Photos by the author
Everyone at Comic Con mentions feeling overwhelmed, especially if it's their first time. And how can anyone reasonably prepare to not be blown away by the size and spectacle of it all? Complacency really does come with experience in situations such as these. Yet I've only been at the con for a few hours and already I find myself exhausted.
You may expect the crowds, you may expect the noise, but I've put together a short list of things that you may not expect from attending this pop-culture lovefest.
The floor of the con is huge, and crossing from one end to the other is no trivial feat. There's an ebb and flow to the way people move through the crowd, and everyone is always stopping to get a photo of a cosplayer or look at a booth. Be prepared to bob and weave.
Couple the con floor itself with the fact that you won't be driving and parking anywhere nearby. I saw one garage charging $50 a day, and I assure you that there are better ways to spend that cash. Some people pay a premium to stay at a hotel within walking distance, but even still. Walking.
You will likely be on your feet much more than you would during a normal day, which yields two pieces of advice: Bring a water bottle. And wear shoes that won't destroy your feet (and protect you when you get stepped on) and consider investing in some Gold Bond.
Final tip: certain publishers pay extra for thicker carpet at their booths. DC, in particular, is known for having some of the cushiest spots to stand on the floor. Sounds trivial, but after hours of walking, a little extra softness can be a godsend.
The rest of the overwhelmed crowd will not be aware of you in the way that you might like them to be. Walking around the con actually does benefit from some more aggressive techniques. But regardless of your prowess, you will get bumped, jostled, nudged, and downright hit. It helps to have a bag that doesn't increase your profile much, but there are a lot of folks on the floor who even without a bag will have a much larger profile.
That's not to mention those with children in strollers, dudes with roller bags full of comics to get signed, cosplayers with insanely large props, and even service animals. I literally just got hit with a bag while writing this sentence. I'm not even kidding.
The con does not end at the con
This applies both spatially and temporally. The west side of the convention center ends in water, but to the east there is much more to see and do. This year it appears that Enders Game has built a big a simulator thing, or at least that's what I'm guessing. There's all kind of others events around the convention, including an alt-con known as Trickster, which I've honestly never checked out but plan on scoping out at some point this weekend.
Hall H, which is where all the really big TV and movie panels happen, might as well be its own event. Even the line for Hall H is kept separate from the rest of the con, and people will spend hours upon hours in line just to get a glimpse of the "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" cast from wherever their seat in the giant auditorium might be. This is where people get stabbed, if you remember hearing about that.
That's just around the convention during the day. The nightlife is a huge part of what makes this convention in particular special. I think most of the people who come to the convention as fans are largely unaware of this side of the con, but for press and pros the after-con party scene is where it's at. So much so that I think it deserves its own post, so stay tuned for that.