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Lines snaking around corners. Lines snaking across an entire seafront. Lines chopped in two or three segments or more, managed by people wearing "Line Staff" t-shirts. Lines for panels, lines for signings, lines for free stuff, lines for expensive collectibles.

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You can see lines of all shapes and sizes, with people of all shapes and sizes queuing patiently in them. I never understood the lure of the line before now. At Comic-Con, there is the absolute conviction that any line must lead to something cool. I found myself resisting the urge to join all of them.

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But don't fret if you're on a budget, or missed the several-hour window in which tickets were actually on sale. In many ways, you can have more fun standing outside the Con. You'll get better pictures of the costumes.

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You'll see giant armored robots making friends with little girls. More and more movies such as Ender's Game and TV networks are moving their displays to the area around the Convention Center, theoretically open to everyone. Downtown San Diego is hopping, and you'll actually be able to get food without queuing for an hour.

That panel you wanted to see? You'll get a closer look on YouTube. That precious collectible? It'll show up on eBay soon enough. There are still places around the edge of the main exhibit hall where you can buy comics; they tend to be the quiet zones.

There are plenty of panels where you can learn how to break into the comics business, or how to draw comics on your iPad. But overall, sadly, comics feel like they're playing second or third fiddle to other forms of visual entertainment. If Comic-Con were starting from scratch today, there's no way it would have that name.

If you get in the HallHLine right now, you'll be first in line for Hall H is the arena-like room where the big-name panels happen: So what you get is another line — the granddaddy of all Comic-Con lines. One that has been estimated at a mile or longer.

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One that people actually camp out overnight in. If you get in Hall H, you stay in no matter what, because that seat is golden. Want to see a panel at 4 p. You'd better get there first thing and hang out all day. People do this, naturally, but it puts a major crimp in their Comic-Con experience because they don't see much of anything else that day. Panels are a wonderful thing, in theory. You get to see some of your favorite actors, writers and artists. But in practice, many panels are a victim of bloat. Everyone wants in.

Quite often, you've got the entire cast and crew up on stage, along with a moderator who's trying to be inclusive and ask everyone the same amount of questions. Throw in an audience of fans who are going to applaud everything their heroes say, and there's really very little time to hear much from any individual.

Two or three answers, max. A prime example this year was the hour-long Game of Thrones panel in which we heard a lot from the showrunners and the actors whose characters died in the Red Wedding, but too little from writer George R. Martin, and almost nothing from everyone else.

The bonus? Free issues of the Daily Bugle. Just look for the giant Crystal Gems to guide you to the Cartoon Network booth. Attendees can escape to Jurassic Park with a full recreation of one of the most iconic moments from the latest film, as well as other photo opps inside those picturesque gates.

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