Comic Conventions Guide to the Galaxy: Don’t Panic

Well, here we are, a new week started, and already a day gone by. Last week, at least for me, was a crazy week. BvS came out, a movie I was super hyped to see, and one I was promptly in the theater on Thurs night ready to consume. I know there’s been some rather polarized opinions on it, and I’m debating on whether to write out my feelings and thoughts in a post later this week. My simple opinion on the movie is that I enjoyed it, but with a side of annoyance. Batman v Superman aside, today I’d like to discuss the other adventure I had this weekend: Wondercon 2016.

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For those of you who follow my Twitter and Instagram, you would’ve seen all the pics and live updates I was sending out, and quickly surmised my enjoyment. I had too much fun, and basically blacked out in Artist Alley and started making it rain up and down the isles. My wallet didn’t have the most fun, and my bank account is still angry at me, but I tore through that place with a spending bender that lasted three days. The highlight was when Jim Lee yelled out that he loved me…and yes that actually happened, in real life, like, for realsies.

The focus of today’s post however, isn’t on how much money I threw at Artists Alley, but instead I wanted to create a primer for future con experiences. You see, I’ve been attending Wondercon now, regularly, for the last four or five years. On top of that I’ve been to every major comic convention in So-Cal during that time, and almost every smaller convention this state has to offer as well. Yet, there’s one thing that gets me every single time I go to a convention, whether it be San Diego Comic Con or Long Beach Comic Expo: sensory overload with a mixture of confusion.

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I’m not the type of guy who gets to a convention and heads a million different directions to make sure I get to see and talk with each individual I want to meet. Instead, I pick a starting point, then slowly and methodically go down each and every isle, browsing and perusing at my leisure. However, it appears that conventions don’t want me to consume their experience this way. Why? Because every convention I’ve gone to in the recent years isn’t the friendliest for those who don’t pre-plan every little detail ahead of time.

So, for those of you planning on attending any other conventions this year, I decided to put together a small pre-planning list so that you’re able to meet, talk with, and expierence all that you may want at a convention. Below are a handful of suggestions, based on recent convention experiences, in order to help all fans and future fans alike.

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  1. Double check the convention’s website for a list of attendees, exhibitors, and guests.
      • Make a list of each person you want to see, and note their booth number, and any pertinent information you may need such as signing schedule, and whether they charge for signatures
      • Not every guest charges for signatures, but some do so plan accordingly.
      • Also, most of the guests sell their work at the tables, but not always, so you may need to bring your own books or work for them to sign.
  1. Once you have a list from the convention website, check the websites of the attendees for other information. (Example: If you are interested in a particular artist, see if that artist has a website or social media explaining where and when they’ll be doing things at the convention).
  1. Expect lines for signatures and panels, thus you shouldn’t stack one right after the other. (Example: You want to attend a Marvel panel where they are previewing upcoming things, and it starts at 1:30pm, and finishes at 2:30. Your favorite artist is signing at a booth on the convention floor starting at 2:30. Chances are you’ll need to pick one or the other because both usually require patrons to lineup an hour or more in advance.)
      • Panels are usually hour long events located in rooms in and around the convention hall/center. They cover a great many topics and often have experts and special guest speakers to discuss various things: examples include women in comics, digital comics, science fiction writing, fanclubs, cosplay costume crafting, some are even hosted by the larger companies where they showcase new things
      • Each convention usually has a list of all the panels they’re hosting, which can be typically found on the convention website
      • For the larger panels, such as those hosted by DC or Marvel, or those doing previews of movies or TV shows, expect to line up many hours ahead of time. One such preview I wanted to attend had people lining up over 8 hours in advance.
  1. Take a look at the convention schedule and plan out which panels you’d like to attend. Many conventions have panels going all throughout the day, and they are both extremely fun and a great way to get off your feet for an hour without fighting for a table, or sitting on the floor.
  1. For popular signings such as Jim Lee, Stan Lee, Scott Snyder, Brian Bendis…whoever, plan on heading to their assigned booth at the start of the convention. Wrist bands are typically handed out, first come first serve, in order to meet and get signatures from the more popular people in the comic industry. (Example: For Brian Bendis, you’d head over to the Marvel booth immediately at the start of the convention to pick up a wrist band for his signing later that day.)
  1. Expanding file folders are a great way to lug around comics and keep them safe. I carry one with me every convention, and I’ve yet to lose a purchase to bending or folding. You can even wear a backpack, in which you can carry your expanding file folder, thus allowing you to keep your hands free to browse and pickup items.
  1. Food is often available at these conventions, however, if you’re not one to spend $4-$5 on a $.50 bottle of water, or $8 on a slice of microwave pizza, I suggest you bring your own snacks and waters. There are usually tables setup either inside the exhibit hall, or just outside where you can sit down and refuel. (You may want to double check on your particular convention for food availability and restrictions)
      • As of late, with the rise in popularity in gourmet food trucks, there are often rows of food trucks just outside the convention hall/center for a tasty lunch or snack.
  1. If you’re planning on getting a sketch cover, or any custom art work, done by any artist attending the show, make sure you approach the artist as early as possible in the convention. Their commission schedules typically fill up very fast and are usually done on a first come, first serve, basis. Also, depending on how many commissions are lined up before yours, plan on at least 6 hours, or more, for it to be completed.

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