BEWARE, ALL YE WHO ENTER: The guardians at the gate welcome attendees to the mass of humanity and pop-culture splendor that is San Diego Comic-Con 2015. (photo courtesy of Tom Racine)

IT’S A MASS of humanity and a big, beautiful mess of state-of-the-art creativity, all spilling into the aisles and show-floor arteries that lie at the heart of San Diego Comic-Con 2015.

Navigating this granddaddy of American pop-culture conventions can be an overwhelming experience even for veteran trekkers. And if you’re a creator as well as fan, you’re pulling double-duty to try to tackle the towering Con.

With that reality in mind, Comic Riffs asked nine “special guests” at this year’s Comic-Con about their tactics and techniques for approaching the Big Event:

LALO ALCARAZ:

Cartoonists, especially editorial cartoonists, are lone wolves. We don’t get to hang with each other except at our annual conventions because we are in such a geographically isolated profession. There’s a bit of that reunion thing going on at Comic-Con.

I normally make a day-and-a-half game plan. I come in to do my signing for my syndicate, Universal Uclick, and while waiting for the annual syndicate dinner — where our chief buys us a steak and more than a few cocktails — I shop for comics and graphic novels. Then I bail!

Last year had a new component for me: hanging out and making new show-biz connections. At hotel bars, of course.

Also, much of Comic-Con consists of me snapping pics of hilarious cosplayers and posting it to my satire and news site, Pocho.com. So there’s quite a bit of Stormtrooper dodging going on for me, and it wears me down so much [that] I am usually very ready to blast off back to L.A. after 36 hours. [But] not this year, I’m hustling all week, I have panels and signings every day, even on the final day, Sunday. A friend suggested my panel would actually consist of helping the convention workers haul cardboard boxes.

(Alcaraz’s appearances include the “Comics in the Modern Era,” panel Friday.)

PETER BAGGE:

Every convention leaves me somewhat drained — I’m usually useless for a day or two after I get home — but I definitely pace myself better than I used to. I don’t worry about being everywhere, seeing everyone and doing everything.

The worst is trying to plan dinners with others — a near-impossible task! Now, I just pick a place to eat and go there. If I wind up dining alone, then so be it. It beats the endless planning and negotiating.

Also, when I go with my wife — like I am this time — I take at least one day off from the con and play tourist. We try to get as far away from the convention center as possible!

(Peter Bagge’s appearances include a Sunday spotlight session.)

MARK EVANIER:

I love Comic-Con, though achieving that love has meant turning loose of what Comic-Con was back in the ’70s, when I was one of a few thousand people to attend, and the big celebrities on the premises were, believe it or don’t, guys who wrote and/or drew comic books.

It’s become a different animal, and one can accept and enjoy it for what it is — or, as a few of my friends do, bitch and moan that it’s not what it was in 1978. No, and neither are any of us.

My Con is mostly panels interspersed with business meetings — and when neither is happening, it’s not hard to run into an old or new friend or two. Yeah, it can be tiring, but so is anything you enjoy too much to not want to go back to your room and nap. I get here when the Con starts and it’s a sprint ’til Sunday at 5 p.m., when the exhibitors start collapsing their exhibitions.

I couldn’t survive at this pace — or on the chow they sell at the convention center — for an extended period … but 4.5 days once a year? No problem.

(Evanier’s appearances include a “That ’70s Panel” Saturday, and a “Jack Kirby Tribute”  panel Sunday.)

SCOTT McCLOUD:

It’s been a while since I’ve had a booth on the floor, and I’m careful these days to get at least some sleep, so Comic-Con isn’t nearly as exhausting as it used to be. Our biggest frustration remains time. Even at four full days plus Preview Night, it goes by way too fast. If it [were] twice the length, I think we’d still leave feeling like we didn’t have time to do it all.

(McCloud’s appearances include a “Spotlight Panel” Friday.)

