Comic Con 2012 Survival Guide (

By:Robert T. Trate
Date: Friday, June 15, 2012

As a participant of Nerdvana now for the fifth straight year I have learned a trick or two. As with any year at Comic Con, it is not exactly the same as last year. Technology changes things and I have added a few new tips for this year’s Survival Guide. Some of this information will be the same as the previous Survival Guides but hey, if it works then it works. 
First Off:
There will undoubtedly be tons of things you want to see at Comic Con. The best way to be prepared is to pick up the Comic Con on-site newsletter. Consider it like picking up the daily newspaper. The newsletter is the best way to see all the changes that have been made and plan accordingly. With that said, plan ahead for your daily events and panels. Don’t think you can run right over to see the Hobbit panel giving yourself minutes to spare. You won’t get in. People line up hours ahead of time to see panels at Comic Con. It sounds crazy but last year I missed The Walking Dead panel because people lined up 4 hours early. Since they don’t clear the rooms at Comic Con, exactly how many panels are you willing to sit through to see your favorite show? 
Use the buddy system. If you are going alone to Comic Con, I salute you. It’s tough especially when you try and lug tons of swag and exclusives into the bathroom. Having a buddy makes it easy to move around and do the basic necessities like go to the bathroom and get food. It also makes it easier to divide up who stands in what line for different exclusives. It sounds silly, but if divided you both have a better chance of getting two different exclusives.
The restroom is another great peril of Comic Con. Lines are long. Yes, even for this. Just imagine your worst sporting event restroom scenario. Go early in the day or back at your hotel. The bathrooms get nasty, wet, and often run out of things. My suggestion is to use the restroom somewhere else after you have left for the day.
ATMs are probably the worst lines you can stand in all day. Bring cash with you right away but only what’s in your budget. Use your ATM card or credit card for the big toy exclusives (Mattel, Hasbro, and Diamond Select). If they allow you to use your credit card then use it. Keep your cash for the smaller dealers and necessities.

HALL H (stands for Heaven and Hell):

I’ve spent hours in line to get into Hall H which is nothing compared to the Twilight Moms that camped out overnight one year. Thursday is probably the biggest day for Hall H and usually comes with some surprises, as well. Saturday is when the big guns show up. If you do plan to visit Hall H, get there early and be prepared (see SDCC Bag list below).
You can go to Comic Con and not spend a dime and still walk away with tons of goodies. I am the proud owner of a custom made Scott Pilgrim T-shirt and all the original Star Trek (2009) teaser posters (all free). My advice to you is to take only what you really want and not to wait in line for anything dumb. The time you spend waiting for a big foam finger in the shape of Spock’s hand could be better spent checking out the artist alley or getting in line for Hall H. Free stuff is cool, just don’t let getting it monopolize your time which is better spent elsewhere. Remember this, too: not all swag is created equal to their property. The Green Hornet might not have been the best movie but damn, is that one comfortable t-shirt. I’ve been asked, more than once, where Britt Reed’s Garage is.
This is one of the main reasons why you bring your camera. Be polite, ask for their pictures, thank them and tell them how great their outfits are. Obviously, when you a have big group posing it is tough to do this. One on ones are a different story. I got to know one Cosplayer so well that he and I became Facebook friends. We met up at different Cons throughout the year and now we are legitimate friends. Larry (pictured above as Batman Beyond), one Halloween was gracious enough to hook me up with my own Batman Beyond costume.
If you are Cosplaying for the first time, here are few helpful tips from Mania’s own Movie Maven.

