First Timers

Comic Convention First-Timer Survival Guide

tony wright 81

Photo/Tony Wright

You’ve read about Comic-Con International on news sites and seen pictures of all the costumed heroes. You’ve laughed about the exploits of the guys on “The Big Bang Theory” at comic book shows. Your friends have shared their experiences at regional shows like C2E2, JAFAX, and Motor City Comic-Con. Now you have decided to experience a show for yourself.

Wish we wish to say congratulations; you have just entered a brave new world. However, it is understandable if you do not know what to do or how to plan for attending an event such as the Grand Rapids Comic-Con. That is why we have created this guide to help you prepare for the show in every way we can. Follow this guide and you will be more prepared for the fun and frolic that is the con world.

Three To Nine Months Before Con

This may seem like a long time to plan for a convention, but it will make your trip more enjoyable.

  1. Start saving money: People who wish to spend a good amount of money at a convention like the Grand Rapids Comic-Con usually plan way ahead so they have plenty of cash available. There is also a lot more to pay for than the tickets: there will be an after-party for those who want to party into the wee hours of the morning, a giant vending room for those who want to fill the holes of a collection or start a new one, hotel rooms for those who are traveling, food, gasoline, tips for waitresses/hotel staff, and so forth. Save $20-30/week or more out of your paycheck and you will have plenty of money to spend at the show and cover all those other expenses. You won’t miss the small amount of money you stash every week and you won’t have your usual expenses impacted, but if you do that for six months you will have over $500 to spend. Scrambling for cash a week before the show isn’t any fun, and putting action figures on a credit card may bite you in the butt in the end.
  2. Start planning your costume: If you are planning on joining in the fun and wearing a costume, start planning now especially if you will be making it yourself. You can always buy a costume at a Halloween shop or costume store, but there is a satisfaction of making your own digs that is truly special. In addition, you can create a unique character or one that is not cosplayed very often. If you plan on making your own costume it will be better to start long before the show so you have time to finish the costume.
  3. Join the con’s Facebook page or other social networking: This is a great way to keep informed on activities for the con, so if you are not on the show’s Facebook page or other social networking sites you should join them now. The Grand Rapids Comic-Con’s Facebook page is here, the Twitter page is here, the Pinterest page is here, the Instagram page is here, and the YouTube page is here.
  4. Take the time off of your job: Especially if you may have to work weekends, it is important to put in requested time off long before the event.

One To Three Months Before Con

  1. Regularly read the con’s website: This will allow you to plan accordingly on what you would like to do at the show. Once a week should suffice.
  2. Start accessorizing the costume: It is common to see a great costume at a con that would be incredible if the person would have accessorized the costume appropriately. What is Wonder Woman without her lasso, a Jedi without a lightsaber, or Batman without a Baterang? It is time to start planning those little extras that raise the quality of your costume from good to great. Make sure to check the Grand Rapids Comic-Con’s policies on costuming here to make sure those accessories will be allowed into the event.
  3. Get involved in the conversation: Join in the conversation about the con on Facebook and share the show with your friends.
  4. Find friends who may want to attend: There is no reason to go to a con alone. Find those friends who may want to go with you and make sure they start planning, especially financially. This is a great opportunity to meet those internet-only friends and share some real time together! However, it is never any fun to drag along a friend who doesn’t have any money and you turn into their wallet, so make sure your friends help with aspects such as their share of gas and hotel rooms plus will cover their own tickets and food so make an agreement in advance.
  5. Let the con know if you plan on working: Working at a show like the Grand Rapids Comic-Con can be a rewarding experience. We even pay minimum wage to workers! If this is something you would like to do then contact the staffing coordinator at staffing@grcomiccon.com and put “I Want To Work” in the subject heading.
  6. Make your hotel reservations: A lot of shows will see the hotels around the venue fill up quickly, so it is best to be proactive if you are planning a hotel stay. Even if you are fairly close, a hotel stay may be a good idea if you are planning on attending the after parties so you are not driving home under the influence. Remember that most hotels only allow four people per room, so plan accordingly. The official hotel of the Grand Rapids Comic-Con is the Amway Grand Plaza, you may find contact information for the hotel here as well as other hotels in the area.

