Photo by BigStock

by AK Benjamin

[AK Benjamin is the husband of previous Beat contributor Meridith Jensen-Benjamin. Here’s his view of the con, with some great advice.]

Ten: Traffic Control is important.
One of the problems of keeping 120,000 people fed, organized, and moving is getting them from place to place. It was very apparent when the traffic control in front of the convention center was not working correctly, especially at mealtimes. At one point over a thousand Convention attendees were stuck in the street between the mass of people in front of the con, and a train stuck on the tracks because of too many pedestrians crowding the crossing. I also saw many instances of San Diego traffic control doing a good job keeping the flow of Con-goers safe and moving. However, they were overwhelmed by the huge amount of people in too small a space.

Nine: Con soda is MAGICAL!
Amazingly, when a 20 ounce bottle of Coca Cola enters the con, it goes from the 1.25 you could get it at your home vending machines, to 4.00! It is amazing how much more food on the convention floor costs than at normal. 10 dollars for a hamburger was not uncommon. I am still waiting for my magic soda powers to come to the fore! However, I am sure they will be thrilling.

Eight: Vendors are feeling the pain too.
Did you find the prices on the vendor floor to be higher this year? That is because they were. Comic Con has raised their prices for exhibitors to have a booth on the floor. One of the employees for Sick Puppy T-Shirts said they have to clear 4000 dollars at this con to cover costs, and make a profit. Other vendors were echoing this as well. Between hotel costs, inventory costs, and a flaccid marketplace, the con vendors are having a hard time making ends meet. The costs are now being passes on to the consumer.

Seven: Food is astounding outside the con.
From Ray’s Barbecue just steps away from the convention center to Fillipi’s Pizza Grotto in Little Italy, San Diego equals lip smacking goodness for con goers. We personally ate at five great Italian restaurants while there. The Gaslamp district has everything from Subway, to the upscale Burger Lounge. It will cost you. But it is worth it.

Six: DON’T PARK!!!
The sheer size of the event makes using your car hazardous. There were not enough parking spaces downtown to even accommodate half of the cars people brought. It was much more economical to stay at a hotel with a shuttle to the convention center, or stay in Hotel Circle, and ride the light rail. Walking worked okay for us as well, but only over short distances in the humidity.

5. Pace yourself.
We weren’t able to see everything we wanted. SOMETHING will have to go by the wayside. A hardcore, 15 hour day will be less enjoyable than a day where you map everything out. For us, the Mythbusters panel was important enough to sit through the Person of Interest panel, and the revolution panel. We were rewarded by seeing the whole Mythbusters cast, and a sneak peek of the upcoming season. We had to miss some other things, but it was worth it.

Four: Hygiene is important.
Here’s the deal, 100, 000 people in a confined space begin to smell. The humidity in San Diego speeds up this process. I literally went through two outfits a day, due to not wanting to become a Smellasaurus Rex. Others at the con this year did not have the same thought. Folks, remember pleather doesn’t breathe! The bathrooms were the worst. Besides the lines, the men’s rooms smelled like a gorillas armpits after a sauna. There is not enough deodorant in your bag hipster boy, to destink this bathroom after you haven’t showered in four days! Axe body spray is not a disinfectant.

Three: Don’t buy useless crap.
You are in sensory overload. You have money to spend. There are literally hundreds of thousands of shiny products for sale. This is not good. Before you buy, do you really need a 250 bust of Superman’s head? How about a 400 dollar replica samurai sword that will gather dust on your wall? How about a kilt! You can order those custom made in leather. Don’t be seduced by the shiny toys. I spent some money this year. I got a new Superman wallet, some cool geek posters, a couple of Dork Tower T-shirts and assorted stickers and programs. I wasn’t always this goo though. Ask the wife about the time 8 years ago when I paid 130 dollars for a Playmates USS Voyager, mint in box. I am still karmically paying that one off. This is a hard fought lesson.

Two: Have Fun!
Sometimes it is hard at Comic-Con to see the forest for the trees. It is possible to be too rigid, too attached to your plan, and too rational. Comic-Con is not rational. Enjoy it. 100,000 of your fellow geeks are there in a concentrated living organism for four days. This year I got to see Tim Burton preview Frankenweenie, Watch the first ten minutes of Wreck It Ralph in Hall H, watch Jill Thompson sign for my daughter, look at dozens of artists honing their craft, met John Landis in the hallway, and had a really god time. You have to let go a little and become part of the zeitgeist. It is an infuriating, exhausting, overwhelming, and thoroughly one of a kind experience. Whether at the big dance in San Diego, or a regional con in your hometown, there is nothing else like it.

One: Be glad when it is over.
You are sad. It is six o’clock on Sunday and the con is over. This can be bittersweet. You made friends, saw celebrities, bought too much stuff, ate too much, partied too much, and generally overextended yourself in every way possible. But take solace in the fact that, as you drive away from San Diego, that you take those memories with you to energize you for the geek year. Remember Comic-Con lives in your heart as much as it does in the real world. Comic Con is nothing without you.


  1. Speaking of the Con raising prices. On the official CC website, it states:

    “Comic-Con International is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”

    A nonprofit? Awareness and Appreciation? Really? Attendance is up .. waaaay up .. and so are all the fees associated with the Con. Staffers are mostly volunteers .. so where does all the money go? Outside of the 3 cons, where do they spread their “awareness and appreciation”, etc?

    Just Curious.

  2. Attendance is not WAY up. The number was capped at 120,000 even though some media outlets keep pushing that number up to 125K and 130K. Even if those numbers are true, that is small growth compared to previous years. The Fire Marshall won’t let them pack more into the center even as the con has spilled out into the rest of downtown (something the Comic-Con organization doesn’t see in regards to direct revenue).

    But costs do keep going way up. Elite security. Traffic officers. Overtime. Police officers. Hotel rooms for their staff. Small stuff adding up extra chairs or using ladders from the various unions. And, of course, renting the convention center its self. This use to be paid for with the ever growing number of attendees but, with the number capped, the costs are made up with raised prices on booths and badges.

    I wish I had the link handy and maybe The Beat can dig it up but I saw a public posting of their tax form online once a few years ago. Like many, I use to think “Where was all that money going for a non-profit?” but it really does cost a lot to run a con this size. And it looked like the policy was to always have one year of the con socked away in the bank. And after the receipts were stolen way back in 1979 and it almost did in the con, I can see where that is a good policy.

  3. Zach, It is my wife’s joke (she is another writer on this site) about how if the soda is that much more expensive at the con, it must include something special. You know, like “magical soda powers”. Now anytime we are at an event and the soda is insanely priced we refer to it as “Magic Soda”. I was using it as a metaphor for how much more expensive food, you know needed for human life, is at the con. Thanks for reading! AK :}

  4. I’m kinda surprised that the local bottler doesn’t create a special commemorative Comic-Con bottle or can.

    Or that the convention center doesn’t sell advertising space on cups, like a movie theater does.