(A continuing series of hints, tips, and observations based
on stuff that worked for me. Your mileage may vary.)
With Preview Night only a week away, all of you San Diego Pilgrims are no doubt poring over the staggering amount of programming for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. There are tons of great panels and presentations to see, and literally not enough time in the day to see even the tiniest fraction of them. However, there are also tons of great non-programming experiences at the Con that would be a shame to miss out on. What's a fanboy or fangirl to do?
I can't tell you exactly what to do, since (as I've said before) everyone comes to the Con with different goals and ideas of what makes for a fun time. However, speaking as someone primarily interested in comic books, and having attended two Comic Cons using very different strategies each time, I may have some insights you'll find useful.
For my first Con in 2003, I was obviously dazzled by the virtual phone book of programming choices. As a result, I filled up most of my days sitting in panels or waiting in lines to meet various comic pros. While those experiences were (mostly) great, at the end of the weekend I didn't feel like I'd experienced the other aspects of the Con, namely walking around the Exhibit Hall floor and just taking in all of its surreal, sprawling lunacy.
In 2005, I wanted to remedy that situation with a more balanced approach to experiencing the Con. Though there was plenty of intriguing programming to choose from, I decided to forego much of it to spend the time exploring the Exhibit Hall, the dealer areas and Artists' Alley....which worked out beautifully.
Taking what I've learned from both Con experiences, here are some suggestions you might want to consider...
1. If a favorite older comic book pro or media figure (such as Ray Harryhausen) was part of panel, I usually made time to see them. With so many flash-in-the-pan young comic pros and celebrities packing meeting rooms, I make a point of seeing the true giants of comics and entertainment industries whenever I can. It's not done in a macabre "I must see them before they die" mindset, but rather out of respect and a genuine desire to finally see them in the flesh and (if the opportunity presents itself) tell them "thanks" for all the great struff.
2. As admittedly fun as it is to be at "ground zero" when the Big Two comic publishers announce their big news, this sort of thing is ultimately very "skippable". Taking a half-hour to skim the comic news websites after returning to your hotel (or home) will update you on all the earthshaking news without cutting into so much of your time while at the Con. Plus, over the past several years, it's been my perception that San Diego is no longer the place for the absolute biggest announcements, as both companies stagger the amount of information released over the entire convention season, usually dropping the "mother lode" announcements at the Wizard World Chicago convention in early August. In other words, many of the publisher panels don't have the "bang" they used to and are eminently avoidable.
3. The obvious purpose of all that programming (besides entertaining you) is for crowd control. The panels and presentations draw bodies from the crowded Exhibit Hall to allow for at least some ease of movement through the building....especially during the peak afternoon hours. If you're trying to decide between programming and, say, comic book shopping during the afternoon, stick with the programming. Your feet and sanity will thank you.
4. That said, as interesting as some programming undoubtedly is, don't overlook the more spontaneous fun of just roaming around the Convention Center. Small details like fan couples in cute matching costumes, impressive Exhibit Hall booths, overhearing in-jokes that you actually get, funny t-shirts, familiar faces, and thousands upon thousands of people who know who Jack Kirby is...whatever it is, it's all good. Be sure to make time to experience it, and avoid just bouncing from panel to panel.
5. If you're a serious "hunter" of comic books like me, the San Diego Con is the ultimate safari. Like any good hunt, you've got to put in the time and legwork checking out what the dealers have to offer. I enjoy roaming the various dealer tables looking for the best deals on comics I'm looking for, keeping track of them, then circling back to snap up the best of the deals. If this sounds boring or tedious to you, no problem...more time for other stuff (whatever that may be). However, if you love hunting for good comic book deals...and there are many to be had in San Diego...be sure to devote some solid chunks of time to do it right. Don't be afraid to make a lower offer for comics you'd like to buy, especially as the Con winds down. Most dealers want nothing more than to reduce the inventory they came to the Con with. Sure, some of the greedier ones won't budge a cent, but give it a shot anyway.
Next up, the great Comic Con pastime of people watching!