Another year, another awesome Awesome Con. As promised, this still relatively young convention headed by Ben Penrod pulled together another great show that left attendees happy and content by the end of Sunday. When you look around the hall, it’s hard to remember that Awesome Con is a mere three years old and that it was mostly confined to a hall perhaps a quarter of the size of its current location in its inaugural year in 2013. While it’s true that DC was thirsty for a convention just like this, what has really helped Awesome Con succeed is its willingness to listen, learn, and correct its mistakes. Last year, the biggest complaint was over registration. They were prepared this year and no one was forced to wait outside in the heat thanks to a combination of changing their precise location within the convention center, mailing out 3-day badges to those who preordered in time, and having a huge area dedicated to registration and entering. Panel lines also appeared to be managed much better this year with some rooms actually being dedicated line spaces for the larger rooms.
One of the great things about Awesome Con is that it’s hard to get bored. The convention hall was even bigger then last year, featuring tons of dealers, lots of great artists, and even a corner for all things Star Wars. The aisles are adequately wide enough so that one never felt claustrophobic trying to get through the crowds. The convention also made good use of the expanse convention center building. What fascinated me was how freaking huge that convention center is. I thought there was only the building used the previous two years but oh no. There is way more then that which is great news is Awesome Con wants to keep growing larger and larger. Space won’t be an issue any time soon.
Detouring back for a moment, the Star Wars corner was a great addition to the convention as a one stop shop for all the GFFA action. The local 501st, Rebel Legion, and Mandalorian Mercs groups all had tables set up as did the Artoo Builders and the local DC Collectors. The corner also featured Rob and Leanne Hannah; creators of the Blue Milk Special web comic. As someone who was fresh off a Star Wars centric convention, I loved this area of the floor because it felt like home. The Star Wars corner also hosted ‘Blast a Trooper’ for charity which is exactly what it sounds like. My hat is off to those brave souls who were willingly shot at with nerf guns in the name of charity.
In addition to the huge exhibit hall and a variety of intriguing panels, Awesome Con played host to plenty of options for gamers including two different bridge simulator games: Starship Horizons and Artemis. I only had the chance to play Starship Horizons with a team but have heard good things about both. It’s amazing to see how much Horizons has changed since I’d played it a mere four months ago at MAGFest. The bug that made only male names pop up for the crew members in charge of each deck had been fixed and the difficulty of even the easy level had been upped to create more of a challenge. It’s an immensely entertaining game to play and I highly recommend you give it a try if it comes to a convention near you (they’re still in alpha). One of the coolest parts about it is that you can try out all five roles and get a different experience: Captain, Science, Communications, Flight, and Tactical. I’ve only tried a few so far… for some reason, people keep making me be Captain. I’m starting to feel a little typecast here.
Surprising to probably no one, the panels I attended during Awesome Con were Star Wars related. (Although there were definitely some celebrity panels, such as Alex Kingston, Shatner, and George Takei, that sounded like they were a blast!) There wasn’t tons and tons of programming focused on the galaxy far far away (okay fine Celebration and Dragon Con have spoiled me) but there were definitely some great offerings. The one downside to Awesome Con’s current programming schedule is that attendees mostly just got one chance to go hear their favorite celebrity guest talk on a panel. While autographs and photo ops are certainly the money makers for the guests, it’d be great for attendees to have more options to hear the guests talk about their careers.
I started my convention with a Mandalorian Mercs 101 panel on Friday afternoon. For any and all interested in building themselves armor, the panel is definitely a must attend as they give you the basics complete with being able to point out different pieces and techniques on their kitted-up members in attendance. I, for one, learned that the EVA foam is a no-go for plates. It’s also a great opportunity to meet your local clan who will probably be your best resource for building your armor. This was also a good panel to have at the start of the convention as it gave con-goers another two full days to stop by the Mercs’ table to ask more questions about the organization.
What immediately caught my eye as I was perusing Saturday’s schedule was a panel titled “No Bad Movies: Defending The Phantom Menace.” Considering me intrigued. That’s not a panel title I expected to hear outside of either of the two previously mentioned conventions. The panel was definitely an interesting one with panelist who had different levels of love/like for The Phantom Menace. They also brought up a number of good points about different aspects of the films including the eternal debate over Jake Lloyd’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. The one downside to the panel is that it featured no women which was never more evident then when the identity of the film’s main character was discussed and every plausible male character was offered as an option but it took a female audience member to make them consider the possibility of Queen Amidala. (That female audience member may or may not have been me. You can prove nothing.) One of the really nice things about this panel and, truthfully, about the other panels I attended is that the audience questions stayed mostly respectful. That often doesn’t happen so well done, DC.
I’d like to take a moment of slight self indulgence to talk about the two panels I ran this year: Diversity in Pop Culture (with Amy Ratcliffe and Esther Kim) and State of the Galaxy (with John Morton, Amy Ratcliffe, Anna Mitchell, and Jay Shah). I’m grateful to Awesome Con for letting us run both panels as there definitely some great conversations that got started and I hope to have the chance to continue them next year. If you missed out, we should have audio recordings up of both panels in a few days or you can read the livetweet of State of the Galaxy by friend-of-the-blog Brandyn here.The dates for Awesome Con 2016 have already been announced June 3-5 and I definitely recommend you give this show a try, local or otherwise.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the cosplay round up. Awesome Con may not be a cosplay centric convention but it’s definitely a great convention for someone wanting to dip their toe in the water. It’s awesome to see everyone just having so much fun whether they’re a seasoned costumer or doing this for their very first time. First up, we have the most ADORABLE cosplaying Star Wars family. I kid you not, the Anakin had the entire ‘Are you an angel?’ speech down pat and I’ve never been so killed by cute before in my life.
Although these baby ewoks gave him a run for this money…
Rey, Ezra, and lady!Han and Obi Wan:
The Empire/Clone Army/First Order also certainly had a presence.
It wasn’t all fun and Star Wars there. There were a TON of different fandoms being represented and not just the typical ones either. It was quite heartening to see so many people express their love for such a wide variety of media!