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AICN COMICS: Russ Sheath prepares us all for SDCC 2012 with the Convention Survival Guide Part 2!!!

Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. I’ll be heading out to the 2012 San Diego Comic Con later today with fellow @$$holes Sleazy G, SJimbrowski, and superhero. But before I go, I want to heed the wise words of fellow convention-goer expert, Russ Sheath!


The Convention Survival Guide: Part 2

Russ Sheath back with more advice for con goers. Yesterday we began AICN’s look at Convention going and how to get the most from your experience, whether it’s this week’s Comic-Con International in San Diego or any other convention that you would care to mention.

In day one we looked at planning for a successful convention, everything from outlining your trip to what you need to take with you, in part 2 we will be looking at what goes on when you walk through the door.

So, you have arrived! Your Valhala, your Xanadu!

You have your pass in hand, your freebee bag and schedule at the ready and the hallowed gates swing open.

The first thing you will probably notice is organized folk rushing to reach their particular holy grail and it is here that re-visit our mantra for the Comic-Con guide, planning, planning and more planning, which brings us to todays first topic;


Finding your Lost Ark.

A beginner’s guide to shopping at conventions.

Part of essential convention planning is getting what you want, when you want it.

Essentially, what I am saying is whether it’s a signature, a sketch, a limited edition action figure or a seat at a panel or screening, you need to know what you want and decide how badly you want it.

At a convention I attended this summer many attendees commented that they felt there was a lot of clash between events. It was their expectation that there would be no crossover between panels and that events would run smoothly one after the other, with no overlap so that attendees could go from one event to the next.

Sadly, this is rarely if ever the case and with events such as Comic-Con you will find that there are so many panels, talks and previews you are not only spoilt for choice you are faced with making a choice. You have to ask yourself, which event is more important to you?

Now, here’s the thing, the only person who can decide the answer to that is you. Harsh isn’t it?

Sadly however that’s the case, an event like San Diego or even a 2 day event like Kapow! Has so many genre to cater for and only so much space. Let’s face it, to accommodate every attendee who wanted to attend every panel, the convention would have to last a lot longer than a few days.

The other thing worth mentioning here is timings.

Don’t forget, as you are sat in one panel the queue for another is most likely building, so don’t be surprised if you join the end of the queue immediately after leaving one event for another.

Lastly, ensure that you note the timings and give yourself plenty of time to queue, some events will begin queuing hours before the panel starts!


Convention Exclusives.

Convention exclusives are those sought after and often ‘limited edition’ artifacts which can gain massive speculator interest, particularly in the ‘after market’ where items can sell for grossly exaggerated prices online. By the time you walk through the door of the convention you can expect to see collectors and speculators alike staggering under the weight of their 1:1 scale lego Batman.

If exclusives such as those produced by Sideshow Toys are your bag then you need to plan ahead, know where you are going and get there as soon as you can. Expect exclusives to sell out very quickly indeed, but remember, it’s not just statues or action figures that become collectible.

At San Diego in 07 one of the more sought after items was a free book of art by movie poster legend Drew Struzan featuring Indiana Jones. Best of all, the book was free.

You will find a ton of great free stuff at conventions, enough t-shirts to clothe a third world country and a rain forests worth of posters and free books. You will get home and ask yourself;


”What the hell did I pick that up for?!?!?!”

But, its all part of the fun.


Wait until Sunday.

Now, while I wouldn’t recommend on waiting to buy those sought after convention exclusives, I would say that if you can hand around until the end of convention, there will be bargains to be found.

Vendors pay money to have their stall at a convention and I guarantee you those guys want to return home with as little stock as possible. So, if you can wait until the final hours of the convention you can practice your haggling prowess and pick up some back issues and a droid or two at bargain prices. Let’s face it, if you had spent several days stood in a crowded convention space, the one thing you are not looking forward to is loading up and going home. So, there’s a lot of bargaining power to be had in those final hours of the show. Especially if you are shopping for something that is likely to be in abundance.

However it all comes down to our mantra of, if you want it badly enough, get there first. This brings us onto another convention of conventions…queues.



We have mentioned it before but its worth repeating, queuing is an integral part of convention going.

Be prepared to queue and be prepared to queue early if you want to own it, see it or get it signed then you need to be first in queue.

The thing to remember about conventions is that each event will have a finite time. An artist or writer will only be able to sign for a set period of time and the nature of queues are such that even if you stand in line, there is no guarantee you will get seen.

This is really important so I will say it twice, even if you stand in line you may not get seen, the only guarantee is to be near the front of the line.

I have seen many folk disappointed after a lengthy time of queuing only to be turned away, likewise I have seen some very frustrated people walk away after spending a long time in the queue only to have the signing extended. Without a crystal ball or some insider knowledge you never know if a celebrity is going to be able to stay on, have to leave straight after the signing.

The only solution is that there is no solution!

As with convention exclusives, you have to determine how badly you want to attend, find out where the event is and be there before everyone else.

If you have a handheld gaming device or mp3 player its always good to have it on hand as you queue, or even better, why not chat to other convention goers, you might learn something new or even make friends, you will meet so many fantastic people....your kinda people, so why not be social and make a friend or two.

