Attending Your First Comic Con

For me, the convention season is just about to start.  As comic conventions get more popular, more and more people are attending each year that have never been to a comic convention before.  I’ll be heading to Salt Lake Comic Con’s FanXperience later this month, and have plans to attend Denver Comic Con and SLCC’s main convention in September, later this year.

Here’s what to expect:

There will probably be some lines.  Get there early if you can, or arrive later and stay into the evening.

I’ve been to a couple smaller cons where there was nearly no wait time, but when you’re attending a convention that has over 100,000 attendees, there’s gonna be some down time.  If you want to avoid these lines, order your tickets early (Most conventions will send out your badges in advance, if you order early enough.) or register early if you can.  If you don’t, you may have to wait in line to register and then wait in line to get it.  Save yourself the headache and have your badge ready.

SLCC’s events also have a wrist band that you register, which made things really easy last year.  Once the doors opened, I was in almost instantly.

Look at the kinds of passes they offer

Most conventions offer daily passes, an multi-days pass, and a VIP pass.  SLCC does their passes a little differently, where they have daily passes, a multipass that gets you in all 3 days, a “gold” pass which gets you in all 3 days and provides some added perks, and the VIP passes.

Personally, I get a gold pass. I don’t usually see a lot of celebrities, so a VIP pass wouldn’t be utilized by me.  If you want  lots of autographs and pictures with celebs, a VIP pass is worth it, because you’ll be in the VIP line, which tends to have a shorter wait time.

It’s best to look for a pass that fits what you want to do best, and make the decision based on that.

The different areas of comic cons

Artist Alley – An area where independent artists, writers, crafters and small publishing companies generally have booths.  Most of these creators paid for their booths out of pocket, so consider supporting them if you can.  You’ll find some really stunning art, new reading materials and other fun stuff here.

Vendors – This is usually next to where Artist Alley is, but instead of independent artists, it’s more likely you will find companies/stores.  You’ll find just about everything from T-shirts to costume supplies in this area.  And of course, comics.  Lots of comic stores.

Special Displays – These tend to be super fun places to get pictures.  Things like Star Wars sets, famous cars from different movies, the Iron Throne and other awesome displays have been at some of the comic conventions I’ve attended.  Salt Lake Comic Con also tends to have the costuming groups near these displays, so you can get a picture with a Jedi, a Mandolorian Merc (Like Boba Fett) or with a superhero.  Many of these groups do charity work, so keep that in mind when you visit them.

Celebrities – Each celebrity has a booth where they do signings.  Prices vary, so be sure to check your convention site to find out how much an autograph will be.  Some conventions allow you to pay in cash at the convention, while others do online only autographs.

Photo Ops – The Photo Op area tends to be the most mysterious part of a comic convention, since it’s all curtained off.  There is an area for people to line up who have purchased photo ops, and usually a customer service table where you can buy a photo op or buy additional prints  There’s usually an area where the celebrity is, and you are shuffled into that part of the booth, a shot is snapped, and then you’re done.  It’s a very quick process, so keep that in mind.

Panels – There are usually lots of panels to go to about a range of subjects.  Be sure to check out the convention’s programming guide, so that you can find out which ones you want to go to.

What about those folks in costume?  I just saw Batman and I’d love a picture!

Most of the people you see in costume at a convention are fans just like you. They are called “Cosplayers” and most of them would LOVE to have their photograph taken.  Here’s a few things to remember about approaching cosplayers:

  1. Ask before taking a photo.  I’ve had it happen a few times, a shy person likes my costume but doesn’t ask me to take a picture.  They hold up their phone and snap a shot as I walk by, which probably results in a picture that doesn’t look great.  I usually stop and ask if they want a picture, or if they’d like to take a picture with me. One of my FAVORITE parts of wearing a costume is posing with other fans.  Unless I’m in a super hurry, I will stop and pose for/with you, as long as you ask politely.  Cosplayers want the photos you take to look awesome!  Don’t be afraid to ask for a picture.  
  2. Ask before touching their costume, or hugging them.  My husband wears a Captain America costume and he’s had more than one fan want to hug him in it.  He’s fine with a hug and the hug isn’t going to damage his costume, so it isn’t usually a problem.  If he were wearing foam armor, or something more elaborate than fabric, it might be a bit more of an issue.  It’s a total bummer for a cosplayer when something breaks, so be polite and careful, and respect the work the cosplayer has put into building their costume.  Again, just ask, most cosplayers want to share how they made something and will either let you touch it, or tell you how they made it.
  3. If they are eating, resting, or look like they are taking a break, considering waiting to ask them for a picture.  I’ve been approached before and usually I’ll still get up/ stop eating to pose for a picture, but it’s also nice when people are respectful of break time.  Conventions are usually filled with a lot of walking and not all costumes are comfortable.
  4. Cosplayers dress up because they love the character.  They usually aren’t paid. Except for a few professional cosplayers, most people dressed up at a convention did not get paid to be there.  They likely bought a pass just like you did.  So keep that in mind when you interact with them.

And that gives you the basics!  If you have a question, feel free to leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it.

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Author: AubreyL

Aubrey Lyn Jeppson is a Freelance Writer. Who really wants to live in reality all the time? Writing affords her a much needed escape from the mundane into the fantastical. She's always looking for other writers and artists to collaborate with. Email her at aubrey.l.jeppson@gmail.com.

7 thoughts on “Attending Your First Comic Con”

  1. Great tips! Especially about asking to take pictures! That’s my daughter’s favorite part! Spending hours on the cosplay and it all comes together and people want a picture of it. Also valid point on hugs. Some people don’t realize how much time is involved in the costume and that one over zealous person can ruin it in less than a second. Loved this!

    1. As a cosplayer, the kids are my favorite part too! We’ve had a lot of star struck little kiddos stare up at my husband with admiration. It’s so fun to see them get so excited to meet Captain America. He even carries a small frisbee size shield for them to hold when we take pictures. It’s a blast. 😀

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