San Diego Comic-Con FAQ





How do I get a badge?


Let's start with the #1 question of excited nerds all over the world.

There seems to be a general mystery among the uninitiated as to how one "gets" to go to Comic Con. It's pretty simple, actually. You sign up for a Member ID on CCI's site. Then CCI (Comic Con International) hosts an online Pre-registration Day (usually for people who attended last summer) and then an Open Registration Day for anyone with a Member ID. Glitches, heartbreak and sudden good fortune all prevail for different people in unpredictable ways.


The system has been "randomized," i.e., a lottery, for the last few sales. That's because there are far more would-be attendees than badges, and the Con sells out as fast as the badges can be purchased. If you don't manage to register then, you used to be able to wait for summer when CCI would sell off all badges turned in for refunds - but there's been no resale the last 2 years and no guarantee it will be held again.

If you're wondering what the grand total of Member IDs is - i.e., how many people are actively seeking a badge each year - I don't know. Nor do I see CCI revealing that number anytime soon. I used to consistently hear from people who didn't get a badge compared to people who did in a 3:1 ratio. Then it seemed to go to 7:1 and now it seems to be about 10:1 or 12:1.

Children twelve and under are free and can be registered at the door.



What kind of badges are there?

You can buy single day badges for Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; you can also buy Preview Night (Wednesday) but only if you purchase all four days. 

Preview Night is intensely popular because it's a somewhat smaller crowd milling through the Exhibit Hall, and it offers access to the booths at their freshest and fullest. If you want to get your hands on an exclusive or just pillage the Exhibit Hall in its most abundant state, this is your night. And while it's much more crowded than it used to be, this night is also more navigable for people with mobility issues. Finally, Preview Night also shows four pilots of upcoming fall TV shows in Ballroom 20.

The programming for the remaining four days is subject to change, but a few trends prevail. Game of Thrones and Walking Dead have been on Friday the last few years. 
Supernatural is usually on Sunday. You can look at last year's programming for a better idea. Sunday is Kids' Day; Friday usually features a full day of animation from Adult Swim, FX and Cartoon Network in the Indigo Ballroom. Creative workshops are liberally sprinkled through all four days.

When buying your badge, consider the line factor. You'll need to stand in line to pick up your badge AND to get into big panels, and unless you have a pre-badged friend holding your spot in the Hall H line, you can't do both at once. So if you really want to see Saturday's Ballroom 20 panels, buy Friday as well. 


How do I volunteer?

Anyone with a Member ID who's 16 or older can volunteer at San Diego Comic-Co. You don't need any kind of training or know-how, and you'll get into the Con for free the day of your assignment. That said, volunteering is almost as competitive as applying for a badge. If you volunteered last summer, you're in the "priority pool" for online volunteer registration and will get a special email telling you when returning volunteer registration opens. If you're one of the thousands who signed up to be on the "Interest List," you'll get an email about applying to register for volunteer duty later. And if you haven't done that yet, you can join the Interest List through your Member ID account.


I didn't get a badge - now what?


I'm genuinely sorry, and I don't mean the following to sound dismissive. But my overarching advice is to look beyond San Diego Comic-Con. Take a look at other Cons, like Salt Lake Comic Con, Emerald City, Phoenix Comicon, Dragon*Con or New York. Obviously SDCC has something special or it wouldn't be so wildly popular, but it's not the only show in town. Much of its perceived superiority is hype and bombast, and lots of people come away thinking "that's it?"Smaller cons may not have as loud and glitzy an Exhibit Hall, but they can be a lot more fun and a lot less aggravating.

That said, I know you're still aching to go so go ahead and enter all the contests and beg any retailers and industry pros you know for their extra badges. Trying to buy a badge on Ebay or Craigslist is not advisable; see below for reasons why.


Can I buy a badge on Craigslist?

No. Here's how Comic-Con badges work; you show your photo ID and barcode confirmation to pick it up. Theoretically someone could direct their scammer energies into the hell of registration and waiting hours in line to collect the badge - all to meet their buyer outside for a markup of a hundred bucks, if that. But it's far easier for people to doctor up convincing badge fascimiles and sell those. They do look realistic - they just don't pass the sniff test at the doors of the convention center. Furthermore, CCI now has an active task force monitoring Ebay, Craigslist and online resale sites for any resellers; and even if the badges are legit, CCI will deactivate them if they can.
Sometimes the retail and industry people I mentioned above get extra unassigned badges which they will sell off on Craigslist. I have known people who've gotten badges this way, but I've known more who've gotten burned. Another option, if you have friends going to the Con; tag along, then swap one badge back and forth. It just means that you and your friend have to be willing to sit out parts of the Con. And finally, some people will sell off their badges on Sunday. Yes, CCI security guards do random checkpoints, where they ask for a photo ID and match it to your badge. But it obviously doesn't happen that often in a crowd of 130,000 or it would cause massive bottlenecks. 