When I attended San Diego Comic-Con I was given passes to parties, made friends to eat and drink with after the show and really enjoyed the social side of the convention.



A long time ago in a convention centre, far, far away…

I was stood at SDCC chatting to an ‘a-list’ artist who was working on a top title for Marvel Comics.

The artist commanded thousands of dollars for a full commission but at the convention he was charging a mere $60 for a head and shoulders sketch of a character of your choice.

To some that might seem a lot of dough to part with, but considering the artists stature and that many fans would not be able to afford a full commission, I considered this a reasonably priced opportunity to get something unique from one of the industry’s most recognizable talents.

As I was chatting to the artist a guy came over with a sketchbook and somewhat ‘thrust’ it under the nose of said artist and demanded a sketch.

The artists response was that he would gladly do a head and shoulders sketch for the fan, for $60 and that he wasn’t sketching for free.

The fan responded that he didn’t want to pay and wouldn’t the artist just do a little head sketch in his book? The artist declined and again offered the opportunity to do a fuller sketch for $60.

The fan persisted and persisted for five minute until the artist gave in just to get rid of the guy, drew a very small ‘eye’ in the centre of the page and signed it.

The moral of this story… By hounding and badgering the artist for something, did the fan really think he would get a positive response?

Remember, as much as you really want that sketch or signature, the person providing it is human and you might well be the one of hundreds of people that pro has shaken hands with or signed for. So, give them a break if when you roll up with an entire run of your favorite comic they limit you to a small selection to accommodate the folk behind you.

The other thing to remember is that these people are artists and writers, not professional marketing or public relations folk. I can certainly think of a few industry professionals who should never be allowed out in public and their grouchiness when confronted by unsuspecting fans has given rise to some unpleasant stories.

Fortunately those individuals are few and far between and the majority of professionals are more than happy to chat with fans, sketch, sign and pose for pictures, do try to remember than they may have spent hours that day sat down doing exactly that, so try to cut them some slack.

Gladly there are many professionals who are happy to chat with fans, sketch and sign and are endlessly good natured.



When taking photos do try to ask permission of the person being photographed, especially if they are sketching or otherwise engaged and its always good practice to have your camera at the ready, remember you aren’t the only person in that queue.

If viewing portfolios of work or browsing items for sale, again, its simple courtesy to ask permission before you start thumbing through thousands of dollars worth of art or start passing around a limited edition statue.

The other thing to consider when photographing celebrities, especially those from film or television, is that they may be there to make money by having photos taken with fans or by selling autographs, so they aren’t going to always take too kindly if you start ‘snapping away’ without their say so.

Likewise goes for cos players and the ‘booth babes’, it can be a pretty intimidating situation if you have turned up dressed as your favorite anime character only to have 100 lenses snapping away, so do ask before you take pics and try not to linger too long, it just looks weird!


Take a look around Artists Alley.

While there are some great panels and events at conventions make sure you check out the little guys too. Artist’s Ally is THE place to discover artists and some fantastic projects. Pick up a sketchbook or two, you never know who may have produced it. Tucked away in Artists Alley you will find Pixar animators as well as some major names from the world of comics and art.


Tip of the day.

Know your pro’s schedule.

First off, this doesn’t mean stalk industry professionals, nothing good will come of it.

Many artists and writers will have a booth of their own and when they aren’t signing at their respective publisher’s booth or attending panels you might often find the queues significantly shorter elsewhere. Check twitter, websites and social networking pages for schedules and plan accordingly.

If you are looking to meet a particular professional, check their schedule, work out the time they will be there and beat the crowd. On numerous occasions at conventions I was faced with huge queues at the major publishers only to find the artist or writer in question faced with far less people and in a better position to chat at their own booth.


Keep your eyes open.

By ‘keep your eyes open’ I mean that if you wonder about glued to your smart phone you are;

a) Most likely to do yourself an injury.
b) You are going to miss a ton of stuff going on around you, not least some of the great cosplay and celebrities who will be wondering the convention floor. There are SO many celebrities attending conventions these days you never know who you might bump into. Celebrity fans have been known to wonder the floor in disguise or in the open.


Checklist: In summary

Know what you want to see or buy and be there at the start of the queue.
If you can, wait until Sunday to get some great bargains.
Industry professionals are humans too, be courteous, polite and patient.
Have your camera at the ready but ask before you snap.
Artists Alley…who knows what wonders hide within.
If you want to meet a particular pro, know there schedule.
Meet people and chat to other fans, it’s a great way to make friends.
Keep your eyes open!

So, that’s day 2, I hope you have found something useful, tomorrow we will look at things to do when not in the convention in our final part AICN’s guide to convention going. Check out Part One of this series here!


Happy Convention Going!

You can follow Russ Sheath's blog Russwords here and on Twitter here.

