By Steve Bunche
As a dyed-in-the wool comics fan I have wanted to attend the senses-pummeling annual San Diego Comic-con. As a fan, think about it: shitloads of comic books everywhere, movie and TV celebs who’ll be signing autographs, comics creators from all over the globe, and a myriad of fun and geekish possibilities, all within arm’s reach in sunny California. Seriously, what’s not to like? But in recent years that pipe dream has slowly been deferred since I first imagined hitting the big show in San Diego way back in 1994, during my days as a member of the illustrious (yeah, right) Marvel Bullpen of the 1990’s boom-and-crash. Due to the multi-headed bitch and a half that includes the prohibitive costs of plane fare from coast to coast and accommodations in a decent hotel for the duration of nearly a week, as well as the con insidiously being co-opted by Hollywood interests as a source of R&D for television, movie, and video game properties to exploit, I’ve found its appeal eroding year after year, so much so that now I have no desire whatsoever to go. I may not be in the biz anymore but I’m still in close contact with many of my friends and former colleagues, and I can honestly say that each and every one of them dreads their yearly trek to the west, but it’s a necessary evil if they want to put themselves out there and further their careers by showing goodwill to the fans (to say nothing of shilling whatever latest project or any original art they may have up for grabs). And while it’s much easier for me to deal with the logistics of New York City’s Javits Center show, even that convention is morphing into an impossibly overcrowded nightmare on wheels that’s equal parts dry-humped-by-the-devil nightmare and the most spectacular thing going for geeks here in the east. No matter what, it seems like I, and my fellow geeks, can’t win for losing. So what the ever-lovin’ eff is a geek to do?
Two words, effendi: Dragon Con.
For the first time in about eight or nine years I hauled my high-yella ass from the naughty north to the sexy south — Atlanta, Gee-Ay, to be precise — to immerse myself in what has always in my experience been the most fun and unabashedly enthusiastic convention of its kind in these here United States, and I was amazed by what I witnessed. A hell of a lot can change in a mere decade (or less), and Dragon Con has now grown to the point of requiring four hotels and their convention centers to handle all the madness on display. And it’s a good thing they were all available; the Hyatt, the Marriott, the Sheraton, and the Hilton were all bursting at the seams with the faithful, many in wild and geekish costumery, all eager to see and be seen while checking out the dozens of panels, live shows, costume contests, and such, along with the specialized shopping one always finds at such events.
Eager though I was to see and cover as much as I could, it immediately became apparent that it would be physically impossible to see even half of what was going on, even if I could pull a Jamie Madrox and multiply myself into at least six people, so instead I’ll just give you a brief overview of the cornucopia of fun.
Upon arrival I was inundated with the con’s sunny vibes and upbeat attitude. Families had come with their kids in tow, many decked out in outfits that celebrated their particular fannish bent, such as mom, dad and the little ones rocking the gear of characters from Star Trek or Star Wars, and sights like that warmed my heart. But while family fun is great, let’s face it and admit that the best costumes are usually reserved for the legions of women who take full advantage of the con setting to shed their drab work personas and unleash their tightly-fitted inner super-heroine or scantily-clad fantasy-type female. Acres upon acres of geekish hotness were there, rocking it loud and proud, and I guarantee the sight of all those lovelies running around as favorite characters incited the spontaneous onset of puberty in many a young lad present. (And do not get me started on what happened in the later hours, when the free-flowing grownup libations ingested at the various hotel bars and theme parties worked their magic and costumed revelers of all genders and orientations got together…)
Since I couldn’t possibly go to all the panels I wanted to see, I concentrated on my initial goal of seeing the “Meet Traci Lords” panel, and I’m glad I did because it not only turned out to be very entertaining, but also revealed Miss Lords to be a savvy, funny and sincere entity worthy of a fair re-evaluation well removed from her notoriety/infamy as a coked-up underage porn star. That Traci Lords is dead and buried, and from the exploited kid’s ashes has arisen a really cool actress who studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Hollywood, and when asked by the panel’s moderator why she chose to enroll at Strasberg Institute, Lords responded with, “I thought it was the logical thing to do after porn. I mean, what does one do after porn?” I was also taken with her attitude toward how one’s adolescent need to fit in can adjust to, “When you’re older you’re glad not to be part of the cookie cutter crowd. You just don’t give a fuck and you just be who you are.” Well said, and I could not agree more. Look for Traci in the upcoming adaptation of the best-selling book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, which should be a riot if it’s even one-eighth as funny (and appalling) as the source material.
Every good con features “Artists Alley,” an area reserved for writers, cartoonists and illustrators, both aspiring and seasoned, and Dragon Con’s was peopled with the likes of Eisner Award-winner Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier), George Perez (The New Teen Titans), Bob Burden (The Flaming Carrot), Amanda Conner (Power Girl), Michael Golden (Bucky O’Hare), Jimmy Palmiotti (Jonah Hex), and many others. There they greeted their gushing fans, signed books, did sketches, and basically gave back much of the love their admirers have showered upon them for years. Artists Alley is always a favorite place for me and I had a great time there this time around.
