Friday, July 26, 2013

Dragon Con 2013 Preview

By Grabthar’s Hammer, by the suns of Warvan; Dragon Con is almost upon us!
In just a few short weeks it will once again be time to strap on those costumes, stock up on camera batteries, and drink like you’re South of Valhalla. The biggest and best nerd event in the world is hitting Atlanta like the Juggernaut, bitch, and you absolutely do not want to miss it. Nowhere else can find such a magnificent combination of genres and partying.
           The event occurs Labor Day weekend, August 30th – September 2nd.
Officially, anyway. I can tell you for a fact that people will be out and partying as early as Wednesday night. I went down on Thursday night for the first time last year and it simply did not work for me. I need Friday during the day to get my non-hungover, sober activities out of the way. I missed that last year due to an overabundance of party Thursday night and it really threw off my whole weekend. Plus, I am old and four straight nights of drinking is not good for me.
You might be wondering how one can manage even three straight nights of drinking at a comic book convention. It’s because Dragon Con takes place across five hotels (FIVE! – Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Marriot Marquis, Hilton Atlanta, Sheraton Atlanta, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza) within walking distance of one another in Downtown Atlanta and the party does not stop. From around 7 PM on Thursday (or like I said, Wednesday if you ask some folks) until 6 PM on the following Monday you can find some way to amuse yourself every minute of the day. I love sleeping, but Dragon Con is the one time of year that I resent my body’s need for it.
Dragon Con is my favorite event of the entire year. There is quite literally something for everybody, regardless of your taste in genres. I wrote a couple of paragraphs attempting to run down the list, but they were all just too long and arduous to read (and write). Instead of melting your mind with prose descriptions of what’s available, here’s a simple list of the Tracks being represented, with a brief note if I feel explanation is needed.
Side Note: If you don’t know, “Track” is the term used in reference to all of the events involved in a particular genre or field of interest. For example, the Trek Track encompasses all things Star Trek. There are panels featuring celebrity guests, genre experts, and fans. There are also parties and events such as the Miss Star Trek Universe Pageant, which involves costuming as various species from the Star Trek universe. So to make things easy, you simply find the Track that represents your area (or areas) of interest and look for that schedule. Typically most or all of the events for one Track will take place in the same hotel and even the same general group of rooms. It all depends on the size of the Track.
Alternate History – Basically Steampunk – think Jules Verne
American Sci-Fi Classics – Celebrating science fiction movies and TV of the past
American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media – Modern and current
Animation Programming
Anime-Manga Programming
Apocalypse Rising – Media dealing with the many different ways that civilization could end, as well as what happens afterward
British Sci-Fi Media
Costuming
Electronic Frontiers Forums – Internet, law, technology and their impact on society
Fantasy Literature
Filk – Folk music about genre topics
Horror
Independent Film & Festival
Kaleidoscope – Focused on entertainment for kids and young teens
Paranormal
Podcasting
Puppetry
Robotics and Maker
Science
Science Fiction Literature
Silk Road: Asian Cinema and Culture
Skeptics
Space
Stargate Multiverse
Star Wars
Tolkien’s Middle Earth
Trek Track
Urban Fantasy – Essentially this is classic horror brought into the modern world
Whedon Universe – About all of the works of the Nerd King, Joss Whedon
Writers’ Track – Where writers help writers
X Track – I’ve got to be honest – I’m not sure of the difference between this and American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media
Young Adult Literature
That’s an amazing thirty-two Tracks covering every major aspect of genre entertainment and some straightforward real-world subjects as well – Electronic Frontiers, Science, Space, and more. So even if you’re not into the more fantastic elements of fandom, you can still find ways to spend your weekend. And if you don’t see your particular favorite above, chances are it is folded into another Track. For the time being, anyway. As fandoms get bigger or smaller Dragon Con has shown the ability over the years to adapt its Tracks and programming to suit current demands.
Today I’m here to go over the Dragon Con 2013 Progress Report. As of right now it is not available online, but you can visit your local comic shop to pick one up. Or if you’ve already registered you can expect it in your mailbox any day now. The Progress Report is simply a pre-final update to the Guest List and some of the Special Events happening at Con. The final Program should be out a week or so before Dragon Con and the full schedule will be in that. But for right now there’s still plenty to look at as part of a pre-emptive strike on preparing for Con.
Last year’s registration process was fantastic. The new system of barcodes for checking in and getting the badge you will need to participate worked beautifully. And that’s an important point – you will need a badge to gain access to Dragon Con events and parties and – in most cases now – hotels. So don’t forget your badge or leave it in the room because it detracts from your costume. You need that thing.
