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Top Nine Newbie Tips for Surviving the Phoenix Comic-Con

Last weekend I went to the Phoenix Comic-Con 2011 for the very first time and there are so many things I wish I had known! For others planning to attend, and for anyone planning to attend a comic convention, here are some tips to make it a success.

9. Use Public Transportation
You can always drive to the center and park, use the directions and parking guidelines for more information. On Saturday, I paid $12 to park across in the garage across from the convention. Not bad, but you can pay $3.50 for a round-trip ticket to the center and save some cash for that signed picture of you giving Spock rabbit ears.

If you live near a "Park and Ride" then park your car and hit the light rail. I live about an hour away from the nearest light rail drop-off. It was still worth it for the experience.

But, I had a Homer Simpson "Doh!" moment when, as I stepped off the rail, I saw parking prices had dropped to $5 on Sunday. So, I had a two hour trip to save $1.50. Still worth it on Saturday since I would have saved $8.50.

Check out the Valley Metro site for more information on riding the light-rail system.

8. Wear a Backpack
It seems like a waste of time, but trust me, you'll need one. Not a purse or a shoulder bag. A backpack with big comfortable straps.

They're a great way to store your food and drinks (see tip #5). Handy for collecting the inevitable free "swag" and keep your hands free for everything you need to do. Plus, the shoulder straps make it easy on the back and shoulders.

I had a lunch bag on my shoulder and by the second day it was killing me. I was tempted to carry it purse-style in my hand, but my machismo won out over comfort.

7. Bring Cash in Small Bills
I vowed not to buy anything at the convention, but did find myself wanting to buy a wrist band from the "Arizona Avengers" costuming group to support a local charity. Only two bucks. I had no cash and they didn't take credit cards. I felt like a jerk.

There are many things to buy at comic-con from t-shirts to comic books and even photo opportunities (see tip #4). If you're planning to buy anything carry a modest amount of cash in small bills. Some of the bigger vendors accept credit cards, but the smaller guys can't afford the extra expenses and fees. Plus, they have to lug a machine around. Carry small bills so they don't have to break a hundred.

You can use the ATMs on-site, but they charge ridiculous fees. Carry a wad of cash and make it rain.

Warning: Do not keep your money in your backpack (see tip 8). Its a great way to get robbed while you're ogling Lara Croft. Speaking of which...

6. Please Don't Ogle the Cosplay Girls\Guys
Yes, there are women wearing next to nothing on, but that doesn't mean they want your sweaty eyeballs undressing them. Even the guy with his shirt off in the He-Man costume might take offense if women start staring at him. I doubt it, but there's a reason Spider-Man put on a pair of shorts.

Don't try to take secret pictures of them like a stalker. Its cowardly. You'll have with lame pictures since they won't be posing. They may move in the middle of the shot and leave you with a speed blur.
If you like a costume, look them in the eyes and compliment them on it. If you'd like a picture, walk up and ask them. You may even get into a quick conversation about how they made the costume or why. Its all in good fun and they enjoy the attention if its respectful.

Warning: Be on the look out for other people taking pictures, its bad taste to walk in front of people when they're trying to take a picture. It's called "photo-bombing." Google it.
5. Bring Food, Drinks and Snacks
I figured the Phoenix Convention Center was like a baseball game and wouldn't allow you to bring outside food and drink. Imagine my surprise when I saw people setting up picnics on the ground and having a family meal. Food and drink is allowed at the convention center, so take advantage of it.

Don't bring a cooler or other items people could trip over. A simple backpack should suffice for some sandwiches and drinks.

Bring snacks in closeable containers or bags and bottles with caps. That way you can snack on the go to keep your hands free if you don't finish.

Warning: Even if you're planning to buy drinks there you should at least pack a small bottle of water in case you get stuck outside and need a cool drink.

4. Review the Programming Guide and Make a Battle Plan
There are a huge number of activities available and you can't see them all. A guide is available online. The ConQuest Convention Scheduler tool is OK, but I found it easier just to get a copy of the guide at the door and circle the ones I wanted to check out.

Have a primary and secondary target. If the panel on "Designing Anime Doorknobs" is boring you can always jump to the next one on your list.

Use spare time to get pictures of cool stuff and rest your feet.

If you're planning to get an autograph or photo with someone you should know when they'll be available and plan on getting in line.
"Most comic book creators, authors, and anime voice actors do not charge for autographs, though some do ask for donations to various charities.  Most, if not all, of our Film and TV actors do have a fee for purchasing autographs or will sell you a photograph, book or other item and then autograph that item for no additional charge. "
One of the security guards asked me if one of the panel guests, Billy Dee Williams, would sign his "Jet" magazine for free. I said, "I doubt it."

3. Bring a Camera
Trust me. There are plenty of things to take pics of. When you're telling the story of the guy in his underwear wearing a Spider-Man mask or that amazing Iron Man suit, you'll want something that speaks 1000 words.

You'll want an easy to use high quality method of taking pictures. Cell phones can do the job, but and there's nothing easier than a camera. I fumbled with my Motororla Cliq so many times it made me feel like a moron. Meanwhile, other guys swept in and got the great shots. If you really want to impress, get a high end camera and a peg stand. Just be respectful of your targets (see tip #6)

Warning: Don't take pictures of children without a parent's permission. It's tempting to snap a shot of that four-year-old wearing a Jedi padawan costume, but the parents don't know you from "Chester the Molester."

I had a rule that I don't take pictures of kids at all. Enjoy the moment and compliment the parents on their choice of costume.

2. Prepare to Walk and Stand in Line
This year the convention took up two floors of the North building. Plus, Hyatt Regency had some after hour events going on. That's a lot of room to walk in.

The Phoenix Convention Center is air-conditioned, but the rest of Arizona isn't. Depending on what transportation method you use (see tip 9) you may have a walk in the heat ahead of you. Since the convention this year fell on a day with 90 degree heat, even a brisk walk from the parking garage across the street was a bit tiresome. Add the hour of standing in line to get in and you're on your feet for a while.

Wear comfortable shoes and expect to stand and walk.

1. Buy Your Weekend Pass Ahead of Time
The price for one day passes were $30 at the door.

Buying a full event pass (all four days) online before the convention cost $35. Add the fact that there was a line to buy tickets that took an extra half hour and it's a no-brainer.

It was all electronic this year, so make sure you get a good clear print of your ticket and bring it with you. After you get your ticket scanned you get a cool badge to wear around your neck.

Kids 12 and under were free with a paid adult (18 or older) and had to be accompanied by an adult at all times at the event.

My son got a "Sidekick" badge with my name and phone number in case of the unlikely event he got lost. Limit two children per paid adult, so if you're the "Brady Bunch" I guess you're stuck.
That's it. Everything you need to know. See you next year!

Do you have any convention tips to share? Experiences that would teach us a valuable lesson? Let us know in the comments!

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