the worst, right? This happened to the luckless Gabe, who found himself alone in his room at the Westin and more or less alone at the Con. He knew two other couples there but felt like he was "imposing" on their activities and consequently had a rather lonely inaugural Comic-Con.

But he hasn't ruled out next year: "I did like it. I bought a ton of stuff on the floor. I didn't go to Ballroom 20 or the Hall H but I saw some of my favorite show panels in Indigo room at Bayfront. I just had nowhere to go at night and felt like a loser. I want to go next year with a full pass, with friends."

What he didn't like: the Playback room. "Waste of time." Also in disfavor: the off-sites. "I had nothing to do Sat so I waited for Game of Thrones but finally gave up. Just too hot out. I did the Kingsman pub and that was good, but the Tick and the Netflix ones weren't worth the wait."


Tami is another lucky first-timer whose oldest friend, a five year SDCC veteran, got her a 4-day badge and "helped me map my journey." She wrote a very detailed account of Thursday, so I'm including a truncated version.

She awakened at 3:30 am to catch the first tram downtown and meet friends who'd been holding their spot in the Westworld line since 10 pm the night before. "First lesson of SDCC: you had better know how to queue properly.  Line etiquette dictates that you may hold spots in line for other people, but the agreed cap is for 3 other people.  If you hold the line for a party of 15, people behind you begin to snarl and foam slightly at the mouth."

While in that line, she had a lone celebrity sighting: Eric Roberts. "Second lesson of SDCC: Pay attention to who is around you.  You never know who you may run into."

After successfully getting a Westworld appointment, they got sucked into a Hall H vortex via typical SDCC chaos. "To our left slightly, we notice that the giant line to Hall H is moving.  We decide to investigate.  Turns out all of the people who were in the line that snaked over by the Bayfront are being moved over by tents closer to the convention center.  We watch as one worker is letting people cut through by the side of the building to those tents; while another worker is telling people they have to go all away around.  While they argue, BFF and I follow the people who go by the side of the building. I do see this quite a bit at SDCC: workers that don’t quite know what is going on."

In Hall H, they saw the Kingsmen panel and got to see Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges and "watched Halle Berry chug down the Kingsmen brew that they brought.  I hope to god that wasn’t real booze.  Isn’t she a type 1 diabetic?  Anyway, there were lots of movie clips, some swag, and my recollected crush on Colin Firth to keep me satisfied and happy with the whole ordeal." After that they did the Westworld experience, filled with "creepy actors, super strong drinks, and a free cowboy hat." That night they did the Fandom party at the Hard Rock Hotel where she apparently met my friend Robert, because as ginormous as SDCC is, it's also downright tiny in some ways.

Tami thought the smaller panels were "totally underrated" and listed 3 dislikes: getting yelled at by staff in the Exhibit Hall ("If you don’t want people to take pictures of the Marvel actors signing autographs and clogging up the walk ways, then move the signings somewhere else") and people lining up for Saturday Hall H on Thursday, pointing out, "I get the lines, I really do; but these people are missing all of rest of the whole SDCC by standing in line for one event for two days." She also had a negative experience where the Netflix offsite was supposed to start at 11 but didn't open until noon, which meant the people who'd waited in line for 5 hours had to rush through it to meet other obligations.

In short, Tami was an unusually high-functioning first-timer and came away with a valuable lesson: "As I learned over the four days I was at SDCC, you need a plan or you are dead in the water."

I also heard from other first-timers with complaints: there was too much Trump-bashing, the Con didn't offer enough for gay people, activities were too spread out, there wasn't enough going on to justify the badge price (what?), there were too many people in the Exhibit Hall, staffers couldn't answer questions, people were mean, transportation sucked, the panels were boring - you get the idea. I decided to not include the ones that were just a litany of grievances, because everyone's already heard them. One couple I've been speaking to for months was so furious over the lines (and an exclusives kerfuffle I can't quite comprehend) that they refused to discuss the Con at all with me. And then there was the woman who wrote very earnestly, "I don't think the organizers know what they're doing!" That was cute.

On the whole I noticed fewer first-timers this year, and those I did meet were better prepared. It's not like 2011 where starry-eyed attendees would show up and immediately crumple from the chaos, like Bambi getting shot. The Darwinian nature of the badge and hotel sales seem to winnow those people out, with only prepared and educated attendees successfully clearing the various hurdles. Unfortunately that same dynamic has made the Con more extreme in some aspects, as the pool of attendees equipped with tricks for getting badges and rooms and standing in line grows ever larger - making even basic Con skills not quite enough.

I hope you had a beautiful Comic-Con. If you didn't, remember there are other Cons - you can still get tickets to Dragon Con and Boston Comic Con (which I may be hitting) and the Emerald City sale is right around the corner. You might find someone letting go of a NYCC ticket. There are plenty of options, is my point. And if you were a first-timer who found SDCC falling short of your dreams, don't necessarily write it off - figure out where it came up short and then decide how you can rectify that next year.

Thanks to everyone who sent me their stories. I'm sorry I couldn't include them all.

Do you have any information about the Hall H fake wristbands?

26 JULY 2017

As you all know, it's believed that a group of people made or obtained fake Hall H wristbands and used them to gain access to panels - leaving legitimately wristbanded attendees shut out after waiting for 20 hours or more. CCI would understandably like to get to the bottom of this. If you saw, heard or know anything, please email me at or contact CCI directly.

People who traditionally skip Hall H may consider this a trivial matter, but it's not. Many attendees invest considerable time and money traveling to SDCC specifically for Hall H. They were robbed.

We have a great community - hopefully we can come together and share what we know. Please ask your friends if they observed anything as well. Thanks.

SDCC 2017: Did you have a good time?

24 JULY 2017

By now most of us are home from San Diego Comic-Con: doing our laundry, organizing our piles of comics and t-shirts and exclusives, and maybe contemplating what we should have done differently. 2017 was not the smoothest year by any yardstick - and while every summer brings a crop of attendees who swear off SDCC forever, this year seemed to move even more people across that line.

So how did this year go?

Hall H

Let's just get right to it. The Hall H line is always a tour through hell, but this year it reached new levels.

The initial scandal was a dispersed line that was replaced by a later line. Unfair! We thought that would be the Hall H line scandal of 2017; little did we know that someone apparently made fake wristbands to let other people cut in ahead of the people who were legitimately wristbanded.

