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Every year, Comic-Con takes over San Diego and all the geek-related news because it’s one of the biggest shows in the USA. In the last few years, however, some people have started to complain that is less about comics and more about collecting and fighting for exclusive. So today, we’re going to talk about how to experience the best of San Diego Comic-Con, without spending an arm and a leg in the process. While it’s impossible to see everything Comic-con has to offer in the 4 days and a half it lasts, there’s a good chance that you will at least see something you love every day.
|When it Established||Comic-Con opened its doors for the first time in 1970 and is now celebrating its 49th edition.|
|Length of Event||Officially, the con lasts four days, with a “preview” half-night that was originally made for exhibitors and professionals to enjoy the floor before the crowds got there but is now open to the public.|
|Place/Location||The Convention properly occurs at the San Diego Convention Center, but in the last few years, many of its events have expanded to Petco Park, the Petco Park Parking lot, the Children’s Museum, the Hilton Bayside, the Marquis Marriot, and the San Diego Downtown Public Library. Not only that, but there are also many “off-site” events, some of which don’t require a badge, peppered all over the San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.|
|Cost||As of last year, Badges for Thursday, Friday and Saturday were $60.00 dollars each for adults, and $30 for juniors 13 to 17, as well as U.S. Military and people older than 60, while Sundays were $40 for Adults, and $20 for everyone else. The whole con was $270 this year, which is a fair bit of change, but between what you can experience, the freebies and the panels, more than worth the expense.|
|Hotels||Depending on your budget, and how many friends you can fit in your room, you can stay anywhere; from the Hilton Marina, right where part of the Con happens, to all the way up in Mission Valley, about an hour away. These are the official hotels in the Convention’s site that are part of a lottery event where you pick about 6 choices and hope to get into one. There are also other hotels, hostels, and even Airbnb apartments you can rent for the week, but be aware that San Diego has a 16% tax for hotels, and that the prices for the convention days go up about a 50% from the rest of the year.||Company/Event Message for Fans/Attendees||Comic-Con International San Diego is dedicated to creating appreciation for comics and related popular art forms.|
What to Expect
Crowds. This year, the convention opened its doors to 130,000 visitors, and that was not counting the curious onlookers that went near the convention center to see some celebrities or enjoy the off-sites that wouldn’t require a badge. To control the mass of people, this year, the city decided to block traffic on Harbor Drive, which passes right in front of the Convention Center, and at least two blocks of 5th Avenue, where most of the more crowded off-sites like The Good Place and DC Universe’s experiences were held.
While most people talk about either the Hall H and Ballroom 20 programs, that includes some of the biggest studios’ panels, such as the CW’s Supernatural, CN’s Steven Universe, and WB’s trailer’s announcements. However, one can find other small panels in less-crowded rooms and have a chance to see the new projects by Funimation, Tokyo Pop, DC, Image, and also, many panels dedicated to more specific subjects. This year, one of the highlights on those smaller rooms was a one-on-one conversation with Yoshitaka Amano, the famous illustrator that gave us the looks of much-beloved anime, such as Vampire Hunter D and the original Gatchaman.
The best part of Comic-Con is that due to the size of the convention, it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect. You may come with a set plan, every panel and exhibit you want to see marked in the map and program that is handed to you at the beginning –or in their convenient app-, and get sidetracked when you realize that Viz is giving away free Sailor Moon posters or that there’s the chance to actually fight the Titans in a photo opportunity two booths behind that.
What to Bring in Order to Enjoy the Event
Besides water –which is probably the most important thing you can have with you at the event-, and a good, sturdy backpack to take the place of the flimsy but nice souvenir bag that Warner Bros provides every year, cash, and snacks are a good idea to carry around. Deodorant will make you feel a bit refreshed, which is also a necessity given the heat. Other than that, don’t forget both a cellphone with wi-fi data and at least two fully charged portable batteries to carry you for the day. While there are outlets where you can re-charge, they are usually quite busy with many others who take a moment to regain their breath, and charge their cells, tablets, and sometimes even their laptops.
