Writer Shawna Benson has a Guide to San Diego in two parts that is quite sensible…as in this from Part One:

Pen and paper. Yes, I know — you have a smartphone, you can jot down notes or phone numbers or what have you on that…ah, but what if you run into Stan Lee in the hallway? I’m not a huge autograph hound, but you don’t want to lose out on an opportunity. Also, smartphones die or lose power. You might want to have paper to write phone numbers, information on panels, etc as a backup. Yes, I know this sounds silly, but don’t come crying to me when you are in the middle of the vast Exhibitor Hall, trying to remember where you saw the awesome T-shirt you wanted to buy. If you had written down the booth number or given yourself some direction back to said awesome T-shirt, you wouldn’t be crying when you can’t find it again. Trust me. I’ve been there.

However, reading this was a nice paradigm shift for us, because it is so written from the viewpoint of…the others. you know, the “new” people, the Normans…

Q & A Okay. I want you to hear me now and believe me later. Perhaps one of the most PAINFUL thing about these panels is when they open up questions to the audience. If you want people to like you, try to keep your questions short and sweet. We don’t need to hear your life story, how you got to the Con, your career aspirations, your costume details, etc. Yes we KNOW you love their work/their show/their writing, etc. Don’t waste time with the accolades. It gets annoying. Oh, and could you please make sure it is a QUESTION and not some general comment you just must make known to the other thousand(s) of people sitting in the room? Please, be interesting. Ask a good question. This is your one chance to ask your favorite comic writer/artist/actor/director/important person on a panel a burning question. Do you really want to be known as the guy/gal who asked them something stupid? And if you aren’t sure if your question is stupid…well, it probably is. Part of the reason people disparage fanboys is because of the Q & A. Seen the William Shatner SNL sketch? Yeah, learn it and love it. Try to be a good fanboy/girl. Okay, off my soapbox about that now.

Part Two has an even more surreal — for us, anyway — anecdote:

If all else fails, make your own party! You’d be amazed how many other people will join you to watch Torchwood in your hotel. (Just follow the rules of your hotel of course.) Also, I’ve been banging the drum to meet lots of people. You never know who you might meet and what they might be doing. Last year a friend of mine was hanging out in the hotel bar at the Hyatt (a popular evening hangout) chatting with someone he had met earlier in the day. As they were talking, friends of this new acquaintance joined them in the bar. Turned out they were a bunch of comic artists and writers! Not only did he get his own private time with people he had seen at Q&As earlier in the day, but he was able to get invited to a party with them! It can happen (usually when you aren’t looking for it, of course). The key is to be open to opportunties. Some events will fall in your lap. Others you’ll have to search for. The larger your network of contacts at the convention, the more likely you are to hear about some cool evening event.

There is so much that is charming about this story. First, is the idea that meeting comic book writers and artists at a comic-book convention is somehow…cool. Second is the demonstration, yet again, that comic book folks are the most accepting open creative types on earth. Hello, New-friend-we-just-met-five-minutes-ago, let’s go party with Joss Whedon! Third, Comic-Con is really where any amount of wacky shit can happen, and that’s why we love it.

Sometimes, from our ancient point of view — Comic-Con is for comics and cartoonists — we forget that our con is just one con inside a dozen other cons. We may never be able to see the show from the new perspective, but we can at least be a little more sympathetic. These people are not so different than you and I…it’s the Pale Green Pants Phenomena yet again!

Anyway, whoever Benson is — for such a sensible person, she should include a bio on her site! — her con guide is full of practical information for…whoever you are.


  1. Yeah, about those green pants… that’s one of the scariest stories I ever read as a child. Sure, you may be cool and a great person, but if I meet you in a dark forest or you weird me out, I’m gonna be leery when I meet you in a normal setting.

    Now, if the convention is know for the unusual, say… Anthrocon for example, then I’ll be expecting it and will be more accepting.

  2. BTW, my own “About” page isn’t such great shakes either…I really need to update it, and this reminded me of that!

  3. Re: Make your own party.
    This is SO true. In the early days of WonderCon I did this with other local independent creators /retailers and it was standing room only for two years running. It was such a hoot that the hotel security came up and told us to calm it down. Haha!

    Re: Panel questions and such…
    Yeah, sometimes we get surreal questions, but really I don’t think it’s so bad that it needs a primer. The folks smart enough to read the above blog tend to be smart enough to ask the right questions. Still, it is sound advice.

  4. Perhaps one of the most PAINFUL thing about these panels is when they open up questions to the audience. > I agree. Maybe the solution is to have people submit their question in advance to a moderator, but I guess that gets too “linear”.

  5. Hey Heidi–

    I’m de-lurking to share one one of my Wizard World Chicago chance meetings. I was walking to the car for 3rd time that morning (more stuff than I could continue to carry) and ran into Heidi MacDonald!! You were wearing pink sunglasses and were fairly frantic…I think it was a busy day. I said I was a fan, we chatted for a minute and you ran off to some panel or interview.

    From there, I went to the hotel bar for a beer with a friend from the CBLDF and as we’re sitting at the bar, who sits next to us? John Romita Jr. did. And we talked baseball. It was the coolest. After about 20 minutes he had caught on that we both were very familiar with him, his work, his dad, etc. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had at a comic show. (not as cool as meeting Stan Lee outside of a con when I was 15 back in 1985, but what could match that?)

    Keep keeping the beat Heidi!

  6. I prefer the “submit questions” format made popular by the National Press Club. It removes the need for a microphone, it makes everything move much faster, and if the celebrity wishes, he/she can answer the rest on their blog.

    If so desired, cards can be signed, and the person asking the question can stand up for recognition and further questioning.

    Cards can be handed out in line, and a random drawing can be held for those who were unanswered, and cooler prizes for the best questions.

  7. It would also eliminate the usual “Why did you kill my favorite character?” question/statement. You know, the one the person is likely dressed as when they ask the question.

    Sometimes, I think it best to just leave a panel when they turn it over to the audience.

    /self-loathing fanboy

  8. Heidi,

    Thanks so much for the link to my blog! And I am heeding your advice and creating a new ‘About’ page on the site so people can find out who I am (I’ve never really felt like I needed that before).

    Again, I appreciate you directing attention to my post — just hoping to help out a few people headed to the Con this year!

    Shawna Benson (an enigma)