20 tips for attending comic book conventions

Comic book conventions can be overwhelming for all involved, but to have a good time, plan ahead and prepare. So far we've done two cons in three weeks time and are headed down to Charlotte for Heroes Con on Wednesday (table AA-54). Just wanted to share some tips to make life a little easier not just for you but for the people you go too see. BTW, most of this is common sense and you've probably heard many of the tips before as purported by many in the comic book industry but I have a few novel ideas too.

1) Hydrate before you go.

Drinks at concessions stands can be rather pricey and cotton mouth can be an impediment to talking to the creators. This I know from experience. Trying to convey your sentiments to someone you admire can be hard enough without catching your words on a dry tongue. Plus, the cons can get hot and lead to sweating, which brings us to the next tip.

2) Wear the proper clothing.

It might be a little chilly while you stand in  the morning line eagerly awaiting entry, but unless you are prepared to lug around extra clothes, it is sometime better to just shiver a little because around 1:00pm cons can start to get really warm with the body heat. Not all conventions have great AC and ventilation but if you know the venue has good working atmospheric controls then do what you wish. Also, not many cons have places you can stow articles of clothing or items securely so bring only what you need, which brings us to the next tip.

3) Not every creator has bags for you.

It is best to bring a large bag with loose handles so you can carry around your comic book haul with ease. I recommend bags with a tight weave or a smooth interior so you don't accidentally scuff anything while it shuffles about during the walk around, which brings us to the next tip.

4) Walking.

You'll do a lot of it. Wear shoes with comfortable soles and fit well. Blisters and aching feet can bring the whole experience to a stop as well as reduce your enjoyment.

5) Courtesy

We're all there to enjoy the show even from the other side so courtesy is important.

  1. Knock into someone, say "Excuse me."
  2. Give people with strollers the right of way
  3. Don't block creator's tables for long periods of time.

It's fine to talk or take picture in front of artist alley tables but the guys behind are trying to work and make a living. When people just stand in front of tables, the flow of the crowd will naturally divert around it; thus, diverting attendees from creators who they might want to investigate. For example, two cosplayer with acoustic guitars ran into each other in front of our table at a recent con. They stood about two feet away from our set up. Two guitars, lacking proper tuning, began an ill-conceived attempt at a jam session. They were young and having fun but they weren't very skilled instrumentalist. So, all who walked by were blocked from seeing our comic books and they focused on the two young men trying to coordinate a cohesive phrasing with inexperienced fingers. The traffic diverted for two minute or so. This doesn't sound like a lot of time but not everyone does multiple rounds in artist alley, and when they go through one section that's it. Sales are important but turning people onto new comics and artwork is why we're there. By blocking or having little congress in front of creator's tables, you're effectively denying others the chance to discover a new world of of story and art.

6) Don't be a creeper

Don't be the guys who stalk the con trying to get secret pictures of women cosplayers' anatomy when they're not looking. If you go behind a woman and take a picture of her posterior with out her knowledge, you are going to get yelled at by the people behind the tables, including us at Wayward Raven.  Just don't do it. Getting yelled could be the least of your worries.

7) Ask for permission

Always ask permission to get a photo with cosplayers. If they say no, walk away. They are in no way obligated to pose with you and take a picture. No means no in all contexts.

8) Don't be a dick.

All because someone doesn't share the same passion or knowledge base as you doesn't mean they lack authenticity and should not go to conventions. Everyone starts with absence and moves through experience and knowledge. Everyone.

9) Grub

When in doubt, ask a local about where the best cheap food is because con chow can break the bank.

10) Watch out!

Cosplayers with wings will accidentally hit you with them if you walk to close. Little turns of the shoulders equate into large motions of the false appendages. Not their fault, nobody is born with wings... yet.

11) Don't be stinky.

Bath. Deodorize. Brush your teeth. Don't load up food heavy with garlic. Repeat.

12) Have change.

Don't go up to indie creators in artist alley on the first day, first thing in the morning, and ask them to break a $100.

13) Be Prepared.

Buy bags/sleeves and boards in bulk. Bring them to the convention. They cost more there. Keeping comics safe is important to us all but not every creator has them.

14) Get a con layout map.

Study it. Most creators behind the tables can't give you directions. We know our table number, our relative position to the entrance/exit, who is basically around us, and where the bathrooms are. We don't get to walk around. We're not event staff. Plus, knowing the layout allows you to speedily get to the creators you love.

15) Take breaks.

There's  lots to take in but you can't see it if you're being spirited away on a stretcher because you passed out from dehydration, exhaustion or low blood sugar. I've seen people pass out at cons and the floors are not forgiving.

16) Don't be drunk.

Drinking is is fine but crashing into people and creators tables can result in everything from nasty words to having to pay for the things that were broken or damaged. Alternate between alcoholic beverages and water. Eat something too. Empty stomachs will get you drunk fast. Speaking of drinking...

17) Don't Pitch.

If you see an editor, creator or writer out at dinner or a bar after the con, and you want to talk about business matters such as portfolio reviews or submissions, don't. Don't pitch. Don't ask business questions. Don't hand them your portfolio. Instead, buy them a drink. Introduce yourself. Ask if you can talk to the them next day at the convention. Most will say thanks for the drink and of course come on by. Then leave unless they engage you in conversation. Business in times of business and relaxing in times of relaxing.

18) Don't be a Stalker

This is by no means a universal truth, but the high profile guest aren't at their tables as much as the other folks. They are paid to be there so some get in a little later, take a lunch hour, and they do panels. So if you have a specific artists or writer in mind who you must see, incorporate this into your con strategy. Use the early morning and lunchtime to investigate the indie dudes.

19) Protect Your Stuff!

If in dire need for a stiff folder/large envelop to stash your precious art or comics and you can't afford or find one at the con, go to a Post Office or UPS and snag one of the free cardboard large shipping envelopes they offer in the front. The are usually Post Offices around the convention centers.

20) Most Importantly...

Go see the Wayward Raven crew.

PS: if you stay in a hotel, bring your own toilet paper. Unless you like the one-ply.

Ars longa, vitae brevis. Cheers!