If you identify as Marvel or DC, Star Wars or Star Trek, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, Westworld or Wednesday, Dr. Who or Battlestar Galactica, Anime or Pixar, Disney or Looney Toons, you’ve got a home at ComicCon. The weekend brings together cosplayers, fans, superfans, shoppers, and anyone who loves science fiction, fantasy, and action genres. And no matter what you’re into, even Warhammer, you can take heart that at ComicCon, you’re probably not the geekiest person in the (convention) room. Montreal’s event attracts over 60,000 people to the Palais and plenty of cosplayers will be hanging around outside, taking pictures. So, for those braving the event for the first time, this is our annual survival guide for ComicCon.
Book and Pay For Celebrity Photo Ops Ahead of Time
While Comiccon invites guests representing many shows and genres, including this year Sean Astin, Kristin Kreuk, Jonathan Frakes, John GLover, Christina Ricci, Laura Vandervoot, and Tom Welling, taking a picture with them isn’t free with costs ranging from $60-220. Also, you need to book your time in advance. The schedule for photo ops is available HERE and subject to cancellations and changes. Up to four people can get in on a picture together. At their discretion, some celebrities may chose to use a plexiglass barrier. Lastly, keep in mind you still need to buy an entry ticket to ComicCon, even if you’ve already paid the fee for the photograph.
Plan of Comiccon
Wear Good Shoes and Take Breaks
The Palais de Congrès convention centre is not a small space. There are multiple floors with escalators up and down (also elevators for those in need) and stairs if you prefer. As you’ll likely be on your feet in a crowd, opt for footwear you can walk in and move around in. If your less-than-comfortable footwear is part of your costume, bring something you can switch to. Closed toe shoes beat open toe ones in a crowd always.
Comiccon can be a bit of sensory overload for anyone – it’s crowded, it’s noisy, and a lot happens at once. There can be a real sense of FOMO, especially true if you’re coming for one day. If you need to, take a break. Some good places to take a break are going to the upstairs cafeteria or getting a coffee and chilling in one of the upstairs hallway, sitting in one of the panels, leaving early if you need to, going for a walk outside (you can get back in again), and if you’re in costume, there’s a room for costume repairs.
Asking Cosplayers for Photos
Whatever your reason for attending Comiccon, the costumes are probably a highlight with their ingenuity, veracity in replicating characters, dedication to creation, and just the heart and soul that go into making them. It’s hard to resist taking photos. But snapping a photo without someone’s permission is a violation of their privacy and just kind of rude. So, how can you get pictures of the cosplayers? Simple! Ask them.
As it turns out, most cosplayers are thrilled that people admire and appreciate their costumes, so they’re often quite happy to pose for photos. There are a few areas where cosplayers hang out expecting to take pictures. These include the hallway at the bottom of the escalators and the outdoor space that adjoins it near Chinatown. You can hold up your phone or camera and ask their permission, or if you’d like to ask in French: “Je voudrais prendre un photo” or “Je peux prendre un photo?” Even when I see a big group of people taking photos of a single cosplayer or group of cosplayers posing together, I still try to catch someone’s eye and get their consent. If you can, give thanks, although chances are there will be many people trying to get their pictures.
When inside the shopping hall or on the upper floors where there are events, always always always ask. And if someone is sitting down, eating lunch, talking with friends, or otherwise occupied, please give them the space to enjoy Comiccon. Chances are they will appear later in the areas where taking pictures is the norm.
Other places to get pictures are at the Masquerade and the Kira Kira Start Idol Showcase. Both are highlights, so queue early to get in for both. If you’re in costume, try participating in one or both. You can also go to the areas in the main hall that are set up specifically for cosplayers to gather around different fandoms. This year includes the Rebel Legion Spectre Base, Clan Gaht Kyr’Bes of Mandalorian Mercs, Québec Astromech, Imperial Garrison of the 501st Legion, The Dark Empire, the Doctor Who Society, The Canadian Dalek Empire, the 405th Infantry Division, IKV Rising Phoenix, Vikings, and even a Ghostbusters group.
Food and Drink
You don’t have to worry about eating or drinking as long as you have cash or credit card. I recommend bringing your own water bottle so you can refill it on site. Within the Comiccon venue, there will be a few places to buy sandwiches and food, including a cafeteria upstairs. Palais de Congrès has its own food offerings, like Sushi, Tim Hortons, a pasta place, etc. But most people prefer to head into Chinatown, which is right outside the door. Montreal’s Chinatown is kind of a bonus add-on that costs nothing to check out and the food beats what you’ll get inside. The Dragon’s Beard Candy on 52B Rue De La Gauchetière O is a must try (6 for $5).
If you want something unique and likely to sell out, buy it quickly. But, if you can wait, Sunday is bargain day. The vendors in the convention will mark down their wares, although the savings vary widely. Also, you will have the least selection and what you want may already be in the hands of someone who didn’t want to wait for a bargain. Most vendors use Square or a variation, and so accept credit cards, but for real bargains, cash is king.
Get Custom Art
Book your artists early. If you’re having a custom drawing done, the best artists in the market get booked up very, very quickly. Make your choice quickly from among those offering this service and make arrangements. If you don’t have time to wait for something custom, many artists have works for sale too.
Talk to the artists. The artists who come to Comiccon are thrilled to share their passion for their craft and you can learn what makes their products special. This applies whether you’re looking for a high end gaming table or just buying a pack of stickers.
Try New Things
A great way to chill out and have fun at Comiccon is to play games. Some people come just for the games. There is an Indie Game Zone for video games and there are always a few samples, a tabletop game zone, and an RPG game zone. You can join in with people you don’t know, or play with friends. It costs nothing to play (yay!) and you can even try out games you’ve never played before.
Another thing to try out at Comiccon is to explore an unfamiliar fandom by either meeting people or attending the panels and workshops. Maybe you’ll find out that you’ve got a future making comics, programming video games, making a steampunk costume, or something entirely unexpected. You can also check out the Gunpla exhibition and find out if you have a passion for building models and characters.
Finally a few major events like Burlesgeek, the OVMF Concert, and the OAM are the evening programming. Line up early for these, though.
Carry a sharpie. You may run into someone at the convention whose autograph you want. That handy sharpie will ensure you can get a proper autograph on the object or perhaps body part of choice.
Shower and wear deodorant. This should be obvious, but some people underestimate their own powerful body odours. We know it can get hot in a costume too. But if you can, let people be impressed by your costume and not your smell.
Have fun. Take breaks when you need them. Talk to others. Let your freak flag fly. Comiccon is three days of fun.
If you have any other tips to share with others, please let us know in the comments below. have a great ComicCon everyone!
Montreal ComicCon takes place at Palais de Congrès (1001 Jean-Paul-Riopelle) from July 14-16, 2023. Info about the event and tickets are available HERE.