Going to Comic-Con is a religious experience. I mean, if you’re into any of the pop culture mediums that the convention offers, which include: comics, movies, tv-shows, manga, anime, books, graphic novels, webcomics, videogames and fanart. Many people go to the convention to get the latest scoop on things, some to buy stuff that’s hard to get elsewhere, others to spot their celebrity of choice, and some just to say they were there.
Personally, I go to get the scoop on my favourite tv shows, movies, franchises, and for the SWAG (Stuff We All Get). Usually all my money goes into transportation and eating, little of it to merchandise. So in the end I take advantage of as many SWAG and free events as I can get. Plus fully experience any free event I’m willing to wait in line to enjoy.
I am hugely passionate of all things pop culture, I’m a pop culture geek for all it’s worth. So even though I don’t follow comic storylines to the letter and purchase them enough to be considered a “true geek” (I only physically have my select favourites), I am very much invested in it all as a whole. So going to Comic-Con is a religious experience to me, it’s a dive into the waves of current culture that is happening and past culture that is being resurrected, witnessing how it’s intricate beyond it’s select medium directly at the hands of the fans.
It’s amazing to witness and participate in the reactions, the excitement, the hype, the adoration, the awe. Cosplaying in particular is a great way to notice how we make pop culture our own, not as appropriation because it honestly doesn’t belong to one culture. It’s a international thing, one that can be interpreted in many ways and in none will it lose it’s meaning or purpose. I’ve only cosplayed once as my own version of the Mad Hatter, though. But the experience was awesome and it was delightful seeing everybody react to it. Clearly they all recognized the character it was, but they were also fascinated with my version of it.
The event takes place during a total of five days: Preview night on Wednesday, and then the official event on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 2007 was the first year I attended, my family and I were only able to snag tickets for Sunday. But as a first-time-ever (and last minute plan) that was more than enough. We spent all day at the Exhibition Hall and outside, though. No panels for us.
I remember the feeling, there was so many things to see and so little time, plus I didn’t know my way around the place at all so I kept getting joyously lost in all the geekness. We left that day with quite the impression and a need to do it again next year. Thankfully, our uncle mentioned that we could volunteer and secure free entry on any day, so long as we complied with our daily 3hrs worth of work. So from 2008 onward I’ve been volunteering with the Comic-Con staff to get my access, and I’ve been trying my best to attend all five days.
Here’s how it goes, basically:
A week before:
You’re beyond pumped up. Spreading word and asking who’s going, setting up meetups which will all fail to go as planned and have to be improvised, coordinating panel wish lists (I say wish, because you have to pick ’em wisely) and scouting for that friend who’s willing to camp out in Hall H. Hopefully you’ll also be able to find the inside scoop of where and when secret SWAG and events are going to be held.
Preview night starts late in the afternoon all the way to the night, so if you’re like me and you live(d) a couple of hours from Downtown San Diego, this day is dedicated to setting yourself up in the motel or home that is as close as possible to the Convention Center. Every second of travel that you can save is precious, and considering that during those days the ideal mode of transportation (the trolley) is beyond stuffed, you need to wonder how much time you’re willing to lose getting to the convention center, and from there choose your station.
Later in the afternoon, if you are attending Preview Night, you basically arrive beyond excited to the Con. Not much is happening tonight, but you get to see Exhibition Hall properly: not stuffed with people and sweat and noise. Exploit the fact that you can stand in on place, stretch your arms and legs, and enjoy the magnificence of the booths. Also, don’t forget to look for SWAG and find out when during the event will they be giving out more SWAG.
If you were able to sleep through your excitement, congratulations, you have better control than me. Either way, if you’re attending Comic-Con for specific panels or for the SWAG, it’s an early start into the stuffed Trolley and in giant masses you arrive to the Con. Exhibition Hall opens at 9am, so by 8am you should have a very long line to look forward to. But don’t worry, this line goes by fast. Unlike Wednesday, though, this time Exhibition Hall will be up to your knees.
Panels on Thursday aren’t usually dedicated to the star events. But since the Con has grown a lot over the years you’ll still be facing lines of some sort for most panels either because people are in line for a panel three hours from now or the panel has indeed attracted enough people. Usually I dedicate early mornings to do my volunteering so the rest of the day can be responsibility free.
Unless you go to the surrounding hotels for the areas dedicated to Xbox, Nintendo and Sega (which usually also open at 9am), there won’t be much for you to do outside of the Convention Center, everybody is still setting up to make the most out of the people who come by during the weekends who have no access to the Convention Center.
By late afternoon/night there are singular events worth investigating, last year MTV had a concert/mini fair on Thursday afternoon for attendees only, and I think they might be doing it again this year.
This is when things start getting bigger. Some of the more famous TV shows have panels today, so lines are even longer and this is where some people opt to camp out the night (or days) before. More people decided to either take the day off, skip school or just bought tickets for the day, so Exhibition Hall will be up to your elbows. More freebies are given out and some stars make their appearance at certain booths for signings. So prepare yourself for random fandom screams from any area in the Exhibition Hall, and know that someone famous just appeared.
By today everything has been setup outside the Convention Center, and either lines have already started to appear by early morning, or people are on the hunt for tickets and schedules for when they can go into them. Adult Swim has a very rad funhouse, for example, and Assasin’s Creed has been building awesome obstacle courses.
Cosplay also begins to level up today, as well. While Thursday sports basic and easy cosplay, Friday has a broader complexity to it’s cosplay. People will definitely start asking for pictures instead of just admiring from afar.
This is the biggest day of the week. The biggest panels happen, the wildest SWAG is given out, Exhibition Hall is up to your neck, bigger stars make their appearance in booths for autographs, cosplays are everywhere, meetups are happening… the works! By today you should have a solid plan around the panels you want to see, which would you sacrifice for the other, how long you are willing to wait, etc. Otherwise you’ll be juggling your availability with your desires with things you recently discover are happening in the moment and that risks you losing a good chance at a panel you have been preparing to see.
Big announcements are also made today, so you will be seeing sudden waves of people screaming in excitement, rushing towards somewhere, suddenly waiting in line or even huddled around something. Be sure to always figure out what’s happening, I’ve made unnecessary lines before because I assumed I would be very into what was at the end of them. Silly me.
Today is dedicated to having kid-friendly events and waiting until last minute for the biggest discount you can find on merch. If you are extremely lucky, some booths will give up altogether trying to sell and they’ll give away their merch just so they can avoid shipping it back to where they came from. I usually spend this day doing my last volunteering in the morning, giving Exhibition hall one last go and see if there is any SWAG I might’ve missed… and then I go lie down and relax somewhere, because by then I really can take no more.
By then I’m usually exhausted. My feet hurt from walking so much, my shoulders hurt from carrying around bags packed with SWAG, I’m very tired of going into a stuffed and sweaty Exhibition Hall, I probably woke up kinda late, and I don’t think I can make another two hour line for a 40 minute panel. I swear I’m never attending Comic-Con for five days ever again… and, you know, by May next year I’m dead excited to repeat the experience.
I’m not even kidding! Every year I am like a little kid on the first day, and by the last I feel like an old person who can no longer take events like these. But it’s pop culture, ever-changing and evolving and always creating something new to look forward to. It rejuvenates the spirit and in a way is the most defining feature of these past generations: forever young, if only for pop culture.