Right now different stories are still coming out so I'm going to report pure hearsay and gossip:
  • My friend's friend saw someone let in a massive crowd of people ahead of him.
  • Someone else reported seeing an actual bag of the fake wristbands - though I'm a bit dubious of this story.
  • People believe it was an inside job, aided by a volunteer or staffer.
What we do factually know: that  roughly 400 people with wristbands were locked out of Hall H. They were given 4-day badges for 2018 in compensation, but this still caused an uproar. In the talkback session, attendees suggested RFID wristbands (see all those happy faces below); I kind of doubt this will happen but it's obvious something has to be done.

I think CCI has stepped up its game in many ways over the last 5 years - the smoother badge sales, the Toucan blog - but the issue with lines is an area they need to tackle more adeptly. The wristbands aren't enough. I know no one wants a  Hall H lottery but I do think that would be the fairest and most peaceful way of allocating access. In general, there is no easy answer that will make attendees happy. Often attendees have a rather childish attitude here; they know we have 30,000 people who feel entitled to entering a room that holds 6,000 but they expect CCI to develop a system that can painlessly cater to their individual needs. Hall H can't accommodate everyone, it's that simple, and as long as it's a battle of wits and tenacity, we'll see more crime and deception in the mix. Just my opinion; I always welcome hearing ideas for fair and efficient Hall H access.


This year set a record in the number of people I know who never set foot in the Con. They were all about offsites and events. I kind of love these people because I'm the exact opposite and it keeps them out of my panels and lines - but I do question how long this population can increase. Attendees who come solely for that purpose must realize that offsite lines are becoming the new Hall H lines, with people lining up earlier and earlier. Eventually we'll have attendees battling the badge and hotel sales to spend a grand total of maybe 2 hours all weekend in actual offsite participation.

While the Game of Thrones experience delivered with its little videos, more people seemed impressed by Blade Runner (below). The Westworld experience also wowed, but ultimately left a sour taste in many attendee mouths, give how it was open to fewer than 500 people the entire Con. After sending out elaborate invitation emails, it felt like a tease. I thought the Netflix offsite was better than Blade Runner, though I'm not sure who agrees with me. I didn't do anything with the Tick and haven't heard much about it either - it might have been great, but it was overshadowed by Blade Runner and Netflix buzz.

The Tech Pavilion was my favorite offsite, but ignored by most attendees. While the robotics weren't all that impressive, some of the other technology was worth checking out. Not only did it offer better VR than Blade Runner (and let attendees chill out on beanbags while watching 360 dome films of trippy Vedic mythology and Neil deGrasse Tyson cosmology lessons), it was easily navigable, involved no lines and actually offered something you can't get at home. The kind of offsite would have been the dream of SDCC attendees 15 years ago; alas, most of today's attendees would rather spend 6 hours in the sun hoping to see Barb from Stranger Things.


As always, I chatted with other old-timers about the changes at the Con. Most seemed resigned and adaptive, but two told me they decided this was their last Con. (A thought I entertained at length on Preview Night.) Several pros I know couldn't afford to come; the Archie booth was gone; the big Bud Plant booth, one of my top 3 favorites, shrank to the tiniest size possible. I bought armfuls of books from Fantagraphics and Prism and a few other comics/books and that was about it.

I thought both Preview Night and Sunday were more crowded than last year, while Saturday was more manageable. The entry processes weren't great, with some confusion on what kind of lines people should stand in and how they should be let in. I feel this should have been more smoothly organized.

This isn't exactly a change, but the demographic this year felt less geeky than ever. Another veteran attendee and I agreed to stop referring to attendees as nerds, because the vast majority are celebrity hounds and mainstream fans. I don't mean that to sound elitist (as I'm sure it does) but maybe 1 out of 12 people I meet at SDCC can talk comics, science, anime or gaming. That sense of nerd community has become faint. I realize we live in an era where people think watching "Rick and Morty" makes them a nerd but I'm not willing to evolve on that language point yet.  

In terms of what didn't change: Several people made a now-recurring complaint that the same panels are offered year after year. I think CCI is trying to stay current by bringing us panels on AI and diversity and LGBTQ rights, and people like Roxane Gay, but I also think there's a reason we see so many "How to Break Into Comics" and "Women in Comics" panels - people go to them.

Otherwise, while there were a few switcheroos here and there, it mostly felt like business as usual. I don't view the Hall H debacle as a change but the next logical development in an ongoing dysfunction.

Attendees and Staff
Most of the staff were just fine - but I did encounter some aggressive security and volunteers. Some seemed legit ready to snap. One actually barked in my face when he blocked my path to a women's room and yelled at me to use the restroom behind me, which was a men's room. Long day, I guess. A first-timer couple I know were shaken by a bad experience with a staffer, who they felt overreacted to them asking why they couldn't enter a certain area. In general, people just seemed exasperated and defensive this year.

However, what bothered me more was the change in some - not most, but enough - attendees. Is it me or is there a new ruthlessness in our ranks? It's not just the Hall H fake wristband issue. And yes, I know we've always had those cutthroat attendees who would sell their grandmother to get into a Marvel panel. But there seemed to be more people willing to use more underhanded tactics to get what they wanted. It was very disheartening. I posted a few months ago about an increase in people who contact me to demand extra tickets, badges and hotel rooms without so much as a "Hello" - I don't know what laboratory this strain of attendee is being bred in but they need to be discontinued.

I also ran into more people who seemed unable to handle the crowds, lines and general inconvenience of Comic-Con. Were they first-timers? I don't know. On Sunday, one guy was literally pushing my back in the Exhibit Hall and almost toppled me onto a stroller with a baby in it. I turned and told him I couldn't go anywhere and to stop shoving me. He griped about how slow-moving the crowd was. You think? Welcome to Comic-Con.  Another guy snapped at a little girl so harshly her father stepped in. Usually everyone is polite and understanding about the claustrophobic swarm that is the Exhibit Hall, so I'm hoping I just saw the few exceptions.

I thought the cosplay was average. My favorites were a Sid and Nancy couple, a refreshing change from the 437 Wonder Women strolling around. Most of what I saw was fairly traditional. Of course there's always world-class cosplay at SDCC, but I feel like Dragon Con and Emerald City are becoming the destinations for the really innovative cosplayers.

Announcements and Trailers

Two people said to me they thought this year was "weak" in terms of bombshell announcements. Was it shocking to find out that Wonder Woman 2 was happening? That American Horror Story's new season would be called "Cult?" Not really. I don't think DC announcing a "Shazam" movie rocked anyone's world either.

The most controversial announcement was "Confederate," the new series helmed by the GOT team that will focus on what would have happened if the South won the Civil War. Ben Affleck hinting that he may be leaving his Bruce Wayne days behind wasn't exactly lamented. And we found out Doctor Who actually can be called Doctor Who and not just The Doctor, which settled a long-standing debate.

