Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Dos and Don'ts of Comic Con

(Guest Post by Ken)

Last year when I attended FaxExpo Dallas , I did it with one of my kids in tow each day. This year, I mixed it up and brought kids one day, then came solo the next day. With this varied experience and now two years of attending a Con under my belt, I’ve come up with some dos and don’ts for attending a comic con:

DO: Use public transportation to get there

DON’T: Expect to find nice parking

This is at least true of the Dallas Con. On day one I took the train and it was nice and convenient, even with a train change (I also did this last year). On day two I thought maybe I’d save time by driving directly and parking, because I knew traffic would be light on Saturday. BIG MISTAKE. While the drive time itself was a bit shorter than the train ride, finding parking added 45 MINUTES OF MADNESS. There is no parking assistance attendants directing traffic and I ultimately had to park over a half mile away in a random paid lot.

DO: Bring water bottles and some snacks if you can

DON’T: Plan on buying food “quickly” between other things on your schedule

Walking around the conference is hard work! Stay hydrated and keep the energy up along the way. And be aware that if the con you go to is like Dallas, there will not be enough food options for attendees. Lines were nearly an hour long on Saturday. I was surprised that the food vendor stations and footprint were exactly identical to last year (when many people still stayed away due to Covid). They had not planned for the increase of attendees in a post-Covid world. So don’t bank on food being quick and easy to buy at the con (not to mention affordable—think airport prices)!

DO: Take your kids to the family-friendly stuff

DON’T: Bring small kids with you the WHOLE time

Last year I always had a kid with me, which really limited me to doing what would hold their interest. I actually did enjoy taking my kids, but this year it was nice to only have them for part of it. They still had a blast, but I also got to go hand out with my grown-up friends and do stuff they thought would be boring, like listen to panels. If you can work out a way to bring kids for some but not all of the conference, that’s ideal. Best way to plan ahead is to check out the schedule in advance to find both when the family friendly stuff is happening, and when the stuff YOU want is, so you can decide when best to have them with you. Better yet, if your spouse comes you could trade off having the kids.

DO: Check out the vendor floor

DON’T: Linger in the walkway on the vendor floor

Oh, the vendor floor! What an arena of confusion and bustling excitement and overwhelming claustrophobia! There was a lot of unused floor space at Dallas they could have used to widen the corridors between booths, but instead they designed as cramped of a setup as possible. Nonetheless, the vendor floor is a fascinating place worth a stroll for the people watching and to see the amazing collection of niche products. All I’ve bought each year is some comic books (that I let my kids pick). I’m not much of a merchandise-collector myself. But I still found the walk to be amusing and fun, albeit too crowded. And please if you want to check something out closer, approach the booth and clear the way for others passing rather than stopping in the passing space and causing a traffic jam!

DO: Attend celebrity panels

DON’T: Stand in autograph lines

My “don’t” here may sound like heresy to die-hard con fans, but I truly think standing in line for 2+ hours (this seemed to be the average wait time on Saturday) to meet a celebrity for 30 seconds while they scribble their name on a photo for you and then charge you $100+ is NOT WORTH IT. Especially since you can typically still have great interaction with celebrities by attending their very entertaining panel discussions and sessions, where they often have open-mic Q&A sessions where you can still have an interaction moment—for free! But what about the signature, you ask? Did you know that nearly all celebrities will send a signed letter or photo to you in the mail FOR FREE if you send them fan mail? No 2 hour wait among crowded sweaty people required, and it only costs 50 cents for a postage stamp. (My father has collected literally thousands of celebrity signatures this way)

DO: Attend something new you may not know much about beforehand

DON’T: Waste time somewhere if you’re bored

These are rules I first learned by attending professional conferences over the years, specifically regarding break-out sessions. Some of my favorite sessions as such conferences are often ones I didn’t know much about before but learned a lot at. That was true at FanExpo as well. My kids and I decided to attend a session by a kid’s book illustrator. He live drew pictures quickly on a projector as he told stories live and also discussed illustration and his career. At the end, he gave most of the drawings to my kids! It was really interesting and fun. On the other hand, sometimes a session, even one you were excited for, turns out to be a dud. There are lots of things to do, so if you are 5 minutes into a session and it wasn’t what you hoped, don’t be afraid to jump ship and go somewhere else! You are paying good money to be there and should get the most out of it.

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