Tag Archives: Comic Con

Comic-Con with a Stroller: Geek Parents and the Under-Five Set

Toddler on the floor, ready to tie his parents' shoes together.We’re both long-time fans and have been going to conventions for years. I grew up in a fannish family and my parents took me and my brother along to sci-fi/fantasy cons when we were younger. So when our son was born, we didn’t plan to stop going to Comic-Con.

We did have to change our approach for him to get the most out of it.

Some cons have kids’ programming or kid-friendly activities, though most of what’s out there seems to be aimed at ages five and up. Some cons (such as SDCC) offer childcare, which is a great way to give the child something to do and set aside a block of time when both parents are free.  The rest of the time there’ll be a lot of trading off who’s going to a panel and who’s got the kid.

TL;DR: For children under five, it seems to work best if you can leave them with someone for the first day (or several) and bring them on the final day. That gives you a chance to meet most of your own goals and scout out things that your child might like. And it gives your child a chance to enjoy a slice of the con without overwhelming them.

Obviously, your child’s personality and interests are going to alter the balance, but here’s our experience so far.

Less than a year: Skip It!

We didn’t even think of bringing him to a con before he was one.  Comic-Con became a one-day trip. We left the baby with relatives, took the train down to San Diego in the morning, and took the train back in the evening.

Of course, this only works if you’re within commuting distance of a convention. We skipped WonderCon’s final year in San Francisco, since it would have been an eight-hour car trip.

Smaller cons might not be so bad at this age if you time things right. I remember a couple with a very small baby who was sleeping through Long Beach Comic-Con. Still, if your kiddo is too small to have gotten critical immunizations (do they even have a shot for the Con Crud?), large crowds anywhere are probably a bad idea.

One to Two Years: Learning Experience

WonderCon’s first year in Anaheim was our first experiment as geek parents at a con. At 14 months, he didn’t have much sense of what was going on, but he loved exploring. We only brought him on Sunday afternoon, and he spent most of the time riding in the stroller except when I found an out-of-the-way spot for him to run around.

Strollers make crowd weaving a lot more difficult, but it didn’t really sink in until Comic-Con. People in crowds don’t see them. They see an empty space and try to walk through it.  I can only imagine what it must be like for people in wheelchairs.

Four months at that age is a huge difference, and WonderCon went well enough that we brought him to SDCC. Not the whole time, though. The two of us went Thursday and Friday while he spent the first day with one set of grandparents and the next day with the other. Next a family trip to the zoo, and finally we brought him to the con on Sunday for Kids’ Day. (The balance was good, but the daily commute to San Diego was exhausting, which is part of why we haven’t tried this again.)

That’s how we discovered that SDCC’s Kids’ Day programming is mostly for children around 5 years old and up. We took him around the floor and showed him things we’d seen, and again found an area upstairs where he could run around, but mostly he just fell asleep in the stroller. I think he was overwhelmed. Like everyone else at the con.

Investigating the Chaos MachineA couple of months later, we brought him to WorldCon in Chicago. That was a totally different experience, because we were all out of town together for a week including sightseeing. A WorldCon is mostly about the events, not so much about the dealers or display floor (though he was fascinated by the Chaos Machine), so we did a lot of trading off and exploring the hotel and nearby parks. In one case we split a panel, one of us reading with him in the hall and the other in the room, switching halfway through.

We did bring him to one panel that we both wanted to attend. It was a humor panel, and we stood in the back while he sat at our feet playing with everything from the bagel we’d bought for him to the contents of his mom’s purse to our shoelaces.

Two to Three Years

SDCC has a childcare service for both attendees and exhibitors. You can pay hourly, ahead of time or as you arrive, though they recommend reserving ahead of time so that they know how much staff they need.

For two days at Comic-Con 2013, we brought our son with us in the morning and put him in two hours of childcare during the afternoon. It worked out pretty well for everyone’s attention span and gave us a two-hour block in which we were both free to do whatever we wanted. (Well, mostly.) Then Saturday morning we wandered the outdoor exhibits before going home.

The LEGO booth is a great place to bring kids if they’ve run out of attention span for anything else, though you might have trouble dragging them away for things like, you know, lunch.

