Your Comic-Con shopping checklist

19 JUNE 2019

We're just 4 weeks from San Diego Comic-Con, which means it's time to make a list of everything you need. If you're an Amazon Prime member, and you want to wait for Prime Day, I wouldn't; previous years saw Prime Day falling as late as 10 July -16 July. I wouldn't risk it.

Just a few ideas of what you might need....

An air mattress/air hammock, portable chairs, and other supports. I know some people like to rough it outside in line or on hotel room floors, but why?

A new camera or phone. This might seem extravagant, but if you need one anyhow, you may as well splash out before Comic-Con so you can take great pictures/video.

A new domain/digital portfolio. If you're going to market yourself, start developing your print and digital assets now. Ditto business cards.

Cosplay elements. Not just weaponry, clothing and wigs, but also good theatre makeup and fixative sprays. If you're new to SDCC cosplay, remember that you might not be able to get back to your room for tune-ups that often. Consider sewing and repair kits.

Medications. If you have a prescription about to expire and you need to schedule an office visit to get it renewed, do that now.

Extra batteries, chargers, etc. Trying to recharge in the convention center is a Sisyphean task.

Shoes. This is easily the most obvious thing everyone needs for SDCC, yet a stunning number of first-timers come without comfortable footwear that can get them through the miles of Comic-Conning. Buy now if you need to and break them in.

Earplugs and sleep masks. Obviously you might have roommates snoring or stumbling in at all hours, but some hotels (looking at you, Hard Rock) are just noisy. There's also your proximity to the street to consider. Three years ago I spent a night in a second-floor room at Hilton Gaslamp and it was like trying to sleep through Mardi Gras.

A small pharmacy. Especially if you're with a group. One of your friends will definitely have a headache, blistered feet, a hangover, constipation or an Exhibit Hall flu. Just stock up instead of depending on some overpriced gift shop with iffy hours.

Braces, splints and other supports. You might do fine without these at home, but SDCC is a marathon. You can easily aggravate your plantar fasciitis, bad back, fake knee, recently sprained ankle and so on. I feel like it's just better to come prepared, because as soon as you're in pain and stuck in bed, it's game over.

Special nerd outfits. No one cares what you wear at SDCC - they just want you to be showered and laundered. But because fandom emotions run high, and superstitions can surge forth over the link between a lucky t-shirt and a fortuitous celebrity encounter, some attendees care very much about their clothing. If you have a specific idea for a Red Sonja shirt or you want to honor Stan Lee in your apparel, get that squared away now.

Preview Night is 4 weeks from tonight. Crazy, right?

What do you think of the Souvenir Book cover?

18 JUNE 2019

Courtesy of Comic-Con International

One of the final mysteries of San Diego Comic-Con 2019 has been unveiled: the Souvenir Book cover. Because this is SDCC #50, it was a safe bet that CCI would themselves go with a safe bet and they did: a bunch of DC characters flying out of the convention center like spandex-clad bees to fight evil. Actually, I'm not really sure of the back story.

The artist/penciller is - Jim Lee! How unexpected. Alex Sinclair provided the vibrant color magic and Scott Williams the inks. You can see it above, complete with the watermark CCI slapped on to stop sleazy little bloggers like me from sharing it.

What do you think? Will you buy a print? Can we look forward to a Snapchat-type filter that just shows one character at a time disturbingly morphing into others?

First-timers, you may wonder what a Souvenir Book is. It's a thick paperback of articles and art that you'll receive when you get your bag and guide. It's something to read when you're back home and not distracted by a million Con-squirrels.

Sounds like we're in for a DC year. But I think we all knew that, right?

Catching up with San Diego Comic-Con events: where are we?

17 JUNE 2019

So it's Comic-Con season. Our badges are making their way through the U.S. mail and our wish lists are filling up with exclusives and we're making actual choices on the offsites and panels we're willing to stand in line for - in theory.

We've still got 2 weeks before programming is announced and the Exhibit Hall map is released. But it's not too early to start planning our nights - so here are a few options:

Not a night event, but let's start with the source of half the questions in my inbox. Yes, Conan is coming; we probably won't have much advance notice for when tickets go live. Here's some advice if you haven't gone (or tried to go) before, but I'll also do a separate post. 

The company continues its global domination with a massive SDCC space for The Boys, Carnival Row and Jeff Bezos's favorite show The Expanse. Everyone is excited but I'm not feeling bullish on this. Maybe it'll be good; however, it could be one of those big name offsites that's kind of dull.

We know Game of Thrones will have a panel and that Westworld and Watchmen will have a presence too. What kind of offsite action will that translate to? This is the heart of my offsite interest, and maybe yours too. Get out your black hats and bloody smiley faces.

CCI Museum/The Gathering
The Preview Night fundraiser for the Comic-Con Museum has lots of tickets left. Note the "fundraiser" part; after-party tickets are only $50 but the next tiers are $250 and $750.

Animaniacs in Concert
Also still plenty of tickets left for their Thursday, 18 July show at Balboa Theatre.

