Washington D.C. finally got its very own comic convention this weekend with the inaugural Awesome Con DC! Over Saturday and Sunday, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown DC turned into a haven of geekiness as nerds flocked from along the east coast to check out this brand new convention. While it didn’t have the numbers to rival the more famous conventions, one certainly wouldn’t have been able to guess that this was only its first year based upon the attendance which only bodes well for future years.
Awesome Con was a comfortable size with a great location especially for those in the DC Metro region who took public transportation in. There were some issues with weekend track work on the metro but none of that was the convention’s fault. This was by far one of the most kid friendly conventions that I’ve ever attended. The convention even had a small track just for the kids and a costume contest for them each day. It was a great convention for both kids and convention newcomers alike. The convention was also well attended (I’ve heard weekend attendance was around 8000) and the location leaves it with plenty of room to grow before possibly having to shop around for a new place. Above all else though, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves which is always the most important thing.
Read on after the jump for a more in-depth look at in very first Awesome Con!
I can easily say that my Awesome Con had the best start out of any convention I’ve ever attended because of one simple reason: my friend and I ran into Nicholas Brendan (Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) on the street as we made the short trek up from Chinatown. We told him how much the show meant to us and he gave us hugs. Talk about setting the bar high.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to any panels on Saturday because I severely underestimated how much being in my SHIELD uniform/Maria Hill costume was going to hamper my freedom of movement around the convention. (Please forgive that brief moment of vanity.) My fellow costumers were out in full force throughout the weekend especially when it came to the kids. I’d guess that probably 80% of the kids who attended were in costume if not more while maybe 35% of attendees were in costume. There was a lovely variety of great costumes too! I spotted everything from Star Wars and Doctor Who to costumes from Bioshock Infinite and Saga. I’ll have a cosplay recap post up in the next few days that will focus just on some of the great costumes I saw.
Most of what I got to observe that day was the dealer room/artist alley and the convention floor. A good number of the vendors were comic stores. No two stores brought the exact same merchandise and neither were they offering the exact same sales. While one store was selling all their trades for half off cover price, another store was selling current issues for $1 and yet another had a plethora of Silver Age comics for sale. It would’ve been difficult to go home empty handed. If comics weren’t your thing, there were t-shirt and bag sellers, the usual patch/badge vendor, and several jewelry makers too. The only vendors missing from the typical convention dealer room were the corset folks and the weapons shop (although I suspect that the latter had great deal to do with the location in our nation’s capitol.)
The artist alley portion of the room was also filled with plenty of gems. Guests ranged from established comic book names to local artists to Tumblr sensations Noelle Stevenson aka gingerhaze and the creator of the comic Princeless, Jeremy Whitley. If anything, it was difficult to refrain from buying artwork and comics from everyone in attendance.
The program listed about twenty panels for Saturday and fifteen for Sunday, including costume contests. Media Guests such as Nicholas Brendan and Phil LaMarr had a Q&A panel. While there weren’t dozens of panels like at larger, more established cons, there was certainly a broad variety of panels, showing that Awesome Con is looking to be more than just a comic book convention. Saturday’s panels featured everything from an age old Star Wars vs Star Trek debate to a panel about Hip-Hop and Comics to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse 101. I made an attempt to attend the “Super Art Fight” panel but the room was overflowing by the time I got there. From all reports though, the mix between live art and pro-wrestling was quite awesome.
Sunday was a much calmer day for both the convention itself and me personally. There were certainly fewer people there than Saturday but everyone seemed to still be enjoying themselves. Wearing a “street clothes” costume gave me far much more freedom to wander and to finally check out some panels.
First up was the “Writing Fantasy: Novels and Comics” panel featuring writers Justin Jordan, Allison Pang, Diana Peterfreund, Meagan Spooner, Tom King, and Alma Katsu. In typical DC fashion, two of the writers were also former members of the CIA. The room itself was fairly packed and deservedly so. I started to take notes but was soon so engrossed in the conversation that my phone was completely forgotten.
The panelists discussed everything from how fantasy has become the “in thing” over the past few years to how fantasy has changed and how it might evolve in the future and what will always stay the same. George R.R. Martin and A Song of Ice and Fire came up frequently in the conversation and given the response of the crowd, a panel about that books and TV series would probably be quite popular next year. I found it interesting to learn how much control authors have over the covers of their books (none) and how much stores like Barnes & Noble have (lots). The authors also discussed their own struggles with getting that first novel published and even touched upon their thoughts on self-publishing. If you’re able to attend the convention next year and they have this panel again, definitely attend!
Awesome Con was also home to screenings of several films/web series over the weekend. I was able to attend the screening of the pilot for Broken Continent. The premise of the show is that a King long ago was arrogant enough to proclaim himself a god except the actual god was having none of that behavior so be smashed the kingdom into five pieces. A few thousand years later, a new king is seeking to conqueror all five shards and unite them into one kingdom again but many who live there are unwilling to let that happen. The show itself certainly looks to have promise even though it was nothing ground breaking. The dialogue occasionally felt a bit stilted and the slow motion for some of the action sequences made them feel a bit too staged. However, I’d say it’s worth watching especially if they are able to raise the funds to continue the series.
It was the Q&A with the cast and crew that proved to be especially intriguing. That’s not to bash the show itself however as some of what the writer said, such as other aspects of the world and his inspirations for it, left me really hoping they’ll get the chance to show more of the world and tell more of the story. The creators also spoke about their two Kickstarter campaigns to fund the production of the pilot. They were able to raise $50,000 and pay everyone who worked on it, something they’re rightly quite proud of. Apparently the key is to have no shame about asking for money and to also make sure you have something to offer your backers and potential backers throughout the process. In other words, don’t wait until you’re funded to begin work on your film and make sure you keep interested parties routinely updated.
Overall, it’s safe to say that Awesome Con was a rousing success. The program already announced that Awesome Con will be returning next year on April 19 and 20th and that “Yes, it will be much BIGGER!!!”. If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic area (or heck, even if you’re not), I highly recommend checking out this convention next year! I can’t wait to see how it grows and expands over the next few years and look forward to attending again.