I approach Comic Con like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, working each Con to improve the experience and learn from my prior mistakes. Here's the Top 10 lessons I learned this year at the big show.
1. Swag bags can be a drag. "But Austin," you're saying to yourself, "I don't want to have to lug my favorite prop from the movie Se7en around Con all day long!"
Sure, you'll need the over-sized parcel for prints, posters, and toys, so wear it for the first day while you hunt down all your favorite collectibles. After that, ditch the son'bitch for a backpack.
2. Tag your swag. Comic Con vet Aaron Hartline knows the importance of protecting one's well-earned goodies.
3. Make friends with heroes and villains alike. You never know which side will win, and it's good to be connected.
4. Avoid Hall H. Why contend with these lines when you could be socializing with aforementioned beauties? Besides, that Tintin panel will be on Youtube before you know it!
5. Roll with a minor celebrity. My friend Sam did his first panel this year for the Regular Show, and walking the floor with him was a real treat. We must have been stopped half a dozen times for an autograph and it was a wonderful reminder of what Con is about: making some extra scratch by charging for your John Hancock.
6. Know your nerdery. You may be the BSG guru where you come from, but here you're just another fish in the pond. I was nearly decapitated when I accidentally called Teela "She-Ra".
As a side-note, it's pretty much never a good idea to call a girl the wrong name.
7. Think outside the Con. Aside from the wonderful eats around San Diego (ask a veteran Con goer for their recommendations), there's the brand new Trickster event.
Mild-mannered comic shop/art gallery/film festival by day, booze-infused rock concert by night! Trickster makes an excellent break from your Con day and the perfect start to your Con evening.
8. BYOB. Bring our own book, that is. If you follow this blog, odds are you're an artist of some sort. Since you're already drawing, why not compile those sketches into a book and hawk it at the Con? Even my "I am Captain America" cover finally got some love from my new friend, Marie!
If you don't feel like going through the trouble of printing books (or can't afford the process), you can always contribute a sketch to the Comic Con souvenir book. One of this year's themes was Dark Horse's 25th Anniversary. Being a long-time fan of Star Wars, Hellboy, and (of course) Too Much Coffee Man, I decided to raise my glass to the industry titan.
9. Shake hands and rub elbows. It's easy to get caught up in the rush to the next panel or the race to nab that last Tiki Stitch vinyl figurine and forget that you are surrounded by the coolest people on the planet! I'm not just talking about the celebrities on panels, I'm talking about comic shop owners like my hometown comic mogul, Brian Peets from the world's greatest comic store, A-1 Comics; astounding artists like the legendary Doug TenNapel; and up-and-comers like Cassia Harries and Mishi McCaig.
You can also finally meet those amazing artists whose blogs you follow. I was stoked to run into Ryan Green and Fawn, along with old-time CalArts compadre Lissa Treiman, at Trickster.
And don't be afraid to stop someone for a picture! I had a great conversation with Slashfilm's Peter Sciretta about the Cowboys and Aliens screening he'd just attended. He didn't sound very excited, but there are cowboys and aliens in the film, and they fight, so I'm seeing it anyway!
10. Earn the right to go home. For some, that means hunting down that rare Mysterio Kid Robot exclusive, for others it's all about taking home a coveted Eisner award or winning best-costume. For me, it meant finding every Waldo in the joint! Achievement unlocked.
10b. (only for folks driving North after Con) Hit Disneyland on the way back home! What better way to end your Comic Con with a visit to the other happiest place on Earth? For my brother, my Dad, and I, that meant leaving Disneyland at midnight for a six hour drive back to the bay area, but I got to ride the new Star Tours and eat at the Blue Bayou, so I'm not complaining!
Heck, you might run into someone from Con! I happened to run into the CSSSA students (see my last post)! I guess that's why they call it the magic kingdom.
I hope this unnecessarily extensive look back at my Con/Trickster experience helps you plan out next year. There are also legitimate survival guides for the real hardcore Con-goers. When all else fails, remember the golden rule: if you lose your group, don't text, just yell, "AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!"