While glimpses of the San Diego Comic-Con schedule has been leaking out in the various corners of the interweb, we should finally be getting the official version starting with the Thursday Program anytime now (followed by each subsequent day). If you are new to Comic-Con, one of the most common questions I am getting these days is in regards to how to line up for panels. With all this talk of getting in line hours before or even camping out overnight, it’s pretty overwhelming to visualize if you have never been before. Lining up for a panel is a tricky thing- and is more of an art than a science. So as the program is released over the next few days, here are some strategies to consider while planning your schedule, then I will breakdown each main rooms:
- For each day, pick ONE panel that is a MUST see for you. Not a must want. I’m talking like, “If I don’t see this panel, I will cut someone…” kind of resolve. I joke, but we did have an incident a few years back in Hall H.
- The main rooms have image magnification so it’s less important where you sit than actually getting into the room.
- Rooms are not cleared between panels so once you are in, you can stay there the whole day.
- A bathroom pass is given out that expires at the start of the next panel. This gives you a short time to not only relieve yourself but pick up a snack at a nearby food cart.
- Best case scenario is that there are multiple complementary panels in that same room as your #1 panel- before and after.
- Worst case scenario is that there is nothing of interest surrounding your #1 panel. Which if that is the case, you will have to tough it out. On the bright side, I’ve talk to a number of people who became fans of something after being forced to sit through a panel.
- Being over ambitious and going from Hall H to Ballroom 20 in the same day is extremely risky.
- Trying to decide what you are going to see the morning you arrive onsite is about the worst thing you can do. Whenever I hear of a noobie doing this, a little piece of my soul dies and goes to Phantom Zone 😦
OK, all the internets is talking about lining up or camping out for Hall H. You will have to consider camping or at getting into line in the middle of the night if you target panel is before noon in Hall H- or infamously coined ‘Hall Hell’. The cavernous beast holds 6,500 victims in her belly making it the largest comic convention panel in the galaxy. Unfortunately, starting a couple of years ago, a camping of culture started among the fans. Spearheaded by the Twilight fans, lining up overnight is now the en vogue thing to do and the only way to ensure entrance into the mighty hall. Nothing is worst than being excited about your favorite panel, waking up at 4:00 AM, only to discover thousands of fans have already beaten you in line. The trick with Hall H is that in the morning, an uncompressed line can look VERY long. To put it into perspective, a line of 6,500 fans that is about 3 people wide will end up being at least half a mile long. Once the staff starts cueing up the masses, it’s not as intimidating. For instance, the photo in the upper left shows the front of the line under the tents. Once the entire grassy knoll is filled, the line breaks, crosses the street and continues along the back bay side pictured to the right. An empty hall and uncondensed line will reach this back bay area. In the morning, if you get into line by this point, you will probably be ok, although you’ll be stressing the whole time. After this point, it just depends on what the afternoon schedule is, how much the room empties, and what day it is. The most popular day will be Saturday with Catching Fire, WB, and Marvel showcasing. Most will plan to stay in Hall H all day Saturday. This is where it’s nice to have a room at either the Hilton Bayfront or Omni, allowing you a view of this line. I’ve covered in detail camping restrictions in Hall H in my earlier post.
While not as daunting as Hall H, B20 is a formable adversary as well. Hosting most of the larger TV show panels, the camping culture is starting to affect this space as well. For B20, the line will start outside near the Hall A side. A warning to campers, this is on the concrete which is less forgiving on your body than the Hall H counterpart. In the early morning, maybe around 7-8, the line will be allowed to enter to cue along the outside back pavilion just outside of B20. This line is harder to gauge since it starts inside near the room, goes outside under the tents, then wraps around the backside of the building. With a room capacity of 4,000+, I’ve never been able to estimate how far back you can go and still make it into an empty room. Although I have heard they now put up signs stating approximately how far back you are. For at least this year, getting in line (outside) by 6:00 should get you into the first panel of the day. After that, it just depends on the schedule. In general, it seems the B20 crowd doesn’t flush as frequent as the Hall H crowd. Possibly due to the fact that TV fans cross genres and have a wider spectrum of interests. Either way, give yourself in general about a 6 hour head start on your target panel. I know it sounds early but it’s this kind of preparation that beats out the dazed and confused. However, last year’s Firefly Reunion panel caused very early line up. The X-Files Reunion panel will probably cause the same thing.
6 BCF, Indigo Ballroom (Hilton Bayfront), and others…
These are the next two largest spaces holding 2.1k and 2.5k respectively. Because 6BCF is nestled in the heart of Programming, it stays consistently full because of overflow from other panel rooms. Celebrities of the likes of Stan Lee and William Shatner will be featured in this room. Lines are long with wait times being a few hours. The Indigo Ballroom has been the most pleasant to experience in recent years even with big panels like Community. Since you have to leave the convention center and trek over to the Hilton Bayfront, it attracts less crowds. So far, I’ve been able to walk into most panels or have to wait under an hour (but that could change). Room 6A holds about 1k then all the rest are under that. The rest of the panel rooms 4-11 will stay filled consistently. Gone are the days of being able to walk in and out of these smaller panels. If your target panel is in one of these rooms, expect to get there an hour or two before to be safe.
Last but not least, the most coveted of all rooms at Comic-Con is 7AB- mainly because of my panel on Sunday called “The Battle for Multicultural Heroes” (4:00). With a room capacity of almost 500, you better camp out for it 😉 Shameless plug: This will be a lighthearted but poignant discussion about the challenges of multiethnic heroes in pop culture. Spanning comics, TV, and film, we’ll be discussing the obstacles of stereotypes and what needs to happen to create more opportunity for ethnic leading characters. Besides myself, I’m joined by professional cosplayer Linda Le aka: @VampyBitMe, Youtube Comedian Andrea Meadows aka: @BlackNerd, and Producer of ILikeComicsToo.com Marlena Bonelly aka: @ILikeComicsToo. End your Comic-Con right!
Check out my past Tip of the Day posts.