What to Do While There
This year, the main booth on the floor was the Sideshow exhibit, where you could see many of their future figures or pick up your exclusives. They also gave a pin to every curious watcher who came close enough to get their badges scanned. Among the future prototypes, we could see a wonderful Ecto -1, the whole cast of the old Dungeons and Dragons' cartoon, as well as a gorgeous Alita, or Gally as she’s known in Japan.
The Funimation booth had a bit of an issue on Saturday, as Funko collectors were really eager to get their Super Dragon Ball exclusive figure, but once that was solved, the whole booth was a great place to check out their future releases. Capcom gave us a great surprise with the Power Ranger: Legacy Wars announcements, where we could see Ryu become a Power Ranger and a bit more of the Mobile game. They were next to one of the most fun free things you could do this year: A special Steven Universe mobile photo where you could wear or play with the Crystal Gem’s weapons for either solo or group pictures.
The Artist Alley seemed a bit easier to navigate this year because, while it still sits really close to the Funko Booth, the exclusives were now programmed by a lottery system before the convention, so there were not as many people lined up waiting for the chance to get that one figure they wanted, and thus, there were more people visiting some of their favorite artists. The most crowded table was, without a doubt, Patrick Ballesteros’, who has made a name of himself by creating adorable child versions of our favorite movie, comic and anime characters in a series of whimsical illustrations in coin-operated toys.
The collection of panels you could go into when not walking around the convention floor seemed bigger this year, and among other things, including the first completely Spanish langage panel, dedicated to diversity and Latino voices in comic books and fandom. There was also a bigger drive to talk about diversity, like you could see, for example, in the panel where Rebecca Sugar and people from the Dove Self-Esteem Project talked about the importance of showing different body types in entertainment, as well as how it’s possible to use a hit series to teach young people to have body confidence. Unfortunately, this last panel was at the same time as the Manga Publishing Industry Roundtable, where Viz, Penguin Random House, Udon Entertainment, and Anime News Network representatives talked about the new challenges on bringing manga to a wider audience. It was a hard choice to pick which panel to attend, which is a very common thing at Comic-Con since, at any given time, they have about 16 different panels going on at their different rooms.
Unfortunately, for this year’s masquerade there weren’t many anime-themed groups among the winners: Best in Show was won by Liz Todd and Heidi Schilling, in a gorgeous rendition of Sarah and Jareth the Goblin King in their masquerade outfits, while the Judges’ Choice went for Angus and Aubin Duff as Big Daddy Delta and Big Sister Eleanor. However, Best Original Design went to Nina London, who made a stunning Castle from Howl’s Moving Castle, and Boku no Hero Academia fan Gabrielle Jones won both Best Young Fan and Best Young Fan Anime as Bakugou.
Off-site, many people enjoyed the Jack Ryan experience, but what made people really laugh and have long conversations about media trivia was the Demolition Man Taco Bell experience, three seashells included in the bathroom.
Like every year, you couldn’t walk three steps into the convention area without finding someone doing Cosplay. Some cosplayers do it to showcase their personal skills, either sewing, crafting or modeling, but most of them do it out of love for the characters and to have fun. This year, a lot of people were trying to just have fun and make others laugh with their choices of costumes, which went from their favorite series’ characters to youtube personalities, to even the most popular meme of the year so far.
Comic-Con International, also known as San Diego Comic-Con, is the mecca of Conventions for a good reason. No matter how many people complain that it’s no longer about comics, it’s still the event where you can see all fandoms together, and see how fandom is a big family. All the hardships to get a badge are worth it in the end.
While the lines are incredibly long, this year, the attempt to make them work better through lotteries for the most requested autograph lines and exclusives made the navigation around the exhibit floor easier. The number of interactive booths also made it more fun, even if you had no extra money to spend on exclusives, making it clear that both the convention and the exhibitors are starting to put more thought into giving their fans an experience that will make them want to come back for more.
Next year will be the 50th year the convention will be celebrated, so we know it’s going to be a blast.