#SDCC – Some survival tips you need, going or not

Well, it’s time. Time to return to San Diego for Comic-Con International 2009. Time for costumes. Time for panels. Time for walking. Time for sitting. Time for drinking. Time for waking up 3 hours after you fell asleep. Time for a vacation after the damn thing.

I know some of you are going and that others are obviously not, so I figured I’d try to provide some tips that might be useful, no matter how you are going to experience the rest of this week.  

Before I begin, I just have to say, that, yes, this is the biggest, baddest con in the country, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best and that you are completely missing out if you are not able to make it (though we will miss you, to be sure).  There are plenty of regional cons with way fewer folks and, arguably, better opportunities to hang out with creators and fans in a less stressful and expensive environment.  SDCC is a crazy making experience and, as you will find, takes a toll on even the most optimistic of comic book fans. It’s like going into a four day mosh pit of nerdom and if you’ve never been, you gotta check it out at least once.

If you are going to Comic-Con this week

#1 – You’re going to miss out on stuff.
Right on, you’ve made it!  First thing’s first, stop reading this article and download the schedule right the heck now.  (iPhone users should go download the Official Comic-Con App; it’s actually quite nice, though I don’t see the option to display only the events marked as “Favorite”–I must be missing something. The app is worth getting and is free!)  Print the sucker out (if you can–I don’t see the final PDF of the booklet up there, so you may have to go day by day) and watch how you will go from super excited to terrifically frustrated in the span of 2-3 seconds. I mean, I know that this thing must be hell to schedule, but sometimes, the scheduling just doesn’t make sense. Case in point: on Thursday at 2pm, we have a rare opportunity to have a session with the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz–he didn’t show up last year (or was that WonderCon? Regardless, he was supposed to be show and didn’t)) and then, 15 minutes later, the session with Geoff Johns starts up. I mean, maybe that’s just a difficult choice for me, but as you go through the schedule, you’ll have this problem more than a few times.  

You definitely have to prioritize. Last year, I wanted to check out a panel (was it LOST? Now I don’t even remember–that’s depressing.  I think it was BSG) and I had to sit through two other panels that I didn’t really care about to make sure I got a seat for it. This happens all the time because they don’t clear out the rooms inbetween sessions.  I got in line at 8:30AM for a noon Heroes panel and I just got in.  So, just accept it that you won’t get to see everything, which is cool, because there’s a con next year, too.

#2 – Pace yourself, plan a bit

When I get to Comic-Con I experience a brief spasm of madness because I want to go to every single thing I see all at once. Like, I’ll just sprint away, then stop, see something else, and sprint towards that. It really makes sense to take a deep breath, sit down at the table, and honestly evaluate what there is to see that day.  Just take a deep breath, get a pen out, and start mapping things out.

#3 – Take care of your body

It’s so tempting to run around and just eat the food at the con, which tends to be kinda hectic, or just wait until dinner to really get some food. I am totally guilty of it–that last thing I want to do is leave the con–but honestly, the food is overpriced like crazy and just not all that good. The Comic-Con guide wisely suggests getting food at the supermarket and keeping it in your room, which makes sense, especially if you are close. I am going to bring a refillable water bottle and some Clif bars, myself.  If you are prone to going to parties and drinking and have never been to Comic-Con before, stop drinking whatever you are drinking right now and steel yourself up for what will be one of the biggest challenges your liver will see this year.  Maybe it is because most comic people don’t get out often, but these nights are long and they are sloppy.  Just do your best to stay hydrated with actual water (ice doesn’t count as much as I thought) and eat some food before you go to sleep.  Of course, it’s not the night that’s the problem–it’s the morning after, when you realize you need to get in line 5 hours later for a panel that 4 hours after that! So, I would suggest at least bring some food that you can throw into your bag on the way out that morning. Oh, and as you might know, iFanboy‘s official foot powder is Gold Bond Foot Powder.  I have never used foot powder, but the guys swear by it and I think I might check it out this year, too.

