Saying San Diego Comic-Con is popular would be an understatement. When badges for the event went on sale this year, they sold out in less than an hour. Recent years have brought in more than 130,000 attendees, so needless to say that this event takes a certain amount of preparation whether you’re going as a fan, an artist or a giant publisher.
Such a large event takes preparation from everyone involved, but very few are as excited as the fans from San Diego going to Comic-Con.
Fans dress for the occasion
Attendees have two choices for deciding how to dress for Comic-Con: either wear comfortable street clothes (walking around all day in a crowd takes its toll after a while) or dress up as a beloved character.
Izola Siegfried is the latter, also known as a cosplayer.
She also goes by the title The Fatal Siren, but according to her, the best time to start planning a costume is right away. And with 15 Comic-Cons under her utility belt, she knows all the ins and outs about cosplaying and the convention itself.
The first step in preparing for Comic-Con is actually getting the badges (obviously). After getting the golden ticket, you should decide whether to cosplay or not and who to go as. Depending on which character you choose, Siegfried says making a costume can range from a few days to six months. In fact, she’s already planning ahead for next year.
“One of my things that I will eventually do, and I’ll probably do this because ‘Mass Effect’ is supposed to come out in 2016, so I want to work on some N7 armor,” Siegfried said. “I love what I did on my character for ‘Mass Effect 3,’ so if I can copy that, I will be tickled pink. But because there are some many different pieces to it, it does take a good amount of time.”
Besides the N7 armor, she is also working on a Lightning-Cloud mashup from “Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII” and a Hawkgirl costume with movable wings.
Multimedia: Siegfried talks about why cosplay is so rewarding. She also shares some techniques on creating cosplay equipment in this video.
“I try to do a different characters each day,”Siegfried said. “But if not and I like Hawkgirl enough and she turns out spectacular, I’ll wear her all four days.”
One trick she’s learned is using a 3D crafting printer that traces paper cut-outs and assemble a piece of the costume like a jigsaw puzzle instead of cutting out pieces of foam by hand.
Once Comic-Con announces which days are set up, Siegfried suggests spending a solid hour prioritizing what you want to see and coming up with a strategy. If you plan on cosplaying, take into account that you’ll most likely get stopped often for photos. Unless your vampire cosplay is perfect (and you don’t show up in photos), people will want to take pictures with you.
“If you want to go someplace, don’t dress up that day, cause you won’t get there,” Siegfried said.
If you do decide to cosplay, Siegfried has three tips to take to heart right before you go to the event:
- Bring your own makeshift cosplay first-aid kit – “If you think something ripped, make sure you have something to fix it.”
- Bring water and snacks – “If you are in costumes that are constricting, like a corset, you’re going to get a little lightheaded, and you’re going to get uncomfortable.”
- Wear comfortable shoes – “Most women will walk around in the craziest shoes and forget after three or four hours, your feet are going to swell and you are going to be miserable.”
But there wouldn’t be a Comic-Con without comic books and the thousands of booths filling up the convention center.
Artists outline Comic-Con prep
Even relatively new comic book writers and artists have the chance to show their stuff to the potential crowd of 130,000.
Alonso Nuñez is the Executive director of Little Fish Comic Book Studio and teaches aspiring artists the nuances of what goes into making comics. The students range from ages 10 to mid-40s.
“I don’t know where else in life you get a 12-year-old sitting next to a 40-year-old, and they’re sharing this experience and learning from each other as well as, hopefully, from me, which is really cool,” Nuñez said.
Multimedia: Nuñez goes over the various steps of creating a comic book. All the pictures were taken at the Little Fish Comic Book Studio.
Little Fish holds artist intensive classes during the summer that focus on Comic-Con. With the aid of a professional mentor (last couple of years had Klaus Janson, who’s worked with Marvel and DC), the students will show their work to Comic-Con at the Little Fish booth. The process takes about a week with six hours of work put in each day.
“[The students] hold themselves as though they are professionals, and they are to a certain degree.” Nuñez said. “They’ve sat down, set deadlines, met the deadlines and now they’re at Comic-Con.”
Other artists, however, have a more difficult time finding a booth at Comic-Con.
“Ten years ago, it was fairly easy to get a booth and a table at Comic-Con,” local artist Arnie Gordon said. “There was a switch in focusing in how to sell the show, and it became, more or less, geared towards pop culture. This is when the Comic-Con we know now became the madness that it is.”
Gordon says the larger crowd that gets a chance to see his work is definitely a benefit, but upcoming artists must maintain a presence in the industry and reapply for their booths to keep their spot.
A regular six-foot table at Comic-Con can cost somewhere around $1,500. The cost and the scarcity of space leads some artists to split the costs or even rent a table out for small window of time. Comic artists without a booth need to network more now than ever, because it’s all about who you know and getting a little lucky.
Gordon is currently working on a book for Rafael Nieves and occasionally does some artwork for Upper Deck’s comic-based trading cards all while balancing a full-time job and his family. He’s also with a group called PaperCuts with the goal to get back into Comic-Con. All his jobs require work, and Gordon says a 24-page comic could take him two months to a year depending on how much free time he has.
“You can’t wait,” Gordon said. “There is no downtime to prepare for San Diego Comic-Con. It’s that type of show that if you’re going, you need to start making plans for it immediately after the show closes. You’re already thinking about next year before the doors close.”
Local comic company’s storm before the storm
IDW Publishing is a local comic book company and the fourth largest comic publisher. In addition to the new location, the company will set up a comic art gallery that should be ready in time for the convention.
IDW is known for publishing comics for third-party intellectual properties like “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Borderlands,” “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic,” “Star Trek,” and many more. It also releases its fair share of original pieces, such as “Locke and Key,” “Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland” and “30 Days of Night.”
Dirk Wood is in charge of planning the whole event for IDW. As the vice president of marketing, his job includes booking hotels, organizing writers and artists, plan signings and the 12 panels and meeting with fans and the press. IDW also creates exclusive books sold only at the event.
“It’s like opening a department store for one weekend,” Wood said.
Wood says he gets hit with a heavy workload three months before Comic-Con, sometimes working until 3 a.m. The three weeks prior to Comic-Con are especially hectic. Wood will get around 1,000 – 2,000 emails a day. But preparing for it is a year-round job.
“Nothing about Comic-Con is easy,” Wood said. “Getting a cup of coffee isn’t easy at Comic-Con.”
According to Wood, Comic-Con ran out of available space in 2005. He needs to reserve space for the next year right after he finishes that year’s Comic-Con. Last he heard, it takes at least a three year waiting period to get a booth if you aren’t returning from the previous year. So even if you start a new comic book company that gains popularity quickly, you’ll still have to wait a few years before you can have your own booth.