Matt Groening's "Disenchantment" coming to Netflix was well received. What we saw of CW's Freedom Fighters, featuring a gay superhero in a Nazi-victorious world, got mixed reviews. I think most people are wary of potential Supernatural spin-off Wayward Sisters. And I know people are extremely wary of the new Netflix Death Note, and not just because of whitewashing. (Though I maintain that Willem Dafoe as Ryuk is perfect.)
I thought some of the comic book announcements were good, especially the resurrection of old favorites like Sandman, Arkham Asylum and The Invisibles. Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica will be a surefire hit. Especially intriguing: Andrew Aydin (of John Lewis's "March") may be writing more graphic novels about the civil rights movement, and one could just possibly concern Maxine Waters.

DC admitting its sales troubles was interesting. They announced a new strategy of evergreen stories that sit apart from the monthly titles; we'll see if they help. The Gerard Way Young Animal crossover with mainstream DC could be invigorating - and I'm fairly optimistic about DC's new The Terrifics (cough, not at all like The Fantastic Four, I'm sure) who will be part of their Dark Matter imprint.

I'm still collecting reports from first-timers, which I'll publish in a few days. I might also do a post on their questions, as I heard from many people who were stunned at the lines and chaos (despite being warned.) And news will continue to flow out all week: who got the best buzz, who failed, deals that were made and problems that arose.

If you came away from San Diego Comic-Con with a feeling of something unfinished, my advice is what it's always been:
  • Be more proactive about shaping your Con destiny, instead of waiting for it to be delivered. I don't just mean getting in line early enough or doing the right research. Think about what you really want out of Con (more parties, more career advice, more art and media discoveries, etc) and dedicate yourself to making it happen. Often that means sacrificing other parts of the Con. 

  • Identify what bothered you and find a new Con where it's not as much of an issue. If you want more of a focus on comics, go to Emerald City with me next March. SDCC may be the most hyped Con but it's not the only game in town by any means. Also consider other types of conventions. I know former attendees who now spend their time at cons for anime, books, death, science and specific fandoms and they're much happier.

  • Think about stepping away from Con life in general. SDCC is right smack in the middle of summer. It can be hard to plan other vacations or summer travel with so much time and resources flowing to Comic-Con. Maybe it's time to put it to the side and go see the world.

But I know most of you are committed to next year. You're already hunting down hotel rooms, deciding which of your friends to initiate, and planning your Returning Registration strategy. The next badge sale might be months away but SDCC life is never really over - because most of us don't want it to be.

Comic-Con news so far

22 JULY 2017

After a prolonged period of no Wifi, I'm back online. So what have we learned?


Biggest news: Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham are doing Arkham Asylum 2, featuring an adult Damien Wayne.

We're also getting The Tempest, another League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, from Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. This is a year away.

And there's this: Frank Miller is going to take on Superman and give him the Dark Knight treatment. What is in the water this SDCC?

Joelle Jones will tell us what happens when Batman proposes to Catwoman.

SEGA will publish New Sonic comics through IDW - not Archie. Also getting IDW series: Transformer Unicron and female Ghostbusters.

Marvel is bringing you a new Thanos series.

Archie and DC announced a crossover that everyone will want: Betty, Veronica, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Weird combination, but compelling. Out this fall.

I'm less certain about this crossover: Doom Patrol and JLA. Could be good, I guess.

Very big news: we may be getting new Invisibles, Sandman.


Stranger Things was a major offsite and a major panel for attendees - and we found out that while Barb will not be returning, she will be "avenged."

As a Halloween lover and stop-motion fan, I can't wait for the SpongeBob Halloween special "The Legend of Boo-kini Bottom."

Krypton is coming and reactions are mostly meh.

99.9% of us were not allowed to enter the Westworld experience but we did see the season 2 trailer, which features Dolores on horseback, gunning down humans. There was no definitive word on how much we'll see of Samurai World.

The Tick is one of those shows that got a lift from SDCC. Not many people I know thought twice about it before this weekend, but there's reasonable interest now.

The Defenders also is getting positive buzz. Everyone I know had only good things to say about it.

The next season of Archer will be Danger Island, set in the South Pacific in 1939. I'm ready for it.

It looks like Riverdale's second season will continue Jughead's melodramatic voiceover. Who shot Fred Andrews? Etc.

iZombie shared a sizzle reel and season 4 news about new zombie rules and wars. I feel like this show is running out of steam.

I heard The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones panels were lackluster, but we did get an interesting look at elderly Rick and found out the show will never try to cure/solve the zombie issue. For GOT, we got some intriguing hints about Dany partnering up with Melisandre. Maybe.


We're getting Wonder Woman 2. Of course we all knew this, but the official announcement is nice.

Thor: Ragnarok seemed to wow everyone with its trailer.

Were you expecting Michelle Pfeiffer to be in another superhero movie? Me neither, but she'll play Janet Van Dyne in The Ant Man and the Wasp.

DC always delivers news of its next animated feature but this year they announced four: Gotham by Gaslight, Suicide Squad/Hell to Pay and the two-part Death and Return of Superman. I was surprised by the eye-rolling that greeted this news; I'm all for it.

Black Panther got a standing ovation in Hall H.

We saw the first footage of Ready Player One and reactions were .... mixed. People who hadn't read the book seemed more into it than readers.

The reaction to Justice League was more positive, although I think all of us are pretty much dying for Aquaman to come out already.


There's no shortage of talk here. We'll start with Conan, where something went drastically wrong this year:  on multiple days, people with tickets were sent home or received emails telling them not to show up. The Spreckels Theater was extremely hot - two people next to me on Thursday night got up and left before the show started. Overall, it was a very different experience from the previous 2 years. It's been suggested that demand surged this year, so everyone actually did show up for the tapings - where before they could count on a certain percentage never claiming their tickets. Not sure if it's true but hopefully next year will be smoother.

Offsites have been a main attraction for a few years now, but I've never known quite so many people to focus on them so intently - sometimes to the point of skipping the entire Con. I think Blade Runners takes the honors here because it partnered so many good elements - great VR, a t-shirt, shots of Johnnie Walker, free food, an atmospheric experience - while the line was much more reasonable than Game of Thrones. Netflix was also in high demand and then we had the Westworld experience, which only admitted 120 people a day.  I still maintain that the Tech Pavilion at the Omni is worth a look, but of course most attendees are skipping it. Even though I think some of the VR there was as good as Blade Runner.

