After last year’s tremendous success in presenting female geek content, what will 2011 bring?









For those of you late to this party, Comic-Con is an enormous convention that is theoretically devoted to American comics, but that over the past ten-ish years has become North America’s de facto Big Genre Convention.  Geek idol Joss Whedon is a confirmed devotee.  Cool stuff gets announced there.  Cool stuff gets premiered there.  And you can be around to watch!  It is more fun than several barrels of monkeys.


Now then. All this may be academic to those of you who haven’t already bought tickets, because the entire con is now sold out. But, for those of you who’ve taken the plunge and are all abrim with nervous excitement… read on!

First things first: with apologies to Douglas Adams, it is big.  Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way from one end of World Con to the other, but that’s just peanuts to Comic-Con. It is a solid quarter mile from one end of the dealer’s room to the opposite end. Something like 125,000 people can attend, and demand for tickets far outstrips even that gigantic supply.


Generic convention survival tips

  • Water. Bring a water bottle.  Drink before you’re thirsty.  Remember our motto: pee clear.
  • Food. It is ancient con tradition that con food be both expensive and awful.  Comic-Con is a proud adherent to tradition.  My usual food strategy for cons is constant grazing:  I tuck into a good breakfast at the hotel, munch on trail mix throughout the day, and have a regular dinner.  The idea with the snacking is to eat before you notice you’re hungry: at the beginning or end of a panel, cram down a handful or two of trail mix and a nice big swig of water.  Keep this up, and you’ll spend the day in a happy state of non-hunger, and the siren song of the $8 hot dog will become much less enticing.
  • Shoes.  You live and die by your shoes at cons, especially at the cosmically huge Comic-Con.  Now is not the time for new shoes.  Nor is it the time for stiletto heels, no matter how sexy they make you look.  Save them for parties or the masquerade.  Your comfy, beat-up sneakers that fit you like a second skin: those are the ones to wear.  Also, once you’ve put them on in the morning, don’t take them off until you get back to the hotel at night: your feet will swell and you won’t be able to put them back on again.
  • Other body care. A day’s supply of your prescription meds.  A couple tablets of your favorite painkiller.  A wet-wipe-in-a-pouch.  A band-aid. A safety pin.  A tampon. A couple of cough drops or hard candies, either for your own use or to press on the person hacking up a lung in the row behind you. One of those little packets of Kleenex.
  • Costumes.  There seems to be this notion in peoples’ minds that the Costume Police, with their immaculately polished jackboots, are posted by the con entrance to evict anyone whose costume falls short of an unspecified but extremely strict standard. “And what are you supposed to be?” people envision the Costume Police sneering.  Or, “That is the worst Supergirl costume I’ve ever seen. To the end of the line with you, and may God have mercy on your soul.”  People: no.  Costumes are for fun.  Cosplay is for fun.  Don’t worry about your costume not being “good enough” or about people making snide comments about it.  If anyone gives you any kind of grief about your costume, you have my permission to stare in slack-jawed amazement at them, and then laugh a loud, long, contemptuous laugh right in their face.  And then invite all the other cosplayers to join in with the pointing and laughing at this person and their gall–which they will probably do, because cosplayers are a supportive bunch and consider bashing other people’s costumes unacceptable behavior.
  • Do NOT plan on seeing the whole thing.  Let go of this idea RIGHT NOW.  If you were capable of duplicating yourself, like Multiple Santa in The Tick, you still could not see all of Comic-Con.  It is not necessary to schedule an activity for each block of time in the interests of “getting your money’s worth” or some such; in fact, it’s a bad idea.  If you’ve identified three-four panels a day that you want to make, you’ve already got yourself a busy day.
  • Bring your own Sharpies.  What sucks more than running into (say) Alison Bechdel and asking for an autograph, only to find that neither of you has a writing implement?  Nothing, that’s what.  I suggest a silver Sharpie, for its magical ability to show up on both light and dark backgrounds.
  • Bathe. Truth be told, there are not remotely as many gross con-goers as lazy media stereotypes would have you believe. But there’s always a few who seem to think that their own personal body has no odor, and one or two who practically emit cartoon-style wavy smell rays.  I suppose it bears repeating, though, so: Daily bathing of your person is required.  Complete change of clothing into clean clothing at least once every 24 hours is required.  If someone tells you you smell, believe them.
  • Check out the art show.  It costs nothing to look, is very rarely crowded, and you’d be surprised how affordable some of it is.  Especially considering how much of it is awesomesauce.
  • Use Twitter. Twitter, IMHO, is so useful at cons that it’s worth signing up even if you only use it for cons.  Keep an eye on the relevant twitterstream to find out what’s going on. Or follow some of your favorite celebs–some (Neil Gaiman,@neilhimself, springs to mind) are very good about tweeting their forthcoming appearances and/or retweeting cool things they hear about.
  • Venture off the beaten path. Everyone loves Q&A sessions with the stars. Trouble is, everyone loves Q&A sessions with the stars.  Consider leaving Ballroom 20 to them, and go explore the discussion panels.  I’ve attended panels where the discussion was so fascinating that it ran over and had to adjourn to the bar for continuation. And I’ve attended celebrity Q&A sessions where the most interesting revelation was that someone’s favorite color is blue. Guess which were more memorable?


