A Beginner's Guide to Comic Cons

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Image via MCM ComicCon London
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So, you're attending a comic con. Got your cosplay sorted? Paid for your photo session with your idol? Worked out how much money you have to live off, once you've budgeted for all the cool new merch you're going to buy? That's great!

But you're still feeling a little anxious about it all? Don't worry, we're here to help!  Our in depth beginner's guide to visiting your first con has everything you need to help you navigate that overwhelming first day and have fun: 
Emma Frost and Cyclops cosplay Image via HollySocks Photography by Kaiju Industries
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Emma Frost and Cyclops cosplay Image via HollySocks Photography by Kaiju Industries

Take a Buddy

We spoke to Hollysocks, a cosplayer based in the UK who has created incredible  costumes for cons, which include Emma Frost and Cersei Lannister. She thinks a comic con buddy is a great idea for first timers, especially if your partner in crime has attended an event before. "While cons are a great opportunity to meet people, it can be a bit overwhelming, particularly at the big events." Holly told us.

 If it's your first time cosplaying you might feel more comfortable with a friend to accompany you on the journey there - especially if you're travelling on trains or buses where the general public might be a little confused by your get up.  "Also, remember that you're going to be on your feet all day - the perfect shoes may leave you crippled, so pick your footwear with care," Holly added. 
Queues are a regular feature at cons
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Queues are a regular feature at cons

Embrace the Line

At any comic con you're going to be doing what we British people do best: queue.

You'll have to stand in line to get into the event, go to the toilet, enter a new hall, look around merchandise stands, take part in a photo session...you get it, your day will basically consist of one big queue, but always keep in mind that at the end of each one you'll be experiencing some pretty awesome things.  Holly confirmed that cash points are notoriously bad for creating queues, so try to avoid those. Patience is key. Learn to love the line. 
Credit: Nando Machado / Shutterstock.com
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Credit: Nando Machado / Shutterstock.com

Top Tip: Go Outside

The halls are, of course, where the main events happen, but don't forget to head outside the venue every now and then, because that's where people tend to congregate and smaller events take place. Pop out, even if it's just to eat your lunch,  people watch and get some fresh air in the middle of the day. 
A comic book themed back pack is a Comic Con essential
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A comic book themed back pack is a Comic Con essential

What to Pack for the Day

The three essential things Holly recommends to pack in your bag for any con are:  "Cash, because cash points spawn queues that will make your feet ache.

" Water, because dehydration is a real threat when you're in costume and in a warm con hall, and a mini sewing kit/repair pack, because there is nothing worse than losing a button five minutes into your day and knowing every single picture you have taken will look wrong!" 
Start saving those pennies now ready for your next con
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Start saving those pennies now ready for your next con

You Must Budget, and Budget Well

While at any comic con you're going to be tempted with so much merchandise, you might actually consider selling a kidney to fund it all. Just kidding...maybe. 

That's why it's a good idea to budget properly (back alley organ removal is dangerous), set aside a certain amount of money for each day and only take cash with you so you aren't tempted to pull out your debit card and get more whilst you're there! There will be plenty of interesting, rare collectables and merchandise to get your hands on, just choose wisely and think about how you are going to get it all home. 

Top Tip: Q&A Etiquette

Q&As are the perfect opportunity for you to ask your favourite actors, directors, producers etc. personal questions about their creations. However, it's a good idea to practice your questions several times in your head before you ask, so you don't get star struck. Also, telling someone on a panel that they're attractive is not considered a question, don't take up another genuinely interested person's time with your proclamations of love. 
Image via MCM ComicCon London
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Loosely Plan Your Days

There will be so much to do and see that it can all feel a little overwhelming, so handpick a panel and perhaps a Q&A session  to attend on top of your paid for photo/ autograph opportunity (if you chose to buy one). You probably won't get to see everything you want to (because of those dang queues) so choose wisely and have some back ups, just in case you can't get to something in time. 

Holly told us: "I tend to pick out a few things I want to see or do, and then work my day around there. There are group meets and photo shoots , talks, stalls I want to visit. I tend to make myself a loose plan for the weekend, but I always make sure there's free time for breaks and spur of the moment activities. Sometimes all you want to do is grab a coffee and people watch!"
Death and Susan from Terry Pratchetts Discworld cosplay Image via HollySocks
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Death and Susan from Terry Pratchetts Discworld cosplay Image via HollySocks

Make Friends

Hey, not all geeks are like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory! If you're stuck in one of those inevitable lines, then strike up a conversation with the person next to you - they are obviously interested in the same things as you, and could be pretty cool!

