Old Man KL talks about: San Diego Comic Con Part 2
Posted by Old Man KL on
Tue Aug 27, 2013 9:57 pm
So when we last left off the con was gaining quickly in popularity and attendance was skyrocketing. The even larger war was being waged upstairs though. As wait times for Hall H began to grow even longer and longer in the SoCal sun, inside the convention hall on the upper floors panel lines were at their best amorphous masses of fans-and at their worst a chaotic mob of bipedal mouth breathers. It was bad. Real bad. The staff were gruff and aggressive in getting people to line up but a lack of communication between themselves led to some panels having more than one line. Woe be the poor congoer who attempted to join such a mess.
Despite what you may have heard about how horrible things were, or still are today, Iíve always managed to have a great time at the convention. These days lines are longer than theyíve ever been and attendance is locked in at 130,000 every year with tickets selling out within 2 hours. Hollywood is still at the con and with the emergence of ĎNerD!í culture the convention gets more publicity each and every year. As with all things popular there is also a growing trend every year to slam the SDCC. Letís run it down shall we?
- It's not real nerd culture anymore!
- It's too mainstream and not about comics!
- It's crowded dammit!
- I want to see everything in Hall H but the lines are too long, DAMMIT.
- WHERE.ARE.THE.COMICS!?! DAMMIT.
So in summation the con is too mainstream, too crowded and full of wanna be nerds who have ruined the one thing we true nerds had in this world. In fact some would say as a direct result of the con getting too big San Diego now also has the ĎSan Diego Comic Festí created by some of the founding members of the San Diego Comic Con. It was founded last year and appears to be going strong billing itself as Ďthe friendly, intimate comic con experienceí.
So in the end, after 20 years of attending the ĎComic-Coní is there any hope left? What is there to look forward to? Or say youíre still interested in coming to the SDCC but you have no idea what to do or where to start. Well lets cover one thing first: If you plan on attending panels in Hall H or Ballroom 20 your day is going to be just that-Hall H or Ballroom 20. Maybe you want to just see the first panel of the day in Hall H but the effort required to get in requires camping with a tent. A freaking TENT. Yeah no thanks. Ballroom 20 isnít much better. So if you are looking for tips and attack plans for the bigger events youíre better off looking elsewhere. Instead I'll start with what I consider the most important part of the con going experience, and this goes for whether youíre travelling here to San Diego or a local, the HOTEL. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get a hotel room to stay downtown while attending all 4 Ĺ days. If youíre local you might think me mad right now but youíd be WRONG.
Let me be frank; Iím getting old. No, wait, Iím getting wiser. Wait, maybe Iím older and wiser. Nah, letís just go with old.
Hereís the deal though: the convention runs roughly from 8 am when you get up to eat, dress and pretty yourself up until well past midnight depending on which evening events you wish to pursue. Thatís a long day and if youíre getting in line for a panel early in the morning your day is going to be that much longer. A hotel room helps to make this much less painful an endeavor.
Remember to buy two and take them to every panel you attend so they can take up 2 additional chairs. Everyone else will love you. ASS.
It can be a comfortable rest stop, dump for all your swag (that Shield Super Helicarrier aint gonna carry itself chum!), storage area for your snacks and a much less crowded meet up spot with whomever your attending the convention with(you do have friends, DON'T YOU?!?!). More than all that though the nice part about getting a hotel is that at the end of the night you can ride the shuttle or hoof it back to your hotel, take a shower, and crash. Several hours later you get up to snag some breakfast and get ready for another 15 plus hours of straight SDCC. Yeah, if youíre local you could bring your car down or take the trolley but by the second and third day things start to become a drag. And for what? You go home to sleep for what-4 or 5 hours? Bleh. And then the next morning one of the buds youíre going with sleeps through his alarm. Another decides sheís too tired and doesnít want to go. Or better yet the person driving you down has their car break down. These are all very real and annoying possibilities that can ruin a con experience. I should know because they have all happened to me. Get a hotel room.
Travelling light is also another key element to a good con experience. I carry a messenger bag myself but many decide to go the backpack route. The only advantage I would give the messenger bag is that itís a little easier to go through your bag while on the go. Also when sitting at a panel itís easy to just swing it around to the front and plop yerself down. I myself only carry a couple other things:
- A bottle of water (just one!)
- Con program guide
- Snacks! (energy bars, trail mix, whatever floats yer boat)
Thatís it. For the hotel room I bring a duffel of clothes and hygiene products so Iím not literally trolling the convention. Oh, and if you plan on not having them clean your room (canít have people going through yer swag now can you?!?) remember to bring some towels if you canít be bothered to get them yourself from the hotel staff. Other stuff my con mates usually carry would be a camera and a hand fan. Doesnít sound like much does it? Well, you donít need anything else. Each year I kept eliminating useless stuff I never used until I got down to the messenger bag with some food and water. As for only having one bottle of water donít sweat it. Every panel and game room have coolers of water which you can abuse at your leisure. The second floor gaming rooms are perfect spots to fill your bottle up whenever you want.