Three to Four Years

Wondercon didn’t work out so well the spring he was three. A bit more rambunctious, but still not interested enough in what else was going on at the convention.  To make matters worse, we had to reverse our usual plan and bring him on Saturday instead of Sunday, which meant we had full access on the shortest, lightest day of the con and had to wrangle kid duty on the busiest, longest day.

I ended up spending most of my time on Saturday finding things for him to do. The R2-D2 maker’s booth fascinated him, and I bought him some toys, and we did lots of exploring around the convention center.

Comic-Con worked out better, though. We were able to find more stuff that interested him at the con. LEGO of course, and there was at least one publisher (Oni?) that had a kids corner at their booth. He was able to spend a longer part of the afternoon playing at the child care, and the events that interested us turned out to be spread out enough that neither of us ended up being exclusive guardian for most of a day.

Four Years and Up – Cosplay!

Now that he’s four, we’ve turned a corner. He doesn’t need the stroller anymore, which helps a lot with mobility. Since he’s already walking most of the time, we don’t need to set aside extra time to let him run around and stretch his legs. (Not to say that he never ran off…)

More importantly, he can appreciate exhibits and stuff now, so at this year’s WonderCon the toys, costumes and displays were interesting instead of background noise. Impulse control is still an issue, but he enjoyed checking out random stuff and we kept him from breaking anything. Some of the kids’ activities, like drawing, appeal to him now.

And then there’s cosplay.  He wanted to be Spider-Elsa for the previous Halloween, so we stitched together pieces of a Spider-Man costume with aqua fabric and attached the mask to an Elsa wig. The costume still fit in April, and not only did he wear it like a cosplay pro, but the icy wall-crawler was a big hit. We’d explained the concept of a secret identity, and he happily made sure his mask was in place when people asked for photos. He was still going strong when chocolate ice cream forced us to break out the backup costume: a yellow shirt with blue overalls.

We still only brought him on the last day of WonderCon, but he loved the experience this year–and he got a lot of great material for show and tell!

Check out our full list of Tips for Comic-Con at Speed Force.

Not Going to Comic-Con This Year (But I Feel Fine)

Convention Center End-On

It’s been getting more and more difficult each year to get tickets (not to mention hotel rooms) for Comic-Con International, and each of the last few years I’ve been wondering if this one might be the year I’d be shut out. The current system is a lottery: Everyone who wants tickets signs into a “waiting room” website before the sale starts, and the system randomly selects batches of people to let into the ticketing system, slowly enough that it won’t crash under the load, until all the tickets are sold out.

It took about an hour to sell out on Saturday.

Despite teaming up — you can buy tickets for yourself and up to two other people, so you can make arrangements among a group of three that whoever gets in first will buy tickets for the others — we watched as first Preview Night, then Saturday, then Friday, then Thursday, and finally Sunday each sold out. The official SDCC Twitter account was more timely with that information than the waiting room, which refreshed its message every 2 minutes, but insisted that Thursday was “very low” for at least one refresh after they reported the sellout on Twitter.

It’s going to be the first year since 1990 that I haven’t been to San Diego for Comic-Con.

Oddly, I’m only mildly disappointed.

  1. I was half-expecting it.
  2. WonderCon and Long Beach Comic-Con are both great conventions in the area (WonderCon 2014 & LBCC 2014 writeups) that are a lot easier to get into (and less crazy to attend). The kiddo might enjoy Comikaze — he’ll be almost five by then. (Wow!)
  3. I’ve been lucky the last few years, so I guess now it’s someone else’s turn.
  4. If we really want that SDCC experience, there’s the possibility of taking the train down to San Diego on Saturday to look at the stuff outside that doesn’t require a ticket. The kiddo will like the train ride too, I suspect.

Then again, the last two times I’ve gone to San Diego, I’ve gotten a first-hand look at the inside of an emergency room. Maybe it’s just as well that I don’t try for three in a row.

Back to the Beach: Long Beach Comic Con (2014)

Outside Long Beach Comic Con 2014

I did something different at Long Beach Comic Con this year: I went for two days instead of just one! Well, one and a half days, really, but it is a first. The con is still small enough that I can do the whole thing in a day, but there were Saturday-only events and one Sunday-only event that I really wanted to attend.

