Costumes and Community: Your Comic Con Survival Guide

comic con

If you had asked me four years ago whether or not I was dressing up for comic con, I would’ve laughed. Of course, that was before my first experience at a con. In early summer 2014, I went to Phoenix Comic Con with my family, and it was an amazing introduction to what cons can be. I would say that there’s a stigma surrounding comic con because it’s “just for nerds”, but nerd culture is so cool and mainstream nowadays that that’s not really an issue anymore. However, there is still some misunderstanding as to what comic con is. A lot of adults seem to think that it’s all about comics, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Comic Con has outgrown its name. It is a mecca for all kinds of pop culture to be celebrated. There is a place for everything at Comic Con, from Teen Wolf to an animated kids’ movie about H. P. Lovecraft, and all the way back to printed comic books.

After my first Phoenix Comic Con, I upgraded to San Diego Comic Con in 2014 and I’ve gone every year since. SDCC is ridiculous. It’s held in the San Diego Convention Center, and even that monstrosity of a building isn’t big enough to hold in all that SDCC has to offer. Events spill into nearby hotels and movie theaters, and advertising takes over almost the entire Gaslamp square.

comic con

Whether you’re making the pilgrimage all the way out to San Diego or just perusing your local con, here are a few essentials for making the most out of your Comic Con experience.

A phone charger

Your charger is easily the most important thing you can bring with you. Cons are crowded, and your phone will be fighting for signal and data, which will drain your battery. Always keep it with you, and if you find yourself waiting for a panel, that’s the perfect opportunity to score a few precious percentages.

Water and snacks

Not every con is going to be the same, but a lot of them have very limited food choices. Seeing as they basically hold you captive, they can charge quite a bit for them, too. It can never hurt to bring some granola bars or sandwiches to munch on and some water to keep you hydrated.

A backpack

This one’s kind of a given, but it’s best to have a bag that’s bigger than your average purse to hold anything you want to bring to the convention, as well as anything you pick up along the way that you want to bring home with you.

Backup clothing

Whether you’re cosplaying or not, clothing choice can affect your experience at Comic Con. A Poison Ivy costume or shorts and a t-shirt might be perfectly suited to the summer sun outside, but inside the convention center the A/C is usually on full blast so it’s always safe to bring a jacket. Same goes for warmer costumes; you can rock a Peggy Carter bomber jacket and scarf, but make sure your costume under the jacket is appropriate enough to be able to take it off if you get a little toasty.

With these tips in mind, you should also consider how you’re going to spend your time at Comic Con. Cons are usually broken into two major sections: panels and the exhibit hall. Panels are where a group of experts (anything from authors to screenwriters to the actors of your favorite show) sit behind a panel and talk about a subject such as the upcoming season of a certain show and then maybe they’ll show sneak peeks or bloopers. They’re held in rooms that can be as small as a classroom or bigger than two school gyms put together.

Usually the bigger rooms (in the case of SDCC, that’s Hall H and, to a lesser extent, Ballroom 20) are where the big-ticket panels are held. Panels for things like the newest Marvel movies or Game of Thrones are going to be held in these rooms, whereas panels discussing the effect that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had on teen heroines are going to be in smaller rooms.

The other major part of Comic Con is the exhibit hall. This is where vendors, artists, and representatives from TV channels and movie studios set up booths to either demonstrate a product, display a costume, or sell posters or comic books. You could really spend a whole day (and quite a bit of money) just walking up and down the aisles of the exhibit hall, so it’s important to keep track of time so you don’t miss any panels you were excited to see.

These are just some suggestions that can help your Comic Con experience run nice and smooth. Above all, it’s always important to remember to be safe. Conventions are crowded, and a lot of the time you’re either on your own or with a small group of friends, so if you’re under 18, make sure a parent knows where you are and don’t hesitate to check in with them.

Images via Rolling Stone

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Also published on Medium.