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.

Time

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.


Money

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 sdccguide@gmail.com 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.

12 ways to stay healthy at SDCC

13 JULY 2017





Next week is going to be grueling - early mornings, late nights, long lines, and nefarious human germs lingering on every elevator button and exhibitor booth. (Sorry, but it's true.) Obviously you want to keep yourself in prime physical condition, but Comic-Con is full of attendees who end up missing out on some of the Con because they're ill - or they come home in horrible shape. So here's my usual advice on protecting yourself, mentally and physically.




#1. Rest up now.  

Do everything you can this weekend to relax and catch up on your sleep. I've been working 70-80 hour weeks for a while now and I look and feel like a zombie. If you've been in demand or under the weather, try to get some rest now or SDCC will hit you like a truck.
#2. Bring drugs.

Aspirin, ibuprofen and other painkillers can save your life at SDCC. If you're prone to headaches, the Exhibit Hall volume can do a number on your skull. Your plantar fasciitis can flare up or your hotel pillow can bother your neck. A slipped disc or bad knee can flare into a major issue. And just traveling and heavy restaurant meals can upset your digestion, so bring something for that too.


#3. Bring physical supports.

If you've had any kind of recent trouble like a sprained ankle, pulled muscle or an injured shoulder, I would recommend bringing any wraps, braces and muscle ointment you can. Even if you feel okay now, sitting or standing in line for long periods can be difficult. Lots of people bring small fold-up stools or even air hammocks to make their line waits more comfortable. And if you can, bring your own pillows so the terrible hotel ones don't give you a stiff neck.
 
#4. Get assistance if you need it.

CCI provides a wealth of resources to help out attendees who need it. This includes rest areas, private areas for nursing mothers, a first aid team, wheelchairs, ASL interpreters and special seating for large events. If you have mobility issues or any other circumstance that could benefit from a helping hand, go ahead and ask for it.

#5. Boost your immunity

If you pick up colds and viruses easily, practice whatever faux-medical juju you normally do through echinacea, bee pollen, Emergen-C, a B-12 shot, etc. I've never gotten sick from the Con but other people swear that Con Crud is real. And you will be touching escalator railings, book covers, photo op props and other surfaces recently contaminated by dozens or hundreds of others.
 

#6. Eat well.

Some people like to eat lightly at SDCC; others feel powered by eating luxurious monster meals. In general, try to eat well. Don't skip a lot of meals. Don't live off a box of donuts in your room. You're going to undergo a physically draining and sometimes emotionally frustrating experience, so set yourself up to be energized and in a good mood. I eat a lavish breakfast every morning and carry apples with me because I never know when I'm going to get trapped (or invited somewhere) and need to skip my next meal.


#7. Stay hydrated.
 
Con-going is thirsty work. And buying bottled water on site adds up fast. Bring enough water to get you through the lines and the exertion. As a hiker I follow the "If you're halfway through your water, you're halfway through your hike" rule; consider the same for SDCC and monitor how fast your water goes your first day. You'll understand how much more you need the next day.

#8. Don't overdo the hedonism.

Obviously people like to party at SDCC. They like big ticketed parties, private hotel room parties, underground events and bar crawls between friends. But if you're serious about getting in a full Con, I'd caution against overindulging. Even if you can pull off all-nighters at home without feeling much pain, SDCC is a much more demanding experience. You'll be irritable and tired and wind up needing a nap. I've talked before about the year a friend was so hungover we missed all of Sunday, and another time a friend's friend got so high that he got lost and we were looking for him until 3 a.m. It's just not worth it. Save your chemical excesses for home so you can enjoy the Con to the fullest.

#9. Prepare mental and emotional resources.

