Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to Prep for Comic Con

Official logo courtesy of Comic Con International - trademark & copyright of CCI

Today is a very special day for self-appointed geeks and dorks (like myself) all around the world. You know what I'm talking about. That first day where we are each given the opportunity to vie for access to that magical item which grants us each safe passage between worlds. Not just ANY magical item. It's that Golden Ticket for which we will be permitted to access the chocolate factory of which every geek dreams. Yes, my friends, today is the very first day of Comic Con Registration. The online open registration went up today at 8:00am PST, and as usual sold out immediately - in fact, faster than ever before. Those fleeting comic con tickets bring to my attention the fact that not every geek has been fortunate enough to have completed this Odyssey. There is an entire generation of geeks and dorks everywhere who must be indoctrinated into the ways of Con. Like Athena appearing to Odysseus guiding him through his journey, that is where I appear to help introduce you to and prepare you for the comic con experience. Here are some tips and tricks I hope that newcomers (and oldcomers alike) will find helpful.

Photo Courtesy of Honolulu Pulse (Associated Press 2012)

If you've never been to con, then you've probably only seen it on television or the interweb. AceOfGeeks is probably one of the coolest ways to find out what you'll experience. Here's a shameless, I mean a cool video of my coverage of some of last year's ComicCon experience for AceOfGeeks - CLICK HERE.

Two words for you: BOOK AHEAD! Use GroupOn, use points, use friends and family discounts, use anything you can! Because the price for rooms during SDCC are often double the normal rate, or more, my personal recommendation (and favorite) is to stay with a local friend! I have a comic con buddy that I have been attending the con with for about 10 years. We always stay with his cousin and take public transportation over to the con. It saves us HUNDREDS and hundreds of dollars every year. So, trust me on this one and find a friend or family member to stay with, even if you don't like them. It will cut your costs down more than you can imagine, and besides, you won't see them much anyway. 

The schedule for Comic Con is beyond massive, and there is no way that you'll be able to see or do everything. I realize that most people are not as anal and weirdly methodical as i am. My scheduling process is usually pretty lengthy, and consists of multiple steps (which I will not bore you with). However, I highly recommend that you take some time and review the schedule at least a week in advance. This will give you the ability to properly plan so that you can see all the important things you desire. Just keep in mind a few things: 
  1. There are always lines for panels, and depending on the size of the panel, you could be in line for hours. (Or, in the case of Hall H, a full day.)
  2. If your panels or events are far apart, there is a commute time to take into consideration. 
  3. There will be a TON of things to do outside the con. You won't believe it. Just plan at least one day outside the'll see! 
  4. There are highlight events at con which are: The Eisner Awards, The Masquerade Ball, World Premiere screenings, Artist Talkbacks, and signings. You should keep an eye out for those. 
  5. Plan on attending parties. There will be tons now that Hollywood, whose population generally has absolutely no idea of anything about comic books, has come and ruined comic con...ooops, did I say that out loud?
  6. The convention floor is massive and during busy days (like Friday and especially Saturday) can take 30 minutes just to get across. You will NEVER be able to do everything on the convention floor. So plan on spreading it out over a few days. 
  7. You need to rest and eat at some point.
Last year's Warner Bros panel revealed the new Wonder Woman costume 
and her appearance in the Superman/Batman film. Photo courtesy of

"Leave room" should be your mantra. You are going to come home with a lot more than you left. You may not think you will, but trust me you will! Leave yourself tons of room and only take the essentials. When it comes to products, just remember that shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, etc. will all be provided by your hotel or be at your friend's house. It just takes up space and you don't need anything more than your toothbrush, deodorant, and full line of facial products (WHAT?!? I thought everyone used a full line of facial products?). 

There is a Ralph's grocery store in the gaslamp district. Since eating out can be incredibly costly and the food inside the convention center is beyond costly, hit Ralph's and stock up your hotel fridge or the fridge of your friend with whom you're staying, and pack your meals each day. You'll eat healthier and cheaper. 

Captain America eating on floor at NY Comic Con. Photo courtesy of

"Less is more" is the name of the game here. If I do a costume, I always do one that has a simple black base with add-ons or decals to go over. This way it doesn't take up much room in my suitcase and is easily interchangeable. Example: I can go from Nightwing to WonderMan to Batman Beyond and it will be like packing three costumes, but only taking up a small amount of space. In addition, I wear clothes that are often considered or double as cosplay. This is also a great way to pack costumes efficiently. 

Comic Con costume photos courtesy of The Advocate Magazine - 2014

Daniel Radcliff made a shocking appearance in by attending the con in costume in 2014.  
Photo courtesy of Twitter user @alongcameHolly5

Again, you don't need a lot here. Most people are just wearing jeans and T-Shirts. Matter of fact, that's pretty much the comic con uniform. There are a couple of things you need to take into consideration: 1) you're probably going to get free Tees and clothing when you get there, and 2) If you're like me, you're probably going to purchase t-shirts while you're there. Therefore, my recommendation is always to pack a few pair of socks, underwear, but only one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts, and the most comfortable pair of shoes you have (Because you'll be doing a ton of walking), a dress shirt for events. All of the free clothes you get and tees you buy will make up the rest of your trip. Oh, and this is also another reason to pack light. ;) 

Robert Downey Jr. dresses to impress in this photo courtesy of (2012)

Getting to San Diego can be easy if you're creative. Since I know that everyone and their grandmother is traveling at certain times, I either go at off times, or use creative/non-traditional modes of transport. For instance, my path is usually that I fly down to LA the day before preview day (on a ticket that I've purchased WAY in advance). This way I can spend time with friends and really ease into the idea of the con. Then I drive down early on preview day. Usually prior to the time that everyone has even begun thinking about arriving (early am is great). This gives me time to watch everything get set up and get acclimated/plan my weekend out. When moving around in San Diego during the con, I usually take the free shuttles provided in the Gaslamp district, or else I take public transportation. The public transportation system often gets me where I need to go faster than Lyft or Uber. Since the train is on it's own tracks/system, it can be especially helpful if you take the train during rush hour traffic jams. 

Photo of the Ecto-1 courtesy of ScreenCave & Sasha Perl-Raver (2010)

There you have it everyone. A few of my personal tips and tricks to making your comic con experience the best and most affordable it can be. Just to give you an idea of how affordable your comic con experience can be, one year I pulled out all the stops and: 
  • used points for my flight, 
  • stayed with a friend, 
  • got a comped badge through a company for which I had worked, 
  • bought food at Ralph's grocery store/packed my lunches, 
  • and used almost every free handout for stuff at the con. 
Even with the few things that I bought on the convention floor, I'll never forget that not only did my con buddy and I get to see each and every thing that we wanted to see, but I made it out of the con only spending $200 for the entire trip. It was a miracle, and I don't ever expect to get out of there spending that little money ever again. But it was proof that with a little planning and forethought, you really can have a fun and affordable comic con experience. I hope that this helps you all out even if in the smallest way. We geeks have to stick together. And if you can't make it to comic con, be sure to stay tuned to all the excitement here at AceOfGeeks!

Brian J. Patterson is a writer and actor splitting his time between San Francisco and Los Angeles. His house is a shrine to Wonder Woman.

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