Wednesday, July 8, 2015

10 Tips for Attending Comic Book Conventions - San Diego Comic-Con and Beyond!

When I spoke to my dad over the weekend, he teased, "I bet I know where you wish you were gonna be on Thursday." Sigh -- yes, dad... San Diego, California!

This year I'm not going to the annual extravaganza known as Comic-Con, but I have been to an abundance of comic book conventions over my lifetime, including San Diego. In fact, I started attending them in the womb (thanks to my grandfather being a comic book artist), so I like to think I'm a bit of an expert. I've often found myself behind artist alley tables as an exhibitor in one way or another, but I've also done my fair share of conventions as an attendee. Most recently, I went to Charlotte HeroesCon, and it got me thinking. What would be some of the advice I would give someone attending a con for the first time? So, without further ado, here are my tips for making the most out of a comic book convention. If you have anything to add, please be sure to leave a comment!

With my dad at the 2011 Eisner Awards,
the last time I attended San Diego
Comic-Con International.

1.) Arrange your pass ahead of time

If you are going to a big show like San Diego, you will undoubtedly have your pass taken care of well in advance. If going to a smaller show and you aren't an exhibitor, make sure you have a plan for getting passes. Buying them online is usually a good bet. You may have to wait in line even if you do purchase your tickets in advance, so just be sure to get to the convention with enough time to spare and with something to entertain you while you wait. Going prepared will help get your convention experience off to a great start!

2.) Plan, but leave yourself open to magic

Due to the multifaceted nature of comic book conventions, it's a good idea to have an idea of what you want to do at the con. Do you want to hit up the dealers? Stick to artist alley? Attend panels? If you have a loose idea it will help you maximize your time, but still allows for the random, the happenstance, and the magical.

You won't feel guilty if you stick to your budget!

3.) Budget

Setting a budget before you are faced with all your most favorite things in the world will help you stave off guilt and have the best time possible. I like to give myself a tiny buffer, but basically, when I've reached my max I have to stop purchasing. It is sad, but will help prevent much more serious sadness down the line! If you plan to stay after you've maxed out your con budget, having that limit in place will give you a chance to talk to people and enjoy the atmosphere without worrying about buying stuff and hauling it around.

4.) Bring a list of what you are looking for

Having a list of what you plan on purchasing will keep you focused and help you stay within your budget. Before attending a con, I like to print out my romance comic book inventory and only make purchases where there are gaps in my collection. Before I started using a list, I wound up buying too many duplicates. As an added bonus, having a list can be a great conversation starter with other con attendees!

5.) Get enough sleep

Staying up all night after the con can be a ton of fun, but so is getting the proper amount of sleep. This could just be the newly minted 30 year old in me, but seriously... you do not want to be tired at the actual convention.

Beware the dreaded convention hall food!

6.) Eat healthy meals and snacks

Convention hall food is expensive. It is also usually not very good, and sitting on the floor to eat greasy pizza is less than optimal in my experience. In that light, be sure to eat a good, hearty breakfast before you leave and take healthy snacks. Easy (not messy) snacks are always a good bet if the convention hall allows it, and remember -- no eating or drinking over dealer or artist tables! If it is nice outside, this would be a perfect opportunity to take a little outdoor break. After the convention, be sure to have a dinner plan or risk you and your friends getting hangry -- I may or may not speak from personal experience on this one!

7.) Wear comfy shoes

In the words of the legendary Stan Lee, "‘Nuff said!"

8.) Say hello

With only a few exceptions, people at conventions are extremely friendly and they want to talk to you! I know it can be a little nerve-wracking to go up to your favorite creator, but just take a deep breath, and remember that they are people too. Be polite and courteous of their time and table space, and you are bound to have an excellent conversation.

9.) Bring a rigid protective sleeve or portfolio

Most large cons will have a dealer selling supplies. However, it's a good idea to plan ahead and bring your own portfolio or rigid toploader. A small upfront investment will come in handy to store your purchases and prevent damage to those gorgeous pieces of art you pick up.

10.) Pack lightly but don't forget the essentials

You are going to get tired if you are hauling around a ton of stuff before you even purchase anything. Some convention halls do not allow rolling suitcases for whatever reason, so I advise packing light. Essentials I recommend taking with you on the convention floor include hand sanitizer, deodorant, tissues, mints, and a light extra layer. Sometimes the AC can be overpowering! You may also want to bring a small notebook or have your phone handy to jot down cool things you see that you want to investigate further.

Most importantly, have fun!

Am I forgetting anything? Let me know and/or share
your convention tips in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading!
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  1. Dear Jacque: I probably shouldn't admit this, but I never have been to a comics convention! I think I'm intimidated by how large and "corporate" they seem today. Plus, the convention here in Washington, DC, AwesomeCon, seems (at least, based on the posters and the celeb guests) to be more focused on sci fi/fantasy TV and movies rather than comic books.

    The con you recently attended in Charlotte sounds more like my speed: mostly focused on comics, giving attendees the chance to go through those long boxes and add to their collections! (Although my collection is officially closed, at least until my husband and I pay off our student debt!)

    What changes have you seen in conventions over the years?

    1. Well that's okay! No shame in that. Most conventions these days do have a tendency to veer more into the general pop culture realm, giving them that corporate feel that you mentioned. I definitely recommend HeroesCon, but there are some smaller conventions to keep in mind when you are in the market for books again! (I hear you on that student loan debt -- I'm in the same boat!)

      While many aspects of the conventions have stayed the same, one of the biggest changes I've seen is sheer size and popularity for the general public. Now everyone, no matter their background, seems to have a general sense of what a comic book convention is -- which I think is largely in part by the media coverage of the San Diego show. Believe it or not, before Wizard bought the Chicago show, I remember when it was held in a small hotel ballroom!