I am finally starting to get excited about Dragon Con.
It’s not Dragon Con’s fault that it’s taken so long for those fires to start burning – it’s mine. While Needless Things has been going strong and the Needless Things Podcast has become weekly and has turned into something I’m very proud of; in a weird way I sort of took 2015 off.
The side effect, however, is that I haven’t had nearly as many opportunities to do stuff in front of people. And I’ve been pretty content with that. I still can’t quite figure out the right venue for… whatever it is that I do. And it’s been easy to let the year go by without thinking about it. Sure – I miss being in a wrestling ring. And I had an amazing offer that I had to turn down for various reasons – mostly scheduling. But it’s also been nice to not have to sweat conflicting events and last-minute plans.
BUT NOW ALL OF THAT CHANGES.
This is going to be a big year for me at Dragon Con, and I couldn’t be more excited (well, I could if I had an army of folks to do all of the prep stuff that I’d rather not do). I’ve got a lot going on and I’ll cover some of it before the post is over. For now, pull out your Dragon Con Progress Report (possibly available at your Local Comic Book Shop but not online as of this writing) and follow along!
In case you’re not already familiar with it, Dragon Con takes place across five hotels – Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Marriot Marquis, Hilton Atlanta, Sheraton Atlanta, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza - within walking distance of one another in Downtown Atlanta. Because of this, you need to plan your schedule beforehand and allow at least thirty minutes of travel time between events. Also, buy a large water bottle and keep it with you at all times. Most hotels have water coolers scattered about, so you can stay filled up all day and night.
Phantom Tip: If you’re not peeing once an hour you’re getting dehydrated!
In order to plan your schedule, download the Dragon Con app from iTunes or the Play Store. You’re still going to want to have a hard copy of the trusty Pocket Program, but the app will make your life a whole lot easier, as it contains everything you need to know about Dragon Con and updates constantly throughout the weekend. You’ll even receive alerts if an event you have placed in your personal schedule is changed.
If you’re staying in a host hotel, be sure to find out what channel is carrying Dragon Con TV. This is the network run by a bunch of crazy Dragon Con volunteers. It provides original content, music videos, comedy sketches, short films, and also broadcasts many of the guest panels. It’s the best television channel I’ve ever seen and I look forward to seeing it every year. I just leave my TV tuned to it and on all weekend.
“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.
Here are all of the Tracks, with notes for the ones that may not be totally self-explanatory:
Alternate History – Exploring themes of time travel, old world culture, Steampunk, and historical “what-ifs?”
American Sci-Fi and Fantasy Media – Modern and current genre programs and movies
American Sci-Fi Classics – Celebrating science fiction movies and TV of the past. This is my Dragon Con family.
Apocalypse Rising – Media dealing with the many different ways that civilization could end, as well as what happens afterward
BritTrack – This one focuses on the many genre and entertainment contributions of Great Britain.
Electronic Frontiers Forums – Internet, law, technology and their impact on society
Filk Singing – Folk music about genre topics
Film Track – A track focused on filmmaking featuring screenings and panels
Kaleidoscope – Entertainment for kids and young teens
Podcasting: Now and Beyond
|Photo by Whitney Carnes|
Robotics and Maker Fan Track
Science Fiction Literature
Silk Road: Asian Cinema and Culture
Skeptrack – A Track for critical thinkers and lovers of science
Star Wars Track – These guys might have a busy year
Urban Fantasy – I’m not sure how to describe this one, but some of the television shows it covers include Lost Girl, Being Human, Bitten, Supernatural, and my wife’s favorite – The Vampire Diaries.
Whedonverse – About all of the works of the Nerd King, Joss Whedon
Writer’s Track – Where writers help writers
X Track – It seems like this track focuses on cryptozoology and the paranormal as they relate to conspiracy theory. Sort of. I believe it takes its name from The X-Files, so that should clue you in.
Young Adult Literature
That’s thirty-two Tracks covering every major aspect of genre entertainment and some straightforward real-world subjects as well – Electronic Frontiers, Science, Space, and more. Every year Dragon Con looks at its Tracks and figures out where there is a need or not so much of a need anymore. The people in charge are very good at adjusting Dragon Con to its attendees’ interests year after year.
