San Diego Comic-Con Badge Types: A Guide and Overview

In Badge/Hotel News, Guides by Kerry Dixon3 Comments

An exhibitor, a creative professional, and a retailer walk into a comic convention – no, really, we’re serious.

Not all badges are created equal – but just what are the differences between a General Attendee badge and a Press badge? Or a Retailer and Exhibitor? Or Trade and Creative Professional? We’ve asked one person with each type of badge to explain it to us – though keep in mind that even among the various badge types, experiences can differ. Larger companies and people tend to receive more access, and each case is unique.

With that said, let’s break down the badge types:

Creative Professional

What type of badge do you have? Creative Professional

Official CCI description of badge type: The creative professional badge is a complimentary Comic-Con badge offered to professionals who take an active role in the creation, design, writing, editing, or production of comics, animation, films, books, video games, or toys. Job titles might include writer, artist, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, animator, designer, sculptor, editor, publisher, producer, actor, etc. This category includes retired career professionals from comics and related popular arts field. The creative professional badge is also extended to those responsible for the content of websites that promote the historic or ongoing contribution of comics to art or society.

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? The application has to list 3 recent professional projects in the industry. You have to attach verification materials proving your participation for each project. For me, this included screenshots of my name in the credits of projects and games I’ve worked on, a copy of my employee badge, and links to relevant IMDB listings. You have to resubmit to qualify every three years.

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) Once I’m verified, I get an email indicating when professional registration is open. If I want to bring a guest, I have to participate in an Expo Logic waiting room (similar to open registration) at a specific time. There’s a random drawing out of the waiting room,  because not every professional can bring a guest. Space is limited. If I get chosen, I can get my own badge and bring a guest for free. Once the free guest badges run out, there’s a limited number of paid guest spots. Only my own badge is guaranteed and free. My guest is free or paid (or not available) depending on my luck in the waiting room.

Do you have to pay for your badge? My own badge is free.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? Guest badges are not guaranteed for professionals. If I’m lucky in the waiting room during pro registration, I can bring one guest for free and one paid. If I’m slightly less lucky, I only get one paid guest (same cost as regular attendee). If I’m unlucky, I don’t get a guest badge at all.

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? The only slight perk I’m aware is that during preview night, there’s a separate line for professionals heading to the exhibit floor, on the other side of the Sails Pavilion, near the bay, but still inside the building near the Outdoor Amphitheatre. However, while separate, this line doesn’t get let in early. The doors open for professionals the same time as they do for regular attendees, but the entrance is in a different spot. This line only exists on preview night. The rest of the time, we’re in the lines with everyone else for general admission and Hall H.

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? No.

Do you work at the show? No.

Exhibitor

What type of badge do you have? Exhibitor/vendor badges

Official CCI description of badge type: N/A

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? You have to purchase a table through Comic-Con International. There’s a waiting list just to get in.

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) We have so sign up for the Member IDs like everyone else, and then when your purchase of a table or booth goes through, then you get the badges that are included in the price.

Do you have to pay for your badge? The badges are built in the space you buy. Certain tables get two badges, certain booths get four, or more.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? Yes. You are able to purchase an additional Vendor badge, which is higher priced than General Attendee badges.

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? Not that I know of. We get to walk in through more doors than attendees, but that’s because we have to get to our booth before the show starts.

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? Yes, usually about an hour or two so you get your booth restocked and ready.

Do you work at the show? Oh, yeah. The whole time the show floor is open. Usually an hour or two before, and 30 minutes after. We hardly ever take breaks (because we choose to stay in our booth to help each other out), but when we do to take breaks the last thing I want to do is walk and be on my feet, so they are 20 min only, or so.

General Attendee

©2014 WBEI

What type of badge do you have? General attendee, which is the most common kind.

Official CCI description of badge type: N/A

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? You don’t need any sort of qualification – that’s basically why you’re a general attendee. The only qualification you have to have is that you have to be chosen by random in the badge sale.

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) There’s two different badge sales – Returning Registration for those who attended the previous year as a general attendee, or Open Registration, where anyone with a Member ID can get a badge. The badge sales are definitely hard, though – you’re chosen at random to check-out, and it’s very competitive.

Do you have to pay for your badge? Yes. Full price.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? When you check out, you can purchase badges for up to two individual people. Each person must be eligible on their own, and each badge is full price.

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? No. Your perk is that you get to attend the con at all!

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? Ha, no.

Do you work at the show? Nope.

Panelist

What type of badge do you have? In the past eight cons I’ve been a panelist we have been issued Professional Badges with a twist. In the past, you’d get a second card to slide in indicating you’re on a panel so security will let you in – which is important if your panel is full! Since the new scannable badges have been introduced the twist hadn’t been fully nailed down but there is usually some kind of indication printed on the name part in the corner of the back detailing the panel you’re on.

