By Jerry Chandler
Dragon Con 2017 is over. The 2017 Labor Day weekend has come and gone. The hallways of the many hotels and buildings that were filled with the morethan 80,000 people who came to Atlanta for Dragon Con seem almost unnaturally quiet now. Extraordinarily tired people from all over the world are making their way home and crashing and recovering from their days of high energy fun, lots of running and walking, and very little sleep. A few unlucky souls are even launching straight into their workweek and seemingly feeling the dreary nature of the daily grind all the more acutely due to the contrast of the Dragon Con weekend. But all this means is the countdown to the next Dragon Con has officially begun in the hearts and minds of the fans who love the convention. But before we cast our attention fully towards preparing for the next one, let’s look back on the fun we just had.
Wednesday is the New Thursday is Thursday is the New Friday
Four Days at Dragon Con as a slogan has become as antiquated for most attendees as the Edsel. More than enough people were already flying and driving in early enough in recent years to make unofficial events and gathering sizable enough affairs, but 2017 saw a solid Thursday soft launch with Dragon Con programming ranging from balls to Dragon Con’s own annual night of wrestling mayhem. The draw for some fans to the wrestling in particular was increased greatly this year with the announcement of wrestling legends and superstars Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and the Big Red Machine himself, Kane. While the now officially five(ish) days of programming have been launched in full by the convention, the fans have already started making the convention fun a day longer than the official convention. Since Dragon Con has finally officially acknowledged Thursday as the new Friday, fans have descended upon Atlanta that much earlier to fill the host hotel bars and the clubs, bars, and restaurants in the surrounding area with large crowds and even more than a few colorful and elaborate cosplays in an attempt to make Wednesday the new Thursday. Having gotten in early Wednesday morning and walked around the convention footprint Wednesday night, I’d have to say they’ve more than succeeded in making Wednesday night before Dragon Con in downtown Atlanta feel like Thursday night felt six or more years ago. While certainly not the throngs of people seen once the weekend actually arrives, there were more than enough people showing up to make early Dragon Con revelries packed events.
There are certainly a few Wednesday night sights here and there that start the Dragon Con vibe rolling.
But Thursday night is when the Dragon Con ball starts to really get rolling. In the minds of most people, Friday is still the officially kickoff of the big event, and most people still aim to be in sometime after the workday on Thursday. That’s when you start to see the crowds build and the cosplay get either more elaborate or more nostalgic and/or obscure. That’s also when the bars start to get a little more packed with recognizable characters looking to start the weekend off with a bang by hanging out and laughing (and drinking) with friends.
But in reality, the only Friday at Dragon Con is Friday, and that’s when the entire event truly starts with a bang. I mean, besides the vastly increased number of official events on the Dragon Con schedule, when else are you going to start regularly seeing sights like this every few feet on the Dragon Con floors?
But, for me, Dragon Con 2017 was largely to be had in the Westin and at the Horror Track. While life and conflicting family scheduled events at con got in the way of some of the planned festivities like seeing the Chiodo brothers or the amazing Lifeforce panel that was held with a man who was there during the making of it, more than enough planned events stayed on the schedule to keep it a fun Dragon Con on the Horror Track for me.
Shifted over to the Hyatt, the Horror Track hosted an interview panel with the amazing versatile actor and stunt double Felix Silla. A stroll through Felix Silla’s IMDB page shows a vast array of roles showcasing his talent and diversity. Although, he was quick to correct IMDB by explaining that he was never Lucifer on Battlestar Galactica. This was an apparently long ago made error in studio credit that continues on to this day despite his constantly correcting it. But everything else from Twiki to Cousin Itt to Misquamacus (The Manitou) to more characters than even he was given credit for on H.R. Pufnstuf. Talk ranged from his days on Bonanza to his near death as a stunt double for Short Round on the second Indiana Jones film to addressing the controversy around whether it was Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg who actually directed the 1982 horror classic Poltergeist. Buy a streaming membership to find out what he said. The panel might end up on there.
While much happened in between the two points, Friday ended with a double bang of horror goodness with the Decades of Horror crew recording a live podcast on the Dragon Con Horror Track devoted to the 1980s vampire classic Near Dark and a combined tribute panel devoted to George Romero and the afore mentioned Tobe Hooper. One of those will certainly be making its way to a soon to drop podcast. With luck, the other will as well. Keep an eye out for them HERE.