So now we get down to the important stuff. Youíve got your hotel, bag, water and totally healthy snacks and youíre ready to con. ITíS GO TIME. Now if youíre a veteran of the con youíve already gone through the program you picked up when you got your badge and have planned out your panels for Thursday. Perhaps youíre even more hardcore and have all 4 days planned out. Kudos to you! If, however, you are new to the Con everything will probably be overwhelming at first. Thatís fine not many people wouldnít be overwhelmed by 130,000 crazy Con fans all mashing to get in the front door on the first day. Personally I spend almost the entire first day wandering the show floor and taking it all in. Panels Schmanels Iíve got loot to obtain.
This brings us to another important point you should know-hesitation can KILL. If you see something you like, and it looks like there arenít a lot of them, grab it! You could wait for Saturday or Sunday and hope the dealer marks it down but that doesnít happen nearly as often as it used to. There is literally a gaggle of stuff Iíve missed out on because I hesitated on the buy. Is that life altering, con ruining stuff? No, but Iíll forever be kicking myself for not buying THIS AT 20 DAMN DOLLARS A BOX. Seriously they had about 10 boxes and IÖI dunno. I hate me. So yeah learn to pull the trigger more than not when you find something. And if its pieces of art youíre thinking of picking up, or something else large you donít want to carry around, simply talk to the vendor and more than likely they will be happy to hold something for you until the end of the day (and in some cases the end of the con). If you have travelled from afar I should also mention there are mailing facilities on site as well. Thereís usually a line for that too by the way. Hey, itís the con, get used to it. Also remember you have a hotel room for a reason! Plan a run to dump your stuff and also to grab lunch and dinner if youíre so inclined.
Another thing I should mention is that a lot of SDCC exclusive merchandise is advertised in advance of the show. Getting ahold of this stuff is a different matter altogether. The best advice I can give you on exclusives is show up when the floor opens and make it your first priority. How each booth handles their exclusive merchandise is another factor. Most booths will only sell a certain amount of the exclusives each day. This past con for example Blizzard was charging way the hell too much for one of these. They sold out each day after a short time but you were free to try again the next day. We were able to get one on Saturday which was the busiest day simply because we made it the priority right when the floor opened. There are also usually limits on the number of each exclusive (usually 1, donít be greedy!) that you can buy so if youíre buying for someone else be prepared to wait in line multiple days. A few more things to note about getting to that line first thing is that you cannot enter the convention center at the A (first) doorways. Keep walking and get to B as fast as you can and you should be able to walk right in so long as you didnít forget your badge. When you get to the booth that is selling the exclusive (you did plan that far didnít you?) look for where the line is forming. This is VERY IMPORTANT. You will be shocked at how fast a line can go from a few to hundreds in a matter of seconds. Usually someone will be directing the line to maintain order and instruct people so that they donít manjam the sales floor. Find this person and ask them where to go or how to line up. Iím not big on exclusives myself but I have seen some crazy stuff as people who have no idea what theyíre doing run around screaming their brains out in frustration only to end up at the end of a mile long line. Booths that know their stuff will likely let you know when something is sold out or hand out tickets so you wonít end up wasting too much time in line. Some also sell or give out free stuff at certain times of the day so ask around at the booth and get those times before moving on.
So now we come to the other half of the con-PANELS. Okay so first let me remind you I donít do Hall H or Ballroom 20. Iím sure there is plenty of info out there about getting into those halls out there already (grab a tent, camp outside 15 hours ahead of time). I usually attend between 10 Ė 15 panels depending on what tickles my fancy. This past convention I saw 10 or so panels and I spent a total, between all of them mind you, waiting 90 minutes in line. Over 1 hour of that was for just 1 panel which, because of the size of the room, I knew would require some time in line. How did I do that? Well really as long as youíre not not going to a tv or big budget Hollywood panel itís not a huge pain to get into a panel. There are exceptions but overall most other panels donít require more than 45-60 minutes in line. As for those tv and Hollywood panels there is no advice other than get in line before the sun is up. Another thing to remember with panels is that there is a huge variety of things for you to see besides the big stuff. Off the beaten path panels can be a great chance to get off your feet, refill that water bottle and chow down on some snacks while laughing yer ass off (Iím looking at you Oddball Comics panel!). Think the panel you want to see might be crowded? Well what is the panel before-it might be something you want to see. Now of course others may think the same thing and the panel line may still be huge. Remember that they donít clear rooms after panels so if a line is long and your panel is next keep that in mind. So what to do if your panel quest gets blown up?
Well itís at this point you need to remember one thing: YOUíRE AT THE CON TO HAVE FUN. If your plans are blown its time for some free wheeliní. Need to cruise the sales floor some more? Do it. How about lunch or dinner so youíre not starving later in the day? Need to drop off some swag? How about checking out the art auction upstairs in the sales pavilion (where you can get great one of a kind pieces dirt cheap by the way). Hell, walk around with your camera and just TAKE PICTURES OF EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. There is so much to do and see it makes waiting in line for a panel you might get into such a waste.
So in summation I would say this about the San Diego Comic-Con. You will not get to see everything you want to. Thatís just impossible. If you ďhate peopleĒ you will also be sorely disappointed. There will be lines, bible thumpers, pushing, shoving, more pushing and shoving and whenever security wants to check your badge it will be facing the wrong damn way. At the end of the day though if you have the right attitude, some awesome friends, and if you like stuff like this, this or this, well, there's no greater place to be for 5 days out of the year.