ED PISKOR:

This is only my second time going. I have so many travels coming up. Denmark for two weeks in August. Korea for a week in September, so this trip to SDCC is just another day at the office in a way.

I don’t care much for community, but that said, I’m stoked to see some friends and break bread. Other than that, I’m just there as a piece of meat in service of my comic, which Fantagraphics is so goodly enough to invest money into.

I will be a fanboy out there as much as a professional, too. But my fandom lies with comics and their creators. Not movies and whatnot.

I just want to make the most of my time. There’s a certain anxiety about simply making sure I get everything in that I need to. There’s also a preparation that’s required to deal with so much humanity at once. Gotta build up my muscles for patience.

(Piskor’s appearances include “Hip-Hop Comic Connections” Sunday.)

HILARY PRICE:

This is my first San Diego Comic Con! I’m excited by the prospect of seeing great artwork, and listening to cartoonists whose work I want to get to know. I’v heard about the Hollywood/summer blockbuster-y part of it, and don’t want to let myself get sucked in, because you can get that from anywhere.

(Price’s appearances include the “Comics in the Modern Era,” panel Friday; “Gays in Comics” panel Saturday; and her own “My Career in Comics” panel Sunday.)

JEFF SMITH:

This year will be my 23rd San Diego Comic-Con, and I’ve pretty much seen it all. There were a couple of years when the glow was was off, but it didn’t last long.

I’m getting pretty revved up for this week for my panels on Will Eisner and Scholastic/Graphix. I’m only doing one signing this year, on Saturday. We wanted to limit it to rest my arm, which has been acting up. But I always look forward to signing sessions. And I have a spotlight panel, where I thought we could do something new, and show a little process, including showing some scripts and rough sketches from my current project, “Tuki Save the Humans.”

(Smith’s appearances include a “Spotlight Panel” Sunday.)

JEN SORENSEN:

This is only my third Comic-Con. I guess you could say [that] my primary emotion is “bracing myself for sensory overload,” if that can be said to be an emotion. In a way, I have it pretty easy, as I won’t be minding a table all day. I’m just going to do panels and a signing at the NCS booth.

I used to dread public speaking when I was younger, but now I mostly enjoy it. It’s an adrenaline rush.

(Sorensen’s appearances include the “Comics in the Modern Era,” panel Friday.)

CRAIG YOE:

I’m always psyched about the phantasmagorical San Diego Comic Con! … It’s a total thrill ride!

This year, since I’m a Special Guest and there’s a “Spotlight Panel on Craig Yoe,” the incredibly wonderful Con staff is treating me especially nice and my family is also joining me. The “fam” being alongside me will be fantastic as I’ll get energy and support from my wife, Clizia Gussoni, who is my partner on Yoe Books. [As for my children], Grace, at 2 years old, is maybe too little too [young], but, I’m really looking forward to seeing the Con through 4-year-old Griffin’s eyes! He’s a fun, bright-eyed and energetic guy that loves superheroes—big surprise—and Grif will be rockin’ a Captain America costume! I anticipate Griffo’s head spinning at every turn when he spies his fellow Avengers and all the other costumed crime-fighters! Biff! Bam! POW!

Usually, I try to walk a couple of miles every day during the month before the Con to ramp up some physical stamina. This year I was “too busy” — bad Craig! I may suffer a bit as a result — the Con really is very physically taxing! At 64 years old, wrangling a 2- and 4-year-old at the Con will be a little daunting.

If you see me in the aisles, give me fist bump! But my running shoes will be stuffed with extra-cushy footpads and I’ll tap into the adrenaline rush of the whole shebang!

(Yoe’s appearances include a “Spotlight Panel” Saturday.)

MORE COMIC-CON 2015:

Comic-Con 2015 and gender parity: Here’s why the geek stereotype will soon be dead

Batman: Cowl play afoot? Snyder and Capullo relish playing the ‘Superheavy.’

Archie Comics: What 2 words sold Mark Waid on a return to Archie’s Riverdale? Answer: Fiona Staples.

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