Comic-Con is paradise for fan-boys and fan-girls alike.  Abundant swag, a steady flow of compliant celebrities, giddy and gleeful attendees in costumes, exclusive memorabilia, movies, mementos, and memories only to be gotten July 20-24, 2011 at the San Diego Convention Center.

But the convention can be treacherous and confusing if you don’t know some details. Here are just a few need-to-knows.

No ticky.

If you don’t have tickets, you’re shit out of luck.  Passes go on sale for the next year’s Con at the preceding one.  The line usually isn’t that long because those tickets are available throughout the convention.  Some attendees don’t plan ahead, so they usually compete to get their tickets online the millisecond they go on sale.  Those with slow computers, fingers, and decision-making facilities needn’t bother trying.  While resale tickets and hotel/tix packages do go on sale a month prior to the convention, those sell out just as quick.

Don’t bother with the Craigslist sellers or scalpers — many print out fake or duplicate badges which are caught by the security who pen-scan the bar codes on the badges.

And if you think being press or an industry professional means you can show up and announce your arrival, you’ll be promptly turned away.  Everyone has to register. You can also get your badge at The Town and Country Hotel Convention Center.  See specific details here.

Press, by the way, does not get early access to the hall or passports to the front of line.

Drive angry.

Free shuttles bus people back and forth from hotels and the convention center, even some on the outer radius.  The $30 per 24 hours for parking that the downtown hotels charge sure adds up.  The Greyhound station is less than a half mile away from the convention center, and city buses operate throughout the convention.

I got my bus ticket to SD for $1 from Long Beach ($5.50 adding in Metro costs to get to the bus station).  As I expect to be loaded down with swag, I paid more for going back to North Hollywood, where I live, but still less than $20.  I took Crucero bus lines last year to SD; the bus was virtually empty and had free Internet and an overhead TV screen.  There’s bound to be something going on at PETCO park (home of the Padres and venue for other events) either coming in or leaving SD, so expect traffic if you do drive.  I caught a ride with a friend back to L.A. and though we tried to wait out the traffic, it was over 9 hours due to I-5 construction.

Howz it.

Just as competitive is attaining housing.  The convention buys a huge block of rooms with the majority of the hotels in the vicinity and makes the rooms available online. Again: competition.  However, attendees make reservations for the best hotels, then let them drop before the no-return-deposit date.  While rooms do open up — even for the hotels within walking distance of the convention center — often only the more-expensive rooms or those with partial availability are open.

Local San Diegans also rent out their places … at exorbitant rates.

For Armageddon?  No, not the movie.

Schedules, maps, grids, exhibitor listings, and relevant info are all readily available on the website with more added as the Con nears.  It’s quite easy to get lost and meander — there’s lot that will distract you.  Planning out your day is essential.

Some people overplan: I talked to one guy who brought his own toilet paper in his backpack.  He said it was for sinus problems.

There are plenty of bathrooms available in the convention center and at the adjoining hotels, and they don’t all have lines.  The ones by the panel rooms are less busy. There’s running water — even water fountains.  And first aid on site, free.  While I may seem to be reporting this with a derisive tone, some people do have the impression that they’re going to be camping out or stranded.

By the way, if you’re an early morning waiter in the Hall H or ticket line outside, security usually gives you access to the bathroom.

A perfect segue into the next section, after a quick note about food.  While concession food and a plethora of restaurants are nearby, light snacks may be a good idea. Here’s hoping that Soy Joy comes to Comic-Con as they did to Wizard World’s Comic Con (believe it or not, no trademark of the name).  Conveniently there’s a Ralph’s grocery store three short blocks from the convention center, especially convenient for those with microwaves in their rooms.

The line is drawn here.

You will be waiting in line.  For free stuff.  For panels and screenings. For autographs. For badges. For getting inside.

On preview night, the line starts early in the afternoon, first outside to get your badges.  Then a mad dash to get into line for the exhibition floor, which starts at the escalators on the second level (after you enter the convention center, there are central escalators up to the second level.  You’ll go up those and walk to the doors leading to a short outside foyer/bridge to the autograph area inside.  The line snakes from the escalators back down to the exhibition hall, around the 2nd level, and bleeding into the autograph area and beyond).

Security will periodically adjust the lines, so don’t get too comfortable sitting.  And despite their presence, there’s always going to be line-cutters who jump in alongside a group of people, pretending to be part of their tribe.  And yes, if you get in line at 7AM behind 10 people, before the doors open, you’ll find that you’re now behind 50 because each of those 10 people held spaces for 5 friends.

For an early morning Hall H panel, I used bags as placeholders so people knew I was saving spots.

I vow to publish photos of all line-cutters.

Popular.  I want to be popular.

Want to get into a panel?  Get the hell up, get off your ass, and get in line.

The panels for Glee and Game of Thrones seem to be the prohibitive favorites this year.  Glee starts Sunday off so be prepared to camp outside early for the line in Hall H.

To save time for an early-morning line-wait, load up trays of food at the free breakfast buffet and dump it all in your hotel laundry bag.  Eat in line, especially bananas, which are so needed for the day [potassium, fiber, convenience, deliciousness].  Offering people directly behind you a muffin or fruit helps defer their irritation when your friends join you in line.

The larger rooms are Rooms 6A, 6BCF, 6DE, 20, and Hall H.

I don’t want to see this.

Yeah, but you may want to see a panel directly after that.  Unless under special circumstances, rooms are not cleared.  So watching the panel or panels before the highlighted one is good strategy.  That will allow you to inch your way up to a better seat as well.

Free is not always free.

You have to carry the shit you get so watch what you take.  At E3, I saw a guy with about 150 lanyards.  What the hell can you do with that?

You are given a huge bag (Warner Brothers exclusive bag) upon checking in; bags of various strength, size, and shape are given free by vendors on the exhibition floor.

There is a convenient and secure bag check at the convention center that charges $1-2 for each bag.

Booths start out the morning with giveaways.  Each has its allotment for certain time periods so when they’re out, you’ll have to wait for the next wave.  Be sure you’re near your favorite booth as you’ll need the Speed Force to get in line.  Intervals vary as well so it’s being in the right place that garners goodies.

Camera-shy comply.

If you’re in costume, expect requests for photos.  And this isn’t Hollywood and Highland — no one asks for tips for photo-taking here.  Many celebrities conceal their identities by coming to the exhibition floor in costume, so be on the lookout.

The hell’s that smell?

It’s a stereotype that rings — or scents — true.  Many Cosplayers sweat up a sea in their costumes, and if they don’t practice good hygiene in the first place, it will surely send a whiff of unpleasantness up your nose so bad it sticks to your taste buds.

Bad boys and girls.

Everyone may seem like they’re having a good time in their Pokemon and Tomb Raider costumes, but that doesn’t mean they can’t whip out their rhetorical territorial penises.  There was a big brouhaha last year in Hall H over a saved seat — a big no-no at Comic-Con — that led to someone’s being stabbed in the eye with a pen.


— Ken Choy

Just in: Speilberg confirmed for Tin-Tin panel elevating that to the most desired panel of the Con.


Stay tuned for more of Wide Lantern’s embedded reporter Ken Choy’s articles on Comic-Con, live from the war zone.

photo from Comic-Con 2010 by Brian Raimondi photography

Related posts: