I see blog posts now filled with advice on how to get the most out of Comic-Con. I love the ones that need to point out that you can have fun, even if you don't get into the "Twilight"/"Big Bang"/"Avengers Movie"-type of panels.
There are comics there, too, you know.
In the years I went to Comic-Con International, I never waited on a long line for a panel (easier to do five years ago, yes), and so I never wasted lots of time only to get shut out. On a couple of occasions near the end as the crowds starting piling in, I was late to get to a line, knew I had no chance and so went and did something else. If you can't find something else to do at the convention with that 50 minutes you would have otherwise sat in the back of Hall H watching a panel a few hundred feet in front of you on a projector screen above your head, you need serious help.
San Diego Pro Tip: Always have a back-up plan. Always double-book yourself. Better yet: triple book yourself. Have one option on the con floor, and at least one in the panel rooms.
Also, if your definition of Comic-Con is "The Big Bang" panel and the "Cowboys vs. Aliens" panel, then you're doing it wrong. If you paid for four days so you can say hello to Big Hollywood Star, then you deserve to be disappointed after waiting on line for hours and getting nothing.
Also, please remember that they act for a living. While a few of them might be closeted geeks on their own, the majority of them are shuttled in and out of the convention hall to do a panel, answer some press questions, do a quick photo shoot out back and then get in a limo filled with Purell to return to their mansion in the Hills, or perhaps to the set they're currently filming on. They're good at acting and they want you to believe they're one of you, and that you're besties now.
That's why I like comic book people -- they're not so good at that whole shtick. Some are good at sucking up to every fan who walks up to their booth in the hopes of making a sale, but if they're doing comics, they really are comic fans. You can't have one without the other these days.
That all said, be suspicious of anyone on the con floor in a costume that consists only of a mask. If he or she is walking around with a con volunteer or a hulking brute of a security guard-looking guy, then you know it's a celebrity hoping to blend in.
If that person has curly hair poking out the back and is skinny, it's probably just Weird Al Yankovic.
By the way, my advice for long lines applies to top flight comic stars, too. Sure, you could spend two or three hours in a line to get a sketch from Amazing Wonderful Comic Artist. But there's so much to do at the convention, I don't know how to justify stopping for that long. That could just be me, though. If half the reason for attending Comic-Con is getting a Jim Lee sketch, then enjoy your long hours at the DC booth. At least you'll get what you came for, and their carpeting is usually pretty plush.
Also, ship the stuff you buy home. Don't try to take it on the plane anymore. I used to travel with a half-empty suitcase out to San Diego, knowing that I'd fill it up with stuff for the way home. At my last trip, I found myself at the airport, transferring trade paperbacks out of my suitcase and into my carry-on backpack in order to keep under the fifty pound limit on baggage. With shipping charges relatively cheap compared to the airline's nickels-and-dime charges, it's worth the wait to ship. Bonus tip: Ship stuff out on Saturday. Don't wait until Sunday when everyone else is packing up to go and shipping their stuff out.
After that, have fun!
RANDOM SAN DIEGO THOUGHTS FOR 2011
- Dark Horse and DC are both doing green screen booths, where you can walk in and have your picture superimposed with characters from their respective companies. Modern technology once again replaces jobs that once would have gone to booth babes.
- BOOM! Studios has a special "DuckTales" variant cover done in the style of the classic Nintendo cartridge designs. That one hits home for me, since the original "DuckTales" Nintendo 8-bit game was probably the second video game I ever finished. (The first, of course, was "Super Mario Bros.") I loved playing as Uncle Scrooge with his cane.
- Back in the day, comic creators had their own rock bands playing in the area. Think Pebbles Overflow (Devil's Due's Scott Wherle) or The Fuglees (Andy Kuhn). Today's comic-cons come with nerd-core rappers and geek-themed pop bands. That's right -- even our music gazes at its own navel.
- In the weeks preceding the convention, email boxes begin to overflow with press releases about everything related to the con. I have more party invitations now than I could possibly attend, were I going to the convention in the first place. But it always makes me chuckle when a p.r. firm pitches me their "comic expert" as a good interview for my publication's audience. Maybe they could help explain comics to my readership? I am so the wrong guy for that email.