Now - onto the Hall H line. My, my. Just when you think you've lived through every type of Hall H line drama possible, 2017 happens. From a line being forced to disperse, while new people took their places, to attendees getting wristbands and not getting in, this year was a mess. Apparently some people report waiting 30-40 hours, only to have so many others cut in front that they wound up with D wristbands or nothing at all. Staff pretty much shrugged off complaints.

But the biggest issue - reportedly - is that some people created fraudulent wristbands to get in. Everyone is reporting this as fact but I haven't seen it verified. At any rate, 2 full chutes of wristbanded attendees got left out in the cold after waiting upwards of a day. The good - and unprecedented - news is that CCI actually gave them 4 day badges for next year!

I have to admit I didn't expect that one. But while it was a nice gesture, it's obvious CCI has to do something about Hall H. The wristbands were a step, but now attendee madness has incorporated them into their desperation. CCI has to take stronger measures. I think assigned sections, handed out via lottery, would be one way to do it, but there are others.

Anyhow. Tomorrow is the final day of the Con. Hopefully the Hall H line will go a little smoother for Supernatural fans. And if you're one of those only-offsite people? Put your badge to use and give the actual Con a try. You may never get to go again.

How to know when a line is worth it

21 JULY 2017

By now, you've heard the stories about Conan and the Game of Thrones experience: people waiting 12+ hours in line and sometimes not getting in. Then there's the Westworld offsite, which only admits 120 people a day - so people are determined to line up earlier and earlier to sign up each morning.

I am a big believer in enjoying the Con you're at - and it's hard to do that if you spend all of it in a line. I know some people work in groups with complicated systems involving assigned shifts, but the vast majority of attendees just have their friends to rely on.

Obviously the Conan situation was new - a few people who actually had tickets were turned away because they overbooked, and the standby line for both A and B shows were sent away. In previous years, some standbys did get in. The Westworld offsite limitations weren't communicated well either. But the Game of Thrones offsite line wasn't a surprise and there are lines in every direction for other events.

You can read my Q&A on lines here but I'm going to repost this: knowing when a line is worth it. Last night I talked to several people who didn't even set foot in the Con because they spent all day in line without seeing their intended destination. Not a great way to kick of Comic-Con.

Deciding when the wait is worth it partly depends on your fandom level. But you also need to ask yourself if:
  • You would be okay seeing the panel on YouTube or in the Playback room
  • You'll feel let down if your favorite cast member only speaks once, while the director and star dominate the panel
  • You'll be disappointed if you get stuck so far back in the room you have to watch the panel on a screen anyhow
  • You'll be disappointed if the offsite experience is over with in 3 minutes and doesn't offer significant swag.
  • You haven't gotten a chance to thoroughly explore the Exhibit Hall
  • There's anything else going on at the same time that you really want to see.
If you answer yes to most of those - I wouldn't spend more than a few hours in line.

I'd also advise checking Twitter for real time updates on lines - not just for what you want to do, but what you've already written off. My first-timers assumed that Hall H and Ballroom 20 would be impossible but both were walk-in at various points of yesterday.

Also, look around at other offsites. It's probably better to do 3 B-level offsites than wait 8 hours for an A-level offsite you never even get into it. Hit up Netflix at Hilton Gaslamp or do the Tech Pavilion at the Omni. (I'll review this later - it's worth visiting.) The Blade Runner experience is getting popular but it's worth a try; same for the Kingsman offsite; there's also the Tick and so on. I realize coming home from Comic-Con with those cool GOT videos of yourself is a major get - but make sure you're okay with sacrificing an entire day for them.

Finally, as Conan taught us, don't count on this year being the same as every other year. Crowd preferences change, new management teams institute new policies, and attendees get more skilled at accessing certain activities. Something that's penetrable one year can be a madhouse the next.

I'll post an update on the various Con announcements and developments later today. Till then, have a happy Con and make smart choices.

Preview Night: what did you think?

18 JULY 2017

A few months ago, a select group of nerds achieved their wildest dreams as they were plucked from an online waiting room to buy the ultimate Comic-Con badge: Preview Night. Social media was filled with cries of joy, relief and gratitude, as if people had won the lottery.

Today those same people filed into the convention center to enjoy the fruits of their good luck. Preview Night had come at last. And yet - no one seemed especially grateful or emotional. On the whole it was a fairly neutral crowd I saw moving through the Exhibit Hall. So let me ask you: what did you think of Preview Night?

My experience: my friend and I showed up a few minutes before 6 and wound up at the end of the line. THE line, you understand; it wasn't like the years where various sets of doors would swing open and we'd all storm in like villagers attacking the Bastille. In recent years, they've opened only limited doors, forced us to march through the center, across halls and down escalators and generally hampered our entry - but today seemed especially onerous. By 6:10 the line was still immobile and then suddenly a guy opened the doors in section G where we'd been and we filtered in.

I wasn't on an exclusives hunt, and spent 2 hours checking specific comic tables (Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, etc) or just kicking around - a rather aimless PN for me. So I can't say how frustrating or easy it was to raid certain exclusives booths. I also can't report on the pilots, but everyone I spoke with expressed a general disinterest. This just wasn't a compelling year in that regard.

As far as the Exhibit Hall goes, it didn't hold too many surprises. Even the Walking Dead photo op - sitting in a chair next to Shiva - was unsurprising. Like a lot of people, I headed to Netflix but the booth action - passing through a video - was kind of a letdown. Hopefully their offsite at Hilton Gaslamp will be better. Other booths seemed fairly predictable. I covered about 87% of the floor and didn't make any bold discoveries. Maybe you did?

The crowd itself seemed to harken back to 2014-2015, when Preview Night seemed almost as thick and populous as a Saturday. Last year was fairly spacious on PN, but this year the crowds were back. In terms of lines, I saw the Preview Night line move inside just before 11; they said they'd been in line 5-6 hours. And it wasn't long before we were hearing about Conan and Hall H lines, sometimes incredibly far in advance.

So the perennial question remains: is getting Preview Night really the be all and end all of the Con? I'm going to say no. I didn't experience anything tonight that couldn't have waited until tomorrow. Collectors may feel differently, of course. But I do think that as SDCC becomes increasingly predictable, some attendees will loosen their grip and be more content with a partial badge (or even sitting out a year.) Maybe I'm just too jaded to tap into the vitality of the Con (likely) but I also think tonight proved that we may tend to build the Con up in our minds just a bit much.

Tomorrow brings the start of the Con proper. Lots of good panels; lots of great ways to have a stellar day. Rest up and be ready.

Eating well at Comic-Con

19 JULY 2017

Happy Comic-Con! Whether you have a Preview Night badge or not, you may already be floating around the area. So before we plunge into the madness, let's talk about something very basic: where to eat.