If you have $75 to spend on beer, games and "commemorative glassware," HopCon still has tickets - and you can also be a designated driver for $35.

San Diego Symphony Cult Classics
The Symphony is always a great escape from Con madness and this year they're giving you Galaxy Quest and Back to the Future.

The EW Party
No, you're not hallucinating. The gilded gathering of Hollywood royalty could possibly open its doors to you - if you win 2 tickets.

Wild at Heart Party with Chantel Jeffries
Yes, you can register for this but remember that can still leave you waiting on the sidewalk like a chump for two hours.

The Upside Down Party at Fluxx
People seem to think this Thursday night Nerdist party is sold out but that's only VIP. General tickets are still available.

The IMDboat Party with Kevin Smith
Another contest offers you tickets to Comic-Con and the 3-story IMDB yacht with Kevin Smith.

Rooftop Cinema Club
If you're looking for something chill, you can watch movies from the Hyatt 4th floor terrace: Top Gun on Tuesday, 16 July and Labryinth on Wednesday, 17 July.

We're just a month away. Are you ready?

It's time for you to go to New York Comic Con

12 JUNE 2019

1:01 p.m.

So it looks like everyone in the queue got something - and even people who Fan Verified today were able to slip in and hoover up the leftovers. I realize some people are disappointed because they didn't get Saturday or the perfect badge configuration, but on the whole NYCC is a much more attainable experience than SDCC - and the badge sale not nearly as stressful. Just my opinion.

And of course, badges will go up for sale through Lyte when they're turned in (including mine, maybe) so not all hope is lost. Stay vigilant and you'll probably be able to score something.

I'll return to NYCC later this summer. For now, I'm turning all my attention to San Diego Comic-Con, just 5 weeks away. I hope you too have something to fill your summer with nerd magic.

10:20 a.m.

So oddly, minutes after Saturday sold out, some people saw them available again and got them. Just badge sale weirdness, I guess.

9:49 a.m.

Saturday tickets are low...

9:32 a.m.

Sounds like people are still getting Saturday tickets (among other days.) Hang in there.

9:26 a.m.

Well, that was nice and smooth. Got the full show, even though I didn't get in immediately. Now I am extra motivated to make this work.

How did you do? The main issue I'm hearing so far is non-working links.

9:12 a.m.

People are getting tickets - even if you feel like time has stopped for you personally.

9:03 a.m.

Virtual queue.....

8:56 a.m.

We're just minutes away from the New York Comic Con general badge sale. By now you should have your link, your credit card, and a beverage at the ready - as well as your steely resolve to prevail. Badges are limited and you may not get everything you want. But you'll probably get something.

Last weekend, while in New York, I found out I probably can't go to NYCC. But there's still a possibility so I'll be in the mix with you today. I'll post updates but I don't expect anything too radical or unexpected to happen.

Good luck!

Don't forget - the NYCC badge sale is Weds, 12 June

10 JUNE 2019

If you have your eye on New York Comic Con this October, you hopefully have done 2 things by now:

  1. Created a Fan Verification account
  2. Received an email with your link for Wednesday's sale

If you didn't do those things, however, not all is lost. This isn't like SDCC, where you absolutely must have a Member ID assigned to your name and information to get a badge. You just need to find someone who is eligible for the sale - and they can buy you a badge.

It works like this:
  • The person with the Fan Verification account and link gets into the sale, Fortune smiles on them, and they snatch up some tickets.
  • They assign one of those tickets to you with your correct and current email address.
  • You then should - but don't have to - create your own Fan Verification account with that email address. You could skip this step but you shouldn't, especially if you want to be eligible for the 2020 presale.

If you've never done a NYCC sale before, know they are not as hopeless as an SDCC sale - but still pretty tough. Remember that many of the badges are already sold and you're competing for a limited number of remaining badges. That said, yes, you should definitely go even if you don't get the full show. There are many, many surrounding events and you will be more than busy.

Good luck Wednesday. I'll live blog the sale but it should be uneventful.

We're 8 weeks from San Diego Comic-Con

22 MAY 2019

Maybe it's me, but I feel like it's been forever since last summer's San Diego Comic-Con. Maybe that's because for the first time in eons, I haven't been to another Con since; maybe it's the weirdly spaced badge and hotel sales. In any case, somehow it's hard to believe we're only 8 weeks away from Preview Night.

But we are! And that means that we're closing in on the final weeks to get your preparations in order. If you're saying "what preparations?" - you're probably in good company. A lot of nerds just roll up to the convention center with a few changes of clothes and a credit card and figure they're good. But there are some things you can do to avoid roadblocks and ensure you have a great time.

Request PTO at work. Summer vacation time is such a fraught battle in some workplaces - hopefully you've already staked your claim. You don't want to get blocked by a coworker's wedding or family reunion. If you're self-employed, maybe you have calmer clients than I do, but now is the time to set expectations around deadlines, projects, and what constitutes a valid emergency.

Save money.  You'll spend more money at SDCC than you think, and it's nice to indulge in drinks, event tickets, meals, childhood action figures, etc. without counting every penny. Live the austere life now and go wild in San Diego.

