Monday, July 15, 2013

Surviving Comic-Con, pt. 2.

...Continued from part one.


A few final points about doing Comic-Con right...

Don't take any. You know who else is going to be taking pictures? Every other human being there!! Hundreds of thousands of pictures will be taken. And you know which ones will be the best? Not the ones from your iPhone - all dark, blurry, with an orange speck in the middle that's supposed to prove you saw Joss Whedon in person. Whatever you think you need a picture of, you can find online later. While you're at Comic-Con, just enjoy being at Comic-Con.

Don't go to Hall H!
Have you ever heard old school Comic-Con aficionados complaining about how the convention has sold out to Hollywood? That real comic book fans have been replaced by pop culture junkies? Have you heard about people getting stabbed in the eye or hit by a car? What you're hearing about is Hall H. And for these reasons and more, you shouldn't waste your time there.

Hall H is nothing but a revolving door of commercials for upcoming movies and TV shows you've already heard about and probably decided whether or not you're going to see. They show "exclusive clips" that then become available online two days later. They trot out actors and directors you might like... but so does every panel, and Hall H is the most superficial, impersonal experience you're going to have with them.

Spending time in Hall H is nothing but a waste.

Only go to Hall H!
Unless that's your thing. Hall H is the place where the biggest companies with the biggest marketing budgets are going to put the most effort into trying to impress you. So if you like the razzle-dazzle, if you like the pomp and, yes, the circumstance, then Hall H may just blow your mind.

I have friends who spend the majority of their Comic-Con in Hall H, and they're not terrible people. Hall H is also a particular blessing to the amateur podcaster who doesn't get all the press access of the high-profile broadcasters and publishers.

And as far as my complaints about Hall H being nothing but a bonanza of commercials... look, I get it. It's arguable that the entirety of Comic-Con is nothing but a giant press junket. Every panel, every signing, every advanced screening is designed to make people spread the word and want to buy things. But the thing about it is...

"...Like we're being watched."
Comic-Con is what you make of it.
Despite those occasional complaints about Comic-Con being too big, too Hollywood, and not enough about actual comic books, I think most people recognize that it's held onto its roots surprisingly well. At its heart, Comic-Con is still about artists and creators reaching out to their fan base and trying to grow their audience in a natural, honest way.

That's true of the comic book people, but it's true of the Hollywood people too. Are they trying to get you to watch their shows or buy tickets to their movies? At the end of the day, yes; that's especially what the studios want. But whatever conspiratorial greed may be motivating the studios back in L.A., the people with boots on the ground at Comic-Con are members of the creative community - the writers, directors, actors and artists who are just as enthusiastic as you, and who are fans themselves. So despite the commercialism, there's still plenty of room for magic to happen at Comic-Con because it's fans meeting other fans, creators meeting other creators, and everybody celebrating the things they love. There's nothing negative about Comic-Con. The only cynicism there is the cynicism you bring with you.

And Hall H. That place is b.s.

Anyway, enjoy Comic-Con, everybody!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Surviving Comic-Con, pt. 1.


This year will be my fourth attending San Diego Comic-Con.  In three short years, I've gone from a lost soul struggling to find his way through the crowd of animé kids and steampunkers to a hardened pro who knows how to grab Comic-Con by the horns and bend it to his will.  With, like, prison tattoos on his knuckles.  Oh, and one of those teardrop tattoos on his cheeks!  Does it mean I killed someone?  Nobody knows for sure.

Anyway, here's some knowledge from my vast experience at Comic-Con...

Clothing, pt. 1.
Keep it simple and practical.  T-shirt, pants, hoodie.  You'll find that one of the most important things is regulating your body temperature.  One hour, you're in a tiny room packed tight with 150 sweaty nerds; next hour, you're in a dark, cavernous room with the air conditioning cranked.  For your comfort and endurance, you need to be able to adjust on the fly.  (NOTE: I did not say "adjust your fly."  That's just as rude at Comic-Con as anywhere else.  Save it for the hotel room, buddy.  There are kids around.)

Clothing, pt. 2.
If you're doing a costume, do it all the way.  Realize that half the attendees of Comic-Con are industry professionals - they've seen the best costumes and the best effects makeup on the planet.  Nobody cares about your Wolverine claws unless you have a detailed costume with well-sourced fabrics to go with it.  Don't carry around a Lasso of Truth unless you're also wearing an almost-nothing outfit and are hot.  (NOTE: Please be very hot.  Look in a mirror.  Be honest with yourself.)

Lodging, pt. 1.
My philosophy on all travel is to go cheap on the hotel room, since you should be spending as little time there as possible.  Unfortunately, going cheap on your Comic-Con hotel doesn't mean getting a worse room so much as it means getting a worse location relative to the convention center.

I wish this didn't matter, but it does.  Even when you plan extra time for the shuttle ride from your hotel to the convention center, it still feels like a waste of time to be on a shuttle rather than in the middle of the action.  And at the end of the day, when you've pushed yourself just a bit beyond your physical limits, that shuttle ride is a nightmare keeping you away from precious, precious sleep.  It's better to be close to the convention center.

Lodging, pt. 2.
But hey, not everyone can be near the convention center.  So if you're stuck on a long shuttle ride, make the most of it!  One time, just before my shuttle was leaving the convention center, a guy in full Joker makeup (complete with purple-and-green suit) hopped onto the bus and, in a good, original take on the Joker's voice, said, "I hope you're all ready to go for a little ride."  Dorky?  Yes.  But if you're not into the dorkiness, why are you at Comic-Con?

Perhaps you're rich.  That's awesome!  You can show up to Comic-Con with nothing but a credit card, and all your needs will be met.

For the rest of us, a good day at Comic-Con means finding a balance between cost of food and quality of food.  While you can go cheap with the cafeteria food inside the convention center, your options are pretty much limited to super-greasy pizza with pepperoni or super-greasy pizza without pepperoni.  You'll definitely want to take advantage of the nicer dining establishments in the Gaslamp Quarter.  But too much of that will kill your bankroll.

The solution?  Granola!  Pack for Comic-Con as if it's a camping trip, minus the s'mores.  Dried fruits and nuts are the name of the game.  Trail mix, granola bars, beef jerky and bottles of water will pad out the time between meals.  Take a trip to the grocery store a few days before leaving for San Diego, and stock up on affordable-yet-nutritious stomach-fillers.

Where to live.
If you found yourself reading my granola advice and thought to yourself, "I'm supposed to travel with all that food?," then you're probably one of the many people who has to travel great distances to get to Comic-Con.  This is a mistake!  The single best piece of advice I can give you for planning your trip to Comic-Con is: be a resident of Southern California already.  It makes the whole thing much easier.

Strategizing, pt. 1.
Plan a tight schedule.  Over 600 individual events take place throughout the four days of Comic-Con so, no matter what, you won't get to see half of what you'd like.  The best way to maximize your time is to take the program schedule -- always released two weeks ahead of the convention -- and schedule something for every. single. minute of every. single. day.  In fact, double-book some hours, because you're not always going to get into your first pick.  The important thing is to always have your next destination ready.  Any time spent on indecision is time wasted.

Strategizing, pt. 2.
...And then be ready to throw it all away on a moment's notice.  You're going to change your mind about what you feel like doing once you're there.  Your stomach is going to disagree about when you scheduled lunch.  Your friends are going to make plans to meet up at inconvenient moments.  You'll need to make detours to adjust your fly.  This all means crossing things off your list, changing your plans.  No big deal.  As long as you're having fun in the moment, you're doing Comic-Con right.

To Be Continued...