So you’re heading to Comic-Con International but how will you fight through the crowd, the fatigue, super-villains and the summer heat so you might be able to reach true nerdvana? We turned to an elite group of wily Comic-Con veterans — seven Jedi-level fangirls who have become pros at the Con and write about pop culture for an array of websites. Their guide is below, but first they have a quick message regarding women and Comic-Con.
There’s a common misconception, especially in the outsider-media coverage, that female fans are “only going” to Comic-Con to scream for the famous men — we can’t simply be geeks because, well, we’re female. As you can imagine, it’s easy to feel slighted when confronted with that mindset and, for many ladies, the automatic response has been to pull out some arcane trivia to assert true geek cred or somehow downplay our femininity. “Oh my gosh, don’t see me as a girl, see me as a geek.”
But we say to our fellow fangirls that we should all be confident in our passions and, well, if you happen to catch a glimpse of Nathan Fillion, Hugh Jackman or Robert Downey Jr., don’t apologize for the thrill; there’s not a guy in the building who doesn’t check out Scarlett Johansson when she strides by. Men do make up the majority of attendees, so many people assume that women going to Comic-Con is a fairly new phenomenon. We know the truth. Girls have been going to San Diego for years. They attend because they are true Trekkies, dyed-in-the-wool Browncoats and a who’s-who of Whovians. They love comic books, cosplay, video games and movies. They are geeks, nerds and dorks. They are us. And we’re proud of it. Now, on with…
THE COMIC-CON SURVIVAL GUIDE
Bring water and snacks: It’s California. Its summer and it’s hot. When packed into Hall H with thousands of other fans, drinks and snacks may actually save your life — or least prevent you from losing your spot in line, which would be a small death in itself. Plus, the items being sold in the convention hall are kind of on the expensive side, as you’d expect from any event with a somewhat captive audience. Buy your items at nearby grocery stores before your day or weekend begins.
Plan ahead: With all the vendors, panels and signings, there’s a lot going on at the same time. You can’t do it all. Once you come to terms with that, read through the program book and make a list of all the can’t-miss events. Then you can spend the rest of your time running around like a kid in a candy store on the show floor or trying to fit in a few more indulgences in the panel rooms.
Don’t wear your cute shoes: Although this might seem obvious, wear your most comfortable pair of shoes. Not all kicks are designed for long-distance walking, which is basically what you’re going to be doing for four days straight. Unless you’re a cosplayer who can’t avoid it, in which case, squishy shoe inserts are your new best friends.
Ditch your wheels. Yep, don’t need your car, it won’t be any good to you. Parking is a joke! There are many means of transportation if you don’t stay in a hotel right down the street. Cabs are fairly inexpensive, especially if you’re really nice to the driver and cram a bunch of fan-kids into the same ride. Just make sure to get going early. Chances are, everyone’s going to be calling at the same time. There are also pedicabs that run in the vicinity of the convention center — they’re great if your feet are killing you and you need to get somewhere in a hurry, but be firm and haggle for a good price. Don’t forget, the trolleys run almost all day too.
Gadgets, chargers and backpack. If you have extras, bring one set of gadgets and chargers to the conventions and leave the other set in your room. Make sure to leave the doorknob sign to “Do not disturb” while your electronics are freshening up; that way hotel staff won’t unplug them while cleaning the room. Bring a surge protector to utilize in the room as well, especially if you have several people staying with you. It’s also a good idea to carry a decent purse or light backpack not only to store your gadgets accessories while at the convention, but also to store all the swag you’ll pick up. And oh boy is there a lot of swag! You can always get a plastic bag there, but why fill up your arms more than you have to?
The celebs will be excited to see you too. A lot of the shows with a presence at the Con have a staff who know, understand and even include geeks. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and give commentary to the source, with near immediate response. This is rare. When shows that have geek-centric themes hear from their core-fan group, they listen. They listen because they care, the same way we watch because we care. So take time to prepare your questions, write them down and have backups in case someone else asks yours first. The Con is not powered by studios, it’s powered by fans. Speak up and represent!
Check your balance. How much can you really afford to spend at Comic-Con? Everywhere you look there will be something you love and MUST HAVE! Be realistic and set yourself a budget; no one should go into bankruptcy over action figures (as much as they may want to). It’s also a good idea to grab cash before entering the convention center because the ATM lines can be just as ridiculous as the bathroom lines.