Before I left, I skimmed over my posts about previous years’ cons. Last year I felt particularly unfocused most of the day until I figured out what I wanted to do…at the end of the day. So this year I approached LBCC with a few goals in mind:

  • Young Justice panel
  • S.T.A.R. Labs Mobile Research Unit (an interactive promo for the Flash TV show)
  • Bargain collections
  • Artists & interesting indie books

Continue reading

This Fan Used To Post Tons Of Comic-Con Coverage, Then Stopped. Can You Guess Why?

SDCC Crowd with TVs

Social media has drastically changed the online aspect of Comic-Con. So much is up instantly that you can follow the event live without setting foot in San Diego. But for those of us who are on-site, there’s a trade-off between being part of the conversation and part of the convention.

Because we can post in real time, people want to follow in real time too, and lose interest quickly afterward. No matter how interesting I think my follow-up articles might be, none of them are read anywhere near as much as the half-assed pieces that go up during or right after the con. Even interest in photos drops off steeply as soon as the event is done:

Flickr SDCC traffic graph

But it takes time to write and edit, to curate, crop and adjust, and (dare I say it) to promote — and if it’s not your job, it comes at the expense of other things you could do at the con.

There’s Far Too Much To Take In Here

I’ve been posting my con experiences and photos for over a decade now. At first I’d just post when I had time. Once I had a smartphone, Twitter, and a second blog at Speed Force, I was live-tweeting and live-blogging everything.

Then in 2011, my wife and I left our then-infant son with relatives and spent a single day immersed in the pop culture madness. It gave us a new perspective:

  • Comic-Con is gigantic.
  • Your time at Comic-Con is limited.
  • Make the most of it!

I changed the way I approached the convention. No more liveblogging; other people are doing that for their job. No presentations that will just be online by the end of the day anyway. No three-hour lines. I wanted the experience I could only get by being there.

I also cut my social media activity to a minimum:

  • Instagram when I had a minute or two of downtime, set to auto-share pictures out to Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
  • Twitter rarely, again when I had a little downtime. No more stopping in the hall to post a comment. This year I didn’t even check for conversations (which, it turns out, I should have).

Sure, I’m a little disappointed that my SDCC 2014 writeup hasn’t been read by very many people, but it’s partly to help me remember this year’s con when I look back at it later. Our photo album at least got some attention. But you know what? If I’d taken the time to write about it during the con, whether live or nightly, I wouldn’t have had as much to write about, and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I think that’s a good trade-off.

P.S. Apologies for the clickbait headline. It seemed appropriate for the subject matter.

Comic-Con 2014 – Now That’s Better! (Writeup, Photos and Cosplay)

Mecha-BatmanThis year’s trip to Comic-Con International in San Diego went a bit better than last year, when we ended up losing an entire afternoon to an ER visit. That didn’t happen this year. (Well, not quite…) Even better: we managed to catch some fascinating panels, meet some artists and writers, find some cool stuff, see people in awesome costumes, and even learn some useful information.

(For the TL;DR folks, you can jump straight to the full photo album on Flickr.)

Alice (Once Upon a Time in Wonderland style)

The Paper!It’s been a while since either of us attended in costume, but this year Katie put together an Alice costume from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Some parts were collected across weeks of shopping trips, but we made the vest, and she made the necklace and beaded the belts together. It was the most elaborate costume we’d done since my Jay Garrick Flash costume in 2009. I think it came out great, but she was disappointed that so few people seemed to recognize it. For Friday she bought back her Yomiko Readman costume from a few years ago.

As far as other cosplay went, I noticed an unusual number of costumes from Princess Mononoke and Battlestar Galactica (both versions). Katie spotted several women as Quicksilver (X-Men: Days of Future Past–style. By our count there were at least five. There were a lot of Frozen costumes (and before you object, Elsa has super-powers and a character arc that reads like an X-Men storyline — wish I could take credit for this, but I saw someone make the point on Twitter & can’t remember who). One of my favorite costumes that I didn’t manage to catch a photo of was Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck-it-Ralph, complete with her race car.

Also: Every Cersei Lannister we saw was carrying around a wine goblet. Every. Single. One. Continue reading