Lessons from my first Comic-Con

Lessons from my first Comic-Con

Comic-Con is the ultimate destination for enthusiastic lovers of sci-fi, fantasy, comic book, television, and film. Attendees from all over the world swarm into San Diego for their chance to meet the stars and creators of their favorite comics, books, movies, and shows, shop for cool exclusives and pop culture memorabilia, and to see sneak peeks of upcoming projects.

I am proud to say that I was one of the lucky 135,000 to gain access to Comic-Con International this past year. I use the word “lucky” because it is important to emphasize the sheer level of demand for these tickets. More on that down below. Given that this was my first time attending this iconic, insane, and slightly stressful convention, it was quite the learning experience so I am here to share my key takeaways.

Comic-Con is all about the lines.

Comic-Con is all about the lines. From the second you decide you want to attend this event, a line is involved. All those interested in attending Comic-Con must anxiously wait in an online waiting room to be randomly assigned a number for your place in the virtual queue. In 2018, tickets for all 4 days were sold out in less than one hour. For those selected, it is like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory winning that once in a lifetime gold ticket to a magical world of fun.

Once at Comic-Con, there are lines to get into the convention center, lines to take a picture with the oversized Thanos, lines to buy an exclusive anniversary Hulk action figure, lines to get a $10 slice of pizza, and of course the grand-daddy line of them all….the line to get into Hall H. The monotonous line waiting is a source of stress, anxiety, and plenty of body odors emanating from the hardcore fans who forego taking showers in order to camp out overnight. Despite these things, this time-consuming and monotonous activity is also part of the ComicCon experience. One attendee explained to me that

“Waiting around and even camping out overnight in line is a rite of passage. Everyone is in it together because they share the same interest and enthusiasm as you do. This is a chance to bond with strangers over what makes you similar.”

Oh and by the way, if celebrity sightings are your thing, I learned that waiting in one of the longer lines like Hall H and Indigo room will increase your chances of seeing your favorite celeb. They are appreciative of these dedicated fans who wait hours on end, often in the blistering heat, so it is not uncommon for actors to bring water and hamburgers out to the crowd. There’s a little tip for you to keep in your pocket. You’re welcome.

ComicCon San Diego giant Thanos Funko Pop

Comic-Con is about making choices. 

Now that we’ve discussed the unavoidable line situation, you can see how this might impact your ability to do everything that you want to do. To get the most out of your experience, it is important to research and prioritize.

Upon arrival, you will receive a convention guide containing a detailed list of the panels, signings, and off-site events. (This is also available online and through a mobile app a few weeks before the conference.) Highlight those which appeal to you and then prioritize those which are most important. You will have to take into consideration how long the line will be, how far the event is, and if you need to secure a ticket beforehand. Scott and I showed up to the Grand Horton Theatre 20 minutes before showtime and without tickets to watch the Impractical Jokers panel. I could almost hear the security guard’s silent amusement in our newbie naiveté thinking we would be able to get inside.

Lines are long and the convention is crowded. You may have to forego some events you would like to attend in order to wait in line for the one you really want. Hall H might be one such example. This topic deserves its own section so with no further ado…

Hall H, Is it worth it?

At 65,000 sq feet and seats to accommodate about 6,500, you would think getting into this panel room would be easy peasy. Think again.  Hall H hosts all-star panels from only the biggest and best tv shows and movies making them the most coveted seats in all of Comic-Con.

If you’ve learned anything from this article so far, you can probably guess what the process might be like to get into this room. Yes, that’s right. There is a very, very, large line. Fans will take their places in line a whole day before the event and camp overnight to better their chances of getting into the legendary Hall H. So is it all worth it?

It all depends on the person, but I would say yes it is worth it. Admittedly, Scott and I did not even try to get into Hall H this year because of the daunting line. Although we were able to see some of the smaller panels, we left feeling like we had not been ‘truly’ inducted into the Comic-Con community. While waiting for days on end to get into 1-hour panel sounds miserable, it is all part of the experience. You will make fast friends with those standing near you, bonding over favorite comic books, engaging in a profound discussion of what makes the best superpower, and maybe sharing ideas of the 1,000 better ways Game of Thrones could have ended. I believe those are the moments which really make you feel part of the Comic-Con community.

