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Nerd Vegas: A Guide to Visiting Comic-Con International in San Diego, 2008 (Placeholder Edition)!
posted August 31, 2007
 

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Comic-Con International, also known as CCI, Comic-Con and San Diego Con, is the largest gathering of comics industry professionals and fans in North America. It is a show of great importance to hundreds of pros in related publishing, merchandising and film businesses.

In 2008, the show is scheduled for July 24-27, with a preview night on July 23.

What follows is a short list of observations related to early-in-the-year issues that will hopefully prepare you in a timely fashion for your San Diego con-going experience next summer. This post will be replaced by the full guide on Memorial Day, 2008.

For more information, and a lot of bad jokes, go to last year's full guide.

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Five of the Many Reasons to Attend Comic-Con International

1. Shopping!
Anchoring the show is a massive main floor marketplace featuring exhibitors including but not limited to publishers, individual artists, comic book back issues dealers, movie studios, toy companies and individual artists, many of which have wonderful things for sale.

2. Programming!
In rooms of varying size at other places in the building, the convention offers programming including but not limited to previews of big-company titles, small-publisher spotlights, single-artist slideshows, themed-issue discussions, film presentations (celebrities), and sneak peeks at forthcoming TV shows (more celebrities).

3. Socializing!
At day there's hand-shaking and how-you-doing aplenty. At night there are entertainment activities both formal and informal, including Friday evening's Eisner Awards ceremony and Saturday's famous costume Masquerade.

4. Schmoozing!
All around San Diego at all hours of day and night comics industry employees, writers, artists, fans, retailers, Hollywood types, and press people are taking morning meetings, breaking bread over long lunches and sharing late-night drinks, fraternizing and seeing to informal business matters on a massive scale.

5. Vacationing!
Unlike comics conventions that are restricted to a single hotel or are held in airport-convenient towns lacking in culture of the non-upscale chain variety, Comic-Con International is held in downtown San Diego, next to that city's restaurant- and bar-stuffed Gaslamp District, with easy access to dozens of quality activities off site. If it's possible to have a vacation that's not attending a convention at the same time you're attending a convention, it's possible in San Diego.

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Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Commit to Attending

1. "Do I Really Want to Go?"
Again: If it feels like it will be a chore in any way, don't go. It's not a requirement. If you're connected in any way to people that are going, you may feel a twinge of regret caused by being left out, but that feeling goes away really quickly.

2. "Do I Need to Be There the Whole Weekend?"
I never go the full length of the show. Greatest benefit? There's no better way to reduce the costs of a convention than to cut the time spent there.

3. "Do I Need a Room or Just a Bed?"
Figure out exactly what you need and what you're willing to accept. A bed may be easier to find than a room. A series of room for a bunch of your family members is going to be more difficult than a bed in someone else's room or a room for yourself.

4. "Do I Want to Go for Realistic Reasons?"
A comic book convention is not a young-woman-with-her-first-job-in-the-big-city movie. If it were, you probably wouldn't be the star. Go for the experience you're likely to have, not the experience you think you deserve.

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What Do I Have To Do To Prepare To Go?

1. Bookmark the convention's web site.
Here. It's still the best place for announcements and the like.

2. Make sure you can afford it.
It costs a decent amount to go to Comic-Con International. Air travel is no longer cheap, particularly from the non-hub airports. Driving in means finding a place to store your car at upwards of $25-$30 a day. San Diego is both a convention and a resort town, which means that hotel rooms can cost a lot. Factor in meals and incidental expenses (cabs from the airport, bail money), and you're talking a decent investment before you start buying those much-desired copies of George Baker's Sad Sack. (I stay by myself, so I accrue additional costs there that some may not have, but I don't tend to buy stuff on the floor. To prorate it out to four days and four nights of attendance, the last few years going to Comic-Con has averaged into a $1300 trip for me. Ye Gods, but there it is.)

3. Start thinking about a room as early as you can stand it
Because hotel rooms are so expensive, and because so many people want them, a lot of people make securing a room a minor hobby on the level of cleaning out the car or shampooing the dogs -- something you look after once a month or so. The convention will provide the opportunity to reserve discount rooms through their site starting on a day probably in January; although getting one on that day (or the days after) usually proves very competitive. If you can find one you can live with at any time between the moment you decide to go and the moment you get on the plane, snatch it up!

4. After the New Year, make getting a room a major priority
Many of the rooms are snatched up before the con makes their rooms available, and many of those rooms are snatched up in the first hour or so upon going on sale. After the con's rooms have their initial sell out in January or whenever, you should get the best rooms you can as soon as you can. Let me say this, though: It's not impossible to get a room later in the Spring. Last year, I booked three days at downtown hotels for myself and four days for a friend in May and June, respectively. I also directed a few friends to better hotels that became available through the convention and on hotel sites in April and May. So it's difficult, and will get more difficult this year, but it's not yet impossible. The general rule for rooms? Closer is better. This is particularly true if you have things you have to carry back and forth with you each day. Hotels past Broadway going North or hotels going east more than five or six blocks require a mental adjustment, as you will not be able to easily pop back to the room. Hotels further away than the highways require a major mental adjustment and, realistically, a car.

5. Pay attention to air travel
Once you're committed, and if you're flying, it sometimes pays to start paying attention to air travel through your favorite on-line ticket site in order to secure the best ticket prices.

6. Register?
If you're going as a con attendee -- as opposed to a professional or press person -- you can sometimes get discounts for registering for the show before certain dates. The dates for registration in the other categories comes up in the Spring more quickly than you might think, too.

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That's it for now. See you on Memorial Day for the full travel guide!

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