Adventures at SDCC 2013 with Corey Brotherson and the Steampunk Syndicate – Day 1

SDCC2013_100_2519Join comic creator Corey Brotherson (Magic of MythsClockwork Watch,Stolen, Fight or Flight)  as he gives us a front row seat at the behind the scenes goings on as a UK creator/exhibitor at the biggest geek convention on the planet – San Diego Comic Con.

Day 1 – preview night

It’s a clear sign that I’m either too excited or not getting enough sleep when I nearly put pain relieving gel instead of toothpaste on my toothbrush.

Today is Preview Night, and that means it’s our official first day at San Diego Comic-Con. And there’s tons to do. Promotion needs to be written across all our social media channels, calls to be made, stock to prepare, price listings to be completed and other important housekeeping. All from 7.30am.

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SDCC exhibitor newbie tip #1:

Have all of this admin stuff done before you get here. Sounds like common sense, true, but you tend to find time slipping away from you weeks before you even get on a flight. Especially when you’re trying to get all you books ready for print. So when you arrive you can just focus on the stuff you can only do on-site. If you want to take card payments for your sales, you’ll need an American Social Security number, US bank account and internet capable phone. And don’t forget to add California sales tax to your prices – otherwise “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase will be waiting to hurt you with a Million Dollar Dream if you don’t have that in mind and file everything (or maybe it’s just the IRS threatening prison time. I get confused easily).

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Once we’ve had breakfast (essential for any convention), ran away from a giant green beetle threatening to eat our eyes, avoided being splashed by our neighbour’s leaking trailer, then avoided mild insanity via the loud music from our other neighbour’s trailer and packed everything into suitcases and bags, we set off to grab our SDCC exhibitor badges and prepare our table.

Yeah, like it was going to be that simple.

Instead, we drove around for an hour because I totally misread the map – turns out there’s two batches of several streets sporting the same names and same surrounding roads, all next to each other in two entirely different areas, even though they’re mere miles apart. Map reading made fun!

When we finally get to the San Diego Convention Centre, the place is heaving with people, all queuing up for badges, passes and waiting for the show doors to open to the public (several hours before time).

Preview Night is a funny one, especially for someone who is only used to UK conventions. It’s a bit like a soft launch – the show opens up from 6pm to 9pm for a limited audience of professionals, exhibitors, and some guests pre-registered for all of the exhibition’s days. Of course, when the general audience is over 130,000, even a ‘limited audience’ can mean floods of people. And that’s exactly what it was.

After the show loud speaker announces that SDCC is officially open, there’s a round of applause. Then two security guards slink over and stand next to our table. We soon see why. A stampede of excited people rush through the hallways. There’s a wild look in many of their eyes as they speed-walk past all of our tables and to the far end of the hallway. The security guards, not wishing to share the fate of Mufasa in The Lion King, knew what was coming. “It’s the exclusive stuff,” explains one guard. “Toys, mainly. People rush to buy them before they sell out. Some even sell them on eBay before they’ve actually purchased them here at the show.”

We’re stunned. Eventually, the guards make their escape, but the exclusive hunters keep pouring in. Our fellow exhibitors in our row all seem to wear a tired look of resignation on their faces. One tries to take advantage of this traffic by holding out flyers, hoping passers-by blindly take them. Sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn’t. There’s a single mindedness that’s clear. “It’s the same every year,” our neighbouring exhibitor laments. “They don’t bother looking at the good comics. People just walk on by and never even look at you.”

About 30 minutes later, the tide literally turns the opposite way. Some triumphantly walk back with large numbers of boxes in tow, mostly from Hasbro. Others look crestfallen. It’s a strange thing to observe. And even stranger, the tone of SDCC eventually just… shifts. The rush for exclusives over, the whole show switches to what feels like a more typical, sociable convention. And with this leisurely mood comes genuine curiosity from consumers now looking to see what’s on display.

And as some pass by with film cameras, others on Segways, San Diego starts to show the face we’re here for. Friendly people stop and chat, taking an interest in both Clockwork Watch and Magic of Myths. Our free postcards and bookmarks are a hit, although free stuff often is at conventions. And while sales are slow, new Clockwork Watch book Tick Tock IPA is popular enough to leave with a few happy customers. Steampunk has a massive following in San Diego as clearly demonstrated by the number of events planned for the week and the groups dressed up in Victorian hats and intricate trinkets. And seeing as both Yomi and I are dressed up in colourful waistcoats and itchy tweed, it’s like bees to pollen.

The scary thing is, as busy as Preview Night is – which is to say, it was as busy as a big UK convention – everyone tells us that it’s going to get 3 times as crazy from tomorrow onward, to the point where no one will barely be able to move. “Be prepared”, one exhibitor tells us, and I secretly hope he’ll burst into song to complete The Lion King theme of the night.

He doesn’t.

All in all, it’s an interesting start to our SDCC experience. No big celebrity encounters yet, although plenty of familiar and friendly faces make our first night an enjoyable one, with promises of meet-ups during the week. And Yomi has the (deep breath) Digital Development and Marketing for Your Digital Comic, Web Series, Game, App or Kickstarter panel tomorrow, as well. Let’s see where it takes us…

See Corey’s previous SDCC posts here

Keep up-to-date with all things Comic-Con by following @GeekSyndicate on twitter, Liking Geek Syndicate on Facebook, or you can follow the personal twitter of our GS reporters out at the Comic-Con Sharlene aka lightstarangel, Christi aka @christikassity, and Mirjana aka @jayde_dragonNYC. Of course you can follow Corey’s adventures at the comic-con on his twitter feed @CoreyBrotherson 

Reporter: Corey Brotherson

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