Today I’m going to do my annual write-up of the Dragon Con Progress Report. The Progress Report is exactly what it sounds like – an update on the schedule, guests, and entertainment that will be at Dragon Con this year. It’s not the final version of anything, but it’s a good resource to start planning with, which is pretty much what I’ll do here. I’ll make notes about which guests I’m excited about and what I might need to bring, as well as outlining a preliminary schedule.
For the full Progress Report, check DragonCon.org or your Local Comic Book Shop.
Just a few things worth noting. Some are new, some are not.
*If you already purchased your passes to Dragon Con, bring that postcard with the barcode on it that they sent you in the mail. It will make your badge pickup much faster. And if you didn’t receive it or lost it, let them know now. They can send you another one. I know this because last year I thought I hadn’t received one and I asked for another and they sent it and then after Con I found the first one.
*You will need your badge to get into the host hotels. Not just into panels and stuff – into the hotels. This policy started in earnest in 2013 and I approve one hundred percent. I invest a lot of time and money in Dragon Con and I don’t need any freeloading jackasses bringing down the tone.
*Now through August 21st you can purchase Saturday-only passes for $50 and Sunday-only passes for $40.
*There’s always a stage set up on the pool level of the Hyatt, but now there will be a second stage on the back patio of the Hilton. These are for acoustic performances from the various musical guests.
*The vendor halls are now in Building 2 of AmericasMart. I honestly can’t remember if that’s the same building as last year, but the point is that the dealers are in a location away from the host hotels. Refer to the maps in your Pocket Program or DC app.
*The Blood Drive is being moved from the Marriott atrium to the Hilton Galleria, which I think is brilliant. The area in front of the Blood Drive is one of the highest traffic spots of the entire Con. Moving the Drive can only help everyone.
*Dragon Con TV is adding a new channel, which is totally awesome, unexpected, and insane. It is called DCTVLand and will broadcast classic material from DCTV. I am crazy excited about this and hopefully can get someone on the show to talk about it.
This is simply my own personal list of Guests that I am excited about. It is nowhere near compete. Neither is the list in the Progress Report, for that matter. I know that Anna Silk (yowza!) and William Stout are attending, and a number of other Guests have been confirmed since this went to press. Chances are even more will be announced between now and Con.
Scott Adsit – This guy has been all over the comedy world, but is probably best known for playing my favorite character on 30 Rock. He also voiced Baymax in Disney’s excellent Big Hero 6.
Robbie Amell – Sure, he’s Firestorm on The Flash. But what I want to ask him about is playing Fred Jones in those live action Cartoon Network movies.
Stephen Amell – Can he really be the coolest guy on the planet?
Paul Amos – I really like Lost Girl. I would say that Vex is one of the best characters on the show, but they’re almost all great characters.
John Barrowman – The first thing you want to do when you get your Pocket Program or the Dragon Con app is look up John Barrowman and see when his panels are scheduled. You have to see this guy perform. He is one of the best panel guests I have ever seen. His energy and enthusiasm are incredible. I don’t know how he and Stephen Amell can be in a room together without creating some sort of Charm Vortex that would swallow the universe.
Amber Benson – She’s done so much stuff that I hate to refer to her as Tara from Buffy, but there’s no way around the fact that she’s Tara from Buffy. When you’re a part of something so iconic, impactful, and outright excellent; that’s just one of the side effects.
Amanda Conner – One of the best artists working in sequential storytelling today. She and her husband, Jimmy, are ridiculously talented people.
Tony Curran – I still don’t understand how the same guy that plays complete dickbag Datak Tarr on Defiance (which I love, by the way) also played the tortured artist Vincent Van Gogh (Van Goff) on Doctor Who in an episode I shouldn’t have liked but ended up loving. Like, teary-eyed loving.
Peter David – One of my all-time favorite comic book writers.
Felicia Day – I have a great deal of respect for her work ethic and for the roles she chooses. Before I actually saw The Guild I had no idea how good it would be.
Jonathan Frakes – Riker is so fucking cool. He’s like Space Fonzie.
Julian Glover – Scaroth of the Jagaroth. (drops mic)
Erin Gray – She’s at Dragon Con almost every year. I always see her and she always looks great. I have never spoken to her because she was the first TV lady to give me Sexy Time Thoughts and that stays with you forever. It’s intense, man.