Caveat emptor for all of this.





What are the best hotels?

CCI offers hotel rooms at special rates, which you can book on their site via an intermediary called Travel Planners. Hotel Day is generally held in February or March. If you've gone this route before, you already know the hell that is this experience. It is epic. And no matter how you try to game the system, it changes each year. Booking a backup room is smart, but CCI has most rooms blocked off and most of the hotels are now requiring non-refundable deposits for the remaining rooms.

It all boils down to your priorities. If saving money is your priority, pick a cheap hotel farther out like on Hotel Circle. But be mindful that staying farther out stops being cheap if you start spending money on cabs, rather than waiting for the Con shuttle.

If you want to be in walking distance, try for the Marriott Marquis, Hilton Bayfront and Hilton Gaslamp, Manchester Hyatt, Hard Rock, Solamar and Omni. However, the other Gaslamp hotels can make even more sense and involve less walking. You can take a shuttle to and from the Con, then do hardly any walking at all for your Gaslamp dinners and bar-crawling. If you're staying at the Marriott, you might not walk far to the Con but you will walk to and from the Gaslamp. (Yes, you could take a hotel shuttle there but people rarely do.) So consider including the Embassy Suites, Marriott Gaslamp or Westin Gaslamp as one of your choices on Hotel Day.


If you're embedding other vacation activities into the Con, or bringing non-geek family members, take that into account as well. Stay on Coronado Island so they can go to the beach, or stay closer to Sea World and Balboa Park. Also - while staying far away from the Con does have its drawbacks, it can be an unexpected relief to leave it behind every night. The Con is a psychically draining experience and full immersion can lead to overload.

If you don't land your dream hotel, keep checking the site. Consider whether you'd be willing to change hotels mid-Con. People do cancel and rooms do open up, especially for Saturday nights. Also remember that some local residents rent out their condos for that week, put attendees up in spare rooms, and there are hostels as well. Airbnb was a lifesaver for many attendees last year.


Finally, if you're picking hotels based on where you're likely to share an elevator with celebrities or see Marvel editors in the bars, don't bother. Also - don't be a princess about which hotel has the coolest bar or nicest sauna. You won't be spending much time at the hotel other than sleeping. 


What are the best restaurants?

First, if you plan on eating out, know that advance planning is your friend. There’s nothing quite as demoralizing as sitting for two hours on a dirty curb, exhausted and hungry, while waiting for a hostess to call your name. The Gaslamp is packed during Comic-Con and the more popular restaurants have long waits.


One solution: eat at better restaurants. The higher up the scale you go, the more Con attendees avoid it. Places I rarely have to wait include Seasons 52 at the Headquarters (other side of Hyatt), McCormick and Schmick's in the Omni, Blue Coastal Point, De'Medici. The Marriott, Hilton Bayfront and Omni all have relatively quick, accessible restaurants, including Grab and Go options and special Con menus. And Seaport Village and Little Italy aren't always as crowded as you might think.

Consider getting out of downtown. Go down to the beach and get a cheap, tasty dinner of shrimp tacos or take the ferry to Coronado Island and eat over there.

If you want to save money, hit the food court at Horton Plaza, the food trucks by Petco Park, Chipotle on Broadway or get slices at Gaslamp Pizza. The 24-hour Subway on K Street can be a godsend in terms of getting a gigantic sub to eat throughout the day.


Realize that you may not always have to freedom to eat when you want, if you're in a long line. For this reason it's good to bring an apple or granola bar into the Con to save you a long trudge over to the Gaslamp for lunch. Having your own yogurt, fruit or muffins for breakfast will save time and money, too. Ralph's is a local grocery store at 101 G Street that will help with all of this.


If you do want to eat at a restaurant without crossing into the Gaslamp, you have several options close to the convention center. The Marriott, Hilton Bayfront and the Hyatt all have decent restaurants that can seat you pretty quickly; on the other side of the Hyatt is an area called the Headquarters that has a Cheesecake Factory, Seasons 52, a huge Starbucks, a seafood place, a Mexican restaurant and a pizzeria.

Order in. On extra-exhausted nights, there's nothing like having pizza delivered to your hotel room and eating it in bed.

