First time at Comic-Con. Suggestions wanted.
June 1, 2010 7:04 PM   Subscribe

Help! I'm a nerd and a girl and this is my first Comic-Con. Tips and suggestions appreciated!

Me: "Hi, my name is realafterglow and I'm a Comic-Con virgin."

Everyone else: "Hi Lady!"

So yeah, what do I do? Besides spending more money than I should and unfortunately attending some of the professional panels in order to make it look like I am there for professional reasons I'm not sure what to do with myself. Anyone else going to be there? I'm scared! I am not going to any f*#$!*$ Twilight panels or any stuff like that. I'm on staff for an anime convention so I have to do some work but I will have free time.
posted by realafterglow to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Hi Lady!

I've been twice and I'm going again this year. I'm not really a fangirl of anything except young adult novels (I'm a YA author) and The Internet, but I still have fun. Comic-Con is more packed than you'd imagine and grotesquely sweaty and insane and still, I just adore the madcap geekery of it. So many humans embracing what every bizarre pop culture thing they adore!

It's hard to suggest anything without knowing what you're "into" (except: it gets hot in there, so wear something cool). I just like to go with a friend or two and peruse pretty art and people-watch and at some point leave & visit a bar down the street and go back after a couple adult beverages and then possibly leave for a couple more, and at the end, attend the massive costumetastic geek-rave which last year had a Real Live Pedobear.
posted by changeling at 7:19 PM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

From my first experience last year I'd say take lotsa food, lotsta water, losta money and lotsa photos.

You're going to have your mind blown.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 7:27 PM on June 1, 2010

Comfy shoes!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:34 PM on June 1, 2010

Yeah, don't worry. You're going to have a great time. If you get bored San Diego is wonderful, but I reallllly don't think you'll get bored. Just when you think you've seen everything comicon has to offer, something you never expected will show up.
posted by little light-giver at 7:34 PM on June 1, 2010

Best answer: Tom Spurgeon just posted Comic-Con By The Numbers: 135 Tips For Attending San Diego's CCI 2010, which I've not yet read, but his annual (and immense) SDCC guides are always great (and I've been going since 1992).

The museums in Balboa Park are really nice (I'm a big SDMA fan), if you can/want to get away from the con for an afternoon.

But really, don't overthink it.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 7:38 PM on June 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've never gone to THE Comic Con (where is that, btw?), but I just got back from working Anime North in Toronto and I volunteered for two other sf cons for years.

If it's in a hotel -- take a sweater. The AC will be high, and that's great when the room is full, but expect the smaller panels to be chilly.

Other than that -- Check out panels, hang around in the hospitality suite if they have one, strike up conversations with random strangers, go to the dance full of nerds having fun. It's nicer to have a friend to go around with, but if you'll be working for another con there should be people you know.
posted by jb at 7:41 PM on June 1, 2010

Plan for downtime if people stress you out at all. I have been several years, working a booth and just wandering around, and taking a midafternoon nap in a quiet hotel or a lunchtime martini in an out-of-the way bar has been a lifesaver.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:46 PM on June 1, 2010

Best answer: I'm a lady too and this will be my third Comic-Con. Also, I'm not from the US and English is not my native language, which could be more reasons to be scared, but I've always had a blast. There are many, many more nerd ladies and most of them don't go to the Twilight panels.

I like to go through the program (it's not online yet) before the show and mark all of the panels that seem interesting, so I know where to go. I can give you some specific recommendations of panels I've enjoyed when they publish the program, but you might want to attend any Sergio Aragones panels, even if you are not familiar with his work, they are very fun, specially the Quick Draw panel.

I do the same with the exhibition floor map, so I don't spend 2 hours looking for a stand I want to visit. There's a Comic-Con iPhone app with the events and floor map that makes this easier.

The lines are veeery long for some events, specially those on the H hall. Take a book, comics (duh) or your Nintendo DS if you've got one, there are always people in Pictochat.
For this reason, it's good to have several panel options. Sometimes you'll see a long line and you'll decide it's not worth it.

Wear sunscreen and bring a parasol and water bottles if you want to attend an H hall event. The line goes outside the Convention Center and most of it is under the blazing San Diego sun. I'm still sunburnt from the line to see Hayao Miyazaki last year. I also like to bring a light cardigan, sometimes the AC in the events is too cold for me (but the exhibition floor is super hot).

