The 5 Days Of SDCC: Day 5

By the time you see this comic, the conclusion to my five part series of SDCC predictions, the con will technically be over. I will likely be more cognizant and in good health than my illustrated adventures would suggest, but only just barely. I had a revelation about San Diego Comic-Con this year. In the years, months and weeks leading up to the show I posted some rather negative thoughts about the SDCC exhibitor experience. It’s too big, too poorly organized, too expensive, too not focused on comics… etc, etc. These things are all still true, but most of them are true (in some way) of most North American conventions. I finally realized that there are two contributing factors that make SDCC seem like such a monster by comparison. They are A) The 2 extra days and B) the 100,000 extra people.

Let me explain. Regarding A), most comic conventions are 3 days long, Friday through Sunday. Anime conventions are usually 4 days, but you can easily skip the first day as most anime kids are in school on Thursday. You can also skip the next day as well as the two following days, because most anime conventions are macabre pits of despair and torment. San Diego, on the other hand, is 5 days. 5 ACTUAL days. The show starts properly on Wednesday and there are 10’s of thousands of people there on Wednesday ready to go go go! That means you really need to be there on Tuesday to set up, if not first thing Wednesday morning. Even then, you still might be flying in on Tuesday and either way you’ve committed almost a solid week to this show. This is all compounded by the fact that due to its size and scope, one day at SDCC feels like 4 at any other show. By the time you crawl out of the airplane and back into your own bed, you’ve lost the mental, and emotional equivalent of at least a year. When you break it down, no 1 day of SDCC is that draining or even unpleasant at all. It’s the week that you lose that makes it feel that way.

Concerning B), there is no other comic type convention in the world where 100,000+ people attend the show (ie are walking around on the show floor), and an ADDITIONAL 100,000ish people are just IN SAN DIEGO for some reason. I mean people that don’t have show floor badges, but are still in town for parties, panels, offsite events and shmoozing. This means any time you try to pop outside for a quick lunch, you are immediately sucked up in a veritable sharknado of human beings. A humnado, if you will. The noise and congestion and chaos created by all of these additional bodies makes the streets outside of the convention extremely unwelcoming and tumultuous, especially if you aren’t a huge fan of crowds.

Add to both of these factors that the hotel lottery for SDCC is a fucking nightmare, and the airlines jack up their prices for all San Diego flights for that week and you’ve got a really fantastic, amazing, extremely special event that ends up feeling like a life-sucking, anarchistic struggle for survival. It really isn’t that, though. It’s the former. It’s quite the spectacle and something of a Mecca for geeks, nerds, fans and fun-havers. I’m going to strive to remind myself how lucky I am to get to do things like San Diego Comic-Con for MY ACTUAL JOB, and complain less about the minor inconveniences. I’m also going to stop suggesting people, fans and exhibitors alike, stay away from the show at all cost. It’s a worthy pilgrimage. Even if you only make it once, you should probably make it.

My friend Lar said (repeating something he’d heard during the con), “SDCC is like mowing your front lawn. If you enjoy it, you’re weird, but if you don’t do it for awhile people start to worry about you.” That’s incredibly right, but I am going to try and be more like the weird guy that enjoys it, instead of the guy I am now who probably wishes he could ignore it and make it go away. That said, please don’t hold me to any of this come late June next year.

When this week is over, would anyone be interested in a poster/print of all 5 days on one page?

COMMENTERS: What event/time of year do you both love and dread? 

Comments (27)

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Oh! Here first am I. So I’ll do my tumblr comment againe:


That is what it seems like to me.

Also I seem to have puked in the comment system as a matter of solidarity. My left arm is encased in some sort of well-articulated chromed and hot-glued foam-board which is very clever in terms of technique but is not actually a costume, as I have not left the house for four days.

Am I robot?

There is beer.

There is a certain group of family members that I tend to dread seeing around holidays. It may not be the same thing as an event you were asking about of course, but my cousins literally have an Uncle Stepdad. So…that.
Uh, dude, Comiket started cracking 500k in the middle Oughts. Admittedly, Comiket is pretty stripped-down and could arguably be better-described as a truly enormous artist’s alley rather than a traditional convention, but still – 560,000 bodies, all passing through one, admittedly enormous, convention center. And they do it twice a year.