"I'm not from the UK originally," Holly told us, (she moved to Britain five years ago from Australia), "and conventions have definitely helped me form a vast network of friends across the country. Knowing that there are always going to be familiar faces, no matter what event I head to, is really quite something. In fact, without cosplay I wouldn't have met my partner - so I owe a lot to it!"
Credit: Lauren Elisabeth
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Credit: Lauren Elisabeth

Top Tip: Find your Cosplay Doppelganger

It's inevitable that at any con event people are going to turn up in similar costumes and as the same character. However, instead of getting upset because you're not the only steampunk Ariel in the place (amongst the thousands of people who attend, this is an inevitable outcome) this is the perfect opportunity to make new friends, compare costumes and take some great group photos. The Star Wars bunny trend is one that cosplayers really enjoy, so expect to see plenty of Darth Vader, R2-D2 and Leia bunnies wandering around. 
Valkyrie cosplay Image via HollySocks
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Valkyrie cosplay Image via HollySocks

Do it Yourself

A DIY cosplay is going to receive a lot more attention than one you simply bought offline. If you really don't have any skills with a sewing machine pick up a base costume and then try to create the accessories, such as a helmet or even just a belt. You'd also be surprised just how much you can do with some face paint!  

Sonja Cool, the mastermind behind Elantari Cosplay , worked for more than two years to create an incredible cosplay of Howl's actual castle from Studio Ghibli's much-loved animation.  Using chicken wire, mattress foam, Eva craft foam and Apoxie sculpt, Sonja put together an amazing cosplay that moved when she walked, blew steam and had elements that could be controlled from inside. Time and dedication will ensure your cosplay is noticed, half the fun of attending a con is putting your costume together! 
Marvel Emma Frost cosplay Image via HollySocks Photography by Andrei Guiamoy Photography
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Marvel Emma Frost cosplay Image via HollySocks Photography by Andrei Guiamoy Photography
Disney Briar Rose cosplay Image via HollySocks Photography by D2SCosplay
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Disney Briar Rose cosplay Image via HollySocks Photography by D2SCosplay

We asked Holly if she thought creating your costume yourself was really that important, after all there are so many out there ready to wear, she told us: "Wherever possible, I try to make everything myself.

"Of course, that's not always feasible, due to time or financial constraints, but when that's the case I tend to buy and alter regular items rather significantly. 

"Cosplaying is just a hobby, though at times it tends to take up more of my life than my full time job.  I was introduced to cosplaying and cons by a friend of mine, who I met at a convention and was a huge inspiration to me. "

Top Tip: Ask First

If you spot another cosplayer with an awesome costume, always ask before you snap a picture of them to share online. It's just polite. Also, remember if you are dressed up yourself and have an awesome costume people will be taking pictures of you. 
Game of Thrones Cersei Lannister cosplay Image via HollySocks
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Game of Thrones Cersei Lannister cosplay Image via HollySocks

When we asked Holly about her favourite cosplay creation so far, she told us:  "I think Emma Frost is definitely my favourite cosplay - I love her character, and I'm so proud of how well she came together. However, Cersei is by far the best received cosplay I've done.

"When I first wore her I got such a positive response from people, which was really encouraging from a costuming perspective. I was also lucky enough to wear her on the Gadget Show alongside some other Game of Thrones cosplayers, where we reviewed two HD TVs - it was a surreal experience!"
Marvel cosplayers Image via: HollySocks Cosplay Photography by Kaiju Industries
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Marvel cosplayers Image via: HollySocks Cosplay Photography by Kaiju Industries

Our Top Five UK Comic Con Events, for Beginners

While we look longingly at photos of this year's San Diego Comic Con and wish we could have been there, never fear, there are still plenty of events to enjoy right here in good old Great Britain. Here are five you should definitely have planned in your diary: 

MCM Manchester Comic Con 
Taking place: 25th - 26th July, Manchester Central Convention Complex 
With its infamous Comic Village, the main stage where the cosplay masquerade takes place and an incredible games expo that gives you the chance to play the latest upcoming titles, MCM Manchester is a great con to visit for a first timer. 

Northampton Comic Con 
Taking place: 26th - 27th September, County Ground
A first timer itself on the comic con scene, Northampton's event is the perfect destination for those who are yet to venture to an event. Just because it's a small doesn't mean you won't have plenty to see and do, with guest appearances planned from the likes of James Cosmo (Braveheart and Game of Thrones) and Robert Llewellyn (Red Dwarf) as well as a gaming bus. 

WynterCon 
Taking place: 31st October - 1st November, Eastbourne Winter Gardens 
This multi genre con (with a special focus on horror) has lots of attractions lined up this year with Tim Burton's Batmobile making an appearance, as well guests such as Virgina Hey (Farscape) and a themed ball taking place in the evening! 

London Film and Comic Con Winter 
Taking place: 7th - 8th November, Olympia 
James Marsters, George A Romero and Luke Barnes are already confirmed for London Film and Comic Con's winter instalment, taking place at the same venue in the big smoke. 

Thought Bubble 
Taking place: 9th  - 15th November, Leeds Dock 
This is a comic con in the traditional sense of the word, as it is predominantly for artists. There is less influence on the cosplay and more of a focus on the talented people behind the original drawings that create the phenomenons we love today in films, games and TV shows. Artists such as Gemma Correll, Aaron Campbell and Andy Diggle (former editor of 2000AD) will all be attending, ready with prints and for you to meet. 

A big thank you to Hollysocks, and the talented photography by Kaiju Industries, Andrei Guiamoy Photography, and D2SCosplay,  for their help. 
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