Attention First Timers! What to Expect From San Diego Comic-Con!

Five days. Five days until I wake up disgustingly early to crawl onto a giant metal bird that will carry me to the geek event of the year. Five days and I am not even ready: I should have started preparing a month ago. I am missing out on precious pre-convention sleep in order to check off things on my mile long "to do" list. Preparation for San Diego Comic Con is worth it, though. Luckily, this year I am ABLE to have a "to do" list. Last year was my first year and I was grossly unprepared for what awaited me. I don't want you folks to be caught as unawares as I was!

See, I do go to a lot of conventions, and I was by no means a convention "n00b" before San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) last year. However, I had never been to ANYTHING on the same scale as SDCC. A "big" convention to me was 20,000 people – not over 130,000. SDCC was a strange sort of culture shock, something I had no way of fathoming until I was actually in the thick of things. Perhaps this is the best way to truly get a "feel" for SDCC – to jump in feet first and hope you land somewhere relatively safe. But having an idea of what you are in for certainly will help.

First of all, if you have ever been to another convention, be it anime, comic books, video games, etc… forget about that convention entirely. SDCC is an entity in itself. It is like a giant music festival for geeks, it is a fantasy land that is so entirely different from real life that you are basically on another planet for the entire week. San Diego is entirely overrun with pastey people who can name artists just by seeing one page from a comic and the streets are filled with clever, nerdy t-shirts. Celebrities dodge in and out of the crowds nearly unnoticed due to the mobs of people crowding around waiting for a panel, or a signing, or tacos.

Waiting, for certain, is a giant thing to expect of San Diego Comic-Con. As each year goes by the venue is progressively feeling smaller as the audience and attendees numbers increase. If you want to get to any major media panel, you need to be there at least two or three hours early to make sure you can actually get into the panel room. The same goes for most major signings. Even the vendor hall is completely crowded, and there are often lines just to look at merchandise. Depending on the time and day, getting into the Marvel and DC booths can be a true test of dedication, as you have to battle through many bodies crowding the aisles near the "major two" to even reach your final destination. If you have issues with people pressing in on you, SDCC might not be the place for you. It is undeniably crowded, no matter what part of the convention you are in or what time.

Come prepared with your own sustenance, as well. If you expect to eat AT the convention center, you are in for a shock. Not only are the refreshments incredibly overpriced, but as with most things at SDCC, the lines can be excrutiatingly long. Bring along some Gatorade and granola bars, or, if you don't mind walking, there are a number of decent fast food sort of places a couple of blocks away from the convention center.

Although wandering around the convention aimlessly can be super entertaining, you will probably find yourself regretting afterwards that you missed a lot of things. I did this last year: I didn't leave the vendor hall the entire convention. I didn't go to any panels or ANYTHING but I was super happy and content. But after the convention, I found out about all these amazing things I had missed out on, and I was pretty flattened. So do your research beforehand. Make an itinerary for yourself, so you have a schedule of the panels/events you definitely want to attend. Otherwise the largeness of SDCC will totally overwhelm you and you will find yourself walking around like a country bumpkin in Tokyo for the first time.

One of the greatest things about SDCC, in my personal opinion, is the incredible networking aspects that it presents. If you work in the industry or are aspiring to work in it, make sure to bring business cards and talk to as many people as you can. Afterparties are a great venue for this, as the the social lubricant of booze is involved and professionals are not in "work mode" like they are on the convention floor. I actually prefer the SDCC afterparties more than I like the convention itself: it is all about mingling with like-minded people and making fast friends. So, don't think that you're just going to go home after a long day of wandering the convention floor. Go to any bar near the convention center and you are sure to be rubbing shoulders with celebrities and professionals.

If you are a consumer of any sort, or a toy fan, come prepared to spend A LOT of money. Last year I thought to myself: "Oh, I'll just get a couple of knick knacks" and ended up with a carry on bag I could barely lift on the way home. SDCC is notorious for its toy exclusives, which are in high demand and are completely unique to the convention itself. If you are into limited editions and things like that, SDCC is definitely the place for you.

