In two months San Diego will once again get infested with superheroes, wizards, monsters, and zombies and the swarm of fans that adore them. Downtown San Diego will host Comic Con and for five glorious days I will get to do nothing but talk movies, comics, games, science fiction, monsters, and oh my sweet lord is it going to be awesome.
Each year I go down to San Diego there’s always something I forget. Extra batteries. Computer cord. A second pair of shorts. An extra bag for comics. Something.
The event itself transforms downtown San Diego into a giant comic book store, with the streets flooded with promotions for upcoming movies, TV shows, and comic books. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Heck, it’s expected.
This year I turned to my buddy John of the awesome film site Sandwich John Films for some tips and how he plans his annual pilgrimage from Sacramento to San Diego for the great and almighty cultural behemoth that is Comic Con.
ETDC: So Comic Con is few short months away. Is it too soon to start preparing for the journey down to San Diego?
SJ: I know, can you believe it. Only two short months. No, it’s never too early to plan out the following year’s Comic Con. You almost have to now with how popular it has become.
I have my flight and sleeping arrangements all set, but I just got that taken care of this week. Did you already get your hotel, flight, and rental car all situated? Do you have a preferred hotel or airline? Are they all pretty much the same?
When it comes to the hotel situation it is a complete mess having to go through Comic Con to get a place to stay. It’s like Russian roulette. This will be the second time we got lucky and will be staying in the Gas Lamp district two blocks away from the Con.
The other years we have stayed out in Hotel Circle at the Best Western Seven Seas. We normally book a year in advance at the Best Western just as a back up if we don’t win the Hotel Lotto. The earlier you book the cheaper the room is.
We always take Southwest down to the Con. As we get about 6 months til the Con we start checking on flights down. For the rental car situation, we did that one year and will not do it again. With how they have set up the shuttle situation it is pretty easy getting around now.
Yeah, good point. I’m staying pretty far away from the convention center so I need a car, but once you’re downtown it’s pretty much just walking and shuttles all day long.
How many years have you been going down for the big event? What was the first year like for Sandwich John Films? Have you got yourself a routine?
This will be our fourth year going to Comic Con. The first year we went down was in 2009. And let me tell you, it has gotten more popular and crowded.
We have a pretty good routine. We get down there on Wednesday and just check things out. Have a good meal before the madness comes. From Thursday ‘til Saturday we are pretty busy doing interviews, checking out panels and seeing what’s going on around the Con. And, oh yeah, having drinks with friends.
What items can you not do without during your visit to Comic Con? What’s in Sandwich John’s Comic Con survival pack?
First would have to be your phone, computer, and water. In my survival pack we have my phone, an iPhone charger case, some snacks, cash, camera, video camera, water and plastic bottle filled with ‘Water’ (if you know me then you know what’s inside the bottle) and the list on interview times and questions.
Oh, yeah. John’s famous ‘water’ bottle. I’ve had a sip from that unknowingly and wished I had some tonic and a lime to go along with it.
What are the big movies and TV shows you’re looking forward to? Any panels, interviews, or appearances got you excited?
I am really looking forward to the Marvel panel. Really anything that happens in Hall H will be epic. As for interviews it is too soon to tell, requests have not been sent out yet.
You don’t have your interviews lined up? I guess that makes sense, a lot of the panels haven’t even been announced yet. With all of the panels and interviews you end up doing, how do you schedule your time down there? What’s your priority?
This will be my second year I will be bringing a staff down with me, and trust me that makes it so much easier. I will be going down with two extra reporters this year. My priority is to have fun and not stress out. And hang with friends and family.
Sometimes it gets hard with interviews because you might have some at the same time or back to back in different areas. So having more staff down there to cover makes it so much easier on all of us.
A few years ago when Tron: Legacy came out, Disney turned an empty storefront into Flynn’s Arcade and the only way to get in was with a ticket that you’d get from a random person on the street. It was amazing, but I’m sure tons of people had no idea it was even there.
Any tips for finding out about these sort of special events?
First, I would have to say is make friends. I met a guy down there a few years ago and he had all the information on all the parties around town. That year was nuts, never been to so many parties. And we keep in touch so I am sure we will hook up again this year.
Next you have to know some PR people. They are the gatekeepers to some of the parties happening downtown.
Twitter is always a great place to find out what is going on around town. #sddc #comiccon are some good hashtags to check up on while you are down there. A great website to follow is crazyforcomiccon. They give out some great information.
One of my all-time Comic Con highlights is seeing Levar Burton eating chicken wings at a bar a few years ago. Or watching Adrienne Curry run around downtown in an Imperial Guard costume doing shots at the bars. What sort of everlasting moments have you had down there?
Having drinks with my good buddy Michael Papa John, we were at a party for Final Destination 5, gotta love free booze and food. At that party I also talked to Noah Hathaway (Atreyo) from The Neverending Story.
There was getting to meet Chris Evans at the Captain America screening. Doing interviews with the cast from Chuck, Vampire Diaries, Falling Skies and many more.
Do you have any personal rules for when you see celebrities strolling through town? Do you approach for a photo, or stay away? Any tips for the inevitable celebrity sighting?
I try not to bother them. They are just like us, trying to have a good time or just relax. You can tell who doesn’t mind to be bothered. But they gotta know if they walk around people are going to ask for pictures and autographs, part of their job. I have asked a few actors for pictures and most of them have been pretty good about it.
If you want to see celebrities try hanging out at the Hard Rock Hotel or the Omni. That’s where most of them stay. And most of the good parties are at the Hard Rock.
My first few times at Comic Con I aimlessly wandered around the convention center and nearby bars, not really knowing what to do. It was overwhelming. I think I’m getting it down now, years later. What sort of tips do you have for first time attendees?
Have a good pair of walking shoes, plenty of water and some kind of game plan before you head out there. Look up the schedule and plan what you want to see the most and work your way down. You are not going to get into everything. If you plan on going to Hall H you are more then likely going to stay there all day.
Network with people, you never know who you are going to meet and what kind of connections they have.
The convention is epic at five days long, with the first day being a preview day for special passes. Have you attended a preview day at Comic Con before?
Yes, Preview Night is the best night to try to get your hands on those exclusive toys. And it’s a night together with your friends, have a few drinks before the Con kicks in and things go crazy.
I’ve gone for three out of the five days and by Sunday I’m burnt. How do you keep your energy up for the full ride? By Sunday is there anything left that you haven’t seen or done?
We are all burnt by Sunday. That is pretty much the sleep in day and get to the Con when you’re up. Sunday is also a good day to walk around outside the Con and see what kind of things you might have missed. It’s a good day to buy stuff from the vendors, they don’t want to take home all of their stuff so they are more willing to wheel and deal that day.
Now for the most important question – what’s your pick for best place to get a beer during Comic Con?
Every year me and Randy from TheArnoldfans head over to the pool top bar and have us a few cocktails before we head over for preview night. This has become a tradition for us every year.
Don’t really have a favorite place, I guess it would have to be the place that I can get a beer at the fastest.
Badges are all sold out, but do not worry — I’ve gone down to Comic Con without a badge and still had an awesome time.