5 Ways to Comic Con: Part Three
By George Rose
August 31, 2017

That's some good Comic Conning.

We’ve finally made it! We’re here!!! The detailed look at the most recent two-day Con. For those that have been reading this 5 Ways to Comic Con series, you know that two days at a Con is better than one. You also know there are two ways to enjoy a day at the Con, shopping and celebrity interactions. You can try to cram both into one day but neither can be maximized that way… unless you’re a Comic Con expert. Once you pass this two-day-Con course, you can move on to the master class. That is coming this October when I will show you my upcoming one-day Thursday Con in New York starring the legendary, the iconic, the ultra mega nerd boner festival superstar galore… MARK HAMILL. If you don’t know who that is, you’re probably reading the wrong website.

Why is seeing a celebrity important? I didn’t want to explain this in the last article because I was running out of space and this deserves more than a passing comment. This is with regards to Convention #6 when I went to the New York Comic Con for two full days in October 2016. Funko Pops were the coolest collectibles around and I was on an autographing kick. However, a bunch of $25 convention exclusive shirts + a dozen $10 Funko Pops + roughly $150 in other random knick knacks + the cost of blowing the rest of my load on Alan Tudyk (aka King Candy) = no money left. It’s not even just about the money, really.

If you don’t buy the merchandise you want to get autographed before a convention, you might not find something worthy at the Con. Now you have to try and find something reasonably priced at the convention, without any damage, with all the other THOUSANDS of people who are looking for the same thing, and do that all before the small window of opportunity that is available for each celebrity autographing session. Getting an autograph isn’t always as easy as you’d think.

So the next time you have the chance to see Carrie Fisher at New York Comic Con, don’t pass it up. Don’t ruin it by not preparing in advance or bringing extra money. Don’t be the big dummy that says to your friends, “Star Wars is all the rage again so she’ll be coming around to Cons for years to come.” She won’t. She died two months later. October 2016 was the first chance I had to meet Carrie, the last chance I had to meet Carrie, and the last time we would share a birthday on the 21st. I’m not saying that a common birthday made me closer to Carrie than the rest of you… but I was closer with her. Not as close as the people who got to see her at NYCC 2016 but closer than you. And now she’s gone and the rest of the celebrities of the world that are dumb enough to attend a comic book convention should fear the wrath of George.

Princess Leia’s death lit a fire in me. I decided I needed to start taking conventions even more seriously. Yes, I understand what’s wrong with that statement. I understand it’s a pretty ridiculous concept for a grown man over 30 to be worshiping false prophets or getting upset when he finds damage on the boxing of his collectibles. Yes, I know “collectibles” is a less embarrassing way of saying “toys” and, no, I don’t think I’m fooling you. I don’t know why I care more about Hollywood than sports, I just do. I don’t know why Carrie Fisher wanted to personally punish me for not seeing her in October 2016 and had to go ahead and die so I would NEVER have the chance to see her again… but she did. I’m just here to learn a lesson from that missed opportunity and pass it on to you folks. So sit back and enjoy some of the lessons from Convention #7: Philadelphia Comic Con Day 1, Thursday, June 1, 2017.

One of the first things you want to do before each convention is look up the list of which celebrities will be attending. This list starts being built months in advance, grows over time as new celebs are added, and is then modified a bit just before the Con with the final list of famous people. Some cancel as scheduling conflicts arise, some go from planning to attend multiple days to cutting down to just one, and some call out at the last second because they’re sick. Until you find yourself waiting in one of the lines to meet the celebrity of your dreams and you actually see that person, there is no guarantee you will meet them. Hell, you could see them at their booth, wait an hour in line, inch yourself all the way to the front, and then their lunch break comes up or the autographing timeframe is up or the Con is closing so you miss your chance.

The point is, if you know who you want to see on Sunday then you know what to look for on Thursday. If you don’t have the Funko Pop you want to get signed in advance, then you don’t have as much time to accidentally damage the box. Sometimes you can find the right Pop with zero damage just a few moments before the signing occurs. That’s the joy of the Con, the good old fashioned treasure hunt! But the Con is only as good as the company you bring. On this most recent convention in Philadelphia, I had plans to go on Thursday (best shopping day) and Sunday (stupid Free Kid Sunday). My plan was to do most of my shopping on Thursday and then do autographing on Sunday. More memorabilia is available on the first day and, even though Friday and Saturday are always the best for celebrity sightings, Sunday is considered a better celeb day than Thursday. The plan for my two days made the most sense and it was only a matter of executing that plan. My biggest mistake… bringing my fiance again.

