Comic-Con International is the Mecca of Pop Culture. It started in 1970 as a place for comic book fans to get together, trade and buy comics, and meet their favorite writers and artists. In the last ten years, it has grown to become "the place to be" for all pop culture fans. Hollywood studios, in particular, have utilized Comic-Con to put their most exciting new films and televisions shows in front of an appreciative audience, and even bring down big name stars to greet the rabid fans.
This year, Comic-Con had approximately 125,000 attendees, hundreds of events both inside and outside of the San Diego Convention Center, movie star signings, and a massive exhibitors' room selling anything you could possibly imagine. Navigating this 4-day event can be a daunting task. Luckily this is the type of situation that iOS devices are built for.
For the last two years, Comic-Con has partnered with companies to sponsor free Wi-Fi for convention attendees. AT&T has also provided Wi-Fi access exclusively for iOS users during the convention. Similar to the Starbucks setup, iOS devices will generally join this network automatically. The convention hopes to continue to offer this sponsorship each year.
The Official Comic-Con App
To help iOS users deal with the confusion, Elemental Bits released this very useful app. It provides you with the latest news, a schedule of panel discussions and events, a list of exhibitors, floor maps, and more. You can use the app to review the schedule of panels and events and select the ones you want to attend. Because of the crowds, you may not get into your first choice of panels. Fortunately, the "Favorite" feature allows you to select multiple events for the same time period.
In addition, the Comic-Con App works with the SCHED engine (sched.org). This not only allows users to plan their convention, it also lets them sync it with their iOS calendar. Another great use for the app is to check and see which sessions are the most popular, which will help you gauge how early to get in line. (A good time management strategy is often the key to having an enjoyable convention.)
Shop 'til you drop
Comic-Con spans 460,000 feet and almost a thousand exhibitors so finding what you want on the exhibition floor can be quite a challenge. Most of the Hollywood studios are located in one area of the floor, and if a studio starts handing out free stuff, or the cast of The Big Bang Theory decides to do a signing, this area can become a claustrophobe's nightmare within minutes. Mostly though, the exhibition floor is filled with not only comic books, but quite literally every toy, book, statue, or gizmo imaginable to feed the fantasies of an army of twelve year olds.
One of the Official Comic-Con App's most useful features can be used on the exhibit floor. The app has a listing of all the vendors on the floor, but even more useful is its notes feature. By finding the booth number, you can select that vendor as a favorite. It then allows you to add notes for that vendor. For example, let's say that you find that a specific vendor has that issue of Batman #251 you've been looking for (the one with the classic Joker story). You can note that and look for a better price with the eBay Mobile app (free, app2.me/2646) or on sites like AtomicAvenue.com and MileHighComics.com.
Of course, firing up Safari gives you access to some critical collecting information. A good rule of thumb is not to buy anything you can get at home unless you can get a really good deal. Checking prices on eBay, either through Safari or the eBay app can help determine whether you're getting a good deal. If you can't find a better price online or at the convention, you can pull up your list of favorite vendors and figure out exactly where that booth is.
Check Twitter for "twends"
Twitter is another great tool to use at Comic-Con. I like Twitter (free, app2.me/102) and Twitterific (free, app2.me/2409), but any of the related apps will do. You can check out "twending" (trending Comic-Con topics) and get the lowdown on what's happening around the show. DC Comics Co-Publisher, Jim Lee has established a convention tradition over the last couple of years. He creates a sketch, hides it somewhere in the convention center, and then tweets clues to its whereabouts. Since a Jim Lee sketch goes for hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars to collectors, it's a very good idea to pay close attention.
Getting away from the convention
Even the most devoted Comic-Con fan must eventually leave the convention center to get a little fresh air and some food. A location-based app like Tellmewhere (free, app2.me/3177) can help get you where you want to go in San Diego. During the 2010 convention, I used Tellmewhere to locate a postal/shipping center to send my purchases home so I didn't have to carry them back on the plane.
The Official Comic-Con app contains information specific to the shows Comic-Con International puts on, which include WonderCon, to be held in San Francisco on April 1-3, 2011, and Amateur Press Expo, usually held in the fall in San Francisco. So, be sure to keep your eye on this app for updates as the start of each show approaches.