Rodney Ramos lays down the law.
My two favorite moments from this con had to be Rodney Ramos — inker extraordinaire on Transmetropolitan and a host of other books that would never have made their deadlines without his skillful hand — broke out his oft-seen sign proclaiming that he is not Humberto Ramos, immediately after which a fan approached him with a fistful of Humberto’s books in hope that he would sign them. Then there was the bizarre, show-stopping sight of Darwyn Cooke strolling in and ready to sign while dressed from head to toe in an adult-sized Winnie the Pooh getup for no apparent reason.
I was also glad to be able to sit and chat with my old friend Amanda Conner, (Above) who, as per usual, broke out with a memorable quote, this time in regard to the overly milky coffee I’d snagged her from the food court. Quoth Amanda, “I like a latte, but it needs an extra-strong shot of caffeine. I’m talkin’ enough caffeine to come right up and kick you in the vagina!” Yep, that one was just as memorable as the sweaty, overweight guy who was seen wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with “Dead Girls Don’t Say No.”
On Saturday night I hit the Cry For Dawn costume contest and found myself surrounded by a plethora of lovelies who showed up to embody the many aspects of Joseph Michael Linsner’s goddess of birth and rebirth. I wandered about backstage (fueled by more tequila than I care to admit to), snapping pictures and talking with the very friendly and “into it” contestants, and one of them, a lady identified as “Shelli Da’Neal,” explained her participation with, “I like dressing as characters, designing characters, and showing admiration for other artists,” so if you ever wondered why some of these women go for the whole costume thing, I’d say that was a pretty good answer.
Hilariously emceed by Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels, the contest was a hoot and a half, unleashing an avalanche of creativity, pulchritude, and mirth that was greatly enjoyed by all present. And while she somehow did not win the contest, famous cosplayer Yaya Han represented in an incredible outfit with a pair of wings that blew my mind.
By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was miraculously not hung-over, but I was somewhat exhausted as I returned to Artists Alley and pretty much planted my tired tuchas when not making last-minute runs to the dealer’s rooms, the food court, or the art show that was located right next to the Alley (I would have taken some pics of the art show, but photography was strictly verboten). And then, before I knew it, the day was done and I had to retire back to my room at the Best Western after snagging as meal at the IHOP. My flight back to NYC was early in the morning and there was still a day left to the Con, but the last day of a show is usually pretty low key, so I didn’t feel bad about leaving early so I could get home and settle in before resuming my duties as a copywriter/proofreader at a Manhattan design house.
My experience at the ’09 Dragon Con was nothing short of dizzying, with an overload of sights, sounds, familiar faces and the joy of total immersion into the culture of my people, namely my fellow geeks. Christ, I love this stuff, and I’m already setting my sights on next year’s event. Take my word for it, folks. Dragon Con is the exemplary con that isn’t plagued with overcrowding, poor crowd-control, bad vibes, of Hollywood jerkoffs swooping down to usurp the fans’ fun. This is my kind of shindig, and I hope you’ll join me there next year. I may just deck my flabby, hairy ass out in a leopard print Speedo and rock it Tarzan-style, so lock up your daughters!
Oh, and for your enjoyment, here’s a wee look at some of the fun to be had at the show:
Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels chats with Marie Antoinette at the Cry For Dawn costume contest.
The Dawn who should have won. I know the character is very much open to interpretation, but she looks like she walked right off the cover.
Yaya Han’s amazing take on Dawn (also not the winner).
I think I dreamed about this when I twelve. Oh, the humanity…
A closeup, just so we’re clear on this.
A stunning real-life Power Girl poses with Amanda Conner’s version of the character.
The stunning P.G. with your roving reporter.
An excellent pair of 1950′s Invasion of the Body-Snatchers pod people, in black-and-white no less!
These Nostromo crew members were posing for me when this totally unrelated dude in a totally appropriate xenomorph getup happened to stroll by. Such is the magic of Dragon Con!
Going female is the best thing to happen to Loki in ages.
When I took this shot, a mother walked by and remarked aloud to her kid, “Look, honey. A robot!” And then the groans from the fans started.
An absolutely killer Hawkeye.
Jimmy Palmiotti sketches Jonah Hex for a fan.
An audience with Traci Lords.
Ya just gotta love Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl!
After decades of witnessing estrogenic vitriol hurled at the film for it allegedly being a wall-to-wall festival of rape and general misogyny (which anyone who’s actually seen the movie can tell you it isn’t), it was refreshing to see female fans show some love for A Clockwork Orange.
Ditko-era Peter Parker, as portrayed by Thor Parker of Manhattan’s Midtown Comics.
Darwyn the Pooh searches for some inter-species lovin’ from the Flaming Carrot.
Is this the ultimate geeky couples costume? You decide!
Perhaps the ultimate expression of southern geek pride.