One huge change to Con this year is that the vendors will now be located in the Atlanta Americas Mart. There simply wasn’t enough room for all of the exhibitors, vendors, and events in the hotels (FIVE OF THEM). I think this was a smart move. I never liked the vendors being down in the bowels of the Marriot. It was humid, crowded, and I always felt rushed. Plus the exhibitor rooms – which are just costlier vendor tables – were several floors up from the main vendor room. It was time-consuming to take in all of the vendors at once. Now they will all be in one place and you can do all of your shopping in one shot. The vendors were located in the Americas Mart years ago and that is my fondest memory of the vendor hall. It felt very open and comfortable. I was able to take my time and really look at everything. I’m looking forward to checking it all out this year.
Side Note: The Comics and Pop Art hall and Art Show have not moved. They are still in the Hyatt. I realize they weren’t in the same location as the vendor hall before, but you spend money there, so it was a question I had.
Last year I barely set foot in the guest hall. I lost my Friday time and whenever I went by after that the lobby outside was packed. That’s not happening this year, because there are just too many people I need to meet. What follows is not a full list of the guests, just the ones that I am interested in. What’s in the Progress Report isn’t even complete, as Dragon Con usually saves a couple of big announcements for the week of Con. I don’t know if they will this year because, quite frankly, the guest list is already stacked.
The Progress Report breaks the guests up into Featured Guests, Additional Featured Guests, and Attending Professionals. I’ll hit the Performers last.
Featured Guests
Amy Acker – I loved her as Fred on Angel and was (and still am) infuriated by her transformation into Illyria. She’s been great on Supernatural and Dollhouse and I just found out she was Huntress on Justice League Unlimited. That’s why the Progress Report is so great! I’ve got a Fred figure I’d like to get signed.
John Barrowman – I did not get to meet him last year. I plan to this year. The guy is just such an amazing powerhouse of enthusiasm and I admire that a lot.
Nicholas Brendon – The first time I ever watched Buffy I really identified with Xander. Like, way too much. He’s one of my favorite characters in TV history. It’s a shame they’ve made him such a douche in the comics. Anyway, me and Monkey went to the Buffy panel last year and decided we needed to run to the vendor room and buy some figures to get signed. This was Sunday, and by the time we got to the celebrity room most folks were gone. So I’ll be bringing my Ice Cream Xander back in 2013 to get that autograph.
Jim Butcher – I absolutely love The Dresden Files. Butcher’s fantasy series Codex Alera is also fantastic. I’d like to get a book signed.
Amanda Conner – Yeah, I got some stuff signed at HeroesCon, but if I see she’s got a spare minute I’m gonna bug her. She was awesome. Plus, I’ve picked up another art book since then.
Peter Davison – The Fifth Doctor is not actually included in the Progress Report, but he is confirmed and I can’t very well overlook him. I couldn’t be more excited about Davison’s presence and he is definitely the Main Event of the guests for me. This will bring the number of Doctors I have met up to three and that is simply mind-boggling. Just a few years ago I never imagined I would meet any of the Doctors, let alone multiple ones. I can’t even tell you how amazing this is. There is no celebrity on this planet that is bigger to me than one who has played the Doctor.
Eliza Dushku – I am definitely a fan. Faith is the other figure I bought last year that I couldn’t get signed.
Michael Frith – I really hope I can see this man on a panel. He was a Creative Director for Jim Henson Productions and had a hand (pardon the pun) in The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies, and Fraggle Rock.
Josh Gates – This man is my current hero. Not because he is constantly going off in search of Cryptids and ghosts on Destination Truth, but because he goes crashing fearlessly about in places where there are perfectly mundane things that could cause his demise. I would love to interview this guy.
John Glover – Fantastic as Lionel Luthor on the completely bonkers non-Superman show Smallville, but absolutely magnificent as Dr. Jason Woodrue in Batman & Robin. This man is a force of nature.
Jamie HynemanMythbusters is one of my addictions. I can’t get enough of the show and I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Hyneman’s stoic, logical way of being.
Sylvester McCoy – I snagged the coveted McCoy autograph – two of them, in fact – a couple of years ago. But I will definitely attend one of his panels if I am able. His from two years ago is one of the best I have seen.
Kathryn Mullen – She has done a lot of work with Jim Henson Productions. I’ve got to tell you – puppeteers – likely because of the nature of their work – are some of the most entertaining speakers. They’re very animated and entertaining. If you have a chance, check out some of the Puppetry Track panels.
Edward James Olmos – I started watching Battlestar Galactica right before last year’s Dragon Con. I’m not done yet because the fourth season is kind of not great. But Olmos’ performance as Adama is fantastic – one of the most powerful I have seen on television. I’m hoping to finish the series up in time for Con so I can try to attend some of the panels.
