This is the second in a series of Helpful Hints posts, intended to help UK attendees get the most out of their trip to San Diego for Comic-Con, which this year takes place 24th-27th July in 2014. Making your way to join in with this mass of people – an approximate collective of over 130,000 passionate fans in recent years – can be quite daunting but, with a bit of acclimatisation, you can fit in with the crowd a little easier.
This post might seem a bit odd, to talk about abstract advice beyond practical tips, such as appropriate clothing, the layout of San Diego, what to see in the city… All of these things are coming, don’t worry. But, especially if you’re heading to Comic-Con as part of a first ever visit to the United States, it’s good to know what to expect as you step off the plane from the UK…
BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT
1. Do Your Research: A first time Comic-Con go’er can find themselves slightly lost and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content and features on hand over the course of the four days; remember, you’re looking at over 600 panels (in 2012), covering every conceivable topic of comics and pop culture – the variety of content is simply staggering. Thankfully, to get your head around what you can come across at Con, there’s plenty of resources out there.
For a kick off, there’s, well, this site, obviously – the one you’re reading now! We’ll be doing all we can to give you a full overview of the San Diego experience, inside and out, in the Helpful Hints & Tips page, as well keep you appraised as to all the panels and features announced in our SDCC Con News category.
Don’t forget, if there’s any questions you’d like to ask us, or anything you’s want us to cover in any of these Helfpul Hints posts, you can drop us a line via our Twitter – we’ll gladly help out where we can, answering quickly and directly if we can. The advice we’ll be providing will be from the perspective of visiting SDCC from the UK; there’s a bunch of other international websites and blogs which I’ll be listing in the next post in this series, ‘The SDCC Online Community’…
2. Train Your Brain: it might be worthwhile attending a couple of suitably sized Cons here in the UK to get your head around some of the scale and lack of personal space that being surrounded by that many people provide – there’s literally nothing to compare with the experience of San Diego Comic-Con but, hey, we have to do with what we’ve got.
March has already hosted two massive Conventions, the London Super Comic-Con (15th-16th March, Excel Royal Victoria Docks) and The MCM Expo, Birmingham (22nd-23rd March, NEC Birmingham) – hopefully, if you’re properly getting into your larger Cons, these should’ve been in your diary already. (If you did go, we’d love to hear of your experiences – drop us a line and share your stories.) Other large crowd highlights to come in 2014, before SDCC, are:
- MCM Expo, Ireland (12th-13th April, RDS Ballsbridge, Dublin)
- Wales Comic-Con (27th April, Wrexham)
- MCM Expo, London (23rd-25th May, Excel Royal Victoria Dock)
- London Film & Comic Con (11th-13th July, Earls Court 2)
- MCM Expo, Manchester (19th-20th July, Manchester Central)
…the weekend before San Diego Comic-Con. Actually might be a good idea to skip this one, unless you have the stamina of a racehorse. Which leads me on to…
STEPPING OFF THE PLANE
3. Prepare For The Climate: San Diego is a coastal city, right on the bay, which can be a bit deceptive when it comes to visitors from the UK. The sky may be cloudy and overcast first thing in the morning but the California sun will quickly arc across the sky and burn those clouds away, exposing you to temperatures that, for a Brit, you might not be too familiar with. But then, the sun will set and the wind will come in off the North Pacific Ocean and, oh boy, you’ll feel it; chilly as can be, especially if you’ve elected to take part in the experience of overnight/early morning line queuing.
You’ll find the temperatures in San Diego very pleasant for a visitor from the UK but just be aware, it’s a city of extremes and it can catch you unawares if you don’t prepare for it – in July, deceptively hot during the day so make sure you sunscreen up, mild to chilly at night so make sure you have a jacket handy in your luggage. I’ll be doing a post on ‘Queuing At San Diego Comic-Con’ in a couple of posts time. (Yes, the topic deserves its own post, it’s that intense and requires its own brief. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.)
4. Remember Your Surroundings: The two things I’ve found you have to keep an eye on are your attitudes and your language. We come from quite a liberal country and, whatever your own political leanings, we generally have slightly different attitudes which the average American can find a little jarring.
For example: swearing. You may watch US movies and television and think that America is as potty-mouthed as we are. Trust me: they aren’t, especially in day-to-day interactions. It says a lot that, when European Guillermo del Toro steps on to the stage and launches into his usual bombast, littered with plenty of expletives and, as Spock would say, ‘colourful metaphors’, the majority of a Hall H audience will still find themselves giggling uncomfortably as the sheer number of swears.
When a culture refers to it as ‘the F bomb’ in general conversation, you start to recognise that America is still a puritanical country and, if you’re comfortable with using more offensive language, you may find that it would be advantageous to be aware of that and just dial it back a bit, especially if you find yourself in line queues, wanting to make line buddies.
Hey, they’re are going to love the accent and they’ll think it’s cute but that’ll wane if you overdo the language in general conversation, especially away from the Con. The average American Con attendee is a little looser than most but, out and about in the wider world, the positive outlook and general lack of cynicism of the average Californian can be a bit off-putting from people coming from a country that pretty much invented ‘professional grade sarcasm’.
Likewise, you also have to be aware of the attitudes and politics of the country; our National Health Service may have just been introduced to the United States in the form of Obamacare but it’s still a relatively new concept and it’s also considered, by a large portion of the American population, a very socialist concept – and you know how the most powerful democratic country on the planet reacts to the word ‘socialism’. (Hint: it’s not well.) I had my own intense time in hospital a few years back without which I possibly wouldn’t be here today, and I owe my recovery to the fantastic efforts of the NHS.
However, I was slightly put back by the confrontational conversations I had in California afterwards and it just showed me that things I take for granted in the UK can be considered awkward, if not totally alien, in the US. Health care, gun control… Just keep in the back of your mind: you’re the visitor here. And you basically don’t crap on your hosts doorstep.
NEXT POST (31st MARCH): ‘THE SDCC ONLINE COMMUNITY’ – your best friends are people you’ll possibly never meet…
AND, (7th APRIL) : ‘GETTING IN WITH THE RIGHT (CON) CROWD’ – pacing yourself, interacting with your fellow nerds and making line buddies!