It’s time to review the rules of comicon etiquette. I had a good time at New York Comic Con last year. I got to see some great panels, buy some cool-looking comics, and catch up with some friends. I even got to meet one of my favorite comic book writers for the first time: Matt Fraction of Hawkeye and Sex Criminals fame. As a North Jerseyan-turned-Brooklynite, I look forward to NYCC every year.

I must admit that I caught myself being a bit of a curmudgeon last time out, though. Attending a con for four days as press is exhausting (I spent most of Monday just trying to rest and recover). For reasons beyond my control, I missed seeing one of my other heroes, filmmaker John Carpenter (Escape from New York; The Thing) at a spotlight panel moderated by my friend Grant DeArmitt. Grant hadn’t even told me he was moderating the panel, because he knew how much of a Carpenter fan I was and rightly assumed I planned on attending; he wanted to surprise me. I can’t tell you how bummed I was (and still am!) to have missed that. I guess that’s what happens when you go to a con on Friday the 13th.

Filmmaker and musician John Carpenter, left, and moderator Grant DeArmitt, right.

But really, I was mostly annoyed by the poor behavior I observed from other convention attendees.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the people I’ve met at various cons have been absolutely lovely. I sincerely believe most of the people triggering my convention pet peeves didn’t mean any harm. There are a lot of unwritten rules about basic con etiquette that many people simply aren’t aware of. So as everyone gears up for con-going in 2024, I figured it’s about time that someone finally wrote the unwritten rules. Whether you’ve been going to comic book conventions your whole life, or have never been to one at all, I hope this helps you have a great con experience while also being mindful of others.

Pre-Con Prep

  • Don’t be stinky: You would think grown adults wouldn’t need to hear this, but seriously: some of y’all STINK. And even if you don’t think you stink, enough time among huge crowds while on your feet much of the day is liable to make you stinky. Before you leave your home or hotel, don’t forget to shower, brush your teeth, gargle some mouthwash, then put on some clean clothes and for the love of God, deodorant. You’ll feel better, and everyone you encounter will like you more. Exceptions must be made for folks who have disabilities that make it difficult to wash every day, but whatever anyone can do to mind their odor at a con is a gift to fellow attendees.

Traversing the Convention Center

  • Keep it moving: Cons, especially big ones like NYCC, can get overwhelmingly crowded. It’s easy to feel a sensory overload from the loud music, flashy booths, impressive cosplay, and the chance to see your favorite creators or celebrities roaming the halls. But it’s because of the huge crowds that it’s important to stay out of the way of foot traffic. Don’t stop right at the top or bottom of an escalator, and don’t block narrow passages in general. Don’t sit on stairs—those are for walking. And don’t create confusion by standing so close to a line that you appear to be waiting on a line if you don’t intend to, you know, be on line for something. All that being said, for plenty of con attendees, movement is especially taxing or painful, and the convention center should have more rest areas available throughout for people who need them (and unfortunately, some cons are lacking in that respect). For able-bodied folks, however, please keep it moving!
  • Be mindful of the space you occupy: Anything you’re carrying—such as a bag or a cosplay accessory—needs to be thought of as an extension of your own body. I’ve seen too many people accidentally hit other con-goers in the face with their backpacks or giant foam anime swords.

  • Seriously, move it! You’re not entitled to a particular spot on the show floor just because that’s where you want to take a selfie or other photos. It can take a long time to get from one side of a convention center to another even when you don’t have to bob and weave between crowds. If someone says “excuse me” or seems to be in a hurry, just step aside and let them through. This is especially true when you see older and/or disabled people who use mobility aids. Be patient and don’t be a jerk.

Attending panels

  • Keep conversations to a minimum: Every panel has a different vibe, largely dependent on the size of the room the panel takes place it. But whether you’re at a packed Main Stage event or an intimate panel in a small room with a few dozen people, please don’t carry on extended back-and-forths with the people next to you. By all means, feel free to applaud the panelists or cheer when your favorite creator comes on stage, but full-on conversations are distracting to other attendees and rude to the panelists themselves.
  • Q+A isn’t all about you: It’s exciting to get the chance to ask your favorite creators a question, but you’re never the only one in the room who wants that experience. Keep your questions short and sweet; rambling on about how much you love their work or how they’ve inspired you personally  – or worst of all, pitching/promoting your own projects – just wastes everyone’s time. Don’t be greedy and ask more than one question. “This is more of a comment than a question” is also an absolute no-no. Charles Soule (Star Wars; Curse Words) said it better than I ever could when I attended a panel he moderated on breaking into comics several years ago: “Questions end with a question mark.” And if there isn’t enough time for the panelists to get to your question, don’t take it personally or make a fuss.
  • Don’t mob the stage: Oftentimes, after a panel ends and the panelists start to leave, fans run up to them in hopes of an autograph or a conversation. Unless you know a creator personally, this is usually a bad move. Chances are, the panelists have somewhere else to be, or simply don’t feel like being forced into a conversation with strangers. Also the room needs to be cleared for the next panel. Be considerate. 
  • Respect the ADA line: For many of the big panels where throngs of fans wait in line to ensure a spot, con-organizers will create a separate line for disabled folks to ensure they can get a seat before the rest of the audience starts fighting over the best seats in the house. It’s about accommodation, not “special treatment.” And don’t forget that many people with disabilities don’t visibly “look disabled.” It’s none of your business.

Respecting Cosplayers

  • Think before photographing: Many cosplayers love to be photographed in the costumes they’ve likely worked very hard on, but you still shouldn’t take their picture unless they’ve clearly indicated that they’d like to be photographed (such as if they’re in a cool pose). And if you plan on posting the pictures on social media or anywhere else online, it’s polite to ask the cosplayers for their social media handles so you can tag them appropriately.

  • Cosplay is not consent: No matter how provocatively someone is dressed, it’s not an invitation to harass them, touch them, or otherwise act creepy. This is especially true if you take a picture with a cosplayer: unless they’ve given consent, don’t assume a selfie is an excuse to put your hands on their shoulders, waist, or any other part of their body.
  • Don’t be a bully: Cons are an opportunity for people of all walks of life to express themselves and celebrate their fandoms in a setting that welcomes it. Cosplayers are not obligated to be “accurate” according to your preferred vision of a character, nor do they exist to fit your version of sexy. If a cosplay triggers your racist, transphobic, fatphobic, etc etc tendencies, the least you can do is keep those thoughts to yourself. Better yet, if that’s the kind of person you are, don’t go to cons at all. I’ve seen too many people treat cons as a nerd-watching zoo.


  1. While I hope there will be conventions in 20234,(So as everyone gears up for con-going in 20234, I figured it’s about time that someone finally wrote the unwritten rules.) I think it may be a bit too early to start planning for that

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