By Maddy Marcus

As a general enthusiast for nerd-culture, Comic Con was not something taboo to me. The Comic Con hype train starts running in the Summer, when those lucky enough to attend San Diego’s massive convention get to spend four days among crowds of storm troopers, Harley Quinns and giant fighting robots. It’s also around that time when New Yorkers have their chance to score tickets to the biggest nerd-fest this side of the atlantic: New York Comic Con.

NYCC comes around every year in October where over 180 thousand people gathered at the Jacob K. Javits Center, eager to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity, spend their entire paycheck on merchandise or have an exclusive first look at clips from their favorite shows. As an NYCC first-timer, my knowledge was loosely based on pictures from the web and stories from friends who have been.

One thing I knew for certain going in, was that I shouldn’t go alone. Whether you’re with one person or several, it always pays to have at least a buddy throughout all the chaos. That being said, a small group of us bunkered down in my friend’s Astoria apartment with alarms set at 6 a.m., since arriving early was a priority.

The morning of we gathered our props and costumes, jumped on the subway and made our way to Hell’s Kitchen. Our outlandish style was in no way a shock to regular subway riders. At least a quarter of the train was carrying superheroes and villains. I stuck behind the NYCC veterans of my group who held glorious four-day passes. With their “been-there-done-that” mentality, my little single-day pass and I felt a bit more secure walking into the sea of characters.

I had a list of all the panels and screenings I absolutely had to go to. NYCC is a lot more than just a giant comic fan meet up. It’s zombies, anime, video games, science fiction all packed together. There are special screenings, video game competitions, raffles, and tons of shopping. Naturally, my interests fall into all of these categories, so I had to do everything.

Almost immediately, I learned that there would be no time to do everything. NYCC was much different than the smaller, local conventions I had been to. There was a lot of ground to cover. With over 1,000 exhibitors taking over the second floor of the Javits Center, just standing in one spot is overwhelming. NYCC lesson one: splurging on a three-day or even two-day pass is the better choice.

To my surprise, planning ahead didn’t seem to matter much once we got there.

“If you want to see The Walking Dead panel, you have to get in line at, like, 10,” my friend and NYCC vet instructed me upon arriving. That panel started at 5:30 p.m.

That’s literally seven hours of waiting in line, I thought to myself. How was I going to willingly give up my entire day to just one event? I was not anticipating to have my day taken over by mile-long lines. NYCC lesson two: there will be lines, and lots of them. I reluctantly kicked The Walking Dead off my schedule for the day. Thankfully, I was able to make it to my other panels without much waiting. The rest of my Saturday was reserved for celebrity autographs and shopping.

Pacing the show floor that afternoon, I learned that a friend of mine, another first-time NYCC goer, had just won a giant Captain America shield, valued at $400, in a raffle. The downside: commuting home with a 20-pound shield among bags of other purchases. However, it did make a wonderful umbrella for the rain that greeted us once we left the convention. NYCC lesson three: be prepared to lug your loot home, rain or shine.

Despite the long lines and unfortunate panel skipping, there’s never a dull moment at NYCC. Until next year, Comic Con. At least by then I’ll know what to expect.