SDCC is probably the event that mostly closely corresponds to Comiket, but we’re still talking about something five times the size of SDCC.

3 replies · active 98 weeks ago

Pretty sure I mentioned North American cons as the focus of my essay.
bowtiesarecool's avatar

bowtiesarecool · 99 weeks ago

I can’t imagine a worse place to be for an non-Japanese speaker…
Lily's avatar

Lily · 98 weeks ago

Not to mention all that stuff he specifically mentioned about the EXTRA PEOPLE IN TOWN FOR TANGENTIALLY-RELATED CRAP, which Comike (and Japan Expo) don’t do.
Well so far ComicCon IS the time of year I love/dread, because I’m never able to go, so all I get are awesome pictures and stories and a deeply seated longing to subject my own self to such abuses of excess.
And people wonder why I love going to Dragon*Con. Not nearly as crowded and just as much fun! If not more!
ECCC in Seattle is the one you want to go to.
Dave's avatar

Dave · 99 weeks ago

Thanks Joel, It’s nice to get a fresh take on the whole thing. I’ve always thought that people that truly truly hated the SDCC experience have a bit of an obligation to the hundreds of folks on the waiting list to maybe step aside and let someone else have their shot. I mean Matt Inman of the Oatmeal can raise nearly a million dollars for a Tesla museum but he has to beg (so far unsuccessfully) to share space at the con. It’s nuts. So thanks!

For the rest of you folks, here are some tips from an old SDCC vet.

1. Don’t stay in a downtown hotel. Those are for people who are determined to get into Hall H. Those people are crazy. The hotels know this. They know that if you’re willing to get up at 3 AM to get in line you’re willing to pay insane hotel fees to do so. That said, as Joel found out, San Diego doesn’t really have a taxi service you can rely on. Stay at a hotel that has access to the Trolley. There are a few in Mission valley but my favorite is the Double Tree as it is literally on top of a trolley station. Note that this will probably cost you Hall H. The trolley starts running at about 5 am, which means it’ll get you to the Con at 5:30. That’s right on the edge of being able to get into Hall H first thing.

2. Your other option is to rent a car but for the love of god don’t park downtown. You’ll never get in/out during the Con. Park at Qualcomm Stadium (which is free) and take the trolley in. If you must drive downtown don’t park right on top of the convention center, buy parking in the Horton Plaza lot off of 1st street. You’ll have easy in and out access at the expense of walking about 4 or 5 extra blocks (it’s a sacrifice after a day on your feet at the con but you won’t sit in traffic for an hour)

3. Don’t try to eat right near the Con. As Joel said the crowds are insane. Downtown SD is a traditional city grid with numbered streets going north and south and lettered streets going east / west…. with a few named east/west streets in between. The con is centered on 5th street.

Don’t walk down 5th street.

When you leave the con head on over to 4th or 6th. They’ll be busy but you’ll be shocked at how much lighter they are. 3rd and 7th are dead. Flat out dead. You’ve still got to cross the street with the crazy mob and protesters and such, but once you get past that it isn’t that hard to escape the crowd. Lots of restaurants on 3rd or north of Market with no waiting even during prime-time. Hell, there are some places that on normal San Diego weekends are absolutely packed and yet, during the con, are empty because they aren’t close enough to the center and all the locals have been driven off by the geekswarm.

best of luck folks!

1 reply · active 99 weeks ago

leeapeea's avatar

leeapeea · 99 weeks ago

I live in New England, so I LOVE LOVE LOVE September. It’s perfect weather for almost all outdoorsy things (except ice hockey – not far enough north for that to start in September). But I run transportation for the largest school district north of Boston and my department is… me. So I rarely see outside my office in September anymore, except when I walk to Planned Parenthood and donate whatever money I have and beg them to put birth control in the city water.
It was great to meet you on, I think?, day 3? By the time con security was waking me from my slumber on the concrete outside Hall H on Sunday I had lost most sense of when things had happened. I only knew it was Sunday because I had drilled into my head for a year that I would be on under those tents Sunday for my SuperWho morning.

By the time I was at my hotel sunday night I had lost all ability to recall thoughts regarding names, times, places, my own name, my family, where I actually live and how I was getting back there. My body was attempting to shut itself down after 5 days of soft pretzels, coffee, cookies and red meat. (Though “meat” is a generous word.) Despite my hotel being in fucking Mordor, they did have a great breakfast so there was a bit of nutrition happening. And the shuttle service from Mordor was wonderful. Frodo should’ve been so lucky.

