Column: Your moment of zen from the moderator of the largest Facebook group San Diego Comic-Con

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They come from London and La Mesa. They come for “The Walking Dead” photo ops and “Peanuts” exclusives. And they come with questions. So many questions.

No matter where they’re from or why, San Diego Comic-Con attendees across the pond and Fifth Avenue often have the same first stop. This is the San Diego Comic-Con Facebook group hosted by local comic artist Erik Arreaga, where thousands of Con fans congregate to find hotel roommates, rides, and Hall line buddies. H, as well as the latest parking information, cart tips, and “Teen Wolf Sign Updates.”

With more than 33,670+ members, Arreaga’s nine-year-old private group is the largest Facebook group dedicated to San Diego Comic-Con. And like The Con himself, it started out as a small hobby project with its roots in extreme fandom.

“When Facebook started blowing up, I was posting photos from Comic-Con just for fun. But I was constantly getting questions like, ‘How can I get there?’ ‘How it works?’ ‘Where can I get tickets?’ So I thought, “I’m just going to start a group and hand out tips and post links here and there,” Arreaga said of the group, which Facebook users can request to join.

“I started with a few hundred people, but at some point it exploded. I got thousands of subscribers every month and then it became a main source of information. That’s when I started focusing on the information people really needed, which was how to get there and what to expect.

By the time Arreaga launched the San Diego Comic-Con group in 2013, the Chula Vista native was a longtime graduate of Comic-Con Survival School.

He attended his first convention in 1991, the first year the convention was held at the brand new San Diego Convention Center. At the time, Arreaga was a 12-year-old comic book fanatic, and Comic-Con was always the kind of place a comic-loving child could have a conversation with legends like Jim Lee (X-Men, the Punisher) and Todd McFarlane (Spider-Man, Spawn).

It was even the kind of place where Arreaga could say a casual “Hi” to Marvel icon Stan Lee repeatedly, without even thinking of taking a picture with him. Why should you do it? There would always be next year.

“Back then, it was so much easier to meet your heroes. It was a really big boom time for comics, and you could just go out there and collect whatever you needed. didn’t have to wait in long lines.There wasn’t really any worry about anything having to do with Hollywood.It was very easy and simple to have fun.

But as the summers passed and the convention was used to launch big-ticket superhero movies and TV shows, Comic-Con stopped being easy.

When Comic-Con returns to the Convention Center today for its first sold-out event since 2019, it will welcome some 135,000 attendees. There will be over 900 exhibitors covering comics, movies, television, games, movies, books, toys and merchandise. The blocks surrounding the convention center will be a Comic-Con entertainment zone filled with activities for people with and without the prized convention badges.

The word “oversized” doesn’t begin to describe it, which is where Arreaga and his Facebook expertise come in.

In the San Diego Comic-Con panel, members can ask specific questions about autograph lines, offsite events, Wi-Fi connections, and this year’s rules on COVID-19 masks and vaccinations and get tips from Arreaga and fellow Comic-Con veterans, plus links to helpful articles and web pages.

And newcomers can get answers to questions like Con 101, “What’s the weather going to be like?” » ; “Where’s the line for Ballroom 20?” ; and “Can anyone give me some tips for beginners?” Please?? Because for every pro with a Comic-Con spreadsheet, there’s a newbie with a panic attack brewing.

“People have told me they felt lost once they got their badge. They had no idea what to do next,” said Arreaga, who will be showing his work — including special masks created for Comic-Con — at table E12 on the Exhibit Hall floor.

“But after finding the group, they feel free. They say, “You provide everything. You communicate everything I think. Everyone is so helpful and everyone looks out for each other. Exactly. It’s going to be chaos no matter what. I try to minimize the chaos so people know what to expect.

And as Arreaga likes to remind Con-goers of all walks of life, one of the things they’re ready for is the time of their lives. The crowds are huge, but when you look at who’s coming to Comic-Con and why, you can see that just being there is its own huge payoff.

“What’s been really great is that as Comic-Con has gotten bigger and bigger, it’s brought the fans out into the open. They feel like they’re alone there. -in it, but it’s not,” the 43-year-old comic book writer said.

“At Comic-Con, you see people from all over the world who love comics and pop culture and who are nerds. It’s not something to hide. There are people of all ages and backgrounds. all genres, and that’s the best thing.


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