Comic-Con 2011, Part 1: Murphy’s Law

There are many special and unusual things about San Diego Comic-Con International. Not the least among them is that it’s one of the rare places where use of the frequently-derided Comic Sans font is not only accepted, it’s encouraged. However, I will not be using it to write these posts.

This was our second time attending Comic-Con, so we didn’t think we were newbies, but we got plenty of surprises. Our first day on-site was quite a roller-coaster ride.

Tall Paul and I hit the road early, made good time on the drive, got through check-in and received our badges surprisingly quickly, and headed straight for the Expo Hall. One of the things we’d learned last year was that some Comic-Con “exclusive” merchandise flies out the door pretty quickly, and we wanted to nab a few things. We succeeded.

We were off to a good start, we thought. However, past performance is not necessarily predictive of future results…

The first rule of Comic-Con: Expect lines. Long lines. While line length doesn’t correlate perfectly with the star power of the session you’re waiting to see, just assume there will be a line, especially since meeting rooms are not cleared between panels – once you get in, you can stay through as many sessions as you like. Arrive at the waiting area a few hours early, prepare to wait as patiently as you can manage, and reconcile yourself in advance to the likelihood that even if you follow those rules, you still may not get in to see that panel.

Most of the panels for established TV shows are held in Ballroom 20 of the San Diego Convention Center, which holds roughly 4000 people. Programming in that room began at 10 AM. Arriving at the outdoor waiting area at 11 for a 12:30 panel was too late; we were still outside the building at the scheduled start time. Without a panel to attend, we decided to go check in at our hotel. We were excited that we’d gotten reservations at the Marriott that adjoins the convention center.

But we didn’t have them when we got there. Vital lesson: If you think you’re checking in on Thursday but you actually reserved for a Wednesday arrival, it’s quite unlikely you’ll still have that room waiting for you on Thursday. However, if you’re really lucky, the hotel that gave your room away when they thought you were a no-show will help you find a room somewhere else. (I think this worked out for us mostly because we tried to check in fairly early on Thursday and the city wasn’t totally full yet. If we’d waited much longer, we might have been making daily drives to SD from my mother-in-law’s house near Oceanside instead of 20-minute trolley rides from Old Town.)

We lost another couple of hours resolving the lodging snafu, and when we returned to the Convention Center, we weren’t up for much other than the Expo Hall…and even though we stayed there till it closed at 7, we knew we’d have to come back to spend more time checking out the hundreds of exhibitors and vendors.

We thought we were getting an early start again on Friday. The Con changed its procedure for selling advance tickets this year; pre-sale for 2012 was scheduled for three hours each morning, beginning at 8 AM. Buying online tickets for this year’s Con was a major headache, so we intended to buy next year’s tickets while we were there. So did a lot of other people, for the same reason; when we arrived at the pre-sale site shortly before opening time, we were told that the room was already at capacity. In order to avoid premature sell-outs, the Con was only releasing 2500 tickets per day for pre-sale, and we didn’t make that day’s cut. (We’ll take our chances with the online sale when it opens. The flip side of the limited pre-sale – and increase in ticket prices for 2012 – is that, theoretically, there should be many more tickets available at the official on-sale.)

We wanted (again) to attend a 12:30 panel in Ballroom 20, so after striking out at the pre-sale, we went straight to that waiting area when we entered the Convention Center a little before 9 AM. Once again, we were much too late. The line extended away from the building and stretched around the marina out behind it. By my husband’s estimate, it was ¾ of a mile long. And when he learned that some of the people in that line were already there waiting for a panel that wouldn’t start until 5:30 PM that day (!), we threw our plans for the day out the window and re-thought how we’d approach the est of the Con.

I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow, and leave you with a few pictures today.

No, that’s not the 12th Doctor, that’s Tall Paul!
Don’t you need an R2 unit to serve drinks at your next party?

Pictures from an Exhibition

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