As I’ve said before, my schmoopy love bug has absolutely ZERO INTEREST IN SHOPPING. I convinced him the one time he went before was a disaster because of Free Kid Sunday and because we went with other friends so I couldn’t focus on just things he would be interested in. Since Philly is closer than New York to where I live, it was also viewed as a simpler partial-day trip instead of a full day that includes a combined 3+ hours of traveling. My fiance, Joe, came… he saw… and he conquered NOTHING. He complained the whole time and, once again, swore off the Con. Joe’s lack of appreciation for Comic Con aside, at least I came prepared.

When you go to a Con, ALWAYS bring a backpack. Inside you should have a bottle of water, some small snacks, and other bags. Not the cheap, crappy Walmart plastic bags you have 1,000 of under your sink at home. Large plastic bags, like the thick ones at Hot Topic. Not all the shops have bags and it’s better to have one large plastic bag to help carry things than a bunch of small ones. Also, when you arrive at the Con figure out the layout. Usually, the shopping area is a bunch of rows that make up a large rectangle. The best thing you can do is pick a corner; in Philly I start at the bottom left corner and in New York we usually start at the bottom right. This is the corner you’ll find the comic books. Why is that important? Because most people don’t buy comic books. You want the bulk of the shopping to happen towards the end of walking the floor so you don’t have to carry massive bags around for the entire Con. If you browse the comic books vendors first then you can do so without distracting bags and have an easier time seeing some of the rare collectibles only a comic book nerd would have.

Once you pick a corner, go up and down the aisles, top to bottom to top to bottom and so on. Imagine how you would go up and down the aisles at the grocery store. Now, imagine the grocery store had a horizontal isle that cuts through the center of all the long vertical isles. DO NOT CROSS THE CENTER! If you make it halfway down an aisle and think there’s nothing good further ahead, you’re missing out on the chance to find those tiny hidden vendors that don’t have stuff sticking out you can see from afar and, more importantly, you will have a harder time remembering where you’ve been and where you’re going. Trust me. Up, down, up, down.

Eventually you will find yourself past the comic books and into the heart of shopping: t-shirts, Funko Pops and handmade collectibles. T-shirts are my favorite. Half the shirts you see are convention exclusives and the others are a wide range of standard comic book fare. I only shop for the exclusives. You can buy a Marvel shirt or Batman cup anywhere. What you can’t find anywhere are brand hybrids. For example, the shirt I wore to this Con (as seen on the homepage link for this article). Pokemon and Marvel aren’t both a part of the same company, so you won’t find a hybrid shirt of the two at the mall. At Comic Con, artists design up special shirts and sell them. One of my favorites is the hybrid shirt in the picture, The Evolving X-Mon (get it?!). Instead of Storm casting her lighting, it’s a Pikachu in a Storm outfit. These are the shirts that get the most compliments from other nerds outside of the Cons and the ones you’ll never be able to find again. Hybrid shirts are where 50% of my Con budget ends up.

The other 50% is for Funko Pops and other collectibles. The cheapest of which is also the kind that has the widest variety: pins. You can find all sorts of amazing little pins for $1 each and a cool nerd backpack is just the place to show them off. $5 isn’t even enough for one Funko Pop but it gets you a handful of pins that all can help identify what nerdy things you like. Strangers with certain pop culture common interests can see what you like and you can bond over it. Besides pins, I’m all about the Pops. They have every show and movie you’ve ever loved and they are just small enough and reasonably priced ($10 each) to give you something cool to collect. The trick is searching the selection for the one with the least damage and paint defects.

My hopes for Sunday was to meet Famke Janssen (X-Men), Jesse Eisenberg (Batman v Superman), and Michael Rooker & Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). The only autographable collectible I found on Thursday was a Lex Luther action figure for Eisenberg to sign. I had wasted my budget on shirts and my time taking pictures; even though Thursday tends to have less cosplayers (and those that are there have cheap costumes) it has the benefit of shorter lines for the pop culture set pieces. Even though this was Joe’s favorite part of the Con and he loved taking a picture on the iron throne from Game of Thrones, some people aren’t built for the Comic Con treasure hunt. Most people don’t want to wait while you sift through Funko Pops, compare shirt sizes or try haggling down prices from the gypsy sales vendors. Joe’s desire to leave cut the day short but I knew in my heart I would make the best use possible of Sunday. My wishes came true but at a huge cost. Check back next week to see how I found every collectible I would need for Sunday, only to end up making a complete ass of myself in front of four different celebrities.