CCI does have a restaurant guide, although it's more of a list. And you'll hear a lot of recommendations from attendees and hotel staff. But when it comes to eating out at SDCC, there's more at stake than the food - because how much time and money you spend on it will directly impact what you can buy and see at the Con.

Think of it in these terms.


How much time do you want to spend on eating - getting to your restaurant, waiting for a table and then waiting for the food and walking back? If you have a full day of panels and events planned, you probably can't spare 2 hours to walk into the Gaslamp, put your name on a To Be Seated list, and then wait an eternity for lunch.

To save time, you can bring your own food in with you or eat the convention center cafe choices. There are a few Starbucks on site, but of course they serve muffins, banana bread and other carbfests that don't really comprise a good meal.

If you want to go out without spending a lot of time, the Fox Sports Grill at Hilton Bayfront has always been able to seat and serve me quickly. I favor the Headquarters in the other direction, on the other side of the Hyatt, because not too many attendees seem to head here. The Cheesecake Factory there is usually busy but Seasons 52 (my fave) and the other restaurants in the complex can usually seat you immediately. If you're staying at the Hyatt like I am, it's extremely handy but you can also take the blue shuttle to the Hyatt and cross the streets or just walk there.

Seaport Village is also a convenient choice for people staying near the convention center - and Little Italy seems to have more places than ever.  It's not that far and can be a nice escape from the Gaslamp craziness.

But if you want the Gaslamp craziness, you've got options. You can keep it quick with Subway and Gaslamp Pizza or you can go to popular spots like Dick's Last Resort, Tin Fish, the Broken Yolk and Rockin' Baja Cantina. Lots of people assume they must be fantastic since they often have lines, but it's worth looking beyond them at other restaurants that offer as good or better food - with little to no wait. Again, I favor Phulkari (a bit slower than the others), Blue Point Coastal and de Medici, and eat breakfast quite often at McCormick and Schmick at the Omni. They all tend to be more peaceful than your typical Con crowd screamer.

A lot of attendees who aren't in a hurry, want to plant themselves somewhere with street seating so they can watch everyone promenade up and down the street. Nothing wrong with that, but you will need to wait a while for a table. Another option if you've got time to burn: going to the beach and eating beach food like shrimp tacos or burritos. Or you can catch the ferry to Coronado Island (behind the convention center) and indulge yourself somewhere like the Hotel del Coronado.


If you're on a budget, and a lot of people are, you can eat well and protect your wallet. Some of the local food trucks are inexpensive (and some aren't); bars like McFaddens often have Con specials if you don't mind typical bar food; you can also perform the venerable attendee rite of buying a sub at Subway, then living off it all day long.

The Horton Plaza has fast food, and some hotel cafes are offering "grab and go" options for attendees who want something other than bagels and coffee. And if you're not familiar with the area and want to get some basic groceries, you can walk to Ralph's grocery store on G Street or take the blue line shuttle there.

Late Night Dining

It's hard to define your schedule at SDCC; panels release you into the night at odd hours, you might sacrifice breakfast to join a line, or find yourself getting by on a borrowed power bar for an entire day. Often you find yourself hungry late at night. The options aren't plentiful, but they exist. Subway ran 24 hours last I knew; some pizza slice places are open late; the Syfy Cafe used to stay open till 3 am but these days they close a little earlier; the Marriott Marquis serves a limited menu after midnight. Bar kitchens will also accommodate you for a reasonable period of time.

But don't forget your ultimate option: ordering pizza or room service. Sometimes nothing is better when your feet hurt and you're sick of crowds.

Most likely you'll end up eating wherever and whenever is convenient. But if you can take the time to make choices, choose wisely - because it will make a difference in your Con.

Final advice for first-timers

18 JULY 2017

If you've been to Comic-Con before, you can skip all this. Everyone else, here are a few pieces of guidance for the rest of the week.

If you haven't yet, make a list of the exclusives you want, the booth numbers they'll be at, and the panel times and room numbers. Use the CCI app or make a list on your phone. It's a very safe bet you'll be distracted by the circus around you and forget otherwise. Also make a list of which back issues you need.

And while I don't want to kill all the joy of Exhibit Hall shopping, definitely use your phone to see if you're being wildly overcharged. Sometimes you'll see books marked as "out of print" when there are 62 used copies available on Amazon or action figures marked as "rare" when there are always a dozen circulating on Ebay.

If you try to barter, do so strategically. If you go in and try to haggle aggressively like you're at a swap meet on Thursday, you'll get a cold reception, unless you're buying in volume. (If you want 2 or more of something, pretend to look back and forth between the items and deliberate; often the vendor will propose a discount.) On Sunday, prices get more flexible because vendors want to unload as much product as possible. You'll see lots of markdowns, but go ahead and ask about getting a deal if you don't see anything advertised.

Also - be prepared for the Exhibit Hall to smell like a biohazardous swamp at some point. If you have a sensitive nose, bring something to dab underneath it

This one might seem weird - but check online SDCC coverage. When you're in the thick of things, it can be hard to spot some of the coolest collectibles or hear the rumors about the best surprise guest ever expected at a certain panel. Tapping into online coverage can help you stay on top of things.

Don't bother with all the tried and true Con favorite restaurants that are spilling over with crowds. I'll talk about this more later in my Eating Well at Comic-Con post - but in general, take a chance on the emptier places. The Headquarters on the other side of the Hyatt can usually seat people almost immediately at various restaurants, and the higher-priced places are always a faster bet. It's mindblowing to me that people will wait an hour outside a crowded, loud, mediocre restaurant to avoid paying the extra ten dollars that the relaxing, more delicious restaurant up the block would cost.

Panel etiquette: If you get up to the microphone at a panel, be succinct and resist the urge to tell your life story or ask 4 questions when each person is allotted 1. A lot of times this isn't intentional; people get lost in the moment and keep talking and talking. Also, don't hold your iPad or camera above your head for a prolonged period, blocking the view of the person behind you.
Bring your own chargers and spare batteries when possible. Getting a good charge can be tough in the convention center - and that's if you can find an open outlet. (Try upstairs in the room 27 area - that tends to stay one of the most spacious, coolest areas of the center.) But if you find yourself at a low percentage and have no other recourse, Hilton Bayfront and the hallway lounges in the North Tower at the Marriott can usually accommodate you.

Use Bag Check if you're buying tons of stuff. It's in the lobby near A and E and usually costs just a few bucks so you can roam around free and unencumbered. Be aware that you can't leave your items here overnight. Also take advantage of the local hotel UPS and Fed Ex stores to ship your stuff home mid-Con, rather than letting it pile up in your room.

In terms of meeting celebrities, this is not something you can plan. People will stalk certain areas to see celebrities and their handlers emerge, or linger in the Marriott lobby. These plans rarely work out. Instead you'll get in an elevator on Friday morning and find yourself face to face with some famous old actor your mom would kill to meet and you'll exchange that neutral elevator smile and that'll be it. 

But if you DO run into someone, be polite, non-crazy and respect whatever signals they're throwing out. Don't swarm them, don't follow them, don't make them hate coming to SDCC. Some attendees behave horribly when they see someone famous at Comic-Con. One of my most terrifying SDCC experiences was getting swept into a Jack Black Exhibit Hall vortex that reached claustrophobic proportions. Don't be that fan.

Be polite when getting photos of cosplayers. The general etiquette is to ask first. However, if someone is already posing for 6 cameras, there's no harm in jumping into the mix. In terms of taking pictures with cosplayers, remember that you're often going to be in a humid, crowded environment; if you're damp with sweat, don't press up against the cosplayer.

Be aware that borrowing badges is a risk. The staff does check IDs sometimes and there are penalties for badge fraud. Also be aware that swapping a badge back and forth isn't that easy and nimble unless you're literally staying next door. Just getting inside and either doing the Exhibit Hall or going to a panel is a serious endeavor. Also be aware that most everyone I know who's done this has wound up furious at their partner in crime, because someone stayed at the Con way longer than they promised. It's inevitable.


Finally, be prepared for the Con to amaze and surprise you in some ways and to let you down in others. There's always some expectation that doesn't get met, some disappointment or sense of deficiency. At the same time, there's a lot of adventure to be had and most attendees have at least one thrilling surprise each Con. Try to keep an open mind and you'll have a more enjoyable experience.

The trick to a satisfying Comic-Con

18 JULY 2017

Happy SDCC Eve. If you're new to Comic-Con, or coming back after a long absence, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the information that's been presented. There are hundreds of panels to attend, an ungodly number of exclusives, overlapping events, conflicting restaurant reviews, a shuttle map to figure out, gaming tournaments and cosplay contests battling for your attention - it's a lot to take in.

And guess what? It's going to get even worse once you arrive! As your feet or shuttle bus approach the convention center and you see the crowds teeming in like a mass of insects, as you walk into the Exhibit Hall and perceive all the comic books, game demos, photo ops, footage, signings and so on screaming at you like a nerd acid trip - you will almost definitely be overloaded.

Once that happens, you might become so dazed that all your earlier intentions evaporate. It happens to a lot of people. They see 563 things at once that look inviting or they decide to cautiously absorb the whole scene slowly. They become passive and reactive instead of proactive. And later - on the way home - they remember later that one action figure they meant to buy or the pilot they wanted to see. This is why so many first-timers come home with the feeling that they missed something.

So here's my advice: make of a list of 3-5 priorities. These should be your absolute can't-miss events, exclusives, panels, signings, photo shoots, etc. Have them on your phone, have them written down, and schedule your Con around them.

Let everything else go - you can still keep them on the B-list, where if you have the extra time to make them happen, they happen. But if you arrive at the Con with a list of 22 things that you are determined to conquer, you're setting yourself up for failure. There's just too much competition from other people who want what you want, too many long lines, and too many surprises. You'll wind up spending your time and energy on stuff that doesn't matter. Narrow your focus and you're more likely to get what you really want and come home Sunday night in a satisfied state.

7 last minute SDCC reminders

17 JULY 2017

Guess what happened to me today? My SDCC hotel room got cancelled. Allegedly it's been  "reinstated" but I'm still waiting for confirmation of that and on the whole, it's been the exact kind of mess no one wants to deal with when we're under 2 days to Comic-Con.

In that spirit, I wanted to share a few last minute reminders.

Confirm your hotel. If anything even slightly dodgy has transpired with your reservation - a transfer, multiple reservations, etc. - be safe and confirm it now. If I hadn't confirmed my room (or tried to) today, I would have shown up Wednesday morning and found out I was homeless. You might want to double check just to be safe.

Keep checking for Conan and other event tickets. If you've resigned yourself to not going, keep in mind that people will cancel their plans and give away their tickets. Right now I guarantee that for every 25 people excited for their Conan taping, several will decide they're too tired or that another option looks better when the time comes. Don't be shy; ask if anyone has an extra ticket.

Build a Plan B and Plan C into your agenda. Veterans know this but first-timers probably don't. If you have a tightly plotted schedule, you might want to scan the programming again and pencil in backup plans. Things change so swiftly at Comic-Con. You decide to sleep in instead of making a 10:30 panel, which frees you up for a different noon panel you thought you couldn't make, etc. Be ready for your day to evolve in unexpected directions.

Look for ways to meet people. If you're new and don't know many (or any) people at Comic-Con, here's a suggestion - start Googling for meetups in your fandom. I know everyone always talks about how generous and friendly everyone is at SDCC and it's true - but other than talking to people in line, sometimes it's hard to actually strike up an acquaintance. Some first-timers tell me they move through the Con in a bubble, watching everyone around them socialize while they stay isolated. The good news is there are a ton of small happy hours and meetups for specific fandoms, so look for one that reflects your interests. It's a shame to spend every night of the Con in your room.

Exchange contact info with online friends. Make sure you have a number for everyone online who promised to get you an exclusive, meet you for drinks, etc. If someone vaguely promised to get you the details on some party but they won't know until Thursday, connect with them too. It's not always easy to stay in contact with people once you're there.

Abandon any half-assed cosplay plans. Maybe I know a lot of slackers, but every year someone goes into an 11th-hour cosplay panic where they want to be a certain character but haven't actually pulled something together. If you aren't at the finish line yet, forget it. Save it for another year. You won't look as convincing or finished as you want to, and it's just more unnecessary stress.

Keep your badge prominently noticeable. If you stashed it somewhere out of sight to protect it, retrieve it now and put it somewhere you can't miss it. I know, how obvious. But do it anyhow.

Hope your preparations are right on schedule.

First-timers, I have a present for you

17 JULY 2017

Hello, excited first-timer. (I hope you're excited, anyhow.) This is a reminder that I want to hear the story of your first San Diego Comic-Con - what you thought, what you conquered, what you loved and disliked the most.

I collect tales from first-timers every year and I realized I never really reward them for sharing - so this year I'm giving away 2 sets of Comic-Con merit badges. These were a big hit at Emerald City Comicon and you can win a complete set by sharing your inaugural story with me. Just email me after the Con at by July 28 and you're in the running.