Maybe you're sensitive to crowds and noise. Maybe you're traveling with someone whose every word is irritating you. Or maybe the Con isn't at all what you expected and you're on the verge of tears for whatever reason. Make sure you have someone back home you can call and unload on. If you're in therapeutic care and you think the Con might push your buttons, see ahead of time if you can call your therapist. Bring any meds you need. Look up nearby meetings if you're in recovery. I'm sure this all sounds very dramatic but it's really not that uncommon for someone to have a panic attack or feel emotionally isolated. Get help if you need it.

#10. Take breaks.

If you start feeling exhausted or it's just stopped being fun, cut yourself off from the chaos for a bit. Go hang out in the dark Playback Room or film festival and isolate for an hour or two. Go swimming. Ask everyone to let you have the hotel room to yourself for a bit. If you've got some cash to burn, schedule a massage for your stiff Comic-Con muscles.


#11. Take care of your feet.

Because you'll be walking a lot, you'll want to wear supportive footwear and have moleskin or band-aids just in case. If your cosplay involves uncomfortable footwear, make sure you give yourself some downtime. And remember that shuttles can cut down on your walking distances quite a bit.

#12. Get your sleep.

When I first started going to the Con, Younger Me would have various escapades all night, return home around 4 a.m., sleep for 3 hours and bounce out of bed ready for the day. And even then, it caught up with me by dinner. Now I try to be in bed no later than 1 a.m. If I'm going to be out super late, I nap first. Obviously this depends on why you're at the Con - if you're there to carouse all night, have at it. But if you're there to actually do panels and compete in gaming tournaments and explore the activities, you'll want to be fairly peppy.


And that's my wellness advice. I'm sure it all sounds highly exaggerated to first-timers. But the more you fortify yourself, the better a Con you'll have.

What to wear to Comic-Con

11 JULY 2017



                                     


This year I hardly know any first-timers personally. It seems that as scoring badges becomes a matter of working in tribes, first-timers are becoming more and more rare. But I do know one couple and they had what seemed to me an odd worry: wearing the wrong thing to San Diego Comic-Con.

Let's just get this out of the way. No one is going to mock your outfit at SDCC. It's not a cotillion, Comic-Con attracts a very independent-thinking crowd, and everyone is too intrigued by what's going on around them to even notice your wardrobe.

That said. If you're new and you're stressing over what to wear, I'd advise playing an Exhibit Hall video like the above so you can see what other attendees wear.

Nerdwear: If you travel in geeky circles, you may have been challenged to prove your knowledge about the gaming character or superhero on the shirt you're wearing. We've all run into alpha nerds who like to make people feel inadequate about the depth of their knowledge. But you don't have to worry about that at SDCC - most everyone is pretty chill and when someone spots a fellow member of their fandom, the reaction is usually just congratulatory. Wear whatever you want.


Cosplay: Even if you love your costume and the way you look in it, definitely bring alternate outfits just in case. You may get sick of being stopped to have your picture taken, or you might get hot and itchy. Or you could just sort of deteriorate and look less magnificent as the day goes on due to wig issues, broken weapons, etc. Experienced cosplayers know their limits, but newer ones tend to want to get back to street clothes faster than they think.



Formal wear: I used to shop for Comic-Con like it was a red carpet event, bringing an array of day and evening outfits, with different heels for each. Now I'm a lazy dresser because who cares? But if you lead the kind of fancy life where people might whisk you off to some kind of formal event, go for it. One note: if you typically rely on the Nordstrom at Horton Plaza for last-minute clothes and LBDs, be aware it closed last summer after the Con. I have no idea what's there now.

Shoes: Obviously bring something cushiony and comfortable. If you're really into flip-flops, be aware your toes may be stepped on when the Exhibit Hall gets crowded. If you don't have a pair of supportive shoes already, I would buy them now and wear them every day to break them in before next week. Otherwise you're just asking for blisters.

Weather: As someone who gets cold easily, I find San Diego nights chilly. I always bring a hoodie and an extra sweater. If you're planning on spending the night outside, I would advise bringing something warm to wear, in addition to whatever blanket or sleeping bag you've got. If you're going to camp through the day and night, the obvious answer is layers so you can disrobe or bundle up as needed.




