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Welcome to Nerd Vegas: A Guide to Visiting and Enjoying Comic-Con International in San Diego, 2006!
posted July 11, 2006


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 growing importance to hundreds of pros in related publishing, merchandising and film businesses. It is traditionally held over four days, Thursday-Sunday, with a Wednesday preview night added on for good measure, at some point between mid-July and mid-August.

In 2007, the show is scheduled for July 26-29, with preview night on the 25th.

I hope you will take the following exercise in fevered list-making with something equal to the good humor I hope is apparent throughout. But first:

If I Don't Want To Waste Important Minutes of My Life Reading This Whole Stupid Thing, What Do You Think Are The Ten Most Important Pieces of Advice?

1. Consider going to part of the show (Wednesday-Friday or Friday-Sunday) instead of the whole thing to save on costs.

2. Wear a watch or carry another time-telling device.

3. Don't worry about staying in the perfect place; worry about having as much fun as you can wherever you end up.

4. Join your hotel's courtesy club so that if something goes wrong they can easily compensate you.

5. In order of desirability, how to get your badge: exhibitor gets it for you, press line, pro line, attendee line. Registering or picking up during off hours can also be hugely beneficial, going from a three-hour wait to none at all.

6. Pack your lunches and make dinner dates with 1-3 other people instead of going to dinner "as a group."

7. Attend every party to which you're invited; after-party scenes like the Hyatt (comics' mainstream and indy crowds) the Picadilly (art snobs) and the beach (deranged younger cartoonists) are supplements, not substitutes.

8. Don't overschedule yourself. There are lines and delays that eat up time no matter how irritated you become. Plus, it's fun to wander around or kick back with pals new or old.

9. Once in your life you should see The Eisner Awards and The Masquerade.

10. Do something fun in San Diego, even if it's just going on a boat ride or taking your significant other to Old Town for dinner.


Okay, if you're still with me, what follows is a long list of numbered observations that will hopefully augment your San Diego-going experience. I hope you have a good time, and if you have any tips of your own, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) I'd like to make a list of reader tips at the bottom of this document.



The Four Basic Things CCI Offers

1. 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 many wonderful things for sale.

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

3. At night there are entertainment activities both formal and informal, including Friday evening's Eisner Awards ceremony and Saturday's famous costume Masquerade.

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


Six Reasons Why CCI Is Important, Not Just Fun

1. The show's size. Between exhibitors and attendees, more people attend Comic-Con International than live in my hometown.

2. Proximity to Los Angeles' film business, a significant concern for many professionals and fans, particularly in the past decade. This successful marriage has led to other pop culture industries increasing their presence -- toy makers, animation studios, televison shows and book publishers among them.

3. There is no other sizeable West Coast comics industry show during the summer season, which makes it a huge attraction for sizeable comics professional communities in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, and medium-sized ones in Las Vegas and San Diego itself. It's a national show, for sure, but the percentage of comics folk west of Denver who make it down to San Diego's convention center is extraordinary.

4. Years of experience on staff means that not only does the show run pretty well, but that there is enough institutional memory for staffers to be sensitive to and invested in a lot of different con-going experiences.

5. Some practical business actually gets done there. There is a great deal of looking at talent, talking about future plans, introductory meetings, and so on.

6. It's one of the few recurring, reliable experiences on the calendar by which comics people can mark the passage of time as their lives are duly wasted.


Five Good Reasons To Skip CCI Anyway

1. Some cartoonists, particularly those working in what we might call art comics, become discouraged by the excesses of the show's pop-culture focus.

2. Cost. It costs a lot to exhibit and it can cost a lot to attend.

3. You might feel, and you might be right, that you can get much of what a big convention offers elsewhere in your life for less expense and trouble. It may be just as easy to buy a lot of things on-line than to buy them at a show. Some might prefer Wizard Entertainment's Chicago show or the MoCCA Festival as a place to socialize. And so on.

4. You can't afford the time off, either because of a day job or a creative deadline.

5. What you like about comics may not be the kind of thing you find at a convention.


Five Questions to Ask Before You Commit to Attending


1. "Do I Really Want to Go?"
If it's a chore, or if money's an issue, or if you feel like doing anything else, don't go. It's not a requirement.

2. "Do I Need to Be There the Whole Weekend?"
Unless you're working, you probably don't. I'll be going for only a portion of the show this year. There's no better way to reduce the costs of a funnybook convention than to cut into the time spent there. If cost is any issue, consider going on a limited schedule. Try going Friday-Sunday if your main goal is to socialize and see the big panels. Think about going Wednesday-Saturday if your desire is to shop and network. Think about going one day, even. You may miss one out of five things you wanted to do, but you're less likely to get bored or burnt out (like these poor people pictured above). You may even leave wanting more.

3. "Do I Need a Room or Just a Bed?"
If you only need a bed, you might have a much easier time finding a place to stay. Inform your publisher, your message board buddies and all of your attending friends. You may be able to find a place to stay, or someone to room with you, without the hassle of paying for a whole room by yourself. A lot of people have friends or family back out closer to the date, so there's no time too late to check.

4. "What Do I Want to Do While I'm There?"
I would suggest having one or two goals, if any. Some things many people do (portfolio reviews, say, or obtaining certain autographs) at CCl have a lot of line-time built in that might end up squeezing the other parts of an ambitious itinerary. It's nice to just wander and go with the flow, too. When someone tells you, "You gotta see this comic," it's great to have the time to go see it.

5. "Do I Need to Stay in a Hotel Really Close to the Convention Center?"
It's nice, but not necessary. I've stayed a few miles away and a lot of miles away, and neither weekend stands out in memory as a deficient overall experience. Anyone insisting you have to stay 100 yards away from your hotel bar of choice is either being lazy or way too precious about their vacation time.


Five Travel Web Sites to Bookmark In The Months Before You Go

1. -- A good starting point for cheap flights.

2. -- I've taken Amtrak to San Diego from LA and would recommend it. The traffic on Interstate 5 on arrival and getaway days can be brutal, particularly right around the San Diego area. I also believe that you are allowed some leeway on which train to take on your travel days, so if you have a ticket on Sunday and suddenly want to sleep in or do a late lunch with a friend you didn't even know was there until 10 PM Saturday night, I think you can go on a train later that day -- I'd definitely call and check on that, though.

Anything over six hours on Amtrak can be shaky in terms of comfort and timeliness, so I would not recommend the trip from the Bay Area, Portland, Seattle, or any point due East. The Bay Area trip might work if you're not on a tight schedule.

3. -- Download their free software and check your room reservations against what the program yields. In 2004, Travelaxe turned up rooms at the world-class Lodge at Torrey Pines for $5 less a day than a stay at one of the Holiday Inns.

4.'s Entertainment Section -- A decent place to survey restaurants and scope out the general leisure time landscape.

5. San Diego Transit -- If you're driving into town, this is a good place to map out the transit stations where you can leave your wheels and train the rest of the way. (I used to use the one just the other side of Petco Park.) It's also the