These fine young ladies are here to lure you into their booths. They are not evil, but a great distraction. I, for one, thought I was hitting the mother load of Slave Leias when they all turned out to be from the Gentle Giant Ltd. booth. Booth Babes also come in all shapes and sizes so beware. They are there to merely take up your precious time. 
For the love of Stan Lee and Steve Dikto, please leave your comic book boxes at home. You people know who you are. These guys that cart their short boxes around with tons of books to get signed are incredibly annoying. At Comic Con, each of these persons really takes up the space of two. How can they not since they are carrying a backpack, several exclusives and swag? I know it is supposed to be all about the comics, but do you really need to bring a whole box with you?
Not all panels are created equal. Some will have footage, some will not. Personally, my favorite thing is to either take mental notes or hand written notes on answers and insight the actors present. How many times can we hear: “I never read the comic book, but once I did I loved it”. I also like watching the actors that aren’t answering any questions. Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard looked as bored as I felt 11 months later while watching their film (Green Lantern). Thankfully, this panel had other ample distractions.
The showroom is a crazy and frustrating place. Moving around and locating people becomes the true challenge by Friday afternoon. My advice is if you need to go from one end to the other, use the corridors outside the showroom floor. It is quicker and you won’t bump into as many people.
Most of us have a messenger bag. The problem with these bags is that they kill your shoulders. Trust me, not only is a backpack better for your back but it makes it much easier to walk the aisles on the floor without bumping into every other person with your bag. Take out or take off all unnecessary items, as well; anything that can weigh it down like buttons or additional pouches you are not going to use. Your bag should have the following:
-       A camera with extra batteries and memory cards.
-       Hand sanitizer.
-       iPod, iPhone, iTouch or Blackberry. Whatever you need to kill time waiting in line.
-       Several comic book bags and boards to insure your exclusive comics get home in grade A condition.
-       Sun block, sunglasses or a baseball hat. The Hall H line runs outside ands there is very little shade. Even a small umbrella would work.
-       Snacks, meal bars and water (hold onto the bottle to refill it) because the food inside is way too expensive.
-       Deodorant/ antiperspirants which are not only for you but the guy standing next to you as well.
-       Gum or Binaca. Again for you and the guy next to you.
-       POWER. You will email, call and use the web more than you think. Your computer and your phone will die quickly. Pick up some of those rechargeable cell phone batteries.
-       A poster tube is also essential (see Amazon for Poster Tubes).
-       Though not in your bag, comfortable shoes on your feet! Converse sneakers are awesome but they have no cushion or support. This goes especially you Cosplayers, bring shoes to change into.
-       Six outlet surge protector. Outlets aren’t scarce in the building. They are all just being used. This way everyone around you can recharge.
Even as I type this I know it is all kinds of wrong. I shouldn’t have to write it into a survival guide, but it seems to be the one thing everyone comments on. For the love of Zod, take a shower in the morning before you go to the Con. Take a shower again before you go to bed. There is nothing worse than getting fowl smelling geek sweat on your person all because someone brushes up against you. Again, please wash up and use a TON of deodorant before you go to the Con. Nothing is worse than standing next to someone who smells like they have egg white omelets under their armpits. 
Smart phones are a way of life and each and every day someone creates a new APP for the world. Before you go to Comic Con, there are a few that I recommend picking up (links provided to each)
Tag Reader aka SnapTag: Last year there were numerous scavenger hunts and prizes to be won all for using the Snap Tag app. It hooked me up with a Pacific Rim t-shirt. 
foursquare: I expect this to be the big one this year. Yes, we all are checking in at the San Diego Convention Center, but I’ll bet there will be plenty of booths that will want you to check in with them. Why check in at all? It will probably unlock secret codes that get you swag or discounts. 
Comic-Con: I’ve had this one for a few cons now and it does keep you updated on the locations. This is app is way better than talking to rent-a-clerk who doesn’t know the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek
Marvel Events: Marvel was pretty shrewd with this one last year. If you showed them your app you got all kinds of Avengers swag. The best was an Avengers t-shirt. However, Marvel loves to post EVERYTHING that is going on in their booth. Not only does this become annoying, but also kills your battery. 
EXCLUSIVES (Buying and Shipping):
If you have to have that one item then buy it right away. Most of these exclusives sell out immediately. Many companies offer items online, but then you have to compete with everyone in the world who didn’t make it to Comic Con so your chances are slim. Some companies such as Sideshow Collectibles take pre-orders. Believe it or not, many of these sell out immediately. However, they do have a pick up time and date for their buyers. Find out that time at their booth and you might be able to buy one of their exclusives that wasn’t picked up. Other companies such as Mattel sell out for the day and then restock. Don’t lose hope. Just make sure you get a voucher to jump in line the next day if they are offering one.
There is a FedEx Kinko’s office right inside the convention center. If you don’t want to carry it around for the whole day or back on the plane, I highly recommend shipping it. 
See the Toy Maniacs coverage on the SDCC Exclusives:

2012 SDCC Exclusives Update #1

2012 SDCC Exclusives Update #2


My geek brothers and sisters, I ask you to please dress better than your average run of the mill everyday geek. Store bought t-shirts and hoodies from the likes of Hot Topic, Target and Wal-Mart  are the last things you should be packing. Keep the all black on black Dark Knight Joker t-shirts at home. The Superman, Green Lantern (any Lantern shirt), and Who’s You Daddy Darth Vader shirt are so blase. If you really want to make an impression, connect with the like minded. Just be truly different, may I suggest t-shirts from Last Exit to Nowhere. Not only are these shirts retro geek cool but they enable you to stand out from the crowd. Plus, you won’t look like the 1,000 other geeks walking the Gas Lamp District after hours. Comic Con is the pinnacle of our geek year (for some, their entire year’s existence). Treat yourself right and do it up proper. Hopefully, I may only have to explain one of these t-shirts to you below.
A good friend of mine (check out his Blog “More WhatNot”) came up with a little mantra called Comic Con Karma. If you give something of yourself such as time, swag or even a stick of gum to someone it will come back to you in ten fold. I have plenty of friends that can’t make it to the con. One friend even gets a Knocking Vid app phone call with a walking tour and shot of various trailers. One year, between picking up extra t-shirts and exclusive toys for those back home, I was tapped with a great gift. A man came up to me and asked if I wanted his VIP ticket to The Walking Dead booth. I accepted. The ticket got me an exclusive poster by Drew Struzan. Then, in person, Struzan signed it as did Frank Darabont. Yeah, there just might be something to this Comic Con Karma thing.
Make the most of your time at Comic Con. Enjoy yourself, but be prepared. Work with your group and make up a game plan. Comic Con really is Hanukah, Christmas, your birthday, and Nerdvana for five straight days. The more thought and time you put into going the more you’ll get out of it. And for Odin’s sake it’s the world’s biggest comic book show so don’t stab someone over a frakking seat.
Please put in your own tips and experiences in the comment section below.

Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.