Guest Writer Vernon Cook Recaps San Diego Comic-Con 2022

San Diego Comic Con 2022 is in the books and our friend Vernon Cook is back to share his experience with us. Whether you are a veteran of multiple cons or have never attended one, SDCC is another breed of animal all together. Vern will tell you what you can expect and some of the cooler things he saw at this year’s convention.

I have regularly attended San Diego Comic-Con for many years and I can still say that I am not an expert. I don’t know all of the ins and outs and am still learning everything that it has to offer. SDCC is so expansive that it would be nearly impossible to experience everything there is to offer over the four days that the convention runs. What started as an average comic convention fifty years ago has evolved into a pop culture extravaganza.

Walking the convention floor is a bit overwhelming. There is a lot to see and do. There are traditional vendor booths where you can buy back issues, vintage toys, and other pop culture wares as well as Artist’s Alley where you can meet the creators responsible for your favorite comics. In addition, major studios, comic and toy companies have booths promoting upcoming releases by offering “experiences”. These experiences are coupled with free swag (pins, shirts, bags, lanyards, etc.) as a reward for participating. Each experience requires a commitment to a line that could be 15 minutes to over an hour, so take that into consideration when planning your day. This year’s Netflix booth experience employed a reservations system and texted you with a return time which made that experience fantastic. I hope other studios take this approach in the future.

Paramount’s experience employed a scavenger hunt of sorts, requiring multiple stamps from multiple experiences to get a “premium” swag item that included a fanny bag, beanie and posters.  In addition to the swag, you also got to see a promo of their shows in a booth that visually surrounded you with imagery, followed by a PLINKO style game that awarded you with another small prize. Of course, many other exhibitors had handouts just for passing by. No “experience” required.

In addition to all the free items available for participating in experiences, there are a number of Convention Exclusive items that you can purchase. Most of these exclusives are on a first come first serve ticketing system with return times for the line. None of these methods guaranteed being able to acquire exclusives, as most vendors only sold a certain number per day.  The positive side is that most vendors also offered a paired online option for limited stock, so even if you weren’t in San Diego, you still had a chance to obtain some of these items. Funko had a great setup named “Funkoville”, which included the recently acquired Mondo Shop and Lounge Fly. These exclusives required a special ticket that you could only win in the Comic-Con lottery system.

One of the often the overlooked parts of conventions are the panels. That’s not the case with SDCC. If you want the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the biggest celebrities in the world, head to Hall H. This normally requires some dedication to get into, so if there’s a panel in that you can’t miss, plan accordingly. People will line up the day before to secure a spot in Hall H, which rewards attendees with the news that everyone will be talking about on Monday morning. You also might be treated with exclusive clips (or even full episodes) from upcoming films or tv series that might not get posted online.

If you don’t want to dedicate that much time to one panel, there are other panel rooms with artists and creators talking about anything and everything in the pop culture space. These smaller panels are also where you will find a company like Hasbro revealing new products and answering questions. Once those announcements are made, most of the toys make it down to the convention floor into displays for an up-close look at the newly announced action figures. We saw that happen this year with the Marvel Legends Wakanda Forever figures. They announced the figures in the panel and they were in Hasbro’s display that same day. One of my favorite parts of the show is being able to say “Hello” and ask questions of the teams responsible for the action figures you’re collecting.  All the folks are friendly and open to conversations at the booth.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by the convention center itself and need a change of scenery, head outside. The convention center is located in the Gas Lamp Quarter of San Diego. The main road leading to the con is usually closed allowing for more pedestrian traffic to the area’s restaurants and bars. This provides a great place to hang out, eat and get to know your new friends you’ve met along the way. The area businesses even get into the act by offering special menus and themes.  There are even a few locations that get an entire makeover to help promote an upcoming film or show.  This year they had there was a Dungeons and Dragons Tavern as well as a Starfleet Outpost.

Couldn’t score a ticket to the Con? No problem. There are plenty of outside events to keep you busy. No ticket needed. They pass out swag at many of these as well, so that’s an added bonus. Peacock Plus/NBC usually has an interactive setup right across the street and this year was no different. They had a set up for many of the new shows including Quantum Leap.  HBOMAX had an interactive walkthrough for the Game of Thrones prequel, House of Dragons. This also included a photo op and swag.

If you’re looking to plan a trip for SDCC 2023, my tips would change based on how many days you’re going.  If you can only secure one day, I would say maximize your time on the convention floor and try to do every experience you can manage.  You can always do the outside experiences on a day that you don’t have a ticket. If you have a few days, study the events guide and look for interesting panels to mix into your daily adventure. This will give your feet and you a much-needed rest. You should also use social media to follow studios, vendors, and artists that interest you. Also, remember to follow the San Diego Comic-Con related accounts for extra tips and events. They also give out prizes randomly throughout the event on Twitter. Make sure to ask questions at the booths about any potential giveaways and signings that haven’t been announced. Make sure you stay hydrated, and remember to give yourself a break to eat. Finally, give yourself a budget. Things can add up quick if you’re not being careful.

Vernon Cook is a content creator and the host of the Oakhurst Studios YouTube channel. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok.

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