I swear to all that’s unholy, if I see one more tweet, Facebook post, or Tumblr post with people lamenting over missing San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, I’ll jab a red-hot knitting needle into my eye.
I’ve been to SDCC. It was by far my worst convention trip ever (barring a local horror con I volunteered for that was pretty much doomed from the get-go). What went wrong in San Diego? Everything.
-Hotels are expensive. They sell out quickly. What’s left is on the fringes of the city. Ya know, the parts where you don’t want to walk, let alone walk in costume.
-Parking at the convention costs almost as much as the passes.
-Driving in San Diego is like driving blindfolded. With one arm taped to the seat. And your right leg in a plaster cast. Maps are guidelines, suggestions, more like. Everyone is lost and pissed off. Everyone.
-Public transportation isn’t bad, but it’s crowded. Hot. And often confusing. I lucked out, managing to cram in beside a group of locals who knew the drill. You won’t always be so lucky.
-If you’re not paying attention, you’ll get hit by a train or a car. Even with police assistance, the crowds are just too much for foot traffic. Impatient people shove others out of the way. A few times, I was pushed off the sidewalk. Luckily, oncoming traffic was stopped at the light.
-Waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. Everyone sees the panel list for SDCC and says, “Oh my god, you get to see [insert TV/movie cast here].” No you don’t. The line for Hall H, where all the big panels are held, is like . . . 12 hours long. At no point are you guaranteed a spot inside. When I attended three years ago, the Hall H line was over a mile long. I ended up watching the Walking Dead panel online in my hotel room that night to turn in my report for the ZSC. The *only* time I got to see a person I’d planned to was after standing in a ~3 hour line to draw in a lottery to get autographs from Sherrilyn Kenyon. (Note: This is no reflection on Sherri, her staff, or her publisher. This is how SDCC handles guests who a) Draw a crowd, b) Have a marketable name, c) Do not wish to charge for autographs at a smaller signing table. Sherri was a sweetheart, giving each person in line ample face-to-face time–despite suffering from a migraine.)
-Food. It’s awful. Greasy. Inedible for someone like me who has to be very, very careful about what they eat. I ended up surviving on Starbucks oatmeal for the weekend. It was *literally* the only food on-site I could find that wouldn’t land me in the hospital. Not to mention, the food is expensive.
-Overcrowding. There were times when I couldn’t walk the floor. Traffic just stopped. Usually because some named actor was making an appearance and everyone wanted to rubberneck/take a shitty overhead picture. I had to make scheduled breaks and find a quiet place to hide where I wasn’t being elbowed, stepped on, yelled at, or forced to endure the stench of humanity. Even if everyone bathes before entering the con, about an hour in it just smells bad.
-General confusion. The convention is huge. I probably saw less than 1/4 of what was available because it’s so spread out. The maps fucking suck. The schedule is useless if you don’t know where stuff is. If you’re a first-timer, there’s no point attending unless you have a guide who knows *everything* about the convention. Don’t bother asking staff. They’re too harried to deal with someone who’s trying to salvage their trip.
Some may say, “Oh you don’t like comic-cons, then. They’re all like that.”
One of my day jobs revolves around conventions. Attending them. Working with their staff. Meeting fans and hearing their stories about their trip. I’ve seen both sides of the convention coin. When I say SDCC is awful, I mean it.
What conventions do I like? Wizard World has been doing good things lately. Their staff is friendly, hard-working, and in-tune with the needs of not only their guests and vendors, but also the fans attending their events. WW works their butts off to deliver a fun weekend. Texas Frightmare Weekend (when I attended a few years ago) was likewise hard-working and kind. Wondercon, run by the same folks who do SDCC, is much more fan-friendly. There’s a few conventions the day job works with, but since I haven’t been to those events in person yet, I’ll hold judgment.
I highly suggest saving your money and sparing yourself the aggravation SDCC breeds. Look for a smaller convention. Sure, they won’t have all the big names SDCC does, but as I said before, just because those big-name actors are present, doesn’t mean you’ll ever see them. A little secret, you can request actors attend certain events. Send a (nicely-worded) note to the convention you’re considering. They’ll work to contact the actor or their representative and make necessary arrangements. Sometimes it doesn’t work out–the actor isn’t comfortable with public appearances, they’re filming, have another engagement preventing them from attending. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. Convention promoters aren’t psychic. They don’t know who you, the fans, want to meet unless you tell them.
This rant ended up longer than anticipated. Oops. Whatever. It’s necessary information, I believe.