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San Diego Comic-Con Survival Guide 2017

Written By: Abel S. Pinedo

July 8th, 2017

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We here at Dig That Box sympathize with all of you who are going to SDCC in the coming days. I, myself, will be among the many thousands of fans fighting and clamoring for the latest info on all things awesome. Over the years, I've developed a very militaristic approach to SDCC and I spend the few days prior organizing myself as if I was launching a first strike. What I present to you now are my tips and tricks for surviving the madness of Comic Con.

1) Make Your Plans Early: Have a plan for what forums and panels you want to attend as well as a backup (if there is one at the same scheduled time). You won't get to see everything you want to see no matter how hard you try so don't kill yourself making the attempt. Print out the panel listings and mark what you really want to attend. Also, the official Comic-Con website has published their "Around the Booths" section of the program. Usually you receive this on the Wednesday preview night or Thursday morning and it contains information on events happening on the main floor that are not related to the panels. Artist signings and appearances, giveaways, raffles, freebies, etc. It’s quite invaluable. Bring this with you as well as a copy of the map, which lists the corresponding booth numbers so you'll know where exactly you want to go. Remember: chance favors the prepared mind.

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2) Bring a Backpack: Sure, many vendors have free baggies and Warner Bros has a really awesome large free tote bag but those are for all the stuff you're going to purchase/pick up during the days that follow. The backpack will be to store essentials such as extra pens, sharpies, and any magazines or comics that you want signed. You don't want to look foolish digging through some big-ass plastic bag for your issue of X-men #250 in front of the artist as you mumble, 'dammit, I know it's in here somewhere'! On a personal note: I've had the good fortune to run into the same celebrity two years in a row on the main floor. Let's just say, good thing I had a sharpie handy.

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3) Bring a Snack: It doesn't hurt to pack a light snack. Trail mix and beef jerky are good, as well as a bottle of water. Not a heavy one, mind you, but something you can easily refill at any of the drinking fountains. There is food and drink to be purchased there but it's pricey.

4) Comfortable Shoes: You are going to be spending a lot of time on your feet. Comfortable shoes will definitely help improve your experience at the show. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen guys walking around in dress shoes and girls in heels. Dress shoes and heels will kill your feet after a few short hours. Don't make that mistake. Also, leave the flip flops for the beach. I’ve seen countless people stumble after a lost shoe and when the crowd is flowing against you, it can be downright dangerous.

5) First Aid and Hygine Supplies: Bring some band-aids for your ankles, in case you get blisters from all the walking. Keep 'em in the backpack that way you don't have to leave what you're doing and hike all the way to the First Aid station. Also, bring a small pack of tissue with you. You know, those little packs that hold like twenty? Perfect for SDCC and it fits right in the, you guessed it, backpack. You're in a room with over 100,000 other people. Guess what? At least one person among all those folks is gonna have a cold. Guess what? You'll be standing next to him at some point (unless that someone is you). A little courtesy goes a long way. While you're at it, throw some Tylenol in the backpack and a small travel-size deodarant. Don't laugh. You may be the one who's gotten a bit, shall we say, ripe? If you notice people giving you the stink eye, it may not be your eye that stinks! Again, just some courtesy to your fellow fans. Finally, you may want to pick up a travel sized hand sanitizer. When the person in front of you in line keeps coughing into their hand, then uses said hand to open the door in front of you, you’ll want this in your backpack for peace of mind.

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6) Have Your Camera Ready: If it's a digital, make sure it's fully charged. It may seem obvious to do so but you never know. When was the last time you used it? Plug it in the night before. If you don't have a digital, make sure you have fresh batteries. (and bring some extra for the backpack!) If you’re using an iPhone or similar device, have the camera app open and ready. You may only have a few seconds to get a good shot and you don’t want to fumble about and lose your moment as you try to open said app. Several years ago, I met Bruce Campbell (in a mega-short line, I might add) and as he was signing a book I brought for a friend, my camera died. Not a digital, mind you. Dead battery. I never got the shot but I did make "The Chin" laugh at me.

7) Patience: I really make the effort to be more courteous and understanding when it comes to Comic Con. Like I said before, you're not going to do everything you want to do and see everything you want to see. Understand that going in, and you'll be ahead of the game. Also, keep in mind the people that volunteer their time are working very hard over the course of the show. Try to show a bit of respect to those people. Remember that you're in there with 100K fellow fans and things are not always going to go your way. It happens. Just take a deep breath and a drink of water. Relax because it happens to all of us.

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8) Cash: Many of the smaller vendors take cash only. Some that do take plastic may have trouble getting a signal to ring up your card. If that's the case, exercise patience and see if they'll hold your item while you visit the nice long line at the ATM. It also helps to do some scouting and see which vendors take plastic. Typically, the bigger ones such as Mattel and Hasbro do.

