The Comic-Con Survival Guide

Discuss "KeenCon X", our tenth annual Comic-Con appearance! It's July 21-25, 2010 at Comic-Con International: San Diego (www.comic-con.org).

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The Comic-Con Survival Guide

Postby Ghoti-Heads on Mon Mar 24, 2003 7:17 pm

Ah, Comic-Con. Arguably the best thing ever to happen to Geekdom.
Thinking about attending? Let's start with how to get to the con:

Transportation: If you're not staying near the con, look for a place
near the San Diego trolley system. The trolley runs right by the
convention center. The trolley fares are very cheap, and it's much easier
than trying to find a parking space near the con. (You can park free at
any of the outlying trolley stations.)

The trolleys run reasonably late, so you shouldn't have to worry about
time too much -- but do remember to check when the last trolley will
return to your starting point.

If you plan to ride the trolley more than one time, save by getting a
Day Tripper pass for one to four days of unlimited bus and trolley use.
Details on rates here:
Trolley rates -- scroll down to Day Tripper

A schematic map of trolley stops (not very descriptive) can be found here:
Trolley map

Note: The Gaslamp Quarter Station is the closest to the convention center
entrance used by the con. The Convention Center Station will mean a
longer walk.

Trolley station addresses can be found here:
Trolley station locations

Things you'll probably be glad you brought:

Totebag/backpack/something to carry things in. Both times I've
attended, booths distributed fairly sturdy bags; but they're never
the easiest things to carry, and you may need something sturdier.

Other reasons to bring your own bag:

Food. Really, the food prices inside the con are insane. Bring some
crackers, pocky, tim-tams, or whatever your preference to sate you till
you can break away and find a place with reasonable prices. There are
some great restaurants right across the street in the part of the city
known as The Gaslamp Quarter. I highly recommend Dick's Last Resort.
There were even some sidewalk food vendors in the Quarter. (I also
heard you could go down to the marina right by the convention center
and find a decent, reasonably priced hamburger.)

Bring something to carry water in. It's very easy to get dehydrated with
all the walking you'll most likely do. If you bring a bottle of juice or pop,
save the bottle to refill with water. Water fountains are few, but many of
the larger con rooms have water coolers and cups at the back.

Highlighter. Use it to mark all the panels and events you wish to attend.
Much easier than writing down each event title, room number, and time.

Autograph book, or specific items you want signed. A lot of famous talent
comes out for the con, including some that aren't on the guest list.

Speaking of famous talent, don't freak out when you see one of your
heroes. For example, I ran into Weird Al Yankovic in the hallways of
the con. What words did I utter as soon as I saw him? "Duuuude!
You're Weird AL!" Suave, no?

Money. Seems obvious, but I'll list it anyway. There are some really
great deals out on the seller's floor, so don't get caught without any
moola! And you know you want some more KeenSwag. See the
buyer's guide below for buying tips.

A camera. Costumes, friends being goofy, celebrities. Kodak moments.

Swag protection for sketches, posters, wallscrolls, the easily damaged
stuff. Mylar bags with cardboard backing work well for carrying sketches
(or if you buy a book large enough, you can carry your sketch inside).
Posters and wallscrolls are best handled with poster carriers. If you're
big on poster art, consider getting (or making) a carrier with a strap for
over your shoulder.

Okay, that's the basics. Now for some Tips:

Get pre-registered. It's a lot cheaper the earlier you do it, and it buys
you an extra night of con ecstasy -- Preview Night. If you want the
cheaper rate but aren't sure you can attend, that's okay. You can hold
over your pre-registry till the next con, or even the con after that free
of charge. Pretty nifty, huh?

Check the schedule as soon as you get your grubby little hands on it, and
pick up the daily updates too. Otherwise you could end up kicking
yourself for missing something really great. There can be surprise
appearances too, so keep your ears open as well.

Check the map and your current position on it. It's a big place, and you
could get lost without trying very hard.

Visit the parties listed on the schedule, even if you aren't much of a party
person. I met some really nice people at the first-night mixer and the
Masquerade Ball. (You won't feel out of place in street clothes.) The
parties last year had free snacks and cash bar.

Wear very comfortable shoes. Plan to walk your legs off.

When you're at a panel, don't be afraid to ask a question come Q&A
time. It's usually a dark room, so you don't have to be shy.

Remember to be on the lookout for costumes. There are some very
creative and talented people in attendance.

If you want to attend in costume, here's a good resource for costuming:
Katsu's Cosplay Tips

While I'm on the subject, why don't I see anyone in Keen-related
costumes? C'mon people, represent yo! Not to mention that it's
free advertising for your favorite webcomic.

If you plan to meet with anyone, set up multiple meeting times. You
never know what delays you might run into; I learned that the hard way.
Also set up a booth or some landmark to meet at if you and your friends
get separated. Trying to find someone you've lost there is much like the
cliched needle in a haystack.

The Buyer's Guide:

Scout the seller floor early if you get a chance; then do your shopping on
Sunday. Prices drop surprisingly low the last day of the con.

Use your program map and the above-mentioned highlighter to mark the
booths you like. There are literally hundreds, so this really helps. Check
back on Sunday to see if they have any steals.

While scouting, if you see something that you know is a good deal and
you want it, snatch it up.

If you see something you like but think it's too high-priced, make the
seller a lower offer and/or ask if he will give you a break if you buy
multiple items. If that fails, check back on Sunday.