Comic-Con specific tips

  • Plan ahead.  They post the programming schedule a couple of weeks before the con opens. Decide ahead of time whose autographs you MUST have, which panels you MUST attend, etc., etc.  They employ a ticket system for the most popular guests: you show up in the Sails Pavilion at a given time to get a ticket, and only ticketed people are allowed into the autograph queue.
  • Allow time for transportation.  The sheer size of the con, coupled with the insanely high attendance rate, rules out walking at speeds above “meander”; average speed on the dealer floor is closer to “viscous ooze”.  If you need to get from one side of the floor to the other, it’s often quicker to leave it and use the hallway.
  • Don’t automatically rule out things just because there’s a long line.  Give it a shot, especially if it’s in one of the big halls–they’re bigger than you may think; and, even if a panel’s at capacity, the Door Guardians will let new people in if enough people leave the panel.
  • Make peace with disappointment.  What with all the waiting around and not being everywhere at once, you will miss cool stuff.  Also, sometimes you won’t make it into a panel that you were dying to get into, even after waiting three hours in line.  Try to take this in stride.  Life at Comic-Con is like that sometimes.  One year I was within the first five people after the cutoff for the Russell T. Davies autograph session, and I felt like throwing things.  Take a deep breath.  Put it in perspective.
  • Scout out the dealer’s room (a.k.a. “the floor”) early in the weekend. Companies often host their own special events, right there at their booth, and some even bring in their own guests. (Joss Whedon has been known to sign at the Dark Horse booth, for instance.)
  • Consider parking the kids somewhere.  I don’t have kids, so perhaps I’m biased, but it’s hard to visualize Comic-Con as the sort of thing small or medium-sized kids would like.  It’s big and crowded and noisy and full of grownups, and you spend a lot of time waiting in line.  For those of you who insist on bringing the next generation along that they may be trained up wisely in the ways of geekdom, though, there’s child care on-site.  They’re open only when the con is (i.e. not when you show up at 6 AM to get a spot in the line for the Panel That Everyone Wants To Attend, and not when you decide to stay ’til 10 PM to attend the Buffy singalong.) and they take kids through age 12.
  • Come early.  No, earlier than that.  No, even earlier. There’s a line for Registration, lines for autographs, and lines for the panels.  Your best bet is to befriend someone like my friend Pete, who has the uncanny–nay, supernatural–ability to be at the head of any given line.  (It’s his personal superpower.  I have another friend who can always find a parking spot. Alas, neither of them is coming.)  Failing that, plan on showing up an hour or two before the con opens if there’s a line you really really want to join.  For panels you expect to be popular, figure three hours in line.
  • Roller bags aren’t allowed.  Yeah, I know–I wanted to bring one, too.  They’re banned from the dealer’s room floor; and for good reason, as I realized after a moment’s sober reflection: imagine if everyone brought one.  You’d be tripping over them all the time, and THAT doesn’t sound fun, does it?  Bring a backpack instead.
  • Donate blood, if at all possible.  Not only will you do your Good Deed For The Day, the freebies are insane  I’m a long-time blood donor–over three gallons–and usually the most you can hope for is free cookies.  One time I donated at Comic-Con, I got a stack o’ comics, a T-shirt, AND a super-rare, limited-edition Buffy the Vampire Slayer figure, plus they enter you in a raffle for MORE treats.  If you’ve been rejected for low iron, or if you’re surfing the Crimson Tide, take a supplement for a couple of weeks beforehand.  There’s a sign-up sheet in the Sails Pavilion and–new for 2011! You can sign up online. I allow an hour for the whole donation process, from walking in to walking out.  Repeat blood donors: San Diego Blood Bank is a separate outfit from the Red Cross, so you’ll have to sign up all over again. Sorry.  New for 2011! You can now sign up online for a blood donation appointment.
  • Bring a book.  Comic-Con is tremendous fun, but the fun tends to arrive as punctuation to long stretches of tedium.  Rooms are not cleared between panels, which means that the best way of getting a seat in a panel you’re dying to attend is often to attend the panel before it.  Or the two panels before it.  (Answer to obvious question: Once you have a seat, you can get a bathroom pass from the Door Guardians.)  For the really popular panels, expect a stupidly long line starting ridiculously early.  So: book.  But don’t bother bringing an iPod.  It’s too damn loud.
  • Shop wisely.  Remember that you’re carrying all your cool finds around on your back, and that lockers are scarce and expensive. New for 2011! At Comic Con 2010, I spotted a bag check by Hall F. They were charging $2/bag.
  • Bargain hunters, try waiting until Sunday afternoon–vendors want to move stuff, and may be inclined to cut you a “we don’t want to ship it home” deal.