Official CCI description of badge type: The creative professional badge is a complimentary Comic-Con badge offered to professionals who take an active role in the creation, design, writing, editing, or production of comics, animation, films, books, video games, or toys. Job titles might include writer, artist, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, animator, designer, sculptor, editor, publisher, producer, actor, etc. This category includes retired career professionals from comics and related popular arts field. The creative professional badge is also extended to those responsible for the content of websites that promote the historic or ongoing contribution of comics to art or society.

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? You have to be on a panel inside the convention center (or in the surrounding areas that are still part of the actual convention, such as the Indigo or the library).

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) You have to apply for a panel, detailing what you plan to present, potential panelists, etc. This is its own separate process, and we don’t hear back until usually May if our panel is approved.

Do you have to pay for your badge? No. We’re treated like a Creative Pro, essentially – so yes, our badges are complimentary.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? Typically, each panelist can bring up to one guest — and they’re free.

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? The only perk is you can get into your own panel, even if it’s full! And if you think that’s funny (which it is) let me tell you about how many times I’ve had to explain to people at the door that if I can’t get in the room that there will in fact NOT be a panel to not get into.

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? Nope.

Do you work at the show? We have a lot of fun, but the show is absolutely still work. We’re constantly doing panels, prepping for our panels, talking with other people in the industry, making contacts. It’s a lot of work.

Press

What type of badge do you have? Press badge.

Official CCI description of badge type: N/A

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? Similar to professionals, every other year we have to apply and/or “re-verify” our credentials, which means you have to prove you do press for a related publication. They have a pretty wide range of criteria, so your outlet can be hard news, podcast, video, blog, etc. You usually have to have your outlet also write you a letter, stating the sort of work you’ll be doing there and that you work for them. Freelancers can also apply if on assignment.

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) Once approved, at a certain date (usually in the spring), Comic-Con International will open press badge registration. You then have a few months to register, which is basically “claiming” your badge.

Do you have to pay for your badge? No, we receive a complimentary badge.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? Nope.

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? We have a press workroom, upstairs in the convention center (kind of above Hall H) with coffee and sometimes light snacks, and wi-fi. It’s mostly tables and chairs. Otherwise, we don’t get anything “special” (though compared to the convention center food cart prices, a free bagel can feel pretty special!). We don’t get guaranteed access to panels or assigned seats (unless a studio has given you a pass). If we want to cover something in Hall H, we have to sleep in the same line you do. We don’t get onto the show floor early. Even press rooms, you have to apply with the individual organizations for their press room, you aren’t guaranteed entry into them — and you technically don’t need a press badge to attend those either so long as you have approval from the studio/entity. There are a few folks, like Entertainment Weekly, who get much better access/privileges at SDCC — but those cases are few and far between.

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? Nope!

Do you work at the show? Yes. I’m still there to cover the show, get interviews, cover on social media. It’s very much still a job.

Retailer

What type of badge do you have? Retailer

Official CCI description of badge type: N/A

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? The “Retailer” badge I have is given to comic book retailers who have an account with Diamond Comic Distribution.

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) I receive a badge code from Diamond, which is then processed through the SDCC site.

Do you have to pay for your badge? No, we receive one badge, including Preview Night, free of charge.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? We do have the option of purchasing one additional badge at full price, but it can only be for someone who is already listed on our Diamond account as an authorized buyer. Each comic book store is limited to one free badge and one paid badge, no matter how many employees they have.

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? No special perks, no.

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? No, the retailer badge holders have to use the general attendee lines and entrance times.

Do you work at the show? SDCC is the perfect opportunity to connect with publishers but even so, I’d say no more than a third of my time is spent on work related activities. I have plenty of time for fun!

Trade Professional

What type of badge do you have? Trade professional badge.

Official CCI description of badge type: The trade professional badge is offered to agents, publicists, managers, executives, marketing, sales, business development, advertising, legal representatives, and other industry professionals who need to attend the convention for business reasons. Comic-Con trade professional badges are available for purchase to those who do not qualify as a creative professional.

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? In addition to the regular information, they need to see proof of projects that you’ve worked on, including “verification materials” that prove they’re real. For my most recent trade professional verification, I included my presence on our company website and a copy of my business card, as well as a letter on our company letterhead explaining what I’d gotten professionally out of the previous times I’d attended.

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) We have to apply every three years to confirm our credentials are up to date. I believe the trade professional badge sale is usually last — after returning registration, general attendee registration, and creative pro sales are all complete.

Do you have to pay for your badge? Yes, we pay the same as general attendees. This year it was $276.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? We have the opportunity to pay for an additional badge, also for $276, the same amount general attendees pay. (I usually reach out to someone who wants to go but got screwed in the lottery, and is also willing to share a hotel room with me.)

