For five years now, the people behind Fandom Charities Inc. and Whedonopolis.com have been screening the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a farewell event for Comic Con. As this was their first year in Hall H, more people sang along to the fan-favorite “Once More with Feeling” than ever before. It was a great way to celebrate the end of a week filled with all things geeky and give one last chance for Con-goers to say goodbye. It also allowed me to reflect on my first ever Comic Con experience. While Matt Goldberg recently posted an article full of tips for first timers, I want to throw my own hat in the ring. Hit the jump for my wrap-up.
While Comic Con is not for those with severe agoraphobia, the staff of the San Diego Convention Center handles the influx of 130,000 people surprisingly well. It’s easy to get frustrated with the long lines, inflated prices on sub-standard food and general craziness at Comic Con, but when you stop to think of the logistical nightmare this must be, you start to realize just how good of a job they’re doing. The only thing I could have used ahead of time was a sort of “First Timer’s Orientation.” As it is, my experience was more of a trial by fire. Here are a few highlights of my trip with a few tips thrown in for future Con-goers:
So there’s an obscure panel you want to see in Ballroom 20 that starts at 12:30. You figure, if I get up at 8 and out the door by 9 I should be good, right? Then, when you naively head towards the front of the line (or mistakenly spend a half hour in the handicapped line like yours truly), the panic starts to hit you. By the time you reach the end of the line, you’re not even sure you’re in the US anymore, let alone San Diego. “Why are all these people in line to see this no-name writer?” you wonder. They’re not. They’re lined up to see that popular HBO series or incredibly attractive actor that won’t take the stage for another 8 hours. The old adage of “the early bird gets the worm” definitely applies and I was reminded of it every single morning. When in doubt, camp out the night before, especially if being front and center is important to you.
2) Bring all the money.
There is a ridiculous amount of stuff for fans of comics, TV shows and movies to buy. Collectible toys, exclusive comics, personal drawings by your favorite artists, autographs from all the celebrities you stalk and even an on-site FedEx/UPS to ship all your swag home since it won’t fit in your suitcase. Then there’s the food, some of it great, some of it on the level of military survival rations, but it all has a price tag. While I’m not a collector of anything in particular, there is something for everyone here. And if you manage to get yourself out of the convention center for a few hours, San Diego has a ton of great restaurants and attractions. Bring more money than you’ll think you need and enjoy yourself. If you leave San Diego without having spent it all, that’s just a bonus!
3) There is more to Comic Con than Hall H.
While Hall H is the largest room at the convention center and home to some of the biggest panels, the ridiculous line outside may be a deterrent to some attendees. If there’s something you really need to see on a certain day and it happens to coincide with Twilight, you’ll just have to bite the bullet and camp out with all the crazies. The good news is that there are TONS of other things to see and do at the smaller panels. I would have had to clone myself multiple times over to see everything I wanted, so there is no shortage of worthwhile events to attend. As an added bonus, if you camp out in one event hall all day to see something later in the evening, you’ll be exposed to some really cool events while waiting. Sitting in a relatively small room for the Castle panel, a couple thousand people got to see George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones) and his panel of authors of the long-running Wild Card series. I wasn’t aware of it to begin with but quickly became a fan, along with a handful of others.
Also, if you go to Con, get outside! The weather is perfect, the shore is nearby, there’s a world class zoo not too far away and the Gaslamp District is simply the place to be on any given night. I know that if you’re going to Con you’re probably a geek and that big shiny thing in the sky can be disconcerting. But if you spend all your time cooped up indoors, you’ll miss out on a big part of the experience!
4) Actors/Writers/Artists are people too!
One of the coolest things about Con, at least for me, is that it narrows the distance between celebrities and their fans. While there are still the necessary security barriers, for the most part the famous people and the norms blend seamlessly. A lot of celebs will wander through the exhibition hall because they’re just as big a fan as anyone else at Con.
As a representative of the press, I had an opportunity to interview the cast of Castle. Since it was my first time doing that, I was a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect. Sitting literally right next to TV stars Jon Huerta, Seamus Dever, Molly Quinn and Nathan Fillion was kind of surreal, but after a moment it became readily apparent that they’re just as conversational and accessible as anyone else. Comic Con (and Collider) made that experience possible and it’s something I’ll never forget.
5) The company you keep.
While social media is a nice way to stay connected, it’s even better to actually meet people in person. Folks you follow on Twitter or on Facebook actually encourage meet-ups at the Con. You get a shared experience while viewing the Con with others, maybe even in costume. And you never know who you’ll run into when you’re out at the bar (Oh hi, Grant Imahara from Mythbusters!) or your hotel (What’s up, Kevin Pereira from G4?). While it may not seem like a big deal for some people, for me, it was cool to see the people in the flesh rather than on a screen.
For the first time, the writers of Collider were all gathered in one place. We came from Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, Georgia and other places to unite in San Diego and lead an all out assault on Comic Con. It was great meeting the other writers who, prior to the Con, I had only known as a byline on an article or an email chain. I’m glad we got along so well since a bunch of us had to share a hotel room literally seconds after meeting.
In closing, if you’re thinking about going to Comic Con sometime in the future, I say do it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that could turn into an annual trip. I’d love to go again in the future, but for now I need to recoup, hop a plane and get back to Pittsburgh so I can hopefully get some glimpses of the folks filming The Dark Knight Rises. No rest for the nerdy!