Amount of clothes: Don't count on being able to do laundry. I know people who will bring two shirts and alternate, but you have to take into account how grimy Comic-Con can be. You're going to be brushing up against people, leaning against walls, sitting on grass, sitting in seats a sweaty person just sat in, hustling through the Gaslamp under a hot sun, and basically sullying yourself in incremental stages all day. I can't wait to shower the Con off me before dinner and there's no way in hell I would wear the same thing that night.  You may be less squeamish than I am, but you'll still want to make sure you have enough clothes.

Makeup and sunscreen: If heavy makeup is part of your cosplay - or you just typically wear a full face everywhere - be aware that the Exhibit Hall can get humid and that the hustle between rooms, or between the convention center and the Gaslamp, can leave your makeup in a smeary mess. That goes double if you're wearing a wig or any kind of headgear. What works in your air-conditioned office can be streaky and melted by 11 am at the Con. Try to account for that in advance with fixative sprays or bring a repair kit. And because it's easy to find yourself in line outside longer than you thought, be sure you have a good supply of sunscreen as well.

Backpacks and purses: No one wants to saddle themselves with some massive bag at Comic-Con, but it's hard to avoid. Not just the stuff you buy and carry around, but having a big enough backpack or purse  - because it's kind of essential. Your extra phone battery, your water bottle, your sketchbook, your program: the more stuff you can keep with you, the longer you can avoid going back to your room.


Basically, the goal at Comic-Con is to endure. We all tend to acquire a rumpled, tired look as the days go on and no one cares. You'll just want to be dressed so you can meet whatever daytime or nocturnal situation arises and do it comfortably.

Sunday programming

9 JULY 2017





It’s Sunday: kid’s day at Comic Con, the day of the best dealer’s floor deals, and the time to say goodbye. What do we have to console ourselves with?


Hollywood
 
Hall H is business as usual: Supernatural kicks off at 10:30; The Last Ship takes over at 11:45 and then there’s BBC Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency at 1 and finally Doctor Who at 2.

What a nice way to start the day: Carrie Fisher gets a special tribute at 10 in room 6DE.

Steven Universe shows new art and hosts a Q&A. 10 in room 29AB.

World premiere time: Marvel Animation's newest series, Marvel's Spider-Man ! room 6A at 10:15.

It’s a Scooby-Doo Blowout Beach Bash involving Ghost Pirates. 10:30 at 6BCF.

It’s a very Buffy year. If you didn’t get enough at the Buffy Fandom party the night before, you can talk slayers at noon in 7AB.

Another world premiere: LEGO DC Super Hero Girls: Brain Drain. 12:15 in 6BCF.

Firefly fans are meeting at 1 in the Marriott.

Stephen King’s bestselling novel Mrs. Mercedes is becoming a TV show, and you can meet the cast at 1:30 in room 8.

Starship Smackdown is back in the ultimate fan battle: 2:15 in room 6A.
More Buffy, this time with your favorite episode: end your Con on a high note in 3:15 in room 6BCF.





Kids

At the Cartooning Snack Shop, kids learn to draw cartoon characters using fruit as models. In room 11 at 10.

IDW Kids’ Panel is at 10 in room 23ABC.

 For all ages: Disney veterans show How to Make A Comic in room 2 at 10.

Creating Comics with Kids offers a hands-on workshops for your school-age youngsters. Room 11 at 11.

“Monsters, Mayhem, Magic, and Machines for the Next Generation” is at 11 in 28DE.

Find out how to use colored pencils in a hands-on event at 2 in room 28DE. All ages are welcome.

Comics

I actually forgot we were getting an Emily the Strange film. Creators talk about the film and the comic in room 32AB at 10.

The Lumberjanes panel is at 10 in room 25ABC.

We have another Jack Kirby panel at 10 in room 5AB.

“Comics Beyond the Wall”  feature Eisner Award winners Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon on “how everything can be mixed together to end up with something unique and outstanding.” Room 29AB at 11.