Dreams come true in Hall H. Hall H is a mix of the sneak peeks you’ve been dying for and the thrilling surprises that studios set up to reward fans. Be aware that the wait times and lines can be intense. No, really. Take whatever you imagine and then double it. If you’re going with a large group, taking turns holding the place in line might be a good idea. Pick what’s most important to you and camp (people did last year, with tents). Hall H also may provide giveaways as you enter or exit, or tickets to those already in the hall that can be redeemed in the fulfillment room. Warner Bros. Studios has done this in the past, and, with hope, this year will be no different. Plus, lots of exclusive giveaways are ONLY available if you attend the respective panel. If someone tries handing you a ticket to the fulfillment room in Hall H, Ballroom 20 or any other panel room — take it! You won’t be disappointed.
Bring your school supplies: Pens, pencils, Sharpies, paper and a sketchbook are all something to have on hand at all times. Getting sketches from your favorite artists can be a lot of fun, but make sure to get to them early; their commission lists fill up FAST. That’s not to say some won’t doodle a quick sketch for you in between, but that doesn’t go for everyone. Having a writing utensil at the ready keeps you prepared just in case you catch a creator or celebrity outside of a scheduled signing and they’re nice enough to scribble an autograph for you.
Use a notebook to keep track of the panels you want to attend or tables you want to hit instead of having to flip through the program guide 20 times a day. Not to mention, you can exchange info with all the other geek friends you meet! There are TONS of us and we’re forming an army.
Swag. Some booths of awesomeness hand out magical tickets that can unlock the door to the booty room. Mostly T-shirts, but when shows get creative, you get great swag. Also, go STRAIGHT to the big comic booths and TV areas in the dealers’ room for pins. Then decorate yourself accordingly. Bedazzle yourself if you’re so inclined. And get creative with those T-shirts, because they’re all size extra huge.
Sunday: This year you can look forward to panels from “Smallville,” “Supernatural,” “Glee,” “Castle,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and more on Sunday. That also happens to be one of the easier days to get around SDCC. If you want to do some back-and-forth movement among major panels and the dealers’ room, this is a good time to do it. And sometimes, if you visit the fulfillment room at the end of the day, you may be able to walk away with leftover swag!
Booths and signings: Most of the booths have signings, giveaways and more scheduled from Day 1. For example, if you know your favorite DC Comics artist or writer is attending, head to the DC booth, check the schedule, or ask the people at the booth. Everyone working the booths is super nice and receptive. If you ARE planning on going to a signing on the floor, make sure to leave at least an hour of waiting time, as those get very packed very quickly. This goes for celebrity signings at other booths as well
After-hours. The evenings are the best time to meet up with friends, throw a classic convention-hotel party or pop into a random bar to drink knowing it will be filled with Comic-Con attendees. Over the last 10 years, Comic-Con truly has expanded into a city, encompassing all-day and all-night events. There are screenings of
upcoming films every night at Comic-Con if you can find them. Check your program guide for ads directing you to booths for the tickets. Movies like “Shaun of the Dead,” “District 9” and countless others have started their buzz at Comic-Con, and this year should be no different. Also keep an eye out for “viral treasure hunts,” made popular by “The Dark Knight” and “Tron: Legacy,” which can lead you to exclusive swag, off-site footage premieres and the parties only the most dedicated fans get into. If your day is already too packed for you to focus on screenings or parties, don’t fear! The Gaslamp Quarter is chock full of amazing bars and restaurants, a lot of which have special Comic-Con-themed menus. Check this out the list of after-hours events open to the public.
Become a ninja. Disclaimer: This may not work for everyone or for every situation and may lead to dirty looks from other fans. If you didn’t get in line early enough for a panel (sometimes four hours isn’t early enough), then a little ninja creativity may help prevent any further disappointments. For a can’t-miss panel discussion, try to arrive at the conference room hours in advance and sit through all the panels leading up to said important one. As the room clears between each event, grab a seat closer to the front of the stage. If all goes well, by the time your panel rolls around, you should be seated front and center for all the action. Now let’s just hope you had friends with you so you could each take bathroom breaks in between.
Thanks to the guest authors of this piece, please check out their work at the sites below:
Amanda Schuckman (@eruditechick) AllThingsFanGirl.com
Elisabeth Rappe (@ElisabethRappe) Cinematical.com
Jill Pantozzi (@thenerdybird) TheNerdyBird.com
Katrina Hill (@actionchick) ActionFlickChick.com
Kristin Rielly (@geekgirls) GeekGirlsNetwork.com
LoquaciousMuse (@loquaciousmuse) AllThingsFanGirl.com
Geek Girl Diva (@geekgirldiva) GeekGirlDiva.EntertainmentEarth.com
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