So we’re getting down to the wire. In less than 24 hours, the insanity that is San Diego Comic Con will begin. The Gaslamp at San Diego will be overflowing with nerds and swag. There will be lines with hundreds of people patiently and impatiently waiting for something they love. Now, from a seasoned goer’s point of view, it is easy for me to tell which days I have set out as my “panel” days, and which days I come ready to be disappointed during the lottery for autograph signings. For newbies, who either don’t know how the signings work or how the panels are set up, this can easily turn into a spoiled vacation. If you stand in the wrong line, get there at the wrong time, everything can take a turn for the worst.
So let’s break it down, first between panels and signings and then into the more specifics.
Panels. They are normally set in a conference hall with a large audience base and at the front there is a stage with a long table and a podium at the end. Any con goer, of any con, can tell you that panels are a large part of the con. For SDCC, they are no different. For many people, they are the highlight of the day. Starting from the top, the largest hall is one that I have never even set foot in. That would be Hall H. Holding a capacity size of over 6500, it is the largest room in the convention center, and if you are close enough in the halls adjacent you can hear the thunderous applause or cheering from the hall. Hall H holds the big time movies and tv shows, in the past they have been known to feature shows like Game of Thrones, True Blood, the 10th anniversary of Firefly, and also movies like the Avengers, Twilight, and the Hobbit, to say a few.
Let’s just say this now, and get it out of the way, Hall H is an all day affair. Most panels are. If you plan on seeing a panel at 3pm in the day, be prepared to get there at 10am, and sit through it. Another large hall, Ballroom 20, is also known to have dwellers who stay the whole day to see a later panel. The thing with panels is, you might have to prepare for a whole day trip. Panels are never forcibly emptied at the end of one, so you could get into the panel you want to see two sessions before and sit through those two sessions, moving forward in between sessions and get a front row seat. Of course, everyone else in the room is thinking of doing the same thing, so move fast.
As far as smaller cons go, panels are fun for me. But SDCC is another beast. I normally like to see the biggest panels, but the idea of wasting one of the four days I’m there no longer lures me in. For me, panels are delightful, but missable. For one, the biggest panels, can almost always be viewed on a website the night after.
Signings. These are finicky. There are multiple different types of signings. The kind you have to pay for, and the kind you win. The ones you pay for are done independently, normally by the person you are getting an autograph for. They charge for the signature and sometimes for a photo with them. For those hoping to bypass paying for the signature, be aware that all guests are required to sign your SDCC book for free, so at least you can throw that in when they are selling their autographs. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of giving someone money for a signature, so I don’t do those. Rather, I attempt to test fate and win some tickets. There are multiple ways of getting autographs. Some, are given out on the floor. Either found at their booths for a raffle, or given away at a certain time. These are normally easier to get, given that the floor is huge and it takes effort to navigate.
The easiest way to find autographs is to get in line for a drawing, either with WB or another network. WB holds their own line and drawing for the panels that are showing each day. The best way to find info about a signing is to go to the autograph booth the first day you get there and ask them where the signings are for the whole week. The downside to a lottery signing is that you can obviously stand in line for hours and end up drawing a blank ticket. The other downside is normally a lot of the big shows get lopped in with WB and the line is so long that you could get back in line after drawing, but it would be useless because by the time you made it to the front again, all tickets would be gone.
I’ve seen the bad and the good side to this drawing system. I watched from the second row of lines as someone pulled the last ticket to Game of Thrones, but got a ticket to a Man of Steel signing the same day. The WB line is notorious for getting long fast, so get in line as early as you can to get onto the floor. It’ll be worth it. Personally, the experience of meeting and talking to the guests, no matter how brief, is still a much more memorable experience than sitting in a panel all day. However, that is just a personal experience. The drawings can often disappoint and leave a person who has nothing but wasted time.
Panels or signings aside, the swag and camaraderie alone is enough to make me happy at SDCC.