* QUICK GLOSSARY OF COMMON COMIC CON TERMS POSTED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE
According to the countdown clock on my mobile phone, Comic Con International in San Diego is just over 14 days away. My heart is beating a little faster in anxious anticipation of 5 days of lines, panels, S.W.A.G., and seeing old & new fellow nerds. My brain is also on “high alert” as I walk my way through what I need to do to get ready for the biggest week of the fanboy summer season. SDCC, as the convention is affectionately referred to, is considered one of the biggest pop culture shows in North America, welcoming nearly 200,000 people to the Gaslamp District of San Diego, CA. There is so much going on that preparation is necessary to enjoy your time and be able to live to talk about it.
First and foremost, prepare YOURSELF. If you are not ready, then the trip will not get complicated, quickly. Attendees will find themselves on their feet, in cramped quarters, and unable to take a minute to breathe. Expect to wait in lines and have patience; know about your surroundings and a general idea of the day’s events; always take time to breathe, rest your eyes, eat a snack and/or drink some water. Even if there is a panel going on or a small break between film footage being shown, putting your head down for just a minute, closing your eyes, and taking some deep breaths will be truly re-energizing.
Hygiene! Hygiene! HYGIENE!!! In a crowded space, body odor and sweat are going to occur no matter what the weather or air-conditioning situations are. Remember this simple rule, 5-2-1 – get 5 hours of sleep, 2 good meals, and 1 shower a day. Use deodorants and body sprays appropriately, the whole can of body spray is going to make you smell just as bad as not showering at all.
San Diego has had all types of weather situations over the years – super hot, cold, rainy, and in between – dress for all occasions. This means, layers. Jeans/shorts, a t-shirt, COMFORTABLE shoes (you will be on your feet a lot), and a jacket/sweatshirt that is easy to carry/store. That being said, do not make yourself and any bag you carry so bulky that you cannot easily maneuver through a crowd.
Have some snacks on you – bag of trail mix, granola bars, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches – small items that can keep you from getting hungry and then by side effect, angry (or as I like to call it “hangry”). A reusable or plastic water bottle can be a life saver. There are water fountains all over the convention center and most panel rooms have water available for attendees in the back (NOTE: Hall H does NOT have water available, but does have a restroom in the back).
If you are going to cosplay (wear a costume) at a convention, make sure you have all your pieces and materials to fix any rips or tears that may occur during the show. As a Cosplayer, be prepared to be asked for a picture many, many times – it’s okay to say no if you don’t feel comfortable but remember to be polite and as always have fun while “in character.”
RECONNAISANCE isn’t just a fancy spy movie word. Study up on Comic Con. There are countless blogs out there with their own tips, inside information and other details regarding panels, celebrity appearances, and merchandise/S.W.A.G. availability. Comic Con International will have the official schedule posted online any minute now – READ IT! And keep checking it out every day leading up to Preview Night on July 17th because there will be updates and changes. Mark the panels you want to go to, locate them on the map, and make your own schedule. Once you have finalized your plans, make a BACK UP PLAN!!! Fans will swarm for Hall H panels, rooms will meet capacity, and merchandise lines will get closed due to crowds, so have alternative plans “just in case.” Do NOT expect to get into a panel 15 minutes before it starts either. There will be fans camping out the night before for a panel in Ballroom 20 and Hall H for sure. Those same fans will also sit in Hall H all day to see a panel that starts at 5pm, so plan on doing the same if you have a late day panel.
The show ends each night around 7pm but there are many events that go on in the Gaslamp District outside to keep the Con going into all hours of the night; explore the local area for these events.
Also learn about the Shuttle Routes for Comic Con (available on the official event site). San Diego provides a 24 hour a day shuttle to key areas of San Diego hotels. Find your route and use the shuttle to avoid parking hassles and getting lost, instead get dropped off right by the convention center.
Remember your MANNERS and try to make FRIENDS not enemies. Crowds, long lines, and “organized chaos” can make any person go all Incredible Hulk at Comic Con. But refrain, remember to be patient and courteous to those around you – it will make it a better experience for everyone.
Having a “Con Buddy” to attend sessions with and be entertained by will help the time pass quicker. Don’t have a Con Buddy, make a new friend with those in line around you; never know when you will make a lifelong friend or a connection that can get you into a panel later in the weekend. Sharing stories and advice with neighbors is another good way to pass the time, might even learn something new.
