Mark James here, your veteran con goer, to give you some tips on how to get around the big conventions.
This article expands on the short piece in How to Collect Comics article. Some background, I have been to Comic Con before the change into Movie Con, cons for Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, cons in New York and New Orleans, really any place with New in front of it. Seriously, though, to get your veteran status follow these ten easy steps. You know the Cosplay Con is this Saturday? Free admission, free parking, yup, good luck on the parking.
10. Is Comic Con the Only Con I Should Attend This Year? No. San Diego Comic Con is the one most people seem to know. The better answer is whichever one is within your price range and time you can go. Keep in mind the flight or drive, hotels, before you even get to admission and things to buy at the con. Cons are now spreading to almost every part of the country. Remember to give the little ones a chance, it might be you will find the one thing on your list. Check websites to find what con is in your area. Pre-reg is always good for big cons, I’m looking at you Comic Con.
9. Should I Stick to My Plan Going to a Con? The answer is yes and no. Yes, you should plan, but no, don’t follow it. Keep in mind that the schedule for panels and signings are mostly available before cons open. Check the map, make your own notes on where to go, and at what time. I rip out the map from con booklets so I can do so. Prioritize your schedule, what can’t you miss?, big cons schedule events at the same time so you have to choose. The problem with con plans is that schedules change, something always unexpected comes up (that creator not scheduled to go shows up or the reverse), and you can get caught up shopping. In short, Plan, Plan, Plan, and then Throw Out the Plan.
8. Should I Travel Light to a Con? No. Take everything you would like to get signed, even if the creator is not scheduled, you never know. A sturdy backpack is a must. Maybe a poster tube if you want to store your posters. There are con goers who bring rolling luggage, some cons restrict them, always check first. Still, if you are going to haul in a freight bed to carry your signing items you’ve gone too far. Next, dress casual, which means keep in mind the walking (marathon distances), comfortable shoes. Which brings us to money, bring more than you think you may need, but be careful you don’t break your bank. You may need to go to the ATM. Always bring a snack, something to drink, hydrate! in your pack. You might be caught in a line or panel and not get a chance to eat or get a drink. Also, keep up your hygiene. Wash, brush teeth, wear clean clothes. Optional for some con goers, but not fun for fellow con goers. Lastly, keep in mind that there are children that also attend cons. Yes, we are all adults, but there isn’t an adult comic book con so watch your language. Indoor voices.
7. Should I Go to That Panel First? Yes, if there is a line or starts early. Otherwise, once you reach the con, get your badge if needed, and con booklet, you should Walk the Floor. Very important. It is important unless you are schedule to catch that panel, that you check out what is on the floor. The dealer’s room is where you can find the bargains. Make friends with a dealer. Check out the con exclusives, stock up on the free stuff (getting sparse in this corporate era), and find out what creators will be showing up at what booth. Cons are great opportunities to see what new things are upcoming from companies at booths, not just panels, and you can find that independent company that needs your support.
6. Is It Worth It Get My Comic Signed? Depends, it’s not going up in value unless a customer thinks it is valuable. Instead, it is just fun to get a work that you like get signed by a creator. It may be at their Artist’s Alley table, company booth, in a separate room, or at a store’s booth. Then, find out if there is a wristband, ticket, or sign-up. Some creators charge for their signature. It’s usually $10-15 for a B&W photo, $20-25 for color, but prices vary, and big names and rare items go for several times that amount. Always check. Also, note that creators can have signings all over the con. Most often, creators will leave a note that they are at a panel, at another booth, or on a break. Have your signed items at three, the must haves, it is considerate for the creator and makes it meaningful to you. If you have more, always ask, they might limit it to one signed item or buy something and get a signature.
5. Should I Go to Artist’s Alley? Yes! It should be part of your walk around the floor. The best part is always to find the new artist or writer. You can also check out your favorites, but expect a line for the popular ones (a trend in the last decade or so). If you do get in a line, be patient. It’s also great to talk with artists, ask about their upcoming projects, talk about the works that you like that they have worked on.
4. Should I Attend a Panel? Yes. This is the best way for creators to get in touch with fans. You can check out exclusive clips from the studios, but yes, don’t spoil anything by trying to take videos of them. The Q&As can be a pain in A, but sometimes a fan will ask a really great question. Young fans should always be encouraged and no question by them is poor.
3. Is Listening to the Con Announcements the Best Way to Know What’s Going On? No. They may mention special events and creators, but none that would cause any rush. Your best bet is your cell phone. Keep in contact with your friends if you are at different areas of the con. Talk to security guards. Don’t rely on them. Many workers at the con don’t have full information, be nice, but check and re-check information.
2. Should I Attend the Costume Contest? Yes! They are great fan gatherings that show the true spirit of fandom. There were chants in the Wonder Con Masquerade crowd with a shouting of the contestant number and an “A-ha! ha! ha!” Cosplaying will be handled in a future article, but always a plus. Just wear something you made not bought from a store. Kids can wear store costumes, but c’mon, Underoos? The older you are, the more creative you should be with your costume.
1. Should I Buy Back Issues? Yes. Current issues may have a discount, check on them, be careful not to pay for issues that are said to raise in value unless you have the rate from checking around the room. The best cons have a wealth of back issues, magazines, toys, and books (as well as other items). You’ve walked the room, checked prices, but be careful not to let an item slip away. Repeating a rule: NEVER pass something up hoping you will get back to it. The item can be sold to the last guy, you can forget where is the booth, or the dealer has already left. The dealer may be able to hold the item for you. Last day of course is when the bargains start, dealers don’t need to drag tons of merchandise back, so some will price low during the closing of the con.
Other things to do: Eat. Priority. Find things that are cheap, yup, but maybe healthy while you are at it. Look for local restaurants around the con. Don’t be trapped by food areas at the con. Exclusives. Sadly, some con goers live for the exclusives and re-sell them on ebay. I think you should buy them, if it’s something that you value. Toys fine. Comic books better, more portable. Sketchbooks and prints, a must if you like the artist. Next, movies. They screen old movies, favorites, and animated films. It is fun to catch something interesting with a fan crowd. Many con goers like watching the trailers for new films. Games. Especially, if it is a game con, fun if you want to win some prizes. How should you end a con? Happily with memories and good stuff. Hopefully with a few dollars in your pocket for parking. Don’t get me started on Comic Con parking. Con-gradulations you are now ready for your next con.