Finalize your cosplay. Real talk: my friend is already finalizing her Dragon Con cosplay because she wants the perfect fittings and accessories. If you're not super serious about your cosplay, you'll still want to lock it down so you're not waylaid by delayed shipping of a critical component or surprised that the effect is less than you intended.

Tighten up. Are you ready to walk a lot? Are you going to look svelte in your spandex? I can't even count the number of nerd world conversations I hear that include "I'm going to be Wolverine / Starfire / Catwoman this year, I just need to lose 20 pounds first." It's probably easier for most of us to cosplay as Thor Lebowski and call it a day, but you will be walking, standing and sitting on lawns, cement and hard floors a lot. Be ready.

Study up on the SDCC life. Most of you already live it. But if you're a first-timer, I do advise reading the blogs and forums like Friends of Comic Con. You'll get tips that can radically improve your Con experience and stop you from making some common mistakes. Those listicles that major outlets put out the week before SDCC? Usually pretty basic. My point is, you don't want to be the first-time attendee whining that no one told you to wear comfortable shoes (which happens every year and it's so irritating.)

Compile your shopping list. This depends on your particular interests. It helps to identify which back issues, collectibles, cards, action figures, signings, trades and other stuff you really want. It's also helpful to do this now so you have time to figure out if you can get those items an easier and cheaper way (the Exhibit Hall is not always brimming with excellent deals, unlike what people assume) and then focus on all the exclusive announcements.

Book flights. You did this already, right? ...Right?

Think about outside activities. Hopefully you've been reading your Comic-Con Museum newsletters, because they do paint an enticing picture. Tickets for "The Gathering" go on sale 3 June if you're interested, but you should also think about getting away from the Con and how you'll do that. The beach, other parts of Balboa Park, a night in La Jolla, Tijuana or Coronado Island - especially if you're bringing a non-nerd, it's good to plan a night where you can leave the Con behind.

Buy supplies. Extra chargers and batteries, sketchbooks, the right shoes, air hammocks, GroPros, sunscreen, business cards, orthotics, ear plugs, portable chairs, etc. - get it all ordered now. Book your salon appointments and car maintenance and make sure you'll have the right prescription fills.

It'll come up fast from this point on. Take care of the tedious stuff now so you can enjoy all the exciting announcements coming our way.

Are you eligible for the New York Comic Con sale?

15 MAY 2019

We're entering that time of year when it starts to feel like all Comic-Con, all the time. Maybe you're girding yourself for a Memorial Weekend Con like Phoenix Fan Fest, maybe you're saving money for SDCC, or maybe you're deciding between Boston and Dragon Con. We're swimming in options at this time of year, right? So much so that New York Comic Con can seem like an elderly autumn cousin while we're in the flush of spring.

But in fact, you need to plan now for NYCC - not just for this year, but next year.

Here's the deal. I know many of you keep the ghost of NYCC in your brain as an alternative to the San Diego Comic-Con madness. At least this is true for the people I know; they have a vague idea that badges are easier to get and more hotel rooms are available and the Con is bigger than SDCC - and they translate all that into an image of a convention center waiting with open arms. But that's not completely, exactly, entirely true.

If you'd like to attend NYCC, here's what you need to know:

  • Much like SDCC, there is a presale for returning attendees and a general sale for everyone else. They already had the presale this year - and you either knew about it or weren't eligible for it.

  • The general sale is on 12 June at noon EST.

  • To participate, you must complete a Fan Verification account - or what NYCC annoyingly calls "Fan Ver" - by the end of 2 June. Yes, this is a lot like CCI's Member ID accounts. But unlike the SDCC sale, you can buy badges for people who don't have Fan Verification accounts. You'll include their email address to "assign" them their badge and then they can create an account later. This is true only for the upcoming general sale.

  • Because the lion's share of the spoils go to returning attendees in the presale, you may need to start out with a partial badge the first year and hopefully graduate to a full badge the following year in the presale. Though neither of those is guaranteed.

Overall, my point is that you do need to put thought and preparation toward a future at NYCC and can't treat it like some small city Con. I'd still classify it as a far more attainable experience than SDCC, but what isn't at this point.

Other selling points: it's easier to book a hotel, it's not hard to find good airfare deals to New York, and ReedPop offers a smorgasbord of events before, during and after the Con. If you're sick of fake SDCC parties that are basically cosplay contests with mediocre bar food and a terrible DJ, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of NYCC offerings.

Okay, I'm done selling New York Comic Con to you. If you're die hard West Coast/Best Coast, you probably aren't interested anyhow. But keep that NYCC ghost in your brain fed - because one day you may find yourself locked out of SDCC and looking for another place to land.

SDCC's 2nd wave of rooms and the waitlist

23 APRIL 2019

We knew today was coming but we didn't know what it would hold. On the whole, it was dismal news; a very few people got great downtown rooms but mostly people were winding up in Mission Valley or Coronado Island or the moon.

And a lot of other people got emails notifying them of the waitlist rooms going live on 29 April; and still other people got nothing at all.

Let's break it down.

