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About This Festival

Some may dismiss Comic-Con International as a geekfest, but the true fans know that it’s four days of fun when they can meet industry stars and play in a fantasy land, all in downtown San Diego. Packed with events from autograph signings to film screenings to costume competitions (and many people show up in costume), this celebration of popular arts is a behemoth convention.

Dive into the spectacle and see what you can find. But by all means, don’t get so focused on specifics that you miss some seriously fun people watching. It’ll also give you costume ideas for future Comic-Con years.

Comic-Con International History

Despite the event’s recent surge in popularity, Comic-Con International has roots that go back longer than you may think. The convention began in 1970 as a “minicon” of one day, when a group of comics, movie and science fiction fans—plus about 100 attendees—formed the first comic book convention in Southern California. Back in those days, the show’s home was the El Cortez Hotel, but it later moved to accommodate the growing crowds. It’s been held at the San Diego Convention Center since 1991.

Over the years, Comic-Con has become the main event for comics conventions, including: comics creators; science fiction and fantasy authors and actors; film and TV directors, producers and writers; and fans of all these popular arts genres. Many fans show their love by dressing in costume to heighten the experience, but all are welcome at Comic-Con.

Schedule and Events

The convention’s massive programming schedule tops 600 separate events, featuring hands-on workshops, educational and academic programming, anime and film screenings, video games, an Autograph Arena, Portfolio Reviews, an Art Show, a Masquerade costume competition, and the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. Yes, all in four days.

Most events are free with your badge, but some (like dinners and launch parties) cost extra. There will be far more than you can do in the allotted time, and yet it will all feel like Disneyland for adults—when you get to suspend disbelief and let fantasy take over, even if only a little bit.

Massive Spectacle

Comic-Con is the largest of any comics or pop culture convention in the country. It includes 22 separate rooms in the Convention Center, and branches out to more than four other major venues, not excluding the outside of the Convention Center, which has events scattered around and feels like a comic-book campus.

When the complete program schedule is available, study it. Focus on the things you want to see and do. Pay attention to how far apart they are and how much time it may take to get between them. The Quick Guide is your go-to resource for maps that show the locations of specific room entrances, exits and lines. Study like a Jedi, but don’t get so lost in your planning that you forget to stop, look around, and enjoy the crazy spectacle.

Participation and Shopping

If you go to a panel, don’t be shy about asking questions if you get the chance. This is the nexus of entertainers and the entertained. How often do you get to talk with these people? While lines are often the bane of our existence (and you certainly won’t escape them here), take the opportunity to enjoy your time in line and meet like-minded fans.

If you’re planning to shop, consider mailing your purchases home using the shipping services at the Convention Center. Depending on what you buy, the shipping may be far less expensive than checked-baggage fees at the airport.

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