The second day of Dragon*Con was the day of the parade and I got to see all of the cosplayers pulling out all their best tricks. There are some amazingly talented people out there creating costumes and you get to see some of the best of the best at Dragon*Con. The Aspen Comics booth in the Comic Artists’ Alley was graced by a woman who had made a spectacular Grace costume. Her wings could even be manipulated. Of course, the parade itself had Spartans, Lou Ferrigno (who was not in costume, but was awesome anyway), a dragon rider, the Gentleman Ghost, and whole hosts of characters. I think one of my favorite costume groups was probably the people who were dressed as Tetris blocks.
I got pictures with a Dark Elf, Dr. Strange, a couple of big, hairy guys dressed as fairies, a dragon rider, and several others. It’s great playing the “who are you supposed to be” game, especially when I know that the costume itself is great, but I don’t actually know where the character is from. When I get to ask someone, I usually just walk right up to them and tell them that I’m sorry, I don’t know who they’re dressed as, but they look great in their costume. Then, I get to see their faces light up as they tell me all about whatever it was, be it comic, book, movie, or television show that sparked their drive to cosplay as the character. It seems like a waste of time and energy to judge someone about what they’re a fan of (you know, unless it’s Jersey Shore, but hopefully that is a sad chapter in human existence that is now mercifully closed), because they’re fellow Geeks. Even if they aren’t Geeking over the things that make you Geek, they still get it. They know. Their obsession is analogous to your obsession. You don’t have to part as friends, but there’s no reason to part as enemies, either. Geeks love what they love and there really isn’t cause for shame over that.
I did a fair amount of just wandering around and gawking. It’s largely because of the art skills on display. I can write. I draw a little, I paint a little, I love to make things but the levels of craftsmanship people have poured into some of those costumes are so far beyond my skill levels as to take on a supernatural quality to me. Not every costume is beautiful, nor should every costume be beautiful. What matters is seeing them proudly marching around showing off the exact drums they’re dancing to. It gives the atmosphere around Dragon*Con a very heady quality.
Of course, I had to take some time to be Geeky, too. Well, okay, to be Geekier than I usually proudly display. I had to go to the Comic Artists’ Alley to drop some serious cash. To be quite honest, this was the part of Dragon*Con that I really saved money for, because I wasn’t going to go into a room and see some of my favorite artists without getting to buy stuff from them.
Craig Yoe is a very kind man. He was really surprised when I asked if I could have a picture of him, but he seemed utterly delighted when I told him that I had several of his books. He asked which ones and I pointed them out, then added that there were a couple of them on my “Books I wanted to purchase” list. He actually seemed very impressed by that. I got a picture with him and bought one of the books of his that I wanted. Naturally, he signed it for me.
One of the reasons that I wanted to go to Dragon*Con was to be able to meet Pete Abrams, the man who draws the webcomic “Sluggy Freelance.” I’ve been reading the comic strip since my second year of college and it’s still one of my favorites to this day. Pete has shown himself more than willing to experiment with storytelling and genre and, as a result, by reading the comic from the beginning you really get a chance to see is evolution as an artist. I shook his hand and told him how long I had been reading Sluggy. Then, I got a picture with him and, right then and there, completed my collection of “Sluggy Freelance” books. Except for one volume. He didn’t have any in stock. I actually got to chat with him for an extensive period of time and hear about his views on storytelling and his characters, which, really, is one of my happiest Geek out moments ever. Or at least, it was, until he offered to do sketches in three of my books and asked me which characters I wanted. I asked for a sketch of Riff, a sketch of Aylee in her dragon form, and a sketch of Bun-bun with his switchblade, all of which were executed with impressive speed and precision, even though he hadn’t drawn Aylee in her dragon form for several years. He misspelled my name in the first inscription, which he promptly covered very cleverly and with good humor. I walked away from his booth an extremely satisfied starry-eyed sprocket.
The other artist that I really wanted to get signatures and merchandise from was Bill Holbrook, who draws “Kevin & Kell” and “On the Fastrack”. I’ve been a fan of his for nearly as long as I have been a fan of Sluggy. He had most of his books for sale, but I had to remind myself that, first of all, there’s limited space on a plane and, second of all, there is limited space in my personal library, despite assurances from several friends that my personal library is, in fact, a Tardis (something that I would readily agree to being true, as I maintain that my superpower is actually fitting all of the books, music, and movies that I have into the space that I have despite needing to defy the laws of space, time, and physics to do so). He was just as nice as Abrams and was more than happy to get a picture with me, as well.
The bandoliers of Sharpies were frequently remarked on, especially in the artists’ room. It was, it seemed, an even cooler idea than I thought it was. People especially laughed when I told them about having to make a call to ask someone what caliber a Sharpie is before I bought the bandoliers. At least one person said, “That has got to be the first time that anyone has ever asked that question.” It probably was, and I’m more than happy to have been the Geek who asked it.
For anyone who plans to go to Dragon*Con for the first time, I would definitely offer the following suggestions:
Preregister. It is completely worth it. The line that you have to deal with to get your preregistry badge is nothing compared to he lines of people waiting to buy badges at the convention.
Pick up your badge the night before, for the exact same reason that I listed above.
Take at least one bottle of water with you. Atlanta is hot. I am not joking about this. Even when the weather is nice, Atlanta is hot. And humid. There are water stations all over the place. Dragon*Con is really good about that. However, all of the water stations are in corners that are out of the way so you don’t interfere with Con activities while you’re hydrating. You will have to step away from the action. You don’t want to do that, trust me. Also, if you don’t drink enough water, you’ll end up learning the hard way about what dehydration does to your body. You’ll end up missing even more of the action. Just take some water with you. It’s easier. I promise.
Take something to mop your face with or, if you’re using makeup for cosplay, make sure you get something that’s sweat-proof.
Try to make a plan, but don’t plan every minute. There are going to be times that you’re just going to want to go and look at some stuff. Leave time for that because you really aren’t going to regret it.
Carry some kind of snacks with you. There is food at the Con. There is a consuite. However, there is only one consuite and events are spread out over five hotels. They are really close to each other, but, again, you’re going to have to make the conscious decision to be okay with missing out on some things. It’s essentially the same reasoning behind carrying the water. It just makes sense.
Most of all, though, enjoy being around your fellow Geeks. It’s a great place to find out about new fandoms to try and it’s a great place to just be the Geek you are.
I know that I had an absolute blast there. If the opportunity should arise to go again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.