We're covering it so much, in fact, that our wise, benevolent Editor-In-Chief Ryan Stewart has dispatched not one but two brave soles to report on all the doings at the event. I'll be one of them, along with my colleague Kevin Kelly, and we'll be bringing you as much Con news, interviews, scoops, photos, video and even tastes and smells as we possibly can. It should be a great time full of interesting people, great comics, cool new movies, spectacular events and probably a few surprises too. So, stay tuned.
If you're like Kevin and myself and you happen to be one of the hundreds of thousands who's love of all-thing Comic-Con outweighs any thoughts of economics, hotels, traffic or personal safety (that Con floor sure does get crowded -- especially on Saturday) and you are attending the Con next week, read on because as a veteran attendee (growing up in North San Diego County I've been going to the Con since I was eleven years old) I've got a couple tips for you on what to do, see and be aware of while at the Con.
San Diego, while a terrific beachfront city with great weather and decent public transportation, is still a city not without its share of problems. Traffic, especially right before and during the convention, is, at most times, a huge nightmare. So, use of public transportation, especially downtown's trolley system or the Con's shuttle buses, is mandatory if you want to get anywhere with any speed. Fortunately, San Diego is trying to help and is also a pretty web-savvy city so they've compiled a great deal of info for you online about trolley schedules and stations as well as a handy guide to assist with another big problem for those of you driving to the Con: parking.
If you choose to drive downtown to attend, its better to try and get there as early as you possibly can. And by early I mean way early -- like before the sun comes up if possible. This may seem excessive, but I can't stress enough how quickly parking anywhere near the Con fills up. There are quite a few lots available for your parking needs near the convention, including one underneath the Convention Center itself, as well as a couple next door. However, those are not nearly big enough to handle the crowds and will usually fill up very early in the morning, forcing you to try and find a spot at the San Diego Padres' stadium (aka Petco Park) across the street.
Or worse, combing the nearby streets looking for any spot (legal or not) to stick your car -- not the best option as San Diego police, while great people who do a fantastic job, are also known to be fans of giving parking tickets for "creative" parking or the second your meter runs out. Instead of driving downtown and trying to park, there's also another option: staying farther away and coming to the Con on a train or the Metro. For information on those public transport systems, there's also a great website provided by the city for you to consult.
Staying miles away may seem like a hassle when you really want to be downtown in the thick of the "action" but many times I've stayed twenty or more miles away from downtown and taken the train into the city and it worked out just fine. If you do that, you just need to make sure you keep track of when the last train leaves the downtown Santa Fe station on its way back up the coast. You don't want to miss it and end up with a ninety dollar cab ride to get back to where you're staying. Not fun.
Ok, I've probably scared you a little with all the doom and gloom about traffic and parking but it's for a reason: those things can easily become a huge pain and ruin an otherwise good time at the Con. There's nothing worse than taking the whole gang to the convention and then not being able to see the panel, get that autograph you wanted or pick up that copy of The Avengers #4 because you had to park miles away and couldn't get to the Con in time. Careful planning now can prevent those unfortunate things from happening.
But now that you've managed to find your way to the show, what's next? Well, if you've never been to the show before, here's a few things that are usually pretty interesting and can give you a great cross-section of the Con experience. First, plan on attending the Eisner Awards -- a yearly gathering on Friday night that showcases the best and brightest in comic book and graphic novel authors, artists and more. Its a fun time where you often get to see, and even mingle with, your favorite stars from the comics world.
It's also cool to visit the part of the Con known as Artist's Alley. Here, many of your favorite comic book artists sit at tables and will draw things or sign things for you if you ask them really nicely. Most of the time they will also ask you for a small donation as well but in some cases a smile, a "please" and a "thank you" will be all the currency you'll need. Artist's Alley is a great way to meet your favorite artist up-close and personal without having to stalk him or her as you usually do. Plus, you can also take home a cool piece of exclusive art that nobody on your message boards already has so those bragging rights are pretty great too.
Of course, much of the fun of attending the Con is going to one or more of the panels happening during the four days of the show. This year, there's quite a few coming up that look interesting and will probably even provide a surprise revelation or two. For me, I always like to check in with the Mondo Marvel panel or anything X-Men related as well as any programming featuring upcoming movies like Iron Man, Star Trek or Indiana Jones. Plus, there's always something interesting happening during the Kevin Smith panel on Friday and I will be sure to see the Joss Whedon / Dark Horse panel on Saturday. That should be really cool.
Another thing you will inevitably end up doing at the Con is walking the convention floor and looking at all the booths where comic book publishers, TV networks, film studios, action figure stores and comic book retailers have set up to try and entice you to read, watch or otherwise consume their products or services. The show floor is really something to see and experience, and even with all the selling going on, its still not Comic Con without it.
The show floor is also extremely crowded (especially on Saturday) and very hot (and sometimes smelly), so whatever you do don't contribute to the problem by not showering in the morning and forgetting some deodorant. Because if it's anything like last year, you will come into contact with people -- a lot of people -- and there's no reason not to try and smell good. Its just common courtesy.
While we're on the subject of the show floor, try not to eat at any of the places on the floor or, for that matter, anywhere at the Con. The food is very expensive and not really very good. Although, the Greek place way in the Northwest corner of the Con last year was actually not bad. We had to hit it up due to an emergency blood sugar situation but normally I completely avoid Con food unless absolutely necessary.
The same goes for the overpriced and very small bottles of water they sell at the show. Bring your own bottle and use the drinking fountains or the bathroom sink to fill it up during the day. For food, it's better to have a big breakfast at your far-more-reasonably-priced hotel restaurant or perhaps at a local downtown place (just follow the locals -- the ones not in costume) than it is to eat at the Con. For some great food suggestions near the show, over at The Comics Foundry they've assembled a list of some of their favorites. Take a look. Some good options there.
Those are a few of my observations and tips about the Con to hopefully support and enhance your attendee experience. For even more tips and information, head on over to The Comics Reporter. There, veteran comics journalist, and all-around great guy, Tom Spurgeon, has assembled what I believe is the largest collection of Comic Con info, observations, tips and anecdotes in the world. It's a greatly informative read that will help you immensely if you haven't already gotten your fill of Con info from me.
See you in San Diego!