Wear comfy shoes and bring band-aids in case you get a blister.
You might want to sit on the floor at some point, so don't wear anything you might ruin.
Bring your camera, but tie it to your bag or backpack, last year I dropped my Palm and never found it :(

I've heard about women being harassed, but that has not been my experience at all. Somebody fondled a friend of mine, but we think they were looking for his wallet (he's about 6.5 feet tall and built like a fridge, so it must have been a very dumb kid). I'm almost always on my own and I've never had any problems.
posted by clearlydemon at 8:00 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take a camera and don't be afraid to ask to take someone's photo if they are in costume. But do be polite and don't pester them if they are trying to eat, take a break, etc.

Big tip for dealers rooms - try to buy only what is really unique to the con (or a particular artist), rather than any old thing you can get on the internet. Also, be prepared for last-day sales. Lots of vendors would rather cut prices than haul product back home.
posted by Wossname at 8:09 PM on June 1, 2010

maybe we should organize a san diego meetup around then. I'd be curious to see how many mefites are geektacular fanpersons.
posted by changeling at 8:18 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hellooo Lady,

Congratulations! Don't be nervous, there's nobody more fun than geeks Off the Leash!

What do you do at a con? Talk to people. Anyone. Everyone. But AzzaMcKazza's got it right when she says "bring a camera,"* because there's NO better opening line at a con than, "OMG you look AWESOME, can I take your picture????!!" Anyone who's bothered with so much as a headband with ears will be enchanted with you and immediately start posing, talking about their costume, their character, how much work went into construction, their first con, crazy things they've seen at cons, etc., etc., etc.

If you draw, sketch, doodle, take some paper with you. Grab a chair in a high-traffic area & let inspiration take over. It's another great way to kill time while having fun and interacting with people. (Sooner or later someone's going to demand to see what's on that paper.)

Yeah, that sounds really obvious, but cons can be pretty intense in terms of energy use. If you've got an hour or so you don't know what to do with, take a break. Go to Denny's, or the hotel restaurant, or whatever. Bug out and spend some unwind-time with a plate of something nourishing. Kudos if you can get friends/new acquaintances to go with you. Watching non-convention hotel patrons quietly freaking out about all the weirdos in the hall/stalls is fun in and of itself.

Speaking of food, most cons have a Con Suite. You must know that --you said you were on staff. Pay it a visit: It's a great place for down-time when you can't find your group to ask for the room-key, and it comes fully stocked with food and fun people. Even if you're feeling too shy to strike up a conversation, you can still fill up a plate and lurk!

The movie rooms are also good for "I'm not sure what to do next" time: They don't care if you stay all day, come in six times, or conk out on the windowsill. You might be the only person in the room, or it might be wall-to-wall with people who know all the lines.

Costumes are fun, but by no means required. And there's a HUGE range of effort level in what you will see while there. Most of the cons I've been to, the costumed goers were distinctly in the minority, although they got the majority of attention.

Have a great time & warm up a dance floor for me! (I'm grounded 'til the kid turns 18...) Expect to get the Plague afterwards: Sniffles, sore throats, feeling run down... Rumor is that it's Con Suite food, but I suspect we all just run ourselves ragged having Too Much Fun.
posted by Ys at 8:28 PM on June 1, 2010

" mean like 'Jade Afterglow' from The X-Files episode 'FPS'?"

You should have a good response for that.

Also, you should look that up if you aren't familiar. I'm kinda surprised at my memory.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:41 PM on June 1, 2010

Best answer: I go to ComicCon most years. There will be plenty of other women there, close to 50%. I've never been hassled but then again, I'm older than most and quite unintentionally look like I will cut you.

Walk or take public transit to the SD Convention Center. There's a trolley station right across the street. Parking downtown is very limited, very expensive and fills up early in the morning. Forget about parking at the convention center, the line into the garage is insane. The Old Town trolley stop is a major origination point for con-goers: if my hotel is not closer in, I try to get one located at least one stop out from Old Town so I don't have to watch multiple fully-laden trolleys roll by w/o stopping. It's cheapest to buy a day or multiday MTS pass so you can hop on and off San Diego trolley and bus systems w/o further thought.

You'll need a photo ID and a printout of your purchase receipt to pick up your admission pass: it's important that the ID exactly match the spelling on the receipt or it throws the front line admission staff into a tizzy that requires several layers of managers to unravel. It is much easier to solve ID/name discrepancies via email before the Con starts than to try to do it in person at the Con gates.

Bring a water bottle and some dry snacks. Food inside the Con is crappy, expensive and lines are very long and slow. I prefer to leave the convention center to eat: there's tons of good restaurants within a few trolley stops and it's nice to take a break from how overwhelming the Con can be.

You will be quickly rousted by Con staff if you attempt to sit down on the vendor hall floor.

Cell phone connections in the Con have gotten better but are often overwhelmed. I find it impossible to hear a phone over the roar of the vendor hall, text messages are the way to go.

