Comic-Con: A Primer

1: Slowly wrap your brain around the fact that you’re volunteering to spend the next 4 days and nights with fan boys, geeks, nerds, costumed heroes and villains, artists, celebrities, booth babes, and the ever evolving and ever increasing pop-culture machine.

I bought my ticket to Comic-Con two days before the start of the convention. Having never been I was unaware of the Professional pass and spent $80 on Ebay to secure my entry. I did not, however, have a place to stay. LA is about two hours from San Diego, but commuting four hours each day seemed impossible and unlikely, but a follower on Twitter happened to hear my plea and let me crash on his floor. It seemed we were off to a good start.

2: This is not going to be like anything else you’ve ever experienced, no trade show or comic book convention in the basement of the downtown Hilton will prepare you for Comic-Con.

I arrived on Thursday morning, already half a day late as Wednesday is Preview night, where 4 Day pass holders can get a sneak peek of the exhibition floor and start collecting their swag. I parked my car and headed right for the convention, making my first, second, and third mistakes of my trip. I wore pants, at first you may think this isn’t the worst thing in the world to happen, but believe me, after spending more then 6 hours in a convention center surrounded by some of the most “enthused” of fans, things get pretty odorous and overheated. To be frank, my boys needed to breath.

3: Pack like you’re going to the desert and you might be spending time with pack animals.

My second mistake was to try and grab my badge right away, because I was directed to a line that wrapped around the entire convention center, I should have just come later. And in doing so would have not even realized my third mistake until later, plan ahead. There is a set schedule of events and programs that happen during Comic-Con, not to mention the parties, we’ll get to those later. But not included in the guide book is the little get meetup’s your friends plan.

4: Remember, you’re sort of on vacation, try and enjoy it.

As I ran around the convention, I ran into and followed friend after friend, keeping a close eye on my text messages and Twitter feed. The battery goes fast, but if you’ve planned ahead, you have a charger at the ready. At least I know for the future. I must have walked in circles for hours, never wanting to settle on anything in particular because I didn’t know exactly why I was here. Most of the panels include information on upcoming comics or movies, all of which would be available as soon as the bloggers hit POST on their respective blogs. I didn’t need to see the footage or hear the Q&A’s first hand to brace myself for whatever might be coming next.

I must have had lunch at some point, but I don’t remember where or with who on that first day. A flurry of text messages over the next few days was the only way to get in touch with most of the people that I meant to spend my time with, and this is how we met for lunch, drinks, or dinner and parties after the convention closed for the day. This being the 40th, and largest, Comic-Con in existence, I was surprised at how lonely one can feel when surrounded by strangers. Most are lost within thier own heads, salivating over the thought of getting to shake Lou “The Hulk” Ferrigno’s hand, or take a picture with a former Playboy Playmate.

5: Celebrities are not your friends; friends don’t charge you money for their autographs or pictures.

SIDEBAR: There’s something to be said for never meeting your heroes. You lose that sense of innocence, that the character they portrayed, or book they’ve written, or image they’ve conveyed, can not be measured to the real live human. I thought my experience was going to be different, but it wasn’t. A quick handshake, a blurry photo, and a few words about how they’d set me on a course with which i’d spend the rest of my life following. This is not to diswade you from seeking out your own hero, just a primer for the experience you might go through. Years have gone by, and the people i’ve met as i’ve lived in this place; this place that’s part glossy news-magazine, part documentry, has made me realize the biggest gift you can give yourself is realizing that everyone is the same.

6: Spend your time wisely

The best panel I ended up going to during the convention was the Genre Writer’s panel, where several TV writers spoke about their experiences getting into the industry and how they developed their craft. I felt a sense of urgency to continue my writing after this panel. In the same way I get caught up in the emotions of a film i’ve just watched. I want to be these characters, I want to live their lives, because I can see the end. But maybe I should realize that i’m only watching the best part of their lives, not the parts that i’ve been living this entire time.

