Nathan's Laserium: Comics 101 - Comic-Con Exclusive!

Comic-con starts today. I’m not there. I’m not even “here”, actually. I’m at work as this post goes live, stuck in a coal mine far from any kind of access to SDCC coverage. But I went once, in 2010, and it is a fun time. A mecca for introverted, crowd-hating, comics-loving nerds like me. Don’t let the massive attendance numbers dissuade you from ever going. It is so worth it, and I found the crushing press of humanity to be actually quite manageable and even friendly and pleasant.

There’s so much going on that every person can have a completely unique and almost infinitely-customizable convention experience. You could grab a convention-exclusive My Little Pony from Hasbro, hit up a panel discussion on writing queer and queer-friendly comics, get a one-of-a-kind sketch card from a professional comics artist, see a massive movie star hype her newest movie and take pictures of the most amazing cosplayers in their hand-made costumes of your favorite characters, all by noon on the first day. And you still have three-and-a-half days to go!

Presumably, if you're reading this, you're not in San Diego. Yeah, sad. At least you're not in a coal mine though! That would really suck. There's always next year, and there's always other conventions.

If you ARE going, though, or are going to some other convention, here is some hopefully helpful advice to help you have the bestest great time. It's all about modulation. Not moderation, modulation. By all means gorge and binge at a con, but do it wisely using these tips.

Money: You want to carry quite a bit of cash on you, as many vendors are cash-only. If you really want to make life easier on them, have a wad of bills smaller than a $20. Everyone pays in 20s, and then the vendors run out of change very quickly. Now, what should you do with your money? Completely up to you of course, but I like to get stuff that you can't get anywhere else. Sketches, convention exclusives, that sort of thing. Autographs and photos with celebrities are not my thing at all, but it's a huge part of a convention. Where else are you going to have a second or two to chat with Sigourney Weaver, say, or George Takei? Everyone bemoans the fact that Comic-Con isn't about comics anymore, but I advise against buying comics- you can get those anytime, right? One exception being independant comics purchased directly from the creators. Sidenote, Comixology is having a really good sale on comics right now because of SDCC.

Time: There's so much to do, especially at big conventions like SDCC. You can easily lose hours just waiting in line, or getting to and from the convention center. There are things you want to go to or do that you will miss out on. Not a lot you can do about that, I guess, though cutting down on time-wasters like hitting the snooze button can help. Bringing food also helps, then you don't have to stand in line for meals or going off-site. Which brings me to...

Blood Sugar: Sex magic? No, but close. Managing you blood sugar is probably the single-most effective piece of advice I have on pretty much everything, conventions included. Don't want it too high, don't want it too low. Eat your meals, preferably healthy ones, and bring snacks to refuel throughout the day. Apples and power bars are very effective. Also, try to drink water rather than soft drinks. You don't want to have a sugar crash. When you're hungry, everything becomes an annoyance, if not an excuse to full-out hulkify. But when your stomach is happy, you are happy. Things roll off that much easier.

Body Odor, Hygiene, and Personal Space: Do everyone a favour and wear deodorant. Use mouth wash. It gets hot, you get sweaty, that's natural. You can cut down on eau de convention just by maintaining your personal hygiene. Change your clothes at least once a day! If you have a massive backpack, try to be aware of where it is when you are swinging around. No one likes getting hit in the face with someone's backpack. And DO NOT put your bag down on a vendor's table, especially on an art portfolio. The convention floor can be pretty crowded, but if you are relaxed, don't do sudden stops and swerves, it goes pretty well. Be patient! And if taking photos with cosplayers, keep in mind that even though they are smiling and pleasant, most of them would prefer if you didn't put your sweaty, germy arms around them. And please, please, please read your convention's anti-harassment policy and be diligent about following it. Cosplay is NOT consent. Some cons don't have such a policy, so just pretend they do and follow it anyway.

Everyone thanks you.

Personally, I love taking photos of cosplayers, and prefer not to ruin the photos by having me in the picture. If you are polite and choose the right moment (ie not when they are sitting down for a bite to manage their blood sugar or something) the vast majority of cosplayers are happy to pose for you. Try not to block traffic, and asking them about their costumes is a great ice-breaker, as long as you're genuinely curious and not just testing them on their geek knowledge.

Just don't be a dick, right? So easy. Makes it fun for everyone.

If you wanna play along at home, here are some twitter feeds I follow to be there vicariously:

@patloika is a San Diego native and veteran of many many SDCCs. He also has a podcast and a great flickr feed too:

@Crazy4ComicCon this guy might like comic-con, it’s hard to say for sure.

@SuzetteChan  and @StephanieChan are local friends who I am insanely jealous of since they are at SDCC.

@AgentM is Marvel’s main guy on the ground. He knows all the secrets, but he thinks it is spelled seeeeeekrits.

Pretty much every comic creator will be there in some form, whether as a speaker, guest, vendor or whatever, so whoever you love, make sure you follow them up! And if you are lucky enough to be there, please get me one of these.  I can pay you in lumps of coal which you can’t get at any convention.

- Nathan Waddell