Room Assignments

Assuming people were correct about their timestamps, there was some mad trickery - or just incompetence? - going on today. "I got in at 9:00:33 and I got placed at Howard Johnson's" and other such refrains echoed around the Internet. Other people said they got in fairly late and found emails promising them the Hyatt or Omni. There's been a lot of speculation on why and how rooms are assigned. I don't have a good answer for you.

But some people were truly overly optimistic. I saw people crying that they'd gotten in at 9:06 and they were shocked, shocked, that they didn't get a room. Were they first-timers? 9:06 has not been a good time since ever. It seems like most downtown rooms go to those in within the first minute - and even then some are left out. And yes, there's a fair amount of unfairness and inexplicability. It's onPeak. It's Comic-Con.

Alternate Methods

I've had so many earnest conversations and emails that run along the lines of, "Why don't they just let us pick our hotels when we get our badges? Then they can pass out what's left over." That is indeed how some other Cons do it, but San Diego is hamstrung by their lack of downtown hotels. There aren't enough downtown rooms - that's it, that's the math. And the studios, stars, pros and VIPs get first pick.

I agree the current process is needlessly inefficient, and I think a straight up lottery would be fairest. Buy your badge, submit request for a hotel room, and then post-sale we find out what we randomly got. 2 people suggested they just open up the rooms and everyone can go in and pick - but we already had that system years ago and it was an inferno-level disaster. The site would crash, one year most of the downtown hotels were already booked on Friday night, room availability would vanish right as you were about to click.

I don't know why people are so convinced that we'd all get downtown rooms if CCI was just more efficient about it. Yes, onPeak is beyond messy, but there's never going to be an alternate San Diego where 15 more Hiltons spring up along the waterfront.

The Waitlist and Room Deposits

Some people got emails announcing the waitlist on the 29th. Others didn't. However, the emails didn't mention specific waves for the waitlist, which we had once. So it's hard to say how plentiful the pickings will be. Keep your hopes up but don't expect to start choosing between the Hard Rock and MMM. That said, if you have the fortitude for it, you can keep upgrading over the coming weeks if you can find someone to take your old room off your hands, after deposits go nonrefundable.

Speaking of deposits. Let's say you settled for Renaissance Inn today but are hoping to do better next week. You can go in and book a room on the waitlist - but you'll need to pay another deposit for that room, then go back and cancel the other room and wait your deposit to be refunded. You can't just slide the deposit you already paid over to the new room.

And I do think a lot of people are staking their hopes on the waitlist. I know people with rooms to give away right now - Wyndham Bayside and Hotel Republic, 1.9 miles and 1.2 miles from the convention center. But even desperate attendees are hesitating to take them, since they feel confident they'll score next week. Maybe some of them are correct - but not all of them.

Tomorrow is 12 weeks to San Diego Comic-Con. If you're reading this, you're probably not in the anticipatory mood you hoped to be. Try to focus on the good things to come and remember that rooms will keep opening up as we approach the Con. All that really matters is you'll have a roof over your head.

Analyzing the first wave of SDCC hotel rooms

16 APRIL 2019

Just last week this time, we were finding out about the San Diego Comic-Con hotel lottery; now the first crop of hotel assignments are already out. Hotel season has moved fast for some of us - but will be achingly slow for many others.


I had a busy day and couldn't conduct any kind of scientific survey - but my text messages, emails and perusals of Twitter indicated that a small group of downtown hotels dominated the day. The big cats were heavily featured (Marriott Marquis, Hilton Bayfront, Manchester Grand Hyatt, Omni, Hard Rock) as well as Embassy Suites, Hilton Gaslamp, the Sofia, Solamar, Residence Inn Gaslamp and Marriott Gaslamp. Obviously other hotels were assigned, but those seemed to be the most common. The Moxy, the Pendry, the Horton and other downtown hotels were mentioned barely or not at all.

Does that mean more downtown hotels will be assigned next Tuesday? Yes, definitely - we just don't know how many.

Assignment Criteria

To me, it seems that this mostly followed the path we were told: time of entry to the form. Yes, there are exceptions. There are also plenty of exaggerated or mistaken stories online about someone's friend who got in at 9:07 and got the Hilton Bayfront while they got nothing with a timestamp of 9:01. I'd take these reports with a grain of salt. Glitches and mistakes occur, onPeak is hardly flawless, but attendees also get... emotional about these things. At any case, getting out the pitchforks and torches for onPeak doesn't do anything.

And to be fair, neither does a phone call or email sometimes. It's already happening: the "onPeak told me it was all random / just single rooms this week / based on submission time" tales. Maybe customer service people are saying crazy stuff (it's happened to me) and maybe there was a miscommunication and maybe an office sadist is deliberately messing with attendees - but does it matter? You get what you get and there isn't going to be a do-over.

I know a few people who got in as fast as me and didn't get an email. I got my #1 choice.  This situation has been reversed in other years. I know you're curious about the algorithm but I'm not sure there's an answer here that will make anyone feel comforted.