Shop around. If that first seller won't make a deal with you, that doesn't
mean some other seller won't.

Sketches make wonderful presents. Keep your friends in mind when you
shop. If you know their favorite cartoonists and characters, so much the
better!

Keep an eye and ear out on the convention floor. If you see something of
interest, ask someone where they got it. If you hear about it, tell them
you're sorry for overhearing but can't help wondering where they found
that wondrous item.

Dear sweet moogle, buy something at the Keen booth!

Final note: If you can think of anything else to help with the con
experience, post it.
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Re: The Comic-Con Survival Guide

Postby gwalla on Wed Mar 26, 2003 12:16 am

Ghoti-Heads wrote:Money. Seems obvious, but I'll list it anyway. There are some really
great deals out on the seller's floor, so don't get caught without any
moola! And you know you want some more KeenSwag. See the
buyer's guide below for buying tips.


Note: this means cash. Almost nobody inside the con is going to accept a credit card (if they did, they'd need to do it the old-fashioned way by taking an imprint of the card--no phone lines for direct connections to credit card companies--and nobody does that anymore). If you're lucky somebody might take a check, but don't count on it. Use your credit card when you buy food and other things outside the con to conserve cash, so you don't have to run to the ATM every time you turn around.

And don't miss the Eisners. It's like the Oscars for comics except you get to sit right up close to the nominees.
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Postby Ghoti-Heads on Wed Mar 26, 2003 1:02 am

gwalla wrote:Note: this means cash. Almost nobody inside the con is going to accept a credit card (if they did, they'd need to do it the old-fashioned way by taking an imprint of the card--no phone lines for direct connections to credit card companies--and nobody does that anymore). If you're lucky somebody might take a check, but don't count on it. Use your credit card when you buy food and other things outside the con to conserve cash, so you don't have to run to the ATM every time you turn around.


Good advice, gwalla. However, there's an acceptable alternative to cash: traveler's checks. I should have mentioned them in the first place. Every dealer I've met has accepted them. I consider the cost of the checks worth it just to avoid the (at times) massive lines at the ATMs.

And it's less dangerous than carrying tons of cash.

And don't miss the Eisners. It's like the Oscars for comics except you get to sit right up close to the nominees.


Another good one. I haven't been to the Eisner Awards yet, so it didn't even cross my mind. (There's just sooooo much to choose from!)
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Postby macclint on Wed Mar 26, 2003 8:41 am

Excellent advice gentlemen.

Thanks for posting it! :D
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"‘Comics will break your heart." Jack "King" Kirby

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Postby Ghoti-Heads on Thu Mar 27, 2003 5:28 pm

WOO! I got praise from a Keenspot author! I'm on my way, Ma! :D

More on preregistering:

The very best time to reregister for the next con as at the con itself. Prices are at the absolute lowest while the con is in session. Prices jump as soon as con ends and continue to rise as the next con gets closer. Remember, if you find out you'll be unable attend, you can "roll over" your preregistration.

I met someone who had reregistered for several years in advance and he was pushing his registrations forward as necessary. This results in a major savings. Figure on registration costs increasing each year.
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Postby gwalla on Thu Mar 27, 2003 11:16 pm

Ghoti-Heads wrote:Good advice, gwalla. However, there's an acceptable alternative to cash: traveler's checks. I should have mentioned them in the first place. Every dealer I've met has accepted them. I consider the cost of the checks worth it just to avoid the (at times) massive lines at the ATMs.

And it's less dangerous than carrying tons of cash.


Ah, true. I'd forgotten about those. I even brought Traveller's Checks to my first Anime Expo. The disadvantages to them are that they might confuse some people (a lot of people aren't used to using TCs), and you can't just go to an ATM and pull out a wad--you have to buy them ahead of time.

If you've got a pre-set, limited budget, or don't have a bank account, though, traveller's checks are definitely a good bet.
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Postby Aeire on Sun Mar 30, 2003 7:53 pm

Also - don't use the ATM's at the convention centre. #1, they run out of money very, very quickly, so you might not even be able to get cash when #2 - you get through the very long LINE, and #3 - if I remember right, the ATM's last year were charging HORRENDOUS fees for use - best to just walk down and find another ATM somewhere downtown, rather than using the machines there.
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Postby Max Hass on Sun May 18, 2003 11:33 am

Having attended several San Diego Comic Cons (and last year
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Postby Floyd on Sun May 18, 2003 4:08 pm

Another good idea if you plan to attend a Keen panel at the convention:

Get to the room 15 minutes before the panel begins.

Not all panels get rooms large enough to hold everyone who wants to have a seat.
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Postby Ghoti-Heads on Sat May 24, 2003 12:36 am

Movies at the Con. I forgot movies.

If there's a movie you want to see, immediately check if it's on or off site. If it's off site, go there and exchange your coupons for real tickets as soon as possible. Promoters always have many more "Redeem for a free ticket" coupons than tickets available. This will also let you know how long it will take to get to the offsite location.

If it's on site, you'll probably be able to get in. Check out the room in advance to find out if it's a single screen or multi screen room. The small single screen rooms require finding a good seat. The multi-screen rooms have plenty of good seating. IIRC, most of the sneak previews on site are in the big rooms.

If you're going to see anime or other subtitled film, many of them are in single screen rooms. Some of the screens are hung so low that heads get in the way of the subtitles. These screenings are often jammed, so arriving ahead of time is a good idea. When a show ends you can usually scramble to find a good seat.
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