Basic manners are also a must at conventions. By covering one’s mouth while sneezing or coughing, showering regularly and not leaving trash around all attendees can help prevent the dreaded post-show “Con-flu” or “Con-Hangover.” Other manners like “Please & Thank You” and not cutting in line will get you far with vendors, artists, and exhibitors. Speaking of cutting in line, there is a difference between a friend or two rejoining you in a line from the bathroom versus a group running up to cut in with you right as a panel is about to be let in. If you see excessive cutting in line find a staff member, do not try to make a scene in the crowd.
Just like Batman would not go out in the night without his utility belt, you should never head to a convention without EQUIPMENT. As mentioned above, carrying a jacket, snacks, water, etc. can be tough with just two hands, especially when seeking an artist’s autograph or grabbing for S.W.A.G.. A bag to carry all your goods is important; something that can be comfortable to carry and fit everything you need to bring.
Other important tools are poster tubes for protecting the art and posters passed out throughout the weekend as well as a small first aid kit, pain relievers, fresh Sharpie markers, and any “tech” you might need.
CASH vs. CREDIT CARD. Some vendors have gotten the ability to accept credit cards at the show, but cash is still king when it comes to paying for food and merchandise. You never know when the “network goes down” and cards cannot be accepted. Not to mention, most ATM fees are high at the convention center.
Technology is a big part of conventions these days. Cameras, phones, gaming devices, and much more are an integral part of every attendee’s trip. That means: remember batteries and/or mobile chargers for all of your devices. There are a few electrical outlets around for charging but those take time and leave you stationary to protect your equipment, instead, grab a mobile charger to get you through your day.
Another aspect of technology is staying in touch. Although there are panels on stage and vendors in the exhibit hall, there is still information being shared on social media networks like FACEBOOK and TWITTER about special events. Before heading to the show, be sure to check out and link to your favorite comic book publishers, movie studios, and artists’ pages for information on contests, special meet-ups, and much more that will be happening via social media throughout the weekend.
And if you run into the problem of carrying too much stuff, San Diego offers a bag check in the main lobby where your merchandise and S.W.A.G. can be held for the day until you jump on the shuttles back to your hotel or car.
Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, HAVE FUN. Conventions can easily get stressful, especially for a big show like San Diego Comic Con. Expect lines and be prepared so the show will be a lot more enjoyable for you and those around you. There are two weeks left (only 14 days!!) until SDCC takes over San Diego, plenty of time to get ready!
Forbidden Panel will be hosting our annual SDCC Dinner on Wednesday, July 17 at the Strip Club restaurant in the Gaslamp District. All fans are welcome to come have dinner and hang out with our staff, writers, and artists (more info). Keep an eye on ForbiddenPanel.com for coverage from SDCC all weekend and like our FACEBOOK page to catch quick updates and photos of the Con.
Follow us on Twitter for more #SDCC updates as well:
5-2-1 – Get 5 hours of sleep, 2 good meals, and 1 shower a day
CGC – Certified Guaranty Company is a business that certifies the condition of comics and also plays witness for official autographs on comic books (and other collectible merchandise). For a fee they will take your comic book, examine it, seal it in a protective, plastic case and mail it back to you with a certified grade value.
Con-Buddy – a friend to hang out with during convention and hold your place in line when you need to get snacks or go to the bathroom.
Con-Flu/Con-Hangover – an illness that often afflicts comic con attendees shortly after returning home from an event.
Cosplay/Cosplayer – Costume Play or dressing up like one’s favorite character from a movie, book, game or a whole new creation. Someone who partakes in Cosplay is called a Cosplayer.
Fanboy or Fangirl – has many definitions but basically is a fan obsessed with the comic book, anime, gaming, or sci-fi genre. Most comely used at comic book, sci-fi and pop culture events.
Guidebook – The program book that conventions provide that includes the event’s schedule, rules, maps and other important information.
Masquerade – an event at most comic conventions where participants show off their Cosplay and are judged for best costume, most original, funniest, etc. and earn prizes.
SWAG – Something We All Get, usually free promotional products from exhibitors and panels during conventions. Sometimes it is highly collectible and other times it is just a trinket to promote a product. Either way it’s a free souvenir that you can keep or give to friends back home.
Ticket Lottery – For certain signings and retail exclusives, some exhibitors/signors only allow a specific amount of people to participate. In order to do so, they will host a ticket lottery where attendees must get in line to draw a ticket for the chance to participate in the sale or autograph session, usually, getting a golden ticket means you’re a winner and will receive a wristband to be able to participate. Read through the guidebook and visit exhibit hall booths to learn about specific procedures for these types of events.