How I Sneaked Into Comic Con 2012 Without Buying a Ticket: Tips and Tricks
So here's the deal. I'm really tired and just got back from my first day of Comic Con 2012! I really need sleep, but I want to share this with everyone. I'll be updating this each day over the weekend, letting you know on which tactics work best. So, a good friend of mine knew how much I wanted to go to Comic Con (I put it on my bucket list, I can die now). Tickets are sold out, obviously. He offered to give me his badge when he wasn't using it. Here's what happened.
The Start - Thursday, 7/12/12
I lucked out. We all arrived the day before the convention started, me and four others. I waited in line with them while they got their badges, so I got a lot of the free stuff they did. I got a lanyard and a big, obnoxious bag. These help me look the part of a convention goer. What others had that I didn't was a "badge," as I've said. The badge is a plastic casing that holds a small, special paper with your name, watermark, barcode, among other identifying marks.
A lot of people hadn't come the day before and had to wait in line to get their badges that day. There was a second line for people who had volunteered and earned a pass for the day. This means their was quite a bit of an influx of people for cover.
My awesome friend wrapped his lanyard around his belt and tucked his badge into his pocket, so that our flawless plan would look more natural. We hoped that they would see the lanyard and let us in. Heart pounding, I walked up to the front doors of hall G. A security asked us, "do you have your badges? Go to hall A."
We got to hall A and headed for the door. My friend took out his badge from his pocket. When they asked me, I kept walking and patted my pocket, showing the lanyard. They left me be. I was as cunning as Doctor Doom! I had the suave and misdirection of the Chameleon! And then I walked towards the exhibit hall where all the merchants are. There's a whole other tier of security inside the building and guarding each event.
A lot of the people giving directions at Comic Con are just volunteers, meaning they're not well trained or have a good idea of the layout. I'd say one in ten actually got me to where I need to go, and seven of the other nine directed me in the opposite direction of my intention. It's much easier and less contact with staff if you use the map in the free booklet or one along high traffic hallways.
We pulled the same tactic. Luckily, there was a shift change at the door, I hurriedly walked on by. There are 150,000 people in San Diego for Comic Con. There are bound to be security holes. Of course, some workers are very careful, others don't really care. Still, it felt pretty awesome to actually be here. In the exhibit hall, they don't really check your badge, which means I was safe but trapped. Later, my friends stayed in the hall, while I took their badge and had free reign. This place is pretty awesome!
I got to see so many costumes! There are all kinds of events. People line up, and they don't know what for. You can stand in line and only find out what they're giving out on Twitter minutes before you get it. It's an odd way to spend your day. Spaces are built up and stripped down in a matter of hours.
At the end of the day, I stood past the bridge of a major crossing. I looked for purple badges that people hung around their necks. The purple color indicates a Thursday badge, a red badge means a four day, all convention pass. Hopefully, I could manipulate someone's badge into a four day badge. This I could use for the rest of the con. Getting the badge seemed harder to do than initially sneaking into Comic Con! People were so reluctant! I guess it is quite shady. I was looking for a white guy, so the name might fit my looks. I think Amanda or Jamarr would be a hard sell. I'm really grateful for the guy who gave me his.
A panel is an event. A group of professionals speak to a crowd, e.g. the cast of The Simpsons would talk about Simpsony things.
Friday 7/13/12: Success!
It was touch and go for a while. My fellow convention goers camped out the night before at 10pm for a panel that would start at 10am the next morning. They told me that almost two third of the people who waited in line by 10am the next day were not admitted to the panel. That panel seated 5,000! Well, this means I wouldn't have their badges to milk off of. Back to plan B.