# 4 – Talking to creators, both in person and on panels

Remember, they are normal people who just stuck with it and are doing what they love. Just treat then like normal people and, honestly, unless they offer it, I would avoid shaking their hands.  I know, I know–but listen, they have to meet hundreds of people a day and they don’t want to get sick. This is a rule of thumb when I meet casting directors during auditions; they are happy to meet you and happy that you made it, but if you force them to shake their hands they are just going to worry that should go wash their hands because they have shook so many other folks hands (because we know you’re clean, but still) and may be distracted during their interaction with you. That being said, you should wash your hands frequently; your immune system’s going to be working overtime as it is.  If you want to ask a question during a panel, hold off a bit to see what  kinds of questions not to ask, especially if this is your first time. Most of the time there will be microphones set up in the hall with corresponding lines; the bigger halls with have people manning the microphones. Do what they say and remember that you may want to crouch down in some of the halls so you don’t block the audience’s view.  Do not ask overly specific questions about topics that only you care about. Don’t argue with the response just to argue with a response, though a reasonable followup is not out of bounds. Don’t complain about minor continuity inconsistencies or assign some kind of deeper motivation behind a creator’s decision other than s/he is trying to tell the best story he or she knows how. Don’t ask how to break in (you know what it takes: focus, determination, skill, practice, networking, persistence, and luck and more persistence) or other industry related questions that are obviously off-topic. If you like someone’s work, tell that person–that’s totally cool, but maybe be more specific when expressing what you like, which will mean a bit more to said person and be a great way to segue into asking your question (for example, instead of saying to Ed Brubaker, above, “I like Criminal, it is a good book,” say something like, “I really enjoyed how varied the Criminal stories have been this past year, it’s been great to see it lead the pack when it comes to this new wave of crime books. It kind of felt you were on a roll with crime, what was the impetus to get Incognito going?”. Something like that, where you are giving a heartfelt compliment and asking the creator to think a bit.

Look, you’re part of the iFanbase, so you are already pretty cool, so you don’t even need these tips, probably. I just figured I would just say something–it sucks when someone just embarrasses everyone by refusing to drop a point or asking something that someone’s already asked or asking something just is just so lame that you want to throttle him (or her, but usually, seriously…him).

#5 – Follow the iFanboy crew

I think we’re all going to be twittering away and sharing where we’re gonna be from time to time.  If you are into it, turn on your SMS and get the real news feed. I am not sure what daily content will be sending out, but I will do my best to try to post some updates each night or morning, depending. I have a feeling twitter will be the best way to get an idea of what’s what. Here are our twitter pages: ifanboy, conor, josh, ron, gordon, jim, sonia, mike

#6 – The main floor

Okay, as fun as the panels are, to the uninitiated, nothing is more jaw dropping than walking onto the main floor for the first time. From toys to movies, t-shirts to leather corsets, battlestar to trek, comics to books, posters to blankets, artists to actors…the ground floor is all of it, everything you like, all at once.  It will also be one of the most crowded rooms you will ever be in.  Word to the wise: take it easy. It will be there all week.  Saturday is the worst day–by far the most crowded–but I wonder if there will be least people this year given how fast the con sold out (I have no idea). But Saturdays tend to be when absolutely everyone shows up. If you are there to shop, you should know that the absolute best deals happen about an hour before closing on Sunday. I bought four books–big trades, new ones–for $20 last year because the guy just want to get rid of inventory (I saved over $50).  But, of course, by Sunday the stuff you might want might be sold out. Oh, when going around the main floor, remember you can cover a lot of ground by using the side aisles and then cutting in. Trying to walk through the middle aisles, especially on Saturday, can take forever and be frustrating.

#7 – Gifts, and paying for stuff

Secret: SDCC is a great place–really, a truly fantastic place–to get gifts.  Whit has found many bags and purses that people on the “outside” just love.  We have bought several pieces of art that are hanging on our walls right now. There are great deals on jewelry, art supplies, t-shirts, jackets, dresses, books–it’s just a great, and unexpected place, to find some unique gifts. Bring cash, though; not everyone will take plastic, and the ATM machines are always a nightmare.  So, go your bank and get cash. I am not sure about checks, but you may want to bring one or two just in case.

#8 – Those folks in costumes

Yes, they would like to take pictures with you. And yes, they do mind you staring at them for ten minutes without speaking. Be nice to them, be classy–they made these outfits to have fun, not to feel creeped out because you’ve never seen a Wonder Woman and Slave Leia hanging out together before.

If you are not going to Comic-Con this week

(Okay, I admit, it, I thought there were going to be more tips in this section.)