If you can't eat until late, La Puerta serves until 1 a.m. and the SyFy Cafe (Hard Rock Hotel) is usually open past midnight.

Finally, places everyone will tell you to go, but that just means they're jam-packed and mediocre: Dick's Last Resort and Rockin' Baja Cantina.


What should I do to get ready for the Con?

First, figure out your priorities.  Do you want to run around all night or get up at 4 a.m. to get in line for a panel? Do you want that gizmo so badly that you must buy it right now or are you willing to risk losing it and see if the price drops by Sunday? Would you rather wait in line for a sketch or see Neil Gaiman speak? The Con has so much going on at every hour that it's like one endlessly recurring Sophie's Choice. 

You will be overwhelmed, mind blown, upon arrival so use the CCI tool or list the booths and panels you want to see on your phone. The CCI site lists the programming about two weeks in advance, along with an Exhibit Hall map.  

Factor badge pick-up into your plans. Badges are not mailed out in advance, so you have over a hundred thousand people to be processed. One summer, the crush of people attempting to pick up their badges at the Town and Country hotel on Wednesday night was so bad that it caused traffic jams on two highways.


Organize your comic collection ahead of time so you know what back issues you need, what trades you’ve loaned out and never gotten back. Add these to your list along with the publishers. You'll be able to find them faster.

Contact your long-distance friends now and make solid plans to hang out. The chaos that is Comic-Con tends to tear vague plans asunder.

If you're there in any kind of professional or networking capacity, get your business cards, samples, product and media kits ready. Make a list of everyone you hope to connect with and their booth and panel information, if you have it. If you're involved in a peripheral industry - say, you know a lot of your colleagues will be attending the Con, even if they're not featured in it - consider putting together a happy hour or dinner for everyone to meet each other and network.

If you're out of shape or unused to walking long distances, get ready. You don't have to be super buff, but you should be able to walk a few miles and tolerate being on your feet for long periods. If you can't do that, you will suffer, severely limit your options or both. The Con is way bigger and the lines way longer than most people realize the first time they go. 



What should I bring?

A list of everything you want to hunt down.
Anything you want signed.
Anything you want to trade or sell.
A good, hardcover sketchbook.
Comfortable shoes, bandaids, aspirin, condoms, moleskin for your feet, immunity boosters.
A bathing suit for the pool and the beach.
Snacks, fruit, drinks and a cooler.
Sunscreen for the Hall H line.
Business cards, your portfolio, promotional materials, lists of everyone you'd like to meet.
Any maintenance materials for your costume.
Cash, since many vendors won't take plastic and the ATM lines are ungodly.
Your passport if you want to visit Tijuana while you're there.

What not to bring: anything that isn't strictly necessary, since you will be acquiring gobs of stuff while you're there.




Do I need to wear a costume?

No. While there are many cosplayers at the Con, the vast majority of attendees wear street clothes. The idea that you have to wear a costume springs from all the media coverage that focuses on cosplayers. 

 
Can I camp out in line for Hall H?

Unofficially, yes. Officially, CCI sends out timid emails every year that make noise about it being"discouraged" while at the same time offering rules they want you to follow. Those being: no tents (they're trying to banish the unsightly shanty town that tends to spring up on the grass) and using only a blanket and chair. Convention center restrooms in Lobby G are available overnight. 


It's worth remembering that in 2012,
a Twilight fan was killed when she left the Hall H line to go get food, then saw the line was moving and ran through traffic to reclaim her spot. So it's understandable why CCI wants us all to calm down.



What is The Masquerade and how do I participate in it?

Despite what you might think/hope, The Masquerade isn't a decadent Edgar Allan Poe-esque ball of masked strangers. It's actually an annual Saturday night talent competition for cosplay. Or as CCI poetically describes it: "a show full of spectacle, beauty, awe, comedy, light-saber battles, and song and dance, an event where you never know what’s going to happen next." 

Individuals and groups dress up as characters from film, TV, comic books or something wholly original. No purchased or professionally-sourced costumes are allowed. Category winners get free badges to the following summer's Comic-Con; outside vendors award cash, collectibles and other prizes. If you're thinking of tossing your hat in the ring, know that these cosplayers bring an obsessive level of talent, passion and craftsmanship to their performance. Each year, some of the winners go on to professional careers in costume design and makeup.

To participate, you submit an entry form, which CCI has on their site every spring. To attend, you'll need to either get in line early to get a ticket that gets you into Ballroom 20; or you can watch on the giant screens in the Sails Pavilion and other ballrooms. It's free for all, but you do need a Saturday badge.

