by Movie Moxie's Alicia Glass
Comic-Con International is one of those insane events that happens once a year, that everyone and their family looks forward to. Swag is given out in spades, autographs are hoarded, lines are formed for miles, and cosplay is proudly displayed, often by folk who are considered completely “normal” otherwise. CCI is like it’s own world, with it’s own rules, and it helps to know them if you’ve never been to Comic-Con before. For example:
The FREE STUFF
Literally right across the street from the convention center, past the trolley tracks and the hordes of fan-atics trying to cross the street, is always set up as the ads and the FREE STUFF. Often new or returning TV shows are advertised with exhibit walkthroughs and at the end, you get a FREE something with the shows logo stamped on it. Clever geegaws, FREE photos with sets as backdrops, games and trivia and hotties giving out t-shirts, oh my! Someone this year was a genius, and for the Dracula walkthrough, the FREE thing given at the end was a chair. Now I grant you, it’s just a folding piece of cardboard with ads printed on it; the thing still supported my weight during those interminable lines for more FREE STUFF, so that’s awesome. All day Thursday, all I did was wander around the across-the-street area, didn’t even go in to the convention center itself, and yet I came home with a bulging bag of FREE STUFF. There was even a place giving out free half-pints of ice cream, advertising Elder Scrolls. I do not kid.
Sometimes, not always, you can be in the right place at just the right time. I was in line for the Falling Skies trailer exhibit across the trolley tracks, when a Volunteer came out with t-shirts over one arm and announced to the line he was doing FS trivia, and asked who on the line was a fan?! …*crickets* Really? Well, I’m a fan! After gleefully giving some trivia about the latest show, I was handed the last in a lot of only 200 made, the Volunteer said, of an official Falling Skies hoodie, with a patch and a logo and thumbholes in the sleeves. This happens to me, as a rabid fan, often, and who knows, it may happen to you too!
SDCC Bag Loadout
Several years back, someone else was a genius and started giving out these high-end bags to hold shwag as part of the Comic-Con package when you pick up your badge. Everyone gets one, they usually have some sort of theme, and this year is no exception. This years SDCC bag featured Warner Bros. (of course) and CCI (Comic-Con International) on one side, the other side reserved for ads for shows like Arrow, Retro Batman, The Vampire Diaries, The Big Bang Theory, and many others, also featuring double arm straps so the bag could be a backpack, thank heavens. But that wasn’t the highlight of this years bag, oh no. Along with the SDCC bag and its helpful lugging-stuff goodness, each bag came complete with a detachable ad cape. I grant you, it’s this cheapo piece of fabric with a logo screened on it and neckties, but come on. Now everyone can Cosplay at Comic-Con!
In Comic-Con, there are lines literally everywhere. For the panels, for the Halls, down in the shopping mall, and don’t forget the fulfillment room. (We’ll get to that.) The lines in the Exhibit Hall, where we do all the shopping and yes get more free stuff, are often girded by Con security and hapless Volunteers with signs that don’t really work. Usually after Friday, the lines for the really swell free stuff become impossible unless you attended such-and-such panel beforehand and received the postcard that entitled you for a free t-shirt advertising their movie. The Exhibit Hall frankly, has needed for years traffic signals and cattle prods, and not necessarily in that order. You were warned.
The Main Hall Lines
The lines for Hall H and Ballroom 20 need to be addressed as well. It’s been years since I’ve bothered at all trying to get into either one of these rooms, and with good reason. Hall H and Ballroom 20 are the largest venues at Comic-Con and therefore have the coolest panels shown there. Hall H in particular gets insane, due to the fact that the overflow line is outside (someone finally put up tents a few years ago to shield the line from the sun, hooray) and these days people will often camp out overnight to ensure getting in to Hall H the next day. I’ve heard stories of die-hard fans camping out there three days before the Con was to open, just to see their favorite star in real life. And I think that’s why these lines are so insane: most of these people get to see a real-life celebrity once in their miserable lives, here at Comic-Con. Even the lines for the smaller roomed panels are getting interesting, so never mind what the website says. If you want to see a panel, any panel at all, come early for the line.
The Fullfillment Room
SDCC some years back instituted this sort of reward program that gives away yet more free stuff advertising various programs shown at Con. At a lot of the panels, while you’re sitting there listening to Noah Wyle crack wise about Falling Skies or whatever, Con Volunteers will pass out along the lines of Con-goers these little faire-type tickets. What not everyone knows is to keep these tickets, they’re not for a raffle you’ll never win or anything, it’s for the Fullfillment Room.
Next door to the convention center is the Marriot Hotel, and here is where the Fullfillment Room is set up. What they don’t tell you, is that the Room is set up in the very back end of the Hotel, and the place usually only has Volunteers with signs for the Room about halfway through the Hotel, if at all. Also, inevitably, there are lines of eager Con-goers already in the know about the Room. However, if you’ve kept your non-raffle tickets (I store mine in the back of my Con badge, that always works) and walked huffing and puffing all the way to the Room, stood in the interminable lines and tried to be nice to the harried Con volunteers, you can get yet more FREE STUFF. Bags from everywhere under the moon, posters and comics and booklets oh my, in previous years I got full-on video games with unlockable content, bracelets and pins and don’t forget the t-shirts, all with the logo of your favorite movie or show!
A lot of people go absolutely apeshit insane trying to do Cosplay for Comic-Con. I tried it once or twice a few years ago, and truly, it does not mesh with wandering the exhibit hall with a bag stuffed full of free shwag. But there are a couple of things I’ve learned about the Cosplayers and their ways. One, they always prefer to be asked before you start blinding them with a camera flash and effectively block their way to wherever they’re going by mobbing them with picture-taking. Two, very few of them actually mind if you come right out and ask where their costume is from, if you don’t know. A lot of those Anime Cosplayers can get downright obscure, and they know it, so if you don’t know, ask already. Three, after you take their picture and thank them for it, say something nice about their costume already. It costs you nothing to say, “Love the shoes” or “You look just like the Khaleesi”, even if you don’t mean it. And who knows what it cost the Cosplayer to make that costume; show some appreciation for their fan-aticism and love, if nothing else.
Comic-Con International is an event like no other in the whole world. Every year people from all over the planet come here to San Diego in massive hordes for this four-day insanity extravaganza. Yes, the lines are terrible, the crowds are massive, and the heat is stifling. Yes, there are always disappointments: I didn’t get in to the Doctor Who panel, I didn’t get that geegaw from thus-and-such retailer I really wanted cuz’ they sold out on Thursday, I missed the pirate ship walkthrough because they closed it a day early, et cetera. But what you do get in exchange for all the headaches is an experience like no other. I saw Travis Fimmel from Vikings live and in person, I came home with four free bags of shwag, I spent all the money I studiously saved just for this event in the exhibit hall on fan things, and overall I had a blast. Comic-Con brings together people from all over, who all have one thing in common: I’m a fan. In a lot of cases, we’re all insane fan-atics, and Comic-Con connects us all for those four glorious days of squees, cheers, and die-hard unabashed and unapologetic geekdom!
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Photographs by Alicia Glass