Devourer of Words 055: SDCC Dos and Don’ts
It is upon us, my friends. A mere month away. The convention of the year. The convention to end all conventions. The alpha and the omega. Okay, that all might be a little bit of hyperbole, but Comic-Con International: San Diego is the biggest domestic convention of the year. As such, many of us are in prep mode, as this month will evaporate before we know it.
This will be my 18th SDCC in a row: An eternity to some eyes, a snap of the finger to others. But, in this time, I’ve done San Diego almost every way in which one can do it: as a comics creator, as a journalist, as a TV writer, as a fan, as an interloper … and here are some dos and don’ts I’ve gleaned over the years. As always, your mileage may vary.
Harvest phone numbers and make plans with people. Of course, one of the amazing parts about Comic-Con is the randomness with which you can see people you didn’t expect to see. For about six years, in the mid-2000s, I’d run into a friend who worked a few blocks away from my office in Manhattan without warning, crossing the train tracks into the San Diego Convention Center. We never made a plan, and would laugh about the fact that it just always seemed to happen. Until it didn’t. But once a day, be it over a meal, or coffee, or just because you have some downtime in your schedule, make a plan to see someone you never get to see otherwise.
Beat yourself up if you miss something. By the time you touch down in San Diego, you will have poured over the daily schedule, perhaps with a highlighter, and targeted the things you want to see every day. Panels, signings, photo ops, etc. You will never make it to all of them. Maybe it’s foot traffic. Maybe you oversleep. Maybe your phone died and your reminders never reminded you. Maybe something else unpredictably wonderful came along and you bailed. It’s okay. Sometimes you need to give yourself over to the Fates of the Con. That said …
Pick one massively huge thing to attend and stick to it. Comic-Con remains the crown-jewel when it comes to honking big celebrities choppering in for panels or first looks at things you can’t see anywhere else. Take advantage, even if it means sleeping on a line, or waking up at the crack of dawn, or camping in Hall H for a whole day to see someone on that big stage at the end of it.
Forget to buy some energy/protein bars and fruit from a supermarket or something when you first get to the Gaslamp. You will undoubtedly eat like a teenaged monster over that weekend: you can try to minimize some of the damage by making sure one meal has some actual nutrients. (And lettuce on a burger doesn’t count as vegetables. Believe me, I tried.)
Introduce yourself to a comics pro at the bar. Say hi. Tell them you’re a fan. The great gift of Comic-Con is proximity: You will be closer to more people you’ve read or watched or listened to than anywhere else. As long as your shot is respectful, go ahead and shoot it. One year, I was hanging out with a friend at a Hilton bar and she spotted Battlestar Galactica’s Jamie Bamber in the same bar and squeed so loud she shattered a champagne flute. I said, “You wanna go meet him? Let’s go meet him. Because why the hell not.” So we did. And he was cool—or he wouldn’t have been in a crowded hotel bar on a Friday night. Sure, there’s the chance they had a crappy day and might be a bit grumpy. But there’s a greater chance they’ll shake your hand and say thanks.
Be a dick. I know, harsh language. But it needs to be said. Don’t touch anyone without their consent. Don’t drink yourself into vulnerable oblivion. Don’t go places you’re not welcome—unless you’re trying to crash a fancy party; if you can get in, go for it, but steer clear of restrooms and hotel rooms you ain’t supposed to be in. We all know what the wrong thing to do is: so don’t do it.
Find some place to sit down and watch the parade of joyous humanity pass by. Preferably in the sun — you’ll need a respite from the fluorescent glare and could use some vitamin D. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Comic-Con from all over the world because of love. Because they love something and the people who love it, too. And that’s a hell of a thing to see.
Marc Bernardin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of every month here on Toucan. Marc is also a special guest at Comic-Con this year. If you’re at the show, come see his Spotlight panel on Friday, July 21 at 10:00 AM in Room 29AB!