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Comic-Con is over for another year and leaves in its wake a feeling of relief for industry professionals and lingering excitement for attendees. Before last weekend, the last time I attended Comic-Con was 2008, and while the essentials of the event are the same, a lot has changed.

First of all, the convention is larger and more popular than ever, and tickets were sold out within an hour. For those of you considering attending in the future, I hope that what I learned last week will help you decide whether you want to take that particular Asgardian by the horns.

If you’re at Comic-Con primarily for television or film, you’re going to do a lot of standing in line.

Though Hall H can accommodate the population of a small town, you face the very real possibility of not getting into your desired event if you’re not willing to camp out in the line overnight or provide bribes of breakfast to people who did. People who began queuing for Hall H before 7 a.m. on Friday for the “Veronica Mars” panel stood in line for over four hours and were unable to get in for the panel at 11 a.m.

Given that the rooms aren’t cleared between panels, it’s possible that all 6,500 people who got into Hall H will stay there the entire day, so it was bad luck for the “Veronica Mars” hopefuls that their panel was sandwiched between the star-studded “The World’s End” and “Kick-Ass 2” panels, which were then followed by panels for the immensely popular television shows “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones,” but that’s the new reality of Comic-Con: prioritizing and planning ahead are key.

While you’re standing in line, take the opportunity to talk to the people around you.

You both may be standing in line for Ballroom 20 two hours before programming begins, but if you’re waiting to fangirl Carey Elwes and get a preview of “Psych: the Musical” and she only has eyes for the “Sherlock” panel after it, you and your line-friends can engage in a not-strictly-approved activity as old as the policy of not clearing halls between panels: the bathroom pass switcheroo. Doing favors for friends both old and new can pay off, especially if your new line-friend is willing to camp out for “Breaking Bad” in Hall H but has no interest in the “Doctor Who” panel after it. Hall H is the only room that has its own bathrooms and concessions, so entering and exiting requires a more elaborate ruse than simply hitting the head, but it’s far from impossible. And you never know with whom you may be standing in line.

Comic-Con is a gold mine of advice for aspiring industry professionals; just don’t be a jerk.

Much of the buzz that comes out of Comic-Con has to do with television and film, but equally well represented in the programming, if not more so, are opportunities to find out more into breaking into the entertainment industry in all popular and emerging forms of media. This year’s panels included everything from “The Pitching Hour,” which instructed aspiring creators how persuade people to give them money to produce their projects, to breaking into voiceover, narration, and animation voice work with “The Business of Cartoon Voices.” There are panels on setting and meeting creative goals, and there are how-to sessions on advanced writing and artistic techniques. The catch? Absolutely no pitching/auditioning/begging for work in the panels, and be respectful of the industry professionals who were giving their frank, occasionally blunt advice.

Besides, there will be plenty of time schmooze with and pitch industry professional over drinks in the hotel bar.

Despite the manufactured hype, Comic-Con can change your life.

Photo courtesy of Martin Wong Photography

If you work a job that gives you little more than a paycheck, there’s something potentially transformative about surrounding yourself with people who not only love the same things you do, but who have also managed to parlay that love into a career. Comic-Con is one of the few places where fans can interact with people whose work they admire and ask them questions about how they managed to get to where they are today, and not just in the panels. In addition to Artists’ Alley, where you can purchase or commission personalized art from your favorite artists, there are dozens of small and independent publishers, webcomic writers and artists with vendor booths in the exhibit hall. Provided you don’t attempt to engage them in an impassioned debate about the most underrated Superman film while there’s a long line of people waiting to have their book signed (see “Don’t be a Jerk”), most professionals will be happy to chat, especially if you’re genuinely interested in what they do. Unless they have been subsisting on coffee and alcohol.

And beyond pursuing a full-time career in the popular arts, there are myriad opportunities for hobbyists as well. Many of the specialty vendors in the exhibit hall who sell steampunk accessories or handmade jewelry do so on a part-time basis. Even cosplayers, those costumed enthusiasts who make downtown people-watching a treat during Comic-Con, can go pro.

Through their cosplaying hobby, San Diego students SpacePizza and Junkers were recruited to be cosplay ambassadors for the media streaming site Crunchyroll. This year, SpacePizza was invited to be an official cosplayer by animation studio Rooster Teeth to promote their new series RWBY at Comic-Con while Junkers was commissioned to build prop weapons for them.

“Once you’ve done one, you’re going to get more because you’ve been discovered and your name is out,” said SpacePizza. “It’s become a year-round thing. It started with one or two conventions a year, and it sort of exploded. This year I’ve been to Anime Los Angeles, Anime Matsuri in Houston, Anime Conji, where I ran the Masquerade, Fanime in San Jose, AnimegaCon in Las Vegas, Anime Expo in L.A., and now Comic Con.”

“It’s kind of consumed my life,” she said, smiling, “and I don’t regret it at all.”

Despite the lines, despite the crowds, and despite the ever-increasing number of extracurricular promotions and commercial tie-ins, Comic-Con remains the rare place where the gulf between real life and the world of imagination is fluid, provided you step out of line for long enough to find it.

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Libby Weber

Libby Weber is a contributor to Voice of San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @thelibbyweber or email libbyweber@gmail.com.

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