How do I meet celebrities?


On purpose? Be well-connected or be very lucky. Get in line for their autographs. By and large, most Con attendees never get near celebrities other than sharing the same air in Hall H, which is about as intimate as sharing an airplane hangar with someone. Nerd HQ can up your chances slightly of interacting with the beautiful and famous, but it depends on who's there.

How do I get into private parties?


Know the right people. Be cute and charismatic. If you mean the big glamorous Hollywood parties, see my answer above. And just so you know, the celebrities who make an appearance do not mingle, if that's your motivation for wanting to go. But even if you're looking for the industry parties where all the DC editors hang out, or the private hotel parties that all the cool geeks are throwing - it's about knowing the right people. 

Be aware that most industry people work at the Con and are usually too tired to be out drinking till dawn.The general impression that everyone but you is out at a Roman orgy getting down in superhero masks just isn't true. In general, there don't seem to be as many private parties as there used to be. Probably that's because getting a badge is more unpredictable and it's harder for large groups of friends to all attend, and more likely for a bunch of disconnected strangers to be there. Back when SDCC had more indie artists and writers, it was easy to find out where various live art shows and bands were going to be that night; that network is more private now.

Ultimately the best way to find out what's going on at night is to just be friendly. Talk to the people ahead and behind you in line. Ask boldly if anyone knows how you can get into the E! party. Sometimes you'll make a connection, sometimes you won't. 


When should I get in line?

If you've never been to Comic Con before, or haven't attended these last few years, it's impossible to convey how bad some lines are. Some involve an overnight wait. Some just involve a 2-3 hour wait. And some panels are walk-in. My advice:

There are often multiple lines in the same vicinity - so when you join yours, ask the person ahead of you what line it is. I've seen people waste over an hour in the wrong line. 

CCI has gotten better about estimating line volume and helping attendees understand whether it's worth waiting or not. It used to be that volunteers would have no idea when a room reached capacity, which means that people could sometimes wait overnight and STILL not get into a panel. Now we have wristbands and scheduled times for Hall H lines, which has cut down on the chaos somewhat. 

The most common way people guarantee themselves a seat in their desired panels is to sit through the preceding panel in that room. Once that panel clears out, you can move to a seat in the front of the room. When it comes to Hall H and Ballroom 20 and Indigo, people will often stay in the room all day.

Think hard before you commit an entire day or night to a line. Some of the rooms are huge, and you can wind up sitting so far in the back you can barely see the stage; instead you watch the panelists on a screen. When you consider that the panels are always available in daily Replay sessions, with trailers often on YouTube on the same day, you have to be absolutely positive that attending in person is worth sacrificing all of the other activities going on. That said, Hall H and Ballroom 20 are huge rooms and even a line that looks endless to you can sometimes fit in the room. So don't give up too easily. 

Don't try to cut in line. I realize this isn't state treason, but it is intensely annoying to attendees who are already feeling a little hassled, crowded and tired of waiting. One nice thing about the Con is that no matter how insane it gets, we all generally stay pretty respectful and friendly with each other. Don't violate that contract.

The line to pick up badges isn't as bad as it used to be - partly because the Town & Country gives out more single day badges now, partly because a larger number of people can get Preview Night badges now and partly because they process people earlier. But the fact remains that you still need to pick up your single day badge, which can preclude you from waiting in the big room lines for that day. So either have a friend save your place or do whatever you can to get your badge in advance.

I would say that the lines are easily the #1 source of Comic Con bitterness and complaints, and the primary reason people don't return. In theory, the Con offers a cornucopia of panels and events and options; in practice, the waiting time involved reduces your choices quite drastically. There needs to be a cottage industry of San Diego locals who rent themselves out to hold your place in line. 

Can I barter in the Exhibit Hall?

The answer here is: sort of. It's not a flea market. A lot of vendors will look annoyed if you point to an action figure clearly marked $35 and ask if they'll take $25 - if you ask on Thursday. But on late Saturday and Sunday, prices become more flexible because vendors want to unload as much as possible. Tons of stuff will be marked down, especially heavy books. It doesn't hurt to ask then.

There are exceptions to this, of course. If you're buying multiples from one booth, you might try asking for a volume discount (or just pretend to decide between them, and they'll usually propose one.) Comic book back issues can also be more negotiable, and of course, anything you're trying to sell to a vendor will be haggled over. Just be courteous and reasonable
.

Can I park at the Convention Center?