B for _itches
So I have the above badges, one for reference and one to manipulate. I also have a red sharpie. At first, I started on the front of the badge, coloring in the edges. The red was extremely dark due to the purple background, and the glaring 'Thursday' wouldn't work no matter what. I flipped it over and took out the safety pin. Luckily, the whole plastic is translucent, and the majority of the color is only on the front. I used the sharpie to color in the back, making a fake front. I then flipped the inner card around. I didn't bother trying to make the bottom 'San Diego...' text at the bottom. I figured people will generally be looking at the color of the badge by now. Still, the inner card had a large 'Thursday' on it, as well as missing the characteristic light red '4' on the four day passes. There wasn't an easy way to get the four, so I decided to just cover up the Thursday. I took the paper that describes the penalty (I mean price) found on the bottles of water in our hotel room and carefully ripped it to the desired length. It turned out like so.
Feelin' Pretty Good
Alright, so up close it doesn't look so great, but it got me through to just about everything! From far away, it looked fairly authentic. There was only one attendant who almost stopped me when I was heading into a panel. She asked three times to see my badge, I said yes, and I calmly flashed it each time. It hung around my neck, but I used the strap of the bag to cover most of it. Aside from that, I stayed in one room for great panels almost all day.
One of the panels included comic book artist and awesome guy, Dustin Nguyen! He sketched a cool picture (below), and I won it on trivia! It was really cool to see him draw and see how human he is. He is really a perfectionist! He would draw a perfect eye and erase and start over. He would draw perfect hair and erase it and start over. As the last artist, he didn't get enough time. I'm in no way complaining though!
I'm going to darken and fix my current badge. I'll check back in soon.
Saturday 7/14/12: Success!
So I darkened my badge with a second coat, and I wish I had done this the previous day! It looks much better. The paper I used to cover the 'Thursday' often falls out of place, but I didn't and I probably won't change or glue it. If one were planning ahead for this, I'd say bring glue or other special paper. I was able to get around just fine using the previous tactics. The security is even more relaxed than yesterday. It seems that they use the first day to ward off any con artists or wanderers. Much of the manpower was missing today. We'll see about tomorrow.
I was able to see quite a few good and great panels! Below is a video of some of history's greatest voice actors and some new bloods, featuring: Mark Evanier, Matthew Mercer, Debi Derryberry, April Winchell, Steve Blum, Jim Ward, Jack Angel, and Chuck McCann. I'm warning you now, it's filmed on a small digital camera, I had to hold it so it's shaky, and I happened to be seated next to a hyena who cackled after every line. Essentially, it was a really great game. Each voice actor had to go through a script of Snow White on the spot! They then had to use different voices for many of the lines. Maybe you had to be there...still!
If you don't know who Jim Lee is, you've never read a comic book. Jim Lee has been in the industry for more than 25 years. I got to see him draw, and he gave an art lesson on dynamic face shots. He was really nice! He stayed after to sign a few things and take pictures. I got him to sign my friend's first issue of X-Men, which he drew. Awesome!
Off again with the same tactics. I'll update soon.
Sunday 7/15/12 - Failed
I got caught! I'm not too sure what happened. I went a bit later today, around noon. There may not have been enough people to make everyone going in seem like a blur. I walked in like I did before, but this time a security guard carefully inspected my badge. It was a really awkward confrontation. Basically, I acted pretty calm, and ended up saying the badge was my roommate's. He seemed really stunned and confused. He flipped it over, saw the 'Thursday', and opened it to see the floating piece of paper. I said I was going to call my roommate, and I'd be right back. I walked out and just walked away. He took my fake badge, but I didn't really suffer any consequences (other than my moral integrity).
How I Got Back In
So I wandered around and contacted my friends in the convention. My awesome friend gave me his badge when he was done shopping, and I was able to move freely. I would've been screwed later in the day when they carefully checked badges in line for a panel. I still had some great fun, and it was a good experience.
At the End of the Day...
I would suggest just buying the real tickets. Even if you scalp a ticket, if they check it with your I.D., then you could be screwed (unless you match the name!). I was fairly on edge for most of the days, and it lessened the experience quite a bit. At least, it was good thing that I was caught at the door. Had I been stopped deeper in the Con, who knows what would've happened or how I would've gotten out of it. An experience to remember though!