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? Kind of? The first few years I went, I didn’t even know about any of them, so there may be some I’m still not aware of. There’s a lounge professionals can go to, which has some water and a few tables to sit at. I’ve had some meetings there, but it’s not a great atmosphere for discussing things, so I often just meet people in an empty hall instead. There’s also a separate line for the exhibit hall, but only inside. We wait on the line outside with everyone, and then once they open the doors and we do our Funko and Hasbro lottery lines (we don’t get any advantages for accessing those!), we can leave Sails and line up separately for the few hours before the floor opens. They let our line onto the floor at the same time as they let the people in Sails onto the floor.

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? No. Our line is let in at the same time the regular line is let in. I’m sure we have a slight timing advantage, because fewer people are in our line, but I normally start lining up outside between 4AM and 6AM with friends with attendee badges, and then meet up with them on the floor, and it’s usually less than a five-minute difference in terms of when we make our way in.

Do you work at the show? In the sense that I’m officially associated with San Diego Comic Con as an organization? No. But I have meetings during the con. I talk to artists and give them my card and talk about potential projects. I talk to publishers. (All of this, frustratingly, needs to take precedence over panels, even ones I’m really excited about.) I’m also very conscious of a certain level of professionalism I have to display at all points of the con, because I’m there representing my job as well as just being a fan, even if I’m spending my own money and using my vacation days to do it.

Staff

What type of badge do you have? I have a staff badge that allows me access for all four days, as well as Preview Night.

Official CCI description of badge type: N/A

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? You have to become a staff member of a department at SDCC in order to get a staff badge. It usually requires getting really high scores when you’re a daily volunteer. Then CCI will invite a certain percentage back to a mixer/breakfast/lunch. Here, different departments will introduce themselves, and you can then interview with whatever departments you find interesting. After that, you’ll find out if you got picked to become a staff member. It then requires you to accept the position as well.

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) We have paperwork that we need to fill out, sign and return to CCI. Then prior to the actual convention, we will receive our barcodes to retrieve our badges at the con.

Do you have to pay for your badge? No, our badges are “free” in exchange for us working the convention.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? We receive two additional guest badges for every day, excluding Preview Night. These guest badges are not free. They require you to pay for them, at the same cost as everyone else.

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? We get to attend Preview Night, as well as having access to convention center before and after hours. That doesn’t include the show floor though.

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? No, we do not.

Do you work at the show? I do work. As a staff member, we work much harder, and for many more hours than a standard daily volunteer. Our hours are usually 8AM to closing. I’d say I work about 90% of the con. The rest of the 10% is checking out the convention floor.

Volunteer

What type of badge do you have? Volunteer

Official CCI description of badge type: It’s pretty sparse. It tells you how to get a Volunteer badge, but not much else beyond that.

What sort of qualifications do you need in order to obtain that type of badge? All you need is a valid CCI Member ID. If you’ve successfully completed at least one volunteer shift at SDCC, you’re placed on the Priority List, which means you get first dibs at volunteering the next year. Otherwise, you’ll sign up for the Interest List.

How do you receive your badge (apply, badge sale, etc.?) CCI opens a registration window for those who wish to be placed on the Interest List. If you’re on the Priority List, you don’t need to worry about signing up. CCI closes the Interest List registration window and opens volunteering to those on the Priority List. Since not everyone volunteers again every year, those on the Priority List who do sign up are guaranteed a Volunteer badge. The remaining Volunteer badges are then opened up to those on the Interest List, and are usually snatched up within a minute or two (though it’s been longer in recent years). If you’re selected as a volunteer, you’ll receive an email from CCI with all the rules, regulations, and forms to sign. Pay close attention to these forms, as they tell you where to go to pick up your badge and when you’re able to do so.

Do you have to pay for your badge? No, but your badge is only good for the day you volunteer. For example, if you volunteer on Thursday but try to get in on Friday without volunteering, you’ll find you’re out of luck. However, a typical volunteer shift is four hours long, which means you can take the rest of that day to explore the con. Also, the earlier you check in and receive your assignment, the more options you’ll have to choose from.

Do you receive guest/additional badges? If so, do you pay for those? No. Like an attendee badge, you only get one, and it’s non-transferable.

Once at the convention, do you have any special “perks” that come with your badge type? It depends on what job you’re chosen for. You’ll most likely wind up as line management or at one of the RFID scanners, so unless you love telling people which way to go, not really. Oh! You do get a free t-shirt.

Do you get onto the show floor before doors open? No, we do not.

Do you work at the show? As a volunteer, you’re expected to put in a four-hour shift minimum. You’re observed and graded based on your performance, so you can’t just show up, collect your badge, slack off, and enjoy the con. CCI does not have to invite volunteers back and often don’t. Also, those who do exceptionally well are invited to join SDCC Staff, as described above. It’s worth it to put in those four hours well.