If you're lucky. There are some highly-coveted parking garage spots under the convention center, and in various lots around town. Your dealer here is Ace Parking and the spots go on sale just like the badges and hotel rooms do. And yes, just like those sales, it's a bloodbath. But if you don't score a parking spot right near the convention center, don't worry; there are lots farther out near shuttles and trolley stops.

When do the shuttles run?

The shuttles are one of the most efficiently-run parts of Comic-Con. CCI posts a map every year with the different shuttle lines and corresponding hotels on their site; even if your hotel is in walking distance, it's helpful to look at the map and figure out how the shuttles can make your life easier. If you want to take the ferry to Coronado Island, for instance, the map will tell you to take the pink shuttle to the ferry. If you want to go to the Town and Country to pick up your badge, the map shows you to take the red shuttle. Similarly, you can use shuttles to get to the far reaches of the Gaslamp, get to your distant parking lot, or visit your friends at their hotels. 


Is there child care?

Yes. KiddieCorp is on site to take your offspring off your hands. So if you're a parent, and you don't want to subject your bambino to the mind-numbing dullness of the panels you're sitting through to get a seat in the panel you do want - never fear. KiddieCorp provides activities, games, story time and general baby-sitting. You provide the meals, diapers, formula and a change of clothes if necessary.

You do need to register for this (as with all things Comic-Con) in advance. Get more KiddieCorp information here.



How do I get in the Portfolio Review?

If you ache to be discovered during Comic-Con, try to have your work professionally appraised in the Portfolio Review. It's not just for aspiring comic book artists. Companies like Disney, LEGO, Nickelodean, Cartoon Networks and Lucasfilms show up looking for people in a range of fields which include: animators, copywriters, comic book writers, inkers, colorists, letterers, storyboard artists, background designers, monster designers, concept designers, illustrators and TV writers. So if you're a creative who thinks that Portfolio Review is only for people who can draw, look again. You might see a company looking for someone like you.

Because this is Comic-Con and you're competing with god knows how many people, it's not as easy as just showing up. You have to sign up for each specific company and then wait to see if your name gets randomly selected for them. You should also be specifically prepared for each company, as they can have precise goals and disqualifications. Consider for instance the withering advice of Space Goat Productions: "We are not interested in a portfolio full of pin-up art."

CCI will post the schedule a few weeks before the Con.




How big is the Convention Center?

If you have yet to thoroughly explore the center, you may not calculate its sheer magnitude when making your panel and event plans. If you're trying to go from room 6A to the Indigo Ballroom to see back-to-back panels, for instance, know it will take a few minutes.


Here's an aerial view of the convention center. That's the Hilton Bayfront to your right, and the shiny mirrored-looking building to the left is the Marriott Marquis. Something to consider when you hear those hotels described as "adjacent." The car size should provide a sense of perspective. 

  • Convention Center Floor Plans
  • Hall H holds 6,500 people
  • Sails Pavillion holds 5,000 in banquet seating
  • Ballroom 20 will hold about 4,908
  • Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront holds about 2,660
  • Room 6BCF will hold about 2,160
  • Room 6A will hold about 1,040
  • Room 6DE will hold about 884
  • Room 11AB will hold about 504
  • Room 5AB will hold about 504
  • Room 25ABC will hold about 480
  • Room 7AB will hold about 480
  • Room 24ABC will hold about 420
  • Room 23ABC will hold about 405
  • Room 32AB will hold about 350
  • Room 26AB will hold about 340
  • Room 8 will hold about 340
  • Room 2 will hold about 340
  • Room 9 will hold about 280
  • Room 4 will hold about 280





Is Comic-Con moving out of San Diego?

Currently CCI is booked in San Diego through 2018. An expansion of the convention center is planned, but is currently struggling to find funding, which leaves the question of our future whereabouts up in the air. 

The top contenders for a move have been Anaheim and Vegas, but both are looking increasingly unlikely. Vegas doesn't want us, largely because they lack any true financial incentive to welcome us with discounted hotel rooms - we'd spend our money internally, not in their casinos. San Diego, on the other hand, is happy to have our money. I believe that SDCC will stay in San Diego and become a more dispersed experience, with events scheduled at venues around town, and a new, supplementary Con rising up in L.A. 

Why is it so crowded and chaotic?

Many reasons. It's insanely popular partly because it caters to many nerd interests, and nerds are passionate people who have the same need for a Superbowl/Mardi Gras/ Mecca as anyone else. Despite the mainstreaming of geekdom, a lot of outsiders are still drawn to conventions because it's a temporary world where they feel at home. And the Con is also wildly misrepresented in the media as a fun costume party where you can mingle with celebrities, which draws in all kinds of people.

