"They always say you write what you love, you write what you know, so Comic-Con was a no-brainer," says Doug Kline.
Kline is the author of The Unauthorized San Diego Comic-Con Survival, a small, handy book that answers the myriad questions people may have about the annual pop culture extravaganza. Need some tips on how to get a hotel room, where to find parking or how to get into the biggest Hall H panels? Kline's book can help.
Kline first went to SDCC in 2004, after he moved to California from the East Coast.
"I got the most horrible hotel room in the area, and it was the cheapest one, it was also technically a hostel, under construction, so that made it doubly bad," he says.
These days, even getting a room in a hostel is no easy task for SDCC attendees. In just the six years that Kline has been attending regularly, the con has changed quite a bit.
"Even in 2004, I could walk down the aisles and put my arms out, straight out in either direction, and walk without hitting somebody," he says. "Now you have to walk sideways in order to walk any three feet."
Despite the growing crowds, Kline still has a knack for seeing what he wants to see at SDCC.
"I get into panels. I win freebies. I time it just right so that when Joss Whedon shows up at the Dark Horse booth, I'm able to get his autograph," he says. "I don't know if it's organization skills, but I'm able to nail it each time. I'm able to get where I want, when I want."
Kline's ability to navigate SDCC with ease is what prompted his former roommate to suggest that he write a book. The Unauthorized San Diego Comic-Con Survival Guide is a self-published, pocket-sized offering that you can find at select comic book shops and online. The Survival Guide takes you step-by-step through Comic-Con, from the moment you get your badge and try to secure lodgings, to packing essentials to what to do with all that swag you've accumulated at the con. There's also more advice available through the Unauthorized San Diego Comic-Con Survival Guide Facebook page.
"For the most part, I've found that the newbies get the most out of it," says Kline of the book, "because it gets them from kindergarten all the way up to fifth grade in a shot. "
Undoubtedly, SDCC has become the event of the year for many pop culture fanatics. As it's grown, though, it's gained a lot of criticism, from the perceived lack of focus on comic books to the influx of big Hollywood names to the size of the crowds. People keep going, though, as made evident by how quickly badges sold out this year. We asked Kline why he thinks SDCC remains popular in spite of the criticism from fans.
"There are things that can happen there that can't happen anywhere else," he says. "There are lots of conventions around the country. There's one happening every week. There are big ones and small ones and each of them have something to offer. If you're looking to buy just old back issues of comics, there's a show for that and you can do that at San Diego, sure, but that's not what it's all about."
He adds, "I think Comic-Con has now become a misnomer. It's a misnomer because it's no longer just about comics, it's about pop culture. It's about every piece of popular culture that's out there."
He likens SDCC to an experience he had when he was a young Star Wars fan. Another boy had written a book of trivia questions based on the franchise.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"Every obscure line or model of ship or creature name that was never in the movie, he knew, so therefore I knew," he says. "I can't remember the kid's name and I can't remember the answer to those questions anymore now that I'm older, but that's what Comic-Con does, or allows people to do."
He continues, "It allows you to just unabashedly express your geekdom along with 100,000 other fans that feel the same way as you do, it allows that open forum of just going nuts about whatever you feel like."
Kline will be at The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach today until around 7 p.m.
Follow @lizohanesian on Twitter.