Monday, July 6, 2015
With the San Diego Comic-Con nearly upon us, now is the time of year when bloggers and others offer sage advice for attending the show. I’ve resisted doing so over the years because most of them are already pretty comprehensive, if not simple, good common sense—i.e., wear comfortable shoes; bring at least snacks and water with you to avoid the long lines, high prices, and poor quality of convention center food; leave extra space in your backpack/shoulder bag for purchases; plan your schedule ahead of time; and that old standby, wear deodorant as a courtesy to others (hygiene used to be a serious issue back in the day among fanboys). In addition, as an exhibitor and attending professional, my circumstances were usually a bit different—a booth gives me the luxury of a base of operations during the show.
Nevertheless, I thought it would be fun to write some of my thoughts down, partly to see how things have changed over the years...
If you must get from one end of the convention center to the other, it’s often easiest to simply go out into the front lobby, walk down the length of the convention center, and pop back in where you need to be; or even to use a route using the upper flow levels. There will still be crowds, but not the kind of bottlenecks you’ll find on the main floor, even with the wider main aisles that are supposed to allow for better egress.
One of the perks of being an exhibitor is that I get to explore the floor prior to the doors opening to the public each morning without the crowds, which gives me a chance to scope out the booths and merchandise.
One tip I have given people who tell me they wish they could attend certain panels about their favorite comics or television shows: many of the panels make their way online pretty much in their entirety (officially) not too long after the show (if not sooner). The only items usually not included in the videos are any clips/previews played, for copyright reasons. I often half-joke that I have to look at the feeds like everyone else to know what announcements or surprises have happened at Comic-Con. But in this era of social media and 24/7 news cycles, there's no need to feel left out whether or not you're at the show.
Food: As I’ve gotten older, food has become more important to me during Comic-Con. Being at the convention for long hours, a good meal is one of the few times to relax with friends and enjoy a respite, so fast food doesn’t cut it for me! The convention center is notorious for its overpriced, mediocre food selection. Hot dogs, pizza and stale, pre-packaged deli sandwiches are the main choices. There is a rather hidden restaurant at the convention center that is surprisingly not too crowded so you can find a seat, but again the food selection isn’t anything to write home about. There used to be a few small food vendors (I recall one place where you could find some pretty good gyros), but those disappeared years ago. Though the walk is a hassle, your best bet during convention hours is going to the Gaslamp District or one of the adjacent hotels for slightly better and a more diverse selection of food. Comic-Con also occasionally offers food trucks, but that varies from year to hear. There’s a Ralphs grocery market across the street that’s also convenient.
I also always have a pretty solid breakfast in the morning because you really need the energy to keep you going through the day.
Money: Bringing plenty of cash used to be always important, especially since the lines at the ATMs at the convention center could get really long (assuming they didn’t run out of cash).. But the advent of pay services like Square and PayPal—which allows even the smallest vendor (like myself) with a mobile device to accept credit and debit card payments—has been a great boon that has lessened the need to have a lot of cash on hand. But it’s still probably wise to have some pocket money to be safe. Bank ATMs are easily available across the street from the convention center.
Mobile Devices/Battery Charger: I remember the old days when Comic-Con had a message board to allow attendees to leave messages for friends! It’s way overdue, but this year I finally invested in an external battery charger for my iPhone. I’ve had to limit my social media participation during the show because by the end of the long day—with no close access to a wall plug—my device ran dangerously low on juice. The heavy-duty charger I purchased should now solve the problem!
Camera: After years of putting it off, I finally purchased a higher-quality digital camera with a powerful zoom lens. The main reason was because I realized I needed something a bit better for my kids’ Little League games and graduation events, but of course the potential to take better pictures at Comic-Con (and vacations) is a plus. And I went ahead and got extra battery packs too!
Back in the day, I recall there would be after-hours parties that were a must. These days, especially with the entertainment industry dominating so much of the show, parties have become more fragmented and exclusive, at locations like the Hard Rock Hotel. Nevertheless, cartoonist and comic-book professionals still have their favorite after-hour watering holes to hang out, talk shop, and network.
As for myself, with a family in tow, and exhausted after a full day on the floor, I tend to get a late dinner with friends as soon as the main floor closes, which is when I primarily get to see some of the craziness of the Gaslamp, and then go back to the hotel to catch up with the family and hit the hay.