Also, please don't clutch your choices too tightly. People were still agonizing this morning over whether they should have picked Hilton Gaslamp over Hilton Bayfront. If you checked the option for any downtown hotel, you're good. Don't beat yourself up for not doing things differently.

Moving Forward

  • If you got a hotel today, you need to pay your deposit by Friday. I paid mine immediately and I recommend you do the same just in case there's any kind of trouble. 

  • If you got a hotel and are feeling meh about it - go ahead and try to swap if you must, but do it now. Otherwise lock it down. It's a downtown hotel. Be grateful. You have until May to get your deposit back so you can still keep looking. It's always surprising (but also amusing) how many people are unenthusiastic about a hotel others would kill for, like the Hyatt or the Omni. We all want what we want - and my first choice, the Marriott (for proximity and other reasons) is someone else's 5th choice - they want the Hard Rock (for the celebrities and action) where I couldn't stand staying there.

  • If someone has graciously offered you a room, make it as easy as possible for them to do so, wrap up business promptly, and safeguard any information shared. 

  • If you do take someone else's room, you may still get an assignment next week. That's happened to me the last 2 years - got nothing in Wave 1, someone gave me a Hyatt room, then Wave 2 brought me another room. I can't say for sure that will happen this year, though.

  • If you got nothing and are feeling bleak about next week, just wait and see. More and more people will release rooms they don't need. The waitlist will have good rooms. That said, it doesn't hurt to ask around now for roommates and trades.

Next Tuesday will bring the next wave of revelations. Try not to despair. Be practical and work your network and see what turns up. I know we all like definite answers but you'll just have to ride this out. Stay proactive and positive and you'll probably get a room you can live with.

I still remember the moment several years ago when I was sitting in my Sheraton room at ECCC and read the email that said I didn't get a hotel for San Diego Comic-Con. At all. I felt the same numb disbelief then that I felt today when I read my onPeak email and saw I got the Marriott Marquis. Comic-Con is truly a surreal experience.

The SDCC hotel sale is here

11 APRIL 2019


8:22 p.m.

Overall, today's lottery mostly went smoothly. The most frequent complaint I've heard has been of the Captchas that rose up, often shortly before 9 a.m., forcing people to scramble to complete them before the sale went live. Was that a deliberate measure to reduce the number of attendees with multiple browser fires going?

It's worth noting - sorry - that too good a sale can be bad news collectively. As reports trickled in over the day and evening, more than half of people I've heard from said they got in very quickly, even immediately. Which means that getting in fast doesn't mean a great hotel when a colossal number of people were right there with you.

My advice is to disregard the whole SDCC calculus of exact entry times x number of rooms x dates requested. I know there are many furious comparisons going on right now as everyone looks for some type of solid results forecast. But you're trying to capture clouds. Try to focus on the Con itself, not where you'll be staying, until the emails go out. Remember, you may not hear for weeks. There's no point in driving yourself crazy.

9:29 a.m.

Today has really been a mixed bag. One friend completely missed the sale due to traffic; another enlisted his mother for help and she only picked one hotel on the form. But there's also been good news; two people who swore they weren't going back to Comic-Con changed their minds and are looking forward to it. Funny how much your perspective changes between Sunday night of the Con and the following spring.

I haven't heard about any form hijinx yet; did anyone have trouble?

9:12 a.m.

So how did you do? I got in super fast, but I know from past experience that isn't always a guarantee of anything. 2 other friends got in also very quickly, though all of us had the green man and didn't go straight to the form as people have in the past.

8:39 a.m.

By now I'm guessing almost everyone has logged in. Friends are having a few minor crises - a dead laptop, a boyfriend who doesn't understand why the forms can't have the same address. Typical stuff.

Hopefully today goes smoothly.... no one getting bounced out and no zombie forms resurrecting themselves for random attendees.


8:12 a.m.

In less than an hour, your Comic-Con hotel fate will be decided - mostly. The hotel sale goes live at 9 a.m. PST and only those of us who get picked in a nanosecond will score a downtown room. Almost everyone else will get a non-downtown room or nothing at all. The waitlist and the kindness of nerd strangers will alleviate some of that misery - but today, right now, we're all looking for extremely fast admission to the hotel form.

I know you're nervous - my stomach is in knots. Remember that it's all about the time you enter the form and not how long it takes to complete it. Try to stay calm and make sure you pick the right hotels and enter the correct information.

Good luck. I'll post what I know.

Hotel sale tips

10 APRIL 2019

So we're less than a day out from tomorrow's hotel room lottery. By now most of you know exactly what to expect and do - but here are a few tips anyway.

Don't try to use the link multiple times on the same browser. I know there are questions about how penetrating onPeak is about analyzing IP addresses. We don't know.

Avoid "duplicate" submissions. Remember that onPeak's idea of a duplicate may be different from yours. I know married couples and a mother/daughter team who are going to be careful about using different names and addresses.

Be realistic about your choices. I honestly don't think it matters much what hotels you pick if you're trying to stay downtown - unless you're in the .001% that gets in immediately. Otherwise you just get put at the closest downtown hotel if you're lucky or get moved to the hinterlands. That said, realize that the Marriott and Hilton Bayfront and Hard Rock are already rife with VIPs, remember that hardly any (or zero) attendees seemed to get the Pendry last year, and that really any downtown hotel is a get. If you're not getting in quickly, don't bother wasting your picks on the top hotels.

