So you can’t go to Comic-Con this week, because the enormous pop culture convention – one of the world’s greatest displays of mask wearing – was canceled by a real-life supervillain, the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s some consolation for the 135,000 dressed-to-the-(Seven-of)-Nines fans who annually crowd the San Diego Convention Center and millions more who don’t, as a scaled-back lineup of movie, TV and comic panels will stream for free on YouTube through Sunday.
Panels are only a small part of San Diego Comic-Con, as anyone lucky enough to attend – and survive – the annual pageant of costumes, collectibles and queues can attest. Comic-Con@Home is trying to re-create parts of the experience, letting fans print out badges and window signs and participate in sidewalk art and cosplay challenges, with some entries to be featured on the Comic-Con website and social media channels.
Never been to Comic-Con? Here are the can’t-miss panels at this year’s free stay-at-home event
Why stop there when you can channel the San Diego experience at home? If any group has the imagination to create this alternate Comic-Con universe, it’s this fandom.
Here are 10 off-the-wall tips for creating your own virtual San Diego Comic-Con from someone who’s been to 11 of the annual gatherings:
1. Dress up as your favorite comic-book character. Have friends and family put on superhero costumes, too. For bonus points, skip bathing and stand in the hot sun – the furrier the costume, the better. Since smell is connected to memory, the heady musk will transport you right back to Hall H – or at least to the line outside.
2. Stand in line for hours to try to get into the day’s panels. (Bonus points if you wait overnight.) Since social distancing precludes crowding people together, line up your favorite action figures – Morty, Jack Bauer, Mandalorian and Bernard Lowe Funko dolls, Homer Simpson in a hula outfit, four Pez dispensers and a wind-up Bender metal robot, hypothetically speaking – and stand behind them. And wait.
3. Install rope lines around your home to create off-limits areas, the kind where stars wait before appearances. Have family members play security guard, yell, “There’s Gal Gadot!” and sneak in when they look the other way. At night, imagine the ropes as barriers to VIP-filled parties you’re not allowed to attend. Reposition the Mandalorian figure, and you’ve got an intergalactic bouncer!
4. Don’t charge your cellphone more than 30% (or laptop, if you’re a reporter). Nothing creates more suspense than praying your phone doesn’t die before you get photos of the latest Marvel movie cast. Turn off your WiFi, too, to recreate the hit-or-miss nature of finding a connection when you’re in the convention center.
5. Make paper passes that allow you to leave a panel for a bathroom break – just like the ones they hand out at Ballroom 20. The same rule applies: That pass will get you readmittance only for the duration of the panel taking place when you leave. If you don’t return in time, go back and stand behind Bender for several hours.
6. Throw out any food that’s leafy or green – mold excepted! – and subsist on doughnuts and salty snacks for five days. Anything that’s blue, comes in a small plastic bag or contains high-fructose corn syrup gets a thumbs up.
7. Set up collectibles on every available surface of your dwelling – presuming they’re not already arranged that way – to build a mini-version of the convention center floor’s product bazaar. Tape a “Supergirl” picture on a pillowcase to create a faux Warner Bros. commemorative bag to hold all the souvenirs you buy from yourself. (Comic-Con@Home features the floor plan for its online exhibit hall.)
8. Stage a socially distanced zombie walk through your neighborhood. Draw blood-smeared, decaying facial features on your COVID-19 mask. Don’t bite anyone.
9. Make believe your mail carrier is Nathan Fillion and plead for a selfie.
10. Sit in your car in the driveway for five hours, so you can remember what it feels like being stuck in traffic leaving San Diego on the 5 Freeway on the final day of Comic-Con.
Seriously, enjoy the comfort and convenience of virtual Comic-Con. But know, despite all of its annoyances, there’s nothing like being in San Diego for the real thing. Next year, we hope?
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Comic-Con 2020: 10 tips for creating the San Diego experience at home