Every year in summer, the same topics dominate certain circles of conversation: Will Marvel unveil ‘The Fantastic Four’? Will DC showcase the first trailer for ‘Superman: Legacy’? What surprises lie in store? All under the same umbrella. Two words that have become a mecca and pilgrimage for fans from around the world: Comic-Con. But do you know what it is, how to attend, and what to expect when you get there? Don’t worry, my spending all my savings had to serve some purpose. No regrets whatsoever.
Where and when is Comic-Con?
There are thousands of Comic-Cons around the world (there’s one in Madrid, for example), but only one has truly earned the title: San Diego Comic-Con. It began in 1970 with just 500 attendees and now gathers 130,000 people daily at the San Diego Convention Center at the end of July. The exact dates are always announced a year in advance, but to give you an idea, in 2023, it will start on July 20 and run until July 23.
Are they just panels?
Some people believe, because that’s all we hear about, that Comic-Con is only about the panels presented by studios and distributors in Hall H. But that is actually the least important aspect, especially in a year like this when most of them are skipping it due to the ongoing writers’ strike (and likely the actors’ strike as well).
Comic-Con consists of four main areas. First, there are the conference rooms, which are numerous and spread across the upper floors. In these rooms, you can attend twenty to thirty talks simultaneously, ranging from nostalgic discussions about niche TV shows to the latest updates in Spider-Man comic book line, with the opportunity to have a chat with your favorite author afterwards.
The second area is the hall, where you’ll find various booths, from film production companies to local comic book stores. It’s the place where you can gather as many freebies as possible, discover valuable vintage comics worth thousands of dollars, get autographs from lesser-known celebrities (for a fee), and stand in queues even if you’re not sure why. There’s likely to be a famous author, a giveaway, or a contest at the end of it all. This is what we understand as a comic convention in Spain, but on an overwhelmingly grand scale.
The third area is the off-sites, which are located outside the main Comic-Con venue. Here, companies promote their TV shows and movies by setting up various experiences such as escape rooms, zombie escapes, virtual reality adventures, or surprise encounters with actors. In the year I attended, for example, you could enjoy burgers from ‘Bob’s Burgers’ alongside the voice cast or step into ‘The Good Place’ experience.
The fourth aspect is everything that happens outside the convention itself. San Diego undergoes a transformation, offering a plethora of entertainment options. You can find themed parties, stand-up comedy shows, Conan O’Brien recordings, film screenings, trivia games, and much more. During Comic-Con, it’s challenging to resist the temptation to stay up all night and sleep becomes a luxury!
You have convinced me, how do I buy the ticket for 2024?
Getting tickets for Comic-Con is not an easy task. With 130,000 people attending, around 300,000 end up being left out. There is only one day and one hour to purchase tickets, and you better be alert because once they’re sold out, that’s it. It’s a matter of luck to secure tickets on your own. It’s often best to join a group of around fifty people in a ticket-buying group (search online for options) to increase your chances. Each person can purchase tickets for up to four people, but simply entering the process does not guarantee success.
Once you have tickets for the desired days (Saturday being the most crowded and Sunday known for discounts), it’s time to find a hotel. However, be prepared for inflated prices in the hotels designated by the organization. Alternatively, you can choose to stay outside the city and commute by bus each day. The cost for attending from Thursday to Sunday will add up to $275, but trust me, if you enjoy these kinds of events, you should experience it at least once in your life. Yes, I know the flight costs can be significant. But hey, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, haven’t you heard?
I got them, give me some basic advice
Very important: the food sold at the convention is expensive and of poor quality (surprising, right? In the United States!). Once you step out of the convention, you’ll find delicious taco stands, supermarkets, and restaurants to suit all budgets. A mediocre McDonald’s burger will cause you less gastrointestinal distress than anything you might eat there. Oh, and don’t forget to stay hydrated. It’s extremely – I mean, extremely – essential, and we don’t want any health scares.
If you’re attending alone, don’t think you’re the only one or that people will find you odd. People are there to make friends, chat, meet like-minded individuals, and learn about pop culture customs from your country. It’s important to be able to speak English, of course, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point. Oh, and don’t join never-ending queues that don’t seem to move. They truly are never-ending and, indeed, they don’t budge (I experienced this with a queue that led to a ‘Demolition Man’-themed customized Taco Bell).
Finally, don’t stress out. Create a schedule for yourself. Determine which events you want to attend, what items you want to buy (there are hundreds of exclusive collectibles), and where you want to go. In fact, create two or even three schedules, just in case things don’t go as planned. If you can’t make it to the panel on the 50th anniversary of ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ perhaps you can attend the retrospective of ‘The Princess Bride’ or the Batman‘s new releases presentation.
So, the next time someone says that Comic-Con is only about presentations and that nobody will go now that everyone has backed out, you can look at them and say, “Oh, you innocent soul.”
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