One Month Before Con

  1. Finish the costume: Wrap up the sewing and finish finding the proper accessories. It will be a lot easier on your mind and body to not be hustling to finish your costume the night before the show!
  2. Draw up a budget: By now you should have a good amount of money saved up for the show. It would be wise to start figuring out how much money you would spend on gasoline, food, lodging, tickets, tips, after-party expenses (bar tabs, tickets to other events, etc.) and other travel expenses. If you don’t like how much money you have left for the vending room then you have some time to plan accordingly.
  3. Contact friends who said they wanted to go: Make sure your friends are still on board with attending the show, and if they are then arrange time to collect their financial contributions to the trip such as gasoline and hotel expenses. Don’t wait until the day of the con to collect—there are a fair amount of people who will try to stick you with the bill. If they can’t pay in advance then don’t let them come with you.
  4. Gather up items you want signed by guests: By now the guest list should be in stone for the Grand Rapids Comic-Con. Although almost all guests will have an ample supply of artistic prints, comic books, and pictures available for purchase for autograph opportunities, most fans will have a very specific item that they will want autographed. If there is a guest that you want to sign a very specific item then it is wise to have that item on hand the day of the show instead of scouting for a “holy grail” item at the actual event. If you don’t own it by now, it is time to start scouting your favorite comic book stores, ebay, or Amazon for that item.
  5. Order commissions from artists: There are a lot of times when an artist gets so overwhelmed with commissioned artwork at a convention like the Grand Rapids Comic-Con that they simply can not accept any more work at the event. You don’t want to be the poor guy who gets left out in the cold and miss a great opportunity to collect a unique piece of art from a favorite artist. If you have an artist that you want to commission a certain piece of artwork it is wise to do so before the event and arrange pick-up at the show.

One Week Before Con

  1. Find the convention’s schedule: Drag out that list of items at the con you just have to do and make out a simple schedule based on the show’s schedule of events. Last minute changes (cancellations, new events, etc.) happen all the time at shows so make sure to be flexible the day of the event. The Grand Rapids Comic-Con’s official schedule will be posted a couple weeks before the event here.
  2. Start a vitamin regiment: Cons can be a big drag on the immune system, so help your body out by starting to take vitamins (especially Vitamin C and B-12). It is also smart to take joint medicine such as Glucosamine if you have knee or ankle problems. As with all medications, consult your doctor before changing a routine.
  3. Eat well: This should happen 365 days a year anyway, but if you are a junk food junkie change your eating habits including lots of fruits and vegetables to build energy before the con.
  4. Give your car a once over: Change the oil in your vehicle and have your mechanic give your car a short inspection. Nothing is worse than making all these plans and then having your car not start or break down on the way to the convention.
  5. Map out your trip: Figure out the shortest route between your home and the convention. Also make sure to map the route home as well as to and from the hotel. Print a copy in case your GPS decides to give out.
  6. Start packing: You will be better prepared and forget less stuff if you pack ahead of time. Make sure to pack a full set of clothes for each day attending plus one, as well as your cosplay, electronics, prescriptions, and toiletries. You can find an excellent packing list here.
  7. Check your prescriptions: Make sure you have an adequate supply of any prescriptions you may take so you don’t run out of anything essential. Ladies, this includes your birth control; gentlemen, this includes “protection” for you as well. If you do not then fill the prescription before the show.
  8. Gather items for the con itself: Even if you live down the road from the show, there are some items that are important to bring for most con attendees:
    • Backpack or reusable grocery bag: You’ll need a place to put all your goodies from the show, and the bags available at cons are usually cheap plastic ones.
    • Small luggage cart: A great way to haul around your swag if you plan on doing a lot of shopping. Add a bungee cord to hold everything onto the cart.
    • Short comic book box: Will keep your comic books and other fragile items protected. Available cheap or free (if you don’t mind a used one) from your local comic book shop.
    • Poster tube: In case you plan on buying posters this will keep those protected. Most movie theaters will give you one for free.
    • Artist portfolio carrier: In case you plan on buying original artwork or artistic prints (and we encourage you to do so!). A couple good sized cardboard slabs (at least 12×18 inches) will suffice.
    • Water container: So you have something to sip on while walking around the show. It is best to bring to the show empty and fill it up within the grounds.
    • Hand sanitizer: A lot of people are together at these events, and that means germs. Use before and after eating, drinking, smoking, hugging/glomping, or going to the bathroom.
    • Camera: There will be lots of interesting people in costume who would love to pose for a picture.
    • Snack food: A couple granola bars is a good idea, and if you are bringing young children make sure to have their favorite snack food as well.
    • Stroller: If you have small kids they will want to ride in it after a couple hours.
    • Baby stuff: If you are bringing a very young child make sure to have a good supply of diapers, baby wipes and formula. Bring an extra pair of pants and underwear if your child is potty training in case of accidents.

