So, you managed to snag a pass to SDCC. Congratulations! Maybe it’s your first trip. Maybe you’ve gone before but not for a long time.
This is going to be my 11th Comic Con and the 10th anniversary since I first started going. It’s an understatement to say it has changed a lot. It went from a monster-sized convention to an out-of-control explosion of pop culture obsession, much of it unhealthy. It isn’t to say I don’t enjoy the event. I’ll go as long as I can get a ticket. But I’ve learned to adjust my expectations and find other things about the event to love other than the big marquee stuff. If you’re traveling out here from Kansas or from some other country just for a glimpse of your favorite movie star, I feel sorry for you, because the odds that you’re going to be right up in front of say Robert Downey Jr. in Hall H are horrible. That’s especially true now with SDCC’s new system of giving out wristbands to get into Hall H first thing in the morning. This system will only encourage rabid fans to spend two days out on the sidewalk to get a wristband to get into a panel on Friday at 3:30 p.m..
Here’s what else the shiny happy press won’t tell you about the con:
No matter how big of a fan you are, somebody else is obsessed beyond the point of insanity
You might think it’ll be neat to see your favorite t.v. or film star live up on stage and experience the moment of being in the center of your fandom’s universe as some big news is revealed. But how dedicated are you to having that experience? Stand in line for six hours? Camp out for days on end? Lie, cheat, and cut in line? Wear Depends so you won’t ever have to get out of line to use the bathroom? Give your life? There are people who have done ALL of those things, including a woman who got run over to keep her place in line to see a Twilight panel in Hall H a couple of years ago. No matter what you think of trying to do to game the system or how early you try to get to see some things, somebody will try even harder. And after a point, it becomes about diminishing returns, i.e. it’s not worth it. At least you won’t think so if you’re sane. (All of this also goes for buying exclusives.)
SDCC is concerned only with money and publicity, not the fans
SDCC does not care a whit about the fans’ experience. They have not done a thing since I started going to make it easier or more pleasant for attendees. Every change they’ve done has only made the con that much more of a headache, a hassle, and a clusterfark. Hallways are extremely crowded and the exhibit hall can get so bad, you can hardly move. So don’t go in expecting the organizers to care about whether you have a place to sit down or that the lines are too long or that you weren’t able to get Elvira’s autograph. And why should they care? People keep breaking down the door to come every year and it gets great press all over the world. Mission accomplished.
You’re going to spend a lot of time in line
Even for smaller panels, you’re still going to have to spend a lot of time in line, at least an hour or two prior. That doesn’t count standing in line to buy exclusives, to get autographs, or see some studio promotional tent or set-up inside the exhibit hall or outside somewhere. Some of those come-see-a-sneak-peek lines were ridiculous. Last year, one would have to wait like 90 minutes or more to see a preview of NBC’s now canceled “Dracula” or the not-terribly successful film “Ender’s Game.” Meanwhile there was a big truck rigged with seats and a 3D movie screen near Petco Park where they were showing 15 minutes of “Gravity.” Yes, the hit film that earned Alfonso Cuaron an Oscar. I walked right in with a smattering of other people. I also had no trouble at all doing a boat race (!) at the Vikings exhibit. Look for stuff like that to do instead of spending most of your day on something that’s not worth it over the long run.
Security is totally worthless
The redshirts who work as security for the con are overwhelmed and uninformed. Don’t ask them about anything. You’re better off bugging a Comic Con volunteer. Crowd control at the con is horrible, as you might imagine. Ladies, BOLO for jerks and perverts. Cosplayers should have a friend ready to take a picture or record on video anyone who might assault them.
Corporations and the media run the show
It’s true because you millennials out there love going to these things, so the guys who want to sell you stuff are going to make sure they have a presence at Comic Con. In some ways, it’s good because I can get free candy, free chips, free drink bottles, free bags, and other tchotchkes on the street. But in other ways, it sucks because like I said before the con is more concerned about making Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and Hollywood happy than to make you the fan happy. You also get oddities like “Glee” panels and MTV and iHeartRadio doing rock shows. As I noted on Twitter recently, there’s no way in hell Linkin Park and MGMT would’ve played here even five years ago. But now it’s cool to like this stuff and “geeks” are now considered trendsetters, so here they are. By the way, all of those glamorous parties you keep reading about in EW or something? You’re not invited.
Support the little guy
There are not only a lot of small/independent publishers, clubs, small retailers, and artists/illustrators running their humble little booths (where it’s often slightly less crowded), there are craftspeople selling unique items. Those are some of my favorite booths to check out. If you go on up to the Pavilion, there are plenty of classic t.v. and film character actors selling autographs under their own shingle. Often they have time to chat with fans. This is part of what makes going to SDCC fun! Go check out the art show/auction too.
The con suite is SDCC’s best-kept secret
Located in the Marriott Marina Hotel, the con suite has FREE soda and snacks, with the caveat that you can’t take anything out of the room. You have to eat it/drink it right there. It can be hard to find a place to sit as you might imagine. But given that sodas can cost like $4 a bottle in the convention center, who cares?
Save time and money by bringing food with you
I usually pack a sandwich and chips, an apple, and a granola bar to take with me at least one day to the con (I’ve also become fond of the food trucks). And a water bottle. Not only does it help me avoid eating fattening food, it also helps me avoid eating overpriced food. And that’s one less thing I need to line up for.
Sometimes you just luck out
Last year, I was just ambling along when someone from the Geek magazine booth yelled that the director of “Sharknado” was signing free posters and that there was NO LINE. Actually there was a line but a fairly short one. So I got a free signed “Sharknado” poster for posterity through no significant effort whatsoever. I’ve caught glimpses of famous people, even run into a familiar face or two in the bathroom. Sometimes you’re just walking past a booth when they start giving out swag. Sometimes somebody cuts you a break or does you a favor just to be nice. I even got a free frappucino once because I let a gal working the Hasbro booth cut in line with me. It just happens.