Hooray for super-late Con reports! After an incredible and exhausting first Dragon*Con, I had to immediately return to real-life, with things such as going back to work and taking Maddi to the airport so she could return to Pittsburgh. I have a feeling that everyone needs at least a week to recover after the experience that is Dragon*Con.
We left Orlando at 3am to start the drive to Atlanta. There were many Queen singalongs to keep us awake. There were also very weird billboards in Georgia to read for entertainment.
We got to Atlanta with little time to spare before our first panel. As we were total newbies to Dragon*Con, we did not realize that it is held across multiple hotels, so we had to grab our badges in the Sheraton and then hurry a few blocks down to the Hyatt. We made it just in time for the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds panel with Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction. The panel was unsurprisingly amazing. Matt and Kelly Sue talked a lot about their current projects. Matt talked about future plans for Ody-C and shared a very funny story behind the customized variant covers of Sex Criminals #11. Kelly talked about the next arc for Bitch Planet, as well as the much-anticipated Pretty Deadly Volume 2, due out this fall.
Immediately after it over, we had to rush to the Hyatt for our next panel, Quiet Time with Doc Hammer. As mentioned before, this was our first D*C, and so we were extremely unprepared for the horror that is the skybridges between panels. So many people. In giant cosplays. Often with props that stick out and whack you in the face if you are in the shorter range as we both are. We inched forward – almost literally – and made it just in time for Doc’s panel. I am a huge Venture fan, and this was the first time I had seen Doc in person. He said he would answer absolutely any question – except possible Venture spoilers for the upcoming season. Some topics covered: Doc’s problems with the current art world, his new hairstyle, his music, Fuck/Marry/Kill situations (answered in the voice of Henchman 21, naturally), and as always, extensive discussion of his poops.
Our next and final panel of the day was the Complete Guide to Creating Comics. This panel featured Kelly Sue, Jimmy Palmiotti, Frank Mastromauro, and Andrew Gaska. They discussed the process behind creating comics, such as collaborating with a writer/artist, researching, and how to market yourself. The members on the panel all came from different backgrounds and had different experiences of establishing themselves in the industry, which added a variety to their opinions and answers. It was an informative and fascinating inside look into the comic book industry.
Although we had not initially planned on going to the parade, the couple we were staying with decided to go and we decided to join them. More on this later, but if you want to see the parade, you better get up early and be ready to wait. We arrived about 90 minutes early and were still a few rows of people back from the street. The parade was very cool but I don’t think we will wait for it next year.
I cosplayed as Dr. Mrs. the Monarch from the Venture Brothers and Maddi cosplayed as my Henchwoman. It was so much fun wearing costumes that people recognized. We ran into a ton of other Venture Bros cosplayers which was awesome.
We visited my favorite table, the People’s Republic of Venture, and found that they were having a scavenger hunt. We only had a few panels we wanted to attend that day, so we decided to give it a try. We had to get photos with 18 of the characters on the list to complete the hunt.
We also went to the Gonzoroo III: A Musical Quizodyssey panel, which is music and improv and as awesome as it sounds. I finally got to meet Doc Hammer, who signed my Venture Bros DVD and graciously tolerated me babbling about how much I love the show while in costume from said show. It was the highlight of my weekend.
The scavenger hunt continued!
We were in line to wait in line super early for the Venture Brothers panel at 3, and ended up sitting in the center of the third row. If you’ve ever attended a Venture Bros panel or watched one on YouTube, you know that Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick don’t host typical panels. This year they continued the tradition of doing the panel as a ’70s talkshow called Let’s All Smoking. James Urbaniak, Mark Gagliardi, and Hal Lublin, also joined them onstage. They showed a few preview scenes from Season 6, and it was revealed that the first episode of the new season should be premiering on February 7th, 2016.
When the panel ended, I rushed to the stage and somehow got Jackson to sign my DVD as Doc Hammer threw fake roses to the crowd behind me – a bizarre yet fond memory that could only happen at Dragon*Con.
