How to obtain autographs at San Diego Comic Con.

 

Molly Quinn

Photo I took of Molly Quinn and her dad. Also the paper I had her sign just after taking this photo.

This is actually part II. Last year (2014) I wrote up an article all about my experiences doing signings at SDCC. You can find that article here:

http://comiccon.tips/so-you-want-to-attend-a-signing-at-sdcc/

But this past weekend one of our readers, Sue, emailed to find out some more details about what I expect will happen at 2015’s San Diego Comic Con in regards to signings. She has some specific questions and I’m going to do my best to answer/speculate about what will happen. Signings are one of my favorite things to do at the convention, so I’m more than happy to help out where I can. These will be direct answers to her questions. If you have more questions that you think of while reading, feel free to respond (we watch here and all the social medias) and we’ll try to answer your questions to the best of our ability:

“Hey Trevor, first, let me tell you this is the best blog/writing I’ve seen about comic con autographs so THANKS SOOOOOO much! I am a first time newbie and older now and don’t know if I can hack it. I need to ask you a couple questions and hope you’ll entertain me for a min!”

You’re very welcome Sue, I’m happy to help. :)

“So is it like this: You get up and get in line (probably this year since it’s star wars) like 1-2 am? Maybe midnight?”

Before I get started here, I have to disclose that I’m purely speculating at this point. The biggest variable (you mention further down) is that the Star Wars panel will very very likely be on the same day as the signings. Usually right before or after the panel. We have no idea how many people from the Star Wars fandom will be in line for the panel vs the line for autographs. But you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll need to be in line early. In my original post, I got in line at 3:45am and by the time I got to the Sails Pavillion, the drawing for Game of Thrones was finished. So, yes, you’ll need to be in line quite early. I’m not sure exactly when, but I would be in line at the latest, midnight. Probably before that.

“And I want to go to get autographs from them… if they sign (we don’t know yet).”

True, they haven’t announced yet. Which is frustrating, but the news will come. I have a hard time imagining they won’t do SOMETHING, but who knows what yet. Maybe it’ll be some minor cast members, maybe it’ll be the whole shebang. Usually you won’t even know at the time of the lottery, you just cross your fingers and hope for the best.

“I heard two things: One is the only way to get autographs is the sails pavilion (draw for a chance). Others say stand in line at the booth and just hang around you don’t need a bracelet.”

I haven’t been at SDCC for a Lucasfilm’s signing, so I don’t know this for certain, but my best guess is that the drawing will happen at the Lucasfilm booth, NOT the Sails Pavilion. That’s how Marvel handled it last year and they’re both owned by Disney. So I’m guessing they’ll take a cue from how Marvel did it and copy. There is perhaps a very slight chance of getting one by hanging around and hoping, but I would get in line.

The nice thing here is that right now you’re flying blind, but you won’t be on signing day… at least not completely. You’ll have all of Wednesday and Thursday (if you have those passes) to get to the Lucasfilm booth and ask for an autograph schedule. Then you can plan accordingly. Most of the answers here revolve around signings at the Sails Pavilion. If it ends up being on the Exhibit Hall, you move to that line instead of the Sails line and get to the booth as soon as possible and get in that line.

I wouldn’t bank on this, but I have attended the signing lottery at the Sails Pavilion and then gone to the exhibit floor line (the exhibit floor won’t be open when you get done at the Sails Pavilion) and got to the Marvel booth and drew out for the Marvel signing as well. But I considered myself extremely lucky that day I was also very very close to the end of the Marvel line.

“Another person told me they sign after the Hall H exhibit, you just need to catch them, find out quickly and get there quickly. I’m assuming my best bet is the Sails Pavilion?”

You can TRY to catch them behind the convention center at the loading dock before they load into the limo, but there is next to zero chance you’ll even get close enough to ask. Security won’t let you near, you’ll likely be all the way across the street. There IS a chance if you wait next to the TV Guide yacht that they MIGHT leave the convention center and be escorted to the Yacht and usually they will sign for 7-8 people there. Timing is likely before or after the panel, but you never know for certain.

“Naturally, I’m wanting Star Wars and Walking Dead, the two biggest most likely… but I’m older as I said and can’t run like I used to.. When the doors open to get in, will I need to be trampled by people, cut in front of and all that to get to the sails pavilion?”