Marvel ResurrXion talks X-Men at 11:15 in 5AB.

Show off your Korra knowledge in a panel and trivia game at noon in room 24ABC.

There’s a CBLDF Live Art Jam at 12:15 in 5AB.

Find out “what it's like working as a woman in comics today and what it means for the future of the industry” by talking to Marvel women at 12:30 in 6DE.

What’s going on with comics in Latin America? Find out in “Chicano Comics” at 1 in 25ABC.

YA authors tell “What’s Hot in Young Adult Fiction!” 1:00 in room 29AB.

Get a look at upcoming Image Comics projects at 1:45 in room 5AB.

ComiXology peddles their Unlimited subscription service in “So You Want to Start Reading 
Comics?” while writers tell you where to get started. 2:00 in room 29AB.

Some comics promote global awareness and support for the UN's sustainable development goals. Join the cause in “United Nations + Comics = Saving the World” at 2:30 in 23ABC.

“Women Creators Breaking Stereotypes” talks about “creating female heroes, what they think about when creating a female lead or collaborating on female superheroes, and what they foresee happening to female stereotypes in the future.” 3:00 in room 32AB.



  
Nerd Culture

The Christian Comic Arts Society is meeting at 10 in 28DE.

Duff Goldman from Food Network talks about: the explosion in popularity of nerd-themed cakes and weddings, how Instagram changed the way we view food.” Marriott at 11.

We talk about diversity, but has there been an impact on comics creatively? Economically? Find out in “A Conversation about Inclusivity and Diversity” at 11:30 in room 8.

“Mental Health and Comics” talks about reversing the stigma of mental illness in room 2 at 11:30.

“Bizarre States” explores “the weird, wacky, and wonderful world of the paranormal, true crime, occult, and just plain odd.”  Yep, that’s a Sunday panel. 1:00 in 6A. 

How do you raise heroic girls? A panel of experts will decide. In the Marriott at 2.

Super Asian America will talk whitewashing, the success of Asian leads and other relevant topics. 3:00 in 29AB.






Creative

“How to Create Your Own Novel” features the Winner Twins in Room 8 at 10:30.

“Capturing Teen Angst” features Mark Waid, Erica Henderson and other adolescent experts at 11 in room 25ABC.

The “triumphs, sorrows, tricks, and craft of illustrating comics.”  At 11 in room 24ABC.

Fanfic writers can discuss its “healing, restorative qualities for readers, writers, and fans.” Noon at the Marriott.

If you dream of writing fantasy novels that one day show up at a multiplex, visit room 8 at 12:30.

“Full-Time Creative Work on a Part-Time Schedule” is at 4 in room 24ABC. 1 attendee will win a year’s subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

Moving Beyond the Strong Female Character: how to get “Well-written, fully-developed women in their media.” 4:00 in 32AB.

Polish your pitching and self-promotion skills at 12:30 in room 2.

How did DC writers and artists break into comics? Find out in room 6DE at 1:45.


Science

“Science Fiction, Science Future” features the Fleet Science Center, Andy Weir and other sci fi writers to talk about the future. Room 6DE at 11:15.

You can find out how to build your own droid at noon in room 11. This panel claims it will be “fully functional.”

Pessimists and dystopia fans, go to room 25ABC at noon to discuss how “The Future is Bleak”.

“No Tow Trucks Beyond Mars” has NASA brainiacs sharing “adventures of real-life solar system exploration.” 2:00 in room 32AB.


CCI

Here’s your chance to dialogue with CCI on a very primal level and share all those bloodthirsty thoughts you had during the hotel sale. “Comic-Con Talk Back” gifts you CCI president John Rogers, who wants to hear your most honest and brutal thoughts. 3:30 in 23ABC.


And that's it! We're released back into our regular lives and worrying about Returning Registration.

So what do you think of the panels overall?  I'll share my thoughts tomorrow.