How My Comic-Con Experience Has Changed Over The Years

San Diego Comic Con

It’s amazing how your Con planning and experiences can change from one year to the next. I’m going to break down and talk about my first two Comic-Cons and how they changed each year.

My first year attending! I had no idea what to expect. We stayed out in Mission Valley since we didn’t know any better. It worked out well though and gave us a nice break at the end of some long and crazy days. When we first attended, we had no idea what Comic-Con was really about. It’s safe to say we went because we knew our favorite shows and actors would be there. It was great being able to see the casts of shows like “Dexter” and “Psych” in person. But guess what? That’s pretty much all we saw during our trip, the inside of Ballroom 20. We pretty much parked ourselves in that room Thursday & Friday. We got up early each of those days and made our way down to the convention center. We were inline by 5AM even though on one day the first panel started at Noon. We didn’t dare explore outside the line. We didn’t want to miss out on having a great seat. Yes, we did end up having greats seats in case you were wondering. I was able to see some pretty amazing things while sitting in Ballroom 20. I saw Barenaked Ladies perform the “Big Bang Theory” theme song. I saw James Roday and Dule’ Hill perform a special version of “Shout” with Curt Smith. Plus I got to see the casts of my favorite shows in a different light, which was very entertaining. I’ll never forget David Boreanaz dropping the F-Bomb while talking about his leather pants from “Angel.” Then Emily pointed out the fact that their name cards had a reminder that some people in the room might be under 18 and to watch the language.

But what about Saturday you cry! We didn’t do any panels Saturday, instead we tried to check out the floor. Instead we once again ended up waiting in lines for different autograph signings. I got the chance to meet a few people from CBS shows like Pauley Perrette and L.L. Cool J. I love Pauley and it was a real treat to meet her. I think I spent an hour or two in that line. I honestly can’t remember but like most lines it was a long wait. Then I made my way over to another booth where I paid for a photo-op with James Marsters and Eddie McClintock. We managed to snag some free swag along the way but honestly didn’t get to see much of the floor. We were trapped in the Bermuda Triangle of studio booths. I’m not even sure we made it to the Marvel booth because of the crowds and lack of time. I didn’t see Artist Alley at all. I didn’t make it to any of the comic vendors. In reality I probably saw 5% of the floor that day.

Sunday? We didn’t even go on Sunday! We were beyond tired from the previous three days that we stayed at our hotel and checked out the local mall. We even went to the movies and saw “Despicable Me.” We didn’t do any after hour events even though we had won our way into a party. We didn’t check out too many local places to eat, we ended up at Denny’s by the hotel most of the time. It was just easier and less crowded. It was a very contained San Diego Comic-Con. We pretty much stayed in the convention center the entire time and didn’t see too much that was going on outside.

It’s amazing what can change in a year. It became more difficult to get a badge. We were able to stay in the Gaslamp area this time and man, did that change everything. You know what else changed? Priorities. I told myself early on I wasn’t going to waste time sitting in a room. I was able to see who I wanted to see the previous year. I was good on that front. You know what? I stuck to it. I saw one panel during the entire convention and that was for “Being Human.” It was the only panel I wanted to see since I missed it the year before. I wanted to see more. I actually made it to Artist Alley. I bought a few sketches. I checked out different booths. I made the best use of my time. I even made it into a special screening of “Captain America.” That took time, again another long line at the crack of dawn, but it was worth it. I didn’t miss out on anything at the convention center. Plus I got to see Chris Evans in person. That alone was worth it. I was able to relax more during the Con. I went back and forth between events and the hotel. I loved that. I was able to rest my feet for an hour or two and then head back out into the foolishness. I was able to attend parties and meet some of you guys. I met a few celebs along the way as well. I even purchased my first Comic-Con exclusive.

The funny thing is, because I didn’t attend panels and sit in a room all day, all my days run together. I know that “Being Human” was on Saturday but that’s all that stands out! That year really is one huge blur to me. I think “Captain America” was Thursday but maybe it was Friday? See what I mean. But because I didn’t spend all day in a room, I was able to see so much more. I attended NerdHQ. I checked out the mock South Park village that was set up. More importantly? I was able to eat normal meals which really helped with the energy level. The year before we pretty much lived on beef jerky and other snacks we brought with us. We didn’t have a “real” meal until we left the Con. This time around I could pretty much be found at the Broken Yolk every morning. All in all, it was just a more “relaxing” year. I still had tough choices to make. I still had to get up early. It just didn’t feel as complicated as the year before. It actually felt more like a vacation. We even went to the Zoo! If you have the time, I highly suggest checking it out. It’s worth it. Plus we checked out more local places to eat. I don’t think we hit up one fast food place the entire time we were there.

