How I survived Tampa Bay Comic Con (and other nerd gatherings)

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“There goes another Deadpool. There's always a lot of Deadpools at these things.”
Ah, Deadpool. The snarky wise-ass, who in his comic does what he wants and breaks the 4th wall at will, is a real piece of work. At Cons there are always a ton of Deadpools because he's so popular, and because it gives young people — mostly men, but some gals — the excuse to act out. A Marvel comics rogue, the “merc with a mouth”, is always a popular cos-play (read: costume play) at comic cons and mega-conventions. The character himself enjoys running amok on foot and by lip, so fans enjoy acting out in a big way at these shows.

This past weekend at the Tampa Bay Comic Con, my third interaction of the day with a Deadpool resulted in atypical irreverence: “Excuse me, coming through, I've got a sword, I've got a gun, and I'm a bit indecisive.” Ah, yes, the sights and sounds of a Comic Con can be like coming home for most, but for the uninitiated, perhaps a bit intimidating. No need to fear though, consider this your Comic Con survival guide.

To best prepare yourself for going to a convention, you need to picture in your mind a cavernous hall, though quite expansive, gill-filled with masses of people. Got it? Good, now imagine those people dressed in a variety of elaborate costumes, from tiny to gargantuan, each in possession of fantastic props, brutal play weapons, and cleavage for miles. This is your crowd con-goer. Get your nerd on!

It can't be stressed enough that preparation is the key to comic con survival. This past weekend at Tampa Bay Comic Con, a new home at the Tampa Convention Center meant a lot more space (7x the space of the last location), and a lot of room for confusion. Entering the Convention Hall directly from Franklin Street was a daunting challenge. Entrants were met with gobs of anime characters, Dr. Who incarnations, and Jedi and Sith alike. Some were loitering, reeking geekiness. Others still, in a line for something here, a line for something there. With so many different people, and not a lot of signage, it was easy to lose yourself. Your best course of attack for a show like this is to check out any maps, program guides, and event listings prior to arrival. Most of the bigger shows will have that information on the web days before the event. You're not going to want to get lost in a sea of Star Trek red shirts just looking for the ticket line. Do your research padawan!

Your local bank branch likely only gouges a few Republic credits every time you use their ATM. That's important. If you think you're going to need cash, get it before you hit the Hall. The ATMs on hand are few and far between, and their lines are plenty. Not all vendors take plastic, so bring the funds with you.

It likely doesn't need to be said, but if you have trouble with crowds or are on any anxiety medications, make sure you have them on hand. There is nothing quite like having a panic attack with Lord Vader hovering over you. “At all costs, avoid that mess, you must,” Yoda might say.

Game of Thrones stars Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo), and Rory McCann (The Hound) were all on hand at Tampa Bay Comic Con, and fans were delighted to see them. If you want to meet stars like these at these Cons, you're going to be paying extra, on top of your ticket price. Again, some preparation can come in handy. Some comic cons will offer pre-orders for autographs and photo ops on their website. There's nothing like knowing you're meeting the smoldering Jason Momoa and everything is taken care of in advance. The less you have to deal with on show day, the better. Pay for the opportunity to meet a Horse Lord beforehand!

Finally, you need to remember who these shows are for everyone. Your patience will be tried harder than Obi-Wan having to deal with Luke's whining in the massive crowds you'll be enduring. I know, I know, you actually played Mario Bros. When it was originally released. That doesn't mean you can trample the children running around in Bowzer costumes. Likewise, consider if you really want to vamp up as Elvira, assaulting all ages with your Gothic breasts.

The 2013 Tampa Bay Comic Con was a tremendous event, but thousands upon thousands crowded the convention center, and getting lost wasn't a challenge. So when you are jammed into a crowded elevator, wishing you were anywhere other than there, remember to take in a child's delight when they encounter Wreck-It Ralph in person. Admire the work that cos-players have put into their costumes while you're shoved against them in line. You may all come from different universes, multiple fandoms, but you're all chasing a child-like joy that never truly leaves you. Don't let the reality of the Con take you to the Darkside.

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