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How to Make a Comic-Con

Sean Bean is watching you. He wants you to stop killing off his characters.
Sean Bean is watching you. He wants you to stop killing off his characters.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

And check out our first day slideshow with some of our favorite characters.

For people who have never been to San Diego Comic-Con before, it's difficult to imagine the scale at which the convention operates. It spills out of the convention hall itself and pretty much takes over every nearby downtown structure in San Diego.

San Diego Comic-Con is the largest pop culture convention in North America, followed closely by New York Comic-Con. It brings in over $163 million dollars in revenue for the City of San Diego. That's actually a very low figure, as it's based on a survey of those staying in hotels and likely does not include placed advertising on public transport vehicles and the like.

Convention-goers fill restaurants, pack hotels, require transportation and extra security personnel to keep them in line. They buy tons of goods both from vendors within the convention center and in the Gaslamp area.

We arrived in San Diego a few days ahead of Comic-Con this year and while they say you don't want to see how the sausage is made, we find the Comic-Con recipe to be very interesting indeed. The scale of work needed to put on the mother of all conventions is mind-boggling.

Comic-Con themed banners adorn downtown, especially throughout the Gaslamp District.
Comic-Con themed banners adorn downtown, especially throughout the Gaslamp District.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

A few weeks ahead of time, the City rolls out the red carpet. OK, it's not actually a red carpet, but sponsored, Comic-Con themed banners that go on streetlamps through downtown. This year, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is heavily featured, along with Game of Thrones and Disney's Big Hero 6.

See the little man, way up high? Aren't you grateful that's not your job?
See the little man, way up high? Aren't you grateful that's not your job?
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

On the Monday before the convention starts, a visible flurry of activity begins, including constructing exhibits and mounting gargantuan banners piece-by-piece on skyscrapers. This year, you can't go anywhere without Sean Bean staring at you. In fact, Sean greeted airline travelers right on the baggage conveyor belt at San Diego International Airport. This was the first year we've noted advertising at the airport. There's also paid placement on the city buses and trolleys.

For the bigger interactive exhibits, there's a lot of actual construction work to be done, such as for Sleepy Hollow and the Assassin's Creed obstacle course.

A structure built for the interactive exhibit promoting the Sleepy Hollow television series on FOX
A structure built for the interactive exhibit promoting the Sleepy Hollow television series on FOX
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

Hall H of the convention center holds over 6,500 people and it's notorious for massive lines that extend past the harbor. In order to give waiting attendees some shade, tents are erected outside the Hall H doors. (Regrettably, there are only enough tents to shade the first thousand or so in line, but at least it's something.)

Tents at Hall H protect attendees from the sun... at least the ones who aren't waiting down by the Marina.
Tents at Hall H protect attendees from the sun... at least the ones who aren't waiting down by the Marina.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

The convention center gets adorned with banners, as well as signs with various information and admonishments for attendees.

How to Make a Comic-Con
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

As far as the activities inside the exhibit hall go, check out this time-lapse video of the elaborate, spiraling Nickelodeon booth being built.

So that's how it all begins--with a lot of sweat and toil that most SDCC attendees never see. How do you make a Comic-Con? Once piece at a time.


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