Navigating ‘the worst line in fandom’

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Karen Kunawicz

Karen Kunawicz

San Diego Comic Con’s Hall H has been called “the worst line” by online publication The Verge because of what fans have to endure to get a seat in the venue. It’s tough enough to get a badge to the San Diego Comic Con (aka Comic Con International), Hall H offers extra challenge.

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Hall H is where the big-ticket panels at SDCC are held. It’s where The Avengers assemble, the X-Men have been here, The Hobbit panels were held here; members of the Justice League, the cast of The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton, JJ Abrams, Joss Whedon, the original and new cast of Star Wars have all been to Hall H.

Unfortunately, it’s also where they’ve held Twilight panels years back. If my line mates are to be believed, they claim the camping out and sleeping over for seats in Hall H started with the Twilight fans.

Hall H seats about 6,500 people or roughly 5 percent of the Comic Con attendees. So many fans want to get into Hall H but the venue just cannot handle it—the capacity and seating arrangement is strictly monitored by the city’s fire marshals.

In the past, I’ve been able to get into big ticket panels by lining up at 5 a.m. of the same day—though I do have to walk past people in sleeping bags or wrapped up in blankets. In 2014, they implemented the wrist band system—to cut down on line cutting and give the wrist band wearer as well as people coming in to line up an idea of whether they’ll get in or not.

There are four types of wristbands: Categories A to D, color-coded differently for each category and day. They were distributed at several intervals in the night.

By 2015, organizers said they didn’t want to encourage sleeping over so they set wristband distribution at one point the night prior to the day of the panel you wanted to attend.

I’m not sure it solved the problem entirely—instead of lining up at 4 a.m. to get in at 10 a.m., people line up at 4 p.m. (or earlier) of the day before so they can get the wristbands! Also, there are only about four wristband marshals who have so serve over six thousand people. They have to do a badge check before giving out a wristband. This means it takes many hours from the time the first wristband is distributed until the marshals make it to the end of the snaking sleeping, camping line.

And yes, line cutting still happens for the wristbands. Though any group obviously too big could get called out.

Despite the ordeal (there’s no food cart nearby to service people in the line), people still come out to line up. When people finally make it into Hall H, marshals high five and congratulate each wave of people entering—it’s almost like seeing people getting liberated from captivity.

Even if the panel ends up on YouTube or you get reveals tweeted, people still want in, it is a test of fandom and people want that badge to say they’ve passed. So you may buy the shirt but are you the type of fan boy or fan girl who would camp this way for the franchise you love?

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