Tips for Comic-Con First-Timers

     July 13, 2011


The San Diego Comic-Con can be daunting for those who have never been.  You’re being crushed by over 100,000 people, the lines have lines, and you probably won’t see everything you want.  But there are some tips that can make the Con more enjoyable.  I’ve provided this advice in the past, but it’s been a couple years and I have refined my tips and added some new ones.

Hit the jump for some sage wisdom.  The 2011 San Diego Comic-Con runs from July 21st to July 24th.

1. Do It for the Experience and not the Panels

Everyone wants to get a first look at the films they’re excited for.  That’s totally understandable.  It’s also a thrill to see your favorite stars and directors up close and personal (or as up close and personal as security will allow).  But here’s the hard truth: the footage you see may not be representative of the final film and most of the people on stage will be giving recycled answers because they’re usually asked the same question eight different ways.

It can all be fun in the moment, but what you’ll remember isn’t the sneak peek you saw or the off-hand joke an actor made.  What you’ll remember is the fun you had with your friends and the new people you met.  Strike up conversations with people in line.  When Oni Press put a limit on the number of Brian Lee O’Malley books that he would sign, the people behind me in line took my extra books and got them signed for me.  I don’t remember the footage I saw from Red, but I remember hanging out in Hall H with @GermainLussier, @Schofizzy, and @jonniechang.  You can handle lines when you’ve got cool people around and the presentations are better when you can chat about them with folks afterwards.  If you’re going solo to Comic-Con just so you can see some Amazing Spider-Man footage, you’re missing the point.

2. Snacks

For your health and for your wallet, bring your own food.  Of the food that’s one sale, very little of it could be reasonably described as “healthy”.  It’s pizza, it’s hot dogs, it’s potato chips, it’s cookies, and while all of these are delicious, they’re hardly nutritious.  They’re also damn expensive.  Vendors at the San Diego Convention Center know you’re not leaving the premises to go get food and so they can charge you a premium.  Rather than pay inflated prices for junk food, bring your own snacks and a bottle of water.

merrell-sneakers-013. Comfortable Footwear

I can’t stress this one enough.  I know it seems silly, but imagine you’re standing in line for two hours or walking the floor of the exhibitors’ hall or just trying to get around the rest of the convention center.  While lines for panels will usually allow you to sit down until they open the doors, you can’t get away with that in the exhibitors’ hall.  You’ll also probably be walking the Gaslamp district so just do your feet a favor and get shoes that don’t suck.  Also, don’t be dumb and wear open-toed shoes.  There are thousands of people all trying to get around and some of them are probably going to step on your foot once or twice.

4. This Is How Rooms Work

Rooms do not empty out after a presentation.  If the only thing you care about on Friday is the presentation for The Amazing Spider-Man, then you’re getting in line outside of Hall H at 5am on Friday morning and you will spend your entire damn day in the Hall until the presentation rolls around at 4pm.  The same rule applies to every hall.  Last year, a lot of people who wanted to see some of the major TV panels got shut out of Ballroom 20 because it’s smaller than Hall H and the Comic-Con programmers still don’t understand what draws a crowd.  So I will put this as clearly as I can:

If there is a panel that you absolutely must see, you must get in line for that room well before the first panel of the day, even if you don’t care about any of the panels that come before the one you do care about.

Also, know when to cut your losses.  If Joss Whedon is doing a panel at 4pm and you’ve been in the back of a super-long line for most of the day, and 2pm rolls around and you haven’t gotten any closer, you may have wasted most of your day.  It’s important to learn to love standing in lines at Comic-Con, but you don’t want to spend your entire time in a line and never actually getting into anything.  There’s plenty to see at Comic-Con and just because you go to a panel that doesn’t involve a celebrity, it doesn’t mean that panel will be a waste of time.  The panel might be educational instead of promotional.

outside-hall-h-line-014a. Regarding Thursday’s Breaking Dawn panel: If you find yourself still stranded outside Hall H on Thursday morning but pretty close to the door, don’t despair.  Judging by from previous years, once the panel’s over, a lot of the Twilight fans won’t stick around for the remaining Hall H panels.

5. Do You Really Need to Buy That?

When you’re wandering the exhibitors’ floor, it’s tempting to buy posters, comic books, toys, etc.  However, before you buy anything, stop and think to yourself: “Can I buy this cheaper online?”  Furthermore, remember that if you buy too much stuff to take home, you’ll probably have to ship it (There’s a FedEx station inside the convention center) which will add to the cost.  There’s certainly loads of good stuff to buy and I’m sure I’ll make a couple of purchases myself.  My advice is to simply keep your impulses in check and avoid buyer’s remorse later.  If you are deal-hunting, your best bet is Sunday.

6. Keep Your Cool

Comic-Con is crowded, hot, and I can understand the exhaustion.  But please remember how to act like a reasonable human being.  Sometimes ass-holes will cut in line.  Sometimes a vendor will try to pretend like you didn’t give him a $100 for comics and try to steal your money (yeah, I remember you, guy).  The squealing of teen girls at the Breaking Dawn panel will most likely shatter your ear drums if you don’t have proper ear-protection. Last year, a guy got stabbed in the eye in Hall H.  The two guys involved in the altercation were reportedly fighting over a seat.  The seat did not cure cancer.  It did not bestow infinite wisdom or wealth.  It provided a view to see advertising for a movie.  Try to maintain perspective, treat others with respect, be the better person, and remember that you’re at Comic-Con to have fun.


– The grass outside of Hall H in the early morning is wet.  Your gigantic swag bag can make for a useful seat.

– If conversation in line with your friends becomes exhausted, bring a book or play a game or something.  Try to keep at least one portable entertainment device on your person that isn’t your phone.

– Make sure your phone’s got some juice and bring your charger anyway.  You don’t want to use up your phone’s battery power playing games between panels in Hall H and then have a dead battery when you want to call your friends and make plans to meet up later in the day.

– Don’t be the guy (or girl) wearing the t-shirt or bearing the sign that says “Free hugs.”  Everyone is creeped out by you.

– If you are standing by the back wall in Hall H and everyone starts shouting and looking towards the back wall, don’t stand around talking on your phone to your new writer who’s attending Comic-Con for the first time.  Run towards the stage.  Ask Steve what happens if you don’t do this (spoiler alert: you get crushed by scaffolding and get a massive concussion).

Other Comic-Con veterans, sound off in the comments section if you have tips that I didn’t mention.