How To Crush Your First Comic-Con

July 1st, 2015 | by Susan Rook
How To Crush Your First Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con 2015 (SDCC) is right around the corner and ComiConverse has all the angles covered.  Here is a friendly planning guide for those looking to take the plunge and attend their first Comic-Con this year, based on one family’s amazing visit to Fan Expo Canada 2014.

Are you thinking about going to a comic book convention? Don’t just think about it. Go!

ComiConverse FanExpo Canada 2014


My husband (the original comics culture fan in our household) says our first FanExpo Canada was the best vacation in his whole life!

Here are some tips we use for our comic book convention planning and some photos from FanExpo Canada 2014. We have our tickets and hotel for FanExpo Canada 2015 and we’re are already planning our convention for Labor Day weekend.ow

How To Pick Your First Comic-Con

Make your first Con an easy and enjoyable trip.

We live near Toronto, so FanExpo is our Con.  FanExpo Canada is now the third largest pop culture convention in North America, behind San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con in terms of size. SDCC is the big kahuna of pop culture conventions and will remain at the top, but there are some distinct advantages with FanExpo over both SDCC and NY Comic Con.

For starters, you can get tickets to FanExpo fairly easily, and a con in hand is better than no con at all. There are comic book themed conventions happening all the time, large and small, so pick one and then begin planning your trip.

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Here’s a quick link to upcoming comic book conventions.

Con Travel Planning For Beginners

First stop in planning: tickets and hotel.

Tickets for SDCC and NY Comic Con sell out fast. This can be a frustrating experience, especially for a Con newbie; that’s one of the reasons why we opted for FanExpo Canada. Convention rate hotel rooms also sell out in Toronto, but check the FanExpo Canada travel link because you might still find rooms available.  Once you have your registration and hotel taken care of you can enjoy the pre-convention planning.

How To Enjoy Your First Comic-Con

What do you want to see?

If you’re like us, you will enjoy the weeks leading up to the Con as much as the Con itself, so don’t be put off by all the advice about planning for your trip. Watching a convention site as they add celebrity guests leads to great ComiConversations. I’m a fan of Orange is the New Black and and Star Trek Voyager so I’m pretty excited about actress Kate Mulgrew coming as a celebrity guest to this year’s FanExpo Canada.

Do I want to go to her panel or is there something else in the schedule that I would rather see? These are the types of questions you want to ask yourself.

Here’s a smart tip. Going to a huge celebrity panel will take more time than going to smaller panels, so we always start our convention planning by choosing which celebrity panels we don’t want to miss. For big panels, you will spend some time in lines, but that can be part of the convention experience and it give you a great opportunity to take in some of the local colour.

Artists Duel: A Great Place To Geek Out

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Toronto ComiCon 2014 Sketch Duel

Sketch Duel artists: Neal Adams, Chris Sprouse & Nick Bradshaw

One of our favourite parts of FanExpo Canada is something called the Sketch Duel. This involves multiple comic book artists on one panel.  They ask the audience for suggestions of what to draw and then we get to watch them create!

These photos are from the 2014 event.  The audience wanted something with Harley Quinn and Neal Adams wanted to add a monkey to the image (I’m not sure why).  While the artists are drawing, they will answer audience questions.  This is by far our favourite part of any convention AND the finished artwork goes to lucky members of the audience for free as a prize.


Art by Nick Bradshaw, Neal Adams and Chris Sprouse

Artists Alley

If you’re a comic book fan, do not miss Artists Alley.

Your favourite comic book artists might be available for conversation, photos and even commissioned artwork. Each comic book artist is different. Availability and accessibility depends on their personality and time. For example, Neal Adams will charge for fan photos even if it’s a snapshot at his booth, but if you ask him about something he wants to talk about, you can hear comic book history from a comics legend.

The Archie artists, Fernando Ruiz and Dan Parent, are among the nicest people we’ve ever met!

Artist Ken Lashley will do commissions for charity and this guy is amazing!

So don’t be shy while your cruising Artists Alley.

Enjoy The Company Of The Comic-Con Crowds

You can find complaints on the internet about anything and complaints about any comics convention are no exception. Despite lines and frustrations that go along with ever big event, the folks who attend a comics convention are my geek tribe. We are all excited and passionate about what we love.

That alone is worth the price of admission to any pop culture and comic book convention.

My favourite non-practical tip is this: be where you are.

Yes, I’m talking about the idea of mindfulness. Mindfulness is focusing your attention on the present moment. Planning for a convention is important but once you get there enjoy each moment. You won’t see everything, but planning will get you to the things that matter most. Try to remember, there will always be another con and each one will be even better than the last.

What are some of your favorite comic book convention experiences?  Do you have a tip that will help other people in planning a trip to a convention?

Take time out to ComiConverse with us in our comments section or on social media.


Susan Rook is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow her on Twitter: @BaseballSus

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  • Hey! I was at the Toronto Comic-Con! At that Harley with a money sketch duel even! Such a great time! I won my pick of the ‘ Hulk smashing a banana ‘ sketch duel later that day.

  • WOAH! You were there? AND, you got one of the sketches? Did you frame it? I’m going to write more about the sketch duels? If you tweet me your photo, I’ll interview you. We go to almost every duel because the artists are fun to watch AND we get to hear some cool inside stories! Speaking of inside dope, id you go to the Sketch Duel the day before? Ken Lashley was one of the artists. He is so much FUN to listen to and a super nice guy as well. Who is your favorite artist?

  • I did frame it yep, I’ll send you a pic on twitter of it. I did go to the one the day before, Ken was late to it actually because he was doing a commission for me (and he didn’t know he was supposed to be there untill the scheduler guy came and told him) I think Ken is my favourite artist to chat with, and he has great prices for his art. My favourite piece is done by Francis Manapul who did a Batman for me just as he was starting on Detective Comics.

  • I got the pic! Thanks 🙂 I laughed when I saw Hulk *crushing* the banana looking super Hulk fearsome! HEY and I just checked, @YannickPaquette is on twitter! I love that so many artists and writers are on twitter and actually write back to fans! 🙂
    Do you have a photo of the Francis Manapul Batman art? I’d love to see it.
    OH and our first come-con we only went to 1 sketch duel but now we tend to plan our schedule around the duels. Comic artists are rock stars!

  • Yeah I love the duels…. Usually I try drawing the same thing they are asked to draw while I listen to the stories

  • I’m not an artist and can’t even fake being an artist like I fake being a singer in the shower! Good for you! I wonder how many others do that? I’m going to look for people sketching along the next Artists Duel I go to …. so ready for FanExpo to be here 🙂

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