I remember hearing ads for DragonCon on the radio several years ago and thinking, “Nerds!!” It conjured up images in my head of Trekkies giving each other the “Live long and prosper” hand signal and middle-aged men hovering over old comic books. It just didn’t sound like my type of party.
In 2010, my brother-in-law, Rob, asked if our kids would dress up as the children from the board game Candyland. Rob has been going to conventions like DragonCon for years. He is what is known as a hardcore Cos-player, meaning he likes making elaborate costumes with his friends. For one convention in Boston, he created an eight-foot mobile robot that he could get in and move around. Another year he portrayed some kind of cat soldier thing and had makeup that rivaled a Hollywood production. He is not just some dude in tights. Sabine and I agreed to let our kids be part of his photo shoot and went down to the Marriott to take the whole scene in. I was blown away by the people watching. There were thousands of people, many in costumes, swarming around the downtown area. I sat at the bar and gawped at the level of dedication and passion that people had for their favorite books, television programs and movies.
The next year, Sabine and I got passes to the convention and decided to tag along with Rob and his eventual fiancee’ Jess. We walked in the parade with them, dressed as characters from “Doctor Who,” attended some panels and partied until we hit a wall of exhaustion on Sunday afternoon. Before we left, we bought our passes for this year.
This year, we got our own hotel room and thought we’d bring the kids along for the first day and the parade before handing them off to friends and family for the rest of the weekend. The children will not be coming with us next year. It wasn’t their fault. DragonCon involves a lot of walking and crowds and they had no real interest in any of the panels. They did get in costume Friday afternoon and they enjoyed the parade Saturday morning, but the highlight, if you ask them, was watching “Chipwrecked” Friday night in the hotel room and staying up late.
My wife and I, on the other hand, had a great time. I have made the full conversion from skeptic to DragonCon diehard. Here’s what I was able to do in a few short days at the convention.
• Watch most of the latest Muppet movie with one of the puppeteers giving hilarious commentary.
• Attended panels with Mike Reiss, head writer for “The Simpsons” and creator of “The Critic,” John Barrowman (Captain Jack on “Torchwood”), various voice actors including Billy West (“Futurama”) and the creators of “The Venture Brothers.”
• Catch the parade.
• Peruse an art exhibit and meet comic book artists and authors.
• Donate blood and platelets and get a free t-shirt.
• Got my picture taken with a bunch of people in various costumes (including Inspector Spacetime).
• Dressed as The Monarch and attend various parties, while having my photo taken (with my wife as Dr. Mrs. The Monarch) and also dressed as Ted from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
• Attended a writing seminar with Michael Stackpole (author of “I,Jedi,”).
This might not be your cup of tea, but I urge you not to be so quick to dismiss it. Chances are the stars or creators of some of your favorite shows will be in attendance in any given year (Gillian Anderson of the”The X-Files” was there this year, but I missed the panel) and there are also classes, panels and discussions on a variety of topics - robotics, history, paranormal activities, animation, video games and more.
It is also great people watching and if you go next year you may see me too, although I haven’t decided on next year’s costume.