Comics Price Guide Convention Survival Guide
The old saying is that “April showers bring May flowers,” but we comic book geeks know what April really bring: Comic Book Convention season! Whether it is a small, one-day con at your local VFW hall, a big regional con focused on guests like Indy PopCon, or an international extravaganza like the San Diego Comic-Con, here are some helpful tips to make sure you get the most out of the experience.
The reason you got into comics in the first place is because of the joy it brought you. Make sure you remember that and strive to feel that same happiness at the con. Be a kid again! Things to focus on:
- Be polite. Many of the workers at these events are volunteers. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind to them and fellow guests. We are all in this together, and it will be easier to get through if we are all kind to each other.
- Be patient. Expect long lines everywhere – the parking lot; the parking shuttle; the entrance; the most popular creators and celebrities; the bathrooms; the panels; the ATM; the food vendors; pretty much everything. Be ready for it. Use that time to talk to other fans around you. It might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
- Take a little time to check out creators, celebrities, books, vendors, comic book companies, etc., that you have never heard of. You may discover a new favorite.
- Because of timing or even unforeseen circumstances, you may not be able to do everything you wanted. That is life, don’t let it stress you out. Things go wrong, but it doesn’t have to ruin the con.
Going in blind is the easiest way to miss things, and leave frustrated. There is nothing worse than having some friend post photos on social media about something totally awesome that you could have taken part in if you had only known about it. So know before you go!
- Set a budget and stick to it. If you get caught up in the moment and overspend, it may be exciting at the time, but you will likely regret it later.
- Print out your “Want List” on ComicsPriceGuide.com so you know which books you are looking for. It makes going through all the back issue boxes a lot easier.
- Most official convention websites have breakdowns of when doors open, which guests are attending, schedules (guest availability, panels, contests, movies, etc.), parking information, close hotels, and some even offer printable maps of the entire convention floor.
- Prioritize which guests you want to meet. Know which ones are an absolute necessity for you, and which ones you won’t regret missing if the timing doesn’t work out. If you know someone is a must-see, then the long line won’t bother you.
- If you are getting books autographed, organize them by signor and make a list so you don’t have to remember which books are for whom, especially if you plan to get more than one person to sign a particular book. Also, figure out exactly where on the cover you want them to sign, and in what color.
- Check and see if there are any restrictions on the size of bags you are allowed to bring in, and if you are allowed to bring in any outside food or drink. Most cons have security to search through your bags, so be prepared for that.
- If you are selling books or collectibles, know their value so that you get a good deal. Just understand that you will not get 100% retail value for what you are selling – you need to leave “meat on the bone” so they make a profit on resale. Their best offer may only be 60% or less.
- If you plan to stay at a hotel, consider the one attached to the convention center if possible. It will allow you to take breaks, and bring your spoils back to your room instead of carrying them around the entire time.
- Before you go, make sure your phone and camera are charged, and eat a solid meal.
WHAT TO BRING
As you pack for the convention, you have to make sure you have all your bases covered. As mentioned above, check and see if there are any restrictions on bag size, and what items you are allowed to bring in.
- Cash, and only cash. The biggest reason is to stay on budget. If you bring your credit or debit card, you’ll most likely overspend. Plus, most guests only take cash for signatures and photos.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet almost the entire time.
- Backpack or shoulder bag big enough for everything you have to bring. Your arms will get tired carrying everything. In that bag:
- Phone and charger
- Backup camera and extra batteries
- Different colored Sharpie markers. Test them all to make sure they work
- Bottled water or refillable water bottle
- Small snacks, like energy bars. The food at conventions can be costly, and can take huge bites out of your budget (huge bites…get it?)
- Aspirin or some other pain reliever
- Gum, mints, or mouthwash. Maybe even a toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hand sanitizer
- If you have a large number of items to get signed or sell, or you plan to buy a lot, try a bag with wheels or a small wheeled cart.
- Consider bringing a light, collapsible chair in a shoulder bag. Sometimes finding a place to sit to get off your feet or reorganize recent purchases is hard to come by.
Whether it is just for fun, solo or part of your group, or to enter the contests, Cosplay has become a huge part of conventions. If dressing like your favorite character is your thing, here are some separate tips just for you.
- If you are creating a new costume specifically for the convention, set your completion deadline a week before you need it. That will alleviate a lot of stress, and leaves you time in case anything goes wrong. If you wait until the last day, you might end up making compromises and not be happy with the end result.
- Bring a pocket sewing kit in case you need last-minute repairs.
- Make sure you either build in somewhere to carry your cash and personal items, or make a plan to carry them externally.
- Before the con, spend some time walking around in your costume. Practice stairs, sitting down, and even going to the bathroom.
- If you are wearing the same costume on multiple days, plan to either wash it or use some Febreeze when you take it off. You know how funky some costumes can get.
- Rehearse walking, posing, and acting in character. If you are in a contest, your performance could be the difference between winning and losing. Other guests will also be more interested in taking pictures of you when you are in character. Isn’t that adulation over your hard work part of the fun?
These are the things that didn’t fit into the other categories but will help you along the way.
- When you first arrive, get a map of the con area, understand the layout of the con floor, especially where the bathrooms and exits are.
- If you are with family or friends, pick an easy to see landmark to meet at in case you get separated. This is especially important for kids.
- Don’t blow all your cash on the first day. Many vendors will make a deal on the last day of a con so they can take less home. Don’t be afraid to make outrageous offers the final day. They might say yes!
- Shop around before pulling the trigger on a collectible. There’s nothing worse than buying something and seeing it at another vendor minutes later for a better price.
- Always ask before touching anyone, especially if they are in Cosplay.
- Also, ask before taking a picture of someone in Cosplay. They will usually do a pose and give you a better photo anyway.
- Stick to your plan. Know what is high on your priority list, and even if the line is long, don’t skip it. You will only regret it later.
- Stay aware of the fact that whatever you buy, you have to carry the rest of the day. If it’s something large that isn’t that likely to go quickly, wait until the end of the day to buy it.
- About an hour before you leave, check any items you bought, and see if you want to get any of them signed.
Finally, something that may be a little sensitive, but might make or break the convention experience for you (and everyone else). You will be in a closed-in space with food vendors, very little ventilation, and thousands of fanboys and fangirls. You may get the opportunity to meet your favorite creator, actor, and actress, and would love to make a small personal connection that can become a story you tell for years. Trust me, they are going to be less likely to go out of their way to answer your questions, laugh at your jokes, or lean into a photo if you smell like Daenerys’ dead dragon.
- Wear a different set of clothes each day, and make sure they are washed ahead of time. That includes socks and skivvies (that’s what my dad called underwear, and I didn’t want to be nasty).
- If you are a bigger guy or gal (like I am) make sure you wear a big enough undershirt so you can tuck it in. No one wants to stand behind you staring at your PB (that stands for Plumber’s Butt…again avoiding being nasty). Say NO to crack! (Well, apparently that nasty thing is out the door)
- Wash your hands and use your hand sanitizer regularly. Especially right before you meet one of your idols.
- Same with gargling mouthwash, using mints, or brushing your teeth every time you eat. The only thing worse than being the person at the convention with Garbage Breath is being the person NEXT to the person with Garbage Breath!
So there you have it. Pick and choose what makes sense to you and make sure your convention experience makes you smile even years later. If there are any items we missed, let us know in the Comics Price Guide forums here:
by Rob Otto