3 tips for Comic-Con first-timers

29 JUNE 2017

We're just days from July; the official panel schedule is right around the corner. With that in mind, I want to stress 3 dynamics to be aware of now in your Comic-Con journey, especially if this will be your first time.

You need to start paying attention now to really be prepared.

Every year I hear from people who complain that no one told them to wear comfortable shoes or line up in advance or where to eat. And it's so frustrating because there are approximately 463 Comic-Con blogs that cover all of that practical stuff - in repetitive, grinding detail.

The fact is, if you start your SDCC research a few days before the Con, you're going to miss a lot of announcements - bands playing, exclusive pre-sales, tickets for limited events and such. You also will miss out on the tips that can take your Comic-Con to a higher level. There's just too much information needed to rely on a single "Surviving SDCC" article. And you'll need to dig into your specific fandom or interest if you want to find out where your tribe is holding a meetup or special event.

I'm not saying SDCC has to become your life mission for the next month.  But if you're a first-timer, I'd recommend making a dedicated area of SDCC resources and going through it daily. I'd also start documenting your agenda now, if you haven't already. So many announcements will flow through your brain that you'll forget even things that seem like a priority. Start some kind of system so nothing falls through the cracks and then convert it into a kind of daily dashboard for the Con so you hit the right panels, events and booths and activations. Because once you arrive, the overarching grandeur can easily daze you into a passive spectator.

Sorry to make SDCC into a homework assignment. But the more you prepare, the better time you'll have.

Don't put too much stock in your connections.

People get huffy when I say this, but here it is. I never used to see this when I was a young Comic-Con scrapper, but in recent years I've been seeing more and more attendees who tell me they have inside connections. They "know someone" who can elevate them above the masses. Someone who works for Dark Horse, someone who's a famous game designer, someone with a cousin who's an HBO executive. And they often believe these valuable connections can get them into any panel or party they want.

Maybe that'll happen, maybe not. But know that Comic-Con access is tricky even for "connected" people. And the more powerful a connection is, the more people they have - just like you - asking them for favors. Not to be sour, but it's something to keep in mind. You don't want to 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.

Focus on making friends, not what people can do for you.

I always say Comic-Con people are the best. Generous, helpful and interesting to talk to; even misanthropic introverts usually pick up a new pal or two at SDCC. And most attendees are always sharing their wealth - Conan tickets, picking up an exclusive for someone else, trading a Hall H wristband. However, the last 2 years I've noticed an increase in entitled attendees who seem to view people solely as favor machines. They don't want to get to know anyone, they don't want to offer anything in return or even do the basic work of participating in a buying group; they just want someone else to hand it all to them.

It can be little things, like when my friend gave away some very popular tickets on Twitter last year - and almost everyone who got them expected him to walk around the Gaslamp hand-delivering them, instead of them coming to him at the Omni to get them. Or the strangers who email me about 4 times a year, requesting I get them a badge, a hotel room, a parking lot or a ticket to a certain party. That just isn't how life works, and it's certainly not how Comic-Con works. Everyone's busy and there's competition for everything. Build a network, be appreciative of what people have to offer and do your part in contributing. You'll be much likelier to tap into the community treasure chest. You'll also meet some great people.

Okay, I'm off my soapbox. If you're a first-timer, you might think this sounds like a lot of work for a five-day event. But you are lucky enough to have a badge to one of the most popular events in the world - so you may as well make the most of it.


  1. Montel aka RogueCatnipJune 29, 2017 at 10:23 PM

    Bravo!! I couldn't have said it better myself...ive met some amazing con buddies in the past years and it's about the new meetings and not the flash in the pan exclusive or Conan tickets or John Williams concert passes...thank you for getting on ur proverbial soapbox!! (Round of applause)

    1. Exactly. SDCC (or other Cons) are an amazing opportunity to meet people who share your interests. It makes it much more rewarding to get to know people and share adventures together.

  2. I try to read what I can but it all seems to be action figures and drawings.maybe I'm missing something? And we don't know anyone else who is going so it's hard to get in these little social circles where everyone knows each other.just my take.we would like to know more people but how?

    1. There is a heavy emphasis on exclusives right now - you're correct. But you'll also hear about special screenings, parties and other things as time goes on. As for meeting people, it can seem cliquey from a distance, but it's really just a matter of joining the conversation. Participate on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the Friends of Comic-Con forum and other sites and you'll get to know people. At the Con, just talk to the people around you. It happens naturally.

    2. I'm going to do a post as we get closer on meeting people at Comic-Con when you don't know anyone.

  3. As always great advise, for new and old con goers. I especially like it when you are on your soapbox :) I always love making new friends while you are in line. We are all in line for the same reason for the next 4-8 hours (if not longer) so why not make new friends with your line buddies. If you are lucky your line buddies become buddies outside of con too.

    1. Line friends are the best! It definitely makes the Con more fun and you tend to discover new things too. Sometimes it leads to hanging out and sometimes not, but over time your Con world gets bigger and bigger.