At 10pm, I was a panelist at Con Culture & the Changing Face of Fandom. As we waited in the hall before the panel, a man left the room from the previous panel yelling at the people in the room and then yelling at the line of people in the hallway. It was very strange. We found out later that the panel he had left was “Sexuality and Diversity in Comics” and that he had interrupted someone else’s comment to say that panel discussions would never change anything ever and that people should make their own characters instead of trying to make current characters better. He was a jerk. Pro-tip: If you enjoy telling others that their opinions don’t matter and have a problem with discussing queerness in comic books, maybe don’t attend a panel about diversity. Or even better, don’t attend the convention. Stay home and yell at yourself in the mirror. It might be more productive.
The panel itself was a lot of fun. There was a lot of discussion on diversity and intersectionality of both comic book characters and the fandom, how to keep convention spaces safe and how to keep conventions accountable when there are issues, and the advances/setbacks that the fandom has faced in recent years. People in the audience shared their own viewpoints as people from different backgrounds which added openness and diversity to the conversation. I was on the panel with Kari Storla and Chris Brennaman, two brilliant minds who made it an incredible experience.
We were up bright and early to get to the Comics and Feminism panel. I presented my thesis, “The Fake Geek Girl: Female-Occupied Space and Masculinity in Geek Culture”, part of which I discussed in the previous blog post on Gendered Spaces. This was my first time presenting it outside of a women’s studies audience, and it seemed to go well. Tini Howard did her presentation “Thinking Outside the Fridge – Changing Comics with the Subject/Object Problem”. Tini is very knowledgable on her subject and is a super engaging speaker. She discussed how female comic book characters are often subject to terrible things that result in death or permanent injury, which is usually used in order to advance a male character’s plotline. However, when male characters face tragedy, they are shown defeating the trauma with strength or force and often coming out unscathed. Tini made connections that I had never considered as a feminist comic book reader, and often the entire audience nodded their heads in agreement. It was an honor to present with her. The audience had many questions and comments on our presentations which created an excellent dialogue about the treatment of female characters, fans, and creators within the comic book industry. The panel was definitely one of the best things I’ve been involved with in my life and I hope to someday do it again.
Afterwards, we stuck around for the Kelly Sue DeConnick in Focus panel. Kelly Sue and Matt had to leave the convention for a family emergency, so Kelly Sue was unable to be there, but the panelists still did an incredible job regardless. They spoke about Kelly Sue’s work on Bitch Planet, Pretty Deadly, and Captain Marvel, as well as G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel. Speakers Ahmed Younis, Chandra Jenkins, and John Flowers, as well as moderator Damien Williams were knowledgable, passionate, and extremely interesting. It was great to listen to an academic take on Kelly Sue’s work that I love so much while sitting in a room of people who also love and respect her.
After that, we started the 6 hour drive back to Orlando. Our first Dragon*Con was exhausting and overwhelming but completely worth every minute. We definitely plan to return again next year!
Advice for First-Time Dragon*Con Goers:
- The sky bridges are PACKED between panels. Sometimes its just quicker to run down to the main floor and walk between the hotels outside.
- Have a Sharpie and the stuff you want signed with you at all times!!! You never know when you’ll run into the person you want to sign it. I was going to wait for the Venture Bros panel on Sunday, but I ran into Doc Hammer at the merch table at the Gonzo panel on Saturday and was able to run back to my seat and grab my DVD and Sharpie and get it signed.
- If you want to go to the parade, get there early. Like hours early. Be ready to wait. The parade started late and the sun had started to shine about a half hour beforehand, so we were very sweaty and hot by the time the first group came down the street. I would recommend bringing comfortable shoes, especially if you’re planning on wearing your costume to the parade. I wore heels as a part of my cosplay. Big mistake. You’ll probably see most of the costumes around the con later, so think long if waiting for the parade is worth it to you.
- Dragon*Con is pretty strict about not letting people wait in line for big panels over an hour beforehand. However, there is often an unofficial group of people waiting in line to wait in line. The volunteers will often let you line up earlier if the panel beforehand goes into the room early. We waited in line to get in line for the Venture Bros Panel about 2 hours early, and they let us into the real line about 90 minutes beforehand.
- Because Dragon*Con is held in hotels and not a convention center, there is definitely a significant partying atmosphere. If you like alcohol and partying, this is the convention for you. If not, definitely try to steer clear of hotel lobbies at dinner time and afterwards.
- SLEEP. At least try to sleep. This is the kind of convention you need lots of energy for.
GGG will be at New York Comic Con next month!