#1 – Keep up with the goings on with iFanboy.com!  Paul’s gonna be manning the ship and I know he’s going to do his best to keep things lively.  Check out Popcandy, too, Whitney does a great job of posting announcement and the like. If I find other online resources, I will post them. If I can, I will try to do a “Top 10” list some of the nights.

#2 – Enjoy your life. You are going to be able to sleep well, not get sick and have more of your hard earned cash by the time Sunday night rolls around.  SDCC is fun, but it can also feel like work, too, just in terms of rushing around and trying to manage your time.

#3 – If I am going to a session you are interested in, please send me a message and I will try to ask a question for you, etc.

#4 – Figure out how you can go next year!!

Mike Romo, an actor in LA with an actual audition tomorrow morning, has packed too many shirts but is driving so he doesn’t care. You know his twitter and his email and facebook already.


  1. Ha, great tips. I won’t be going this year but I hope all of the iFanboys and iFanboy members have a great time.

  2. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:


  3. @Paul make it happen next year. 🙂

    cool article Mike. 🙂

  4. Hang in there Paul.  You are not alone.

    I would add a #5 to Mike’s list for those not attending.  Watch the most recent video episode.  It gives you a taste of the Con (for free).

  5. Great tips. Every year when SDCC is rolling around, I always say to myself, "maybe next year…". I’d love to go, but it’s just not financially in the cards for me any time soon 🙁

  6. SDCC sounds like one huge Swine Flu breeding ground. Lets hope we don’t lose any of our people.

  7. I’m making it a pint to go next year no matter what!!!!  My liver is in training as we speak… mmm wild turkey and coke, sooooo good…

  8. I went last year to SD (couldn’t convince the wife into 2 years in a row for some reason.)  It is so much fun, but is defintly sensory overload.  Was there when Hugh Jackman came out unexpected and pumped everyone up about Wolverine (too bad that the movie wasn’t good.)  Was in the front row when Kevin Smith came out at the DC panel to annouce Cacophony (to some people this wasn’t big news, but I’m still a huge fan.)  I also heard about these things called podcasts while I was there.  So when I got home, I was searching them out  on iTunes and found the DC Comics podcast.  In the other items you would be interested in was the iFanboy podcast.  And let’s just say I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary of listening and knowing that I’m not the only one out there still reading this awesome medium.


  9. One day I will go to the mythical land of San Diego and bathe with the panel beauties for the Comic Con.

    Just like the video show, great tips for the con Mike.

  10. Really good article Mike. I’ve been going to the Con since about 03 and every year i learn something new. I agree that Planning is a must for this Con if you dont know what your doing you wont find some of the hidden gems of Con.

    Last year was the first time i actually started to check out panels and i dont know why i didnt do it sooner, but to any one else reading this take to heart what Mike says about talking to creators at panels, there were at least a few people last year that at the Cup O’ Joe panel that i think genuinely wanted to get into a arguement with Joe Quesada over Spider-man and how he "destroyed" the character. i dont think any one here would be that kind of person so ill leave it at that.

    The main floor is a monster I always try and start on one end and work my way across by going up and down the side aisles, its still crowded but you have a better chance of seeing everything on the floor, oh and you will need to check some social graces at the door. going up and down aisles you will be stopped by a wall of people who will not move and will not respond to any verbal communication with you, dont be rude but you may need to push a little.

    As far as buying things goes Sunday is the best day last year i got Walking dead trades 1-8 for i think about 30 bucks. Torpedo comics will be selling $1 comics all Con long and if your looking for single issues check them out at least once. 

    hope this info helps. 

  11. Gold Bond Foot Powder? Oh, Mike is in for a surprise…

  12. I wish I was going?!!!  Who is in charge of the online SDCC party?!

  13. I live in San Diego so I go every year for atleast two days but this will be the first year where I will(try to) attend panels. So lets say I want to attend the DC panels around the middle of the day? would I really have to get in line first thing I do as soon as I get in? and possibly sit through panels I dont care for? I mean wow

  14. I’m sad I’m missing this year, but am looking forward to going next year (for free…in a way…told my uncle I’d help him sell some of his old comics, so he’s paying my way in). These are good tips, that I shall remember for the next SDCC

  15. @darkknight it depends on what panel obviously some draw more crowds then others. i remember the cup O Joe panel i waited at least an hour i think and thats at 2pm but thats a high profile panel.

  16. I’ve read a few of these over the years, but I actually learned a few things with this one. A lot of good tips here bro, maybe next year I can put them to some use.