I fully expect this year to be different from my last trip. I already know I’ll be tackling the beast known as Hall H. It’ll be my first time. I hope it’s gentle. We’re staying in a Condo with a kitchen which means saving money and eating in a little more. I plan on hopefully meeting more of you during this trip as well. I feel tough choices coming too including Ballrooom 20. I have two shows that are calling it quits this year, “Dexter” and “Burn Notice.” Do I waste time seeing their last panels (if they have one)? “Dexter” starts in June which means it’ll already be up and running before Comic-Con. Will it be as awesome? “Burn Notice” is normally just Bruce. Maybe, just maybe, more of the cast will show up to say goodbye? Plus I’ll be cosplaying this year for the first time which has me nervous already. Look, I’m already driving myself insane!

How did your San Diego Comic-Con change over the years? Has it become less stressful or more? Let us know in the comments!


  • So I’ve been there in 2011 and 2012 and my experiences were very similar. But that’s good because I had a blast! I did plenty that first year because I listened to folks like you who said preparation was important. Knowing what to expect reduced my stress levels to pretty damn low. However both years featured one day where I wasted hours waiting for a panel that I didn’t get into — Game of Thrones. I guess I’m just not willing to put in the 5 hours+ needed. I tried to see if I could get in off 3 hours waiting. I do love panels and was still able to see a bunch of good ones each year, and I shall yet again try to establish a good balance between not waiting too long and actually sitting in on a few things.

    I was unsuccessful in acquiring tickets to panels that interested me both years at Nerd HQ so I’m unsure about trying again. We at least popped in last year. I liked the new YouTube lounge and a couple gaming areas too. There’s plenty to do outside the convention center but so little time for it.

    Your buddy Crazy4ComicCon recommended that Broken Yolk cafe and I ended up eating breakfast there most mornings both years. I’m sure I’ll be back there. Things are looking good this year though. Despite staying in the Gaslamp district and having access for a few days each year, my friend and I are finally able to attend Preview Night, and finally got into the Marquis & Marina next door. More time + less distance = more fun woo-hoo!

  • This was great B! I would have to say my first TWO cons were spent only inside the convention center. But the last two we ventured outside and it really is THE BEST! I HIGHLY suggest as B said getting out of the rooms and downtown. There is sooo much to see and do there!

  • The biggest change for me was cosplay. In 2008 I didn’t, and walked around carrying bags for my wife and brother while they posed for pics and generally had a lot more fun. Since then I’ve worn a costume at least a couple of days every year and it’s a totally different experience.

    The other change has been in panel attendance. I stopped going to big panels in 2010 when the lines started forming at 5 am, even though there have been some that were tough to skip (10th anniversary Firefly!!!). Part of the reason is that I don’t watch a lot of the shows (Dexter, True Blood, Community, etc.), and those panels are mixed in with the ones I want to see. I think last year it would have worked out to 10 hours in Ballroom 20 (plus 5-6 hours in line outside) for 3 panels in which I was interested.

    I mostly attend author, costuming, and artist panels, which has worked out really well. I’ve found some great books (Kraken, Robopacalypse) and got to attend a very intimate panel with Robert Kirkman the year before the Walking Dead comic became a TV show. I’ve never been into autographs or exclusives, so the lengthening of those lines hasn’t affected my experience.

    The big change this year may be finally leaving the Convention Center for something besides meals, but I say that every year and so far I haven’t done it. The offsite events always sound really great, but they haven’t pulled me away yet.

  • Out first was 2011 and we didn’t know what to expect and too were way out in MV. Walked the floor and saw a few panels. Sunday my Wife went to Hall H and I went to get badges for 2012 and missed out on Hall H. We felt better splitting up and just getting more done. We did more for other people than we did for ourselves.

    Fast forward to 2012 again in MV and we hit panel after panel everywhere from small rooms to Ballroom 20/Hall H and even Indigo. First year dressing up! Wife = Amber Sweet, Myself = Cpt Jack Harkness. I ran the Walking Dead Escape and attended midnight screening of The Devils’s Carnival with a meet/greet with the Writers/Director ect. Total different experience and Awesome!

    2013 will be #3. We will be in the Gaslamp and dressing up again “Go Team Venture”. No plan yet till we see the schedule/Rumors.

  • My experience at the con has changed a lot since my 1st in 2001. The increase in attendance has made the purchase of the annual t-shirt a 2 or 3 hour wait in line. I have not entered Hall H since Lost ended. I now spend probably more time outside the convention center as there are many great (less crowded) events outside. That being said SDCC is the highlight family vacation of the year. By far the best part of the con are the friendships made over the years.

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