October means many things to many people. For some, it’s the true beginning of fall. For others, it’s the countdown to Halloween and Thanksgiving. But if you’re a fan of comics and pop culture, October means one thing: New York Comic Con. As the biggest convention on the East Coast, NYCC provides a plethora of things to see and do. Whether you’re a casual fan or a die-hard devotee, there’s something for everyone.
That being said, attending your first comic con (shorthand for the no-longer-quite-as-applicable “comic book convention” and often shortened even further to just “con”) can be a stressful experience. When you dive in for the first time, you have no idea what to expect. As a survivor of many different cons over the years, I’ve learned the ins and outs of surviving (and enjoying) the comic con experience. Here are a few tips to ensure you get the maximum enjoyment out of your first comic con, with a minimum of hassle.
Make no mistake about it, when attending a comic con (in New York or elsewhere), you’re going to want to bring a survival pack along for the ride. Besides any tickets and passes you need to get in, make sure you bring along an extra charger for your phone. There are few things more frustrating than running into your favorite celebrity and not being able to take a photo because your phone’s battery has run out. Besides your charger, you should also pack an assortment of snacks and water. Sure, there’s food available at the convention — for a ridiculously, exorbitant price. Save your money for autographs and collectibles, instead of dropping $5 on a single bottle of water.
Get Ready to Wait
Every convention I’ve ever attended has involved a lot of waiting. Waiting for the panel to start, waiting on line, waiting for the crowd to thin so you can get to the bathroom. It’s just the nature of the beast. Experienced convention goers can pick out newbies based on how much they complain about waiting. Look, nobody enjoys standing in line for two hours just for the chance to catch the Marvel panel; we’re all in the same boat. Bring along a book or your headphones if you get fidgety, fast.
That being said, waiting in line can end up being a fun bonding experience. At last year’s NYCC, my friends and I waited for about an hour to get copies of the Hannibal cookbook and meet creators Bryan Fuller and Janice Poons. Despite being packed in like sardines, we had a wonderful time chatting with fellow fans and sharing stories while we waited. We ended up forming what would become some firm friendships! So try your best to see waiting as part of the experience, instead of a miserable punishment.
Pick a Meeting Place Ahead of Time
Cons can get pretty massive. Last year there were over 150,000 people at New York Comic Con over the course of 4 days. And most are based in humungous convention centers. NYCC, for example, uses Manhattan’s famous Javits Center. So with that in mind, it’s good to have a plan should you get separated from your group. You don’t want to rely solely on your cell phones to find one another (service can be spotty, or someone’s phone could die); instead, set up a meeting place. It can be by the bathrooms (although those have a tendency to be extremely crowded for obvious reasons), or the information desk, or another easily accessible point. Just make sure everyone in your group knows where it is in the event you become separated.
Keep It Clean
Let’s take a second to talk about hygiene. This might seem obvious to you, but you’d be surprised at how many people simply forgo deodorant by the last day of a convention. Take a shower, brush your teeth, and maintain a basic level of hygiene. Your fellow con-goers will thank you for it.
Cosplay With Care (and Respect)
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Cosplaying (dressing up as a character from your favorite comic book, video game, movie, TV show, etc) can be an enormous source of fun. It can also be a royal pain. Make sure that when you plan your costume, you ensure that it’s functional and comfortable. Remember, you’re going to be stuck in this get-up for hours at a time with no break. If you’ve never cosplayed before, try going in costume only one day to see how it goes. And be sure to wear comfortable shoes no matter what you’re dressed as.
If you’ve opted against cosplaying, be respectful of those who have put in the time and effort. Ask if you can take photos (and be polite if they say no). Don’t invade anyone’s personal space, no matter what they’re wearing. Comic-cons are supposed to be fun for everyone, and some basic manners make the experience far more enjoyable.
Make a Plan on What to Do/See
There is a lot to do at a Comic-Con, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The simplest solution is to take a look at the events scheduled beforehand (massive cons like NYCC even have their own app) and decide what you absolutely must attend. Want to check out The Walking Dead panel? Need to get an autograph with Mark Hamil? Try to work out a loose schedule to shape your days; it will give you a better chance of making the most of the convention. At the same time, try to be flexible; if you get a chance to watch an exclusive screening of a new television show, go for it — you can sort out the rest of your schedule later.
Bring Cash (and Make a Budget)
It is incredibly easy to go over budget at a Comic-Con. One minute you’re sensibly organizing all your cash for the weekend, the next minute you realize you’ve blown all your money on a replica of Captain America’s shield. If there are specific things you want to buy, set aside money for them. Besides being easier on vendors, cash is also a great way to keep track of how much you’re spending over the course of the con.
Are you attending a Comic-Con to meet your favorite celebrity? It can be a terror-inducing experience for a first-timer and, admittedly, even for those of us who have been to plenty of cons (What can I say? Chris Evans is even more charming in person) but with the proper preparation, it doesn’t have to be.
Before you meet them, figure out something you want to say. It can be a polite question (“Are you having a good time at the con?”) or a sincere compliment (“I love your work on that comic!”). It’s a much safer plan than going in blind and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. Rumors that I once informed a 6’2″ actor that he was “really, really tall” remain unconfirmed.
At the end of the day, all Comic Cons are about having fun. It’s a singular experience that can be exhausting, frustrating, and worth every single second. Explore every aspect of the con, try out new things, meet new people, and embrace the wonderfully surreal world of convention life. With a little preparation and the right attitude, your Comic-Con trip will shape up to be an utterly unforgettable experience.