  • Christmas shop wisely.  I’m a big believer in doing my Christmas shopping throughout the year, and cons are prime shopping grounds for your geeky friends and family.  Is there someone in your life who’d squee over a personally dedicated copy of the latest Girl Genius trade paperback?  Of course there is.
  • Bring cash. Lots of the smaller publishers will only take cash.  Women wearing busty costumes without room for pockets sometimes keep their cash tucked into their cleavage, where it’s easily accessible and reasonably secure.  Come to think of it, superhero costumes seem to be light on pockets, so I bet this is how real superheroines keep their cab fare handy if they can’t teleport or fly.  Me, I keep the main wad o’ greenbacks in a little pouch around my neck (under my shirt), and a bit of walking-around money in my wallet, replenished as necessary from the pouch.
  • Bring one of those rigid tubes people use to ship posters. Even if you haven’t decorated with posters since you moved out of the dorms, posters and art prints are practically a form of communication at Comic Con. And a lot of them are extremely cool. So consider bringing a mailing/storage tube such as this one–beats buying one at the con.
  • Dress wisely.  San Diego * summer * 100K people = a bad time to wear a foam-padded bodysuit.  But don’t dress for the surface of Mercury, either–not only is San Diego not Death Valley (the ocean has a moderating effect), but Comic Con keeps the convention rooms fairly cool.  Dress for a summer day (80-ish degrees F; 26-ish degrees C), but bring a light jacket.



Planning ahead is the key here.  You won’t be able to plan for everyone or everything, but do your best.