I think that just about covers the most important things you can expect from a first time experience at San Diego Comic-Con. However, there are always unique experiences to be had, and I'm sure I am going to come away with many interesting stories this year… which I will naturally share with everyone in the exhausted, hungover aftermath!

Just remember some of the basic things that I have mentioned in my convention etiquette article but I feel it may be prudent to mention again: Bathe. Get at least a little sleep. Don't forget to eat. Be courteous and polite to other convention goers. Carry hand sanitizer with you… and most of all, ENJOY YOURSELF.



If you see me on the convention floor or lurking about the booth (booth #2229), come say hello! And I will NEVER be adverse to drinks being bought for me after the convention. Watch my twitter for constant SDCC updates, interjected with wit and cleverness! Look for a decently tall redheaded girl toting giant cameras and wearing dresses. Look it's Molly!


  1. Molly, with every article you write about conventions, I make a new discovery. By the time I eventually get to one, I’ll be as experienced as a regular con-goer.

  2. Brilliant article. I wish I was going 🙁

  3. The first (and only) CCI I went to I totally missed out on all the after parties. Looking back on that now it seems like a huge missed opportunity. Fortunately the stars seem to be lining up for me to go next year.

    Also, if you plan on buying art I suggest you plan how to get it home ahead of time. A lot of the time this is not an issue, but be sure your suitcase is large and secure enough to hold a huge cardboard page. I was forced into shipping it all to myself seperately because I didn’t have the forsight to bring a large suitcase.

  4. Been living here in SD for over 12 years now, I still haven’t made it to Comic Con because I am horrible at planning far enough in advance to buy tickets.  (I gather it’s already too late to buy even for next year?)

     A note for those coming to SD for the Con:  If you have an extra day or two, take some time to get out and enjoy this beautiful city beyond downtown.  The weather just got got perfect again, and we have great beaches, parks, and restaurants.  Go to Ocean Beach, and get a grilled fish taco at South Beach bar and Grill or an awesome burger at Hodad’s.  Go to Pacific Beach and rent a beach cruiser.  Have fun!   


  5. It’s my first year at SDCC Molly so thanks for the tips!  I had already planned on bringing my own food and have a list of what panels I want to see but did not think about afterparties at all. 

  6. It’s all about NETWORKING at SDCC. If you don’t have business cards, shame on you! If you need some, I recomend (shameless self promotion) for all your printing needs! This year is gonna be off the hook. I want to meet all you iFanboy folks, so find me for high-5’s. I’ll be the guy high on redbull probably fighting some celebrity who totally doesn’t deserve the ass-whoopin’ I’m gonna drop on them. I’m lookin’ at you Thomas Jane & Ray Park!

  7. I gave up on trying to meet people at  the after parties after going in to about 10 different bars and not seeing anyone I knew. I dont know, if there was a schedule for what creators will be at which bars at which time I’d be there.

  8. What’s Ron doing macking on Zooey Deschanel in that photo?

  9. @DarkKnightDetective: There’s no schedule you just have to keep your eyes and ears open. And everyone ends up at the Hyatt at some point every night. It’s a Who’s Who of comic creators.

  10. @j206

    Macking on Zooey Deschanel. 

  11. And if you are going to Comic-Con this week, please come check out the Street Angel screening at 6:20 on Thursday 22nd, as part of Comic-Con’s short film programme.  We’re just next door in the Marriott Hotel, Hall 1 & 2.

    And we’re on opposite Scott Pilgrim, so we need all the help we can get!

    It’s based on the comic by Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca ("Afrodisiac"), and even features original art by Jim created especially for the film!  Here’s the trailer:


    <a href="" target="_blank"></a>


  12. Wow, don’t know how the formatting on that last post went so hayway.  Apologies…  (Come see our film anyway, though.)