Surviving Comic Con 101
By: Jay Tablante
For any geek, traveling to San Diego for comic con is a must, at least once in your lifetime. For those who do make to geek Mecca, it can be a very overwhelming experience. This year was my 2nd time to go, and despite seeing familiarity in the show, it has always left my jaws dropping.
Always come into the convention admitting that you will never get to do everything they advertised, and then some. During my first year of attending an international convention, I was all about winging things on the fly, which is one of the worst rookie mistakes you could ever do. Events happen almost simultaneously, and if you try going to all of them, you would end up going to none. In short, come with a few bucket list goals in mind. All the rest you get to enjoy are icing on the cake.
Have one major trip that you would highlight, and aim to do that. I opted to end my comic con experience by watching Conan live. Having several guests one after another was almost as good as having your personal Hall H experience, minus the crazier lines. We did have to line up for Conan standby tickets after all.
Plan out your food trip because it’s almost as bad as lining up for stuff during the con. The downtown Gaslamp district may be a host for several notable restaurants and bars, but come comic con weekend, expect all those within the vicinity to be packed to the brim. Expect to line up at least an hour (if you’re lucky) to get some seats. Don’t expect service to be pristine either, and it’s understandable given how those restaurant employees are stretched thin trying to serve you. If you’re not that picky an eater, you would survive by walking down the nearest Ralph’s supermarket a few blocks right from the con center. I managed to stock up on food in the hotel by making trips to Ralph’s. There are also several small convenience stores / cafes servicing sandwiches and good salad if you’re on the healthy side.
Do not leave this convention without trying the Brazilian BBQ places around. That is a must.
This con is all about the line. I’m not even talking about Hall H, which would come in the next paragraphs. People camp out as early as midnight just to take a swig at those convention-exclusive toys. Mattel, Hasbro and even Lego are notorious for releasing toys people go crazy for. If you’re going to be one of those, be prepared to stand in line as far a mile. The line doesn’t even end there. The first line you go to is just to receive an armband to be on the actual line to buy anything. There is a line for the line.
One thing you have to admire about this “line culture” is people are pretty much respectful about the system. As far as I have experienced, I haven’t really seen a riot ensuing (since hall security is also watching over people like hawks) in the one I have lined up for. It was kind of reassuring hearing people asking for order like, “where do we line up?” You also get to meet some new friends along the way, and get to share each other’s geekhood. More often than not, attendees are quite friendly with each other.
Cosplayer Etiquette 101: Always ask permission before you take pictures. They are real people who enjoy the con as much as you do. They are not booth displays. A little kind word before you snap goes a long way, more often than not they don’t mind posing in front of you.
The myth of Hall H is something you should be wary about. If you’re a freshie con-goer, camping out for Hall H may seem like one of those things in the bucket list. If you’re the ultra-celebrity stalker, go for it. Be prepared the camp out for longer lines compared the toy fanatics though. As for me, traveling half-way across the world just to spend my time in a line doesn’t seem to be that economical. And to think I’m already spending my time in lines for the ones I like.
Comic-Con has out-grown the convention center. As more and more people attend the con every year, the venue is bursting at the seams to accommodate the crowd. The spillover is taken cared by the surround Gaslamp district, where most exhibitors who don’t have premium real estate in the con center get to put up their events in open spaces. For this year they held an obstacle course ala American Ninja for the latest Assassin’s Creed game. In the next corner, there’s a huge tent for Call of Duty. Petco Park on the side has been taken over by MTV for whatever they had. At this point, you can enjoy the con without having a badge.
Your portable battery charger is a life-saver. The higher the capacity, the better since you would be utilizing the comic-con app most of the day. That’s on top of the selfies, Facebook, Instagram, videos, and yes actual usage of the phone. There are no public charging places, so having a one with you will become very handy throughout the day.
Watch your wallet! And it’s not really about pick-pockets. It’s more like watching what you buy. You can easily get sucked into the comic-con craze of buying everything and anything you see down the aisles. I wouldn’t blame you though. I went through such retail therapy of buying so much art books, trinkets and vinyl statues during the first time. The biggest challenge came after the all the con hoopla has died down: how to bring home all the stuff. I suffered the most going back home having several checked-in luggage and carry-ons. A side tip: have a handy duffel bag stashed in your main luggage. That’s for all the remaining and or clothes you get to purchase during the con. The more delicate stuff goes into the main bag.
Each comic-con experience is unique to every attendee, so go off and make it your own!
About Jay Tablante:
Jay’s so-called professional career started with shooting model-wannabe friends in college. It was funny to note that when his friends submitted them to auditions and casting calls, one particular client asked about the photographer (Jay) and not the model auditioning. From then on, it was the start of a love-hate relationship with photography that has spanned seven years and counting.
As a self-confessed geek, most of Jay’s personal work revolves around paying homage to the icons and characters in his youth. That’s why you get to see superheroes and comic book characters in most of his portfolio. The commercial stuff is still there of course, but that’s bread and butter. Isn’t exactly breathtaking to showcase mundane shots of people holding credits cards, bottles, and product shots of toilets.
For wherever photography takes him, he will forever be just a geek with a camera. Read more about Jay here.