I recommend reading some of your ancestors' first-time experiences - while not all of them will reflect your SDCC interests, you may pick up some valuable advice. As a jaded old veteran, I feel fairly distanced from how a first-timer sees the Con these days. So consider seeing what these people had to say -and these first-timers and these from 2015 and these other 2015ers and these. Oh, and these first-timers too.

18 things to pack for SDCC

16 JULY 2017

If you're lingering in the SDCC online world right now, you've probably seen at least a dozen articles titled "What to Pack for San Diego Comic-Con." I always want to skip posting this kind of thing because most of you have been to the Con before and also, you're not stupid.

At the same time, every year I hear "I should have brought..." or "No one told me..." from first-timers - and even veterans forget the basics. So here we go. What should you pack?

#1. Something warm to wear. As I said a few days ago, San Diego nights can get chilly in my thin-blooded opinion. If this is you, bring a sweater or jacket. If you're going to camp under the stars, layer up so you can be toasty at night and then strip down when the mornings turn hot.

#2. Something comfortable to wear. You may be getting spiffed up for some kind of glittery event; maybe you plan on living in your cosplay. Even so, the time will come when you just want to be comfortable. Think you're too vain to look schlumpy at Comic-Con? After a few days and lines, you won't care.

#3. Portable chairs or air hammocks. Speaking of comfortable, If you're serious about your line time, come prepared.

#4. Cosplay repair. Wigs, weapons, armor, dresses, zombie makeup wounds - they can go awry so quickly. Bring an alternate costume or repair tools and sewing kits.

#5. Extra batteries, headphones and portable chargers. Don't count on charging up when and where you need to. It's faster and more reliable to just pop in a fresh battery or use your own charger.

#6. Contact cards. Even if you're not marketing yourself in some capacity, you will meet people you want to stay in touch with. Bring something that can be quickly exchanged instead of making someone unlock their phone and type in your number.

#7. A big tote or bagpack. The SDCC bags are great, but a bit too unwieldy for most of us to carry around. You'll do better with a huge purse, tote or backpack - anything that doesn't fit in can go to Bag Check.

#8. A moderate number of devices. Do you really need your laptop, camera, phone and iPad at SDCC? I'm going to say you can get by on 2 of those. Don't weigh yourself down.

#9. Food and water - if you're driving. Even if you intend to eat out for every meal at SDCC, it may not always be an option. Having power bars, fruit or what have you can get you in line earlier as well.

#10. A hard copy of your friends' contact info. In case you lose power or Internet - it happens. Or you're just Twitter friends with someone and they're offline and you can't text them and oops, there goes the Conan ticket they promised you.

#11. A list of everything you promised to pick up for your friends. It's just easier instead of running through text messages from 42 people, trying to remember who wanted what and where you can find it.

#12. Aspirin, band-aids, eyedrops, condoms, sunscreen, drugstore cures. Travel can do a number on many of us, but add in the noise and stress of Comic-Con and you could be waylaid by headaches, constipation, dry eyes and other ailments. Sunscreen is mandatory; antibacterial gel is also a good idea. Can you just buy all this stuff there? Yes, but traveling to CVS is another task you'll be too busy for - and hotel gift shops will charge you a mortgage payment for 3 ibuprofen, in addition to closing early.

#13. Earplugs and sleep mask. These aren't just for ladies of leisure who sleep till noon. If you don't sleep well in hotels or are sensitive to city noise, earplugs and sleep mask can help you get genuinely restful sleep. I travel with an entire insomnia kit involving melatonin, lavender oil, 2 pillows and a white noise app.

#14. Sketchbook and writing implement. If you want to collect sketches, don't settle for the back of  a promotional flyer. Bring a nice sketchbook and sharpie and use it for multiple Cons.

#15. A regular book. This may seem like bringing sand to the beach, but you will find yourself with more reading time than you think. Even if you buy a stack of fresh comics, do you really want to read them all in the Ballroom 20 line? Bringing a paperback will keep you from running down your phone, too.

#16. Bathing suit.  Even if you don't want to visit the beach, just getting in your hotel hot tub or sauna is a nice break from the Con.

#17. A water bottle and portable snacks. Comic-Con is really dehydrating, so get in the habit of carrying a bottle around that you can keep refilling. You can also avoid a two-hour lunch disruption by bringing a sandwich or power bar.

#18. YOUR BADGE. There aren't enough panic attacks in the world for the moment you step off the plane and realize your badge is back home in South Dakota. Also bring a lanyard, even if you intend on buying a new one. Don't try to pin your badge on, that's an invitation to disaster.

What shouldn't you bring?

A ton of different outfits and shoes. You can probably get by on your support shoes and one pair of going-out shoes.

Shipping materials.  The convention centers and nearby hotels have UPS or Fedex stores to ship your stuff home - and they'll have all the boxes and tape you need.

An entire of suitcase of back issues and old action figures to sell. The vendors aren't interested unless you've got something super special.

Just a few more days!

Q&A on San Diego Comic-Con lines

14 JULY 2017

It's our last weekend before Comic-Con. By now you know the top exclusives on your list, who you want a signing from and which days will be your busiest. But you've also probably realized that many of your choices swing on whether you even can get into a certain panel or room.

Lines are - after getting badges and hotel rooms - the biggest grievances at San Diego Comic-Con. You'll hear people say that it's not even worth going anymore or that it's impossible to get into Hall H. The first is a matter of opinion, the second is flatly untrue. You can triumph over most line situations - it's just a matter of what you're willing to give up. You might want to sacrifice smaller game for one big kill, or opt to keep your time free.

Here are some of the questions I get on lines.

What kind of thing will I have to stand in line for?

Many things. It's not just Hall H; there could be a line to pick up pre-sale exclusives, to get an autograph, to enter a gaming tournament, to go to a screening at the Horton.

Why are the lines so long?

Because we're all barking mad. We've gotten to the final round of the journey that is trying to attend San Diego Comic-Con and nothing will stop us from obtaining our panel, toy or film of choice.

And there's the fact that SDCC doesn't clear rooms - so instead of waiting in a line to see the first panel of the room, you'll be waiting with people there to see a panel four hours from now.

Can someone hold my place?

To an extent. Definitely work with partners, but don't install one person to hold places for 10 people who show up at the last second. When this happens over and over, you can wind up with an extra 200-300 people ahead of you who didn't wait like you did. This has been a huge source of contention in recent years. Huge as in, causing bitter and longstanding feuds.

Does standing in line mean I'll definitely get access?