- I received one email yesterday about a Segway-riding lawyer superhero that convinced me there's no longer any hope for this show. It's now just a complete three ring circus being invaded by ambulance-chasers and bandwagon jumpers thinking they can make a quick buck somehow.
- Though it does raise an interesting question: Are sSgways allowed on the show floor? I would think security would frown upon any wheels other than the ones on a wheelchair. They don't even like rolling carts filled with comics.
- On Monday, BOOM! became the first publisher to officially announce something "from Comic-Con International." Did Chip Mosher take his laptop, sit in the Omni Hotel for some wi-fi and send the press release out while watching the union guys moving stuff into the hall or something?
Even more curiously, the press release is missing a few paragraphs. Surely, they meant to indicate whether this is a comic book or a webcomic or even a live action web-distributed soap opera? They didn't just send out a press release to announce an IP, did they? Well, there are Hollywood people involved with this, so maybe that's their modus operandi.
- By the time the convention starts, better than 90% of the news will have already been announced. That's how companies keep from being completely drowned out. It also collectively sucks the life out of the convention for those pounding refresh on their web browser over the long weekend looking for big surprises.
- What I wish I could do one year, is to go to San Diego for the week of the convention and never go into the convention hall. Between Tr!ckster and the various events and publicity campaigns happening outside the hall (monster trucks?!?), you could likely pack four days of your time. Find an available hotel a bit further away and take the trolley into town. Since you're not buying stacks of books, you can travel light. Surely, somebody will be doing that this year?
- Heck, as a photographer, I could kill those four days just taking pictures of people outside the con hall all day. The world needs more pictures of cosplayers taking cigarette breaks.
THEN AND NOW: SAN DIEGO 2010
- Last year, we learned that convention goers don't like 3D movies. This year, 3D films are credited for greater box office tallies despite fewer people attending. Some even say it was a mistake for "X-Men: First Class" not to have been three-dimensionalized. It hurt the bottom line.
- Alan Moore was grousing that he didn't want "Watchmen" back and was hurt by everyone involved. Just last month, I was waiting for a "Watchmen" title to be part of DC's "The New 52." No such luck, though the inevitable Rorschach/Batman battle would have been epic.
- Stan Lee and Slave Girls sat on Odin's throne in the Marvel booth last year. How does Marvel possibly top that? DC and Dark Horse are betting on green screen photo booths. I miss the days when the faux G.I. Joe blister pack one might pose was the coolest/craziest thing ever.
- Top Cow announced that they were bringing back "Pitt!" A year later -- nothing. Dale Keown is drawing the final issue of the Top Cow crossover series, "Artifacts," though. It's a start, I suppose.
- CNN handed out Flip cameras to con-goers to file reports with. This year, the Flip video camera is dead. Will CNN just ask you to email them your iPhone videos?
- Marvel teased the return of CrossGen. So far, the "Ruse" mini-series got some positive reviews. Don't know that it's sold at all, but at least they had Mark Waid there to write it. Tom Brevoort says that Marvel is "pretty happy" with the CrossGen titles so far. I'm hoping the trades will have legs outside the Direct Market.
That link includes preview art from the upcoming "Mystic" miniseries, which shows it to be a completely different book, but a good-looking one, at least.
- It was also just before San Diego last year that DC announced a Wonder Woman who wore pants. A year later, and DC still isn't sure if she wears pants or not. I'm betting they split the difference and give her that ripped leggings look. She can hang out at the mall outside Spencer's and fit right in that way.
- 2010 was the year I followed the convention using hash tags on Twitter. That led to conversations with people on the line for "Chuck." They were very nice. Some of them even knew what a comic book is.
- I wasn't able to trend #AbsolutePowerGirl on Twitter, but a year later IDW is announcing an "Art of Amanda Conner" book. Close enough for me!
And you know what? For as cynical and jaded as I may sometimes sound about San Diego, the fact is, I'll still be tracking every minute of the show as closely as my day job and family life will allow me. I'll be clicking on every headline and reading every blog and looking for every nugget of story that will fit in this space week. And I'll be loving every minute of it.
I have a photography blog, AugieShoots.com, where I'm talking about photographing a Wiggles concert over the weekend. Stick around, because I'll be at a Huey Lewis and the News concert tonight! Or, go to VariousandSundry.com to read other oddball thoughts that aren't comics-related. Learn how I mostly saved my iPhone after a dunk in the pool.