I was a little apprehensive the first time I went to a comic con. I didn’t know what to expect. Would I be the only one not in costume? (I didn’t even wear my Superman graphic tee-shirt.) Would I get to see any of the listed celebrities? Would there be time to see everything? Would my wife, who came with me, think less of me somehow? Would I have enough money? Food? Water? Would I survive?
It turns out I had nothing to worry about.
That was four years ago at a Wizard World Convention in Columbus, Ohio; and my wife and I have been to many more comic cons since. It has been a positive life changing experience for the both of us, and one that I would recommend to anyone who has even the slightest interest in popular culture.
But before you decide to attend one of these conventions, you should know a little bit about what to expect. In fact, there are different types of conventions commonly referred to as “comic cons,” and below I have made a list of them and some of things you should know before you go.
First, there are the traditional comic cons.
These may or may not have celebrity appearances, may or may not have a costume contest, but what they will have is plenty of cool stuff to buy. They usually include all sorts of dealers who sell comics, old toys, and related memorabilia from Funko Pops to movie posters. The celebrities these types of cons do get are usually artists and writers who work, or have worked, in the comic industry. And they often times will give talks about the industry. The benefit of these types of conventions is that the admission is inexpensive (sometimes even free). And even if you aren’t a comic book fan, there is always plenty of other pop culture merchandise to peruse through and buy, including items from old TV shows, classic movies, and other media.
Next, there are the pop-culture conventions.
These usually downplay the comics a little more, and focus instead on other comic book related media. These conventions still have some comics and toys for sale, but also include celebrity talks, called panels, that are usually, but not always done in a question-and-answer type format. (A microphone is set up and fans can line up and ask celebrities anything they wish.) In many cases, these types of conventions also allow you, for a fee, to meet these celebrities and get your picture taken with them and/or get their autographs. These are a great deal of fun because they cater to all sorts of fandoms. The downside is that they cost a lot more to get in. In fact, Wizard World conventions can cost as much as $45 and up for a single day. On the plus side, you get the opportunity to meet actors, writers, and others involved in the creation of your favorite movies, TV shows, comics, and more. For example, my wife and I have seen stars from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Star Trek, Sliders, Doctor Who, Ghostbusters, and Lord of the Rings to name a few.
The third type of “comic con” are themed cons.
These types of conventions include actors, artists, and contributors of specific genres. For example, there are horror-cons for fans of horror movies, and other specific ones like JoeCon (for G.I. Joe fans), and PowerCon (for Masters of the Universe fans), there are even ones just geared toward gaming, Doctor Who, anime, and all sorts of other things.
And of course, all these types of conventions encourage fans to dress up as their favorite characters, and many of them have costume contests where you can win cash prizes. (Side note: if you don’t want to enter the contests, it’s always well worth watching them. The costumes range from store bought, to roughly home-made, to screen-ready.)
Finally, before you attend your first con, here are some things you should keep in mind:
- Bring food and snacks. Most convention centers have food available to buy, but you can waste a lot of time standing in long lines and paying a lot of money that you could have used on art, comics, toys, tee-shirts, or some other item. I always bring a backpack full of food and bottled water.
- Always ask before taking a picture of a cosplayer. And be nice to them.
- Bring spending money. One of my biggest complaints of the bigger cons is that they charge so much just to get in that there is little left over to buy stuff with. The smaller cons are much better for this very reason. Either way, I recommend a budget, a list, and to have some money set aside to buy (support) indies, from indie artists, to indie comics, to indie books, indie games, to small movie productions. Show them that you like what they are doing and want to see more of it by buying something. And bring cash. Even though plenty of vendors now have card readers, not all do, and it helps you stay within budget.
- Attend panels. The panels are usually held in a room separate from the show floor, so when you arrive, it is always a good idea to find out where the panels are taking place so you can plan out how much time you will need to get there. Also, note that sometimes panels fill up, so for the biggest names, get there early. However, most of the bigger shows have been doing a good job lately of making sure everyone gets to see who they came to see, but it is still better to get there ahead of time, if for no other reason than getting good seats. (Note: if you do want to ask a celebrity a question, make it a good question. Too many people get the microphone and embarrass themselves by asking the celebrity to marry them or something else completely tasteless. Don’t do that. It only annoys everyone else, including the celebrity, and makes you look like a dumbass.)
- Have goals in mind and prioritize. What do you want to see most? Panels? Cosplay? Vendors? Artists? Writers? Make a plan to ensure you don’t miss anything. But keep in mind you probably won’t get to do everything. There’s always way more to do than you’ll have time for, but just remember: there’s always next time.
I hope this helps. And if you have been to a few conventions and would like to add anything I might have missed, feel free to comment.