No matter how many times I've gone to CC, I hit a burn out moment at least once a day. When I have to stay (work related), I cope by bringing an iPod loaded with soothing ambient so I can control at least one sense. Otherwise, I just leave the con. San Diego is lovely outside, there's tons of stuff to do and see and recharging away from the Con makes going back a lot easier.
posted by jamaro at 9:06 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I haven't gone in a couple of years, but I went to the San Diego Comic-con every year for about 12 years in a row and I am also a lady. There are many good tips above, but I will reiterate some of them as they are important.

Food: the food in the convention center SUCKS BALLS. However, if you walk down to the hotel next to the convention center (out the front, turn left, walk through the sea of humans and/or cosplayers) they have decent food. Alternately, walk across the street (out the front, straight ahead where you can cross, cross the trolley tracks) and there are tons of restaurants and hotels galore with good food. The hotel bar in the Hilton has pretty decent food and good people-watching, if you don't want to stray too far.

Recharging mentally: Definitely take some time to step away. In the time I've been going to the Con through my last visit two years ago, it has expanded to the point where you kind of wonder if the entire population of California and/or the southwest is inside the convention center. It can be kind of draining. Take a break, take a walk back to your hotel, nap. Don't worry about jam-packing your schedule with constant panels and stuff because your brain will fall down go boom.

Meeting people: almost everyone there will be friendly and happy to talk to you. Chat with people, go to the con suites, befriend people sitting next to you before the panel discussions start.

Attire: omg I cannot possibly stress the importance of comfortable shoes enough. You will walk miles and miles and miles, and that's just inside the convention center. Don't try to break in a new pair of shoes on that trip.

Weird tip: Some friends of mine have done a panel about navigating Comic-con and I don't know if they're doing it again this year, but if not, just look for a redheaded dude with big stretched earlobes and go up to him and ask if he's Wes. Then tell him Kat told you to ask him to help a first-timer out. MeMail me if you want more specific info, but Wes is like the unofficial mayor of Comic-con and he's happy to show first-timers the ropes.

And most importantly, have fun! It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it's a lot of fun.
posted by bedhead at 9:28 PM on June 1, 2010

Best answer: Walk or take public transit to the SD Convention Center. There's a trolley station right across the street. Parking downtown is very limited, very expensive and fills up early in the morning. Forget about parking at the convention center, the line into the garage is insane. The Old Town trolley stop is a major origination point for con-goers: if my hotel is not closer in, I try to get one located at least one stop out from Old Town so I don't have to watch multiple fully-laden trolleys roll by w/o stopping. It's cheapest to buy a day or multiday MTS pass so you can hop on and off San Diego trolley and bus systems w/o further thought.

THISTHISTHISTHIS. The trolley stops right by the convention center, and is reasonably priced, especially compared to the parking. I do this, even as a local.

Wear sunscreen and bring a parasol and water bottles if you want to attend an H hall event. The line goes outside the Convention Center and most of it is under the blazing San Diego sun. I'm still sunburnt from the line to see Hayao Miyazaki last year. I also like to bring a light cardigan, sometimes the AC in the events is too cold for me (but the exhibition floor is super hot).

Also this. Water bottles, trail mix/granola bars/sunscreen/something are good to have. Going on cons, I usually pack a bag of random things like that to survive the day. I usually also include aspirin/aleve, pepto bismol/tumbs, and maybe a bandaid or two in case of any medical problem. Some of the lines (at least for the really popular stuff, can be absurd, and will expand until they are outside the convention center. You will be stuck in a single place for hours, and you have to prepare for that. Professional panels are not nearly this bad though, the hours and hours in line are mostly for awesome movie/tv show/comic book/video game of the month.

Comic con is about an order of magnitude larger than other cons, so be prepared for lines/crowds/annoyances of a size larger than you've experienced. The exhibition floor is a chore to get from one side to the other, the panel lines of similar magnitude.
posted by zabuni at 10:59 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've only done the NY Comiccon, but my general guidelines for comics conventions shoudl still apply.

Locate "the" pub. Hopefully there will be only one of them. Stay at pub. Do not enter con. Repeat for 3 days.