Jimmy Palmiotti – I didn’t get to meet him at HeroesCon, so I would like to here. He has a huge number of great comics to his credit, but right now he is co-writing the very best comic book that DC is publishing – All-Star Western. He’s also writing What If? – AvX, which is quite good.
Tahmoh Penikett – This guy is just cool. He’s been in Dollhouse, Battlestar, and a bunch of other genre shows.
CCH Pounder – She’s probably best-known for her roles on The Shield and Warehouse 13, but to me she is Amanda Waller. Nobody else will ever equal her performance as The Wall on Justice League Unlimited.
Linnea Quigley – My favorite of the Scream Queens. I couldn’t catch her at Days of the Dead, maybe I’ll be able to here.
MICHAEL ROOKER!!!!!! – Okay, I know I said Peter Davison is the Main Event. And I meant it. But Michael Rooker is an American legend. I love this guy. The first thing I ever saw him in was Henry, then Mallrats, and then he was just everywhere. He was the best thing about The Walking Dead every week. Rooker is the man.
Erin Ryder – Not to take away from other ladies that accompany Josh Gates on Destination Truth, but the show just isn’t as good when Ryder isn’t on.
Adam Savage – Badass nerd hero from Mythbusters. He’s here every year and I’ve never seen him. My schedule isn’t ever right to catch his panel and event appearances and he doesn’t sit around the guest hall. I’m just going to get my picture with some random Stormtrooper and say it’s him.
William Shatner – Duh.
William Stout – Production designer on Masters of the Universe. I would love to talk to this guy.
Kristine Sutherland – I want to get my picture taken with her and Nicholas Brendan to be in the middle of that sweet sexual tension.
George Takei – We actually saw Mr. Takei get accosted in the middle of an intersection a few years ago. Pro Tip – Don’t stop celebrities in the middle of an intersection, dum-dum. He handled it with the grace you would expect. I have to say, Takei seems to have cemented his role as one of America’s Darlings in recent years. Good for him.
Natalia Tena – I try not to be too piggish or shallow these days, but this lady is just hot. Don’t; get me wrong – she was great as Nymphadora Tonks and is even better as Osha on Game of Thrones. But damn. Hot lady.
Billy Dee Williams – I wish I had an extra Vintage Lando for him to sign. Those things were on clearance a couple of years ago. Maybe I can find one of the Skiff Guard versions that came out last year.
Additional Featured Guests
Davey Beauchamp – Of Amazing Pulp Adventures and Gallifrey Pirate Radio
Michael Gordon – Earth Station One’s Golden Boy and writer of Tiki Zombie
Mike Grell – Classic comic book artist most notable (to me) for his work on Green Arrow
Ernie Hudson – Too many awesome roles to count. I own one Ernie Hudson figure, but it’s out of the package. I’ll try to get a picture with him.
Mike Phirman – Half of the comedy musical act Hard N’ Phirm with Chris Hardwick. I just now found out he’s a guest. I hope he’s going to be performing as well.
Van Allen Plexico – Showrunner of the White Rocket Podcast and owner of the coolest name I have ever heard in my life.
Andy Runton – Creator of Owly, the best all-ages comic around
Kelly Yates – Comic book illustrator, best known (to me) for his work on IDW’s Doctor Who
Performers
Calabrese – The greatest horror rock band in the world is back again! I can’t wait to see these guys, hopefully at midnight on Saturday
Professor Elemental – Victorian hip-hop – if his rhymes are anywhere near as good as Pops’ from Regular Show I’ll be impressed
The Gekkos – Listed as a nerd rock band – obviously I’m curious
Voltaire – I’ll try to catch this guy’s show
For the full list of guests and performers, go to DragonCon.org.
Obviously you can’t just base an event of this magnitude on guests. They’re important and all, but there has to be stuff going on. Dragon Con has more stuff going on than you would be able to do in a month, let alone in four days. Here’s just a little sample of the scheduled events (once again – the stuff I care about):
Events
12th Annual Dragon Con Parade – You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a platoon of Stormtroopers march down Peachtree Street accompanied by monsters, Ghostbusters, Starfleet Personnel, fairies, wizards, kings, knights, and the combined might of the COBRA army. It’s stunning and unforgettable. As much as I’ve gone on about the spectacle of Man of Steel and Pacific Rim, they’re really nothing compared to the Dragon Con parade.
The Armory – And exhibit of weapons throughout the ages, sometimes accompanied by Kevin Dockery and various other authors and experts.
Art Show – A huge gallery of prints, paintings, sculptures, and all kinds of other pieces of art. There’s some kind of fancy pants way to bid on this stuff that I don’t quite understand. Last year was the first time I had ever even gone in and it was pretty cool. I’ll be back this year.
