This year I represented the ZADF at Dragon Con. It was no great imposition. I was going anyway. I go every year. The only real difference is this year I’ll be writing about it. I’m guessing that many of you have never heard of Dragon Con, and are probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Have you heard of Comic Con in San Diego? You probably have. It has become a huge event every year that draws massive crowds and gets national media coverage. What many people don’t realize, is that Comic Con is just one of many Cons. There are conventions devoted to comic books, video games, table top gaming, fantasy, science fiction, anime, and of course horror; then there is Dragon Con. Dragon Con covers all of those things and more. It takes place in Atlanta, GA and has been around for a while (it started back in 1987). I’ve been attending since I was a kid (my first Con was sometime in the very early 90’s) and I’ve watched the Con grow and change from a small gathering of geeks in the bowels of the downtown Atlanta Hilton, to a massive congregation of more than 60,000 people that completely overrun the Hilton, Hyatt, Maririott, Sheraton, and Westin hotels, as well as the Apparel Mart, and pretty much every restaurant and business in the area. People come from all over the country to attend, and some even come from Canada and the UK. If you go to downtown Atlanta on Labor Day weekend you will most likely brush up against the Con in some way, and are likely to see some pretty crazy and amazing things.
And riding the MARTA during Con is always interesting.
As I said before, Dragon Con is a huge multi-genre Con, with panels and events devoted to all of the things I listed above. Plus, there are tracks containing multiple presentations on a number of other topics; ranging from specific fandoms like Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, the work of Joss Whedon, etc, to the more non-fiction based (traditionally geeky) pursuits like science, skepticism, space, computer hacking, the paranormal, podcasting, and more. Not to mention the fact that there is also an art show, an indie film festival, multiple costume contests, and the best damn parade you’ve ever seen.
The Dragon Con Parade is so large that the city of Atlanta actually had to change their laws governing parade size just to accommodate it.
Dragon Con also draws a number of celebrities for panel discussions and autograph signings. Years ago, just after Clerks came out, Kevin Smith came to Dragon Con and I sat in a room with about 50 to 100 other people and we watched the movie and he did a Q & A afterwards. More recently, I sat with over a thousand people and listened John Barrowman (of Doctor Who and Arrow) tell stories about the time he crapped himself on stage at the Grand Ole Opry because his understudy spike his water with laxatives. Did you know that Adam Savage really hates the fact that ghost hunting shows come on the Discovery Channel? I did, because a couple of years ago I listened to him go on a hilarious expletive filled rant about it at Dragon Con. This year’s Con included Stephen Amell, Felicia Day, Karen Gillian, Edward James Olmos, Lloyd Kaufman, and Nichelle Nichols, just to name a few. Not to mention a whole slew of authors and artists like Jim Butcher, Kevin J. Anderson, and Art Adams.
But maybe waiting in line for a few hours to listen to an actor tell stories or have an author sign your book isn’t your thing. Well, you could always take in a puppet show, or hell you could learn how to become a puppeteer. There are a number of panels that are actually discussions about how to do everything from a painting to podcasting, as well as tips on how to be a film-maker or get published as an author. And of course, there are numerous panels on how to make costumes. Because really, it’s all about the costumes. Honestly, you could spend all four days just walking around and taking pictures of all of the amazing costumes. This year I attended a special effects makeup competition hosted by former contestants from the Syfy show Face Off (it was Roy, Frank, and RJ if any fans of the show were wondering) and they all agreed that Dragon Con blows Comic Con out of the water when it comes to cosplay.
This was my first year attending as part of the ZADF, so I tried to keep an eye out for some good horror costumes.
Despite the fact that we are primarily a horror site, I wouldn’t be doing the Con or the cosplayers justice if I didn’t go outside of the realm of horror though. There really is every kind of costume you can imagine on display at Dragon Con. From the amazingly crafted…
to the creative and clever…
to the humorous and silly…
and the downright bizarre.
Then, of course, there are both old and new favorites.
So far I’ve talked about what happens at Dragon Con during the day, but the Con definitely doesn’t stop once the sun goes down. After dark at Dragon Con, things get…interesting.
You can take in a burlesque show, go to a rave, attend one of the numerous live music performances (I once saw GWAR get shut down for nearly setting the hotel on fire when their fire breather got a little carried away on stage.) or you can go to one of several theme parties like the Last Dance on Alderaan, the Hobbit Disco, or (our favorite) the Zombie Prom (more about the Zombie Prom later). Also, there’s a mermaid race in the pool at the Sheraton. Yeah, a mermaid race. If you don’t want to see that then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the point I’m trying to make here is: You should really go to Dragon Con. I have friends that I try to convince of this every year and I’ve heard all of the excuses. I’ve heard people say that it’s too crowded and the lines are too long. It is crowded and there are some long lines. It doesn’t matter. Brave the crowds. Stand in the lines. I promise you it’s worth it. I’ve heard people say that it’s too expensive. Between the membership for the Con, the hotel, food, drinks, and whatever money you end up spending with the vendors in the Apparel Mart, it definitely can add up. It doesn’t matter. Save up your money, then spend it on Dragon Con. It’s completely worth it. Go at least once. I guarantee you’ll have fun, because this is what you have to understand about Dragon Con: Besides all of the celebrities, the panels, the parade, the art show, and everything else I’ve talked about, Dragon Con is a four day long party with 60,000 people. It’s Nerdy Gras. It’s a place where you can go and let your freak flag fly, secure in the knowledge that not only will it be tolerated, it will be welcomed.
(Note regarding photos: Some of the photos were taken by me, but many came from other attendees. Special thanks to Neko7 Cosplay Photography for the many great photos, and Jeff GM Photography for the great parade photos. I have linked all of the photos back to their sources when possible, but if you see a photo you took or one that was taken of your cosplay that isn’t linked to you, please send me a message and I will be more than happy to correct that.).