As for the chaos - again, that's partly because of the imbalance between the center's physical limitations and the massive fanbase and partly because the Con infrastructure is inadequate to the demands we place on it. I actually feel that CCI has made improvements in recent years and some processes have become slightly more efficient. But given the sheer size of the Con, that frenzied feeling is somewhat inevitable. Volunteers will occasionally give the wrong directions, unfair rules may be implemented, panels and exclusives and events will prove frustratingly unattainable. This isn't going to change in the near future.


Should I go to Comic-Con at all?

This is the one question no one ever asks themselves - but they really should, because not everyone has a great time at Comic-Con. If you’re going because you’re obsessed with one movie or TV show, or because you think you’ll meet your favorite celebrity or go to lots of parties, stay home. Comic-Con is expensive, crowded and tedious, with hours and hours of waiting in line. The average attendee never gets near any celebrities, nor hears about any parties. In short: it's nothing like the clips they show on the news. Most people don't dress up in costumes and the movie stars are seen at a distance, if at all.

For years, only hardcore fans and comic geeks went. These days Comic Con has hit critical mass in the cultural awareness, and many people have a vague idea that it's a fun giant party in San Diego they might want to attend. It isn't. Every year I wind up at a panel next to some disgruntled first-timer who is bitter about all the money and effort they just blew.


Some of my friends went for the first time recently. They weren't comic geeks but they gamed extensively, were fairly hardcore sci-fi and horror movie buffs and were always up for an adventure. They had that concept of Comic Con that so many people have these days, as a kind of cultural Mecca that everyone must experience once. The first year they tried to go, they were too late. The following year, they registered, got a hotel and went.


And they hated it. They couldn't believe how crowded it was, that they waited in line for hours to get into Hall H and didn't get in. They wandered around the Exhibit Hall without seeing anything they liked. They were hungry and tired and irritable by Thursday night. They kept waiting for the magic to happen and it just never did for them. Comic-Con isn't for everyone. Which isn't to cop an elitist view that the Con is only for the intelligentsia, but rather, is a way of pointing out that it can be a colossal waste of time and money for the wrong people. If you are broke, can’t deal with crowds, or aren’t intensely interested in the various factions represented at Con (comics, gaming, horror, sci fi, art, fantasy, cos play) you will probably not understand the fuss.


At the same time, nerds who expect to find the Holy Grail of their collectors' hearts may also be disappointed. Ten years ago, you could find out-of-print movies and books, random childhood artifacts and bizarre little gizmos that just weren't available anywhere else. Now many offbeat exhibitors and indie artists can't afford booth space - and many of the more esoteric items don't move anyhow because so many attendees are there for TV and movie panels. While vendors like Fantagraphics, Last Gasp, Drawn and Quarterly, Top Cow, IDW, Bud Plant and Mile High are still there, some are walking a very fine line when it comes to a profit margin. They have to pick and choose carefully which product they ship, all of which leads to the inevitable result of only seeing the most mainstream releases out on the tables.

All of which is why there's been a movement to smaller, local Cons. If you've never been to Comic-Con before, start with a local Con. Imagine the grandeur and the expense and the irritation multiplied exponentially, and ask if you'd still want to attend. You'll know then if San Diego Comic-Con is for you.



35 comments:

  1. Hey, I sincerely appreciate this article. I've just been handed a big failure at landing CC tickets, but reading this has me thinking I may not be "that guy" who needs to go anyway. Very insightful.

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    1. Thank you. I never want to be negative, but I think it's important to represent Comic-Con accurately and not as the colorful celebrity-studded fantasy the media likes to depict.

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    2. I knew it wasn't a celebrity fest, but was hoping I'd get into the Thrones/Walking Dead panels. While I expected lines, I underestimated the wait. I'm not going to spend $3k flying to San Diego, hotel rooms, etc and then sleep on the floor while waiting for that stuff.

      I'm a huge Sci-Fi/Fantasy person and not so much into comics/cos/anime, so your friend experience above sounds a lot like me. I'm willing to put up with a lot to satisfy my inner geek, but it seems like a bridge too far. Anyway, thanks again!

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    3. Consider Dragon*Con, if you're not already going.

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  2. Nice article, I didn't get a badge, but I was thinking about going to San Diego anyways, probably attend Zachary Levi's NerdHQ, which I feel like might better suit my interests. I have a question though, are there other special events, like NerdHQ, to do during the same time as Comic-Con? I would imagine that a good time could still be had without actually attending Comic-Con.

