19 JULY 2022
How many first-timers are going to San Diego Comic-Con this week? I suppose the Open Reg badge sale that took place in 2019 scooped up the same number of first-timers as is typical, but somehow it's difficult to imagine that someone finally gets a badge to SDCC and then has to wait 2 1/2 years to go. But those people must exist, right? - and this is for them. Or you, rather.
First of all, if you're new, you may have been told that "this year isn't going to be a full SDCC" or something similar. Don't listen to that. It's going to be a great year and you will have a great time. That said, here are a few things to know.
If you arrive early enough that the your sky-high hotel is still fairly empty, ask for a room on a lower floor - you won't want long elevator waits or rides, and being able to take the stairs can be a blessing. Never mind the view. Also don't be afraid to inquire about upgrading your room. I've known people who went from a single bed to two beds, for instance, just by checking in on Tuesday and asking.
Power and Connectivity
Don't count on being able to charge at the convention center. (Your best chance of finding a free outlet in upstairs in the room 27 area - but not guaranteed because a lot of people sprawl around up there to hide from the chaos.) Bring power packs or extra batteries. If you're absolutely out of luck, head over to the Marriott next door and look for an outlet in the corridor with the Starbucks and couches.
Bag check and Shipping
There are different ways of managing all the loot you'll accumulate. In the convention center, take advantage of Bag Check so you can roam free and unencumbered. Just pick up your items by closing. You can also ship things home at any of the local hotel FedEx/UPS offices - so don't worry about buying too much for the plane trip home.
Walking and Riding
You'll have your choice of Lyft, Uber, cabs, pedicabs, buses and trolleys. You can also take the ferry to Coronado to get in some beach time. My advice is take transport whenever you can instead of trying to walk - because you want to save your foot power for getting around the convention center and Gaslamp. Also realize that the ferry isn't 24/7.
There's a firm law of Comic-Con that you will only run into the celebrities other people care about while they will run into your favorites. It's just how it is (with some exceptions.) The most likely places to see them: the lobby and halls of the Hard Rock, in hotel elevators, and in the Gaslamp very late at night. It should go without saying to be polite, non-creepy, and respect their wishes if they shun you.
Parties and Events
If you registered for a party online, have a "confirmation email," yet find yourself in a long line that hasn't moved in an hour - move on. It's a deplorable practice but some event organizers let literally everyone sign up while only letting VIPs in. Don't waste your night.
And on that note - if you really want to attend a certain event, show up on time. This isn't like a bar where you want to sashay in at a glamorously late hour. There's always the risk you may get edged out.
You will see many cosplayers, some quite comely. Obviously you know better than to grope, harass, or whisper something creepy as they're smiling for the photo (right?) but what you might not be as conscious of is making physical contact. Cosplayers pose with a lot of people and it can get kind of gross for them to have sweaty stranger after stranger pressing up against them. Try to honor their personal space.
The Gaslamp isn't the be all and end all of Comic-Con dining. Skip the lines and head for the Headquarters on the other side of the Hyatt, with restaurants that can usually seat people relatively quickly, or go to Little Italy or even Coronado Island.
Bring cash. Lots of it.
Be cynical. The floor is not (in most cases) where you're going to find an amazing deal, unless it's Sunday, when vendors want to unload as much product as possible. You can often find the same stuff for a lower price online. Check your phone and see if that book is really "out of print" or if that toy is selling by the dozen on Ebay. What the floor can be good for is locating a long-lost back issue or rare artifact from your childhood, or discovering brand-new work.
Barter strategically. This is something you get a feel for over time. It's fine to
ask about volume discounts (and if you pretend to hesitate between buying 2 or more items,
often the vendor will propose one). You'll see
lots of markdowns on Sunday, but go ahead and ask about getting a deal if you don't see
anything advertised. Just be polite about it.
Also be gracious when someone steps on your feet, knocks your head with their cosplay, or swings their enormous bag into your ribs. It's just what happens in such a crowded space. You'll probably accidentally do the same to someone else.
If you find the item of your dreams but can't buy it at that moment, photograph the booth with number visible so you can remember where it was.
Don't clog up the aisles with long photograph sessions or multi-person conferences - take it out to the lobby or the back terraces. On that note, it's almost always faster to go out to the lobby and walk down to the part of the floor you're trying to reach, rather than move through a torpid floor crowd.
Before you grab what looks like a free postcard or sticker off a table, ask if they're for sale. Some vendors make their income off those.
This year we have lounges on the floor - how crowded will they get? I don't know if they'll be like the husband chairs at the mall, where middle-aged men look disgruntled while their wives shop, or if they'll be hives of activity. Either way, it's probably best not to monopolize them for too long.
As I alluded to in my post about going to SDCC alone, you're going to make friends. They may be 2-hour friends that you talk to in line or turn into friendships that span years. Panels, MTG tournaments, cosplay photo shoots, offsites and parties tend to encourage friendly conversation. Now - hooking up is a different story. There's a common perception that SDCC is a big nerd sexfest but I haven't found that to be true. Obviously people do get together, but not as much as your partner back home worries. In general, whether you're looking to make friends, expand your SDCC circle, or meet your soulmate, my advice is the same - talk to people.
No mattter how well you've planned and prepped, you'll still want to check online
coverage for events and collectibles and surprise
guests you'd otherwise miss. If you're stalking a certain actor, TV show, or fandom, glue yourself to the right Twitter accounts. You may get lucky and
hear about a surprise party or meet and greet.
If you get up to the microphone at a panel, be succinct. Fans can get lost in the moment and keep talking and talking.
Don't hold your iPad or camera above your head for a
prolonged period, blocking the view of the person behind you.
Don't try to save an entire row of seats for your friends.
Usually people are understanding about 1 or 2 seats with your bag/jacket on
Most rooms will give out bathroom passes. If you don't want
to negotiate that in the dark, locate the bathroom pass person before the
lights go out. Note where people come in and go out because it's often on
opposite sides of the room.
Security guards and volunteers
You'll see a lot of people in uniforms walking around. Let's clarify:
volunteers are usually trained for one specific task (though they often know
more than that based on their attendee experience) and convention center staffers
can tell you how to get where usually, but don't know programming specifics.
Your best source of information is other attendees. We have encyclopedic knowledge of
Comic-Con - not every aspect, but our own areas - and we share it generously.
If you have a question, you can always ask someone wearing a badge.
Security guards have a variety of attitudes and need to be handled strategically. Some are quite nice. Some are probably nice 99% of the time, but are currently frustrated by their Con interactions and are about to snap. Others are on a major power trip. All you need to know is this: you will not win a confrontation with an SDCC security guard. If one is rude or controlling with you in a way you think is unfair, don't engage - just walk away and find another way to get what you want.
Specifically - manage them. The Con will disappoint you in some ways. You will almost definitely fail to get something you really wanted. However, Comic-Con also has the capacity to surprise and captivate you. You're on an adventure - expect the unexpected, summon your inner Zen master, and make the most of what happens. There are some panels I really want to attend this year that I won't be able to make. I also got picked for a Funko exclusives session right during the Sandman panel. That's SDCC in a nutshell. Master the art of letting go, and be flexible enough to enjoy wherever you find yourself.
Good luck. You're going to have an incredible adventure.