  • Prepare your materials.Peruse the schedule to get an idea of who’s attending.  Now, identify what you’d like your target autographers to sign: Books? Comics? Liner notes from DVD sets?  (You can be optimistic here.  Failure to secure an autograph costs you only a sticky note.)  A couple days before the con, assemble them all in a pile on your table.  Now get yourself some sticky notes.  Write down the name of the target autographer on the note, and stick it to whatever you want him or her to sign: for an author, the title page of the book; for an actor, a page of the liner notes; etc.  Repeat until you’ve got everything flagged with a sticky note.  Put the stuff that’s susceptible to creasing in a rigid folder.  When your target autograph is acquired, remove the sticky note and throw it away.
  • It is not necessary to reassure someone that you’re not one of those fans. Famous people already know that they have 99–nay, 999!–perfectly lovely fans for every psycho, and they will assume that you’re one of the good fans unless you give them reason to believe otherwise.  If you’re stuck for something to say, repeat after me: “Hello. I love your work.”
  • If you think you’re going to have to spell something out for them, write it down instead.  If your name is Æryqah, write it out on an index card beforehand and hand it to them.  Same thing goes if you’re getting something signed for your friend Elyssynne: write it out for them.
  • Be very very sparing with requests for custom inscriptions.  There are 85 billion people in line behind you.  Most autographers will write something like “To so-and-so, signature”.  A request that they write “To so-and-so, Happy birthday! signature” is probably OK; anything much longer or more complex is pushing the boundaries of being a dick.  You have a little more leeway here if you’re paying for the autograph, or if you’re the only person in line, but do be considerate of the artist’s time and energy.  How would you feel if you had 85 billion autographs to sign and someone wanted you to write out what amounted to a postcard’s worth of text?
  • Make it as easy for them as possible. Don’t get to the front of the line and then make everyone wait while you fumble around for your pen, as if you couldn’t have done that in the hour and a half you were waiting.  This goes double if you’re planning on discreetly ambushing someone right after a panel (works best at small or medium-sized panels): approach your target with your book already flipped open to the right page and your Sharpie already uncapped.
  • You are not entitled to an autograph. Most autographers won’t sign, say, bootlegged merchandise, and it’s quite rude to ask them to.  And, while you may secretly be planning to sell the item in question on eBay, it’s extremely rude to announce that to your autographer, as if you expect them to be pleased with your plan to enrich yourself by trading off their hard work. Be nice. Say thanks. Famous people are people, not Celebritron-2000 Autograph-Dispensing Units.

Handy tips for men (or, How To Not Be One Of THOSE Guys)


  • Women are there for their own reasons, not yours. They were not placed there by a benevolent deity so the straight guy geeks would have something to look at. They were not lured to the con by the ConCom so the straight guy geeks could fish from a stocked pond. They are under no obligation to date you, or to conform to your idea of hotness.
  • Do not assume she’s being dragged along under duress. See Goddess of All’s post on what this feels like.
  • Do not assume that she’s new to geekdom.  Maybe she is, but then again maybe she’s been at it longer than you.
  • Women do not have hive mind.  One woman may be carrying a “Free hugs” sign and be perfectly happy to be glomped by random congoers, while another may be emitting “back off” vibes so hard that it amounts to a sort of force field.  The message here isn’t that women are fickle and inconstant, it’s that different women have different boundaries.
  • Respect womens’ boundaries. Don’t take it personally. Sadly, many women who regularly attend cons have had to deal with creeps. You may, in all innocence, accidentally set off a woman’s creepdar.  If she asks you to stop taking her picture, stop. Don’t lecture her on expectations of privacy in public spaces or why women need to lighten up or whatever. Maybe she’s just having a bad day. It’s not about you.
  • Refrain from classifying other attendees as trufen or poseurs. Or, more broadly, stop policing other people’s geek cred. Here I am thinking specifically of Twilight fans, the pariahs of Comic-Con. You don’t have to like Twilight to realize that the Twihards aren’t interlopers in your convention; it’s their convention too. Besides–remember when you were an awkward teenager who’d discovered something you thought was wonderful but that everyone else viewed with contempt? 
  • Do not assume that she’s only interested in paranormal romance / Twilight / manga / kawaii / other stereotypically girly things. She’s a geek, just like you. If she’s methodically trawling the bins for back issues of The Punisher, it’s not necessarily for her boyfriend.
  • Do call out other guys on sexist behavior. Guys, do you really truly want to help out female geeks everywhere? Here’s something you can do that will help a lot: point out when other guys are being dickwads.