If you're thinking of arriving late or leaving early, don't worry about that now. Just pick the full dates and pay your deposit, then make a decision in the coming weeks. You can trim a night off here or there as long as you're still staying for those 2 nights.

If you're staying with a bunch of people in 1 room, be aware that many people wound up with a single room last year after requesting a quad. So don't just assume your team is done as soon as 1 person gets in. Play it through and make all of your submissions. You may wind up needing 2 rooms.

Check the prices. They have risen a bit this year; overall, rates are considerably higher than they were in, say, 2012.  Make sure all of your roommates have agreed to the cost, because I've seen people lose it over being asked to pay an extra $15 a day.

Be accommodating when it comes to room exchanges. Yes, this is for after we get our results, but I know a lot of people are already cautiously greasing the skids.  I've already had the annual rite of People I Barely Know calling dibs on any "extra rooms" I get. No, I'll be giving those rooms, if they existed and they won't, to actual friends. Again - be realistic about the number of people that want to make an exchange. If someone is gracious enough to offer, make it easy for them in any way you can. That includes handling whatever phone calls/emails you can, being available for updates, responding immediately to questions and paying what's needed.

Good luck and try not to stress. If you have a badge, you're going to San Diego Comic-Con and that's all that matters.

Don't panic, but the SDCC hotel sale is only 40+ hours away

9 APRIL 2019

How fun! Today, after months of CCI ghosting us, they dropped a last-minute Hotel Day announcement less than 48 hours in advance. Yes, you will enter the Comic-Con hotel room fighting arena this Thursday, 11 April, at 9 am PST - and too bad if you're already otherwise obligated.

Which most people I know are; my phone has been on fire for the last three hours with friends bemoaning MRIs, work schedules, pediatrician appointments, micromanaging bosses, air travel that can't be changed. As someone who was supposed to fly to New Orleans this Thursday before my trip got cancelled, I'm still shivering from my brush with Comic-Con homelessness. This just isn't enough notice.

I'm convinced there's some backstory about the move to Thursday and the sudden announcement, but we'll never know if and what it is. All we know is that we're about to be thrown in the most brutal sale of San Diego Comic-Con - so let's get down to it.

How It Works
Same as before. If you don't have a "before," you'll click the link in your email after 8 a.m. PST, enter a waiting room, and then move into the sale proper. Yes, it's a lot like the badge sale. Some people will get in right away, others won't get in till later. Here's what you need to know:
  • Rooms are assigned based on the time you enter the form, not when you complete it - so don't rush. Stay calm (relatively speaking) and enter your information correctly.
  • Even if you get in late, you should still complete and enter your form. You want to be eligible for the waitlist.
  • People have allegedly had their submissions deleted as duplicates because of identical last names and addresses - so use alternate information if you have to. You can change the name and other reservation information later. 
  • Practice your submission on the sample form. It's not a complex process but you'll feel more confident - again, relatively speaking.
Notifications, Payments and Confirmations
The actual sale isn't the worst part. It's the waiting for weeks after. Here's how it will go:
  • The first batch of notifications - the best hotels - will go out Tuesday, 16 April. You have until end of Friday, 19 April to pay a two night deposit.
  • The next batch will go out Tuesday, 23 April. You'll have until end of Friday, 26 April, to pay your deposit.
  • If you didn't get a room, you'll find out Monday, 29 April. Officially, that is. Obviously the emptiness of your inbox will say it long before then.
  • The waitlist will presumably open up sometime after that, but they don't say when.

I haven't much practical advice to give - it's a game of chance and one that isn't in our favor. Here's what you can do now:
  • Make sure your credit cards have room for the deposit.
  • Talk to your roommates about the hotels you're targeting and who's covering for who.
  • Be pragmatic about what hotels you're going to get. First-timers - you may feel blessed by the Geek Gods because you scored a badge, but the hotel sale is a whole new level of challenge. It really is tough.
  • Make up a plausible excuse to miss work. Don't do the stomach flu. Say a roof rat died in your attic near an air vent and you're waiting for an exterminator, or a rock cracked your windshield and you're waiting for Safelight. It's easier to do the sale from home than your phone or a work computer, trust me.

I'll live blog the sale, but it should be over with quickly. Good luck. I'm as nervous as you are, if that's any consolation. (I know it isn't.)

Are you ready for the SDCC hotel sale?

3 APRIL 2019

Do you ever feel a sudden panic that you missed the 2019 SDCC hotel sale? That somehow it already happened and you just didn't see the emails and none of your friends told you? I get a twinge of that every now and then.

Spring is officially here. Another Wednesday morning has come and gone. We're just three months and change from San Diego Comic-Con. And most of us have no idea where we're staying. It feels especially jarring because the badge sales were so early, so there's been this long stretch of nothingness where we've all waited for... something? A date for the hotel sale? A hint about what events, offsites and parties we can expect?