Everyone Loves a Parade
The annual event that was the Dragon Con Parade kicked off the Saturday festivities with its usual pomp and spectacle. The various weather fronts were threatening a rainy day at one point, but the weather was clear, sunny, and actually pretty nice. The many participants put on a great show for the assembled crowds in downtown Atlanta as well as for those people sitting at home and watching the parade’s second year of coverage on the local Atlanta television airwaves.
Sunday highlights included the (obviously not horror) Doctor Who: Goodbye, Moffatt… Hello, Chibnall! Panel where the past and future of Doctor Who was discussed and much speculation was made on just how much change will be seen in Doctor Who now that it has a female lead in the role. My opinion, and one that I’ll elaborate on next week, was not much.
Sunday also brought the Puppetry Track Tim Clarke. Tim Clarke was the man behind such toys as Sectaurs and Boglins. The interesting news was seeing the return of a more hands on by their creator Boglins line; some of which were at his merch table. So, yes, I got one.
Although, the biggest surprise of the panel was the moderator. It’s not that the boss hadn’t already announced hosting duties on the panel and thus that was a surprise, but rather seeing what the panel was the start of. We have reached the age of a maskless Phantom Troublemaker, and it’s a sight to behold. Less like the unmasking of Snake-Eyes and more like the unmasking of Kane, there was in fact a perfectly normal human being under that mask. Well, come to think of it, Snake-Eyes actually ended up looking pretty normal after the years of buildup hinting at his stomach churning disfigurement. But a maskless Phantom ain’t photo for me to reveal here, so here’s an unmasked photo of 2017 Dragon Con guest Kane.
The Ash vs Evil Dead panel on the Horror Track was a must do on my list, but the family’s two item must do list outweighed it and then some. A part of that was getting to watch my son- a child who never, ever stops talking even in his sleep -go totally speechless in the presence of Matt Smith. But he got his Matt Smith Doctor puppet autographed, so he was happy.
Then… The lines and wait were hell even by Dragon Con standards, but we managed to get into the much ballyhooed Good Eats… The Panel event. This was a first of its kind event in that Alton Brown and the Good Eats crew were all appearing on stage together to discuss their days on the show and to talk new ventures in the making. Anyone sitting in the crowd that day was witness to Alton making public for the first time the announcement that the Good Eats crew was getting back together for a new show, Return of the Eats.
The night was ended with the amazingly fun House of Dreadpunk panel. Populated by the likes of Valentine Wolfe, Ted Naifeh, Bill Bridges, E.J. Stevens, and Derek Tatum, the panel sought to define, clarify, and discuss just what Dreadpunk is and what actually falls under that header. Plus, Hellboy's "Hell Water" Cinnamon Whiskey. :)
Monday was the day of exhaustion. Everything went out the window except for one panel, Classic Sci-Fi Roll-a-Panel: 1977 & 1997. If you’ve never seen the American Sci-Fi Classics track's Roll-a-Panel, you’re missing one hell of a fun audience participation game. One giant, custom made 20-sided die is used to determine what movie will be discussed by the panel. They then have a few minutes to talk about it before moving on to the next roll of the die.
An important safety tip for such panels. Never hand the die to a guy who’s massively asleep on his feet and tell him to “aim for that wall” unless you want him to actually aim for that wall. Fortunately, no humans or the die were harmed in that mishap, but I felt stupid once I was awake enough to be aware again.
Beyond that, for me at least, Dragon Con 2017 was what it was always meant to be. We got to see a lot of people we only ever get to see at Dragon Con, hang out with great people and good friends, and have a lot of fun over the weekend. I will be forever grateful to Dragon Con for the people it has brought into my life and for giving them all a place to come to once a year where my family and I can see them all in one weekend.
And now, some cosplay.
Jerry Chandler is tired. He’s writing this in a hotel room in Atlanta at 1:52 AM Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. He still has to pack and get sleep for the long drive back to Virginia starting Wednesday morning. He will be sleeping through all of Thursday and Friday, and well into Saturday.