Comic-Con… It’s become an important event for fans who are into movies, television, comics, and gaming. It is the present mecca of pop-culture. The San Diego convention grew out of the love of comic books to what it has become today and many similar events have popped up all over the place and model themselves after it. The Montreal Comic-Con was my first experience at one of these, and after attending the one in 2012, I resolved to go again this year and be a bit better prepared. One question that people have asked me is what do you do at something like this and how do you justify going the whole weekend?
What the uninitiated don’t know is how much there is to see and do at a well run and decent sized comic-con and how much of it one could easily miss. Tickets for an event like this go on sale months in advance though you won’t have any idea of a schedule till days before the convention is set to start. The only thing you will know for sure are celebrities that have agreed to attend. This lineup can, and usually will, change any time up to and even during the convention. However, celebrities mean autographs and photo-ops and these tend to be tightly organized, structured, and even costly. The stars remain a big draw to these conventions as are Q&A sessions they participate in. There are a variety of panels and topics covering everything from Fantasy, to Horror, to Sci-Fi and you can find workshops, games and gaming tournaments, movie screenings, and various demos. The Montreal Comic-Con had all of these things in abundance.
Despite tickets being on sale for months in advance, I waited till a preliminary schedule was released to the public – this happened about a week before the event. With a line-up mostly confirmed, changes can still happen due to emergencies or scheduling conflicts as it did in the case of Keven Smith at his year’s event. He was forced to cancel his appearance earlier in the day he was scheduled to arrive. This is one of the reasons why the schedule is held back as much as possible till what it seems to be the last possible moment.
When I got my hands on the schedule, I sat down and began to plan my weekend. When I bought the tickets, I also paid for a photo-op I decided I couldn’t pass up. It’s not everyday you can get a picture taken with George Takei after all. This was slotted to happen on Friday evening but the doors were open to the public as of 3pm on Friday afternoon. My first day at comic con started by taking a tour of the very large vending area that was set up for the convention. There were over 250 booths set up for various vendors and artists showcasing their wares. There is something for everyone – T-Shirts, Bobbleheads, games, movies, plush toys and actions figures, and so on. Obviously there were MANY comic books all over the place. It’s easy to try and set a budget before stepping onto the floor. It’s considerably challenging to stick to one once you start browsing. In the first 30 minutes, about $150 was dropped on a few things. I also quickly found out that one of the workshops I had intended to go to had been cancelled which gave me a bit a of time to relax and shop around some more.
The Montreal Comic-Con also showcased many movies – mostly part of the Horrorfest Screenings series. I saw a few that weekend and the first I sat in on was a movie titled, “Speak No Evil”. It was good for what it was. With the movie done, I decided to venture away from the convention centre to get a quick bite to eat. There were places to eat within getting away from the larger crowds was nice and it also needed to be quick to get back in time for my photo op. The photo-op itself wasn’t too long and the worst of it was the lineup of course. Mercifully, I was able to get my picture done in time to go to the first panel that interested me with the Battlestar cast. It was great and laid back. When that was done, I visited the games room which was set up with a variety of board games and killed a bit of time there before calling it a day.
Saturday is always the biggest day and draws the biggest crowds. Walking through the venders hall is an exercise in patience but, it can be also rewarding. You see, Comic-Con is very much Halloween for adults and you’ll see a lot of people in costume – Cosplay it’s called. It’s a great chance to get some pictures as well having pictures taken of you and others in costume. I decided to throw something on for the occasion though nothing overly fancy. A cowboy hat, shirt, vest, and long-coat transformed me to a gentleman from the late 1800’s. It also provided a great picture opportunity with a certain DeLorean-turned-Time Machine. Comic-Con doesn’t only bring in stars but also vehicles such as Ecto-1 or the Bat Mobile. The DeLorean (Back to the Future) was on display this particular con and money was being raised for Parkinson’s research.
For me, Saturday proved to be a great day to meet up with some other friends in between some of the panels and events. I saw a couple of other panels that day, saw the masquerade (cosplay contest), assisted the screening of the new “Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie”, and a screening of “Below Zero” which ended shortly after midnight. I also had an entertaining chat with Chris Claremont who signed my Dark Phoenix Saga graphic novel.
Sunday was the shortest of the days and much more sedate. I went to a few panels that day – Gillian Anderson’s, Manu Bennett’s, and George Takei’s and still found some time to visit the Vendor’s area. Sunday was the first day I got a real chance to visit the Bioware booth and, with crowds being much smaller compared to Saturday and even Friday, I was able to see much that I missed the first time around. I had a chance to do some last minute shopping takes a few more pictures and basically just enjoy myself. I was among the last of the attendees to leave that day catching the final movie being screened, “Chastity Bites”.
Like 2012, this year was a very eventful Comic-Con but, with both, there are lessons to be learned to maximize your enjoyment.
- Waiting till the last minute for tickets could result in disappointment or spending more money that you would like to get what you want. For the 2013 Comic-Con, the regular weekend pass sold out several days before the event. I was lucky but people I know were not. Some had to opt for a ‘premium ticket package’ which may not be worth it depending on what you are looking to get out of your experience.
- Schedules change a lot. As soon as you get one, while it may take quite a bit of time, read up on everything that will be happening and prioritize what you want to do versus what might be nice to do. Otherwise you could miss out on a few things. Besides, this is a good way to ‘maximize’ what you hope to get out and do at the convention.
- Know the area… both the convention area and the surrounding area. Knowing the layout of the convention area will help to get from one panel or event to another – especially if you have to traverse though hordes of people. Knowing what is just outside the convention area may lead to less expensive and quicker places to grab a bit in between events. It could also prove beneficial to your sanity for a bit of ‘downtime’.
- Budget your money. It’s easy to lose track of what you are spending and it’s easy to loose track of your expenditures if you are not careful. Remember that, while there is a lot of cools stuff to see and buy, are these things easily obtainable elsewhere and is there a savings by buying at the con? For the past couple of years, I’ve been wanting an FX Lightsaber but, I haven’t been able to justify the blow to my budget.
Keeping those points in mind will hopefully make going to these things go a bit more smoothly because the whole point of is to have some fun isn’t it?