CCI originally created a big hullabaloo about SDCC50, stoking anticipation for the best Comic-Con ever. But lately it's all felt kind of humdrum. At this point, I think we're all hoping the announcements and promises will burst out all at once. Kind of like when you drive to Vegas at night and it's all black road and barren desert forever and then the city suddenly appears in its winking electric rainbow glory.

But parties are one thing. We'll make our own fun somehow. What matters are hotels. 6 Early Bird hotels are sold out; 5 still have rooms. A large number of attendees are obviously waiting for the hotel sale proper to put a roof over their Comic-Con heads.

Last year's sale was on 4 April. The second round of emails went out on 15 April. So hopefully we can expect the sale very, very soon.

How The Hotel Sale Works
If you haven't been through a hotel sale before, it's not one-and-done. The actual sale will be over in minutes, probably on a Wednesday morning. But if CCI follows its usual course, you'll wait until the following week for the first crop of assignments to go out. The Internet will ignite with people posting their rooms and entry times and other people lamenting their late entry times and general Comic-Con hardships. As the day goes on, people will accept they weren't in the first round of assignments. People will (incorrectly) assure each other that plenty of downtown hotel rooms are left.

You'll wait another week to see if you made round 2. While you may get a good room assignment - I got the Sofia in round 2 last year - you'll more likely open your email to see a non-downtown hotel. Or you'll wait again for the "so sorry" email where you find out you didn't get anything and then you'll wait for the waiting list rooms to go live, with each of these stages accompanied by conspiracy talk and anger and posted screenshots indicating unfair communications, and after enduring all of that, you can still come up short and homeless - and by now, weeks later, we'll be really close to Comic-Con.

Typically, good hotel rooms do come up in June and July. However, with a shorter timeframe to make alternative arrangements, there will likely be fiercer competition for them. And many people are theorizing that SDCC50 will attract a higher number of promoters and studio people, who of course will all need hotel rooms. In other words - our annual war zone may be especially bloody this year.

I know right now you just want to plan your Dark Phoenix cosplay and analyze the new Joker trailer and settle into the fun phase of Comic-Con planning. We're almost there. But for now, keep your eyes peeled for a hotel announcement from CCI. And make backup plans if you haven't already. Talk to multiple friend groups to see who needs roommates. Find out who in your social circle has a San Diego aunt who can house you if all else fails. A stressful month is ahead for many of us, and you'll feel much better if you know you have something to fall back on - even something unpalatable.

And remember, that something could be an Early Bird room. They're still available. But at this point, if you haven't booked already, I'm guessing you're waiting to roll the dice on Hotel Day.

Maybe buy your ECCC tickets earlier next year

12 MARCH 2019

We're less than 48 hours away from the start of Emerald City Comic Con - which I will not be going to, but am still loosely following. And while all tickets but Thursday are officially sold out, Friday and Sunday were available until recently.

Which makes this a bit puzzling: people are lining up to get those tickets for a tremendous markup on Lyte. Friday is currently available but for $80 - almost double what it went for from ECCC. Sunday tickets are $85 and currently have a waiting list of 18 people. Saturday tickets? $99, with 13 people waiting.

That last I can understand, since Saturday sold out fast. But I don't understand why those people don't pony up an extra $30 for the 4-day tickets, which are going for $129 and only have 6 people waiting. (You're welcome, whoever bought my two turned-in tickets.) Maybe they're confident more Saturdays will be returned?

I'm being petty, and yes, I realize people don't always have the funds when they need to buy Comic Con tickets. But overall - the patterns and prices of ECCC 2019 shows that it doesn't pay to wait until the last minute to grab your tickets, Lyte availability or not.

And in case you missed the real message here amidst my musing - ECCC tickets are still available. Thursday on the site, Friday on Lyte, and maybe Saturday/Sunday if you make it through the waiting list.

Good luck and have fun this week. Send me pictures. I already miss you.

Lyte pays the full price for ECCC tickets

27 FEBRUARY 2019

I'm unhappily able to report that Lyte, who is handling Emerald City Comic Con ticket exchanges for the first time this year, will pay full price for your tickets. At least if they're 4 day tickets, they will. I know this because Fate is a ruthless cannibal that devours all my time and now I can't go to ECCC.

So instead of arranging a sale to a stranger, I turned my tickets over to Lyte. It worked smoothly enough; if you also find yourself with extra tickets on your hands, I'd recommend going that route instead of StubHub, Craigslist or some other dodgy means. All you need to provide is your order ID and then they make an offer and send you a UPS label. It's pretty painless. Except for the bitterness burning in your heart because you can't go to ECCC.

As for ticket availability - I don't really know how many full tickets they have on hand. Maybe they're rare and I just made 2 PNW nerds very happy, or maybe they have a decent supply. At any rate, it doesn't hurt to check. And of course, you can get Thursday, Friday and Sunday right from the ECCC site.

Have fun at Emerald City, you lucky bastards. See you at a Comic Con soon.