Kris Holden-Ried – Dyson is one of the coolest dudes on TV right now. I would totally get a picture with everyone from Lost Girl if it was practical to do so.
Rebekah Isaacs – Isaacs is a fantastic artist that first caught my eye with her incredible work on Angel & Faith for Dark Horse. She does the best likeness of Eliza Dushku I have seen. Just ask renowned Dushkologist “Howdy” Mike Gordon.
Sylvester McCoy – The Seventh Doctor! And also an incredibly entertaining showman. I’ll give the same advice for McCoy that I did regarding John Barrowman – seek out his panels and mark them on your schedule.
Paul McGann – And the Eighth Doctor! I am super excited to have the opportunity to meet McGann, though I’m a little irritated that Underground never produced a single-carded figure of him. I’ve got signed figures from the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Doctors and I’d love to have an Eight.
John Noble – Yes, he was Walter Bishop on Fringe, one of the most unique and fascinating characters in the history of television on what was truly an incredible science fiction show. But I’m bringing the steelbook case for my copy of Arkham Knight because Noble was the most terrifying Scarecrow that has ever been portrayed.
Jimmy Palmiotti – A fantastic comic book writer. When he and his wife, Amanda, team up, greatness inevitably ensues.
Ksenia Solo – She’s my favorite character on Lost Girl – Kenzi – and definitely one of the most mesmerizing presences on TV. She also has a much better wig person than Jesse Eisenberg.
Caroll Spinney – This man has done everything, but is best known for portraying Big Bird on Sesame Street (and elsewhere) since 1969. Mr. Spinney is an incredible get for the Puppetry Track and for all of Dragon Con.
Scott Thompson – I don’t know that I’m going to be able to meet Mr. Thompson. He’s too big, too much of an influence. He’s one of the Kids in the Hall, for fuck’s sake. It’s too much to think about. I’m going to be in my room.
James Urbaniak – The voice of Dr. Venture and another must-see panel guest. Put him in your schedule.
Additional Featured Guests
Arthur Adams – A fantastic comic book artist and one of the greats from my formative years.
Kathleen O’Shea David – A talented puppeteer and incredibly sweet lady, I can’t wait to see what she has in store for the Puppet Slam this year.
Mike Faber – The progenitor and Director of Earth Station One and an inspiration to me, personally.
Michael Gordon – My brother from another mother and favorite person in the world to podcast with. Check out Tiki Zombie!
Lloyd Kaufman – The legendary father of Troma. Another must-see.
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.
Babs Tarr – I only know her from her current run on Batgirl. Her art is so good that I bought a shirt with her Batgirl on it.
Dr. Scott Viguié – One of the smartest people I have ever spoken with.
Kelly Yates – Comic book illustrator, best known (to me) for his work on IDW’s Doctor Who. He’s a talented artist and a nice fellow.
Bobby Nash – Co-host of Earth Station One and award-winning author. Bobby will be a on a lot of panels, so be sure to check him out.
Anthony Taylor – This guy is a great writer with a very sharp mind for sci-fi and observation of pop culture. My conversations with him usually consist of me nodding, goggle-eyed. Of course, I think I’m usually drunk…
Phantom Troublemaker – Some goofball in a mask. According to the Director of Trek Track he is “Hard to take seriously”. I agree. Absolutely DO NOT take this man seriously.
Mark Zoran – I’m not actually sure what this fella does, but he sounds like a James Bond villain. And that’s awesome.
Atlanta Radio Theater Company – Although I have never actually seen these guys perform, I have a soft spot in my heart for radio plays. My Papaw and my dad both introduced me to stuff like The Shadow and Amos and Andy and I really appreciate the differences in audio and visual storytelling. I have a great respect (and envy) of people who do voice work.
Frenchy and the Punk – I’m happy they’re back this year. I caught one of their acoustic concourse sets a couple of years ago and really liked them. I’d love to catch a full show. I just hope they aren’t on Saturday night…
Hawthorn and Holly – A pop punk outfit that plays songs about geeky stuff. I’ll check ‘em out if I can.