There is naturally a bunch of rushing around but there are volunteers everywhere and they will highly discourage any actual “running”. But there is a lot of people “walking” without bending their knees at an almost running pace. Once you get up the escalator and you’re either going left to the exhibit hall line or right for the Sails Pavilion, the area opens up very wide and the likelihood of getting trampled is somewhat low as there’s plenty of space. Just don’t stop.

As for the Walking Dead, I’ve never done that one… but it seems like it’s at the Sails Pavilion, so you may have to make a choice.

“If you are in line, and you get to the front of the line and they are out, you go in another line? LIke AMC for Walking Dead? And if that’s out you go to another and so forth?”

Yes (in the Sails Pavilion), you can move to the back of another autograph line, but keep in mind the entire time you were standing in line to draw out, they were lining up… so these opportunities will be limited. But you can certainly try to do that and that is how some people are successful at drawing out for a few different signings.

“And will they be clearly marked from a distance like AMC, LUCASFILM, WARNER BROTHERS etc so I can see (I’ve got an eye disease and it’s difficult to see some things).”

In the chaos, it’s a little hard to tell where to go. If you see someone with a clipboard, ask them where to go if you don’t know already (clipboard people are usually directors and know much more than regular volunteers). Usually lines won’t move, so if it IS in the Sails Pavilion (which I doubt) it will be in the same place as it was on Thursday (if there WAS a Lucasfilm line on Thursday). But normally, everyone else is trying to find out the same information and you won’t lose a ton of time because everyone is also trying to figure out where to go.

“Anyway, thanks for the info. I have more questions but I’ll be happy to know this………. and will probably end up with NOTHING. I’ll be devastated.”

I can tell you that the moments leading up to reaching your hand into the bag to draw a ticket are some of the most heart-pounding moments of my life. That includes repelling off cliffs with waterfalls and other crazy stuff. I’m there with you, the lottery system is very very scary. I have certainly walked away disappointed more than once, but I’ve also been elated a number of times and happy beyond belief with my luck.

“I’m more interested in the autographs, but I am told if I choose that, I might as well hang up getting in the Star Wars panel etc. Because you have to pick and choose.”

This is accurate. Likely you’ll have to choose one or the other. I haven’t ever seen the scenario where I was able to go to the panel AND attend the signing, but you never know for sure I guess. If Lucasfilms is doing stuff for multiple days, you never know.

“It’s mind-boggling you have to sleep/eat on the ground half a day before when you’re old for a CHANCE to get an autograph, miss most of the convention doing that and still walk away with nothing. I’m very exasperated! But I do have hope…please give me hope! Thanks!!!!”

There certainly is hope. I’ve drawn out for popular signings, but I’ve also been denied and devastated. I totally know how you feel and if you go for the autograph thing, I’ll be right there with you.  There IS always eBay. The prices will be very expensive for this signing (if there is one), likely $1500 or so, but there will be people selling them. So if you are ok spending the cash, you could technically get both the panel experience and the autographs.

If you don’t want to risk it and decide to go to the panel, please remember that this panel is going to be the absolute biggest panel of Comic-Con history. The Ultron panel last year required getting in line by around 6pm the day before. This panel will be earlier I’m certain. I think if you want to guarantee getting into Friday’s Star Wars panel, you’ll have to be in line on Thursday morning.

“Well I also want to know what happens at off site places? For example, my hubby is going too and his big time desire is to meet Nathan Fillion, who I hear will have an off site place?”

Ah, the Nathan Fillion autograph. He’s very difficult to get as well. He normally doesn’t have a “signing” at all. But don’t give up hope quite yet, your next few questions should get some insight…

“Can you get autographs from them? How does that work (he as also interested in NerdHQ… heard Zach Levi was there and Seth Green perhaps). He likes those guys.”

NerdHQ is your best chance at getting either an autograph or a photo with Nathan Fillion. But let’s talk autograph first. You won’t find Nathan Fillion walking around. If he does grace the con floor, it would be in a mask and he hasn’t been caught doing that yet. The ONLY way I’ve seen people get autographs by Nathan at SDCC is at a Conversation for a Cause at NerdHQ. Those are the panels (that haven’t been announced yet).

Normally (though this convention isn’t quite normal) Nathan will do two “Conversations” and he’s notorious for bringing a “Bag of Crap” with him. It’s just stuff from his house. Like promotional stuff or other odds and ends, lots of t-shirts. Then to raise funds for Operation Smile, he’ll sign them and auction them off and the proceeds go to Operation Smile. That being said, the auction prices go REALLY HIGH. I lucked out once and got a T-Shirt and one of his diving test tubes for $250. That is one of the lowest prices I’ve seen. Normally by the end we’re talking $1000 for an item. So the price range for one of those signed items is $250-$1000.

