Secrets of Comic-Con: The Things Most Attendees WILL Tell You
Earlier this week, Buzzfeed posted an article about the “15 Secrets People Who Love Comic Con Will Never Tell You”. Well, I’m here to debunk that, because it’s ridiculous. Will I or anyone else ever know all of the secrets of Comic-Con? I highly doubt it. But that doesn’t mean that most people won’t share them with you – because in every case I’ve encountered, they absolutely will.
The thing is, even though being a “geek” or “nerd” no longer means you’re automatically an outcast, many geeky people – especially those who attend conventions, SDCC included – feel the same way: whether it’s your first time at Comic-Con, or your tenth, if you’re searching out answers to your questions, we’re willing to share whatever we know about these so-called “secrets of Comic-Con”. So without further ado, I bring you…
THE 15 SECRETS OF COMIC-CON THAT *MOST* ATTENDEES WILL TELL YOU
1) There are many Comic Cons. There is only ONE San Diego Comic-Con a.k.a. Comic-Con International a.k.a. Comic-Con a.k.a. SDCC. Some people think it’s the best; others, like myself, generally prefer fan-run conventions such as Dragon Con. But you really can’t compare THE Comic-Con to other “Comic Cons”, mainly because…
2) While some things remain the same, SDCC has very different elements, rules, and even guidelines that other conventions don’t hold to. For instance, they sell out. They also don’t clear panel rooms. And being an industry convention, there’s a lot of advertising and free stuff that non-industry conventions don’t feature.
3) And speaking of free stuff, you don’t even need an SDCC badge to enjoy much of what San Diego Comic-Con offers, and that’s no secret either. There are tons of offsite exhibitions and activities that don’t require a pass to Comic-Con, including the Game of Thrones Experience, the Nerdist and Geek & Sundry Conival, EW’s ConX, and more.
4) In addition to the free activities, there are plenty of outside events throughout the weekend for which you can buy tickets, including HopCon on Preview Night and NerdHQ panels throughout the weekend. But note that many of these events do sell out very quickly, so plan accordingly!
5) Now, this is very important: document your experience. Take pictures, take video, write in a journal, live tweet, post on Instagram, or just share everything on your personal Facebook. Don’t be glued to your phone, but it’s in your best interest to write down or share as much as you can. Because you’ll never remember all of it, and you won’t remember even more if you don’t record anything.
6) On another note, yes, sadly, there is a lot of “panel squatting” at SDCC, because it would probably be a security nightmare for them to clear rooms after every panel. It’s not something I personally agree with, but I understand the logic. So if you want to be in Hall H for, say, Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead on Friday, or Marvel on Saturday? Plan on getting in line no later than 6 PM the night before. It is what it is, folks, and here’s a very important tip – be respectful to the convention volunteers, the security guards, and to your fellow attendees.
7) But if you can’t get into the really “big” panels, remember that there are plenty of other awesome great things going on elsewhere. I sat in a room for several hours last year because I wanted to attend and have a good seat for the Allie Brosh panel, and as it turned out the one right before hers was for BOOM! Comics and was probably the second best panel I attended all weekend.
8) That said, here’s another harsh reality – cosplay isn’t any sort of central theme at San Diego Comic-Con. Yes, people cosplay. I’ve done it, and I’ve seen some amazing cosplayers at SDCC…but unlike many other conventions, it isn’t as prominent. I don’t bother with it anymore because there’s simply too much to do to bother with that extra time it takes to put on a costume; on average I would say that about 40% of the attendees cosplay. (Yes, I’m guessing and could be a little bit off but it definitely isn’t a hardcore cosplay convention.)
9) The thing is, the fact that this isn’t a huge cosplay-centric convention means that it’s a great place to start cosplaying. The vast majority of attendees you meet who recognize what you’re wearing will be excited to see you and want to take a picture, which isn’t something that happens at cosplay-saturated conventions.
10) But what about celebrities? Listen, if you hang out in the right places you may randomly run into some. I almost tripped over Elijah Wood at my first Comic-Con; I ran into Wilmer Valdarrama in a bar last year. That said, unless you’re really willing to search out these encounters, you’re not guaranteed to have one. I got lucky my first year when I got to meet people like Peter Beagle, Greg Nicotero, Norman Reedus, and George R.R. Martin. Just know that it’s not guaranteed to happen.
11) There’s also no point in keeping the idea of “Con Survival Gear” one of these supposed secrets of Comic-Con. When you leave your hotel, bring food like granola or protein bars, a BPA-free reusable/refillable water bottle, portable chargers if you want to keep your phone running all day, pens and a notepad just in case, preferably a pair of comfortable shoes…the list goes on and on, and I could never remember everything, but those are the beginnings of a decent SDCC survival gear pack!
12) As great as those survival gear ideas are, though, nothing is as important as The Big Three: (a) eat one solid meal each day (at least); (b) shower at least once within each 24-hour period (at least); and (c) get an AVERAGE of five hours of sleep – in a bed – each night (…at least).
13) Now, Buzzfeed was right – many times, people feel like they’ve embarrassed themselves after meeting their favorite actor, author, or other celebrity…but hey, unless you bite someone or seriously insult them, you’re doing a-okay. Most people don’t know how to react when they meet celebrities. It’s normal. It’s okay. And I think that’s where Buzzfeed was wrong – many of us are totally fine with admitting that we didn’t comport ourselves well in some of these situations, because we want fellow fans to know that they aren’t alone in their awkwardness, if it happens.
14) One thing I was seriously confused about was why one of those secrets of Comic-Con be that “at the end of the day, it just feels incredible to hang out with people…who understand you.” Are you KIDDING me? That’s something most convention goers – including myself – have been pushing for YEARS now. Yes, Comic-Con is different from every other convention. To be honest, they are all different. But in general, despite its flaws, it’s still a geek convention that brings people together. If you’d told me two years ago that I’d meet some of my closest and most respected friends because of SDCC, I probably wouldn’t believed you. But I did, and I can’t wait to return in less than 24 hours and be with those “people who understand me” once again.
15) …because at the end of the weekend, the best times I’ve had at SDCC have always been with my friends. Attend panels together, grab food together, party together at least one night, if not more. They’re the people who will truly make your Comic-Con experience magical.
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is a fandom and geek culture expert, public speaker, and character cosplayer who is best known for her Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones), Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica), and Andrea (The Walking Dead) cosplays. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.