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Here’s Everything I Learned At My First San Diego Comic Con

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There was a dream in my geeky heart since about 2011, and that was that I wanted to go to San Diego Comic Con. It seemed like the coolest place in the galaxy. I had visions of awesome cosplays and of amazing panels. I watched from afar as Marvel, Star Wars, and DC brought announcement after announcement to the con, hoping one day I could go myself and be where the fans all were. Finally, I made it this year.

Five days and one convention later, here’s what I’ve learned about SDCC. It’s large and overwhelming and absolutely a blast and a half. So, dear readers, for those of you who will be making 2020 your first SDCC, here is some advice I’ll pass on to you.

Firstly, here’s a brief survival guide for waiting in the endlessly long lines of SDCC, be it Hall H or for one of the activations. Bring water. I know you think you don’t need water, or your bag is already full. I’m here to tell you to bring some water and hydrate. As the saying goes, hydrate or die. Trust me, without hydrating at the con, you will die. So bring a water bottle and re-fill it often and drink as much water as you can. That will help with standing in the San Diego sun for hours.

Also, snacks are your friend. Con food is often expensive, so throwing some snacks into your backpack will save you money and keep you well fed and stave off the hangry feels. No one wants hangry fans descending on a booth.

Backpacks? Also a great decision. Don’t overload it with things you don’t need (partially because you will pick things up on the con floor and partially because your shoulders will hate you), but make sure you’ve got some food, water, and anything you want to get signed stashed away. An easy to carry backpack and a comfortable pair of shoes will keep you sane on the floor, because you’ve got things you need to carry and you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

If you make it into Hall H, first off, congratulations. They have a concession stand and a bathroom inside the hall, so you won’t have to worry about leaving and losing your seat. But be ready to camp out for hours. You can see some interesting panels that way, and also you’ll be guaranteed a spot for your favorite panel. The Marvel panel, as you’ve probably heard, won the con this year, so getting to experience Hall H for a panel like that at least once is worth every penny.

My last bit of serious advice is that the con can be very overwhelming, with about 130,000 guests. If you need to slip away to an offsite location that’ll give you some space, that’s totally wonderful. The amazing Cat Cafe a few blocks from the convention center provides forty-five minute long reservation periods where you can play with super adorable cats and just relax for a while. The hotel room, depending on how many people are jammed in there, can also be a haven if you need to step away for a couple minutes.

However, don’t let the scary and serious advice fool you. The con is full of amazingly kind, amazingly wonderful people.

Vendors are happy to be there. Artists and authors are thrilled to meet fans. You can meet amazingly kind people at the con, especially if you stop to chat with people working the various booths. There is a kinship between everyone at the con — we’re all here and kind of weird, so why not be kind to each other?

Above all else, do what you think will make your con memorable. As one of my friends told me, there are things I’ll remember doing because they’ll be personal, small moments that I’d regret missing, or there are things I can go to that will happen again or that I can follow along via Twitter. It’s those moments where something magic happens at the con, where you get your comic signed or you get to see your favorite actor, that make the whole experience special. You have to embrace those moments more than grabbing a con exclusive or waiting in line for a packed panel.

SDCC is wonderful and weird, and I cannot wait for 2020. I hope to see you all there! Are you already an old hand at this? What advice would you give re: con survival to those of us just starting out?

(image: Comic-Con International)

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Image of Kate Gardner
Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.