I have a confession to make: if I was not exhibiting at the San Diego Comic-Con International, I probably would skip it this year. Except for the year 2000 when I was married and on my honeymoon, I have attended every convention dating back to the mid-1980s—and since the early '90s I have attended as a professional and/or exhibitor. Attending the convention is exhausting enough as it is, imagine what it's like to work it. I could use the break!
As I've said many times at my Comic-Con reports of previous years, the show is an exercise in sensory overload. The main draw for many attendees nowadays seems to be simply to be able to say they were there, rather than for the comics—the spectacle of the event itself, rather than the content, seems to have become a major appeal of the show. In keeping with the rise of geek culture, the Comic-Con has transcended comics and become a pop culture show. It needs to be said, though, that while some traditionalists decry this shift, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with that—there are still plenty of traditional "old school" comic-book conventions, so it's fine to have a show like Comic-Con that is a real raise-the-roof party for all things geek. But since this show happens to be the one in my own backyard, and the one where I have established myself as a regular, it's the one I must attend each year. But I do occasionally long for the days when it was a bit more laid back and less crazy.
This is my roundabout way of providing this blog entry's main tip for attending the Comic-Con: Don't expect to attend the convention and see "everything"! Given the signings, celebrity appearances, panels, movies, movie previews, comics, etc.—and the crowds and the lines for many of these events—it's simply not possible.
There was a time (even after I started exhibiting) when I could methodically and casually go up and down each aisle over the course of a show to check out all the exhibitors and their wares. No more—the crowds in some areas are so thick that I sometimes don't even bother some areas, meaning that the crowd flow often tends to dictate foot traffic. As a result, I often lose track of where I've been on the floor.
The show has become an amalgamation of a wide range of discreet interests. While there's some overlap, for the most part it's easy to attend the show and stay safely esconced within that bubble. For example, there are some people who simply scope out a seat in the large presentation screening room that seats nearly 5000 people (which otherwise is very difficult to get into) and stay there all day sitting through one movie preview and celebrity appearance after another. There are the fans who are there just for the toys; or the videogames; the anime; the manga; to meet their artists and writers; to get autographs; to attend panels; to show their portfolio; to watch the round-the-clock sf and animated film screenings; to dress up; and to take photos of hot chicks and people in costumes. (Oh, yeah, there also are plenty of comics too.) I know people who take a day off to go to Seaworld, Legoland, or even Disneyland in order to take a break from the craziness!
So as soon as you arrive, look through your program guide—it's your bible—then plan your day accordingly. Sure, you can mix it up, but don't go in without a clear plan other than to see "everything"!