Readers Talkback
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  • July 10, 2012, 8:01 a.m. CST

    London comic-con recently

    by MonkeyFunker

    A friend went there and wasn't allowed to take a photo with Karl Urban (pomoting Dredd) so they did a "Paul" and took one from a distance. I never thought things like that happened in real-life (I thought it was only part of the film), oh how I giggled and no, I've not been to a comic convention myself.

  • July 10, 2012, 8:09 a.m. CST

    Done With That

    by Egheaumaen

    I've attended SDCC 10 or 11 times in the last 15 years, and I used to love it. I have very fond memories of wanting to attend two panels that were happening simultaneously, so I spent half the time in one room, then walked into the other room and caught the second half of that one. You could go wherever you wanted and see most of what you wanted to see. The expo floor was comfortable and the lines for signings weren't too bad. But that's not the scene anymore. The expo floor is a madhouse, and the only way you're ever going to see any good panels is to pick one room and stay there all day. Last year, after my wife and I waited for three and a half hours in the punishingly hot sun behind the convention center trying to get into Ballroom 20, and we still couldn't get in in time for the panel that we wanted, we decided enough is enough. We'll miss it, but it's just not worth the hassle anymore. It's gotten way too big. And all the best stuff shows up on YouTube anyway.

  • July 10, 2012, 10:01 a.m. CST

    egheaumaen is right

    by Therealumlaut

    I agree wholeheartedly. But its the price we pay for the popularity of geek culture. Perpetuated by the authors of this site. We are in the Golden Age of Geek. Plus, The Con is now the WHOLE of San Diego, with LOTS of events off sight. Good luck trying to get into those! LOL!!!

  • July 10, 2012, 10:31 a.m. CST

    SDCC 2007 when Vader broke my heart

    by JeffManSixtyFo

    Good example of photgraphing celebrities: David Prowse-the original Darth Vader-- wanted like 40 bucks to take a pic with me.Heartbreak! Later that day I meet JJ Abrams while looking at some comic books. We talk about him doing STAR TREK and his upcoming CLOVERFIELD project.He wouldn't tell me what the island was on LOST but he says he likes my Jedi costume and poses for a picture with me taken by Matt Reeves himself ( he actually held the camera still LOL!). Total class.

  • July 10, 2012, 10:40 a.m. CST

    Man...I miss SDCC

    by Superponte

    went in 2000, 01, 03, 04, 05, 06, 08, and 09. Three years in a row missed- starting to get the withdrawal itchiness. I do not mind the long lines and hustle. When I get there, I spend preview night just walking up and down every aisle at the show, getting my bearings. At the start of each day, I would queue up in line around 6am, bagel and coffee in hand and enjoy the party that is the line and make pals. Once we got inside, I would immediately queue up for the convention floor, or get my tickets for an exclusive upstairs and then hit the line. Once down there I am a goddamn guided missile, headed straight for whatever that day's "treasure" is. My big thing was autographs, so I was always particular to hit the Sails Pavilion at 11, and then around 3 for the 2nd shift, when the actors would arrive. I used to bring a ton of clothing changes to the show, but I put a stop to that in the last few trips. I would leave home with several pairs of pants/shorts and ONE Shirt. This place has every t shirt you could ever imagine or want. Bring a couple hundred exclusively for clothing. One thing I do regret about the crowding is how much more difficult it is to get into the Masquerade After Party. Luckily, it is Comic-Con and there are alternate things to do. If they still do it- hit up Ric Meyers and hsi Kung Fu Extravaganza. Also see the Worst Cartoons Show with Jerry Beck- its a SDCC right of passage.

  • July 10, 2012, 11:09 a.m. CST

    SDCC is the hugest crock of shit ever.

    by Kyle

    It looks like fun to go all the way out to California to stand behind thousands of people all day.

  • July 10, 2012, 12:55 p.m. CST

    Why did they delete my "1st" post? I was 1st you fucktards!!!

    by BilboRing

    Are they really that big of a deal? They delete 1st posts but keep in dickheads spoiling movies and shows. Odd.

  • July 10, 2012, 5:48 p.m. CST

    Ah, cysticrambosis...

    by Darkman

    Spoken like someone who's never tasted the sweetest ambrosia to ever exist in the life of a geek. <br><br> mponte, I feel you about the SDCC withdrawal. It's been two years since I've been. It's killing me not to go. <br><br> Cool article.

  • July 11, 2012, 5:36 a.m. CST

    I went in 2007

    by hallmitchell

    And what an event. It just seems too mega packed now! Keep in mind, see the smaller type panels because the big stuff ends up on youtube.

  • July 11, 2012, 5:37 a.m. CST

    I like this guide.

    by hallmitchell

    It just gives great examples of class and respect. I have to admit in general the fans who go to this are very well behaved. The good organising helps to.

  • July 11, 2012, 3:46 p.m. CST

    My 21st year going...

    by Polo Chavez

    Now that I'm a seasoned Con goer, I've realized that many of the panels and other things people go ape-shit over are of no interest to me. Why? The lines. Fuck that. And the freebies: end up in the recycling bin a few months later. My tips for Con: get money from the ATMs across the street in any hotel; hang out in the actual comic book and art vendor areas so you can avoid bumping into gawkers; and bring some water.