But, despite all of these things, I’m already blocking off the dates for next year. I can’t stay away. Exhaustion, euphoria and realizing your mere feets away from the beards of The Vikings is better than any drug.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR! (Threat? Warning? Excitement? All of these things?)

1 reply · active 99 weeks ago

MrPlow99's avatar

MrPlow99 · 99 weeks ago

One does not simply take shuttle service from Mordor!
Kiltman's avatar

Kiltman · 99 weeks ago

#ECCC Is Now A Love/Hate thing For Me…It Started Out As A “Hey Maybe I Could Drive A Couple CelebS I Wanted To Meet, And They Will Give Me Free Stuff.. And Then Morphed Into Managing Alll The Ground Transports For What Has Become A (Pretty Damn Big Ass) Convention. Soo.. I Enjoy It…But Now With 50X More Stress.

(Jennie Breeden, Norm Reedus, Jonathan Frakes, And Wil Wheaton, In Case You Were Wondering…) #Bonusround, Rolled A 2Fer1 & Met Our Joel Watson At The Same Time..#Priceless

1 reply · active 99 weeks ago

Bah… you love it.
Man, I’ve done my share of overstimulating travel and the thing that saves my brain is some time before and after to acclimate. Leaving Burning and spending two days in a resort pool saves my brain every year.

As a suggestion, why not fly in to Los Angeles the weekend before SDCC and relax a bit before you go head to head with KHAAAAAN. Stay with friends, relax, swim in a pool, enjoy the Stone Beer Garden, maybe even go to Disneyland if that’s your thing (though it’s not terribly relaxing).

Drive down with your friends on Tuesday afternoon- set up your booth and merch and steady yourself for the NERD ULTRA MARATHON. I recommend flasks.

Once the con is over, pack up your stuff on Monday, head back to Los Angeles, take a Silkwood shower to get the Con Crud off and Decompress. Give the PTSDCCSD abate before you get on a plane and take a leisurely flight back on Wednesday, schedule permitting.

Bracketing your con experience with small group, low key social interaction with people you like might help to wash the OVERWHELM out of your psyche.

2 replies · active 99 weeks ago

kerys's avatar

kerys · 99 weeks ago

My fiance is second in command of a small multi-genre con (think a mini D*C w/~2-3000). I keep trying to convince him that he wants to take off from his day job 1-2 days before & after the con, he keeps saying it’s a great idea then not doing it. One day I will convince him!
The only problem with this plan is that it keeps me away from my family for even longer.
Tom327Cat's avatar

Tom327Cat · 99 weeks ago

I like mowing my lawn and considering what people think of as normal, weird is a preferential state. Also, to be seen by so many? That might be too exhausting.
Chaucer59's avatar

Chaucer59 · 99 weeks ago

LOVE/HATE – Thanksgiving. I’m the family chef. We always have more people than space, and I can never recruit enough help. It’s exhausting, but I’m good and getting better every year. Still, something about starting meal preps two days in advance and getting up at 6 a.m. on a holiday morning just so the bird will be out and cooling by two p.m. really sucks.

1 reply · active 99 weeks ago

Candace's avatar

Candace · 99 weeks ago

I hear you on the Thanksgiving thing. I love all the Thanksgiving food, but it’s a lot of work, and a big calorie hit right before another big calorie hit (Christmas.)
Candace's avatar

Candace · 99 weeks ago

Christmas. I love Christmas, and Christmas music (all kinds of Christmas music, from the sincere to the satirical), but it always seems like so much work for something that should be enjoyable, and I often seem to get sick around that time of year, so I frequently have to do all this Christmas prep while ill.

That being said, it’s gotten easier since we convinced the family to just do gifts for the kids, and make charitable donations in honor of the adults. I love wrapping gifts and cooking, but not while ill!

I used to go to SDCC as a guest of a pro, but that was like a decade ago – I can only imagine what it’s like now, and I’m only going back once I develop the ability to teleport*. No waiting for panels! And con security can take a flying leap trying to do anything about someone who can teleport, right? And being able to teleport anywhere I want for sleep and/or food – no problems with personal maintenance!

*Think the original Tomorrow People – yay low-budget ’70s UK SF!

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