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    1. Yes, there's a lot to do. Gam3rCon if you're into gaming, events like the Zombie Walk, comedy shows, bands, fundraisers, fetish balls, film screenings, art exhibits and live art shows; there are also random promotional events, such as last year's Godzilla Experience, a Dracula walk-through, a Game of Thrones exhibit where you could take your picture in the Iron Throne, The Walking Dead escape, etc. There are also a ton of parties. You definitely don't need to get inside the convention center to have fun, and you can wind up doing more than attendees who often spend too much time in line to hit up the outside stuff.

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  3. thank so much for this. very helpful. been looking everywhere for more info than just the norm. never been yet, but want to so bad. Its too late this year, but on average, what are the price ranges for tickets/badges? can I go and hang out outside of the convention center taking pics w people or do I need a badge? and are there events/exhibits outside the convention to participate in without a badge? and for next year, as far as tv show meet and greet/pics w the celebs, does that cost extra? and the list of which tv shows/celebs will appear, they only let us know 2 weeks before, correct? sorry for so many q's btw. and thanks in advance.

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    1. The prices for this year were 35 for Preview Night, 45 each for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 30 for Sunday. So 200 for the whole shebang.

      You can absolutely hang around the convention center. You'll see cosplayers galore to take pictures with, and there are lots of events you can participate in. If you're into meeting actors, I'd recommend NerdHQ for sure. GamerCon, the Zombie walk, the Walking Dead Escape are all things you can participate in without a badge, and there are countless events that will be scheduled over the next two months. Already tickets have been selling fast for Kevin Smith, Chris Hardwick and the San Diego Symphony Comic-Con shows. Of course, this only works if you're local - you'll have a hard time finding a hotel room at this point.
      There aren't many official meet and greet/picture with celebrity opportunities at the Con - there's a process for getting autographs and sometimes they'll take pictures with you then. A lot of times it's just running into them on the street. (Last year I ran into about 8-10 actual "celebrities" on the street, all of whom posed for pictures with people.)
      And yes, the programming is only announced 2 weeks in advance. Good luck for next year and consider going to a different Con. Phoenix is in early June and has a fair amount of actors coming.

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  4. wow $200 that's it! I thought it was way more! I have relatives in san diego so hotels no prob. I think we'll def go this year just to check out the outside events and im mostly into the cosplay :)

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    1. You'll have fun. Check back as we get closer to July - I usually do a post on offsite event and that'll give you ideas of where you can go. But just hanging around the Gaslamp and convention center will net you plenty of cosplay watching.

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  5. Just another 'thank you' for this article specifically and for the blog in general. I'm headed down for my 4th (5th?) year but my first time staying at a hotel. Also first time my non-geek wife is attending multiple days with me. I like the part about 'not for everyone'. That never even occurred to me until I took my non-geek friend last year and he said it was fun, but wouldn't want to do it again, and then took another geek-friend who left half-way thru the day becuase it 'wasn't for him'.

    So just keep up the good work and wanted to let you know your updates are appreciated!

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    1. Thanks! It's true, the Con is not for everyone - but I hope your wife has a good time.

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  6. I went to Comic-Con last year and have registered for pre-registration but a friend I will be taking with me hasn't gone, so does that mean I can't get her tickets in pre-registration or can I still get them for her? btw this information was very helpful last year, thank you!

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    1. You can only buy for previous attendees in Pre-reg. Hopefully she can get a badge in Open reg.

      Inconvenient, I know.

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  7. Okay, so let's say you get to meet, for example, the cast of Once Upon A Time. Are you allowed to get selfies with the cast or just autographs?

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    1. It depends on where you meet them and their own preferences & contractual obligations. If you're standing in an official autograph line, whether at a booth or upstairs in the Sails Pavilion, a lot of people will only sign autographs and it's all briskly managed. Some people will take quick pictures but you can't count on it. It's not always about whether they "want" to - often their handlers won't let them because they have specific contractual policies controlling it, or the line/crowd is getting out of control.
      If you get some kind of VIP prize that lets you meet the cast, usually that includes a photo op - though not always. And of course if you meet them out and about (like in an elevator) then go ahead and ask.
      Be aware that some people do charge for pictures.

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  8. Hey, how can you get photo ops? Is it only through some VIP prize or packages? Or can you buy photo ops?