San Diego Comic Con
Photo Cred: NBC San Diego

ComicCon is what you want it to be.

My last key takeaway is that your Comic-Con experience is what you choose it to be. The conference provides a ‘choose your own adventure’ style schedule where you can customize the experience to your preferences and interests.

If you want a laid back, casual experience, then there are lots to see and take in. If you want to wait in lines, you’ll have plenty of opportunities. If you want to avoid lines, you can have a fine experience doing that, too. If you want to see celebrities, mingle with Cosplayers, meet the artists of your favorite animated shows or comic books, etc. there are panels and off-site events to do just that. If you want to avoid crowds, though, good luck because that is not happening.

Whatever Comic-Con experience you choose to create for yourself, remember to go in there with an open mind and a flexible attitude. Now get out there and release your inner nerd!


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Cecilia is a bubbly Filipino-American with an affinity for constant change...that or a 10 second attention span. Refusing to sit still, she travels the world, in pursuit of adventure, excitement and meaningful experiences. She holds a Masters degree in International Development and Public Policy, and a BA in Business Management.

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. OMG such fun. I have never heard of Comicon, coming from Australia we don’t have these things. Sounds like a ‘queuing type of convention’ but a fun one. I am in for the celebrity spotting. Those crazy outfits made me giggle.

    1. Haha those weren’t even the crazy costumes! We attended a “masquerade ball” Saturday night which was essentially a runway show of all the best costumes! Some of them were so elaborate and must have taken months to assemble!

  2. Lol I love that photo of you with the Jedis! I’ve heard of Comic Con but never been to one. I honestly wouldn’t know where to start, it looks so big here! It’s great that you can make your experience what you want it to be. I’ll check it out for the future!

    1. The event is massive! You have an entire convention center filled with panels and events, but in addition to that, there are hundreds of off-site events held at nearby hotels, theatres and restaurants. There is no shortage of things to do. PS – glad you like my Jedi picture 🙂

  3. I have never been to a ComicCon. I never knew it was so hard to get tickets. It is good you set the expectation about all the lines. It probably wouldn’t seem too bad to anyone once they knew to expect that. It does sound like a good opportunity to make friends and bond with strangers! Might be a fun experience that I need to try one day!

    1. It is definitely something fun to experience at least once, especially if you are into superhero movies, comic books, sci-fi, etc.

  4. I find your piece eye-opening… It never occurred to me that ComicCon would have such a large crowd… or I just forgot that this is a pop culture convention… I’d love to go as well but It sounds tiring to me… Perhaps, I’ll take your advice, do my research and prioritize the event once I get the change to go to ComicCon.

    1. I think it has gotten more popular over the years as “nerd culture” has become cool. That and the rise of the Marvel Universe movies really helped to popularize this event. At least in my opinion. Scott grew up on comic books so I am sure he has a different opinion lol.

  5. I learnt more about Comiccon from reading this post than I thought it was possible to know. I had no idea tickets were hard to come by or that you needed to queue up for so much. Sounds like it was a great experience for you though.

    1. I am so glad you found the article helpful! It is certainly alot of work, but well worth it!

  6. I haven’t been to Comic-Con, but I’ve done other fan conventions here in Chicago. 100% agree about the long lines – careful planning is important to avoid disappointment! I went with someone once who wanted to see everything and came away sad they couldn’t.

    1. Yea, unfortunately seeing everything is just not an option. Glad to hear that you were able to experience some other fun conventions though!

  7. Looks amazing and so fun! My husband did that one year, and I think we are going to go some year together, so this was interesting to read. I can’t wait to see all the characters and cosplayers there. I can’t imaging anything not fun about that event, expect maybe the crowds.

    1. We wish we would have dressed up! I think if we do it again, we would dress up as Gambit and Rogue or maybe Starlord and Gamora 🙂

  8. I’ve always loved the idea of going to Comicon! I believe the ticket purchasing process is enough to scare away those who aren’t serious about attending! It really is one of the highlights of the year with amazing panels and opportunities! I’ve never been to a convention before but if I went to one, I’m sure Comicon will be on that list!

    1. You’re definitely right. The ticketing process is alot to go through for someone who just wants to go on a passing whim. It takes alot of planning and effort, but it sure does pay off!

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