The Day Before The Con

  1. Break up your money: Nothing will annoy a vendor more than a customer who buys a $2 comic book and pays with a $100 bill. Break up your money into smaller bills. It is best to not bring any bills larger than a $20, and make sure to bring some $1, $5, and $10 bills as well. Leave rent and bill money at home, it will be too tempting to spend!
  2. Pick a comfortable pair of shoes: It is tempting to wear a cool or sexy pair of shoes to a show like the Grand Rapids Comic-Con, but it is best to wear the most comfortable ones you own. When looking in your closet think the following: which shoes would I wear to go on a five mile hike? Whatever pair that may be should be the shoes you wear to the Grand Rapids Comic-Con.
  3. Eat a good meal for supper: Build energy for the exciting day to come with a meal featuring a lean protein and lots of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Recharge all your electronics: Make sure to recharge all the items you plan to take with you, such as your cell phone, camera, laptop, and video camera. If you need extra batteries for any of those items make sure you have your back-ups charged as well.
  5. Sleep as much as you can the night before: Eight hours of sleep is ideal the night before a convention.
  6. Don’t party the night before: If you are the type who likes to get intoxicated it is wise to save that kind of activity until after the show is over. Being hung over at a convention is no fun. There will be a series of after-parties for the Grand Rapids Comic-Con, which is the opportunity to enjoy an adult-style beverage and dance the night away with like-minded souls.
  7. Check the con’s website for last minute details: There are always last minute changes at just about every convention, so make sure to check the website and Facebook pages for cancellations or additions.

