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Comic-Con® is a registered trademark of the San Diego Comic Convention. Northwest Creative Imaging is not affiliated with or endorsed by Comic-Con or the San Diego Comic Convention.

Tradeshow Guide: A Comic-Con® Insider’s Guide to San Diego 2014

[Comic-Con, the Comic-Con logo, and the WonderCon logo are registered trademarks of San Diego Comic Convention.]

“If you’re going….to San Diego….
Be sure to wear a superhero suit…”

That paraphrase from the 1960s folk anthem "San Francisco" by Scott McKenzie might apply justly to Comic-Con International, the largest convention-styled gathering for fans and students of comics.

The Comic-Con International ®Convention 2014 is from July 23-27, spanning four days and nights. The show brings together people from all walks of life for a long weekend conference to celebrate awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, like television, graphic novels, cosplay, video games, horror, anime, and more. It’s one of those major conventions that if you have to ask about what it’s about, you probably won’t fit in.

History of Comic-Con

The reason Comic Con is where it’s at today is from the early efforts of a Michigan man named Shel Dorf, who had managed some early comic-book fan conventions in the 1960s in his home state. When Dorf moved to San Diego in 1970, he organized a small similar comic fan convention in that California city in March 1970. It proved to be enough of a success that Dorf started a larger event, the initial 3-day San Diego comics convention called the "Golden State Comic-Con" in August 1970. Over the years, the show has continued to grow among fans, authors, and super hero acolytes.

Comic-Con International is getting more popular every year. According to the official Comic-Con International website, attendance in recent years has topped the 130,000 mark. Hundreds of vendors and company exhibitors now present their wares at the show; many of them take advantage of helpful trade show display services that are available. That’s a far cry from the 300 or so attendees at the very first Comic-Con held in a San Diego hotel basement in 1970. And this year’s conference shows no signs of slowing down.

2014 programming

The 2014 Comic-Con International show offers attendees not only the main convention exhibit hall and related programming in the San Diego Convention Center, but ancillary events being held in local hotels and outdoor parks. Currently on the schedule are anime and film screenings (including a separate film festival); educational and academic workshops for the Comics Arts Conference; an awards show called the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, akin to the “Oscars” of the comics industry; a costume competition and more.

From the Comic-Con website comes the latest info:

“Comic-Con International once again features a massive schedule of programming events—the largest of any comics or pop culture convention in the country. The schedule spans all four days and includes 22 separate rooms in the Convention Center, ranging from 280 seats to the massive 6,500-seat Hall H.

In addition, Comic-Con branches out to the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel for three big days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) of programs and special events. The Marriott Marquis & Marina serves as the headquarters hotel for anime, nighttime films, games, the Hospitality Suite, and the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival.

On Saturday night, the Sails Pavilion is turned into “Party Central” for the gala annual Masquerade party, where you can watch the show on the big screen. And the Lyceum Theater in Horton Plaza has been added for special ticketed events. The tickets are free.”

Special Guests

What also makes Comic-Con so extraordinary is all the extra special personal appearances the show lines up. Guest visitors range from TV, film and Web actors from fantasy comic creations and sci-fi genres to fantasy fiction authors and digital artists working in comic realms.

Here is a snapshot of a few of the well-known comic artists, illustrators, writers and more attending Comic-Con 2014:

  • June Brigman: a renowned illustrator and co-creator of the Power Pack comics series, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
  • Mark Brooks: a Marvel illustrator best-known for amazing cover-art on Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, Secret Avengers, Fearless Defenders and Deadpool.
  • Greg Capullo: illustrator and the current artist on DC Comics Batman, and earlier for his work on comic title Spawn, created by Todd McFarlane.

Super Heroes

Another element that makes Comic-Con so much fun is the whimsical costumes that fans of the genres choose to wear. Every type of costume seems to come into view, from demon starlets and steampunk characters to superheroes and princesses. See what we mean with this clip of 2013’s cast of Comic-Con characters:

Enough about all the excitement of the show - you wanna go! So how do you get in? And what other knotty details do you need to know about spending a long summer weekend in San Diego? Let’s get to the nitty-gritty.

Conference Badges:

Badges are in limited supply, so it’s best to order one of these as soon as you can. Comic-Con International offers adult badges from prices ranging from $45 for a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday badge (up from $42 in 2013) or $30 for a Sunday badge (previously $24). Or you can order a full weekend badge set for $165. Teenagers (13-17) get in for about half of the adult amount, and kids 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult.

The show also includes a ‘Preview Night’ on the Wednesday before the actual Thursday show start day. If you want an early glimpse into that night, then you’ll need to buy one for an extra $35. Combine that with your weekend pass and you’re looking at a $200 investment spread over the five days.

San Diego Hotels:

Many San Diego hotels are booked up early for summer weekends, as the Southern California weather is excellent during this time. So it’s important to book early and find a hotel in walking distance of the San Diego Convention Center and downtown entertainment district.

A favorite for many Comic-Con attendees is the Holiday Inn Express Downtown San Diego, which is within walking steps of the convention center, the always fun Gas Lamp entertainment district and more. It offers complimentary breakfast buffet for guests every morning, plus hotel Wi-Fi and more.

Or if you’re not much of a downtown drinking and dancing type, and would prefer luxury during your Comic-Con stay, there’s the often recommended Town & Country Resort. Situated on 32 lushly landscaped acres in San Diego’s Mission Valley district, this resort’s luxury confines will help you ease off the mayhem and craziness that sometimes accompanies a full day at Comic Con.

Things to Do in San Diego

* The beach: San Diego is home to some of the finest beaches in the world, and it you can pull yourself away from Comic-Con for a few hours, a little R ‘n R on the beach might be your best bet! Try Mission Beach for the surf and local culture variety, or enjoy the beauty and tranquility that the famed Hotel Coronado offers through its famous beach.

* The Zoo: The San Diego Zoo is world-famous for its amazing array of animals from all over the globe. It’s located in Balboa Park, right next to Downtown San Diego. Take in an early morning visit to see the animals in their natural habitat.

* The nightlife: The Gas Lamp nightlife entertainment district offers locals and tourists the chance to eat well, drink more and laugh a lot at the many restaurants, bars, comedy clubs and other adult offerings on display here.

* The fun: If you’re open to diverse cultures, you might want to consider coming a few days early for the San Diego Pride weekend, which is scheduled the weekend before (July18-20). The weekend promises a huge parade, with some 200,000 spectators expected and a music, arts and entertainment festival in Balboa Park over the weekend.

So get packin’ and get ready! The 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International is coming up soon, and it’s time to set your plans in stone.

Northwest Creative Imaging is excited about Comic-Con and other trade shows throughout 2014. As an online retailer dealing in trade show display products, design services, and customer support, it is ready to assist any vendors or organizers seeking experienced trade show support.