Celebrity Photos – This is kind of tricky. Some guests do photo ops, some don’t. Some guests charge for photos, some don’t. Some just do them at their table in the guest hall, some go through a complicated process that involves a third-party photographer. Sometimes there’s no indication of where the guest stands on any of this, so don’t be afraid to ask. Chances are if it’s a bigger name guest they are going through the photographer. So here’s the site where you can pre-pay for that (which I’ll admit is convenient):
Charity Auction – This year’s auctions are to benefit Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, Georgia Conservancy, and the Marcus Autism Center. The items up for auction can be found at http://tinyurl.com/dragoncon-auction.
Comics and Pop Art – A hall full of some of the best and brightest at Dragon Con. If comics are your thing, this is the place to meet many of the creators. Also featured here are many sculptors, designers, and other kinds of artists. I usually hit this room several times throughout the weekend.
Dragon Con Burlesque – I think it’s pretty obvious what this is. I haven’t been yet, but I would certainly like to go if I don’t have a conflict. This troupe also presents the Pin-Ups By the Pool party at the Sheraton. I’d love to go, but it’s at the same time as a certain other event…
Bob & Carl: Sci-Fi Janitors Present The Late Night Puppet Slam – While nothing will ever take the place of the last event on this list as the Main Event of Dragon Con, the Puppet Slam comes mighty darn close. Puppeteers from all over the country come together to perform a variety show consisting of more kinds of puppetry than you knew existed. It’s hilarious, entertaining, and at times quite filthy. I’ll never get the image of Nate’s ass out of my brain.
Walk of Fame – This isn’t so much an event, but it’s what they call the place where they keep the celebrities. Obviously worth a visit. I’m not sure if it’s in the Hilton again this year.
And finally…
DC FRAKKIN’ W! – Ladies and gentlemen, nothing can prepare you for the madness that is Dragon Con Wrestling. Some of the craziest athletes ever to compete in the squared circle will converge on the Hyatt Centennial Ballroom to wreak havoc upon each other for YOUR entertainment. Past years have included such awesome talents as Shop Teacher, Cupcake Sting, Sprinkle Genie, the Indietaker, Jack Wagon, Seanbaby, Bloated Bobby Auschwitz, Shastaphonic, Peter Pumpkin Balls, the Legion of Gloom, Chip Motherfucking Day, and the Lord and Master of Wrestling
Mickey Rourke
I don’t know if any of these uncontrollable maniacs will be returning this year, but whoever is there you can rest assured that DCW Chairman Buck Gently will be there as well.
IT”S GONNA BE INSANE-O.
If you doubt how much amazing fun DCW is, you should go and read my past recaps RIGHT NOW:
In addition to all of that, Dragon Con has contests, pageants, and workshops on writing, dancing, self defense and more.
It would be remiss of me to overlook gaming.
Gaming is a huge part of Dragon Con that I have never really taken part in because I simply don’t do that. But I have cruised the halls of the gaming rooms around 2 AM and I have to say – it’s impressive. Those people are dedicated. Pretty much any kind of gaming you can think of is available, including LARPing, which is the one thing that I might give a shot one day. If only for the fact that I would get a good article out of it.
Some quick tips before I wrap this thing up:
  • Make lots of lists – costumes, food, things to bring to get signed, things to look for from the vendors, people you want to meet; all that stuff. Dragon Con is too big. You’ll never remember it all otherwise.
  • Download the app. The Dragon Con app is available on iPhone and Android and was invaluable right out of the gate when they first introduced it two years ago. I LOVE IT. It hasn’t been updated to 2013 yet, but I’m sure it’s coming soon. It contains all of the info you need to navigate Con – maps, schedules, locations – and is updated constantly. You can even create a schedule with reminders.
  • Listen to the ESO Network’s series on Dragon Con. There is so much valuable information in those, as well as knowledgeable guests. Here are links:
  • Finally, when you run into people in costumes, be respectful and appreciative. I’ve made some costume faux pas in the past, and been victim to some myself – part of the reason I don’t do actual costumes anymore. Those people put countless hours of work and thought into creating costumes and then wear them out in public to enhance the overall atmosphere of the con. Check back when the official Needless Things Dragon Con coverage starts on August 19th and I’ll have a whole lot more to share with you about costuming and cosplay, straight from the people that do it. That’s the theme of this year’s coverage – costumes and cosplay. I’ve already got some stuff lined up and Little Pond is helping out with some Q&As. It’s gonna be good stuff.
Until then, keep checking DragonCon.org and making those plans.
-Phantom








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