Emerald City Comic Con still has Thursday, Friday and Sunday tickets available

16 FEBRUARY 2019

Emerald City Comic Con ends a month from today - but they still have tickets for 3 out of the 4 days. That's weird, isn't it? Especially given the rapacity with which full tickets sold out (pretty much immediately.)

What I think it means: that even though outsiders like me creep into the ticket sale like an invasive species, we're still limited in number - and locals are more leisurely about getting their tickets. I know several people in the PNW who plan on going for at least a day, but aren't obsessive about getting the whole show. They'll get their tickets when they have a better idea of their schedule.

Or maybe it means that with the advent of the Lyte Ticket Exchange, people feel more confident about their ability to pull down all four days. Maybe their confidence is well placed; I have no idea. In other years, people turned to StubHub or Craigslist or other places to watch for ECCC tickets, and those often came with a hefty markeup - assuming they were legit.

All this said, it's safe to assume that tickets will sell out for ECCC - so don't dawdle too long before buying. The next 4 weeks will go by in a flash.

Be realistic about your SDCC downtown hotel dreams



Hey, hey, it's almost Valentine's Day. And if you're calculating just how much to splash out on your latest paramour, remember that another expense is looming in your future - the deposit on your San Diego Comic-Con hotel room.

Early Bird's been running for a few weeks now, but most of the hotels - even the best one, Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina - are still available. That tells me that hope still springs eternal among Comic-Con attendees, who year after year prefer to gamble on the hotel sale lottery and its dismal odds, rather than choose the sure thing that is an Early Bird room.

(In case you're a first-timer who doesn't know what Early Bird is: You can book a room now, paying all nights up front. The lodgings aren't lux but they are definitely yours and you can skip the existential horror that is the SDCC hotel sale. Read the details here.)

Most of you are familiar with the terrible SDCC hotel lottery. If you're not, know that it's actually worse than the badge sale in some ways. A very tiny number of people squeak into good downtown hotel rooms; everyone else either thinks they did well but winds up with a motel by Sea World, or they think they'll get a Sea World motel and wind up with nothing. Somehow the assignment email always manages to surprise and devastate.

Even worse, it's an anxiety that lingers. You find out about Hotel Day and get nervous; it comes and goes; you wait for the first batch of hotel assignments, wait another week for the next batch, wait for the wait list to go live. Etc. It's torturous and it just goes on and on.

So why am I bringing this up now? Because I just tried steering a first-timer toward Early Bird and she got insulted and informed me she was deciding between the Marriott or Hilton Bayfront. Okay then! That's kind of like deciding between an invite to the EW party and a private dinner with Jason Momoa, in that neither is going to happen for 99.7% of us. And I'm not saying that to be mean; I just want to manage expectations, because Hotel Day is rough.

What you can do now:
  • Book an Early Bird room. (Again, the Sheraton is closer than a lot of the hotels you could get in the lottery - just saying.)
  • Start making back-up plans for a hostel, time share, family friend's sofa, etc.
  • Team up with roommates to afford an egregiously priced downtown room outside the CCI sale.

Most likely you'll roll the dice on Hotel Day. I know that. But before you sail into those waters and get dashed upon the rocks, consider steering your ship into the safe and welcoming harbor that is the Early Bird sale. Most of the hotels are on the shuttle route, you'll save money and you can spare yourself the anguish of waiting for that email that never says what you want it to.

Like this one:

Or this one:

Just think about it. Early Bird - you can settle your hotel business now and skip the gut-wrenching anxiety storm soon to descend on the rest of us.

ETA: I should clarify a few deposit facts. I know some of you are new to SDCC and you're probably baffled and maybe a little panicked about the hotel rates you're seeing online. So here are your options:

Early Bird: If you book a room this way, through CCI, your rates are quite reasonable but you have to pay your entire bill now.

The hotel lottery:
This is also through CCI. While you are not guaranteed a room, any room you do get will be significantly discounted over what you'd pay otherwise. (Usually.) The lottery works like this: you jump into a waiting room (sound familiar?) and wait to get picked for a session. Once you're picked, you enter your personal information and your top choices for downtown and non-downtown rooms. Later you get an email with an assigned hotel (which often is not one of your choices) or you get an email saying you got nothing. (See above.) If you're assigned a room, you'll be asked to pay a 2 night deposit. So if you get a room that's about $300 a night, you'll need to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 plus taxes and fees. It's refundable for a while.

Random hotel rooms you find online:
You can prowl around the websites for Marriott Marquis, Omni, Manchester Grand Hyatt, Horton, Hilton Gaslamp and other downtown hotels but you'll usually get a "no rooms available during those dates" message. If you are allowed to book a room during SDCC, the rates will be astronomical. Don't let despair drive you to this level unless you can truly afford it.

FWIW, I have a safety room at the Gaslamp Comfort Inn, half a mile from the convention center, $550 a night, no deposit, cancellable til 3 July. Not my ideal, but I know I have a downtown roof over my head no matter what. If you are as risk-averse as I am, calculate what you are willing to spend in a worse case scenario and see if you can arrange a back-up. It'll make the hotel sale a lot less stressful.