To make it even more challenging is that the “Conversations for a Cause” tickets from NerdHQ sell out in seconds. So they’re very difficult to get, especially the Nathan Fillion one. Here’s a TIP: Keep trying for up to an hour after they sell out if you didn’t get tickets. If people have tickets in their cart and their cart expires (every 15 minutes), they go back out to the general public. So you still have a chance if you didn’t get one initially.

NerdHQ with Nathan and Alan

This is a photo from the photobooth at NerdHQ that happened right after the Nathan Fillion panel.

There is also a chance to get a photo op with Nathan. Usually right after his panel there will be a photo booth opportunity for $20. If you were in the panel, they let you line up first, but after that they’ll let anyone join the line. It caps quickly, but is a way to get a photo if you missed the autograph chance.

“Also, what’s the protocol if you see someone by chance walking around? Bother them? They probably won’t like it but do they expect it and it’s okay as long as inside the venue?”

There isn’t really a protocol. I would just say be respectful of what they’re doing and the vibe they’re putting off. I once ran into Molly Quinn (from Castle it’s the pic at the top of the article). I recognized her, got a quick photo (without acknowledging that I recognized her) and was able to ask her publicist if it was ok to get an autograph from her after the photo. She said yes as long as we kept walking. I always keep a small autograph “kit” on hand and easily accessible for these types of things and was able to get Molly Quinn to sign it while we moved through the crowd. That moment has been my absolute favorite convention moment out of ANY so far. I try to find Molly Quinn at least once at every convention now. Usually I get a pic, but I was able to get her to sign a photo I took of her that first time at an event last year.

Ok, that’s all the questions that Sue has, but I thought if I threw together a map for the Sails Pavilion lines and such that it could be helpful, so here it is with markers showing the significant points. Also keep in mind that if you draw a ticket, stay where you drew it until you are absolutely confident that you where where and when to line up for the actual signing. They’ll usually tell you right away, but sometimes they’ll be so busy managing the line that you need to ask.

SDCC Signing Map

  • A – The Non Hall H Line begins here. This includes signings, the exhibit floor and I believe Ballroom 20.
  • B – The Hall H Line begins here.
  • C – This is where you enter the building. Your badge will be checked here.
  • D – This is where you go up the escalators. There will be a lot of volunteers through this point.
  • E – After the escalators is the part where people start to split up depending on where they’re going. Either out the doors to the Sail Pavilion for those autographs or to continue around to I for the line to the Exhibit Hall.
  • F – This is where you frantically try to find the line you want to be in. People will direct you to the middle autograph question kiosk if you have questions, try to avoid it. Sometime they’ll know stuff, but often it’s a huge waste of time. Ask other people what’s going on if you don’t know.
  • G – This is usually around where you end up going outside the building into different lines, but for different studios the lines could be on the other side, but I’ve never been routed that way. You can see the line can wrap all the way down to where H is. I’ve been out as far as H before, but usually only if I have lined up pretty late (like 6am).
  • H – Around where the very end of the autograph line will likely be. If you’re clear back here, your chances are not great, but you may still have hope.
  • I – The start of the Exhibit Hall line. It starts at the top of the other set of escalators and wraps back along where you’ve walked. This is very similar feeling to what herded/corralled cattle feel like.
  • J – Point of interest, this is likely where the TV Guide yacht will be parked.
  • K – Point of interest, this is where celebs get into their limos and drive away. They’ll often wave as they load up and drive away, but I doubt you get close enough for interactions/autographs.

 

Trevor Nielson
Writer & Photographer at ComicCon.tips
Trevor began his forray into nerdom as a kid peddling his bike all the way to the local bookstore to purchase comic books. The boring superhero comics weren’t good enough for Trevor, he wanted the real ones. The ones with ducks. Now who's laughing while he’s on his way to cash in all those valuable Ducktales comics. Soon he’ll have his own money bin full to the brim. These days, to fill the time before the money bin construction completes (and begins), Trevor fills his time with photography, movies, television and comic book conventions. You can find his cosplay Meet & Greet mini-shoot and articles on this site as well as prints of his photographs being sold by cosplayers throughout the land.

P.S. Trevor converted to Marvel & DC comics and movies later on, so no heartburn on that one, right?