A First-Timer’s Guide to Surviving a Comic Con

October 10, 2017

YAY ME! I’m no longer a comic con newbie!

I attended my first comic con a few weeks ago, when my niece invited me to go to Salt Lake Comic Con with her. I was thrilled to accept the invitation because I come from a pretty nerdy family and it didn’t seem right that I hadn’t been to at least one comic con; especially living as close as I do to one of North America’s larger events.

Even though I had never been to a con, I had a fair idea of what to expect: Large crowds, expensive food, celebrities ranging from major Hollywood types to C-listers, and more cosplayers than the populations of many small towns in middle America.

Salt Lake Comic Con didn’t disappoint.

I lost count of how many people were dressed up as Spiderman. Same with Deadpool. And Jedi’s. And storm troopers. I even ran into Darth Vader getting dressed in the men’s restroom. Surprisingly, I only counted 12 Starfleet officers.

Even my niece dressed up. She is hands-down the nerdiest of my family—which is why I love her so much—and she was in her element. She cosplayed a character from one of her favorite anime series and I was surprised at how many times people stopped her to take pictures. She even ran into another young girl dressed as the same character, so they of course took their picture together.

Oh yeah… note to self: At my next comic con, remember to text myself any pictures I take from a friend’s or relative’s phone. I was so busy taking pictures with my niece’s phone I forgot to take pictures with my own.

Since I was being guided by a veteran of previous cons, I was happy to go along with whatever my niece wanted to do. I’m glad I did, because I had a blast. As I said, my niece was in her element. She patiently explained all of her fandoms as we walked around and she excitedly pointed out unique characters I had no idea existed.

By the end of the day I was exhausted but happy. I came away from the con feeling even more nerdy than I did before, but there are some practical things I learned as well:

Be prepared to spend lots of money. I didn’t care about getting celebrity autographs, buying fan art, or filling up my home office with more stuff that will just gather dust. But if that’s your thing, then take lots of cash or leave plenty of room on your credit card… and be disciplined enough to stick to a budget. You’ll thank yourself later.

Plan on leaving the convention center during the event. Why? You have to eat at some point. Convention food is already expensive, but at a comic con? Prices are as astronomical as the budgets of Hollywood blockbusters. $8 dollars for a churro that I can get for $.75 cents from a street vendor? Ummmm… no.

Just keep in mind that you’ll have to battle crowds no matter where you go during a con, so plan for at least a 90 minute lunch. This is especially true in a city like Salt Lake where the city blocks are HUGE and most “quick” food options are a few blocks away.

Speaking of crowds, don’t go if you’re claustrophobic. Crowds don’t bother me, but even then I had a hard time navigating the vendor floor. There were hordes of people there. Think Times Square on New Year’s Eve. That’s what it felt like. I learned that if there’s an invitation to geek out, those of us tuned into that siren song will answer the call. And since I live in the nerdiest state in the U.S.… well… need I say more?

“Business Of…” panels are more interesting than pop-culture panels. This is strictly my own opinion. I attended several artist panels with my niece and I was fascinated to hear insider perspectives on what it’s like to work as an artist in the entertainment industry. I got a real education in a very short time.

At one point, I got curious enough about a Marvel panel I slipped away to attend it. I thought the panel would involve one or two Marvel studio execs sharing what they could about their plans for the Infinity War movies. What I got instead was a panel of local celebrities speculating about what they think might happen and what they would like to see happen. The discussion was interesting, but after 15 minutes, I quietly rejoined my niece.

I admit I was disappointed, but that’s okay. My point is that if you’re going to a comic con, attend as many panels as you can. You may be pleasantly surprised, or you may be disappointed. At the very least, you’ll get an education and you’ll better define what you like and what you don’t.

You’re going to have fun no matter what. I know that comic cons aren’t everyone’s thing; but if you’re even remotely curious, go. In spite of the crowds, the overpriced food, and a pair of extremely sore feet at the end of the day, you’ll have more fun than you’ll expect.

One last thing: Watching my niece light up so frequently, and having her explain so many unknown elements of geek culture to me, was by far the highlight of my day. Go with someone you know appreciates all things geek, and your experience will be that much better.

And if you’re wondering if I plan to attend next year’s con, the answer is yes. I’m all about living joyously, after all, so why not?

About Appio Hunter
Appio is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He facilitates conversations with groups and individuals about how they can be authentic and experience community, connection, and alignment every day. Appio is also co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant. You can learn more about his work at AppioHunter.com.


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