Comic-Con International in San Diego is one of the largest conventions in the world, especially now that it hosts a variety of Hollywood celebrities dishing exclusive info on the latest upcoming blockbuster movies.
Over the past 50 years since it’s inception as a comic book club, Comic-Con has spawned WonderCon, the Alternative Press Expo, and…let’s call it open-source franchised into Comic-Cons throughout the world, with over 20 annual events held in North America, as well as 8 international events in Europe and Asia, though they’re all run separately, making Comic-Con a much more localized event than E3.
When you hear Comic-Con discussed in the media, it’s the San Diego Comic-Con International they’re referring to, though each comic convention does have it’s own charm.
No matter which comic book convention you attend, they’re run very similar (as most conventions are), so here’s what you need to know…
Attendance at Comic-Con
All Comic-Cons are open to the public and typically lasts about 3 days, though the main Comic-Con (Comic-Con SD) has a day one preview event prior to the main show. General Admission runs around $30-per day, with muti-day and VIP passes being made available to most.
Media passes to all Comic-Con events is free, and vendor/sponsor pricing varies greatly across regions. Take a look at how to prepare for trade show exhibits to get a better idea of how all that works.
Purchasing tickets to Comic-Con is done on each individual Comic-Con website, as they are all operating independently, some as franchises under the main CCI umbrella and others owned and operated by separate entities, such as Wizard Entertainment.
Many local Comic-Cons have also spawned Fan Expos similar to WonderCon. The difference in attending each is like meeting Scotty Pippin or Robin instead of MJ or the Bat, which is best expressed by Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
Here are the links to purchase tickets to each Comic-Con, as of June 2015. San Diego’s process differs from the rest (which are fairly straightforward), so that how and why will be explained in more detail below the link list.
Comic Con India
Middle East Film and Comic Con
East European Comic Con
London Film and Comic Con
MCM London Comic Con
Wales Comic Con
Central Canada Comic Con (C4)
Toronto Comic Con
Asbury Park Comicon
Denver Comic Con
Emerald City Comicon
Motor City Comic Con
New York Comic Con
Rhode Island Comic Con
Salt Lake Comic Con
San Diego Comic-Con International*
Wildcat Comic Con
Tickets can be purchased on each website for the individual event. The process is normal, except San Diego’s, which is the most sought-after Comic-Con, and one of the most popular events of the year, across all industries, often eclipsing the buzz of E3, due to the larger celebrity presence.
Purchasing tickets to San Diego Comic-Con is an event. Purchase windows open in the fall, and both media and vendors/sponsors have a much larger (and earlier) window. The media registration window for Comic-Con International 2015 closed December 6, 2014, a date that’ll always stick in my head for reasons I’ll explain later in High Times. The GA/VIP purchase window opened in March 2015.
The event is being held from July 8-12, 2015.
To be informed of the ticket registration window (and even attempt to buy a ticket), you must register for a membership ID, and submit your credentials as necessary. GA and VIP passes sold out within 2 hours, and this was without 4-day passes even being available. Refer again to above Big Bang clip.
Once the event is sold out, ticket prices skyrocket on Ebay better than any comic book you ever bought.
Comic-Con tickets vary greatly by event, though they’re most often badges on lanyards, with Comic-Con International looking like E3, Outdoor Retailer, and other trade shows, and the majority of the rest being a little more sponsory and artistic.
The value of these tickets takes a sharp dive in price immediately after the event, and, while scalped tickets are available, you’ll need to show photo ID to get into any of the press conferences.
What to Expect at Comic-Con
If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank, you get the general idea of each of these independent entrepreneurs taking advantage of this millennium’s rise in pop culture popularity to brand their regional comic book conventions to match the big guy on the block.
Wizard very much wants to brand something catchier, but has thus far failed, and needs to look at E3 and the Cannabis Cup vendors and sponsors to find other ways to monetize their wonderful brands alongside Disney, Warner Bros, etc.
Local Comic-Cons are comparable in scale to WonderCon. The booths, seminars, and displays are equal. With the Hollywood blockbuster press conferences rivaling the buzz of Sony and Microsoft E3 press conferences, Comic-Con San Diego has a much higher production value, though there really are few other differences from a fan experience perspective.
Whereas San Diego provides sneak previews of the entertainment industry, the rest of the localized Comic-Cons allow for fan service beyond any Sci-Fi or Fantasy convention this side of Galaxy Quest. Though PAX (video game convention) still trumps it in many ways, local Comic-Cons allow you to pay for photos with a variety of A- through D-list celebrities from a wide range of entertainment eras.
A personal highlight of my summer trip was seeing Christopher Lloyd speaking at Phoenix Comic-Con, though you won’t see a featured article on the experience gracing the cover of Entertainment Weekly or Rolling Stone any time soon, though one could argue that’s as much my fault as Comic-Con’s.
Expect to see a lot of local artists, mixed with local importers, archivists, and more. There’s a strong corporate presence (that’s where the money is, after all), but the point of comic book collecting was always the collection aspect.
Comic-Con is all about interacting with your favorite characters across all media, representing sections of games, animation, and cosplay, with a focus on art and collectibles. This convention gives true fan service, while also functioning as a business trade show.
What to Wear and Bring to Comic-Con
Like EDC, dressing for Comic-Con is more of an artistic endeavor than anything else. If you’re not crafty, there are even seminars to teach you how to make everything from the most simplistic accessories to the most complicated costumes in any genre.
Expect to see your favorite characters from all over media and pop culture and at least a dozen Joker/Harley Quinn couples. At local Comic-Cons, masks are encouraged, as are surprisingly realistic (and often real) weapons, though at Comic-Con International, they’re more frowned upon, as the atmosphere is more business professional.
As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to wield a weapon you’re not prepared to use, though there’s always a good vibe, so you don’t fear for your life, much like at your average NRA meeting, but with less training.
Cosplay is highly encouraged, and you’ll see steam punks, vampires, pirates, superheroes, military and police squads, LARPers, gamers, and often comical references (my personal favorite was the Mr. MeeSeeks boxes everywhere).
While some booths offer free collectible swag, the best stuff must be purchased, as the event functions more like a curated art gallery than the mass media hype surrounding it would have you believe.
Comic-Con is a great place to just start random conversations, as nearly everyone is some form of an artist who could use a little support.
Bring along a little artwork of your own. Business cards are exchanged frequently at trade shows like E3, CES, and Outdoor Retailer, and they’re nice to have at ComicCon, though a signed work of art is much more in the spirit of trading and makes for a much more memorable experience.
Bring a backpack, water bottle, and light snacks to keep you going. Be sure not to sacrifice function for fashion unless you’re exhibiting at a booth, as you can easily walk 2-5 miles per day.
You’re allowed to bring a camera, though video recording is often limited. Always make sure to ask before taking any pictures – this is someone’s intellectual property, and mutual respect is always preferred.
Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared on BBC, Huffington Post, Hardcore Droid, Main Street, Lifehack, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company.