Works best if you are mostly interested in British comics creators, who will all be attempting to do the same.
posted by Artw at 11:10 PM on June 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: this will be my 15th (?!?!) year of going and 4th year working a big booth. comfy shoes and patience are essential. there will be more people there then you will remotely even want to think about. if there are MUST SEE panels, plan to be in line for them HOURS in advance with the chance you might not get into them at all. personally, i would not suggest trying to do something like balboa park or the zoo on the same day as the convention. the convention, while fun, is totally draining - physically (walking for miles, standing for hours) and mentally (so many people, so much to see, ayii!). the gaslamp quarter is immediately adjacent, and we san diego natives consider it mostly a tourist trap. however, when you've been on your feet for that long, it is pretty much your only option for food. i've been hitting up the "diner" in the hard rock hotel with some success (at moderate prices!) be wary of the bike cart guys that will offer to cart you around. negotiate a price before you get in, otherwise they will charge you ridiculous amounts. honestly, unless you are used to backpacking or something, try to not bring a bunch of stuff. when you are milling about with that many people, giant bags are just a pain to navigate, as well as navigate AROUND. feel free to memail me or i think my email is in my profile if you have any specific questions, as like i said - i'm a native and a (sigh) veteran of the con. also, a lady - and i've never felt uncomfortable there. well, except for the horrible foot pain, but that's not related!
posted by fillsthepews at 11:10 PM on June 1, 2010

ooh, and just a friendly reminder - you are going to be attacked by offers of FREE STUFF! holy cow! buttons! books! random flyers! other crap! dont get caught up in the excitement. you will a) regret having to carry it around all day and b) probably toss it in the garbage anyway! every year, i am just amazed by the waste.

and, if you have fun and think you want to go next year, BUY A TICKET FOR NEXT YEAR, THIS YEAR - AT THE CON. it is going to sell out again, early, and you might as well get it done!
posted by fillsthepews at 11:13 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Two words: Seaport Village. I know it looks touristy and kind of cheesy -- which it absolutely is, no question -- but that place has been a lifesaver for me and my friends every year. It's an easy walk from the convention center, located on the waterfront behind the big con hotels. There's a food court with inexpensive and tasty options, and enough variety to accommodate large groups with different tastes. It's a great place to go and grab some dinner and decompress, and has often served as a staging area for the rest of the evening's activities.

Other than that...

People have already covered a lot of the basics, so I'll just emphasize what has been, for me personally, the most important bit of specific advice to keep in mind: SDCC is not like any other American con. Someone mentioned New York Comic Con above and suggested the same advice would apply to SDCC as well, and I think I actually laughed out loud. The scale of SDCC is hard to picture until you're actually trying to navigate it. The building itself is enormous, and last year there were 126,000 attendees over the course of the weekend.

None of this is meant to be foreboding -- I love SDCC and I'll be going for the fourth time this year. I just want to stress how VITALLY important it is to be strict about how you manage your resources and your time.

- Don't let yourself get hungry or thirsty, or assume that you'll be able to find something nutritious to eat on short notice.

- Don't assume that you'll be able to get into a popular panel if you show up a half-hour early -- the staff doesn't clear rooms at the end of every panel, and if there's something you really want to see you should plan to be in line for a very long time and then sit through two or three unrelated panels first, just to save yourself space in the room.

- If you have an exclusive item you want to buy or a creator you want to meet, make sure you know exactly where they are and take care of it as soon as you can -- never assume you'll just run across them as you're wandering around the exhibition floor.

- If you have friends you're trying to meet up with, arrange a time and place beforehand -- cell phone reception is unreliable, and it's easy to miss a call with all the chaos around you.

- Be ruthless about what panels and events you're interested in, and be aware that the larger the event space the more time you're going to sacrifice to get inside it. Hall H panels are often pretty incredible, and absolutely worth waiting for it it's something you're really excited about, but getting into that first panel of the day is a process that will take you all morning. You won't be able to do everything, so just make sure you sit down with the schedule and prioritize.

- If you'll be driving, try to get there as early as you can -- convenient parking is scarce, and the city can be tricky to navigate if you aren't familiar with the area.

- If you want to go out and eat with friends, do a little research -- don't just go to the places right near the convention center. They'll be more crowded and more expensive, and there's some great stuff farther inland.

- If you have extra time and haven't been to San Diego before, definitely go to Balboa Park. There're lots of great museums and beautiful architecture, and it'll help you unwind a little from the chaos of the con.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:25 AM on June 2, 2010

I go with Narrative Priorities every year, so I can vouch for pretty much everything she's saying—I just want to emphasize that you can gauge the amount of time you're going to need to line up for a panel by the size of the room for that panel. The bigger the room, the bigger the anticipated demand. I got into the Pixar/Disney panel last year by standing in line for between two and three hours—and it was absolutely worth it, but the point is you have to plan for these things.

Pick the panels or autograph signings you feel most strongly about, and give yourself plenty of time to line up for them. The main exhibit hall is awesome, but you can cruise through it whenever you have a free block of time, whereas the panels have to be planned for.