Here Come the Mummies – This, to me, is the crown jewel of this year’s acts. Unless they end up playing opposite The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show, I will be there.
Once again Dragon Con hasn’t thrilled me with their musical choices. There’s some cool stuff, but there’s also a lot of sameness. Bands that use lots of hyphens and long words to describe their music.
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 five days. Here’s just a little sample of the scheduled events (once again – the stuff I care about):
14th Annual Dragon Con Parade – If you’ve never seen the parade, you must see the parade. This year I do not (currently) have any panels that conflict with the parade, so I plan on watching. There’s just nothing else like it. No Hollywood movie can compare to the spectacle of hundreds of costumed nerds/dorks/geeks/superheroes/knights/wizards/zombies/paranormal investigators/Hobbits/spacemen/etc. marching through downtown Atlanta. It’s breathtaking.
The Armory – And exhibit of weapons throughout the ages, sometimes accompanied by Kevin Dockery and various other authors and experts.
Art Show and Print Shop – The Art Show is right next to Comic Artist Alley and has a huge assortment of various types of handmade media. It’s really, really cool and I recommend you take the time to walk through. It’s on the lower levels of the Hyatt.
Blood Drive – LifeSouth conducts an annual blood drive at Con where you can give blood and get a free t-shirt. This year it is located in the Hilton.
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 the Lymphoma Research Foundation – Georgia Market.
Comics and Pop Art – Right next to the Art Show. This is where the coolest of Dragon Conners hang out – the creators. Comic and pop artists from around the world gather here to hang out and sell awesome art.
Dragon Con Burlesque: A Glamour Geek Revue – I always mean to go to this and there’s always a conflict.
Bob & Carl: Sci-Fi Janitors Present The Late Night Puppet Slam – This is the greatest and best thing at Dragon Con that isn’t wrestling or a game show hosted by me. I cannot possibly express to you how strongly I feel you should attend. They should build a Bob and Carl amphitheater behind the Hyatt just so that everybody at Dragon Con can attend the Puppet Slam.
The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show – Phantom Troublemaker and Miss Lady Flex return to Con with an all-new game show! More details to come...
The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show – Phantom Troublemaker and Miss Lady Flex return to Con with an all-new game show! More details to come...
DC FRAKKIN’ W! – I had no idea they were going to use this (really dark) picture of me. I still can’t believe it’s in the Progress Report. I called matches last year and the DCW Powers That Be invited me to do it again this year. But even if I wasn’t going to be a part of the show, I am more excited about Dragon Con Wrestling than anything else (except The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show). DCW features wrestlers from all over the world putting on the most fun and exciting matches every single year. There is no other wrestling show I would rather see live. There simply aren’t words for how hard these guys work and how electric the audience gets in the Hyatt Centennial Ballroom. This is the very best thing at Dragon Con (that isn’t a game show hosted by me and Miss Lady Flex that happens at 10 PM Saturday night in the American Sci-Fi Classics Track room).
In addition to all of that, Dragon Con has contests, pageants, and workshops on writing, dancing, self-defense and more.
Finally – though this is far from a comprehensive listing – there is the gaming.
I don’t do gaming, but it is at Dragon Con and it is huge and fucking intense. Me and the rest of the Hooligans make a point of walking through the gaming rooms every year and I can’t even comprehend what’s going on in there. There’s this whole other society that doesn’t give one tiny little fuck about the rest of Dragon Con. It’s like when the Fraggles went to the Doozer part of the Rock, except we don’t eat the Monster Manuals.
That’s it, folks. I strongly encourage you to visit DragonCon.org, download the app, and go listen to all of the Earth Station One Dragon Con Reports for the best information available.
The Needless Things gang will start our official coverage of Dragon Con on August 17th. This coverage will continue daily until probably two weeks after Con, though it’s entirely possible the week directly following Con will be sparse. My schedule is pretty tricky around then and I may not have a whole lot of time to write. I’m looking at options.
And of course, the Needless Things Podcast will start the Dragon Connery with next Friday’s episode, where I talk to Sara Pope and Sean Patton about costuming and cosplay!
Be sure to join the NeedlessThings Podcast Facebook Group to get in on the fun and to find out when the first-ever Needless Things Meet-Up will occur!