7: Indulge yourself, this happens once a year, and next year Aunt Enus might die the day before the convention.

Sleeping on a floor is not the worst way to spend your night, the worst way would be to not go out to a party and end up spending 8 hours on the floor wishing you had gone out. If you manage to get more then 6 hours of sleep during Comic-Con, you’re doing it wrong. Also, wear comfortable shoes. I nursed a quarter-sized blister on my foot for 3 days during the convention, and then for 3 more days after that. And if no one else will tell you, wear deodorant, for everyone else’s sake, including your own.

8: Depending on what your at Comic-Con for, making a complete ass of yourself in any situation is to be avoided at all costs. Unless you’re a friend of mine, and happen to have a great reason.

It’s easy to get really drunk at Comic-Con. There’s a ton of open bar parties throughout the weekend, add to the mix that you’re tired, and possibly have been standing in the sun all day, and you’re going to be flying home instead of walking. As a writer, I suppose I should be expected to get good and sauced, but the desire has left me some time ago. I try to experience as much of life as it has to offer me, and I believe between the full glass of vodka, and the pitchers of beer from sundown to lay-down, i’ve accomplished this at Comic-Con.

9: Make some memories, make some friends, eat well.

I didn’t spend all of my time in panels or on the convention floor. I had lunch with a nice kid, still in college, who’d been going to Comic-Con for over 4 years already. I got to spend time with friends who I only got to see about once a month as it was, and some who I only saw through other friends. This created new friends, and hopefully long lasting ones, as we’ve bonded over a shared experience. I also got to see an old friend, who introduced me to a real life comic book artist. We shared an memorable meal and I got to see him in action, signing copies of his book, as well as sketching for free, drawings for passerby’s. This above all endeared me to him and I look forward to future meetings.

10: Swag, you want it, come get it.

I can’t really describe the feeling of getting free stuff. We’ve all recieved something for free, even getting something we didn’t really want is better then not getting something at all. Somehow the entertainment industry has turned this into some sort of contest of intelligence, agility, and luck. During the course of the convention, the bigger media outlets give out giant bags, usually decked out with the logo of the company, or the branding of one of their products. These bags can fit a small to medium sized child, the contents of a breakfast buffet at one of the surrounding hotels, or the other swag that you accumulate during the day. Without trying, I received buttons, shirts, posters, lanyards, postcards, and flyers for other convention events, within a matter of minutes of landing on the convention floor during my last day there.

11: Sunday is the day to spend your cash.

Most of the trade floor is occupied by two things, companies that want to show you their new show, book, movie; and then companies that want you to buy their things, so they don’t have to ship them back home. Say it with me children, DISCOUNTS. Granted, some of the things you might want will be sold out, but you should have tried to get them on day one if you really wanted them. The last day is for those purchases you weren’t sure about, that now make a little more sense at a 50% discount.

12: Grab opportunity whenever possible

I got to spend a good portion of my time with my friends, talking over new ideas for shows, new concepts to bring home, and plans for the following year. I also was fortune enough to meet celebrities that I found entertaining, interesting, or just plain attractive. Brea Grant, in the hotel bar, as well as Stan Lee and Morgan Spurlock, whom i’ve met in passing already; the entire SlashFilm podcast crew, whom I enjoy even more after meeting them all in the flesh, as well as getting together with the Totally Rad Show guys several nights in a row by pure coincidence; and the cast and crew of The Guild, Safety Geeks, and The Legend of Neil. And lastly, Mark A. Altman, writer and producer on several movies and television shows and J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5.

But don’t forget your friends. Thanks to Shawna, Joe, Julie, Eva, Ryan, Nat, Mike S., Mike D., Stephanie, Marc, Brandon M., Bernie, Michael T., Taryn, Dan, Rudy, and Casey.

13: Go home

Pack your things, don’t forget anything, gas up the car, pay the crazy parking fee, and prepare to sit in traffic. You’ve just experienced Comic-Con.