The Day Of The Con

  1. Eat a good breakfast: Make sure to eat a breakfast high in protein and carbs for energy for the fun ahead. Plus nothing is more fun than going into a local breakfast establishment dressed in your cosplay and enjoying some ham and eggs!
  2. Set your phone to the show’s Facebook or social networking page: There are times when changes to the show’s schedule literally happens at event, so keep you eye on the event’s social networking page for last minute changes.
  3. Set your phone to vibrate: Shows generally speaking are pretty loud, and feeling the vibration of your phone may be easier than hearing it.
  4. Take a shower: Events like the Grand Rapids Comic-Con will be crowded, and body odor is never pleasant in a setting such as this. Make sure to come clean wearing plenty of deodorant. Use perfume or cologne sparingly.
  5. Arrive at the show early: This is especially true if you are buying your tickets at the door. These kind of shows sell out fairly often, so early attendance is encouraged.
  6. If you have a child or children with you make sure to shoot a picture of them: This is in case your child gets separated from you. You will then have a great reference picture for the police and show staff so they know what your child looks like and what they are wearing.
  7. Find time to get your kids away from the vending room: Kids have a tendency to get over stimulated at shows like the Grand Rapids Comic-Con, so take some time to escape the vending room by sitting in a seminar, let them play in the kids area, or watching a film so they can decompress.
  8. Make time to eat a good lunch: Keep the energy high by eating a good meal rich in proteins around half way through the con. There will be several food vendors at the Grand Rapids Comic-Con, so make sure to check out the food available and have a good lunch.
  9. Get off your feet: A study at Comic-Con International in San Diego showed that people can walk as much as 17 miles in one day at a convention, so make sure to take some time to get off your feet. There are lots of seminars, presentations, and film showing at the Grand Rapids Comic-Con, so make sure to take some time to enjoy these events as well as giving you some time to rest your feet.
  10. Stay hydrated: Drink lots of water. Don’t indulge on drinks that will dehydrate you such as soda pops or alcohol.
  11. Meet new people: You might be surprised how many people who have similar interests attend the show. Make sure to say hello to like-minded people.
  12. Expect lines: Most seminars will have lines of people trying to get into the room. Be prepared for this by getting into lines 15 minutes before a seminar begins.
  13. Follow proper etiquette: There are some universal rules that helps everybody have a good time at a show like the Grand Rapids Comic-Con:
  • Be courteous to everybody at the show.
  • Bullying or sexual harassment will not be tolerated in any way! People who choose to act in such a way will be ejected from the event with no refund, and extreme cases will also include involvement with the local police.
  • Treat the restrooms as you would treat your home’s bathroom. Nothing is worse than a trashed bathroom!
  • Ask cosplayers’ permission before shooting their pictures. It’s just polite!
  • The Grand Rapids Comic-Con is not your babysitter, so make sure to watch your kids.
  • People who may be dressed more provocatively are not soliciting themselves. Cosplay is NOT consent!
  • No drinking, drugs, sexual relations, or any other illegal activity is allowed in the parking lot, bathrooms, or anywhere else at the con. People breaking these rules will be prosecuted.
  • Use trash receptacles and keep pop cans in recycling bins.
  • Report any problems you find to any of the con staff.

The Night After The Con

  1. Attend an after-party: These events are a lot of fun and a great way to enjoy some adult beverages with like-minded souls and dance the night away. There are also more family-friendly events planned after the show, so make sure to check those out as well. Information on the after-party for the Grand Rapids Comic-Con can be obtained here. Be sure to check the age restrictions if you are under 21 to make sure you can attend.
  2. Clean up before the party: You will be sweaty after the show. Head back to your home or hotel room and take a shower to freshen up. Change your clothes and reapply the deodorant and perfume/cologne.
  3. Eat a good meal: Good food equals good energy, so make sure to fuel up before the party with lean protein and lots of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Figure out a designated driver: If your group is planning on having a few adult-style beverages then it is wise to figure out who is staying sober, and give them the keys.
  5. Don’t be afraid to dance: The truth is that most of us have no clue what to do on a dance floor, so don’t be so self-conscious about it!
  6. Socialize: This is a great way to make friends and maybe even meet a potential significant other. Get to know some new people and have some fun!
  7. Drink smart: Pace your drinks at around one per hour at the most, and drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed. Don’t mix your alcohols. Eat some food while drinking, especially breads.

The Day After The Con

  1. Do not schedule anything: You will be tired! Sleep in and plan a very relaxing day. The day after a con is a day to be pampered.
  2. Leave the unpacking for a couple days: Plan the day after the con as a day of rest. Don’t worry about the unpacking and laundry until a couple days later.
  3. Eat light: Give your tummy a break and keep your meals the day after a show light. Stay away from pizza and other heavy foods.
  4. Kick up your feet: Your knees and feet will be the places that will hurt the most. Make sure to take time to kick up your feet, and if possible sit in a tub with hot, soapy water for awhile.
  5. Share your experiences: Share your experiences and pictures of the Grand Rapids Comic-Con on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking.
  6. Go to bed early: Get a good ten hours of sleep before returning to the real world on Monday.