9) Address Labels:  This is probably the best piece of advice I myself have gotten over the years.  You know how you often get those sheets of pre-printed address labels sent to you from solicitors such as the March of Dimes, etc?  Well, here's how you put them to good use.  There are so many mailing lists you'll want to sign up for, as well as contests, raffles, newsletters,  etc. that you'll wind up with carpal tunnel syndrome by the end of the Con.  Have these in your handy backpack, slap one on the aforementioned sheet in front of you, and you're done.  Sometimes you'll still have to write your email address or phone number or both but it will save you so much time and effort in the long run.  They are also good to have if you want to exchange info with some of the new friends you’ll make.

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10) Smart Phones: We live in an age of technological wonder so you might as well take advantage of it with regards to SDCC. The first thing you need to to is to get the Official Comic-Con App. Also, there are a few bulletin boards around the ‘con that show daily changes to the original programming schedule. Fortunately smart phones allow you to be proactive and stay ahead of the game. For instance, many vendors will post up to the minute changes on their blogs/websites. Whether there's been a last minute change to a panel or maybe a signing at a booth has been changed, this will help you keep up with the show. Some panels and/or booths now post updated information on Twitter. Many exhibitors are now utilizing QR Codes to distribute information. Simply scan the QR Code with your phone and get instant updates and information. Don’t forget to bring your phone charger with you. You may find yourself sitting in a line for an hour or so and if there happens to be a wall outlet near you, plug it in! The downside of using all the apps on your phone and constantly checking for updates is that you’ll drain your battery before you know it.

11) Attending Panels/Q&A Time: Often at the end of a panel, there are a few minutes available for a Q&A session. I cannot stress enough to please have your questions ready and concise. Don’t walk up to the microphone and spend thirty seconds gushing about what a fan you are or “I just wanna start out by saying hi and you guys are great….” Get to the point. There are other people waiting to hopefully ask thought provoking questions. Also, if someone ahead of you asks your question, then either have a backup ready or sit down. A few years ago, I watched Angelina Jolie literally have to answer the same question three times in a row from people who asked the same question, albeit worded differently each time. Jolie was a trooper but by the third time she was struggling to find a new creative way to answer the question posed.

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12) Autographs:  Upstairs in the Sails Pavilion, there are roped off sections where you can meet and greet certain celebs who are there for the majority of the Con.  It’s usually quite well organized.  I’m not talking about this section though.  I’m talking about down stairs on the main floor.  Either prior or after a panel, there may be an autograph session.  Typically it is either first come first served or they give out tickets earlier in the day.  Check the booth ahead of time for information about when the tickets will be distributed.  The tickets will go fast!  If you are lucky enough to participate, here’s a tip; bring only one item. Usually that is the limit because the booth people need to keep the line moving.  There is usually only an hour allotted for this time.  You want your item signed, so does everyone else.  If time allows, then maybe just have one extra thing signed and move on.  If you want to just walk by the booth to take a quick photo, do so but please keep moving.  Bottlenecks occur all the time and you do not want to get stuck in one.

13) Celebrities:  You may occasionally run into one or two on the main floor as they are heading to or leaving a booth where they are (or were) doing a signing.  Take a quick picture but don’t intrude.  Security needs to escort them out (or to the booth) quickly.  More importantly, if you bump into a celebrity outside of the Con, not at an after-party but out on the street or in a restaurant, try to show some respect.  Sometimes I’ll give a quick greeting but for the most part if they are with a group or having dinner, I don’t want to intrude. Chances are they are just as tired as you are after a long day.

Finally, I just want to take a moment to recognize all you first time attendees. You may be overwhelmed by the show, but don’t be afraid to ask a fellow ‘Con attendee a question or two while you’re standing in line. We all had to start out somewhere. We were all new to the ‘Con at some point. I have made a few lifelong friends just by introducing myself with a smile and a kind word. It’s an exhausting yet exhilarating time and I welcome all of you new fans. Show a little love and respect and it will go a long way. You might learn a few insider tips on a limited signing or an after party. Maybe you’ll meet someone who can hook you up with an exclusive you’ve been after. Maybe someone needs a Kleenex or an extra pen that you just happen to have. And to you ‘Con veterans, keep an eye out for the rookies and offer them some assistance. We are all in this together.

Abel S. Pinedo a.k.a. "Honest Abe" has written reviews for Dark Horizons, JoBlo and MusicTap.  He has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. He can usually be found at his keyboard ranting and rambling about the human condition or watching Beavis & Butthead.