10 Myths About San Diego Comic-Con

For those who have never experienced it, it's hard to convey the crush of 125,000 people and the endless lines that can result.
For those who have never experienced it, it's hard to convey the crush of 125,000 people and the endless lines that can result.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

For people who have never been, most clues about what San Diego Comic-Con is like are only conveyed though the entertainment and social media channels. Some of that is really great information. Still, there are aspects that no one really talks about and so the perception isn’t 100 percent accurate.

No matter how much is shown on television, it is really difficult to convey the vast spectacle of San Diego Comic-Con and its true nature. Here are 10 myths about the biggest pop culture convention in the United States.

Very, very few cosplayers get paid to dress up. A few at the top of the game, like Yaya Han, use their business know-how to turn it into a paying job.
Very, very few cosplayers get paid to dress up. A few at the top of the game, like Yaya Han, use their business know-how to turn it into a paying job.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

10. Cosplayers get paid to dress up.

There are very few “professional” cosplayers and fewer still that don’t also work a regular job to support their life needs. There are some opportunities to get paid, such as hanging out at a video game booth costumed as one of the characters or appearing in a commercial. Those gigs are few and far between, though, and the most successful professional cosplayers have significant business savvy that is more practical than glamorous. For example, Yaya Han sells cosplay supplies on her web site and recently entered into a partnership with McCall’s for her own line of costume patterns.

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9. It’s easy to get SDCC-exclusive merchandise as long as you have a Preview Night ticket.

It is extremely difficult to land items even if you do have a ticket for Preview Night, which is always the Wednesday night before the convention gets into full swing. Smart shoppers know to prioritize and get in line for the item they want the very most, because the chances of getting any other exclusives after that are slim.

This year, the line at the Funko booth was closed due to having the maximum number of people in line after a mere 10 minutes. Even if you make it in line before it’s closed, expect a two-hour wait and for some items to be sold out before you even get up to the counter to buy them.

8. People who attend conventions get easy access to celebrities.

No. Celebrities often have bodyguards or escorts and are whisked from one location to another without stopping. Creepy stalkers are a very real problem and it’s a case of a few awful people ruining it for everyone else who just wants to say hello.

Additionally, celebrities are extremely busy during conventions. They may have to go from an appearance to an autograph appointment to a panel and then to a dinner meeting. They just don’t have time to stop and chat. Nathan Fillion cleverly had a business card made up to hand out to fans that he autographs on the back. To paraphrase, the front essentially says, “I don’t have time to chat but please accept this card and my apologies. Tell your friends we met and had a laugh.”

7. Celebrities give away photos and autographs for free.

A celebrity’s business is his image and persona. They show up to conventions because they can make money on autographs and photo opportunities. The bigger the celebrity, the more expensive it is to get access. People like William Shatner, Mark Hamill and Stan Lee command more than $100 per photo op. Some people try to get sneaky cell phone photos. That’s a no-no and expect to get yelled at if you’re caught. At some events, like Nerd HQ, celebrities are willing to take photos with fans for charity and it's a good deal for all involved.

Once in a while, when the sun is shining and the Fates are smiling upon you, there might be a chance encounter with a celebrity who is willing to pose with you on-the-fly. Those moments are rare. By the way, if celebrities are eating or in the midst of a conversation, don’t be a jerk and interrupt. Leave them be until they are available and then you might politely approach. Celebrities are people, too. Be nice.

6. Most of a Comic-Con fan’s day is spent doing fun things.

No, most of a Comic-Con fan’s day is spent standing in line and walking from one event to another. Expect to invest at least two hours of time for one hour of fun. Going to the big panels in Hall H, the giant, 6,000 seat theater, might take a significantly larger time investment. Hardcore fans camp out the night before, although that issue has been significantly alleviated by the new wristband system. One person still has to hold a place in line for his group, though, and if he has no group, he's stuck.

Even the exhibit floor, which is where the vendors and artists set up their tables with their wares, is horribly crowded.

5. The most popular cosplayers are arrogant, stuck-up people.

There are always a few people in any group who spoil things, but the truth is that most of the top cosplayers are amazing, sweet and helpful. Be polite, respectful and not creepy and most are happy to talk with you and answer some questions. Like other kinds of celebrities, they’re busy so don’t take up much of their time, especially if you see they’re about to do a photo shoot or have a line waiting.

Don't be a derpy Deadpool. Get out of the shot when people are trying to take photos of other cosplayers.
Don't be a derpy Deadpool. Get out of the shot when people are trying to take photos of other cosplayers.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

4. Photobombing cosplayers is great!

No, photobombing cosplayers is a real dick move and good photographers know to watch out for those jokers. Save the photobombing for your friends who are likely to think it’s funny instead of horribly rude.

3. Everyone dresses in costume for San Diego Comic-Con.

Even at SDCC, only about 20 percent of attendees are in costume and only about half of those are “serious” cosplayers that made their own costumes and strive for accuracy. The standard “uniform” for any convention goer is a pop culture-themed T-shirt, jeans or shorts and tennis shoes.

2. Your great artistic talent will be discovered at Comic-Con.

Er, no. It’s true that some of the major comic book companies conduct portfolio reviews and will give advice by-appointment, but very few artists will ever be contacted afterward. Unless you’re the next Alex Ross, don’t get your hopes up too high. Still, how often do you get advice from someone who’s successfully made a career out of art? Even that kind of opportunity has value. As far as landing real work, traditional submission methods and queries still rule. Still, you never know and it's always good to network and build relationships. 

1. A Comic-Con vacation is relaxing.

Don’t plan on getting any rest during Comic-Con! There are non-stop panels, events and games. After the sun goes down, there are parties and fan meet-ups until the wee hours. Some fans camp out all night to ensure a place in the most popular panels. There are dozens off off-site venues that stretch from the East Village to the Marina and all over downtown San Diego. Sleep is for the weak.

Even with all of the time, cost, inconvenience and exhaustion, a Comic-Con fan wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, because the other side of the coin is exhilaration, grand spectacle and the potential for amazement. There is nothing else like San Diego Comic-Con.  


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