Not always, not in a guaranteed way, no. There have been situations when thousands of people spent the night in line for a panel they would never get into. It is very difficult to assess how many people in a line snaking around the back of the convention center will fit into a room. Most often you just have to guess.

And some lines - for drawings, say - are a crapshoot. If only 1 out of 3 people in that line will get the exclusive or autograph, you need to weigh the odds against what else you'll miss out on.

Hall H is a slightly different story. The wristbands provide some guarantee and have mitigated - though not eliminated - the unpredictability and disappointments of the Hall H line. The 4-day campouts, people cooking on tiny grills, that woman getting hit by a car and dying because she was so afraid of losing her spot, the fight where one attendee stabbed another in the eye with a pen  - it was anarchy for a few years. Things are more orderly now, but you'll still need to dedicate effort and time to getting a good wristband.

What time will I need to get in line?

Early. It's unusual to make back-to-back panels in different rooms unless they're fairly small. Accept the need to spend time in line and plan your day accordingly.

Some panels are walk-in. Yes, even Hall H. Do a drive-by if you can a few hours ahead of time; check Twitter and ask; play it safe if the panel is important. It's really easy to overestimate the line time (like when I spent 12 hours in line for an X-Files panel and sat next to someone who'd waited about 90 minutes) and underestimate it - the first NASA panel at SDCC had people lined up 3 hours in advance but a ton of attendees showed up within 30 minutes and were shocked to find they couldn't get in.

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

If you're deciding when to get in line for some kind collector/exclusive invent involving Hasbro, Mattel or some other behemoth - do your research on the specific company you're targeting. As I said in my most recent exclusives post, almost every "regular" collector I know has come away from SDCC in the last 4-5 years angry and empty-handed because it's so difficult to triumph over what can feel like a rigged system. You'll do best to seek guidance from attendees experienced in that particular domain.

Offsites are best done early on in the Con because the lines grow throughout the weekend. But I did hear about some people getting lucky on Sunday, so apparently it just depends. As with many things at Con, early morning or early evening can be prime time for minor drawings and events.

Why do people get so frustrated with lines?

It's not just a matter of waiting. A lot of people actually like sleeping outside and waiting in long lines. It's a chance to rest and catch up with friends or make new ones. It also makes people feel hardcore and gives them bragging rights.

However, it doesn't always go smoothly. See the aforementioned dynamic where dozens or even hundreds of people join their friends in front of you at the last second, shoving you way back in line.

Exhibit Hall lines can get really ugly. Remember - rules and guidelines can change on a dime, the staff isn't always prepared for demand, and the whole melee is supervised by different types of staff and guards. So attendees can get conflicting directions for where to line up, be told they can't line up, told to line up but not given the right ticket to actually purchase something, be forced to disperse while a difference staff member lets new people in, etc. There's also the horror show of when a line is moved, and a bunch of attendees take advantage of the confusion by jumping in at the front.

There's no surefire trick here. Be polite with staff, even if they're belligerent, and plant seeds of doubt by telling them that a different staffer gave you permission to line up/buy/enter the drawing. Form solidarity with the people around you in line. But when all is said and done, there will possibly be times you get screwed and you can't do anything about it.

When is a line worth it?

This is highly individual. But you need to ask yourself if:
  • You would be okay seeing the panel on YouTube or in the Playback room
  • You'll feel let down if your favorite cast member only speaks once, while the director and star dominate the panel
  • You'll be disappointed if you get stuck so far back in the room you have to watch the panel on a screen anyhow
  • You haven't gotten a chance to thoroughly explore the Exhibit Hall
  • There's anything else going on at the same time that you really want to see.

If you answer yes to most of those - I wouldn't spend more than a few hours in line.

What are common mistakes with lines?

Randomly joining a line is always a mistake. Check which line you're in. It's easy to be told the wrong thing and spend 90 minutes in a line for something you don't care about.

If you can't find a line, don't accept "I don't know" from a staffer. This happens with autographs, smaller events, Horton panels and other events. Keep asking, keep waiting, ask online. (See my Horton panel advice.)

Other times people wait in line long after they lose any hope of getting in. Follow logic over what a volunteer tells you. I've told this story before about a Neil Gaiman panel where the room filled, the door closed, the panel started, but the volunteer kept telling us we were getting in. People dutifully waited long after it was clear we were not getting in. Take control of your destiny at SDCC; there's a lot of confusion flowing around and you'll need to dig for the truth sometimes.

While it's hard to tell precisely when a line will be admitted to a room, you should play it safe in terms of going to the bathroom or out for coffee. If you think there's any chance your line will start getting ushered into the room - and this can happen well before your panel or screening starts - do not leave the line. If you come back from the restroom and your friends are already in the room, you can't jump to the front of the line unless those people are willing to take you at your word that you were just in line.

Is it possible to do SDCC without lines?

Yes. Remember that the big room panels usually have their panels shown in the Playback Room. If you only want to see 1 panel and don't want to wait 4 hours to get into the room and then sit through another 3 panels, this is a good option. I know everyone wants to be within the physical presence of their favorite casts, but when there's 4,000 people between you in the room, it's not going to feel that physical anyhow.

Or you can just opt for multiple smaller panels instead of blowing your energy and time on that one Game of Thrones or Stranger Things Hall H panel. This is how I roll and for me it's a happier strategy. If one panel is dull, no big deal - I didn't invest an entire day in it. It also frees me up to eat or go back to my room or meet up with someone on the fly.

But I am going to do a long line campout. How can I make it more bearable?

Obviously you want to share line duty with a partner. If you don't know anyone, ask around - you'll find someone else intent on the same panel/line.

Bring whatever you need for the long haul - snacks, water, blankets, air hammock, chair, phone battery, ipod. Also do research into local 24-hour coffee shops, stores and restaurants (limited) so you can go on a run whenever you need to. Yes, some actors will come by and hand out donuts or pizza but it's nothing to bank on.

Talk to the people around you. This isn't like getting stuck on a plane listening to someone's stories about their knee surgery. You're with people who share your interests, it's a relief to exchange hotel or badge sale war stories, and you'll hear all kinds of great Con news and gossip. Your new pals will also save your spot while you hit the loo or go get breakfast. This really is one of everyone's favorite parts of the Con. Last year I chatted up two people in a Syfy line and this year I'm driving down to the Con with one of them.

If you lived through the 2017 badge and hotel tumult, then you know in your heart that this Comic-Con could be your last. The demand is just too dire these days to feel certain of being there next summer. Consider that when you're deciding how to spend your days and hours. You want to live your Comic-Con at maximum enjoyment - so think hard before you spend all of it in a line.