If there's one theme you hear in connection with Comic-Con a lot, it's friends. I'm as guilty of this as anyone else; I'm always telling people to make friends online or go to certain panels to meet people or make plans to see their friends. But the reality is - and people don't talk about this much - is that a lot of attendees go to San Diego Comic-Con alone.
It's not that surprising. Obviously some of us really embody the shy introverted nerd stereotype and don't have many friends to begin with. Some of us start out with Con friends but then they have kids or mortgages or just lose interest and suddenly we're the 35-year-old whose friends think Comic-Con is childish. Or sometimes we're all set to embark on an SDCC adventure with a boyfriend or girlfriend and then ouch, we break up and now it's too late to get someone else a badge. There are a lot of reasons people wind up there alone.
If this is you - or you're technically going with someone but know you'll do everything separately - I have a few tips for you.
It's fine to be alone, but Con life is much easier with teammates.
I'm talking about line shifts, having someone pick up an exclusive while you're watching Preview Night pilots, bringing you food or holding your seat. Attendees are generally pretty nice people who will honor your place in line while you hit the restroom but overall, it really helps to join forces with someone. On that note...
Even if you don't want to bring someone, consider being part of a Comic-Con group.
If you hang out online in various nerdy/Con spaces, you eventually drift into these digital tribes where everyone supports each other in badge sales, hotel sales and even panel/offsite access. Consider making this effort even if you're very shy in real life. You don't have to become boon companions once you're at the Con but a little support is nice. It might seem odd to you to become line partners with someone online but these arrangements tend to work out pretty well once you get there. Give it a shot.
Talk to people once you're there.
Look, I hate small talk. I am not chatty with strangers by any means. But there is something about SDCC where everyone somehow easily converses with everyone else. There's always something to talk about - the jerk who tried to cut in line, a celebrity bar story, some kind of badge or wristband fraud, a fistfight in an exclusives line - and people are generally chill and open with each other. You don't have to be pushy, but just participating in these conversations (and they will inevitably spring up around you) can help you make worthwhile and even lasting connections. Remember - you are around people who share your interests. This isn't like being forced to talk to your bigoted neighbors or your coworkers who think having a comic book collection is sad.
Look for fandom meetups, happy hours and dinners.
You don't need to feel awkward walking in (though you probably will) because most everyone else there is a stranger too. Yes, this includes people who "know" each other online. Meeting your favorite forum or Twitter friends in real life can feel even weirder than meeting a regular stranger. No one's what you expect! So just roll with it, introduce yourself and see what happens. You will usually click with at least one person (if not several) in the group. And don't worry about the "odd one" - it's Comic-Con. Most of us are a little odd. Your social awkwardness is completely fine here.
If you're looking for company, say so.
I can think of at least a dozen times when I've been talking to someone who openly says, "I'm here by myself. Can I hang out with you guys?" There's always this adoptive spirit at Comic-Con where people enjoy adding strangers to their wolf packs. So if you're on your own and want some company, just say it. SDCC attendees are generous that way. It's not a snobby crowd by any means.
And if you're extra alone - alone in your hotel room at night while you listen to the city revels outside - do not make the mistake of thinking you're the only one. Lots of attendees are in your shoes. You have the power to make your Con as social as you want it. It just takes a tiny bit of effort.