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    1. It depends. It's not like at other Cons like ECCC which is very defined about photo ops. If you want a picture of you and a certain celebrity, it mostly comes down to luck (running into them) since the panels are too big and they're too well-guarded for you to get to them - but sometimes if they're doing autographs, they'll be amenable to photos. The easiest scenario is if they're in the Exhibit Hall signing something or doing photos. Also, you have a better shot at photos at Nerd HQ. All in all, though, it's hard to go into SDCC determined to get a photo with a specific person.

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  9. I am planning on going to SDCC next year, in 2016, and starting to prepare now and save money. But I'm still a little confused about the Member IDs. I want to go with two friends, so 3 people in total. Do each of us have to create our own separate member IDs, or would I be able to create one just for me and purchase the 3 tickets whenver they go on sale for next year?

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    1. Each of you needs your own Member ID. Every attendee must have their own to buy a badge. Without a Member ID, your friends won't get the link to get into the badge sale (everyone gets their own unique link, and the same one can't be used twice) and they won't be able to buy a badge without registering it under a specific Member ID.
      When it's time for the 2016 online badge sale, all three of you will enter the "waiting room" and wait to be picked. Whoever is picked can then enter all 3 Member IDs and their corresponding last names in the system and buy the badges for all 3 of you. You only need to be picked once - each person can buy for 3 people. Does that help?
      I'd also suggest signing up for the 2016 Volunteer Interest List when it opens (which won't be for months.) It's another way to increase your chances of getting into SDCC. Good luck.

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    2. It helps a lot. I didn't know about the list. Thanks!

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  10. I couldn't get a badge. Mind you, I didn't try very hard. I saw that episode of Big Bang Theory with the rush of getting badges online, but still didn't bother checking up on it till April. It was really one of those "if I can make it, great. Otherwise, 'meh'" thing. And yeah, big cons do have their perks, but being expensive and crowded are things you need to deal with. Reminds me what Gen Con is to board gaming. Nearly many of the events there cost money (generic or even tickets) beyond the badges themselves.

    Turns out, Gam3rCon is also happening the same week, same part in San Diego. Not only can I buy tickets to this one, but there's parking, and I'm more interested in video games vs. comics anyways.

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    1. I like your attitude. Remember that you can also still come down to the Gaslamp and do a lot of (not all) the off-site activities. And don't forget about Nerd HQ - they'll have gaming stuffing as well and you can walk into that for free.
      Have fun.

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  11. Are there VIP or Front of the Line badges like at other cons ? If so how much do they run?

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    1. No. Currently SDCC just offers one type of attendee badge for each day.

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  12. Hello, Thank You for posting this.

    I was looking to register for a new member ID and I wanted to ask if the ID should be some code word or can it just be my name? Are there any security risks of just using my name? Thanks

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    1. I love your comment because security is something that does not get discussed enough in regard to CCI and their IT sophistication (or lack thereof.) But the fact is your Member ID will be tied to your name anyhow - and should you ever give your Member ID to a stranger (as in a buying group or to trade hotel rooms) you'd have to include your last name too. So use whatever Member ID you want.

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  13. HI! I´m not from USA and I really want to go the next year,but I don´t know if there is any meet and greets or if they are a "moment" for autographs. Could you please explain me everything about that? Thanks <3

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  14. The stamps at the Masquerade are hard to get off and they need to be put away. The people that work there need to use wristbands or stickers if guests want to leave and return.

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  15. I bought a badge for Sunday this year, and dont think I will be able to attend. No big deal, I'm not out much money, but do I HAVE to attend in order to be considered for pre-registration? Or is having the badge enough?

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  16. Thank you for your information! This will be my first time going...Is standing in line at 5am for Hall H going to guarantee entry to the hall?

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    1. It depends on who is scheduled for that day. If the thing you want to see starts at 10 a.m., maybe not. If the thing you want to see starts at 2pm, probably. However, they don't clear out the halls in between events, so some people get there early and stay all day. Everything with Comic Con is a crap shoot.

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  17. Thank you so much for this article, it is the most honest I have read and has certainly made me reconsider flying all the way from Australia with my son for it. I think we may try some smaller cons in Australia first. Thank you again.

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  18. I'm interested in going to the 2017 con ... I was hoping to get pics with Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus from TWD... Would that be at all possible??

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  19. As a long-time SDCC attendee (dating back to the mid-80s), this is certainly the most accurate description I've read. I stopped going in the 1990s for a time. Returned in the early 2000s. It can be very stressful, from getting tickets to dealing with the crowds. The focus has changed over the decades - very Hollywood-centric now. That said, my kids and I still look forward to it every year. And we're agreed that the year we don't get tickets, we'll just go up the road to Anaheim Wonder Con instead.

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