In ye olden 1970s, pre-Chewbacca costumes and Wonder Woman bustiers, Comic Con was such a modest affair that you didn't have to worry about fitting in. If you were one of 300 who attended the first con, held in a San Diego hotel basement, chances are good that you were already in your element.
Today, the cheerleading squad has gatecrashed the cafeteria's geek corner: Gwyneth Paltrow goes to Comic Con, for Spock's sake. And Jessica Alba, and Robert Pattinson, and thousands of other blowdried, Chiclet-toothed people from movie studios, television networks, record labels, and the like. How does one come off as an authentic insider, now that the event beckons so many Twitter-happy poseurs? We broke out our slide rule, protractor, and decoder ring to create a foolproof method to fitting in:
1. Know the worthy projects. Not all of the Hollywood infiltration has departed from Comic Con's fanboy beginnings: some of the biggest sci-fi blockbusters have debuted here, whether with rough footage (George Lucas' The Empire Strikes Back) or simple slideshows of concept boards (Ridley Scott's Alien). This year's top draws are James Cameron's shrouded, sci-fi Avatar; Tim Burton-produced 9, starring Jennifer Connelly; alien thriller District 9, out next month; and Iron Man 2, the follow-up to Robert Downey Jr.'s smash foray into superheroism.
2. Speak softly, seductively. Penthouse blew the lid off the convention's supposed seedier side last month with an article called "Geek Love," which reported that Comic Con is "all about the sex." Something about open-bar events, en-masse hotel bookings and spandex costumes just encourages people to pair (or triple) off. The creative pickup lines might help. The piece quotes a female banker, dressed in fishnets as DC Comics heroine Black Canary, who was solicited with this gem: "I don't see Green Arrow [Canary's on-again/off-again love interest] around, so I figured you're free." Should you choose to partake in this elective, opt for a costume that is somewhat easy to take off. Nothing kills the mood like 2,600 hook-and-eye closures, we're just saying.
3. And carry a big stick. Really—the convention-recommended accoutrements for a successful '09 Comic Con include a backpack, nutritious snacks, water bottles, "and a poster tube." No one will mistake you as a New Moon castmate if you're lugging around five feet of cylindrical cardboard.
4. Speaking of Twilight ... Unless you want to be trampled underfoot, know when and where the vampire series' events are being held. Last year's panel drew massive crowds, and this was before the first film's release. The tween exuberance at the event made main man Robert Pattinson turn bright red with shock and embarrassment ("I ... I ... it just baffles me," he said of attendance). No doubt this year's promotional events for New Moon, Twilight's sequel, will be even bigger and screamier—though likely without the same sputtering modesty.
5. Be prepared to get cavity-searched. OK, not really, but the convention does thoroughly inspect all weaponry—your standard proton packs, lightsabers, souped-up Nerf guns—to make sure its projectile functioning has been rendered inoperable. Additionally, costume swords must be tied into their holsters, "in such a way that they can't be drawn." We'd like to see them tell that to Han Solo. Still, prep for extra checks if you're packing heat—even if its Fisher-Price.
6. Squeeze in some sit-ups. If you count among your characteristics a hard "bikini body" (female), "handsome, rugged" features (male), or "the ability to stand for long periods of time," then you might actually profit from attending Comic Con. Simply audition, don a scanty, provided costume and entice conventioneers with your assets as an official convention model; in return, you'll net $35 an hour and other nebulously alluded to "incentives." Sounds ... promising?
7. Watch your back at the costume competition. Yes, there will be doughy nerds in Peter Venkman attire, carrying 15-year-old Dysons in holsters as proton packs (proton-stream inoperable—thanks, security). But don't get in the way when said Ghostbuster whips around. "[It is] a very busy place, with ... helpers and staff rushing around, some in sight-limiting masks, some of them carrying large costume parts, hot-glue guns, scissors, etc.," says the guide to this year's event. So keep your wits about you, unless you want to get hot-glued in the tuckus. In immortal words of Dr. Egon Spengler, that would be bad.