Also, I think a MeFi Comic Con meetup is a grand idea.
posted by pts at 8:48 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! Holy Crap! Thank you all for the info, it's really great. I would really love to organize a MeFi meet-up!

I apologize for not replying to everyone's post, I had to do this thing called "finals" that they apparently do so you can get this thing called a "degree." :-)

I'll reply with questions in just a sec.
posted by realafterglow at 11:05 AM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: Changling - I love your suggestion. I hear there's a lot of outside of con events, kinda like E3? (Which I've actually been to.) I plan to drink an adult beverage or's kinda silly, I do not love huge crowds but I still sign up to work for Sakura-Con (the anime convention in Seattle I work for) every year. I couldn't tell you why. I've heard the attendance is unreal and I'm excited just to see how they do their convention, hopefully it will help improve the function of ours. I totally think we should do a meet-up. I'm not sure how to go about setting one up though...
posted by realafterglow at 11:34 AM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: Bigfoot Mandala - This article is perfect! Thank you! I've been looking for something like this and everything I've come across so far has been pretty outdated.
posted by realafterglow at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: clearlydeamon - Thank you for your suggestions and YES! I've been checking the programming page almost every day since I got approved for my professional pass. I want to know what to look forward to, you know? I was only kidding about Twilight...well, mostly, all the reports from SDCC (which were mostly from male writers) treated the whole mess like the con was being invaded my aliens which is odd since I'm sure women have been going for years. I'm currently crossing my fingers and hoping that Paul Dini (Zatanna) and some other people I've been dying to see will show up.
posted by realafterglow at 11:49 AM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: Narritive Priorities - This is all awesome. And I have to agree. The con I work for had 18k people last year, which is huge for anime con but that's a speck of what Comic-Con is. Thank you for the info!
posted by realafterglow at 11:54 AM on June 3, 2010

Response by poster: fillsthepews - I actually am thinking of buying a few passes if I can. I got really lucky and somehow got approved for a professional badge (I'm not going to question it, I'm just going to thank the Gods) so I'm set for the next three years (I think....) I am, however, going to buy one for a friend 'cause he didn't get to go this year. :-(
posted by realafterglow at 11:59 AM on June 3, 2010

Actually, there was something odd about the Twilight panel: there were A LOT of middle-age ladies in the queue, many of them with "team" shirts. Probably disappointed some guys who only want to see sexy cosplayed girls :P Truthfully, the crowd at Comic-Con is incredibly diverse.

I also like manga but I've found that the best panels are always the ones I didn't expect. Another example: the Bob Sponge panel. It was awesome! Feel free to mefimail me if you want more panel recommendations, and to say hi if we meet there!
posted by clearlydemon at 12:42 PM on June 3, 2010

well, mostly, all the reports from SDCC (which were mostly from male writers) treated the whole mess like the con was being invaded my aliens which is odd since I'm sure women have been going for years.

This was probably because of a weird quirk of comic-con, they don't clear the rooms after a panel. This meant that the easiest way to get into a panel was to wait through the previous panel(s) and not leave. Fans have done this for awhile, but it's hard to determine someone who's not interested in your panel and waiting for the next one, and a nerd who might be lacking in social graces. The Twilight fans were all female, and were wearing Twilight themed shirts, so it was easy to pick them out. People see 5 people being jackasses, and they assume it's the standard ratio of jackasses that a con has to deal with. If they all wear the same type of t-shirt, the mind starts to see patterns, whether or not they are backed by statistical evidence.

The worst time I've had with this was when I was trying to get to the MST3K reunion panel. It was at 7PM, but it was preceded by a Supernatural panel, and then a Joss Whedon panel. The place was full at 2:30, and no one moved an inch until the MST3K panel. Needless to say, I didn't get in.

If you go to the professional level panels, you will probably not have to deal with as much of this. They usually don't draw the crowds like say, a Lost panel would.
posted by zabuni at 12:56 PM on June 3, 2010

I totally think we should do a meet-up. I'm not sure how to go about setting one up though...

we can just start a metatalk thread in the beginning of July, maybe, & pick a place/time. like Basic in East Village, which I am hungry even thinking about. I have a creative pro pass so I can go anytime.
posted by changeling at 7:17 PM on June 3, 2010

basic is cool, but it gets VERY VERY BUSY during con. perhaps when we pick the date and time we can contact them?
posted by fillsthepews at 8:25 PM on June 3, 2010

Just started a san diego comic-con meetup thread, if anyone's still reading this!!
posted by changeling at 9:37 AM on July 8, 2010

« Older Commuting San Francisco to San Jose   |   Willing to learn.. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.