1 MAY 2016
San Diego Comic-Con season has officially kicked off and we can all expect to see announcements picking up steam. With that in mind, I want to stress 2 dynamics to be aware of now in your Comic-Con journey, especially if this will be your first time.
You need to start reading the SDCC blogs now to really get a full picture of the experience you'll have in July.
This winter I was criticized by a first-timer who let me know I hadn't prepared his group at all for things like the importance of wearing comfortable shoes or where to eat, etc. "At least now I know but it would have been nice to have that information in advance," he said loftily. And I kind of wanted to throw my drink in his face because guess what? I did cover all of that practical stuff, and so do most other Comic-Con bloggers.
The fact is, if you start Googling around a week before SDCC for advice, you'll probably pick up a few solid tips - but understanding all the ins and outs requires immersing yourself in the community for months beforehand. There's just too much information needed to rely on a single blog post. And most overarching articles won't narrow in on your specific fandom or interest, which certain blogs or forums will indeed touch on - right down to that very specific tip that's going to get you the autograph or back issue of your dreams.
I know you're all busy. I'm not saying SDCC has to become the core of your soul for the next 5 months. But if you're a first-timer, I'd recommend making a dedicated area of SDCC resources and including it in your daily digital routine. Also recommended: start a compilation of things to remember.
Let's say a cool exclusive gets announced this week. You're so dazzled you're sure you'll remember it by late July - but by then dozens of other announcements will have flowed through your brain, sweeping the memory of that exclusive out to sea. Then there's the reality that information often comes out piecemeal - you don't find out the booth # of that exclusive for another 5 weeks, or you hear about a party in early June but tickets don't go on sale till July.
Start some kind of system so nothing falls through the cracks. When SDCC rolls around, you'll be able to convert it into a kind of daily dashboard so you hit the right panels, events and booths and activations. Because - and you'll hear me say this a lot over the coming months - once you arrive at Comic-Con, the overarching grandeur will likely overwhelm you somewhat and daze you into a passive spectator. It's really easy to just drift through the crowd and feel too confused to navigate your way to room 6BCF or figure out where and when your favorite artist is signing.
I'm sorry to turn SDCC into a homework assignment. But if you don't prepare, you'll fail the final exam that is attendance. Get organized and educated now. It really isn't that laborious, and it'll save you from becoming one of those attendees who mopes through August because they could have bought their dream figure, met their favorite actor or gone to a killer party, but just didn't find out about it in time.
Don't put too much stock in your "connections."
This year I haven't unearthed too many first-timers in my physical circles, but I am in touch with quite a few by email. And I find this so interesting: many of them claim to have an inside connection who's going to elevate them above the masses.
This never used to happen. Attendees were just average Joes and Jills. Now so many people I talk to "know someone." They know a vendor, a Marvel editor, a famous writer, a senior executive. And they assure me these valuable connections are going to get them access wherever they want to go.
Maybe that'll happen, maybe not, but I will say that:
1) I've seen these connections fail people repeatedly in the badge and hotel sales.
2) The more powerful a connection is, the more people they have - just like you - asking them for favors. Simply knowing someone really isn't enough to incur their deep loyalty and have them choose you over the dozens of other people begging them for the same thing. I mean, that could happen but be aware that you have competition.
3) Quid pro quo is a beautiful thing. Sometimes favors are done out of the pure goodness of someone's heart, but it's always nice to offer to return that generosity. It's amazing how many people will pester someone repeatedly for favors - can you get me into that party? can you introduce me to Celebrity A? what about now? what about now? what about now? - and drop them otherwise. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with asking but at least be gracious about it. And if someone does get you behind the red velvet rope, say thank you. This is basic etiquette but I see egregious violations of it every year. If this post wasn't so long, I'd share an outrageous story I heard this week from a comics executive who got someone a badge, only to be screwed over. Why do people do this? I don't know, but don't be one of them.
4) Don't build your Con around a "maybe." Build a great Comic-Con agenda that's going to be beautiful whether or not your connection comes through for you.
All of which boils down to, start doing your homework now and be a good member of the community. You might think this sounds like a lot of work for a five-day event, but Comic-Con isn't just an isolated event - it can enrich your life on an ongoing basis. And the people you meet can become real friends. Maybe you don't care about that, but you do want to get the most out of your badge. Start your education now.