As I sit here bleary eyed, slightly sore and wanting to go back to bed for another 14 hours, I think about how great a con Awesome Con was in only its second year. Ben Penrod and crew did an amazing job in putting together a show in the nation’s capital that should not be missed.
Shot of the Saturday crowd (photo courtesy and copyright of Fantastic Forum)
What was there to see?
Any and everything there was to see, one could see. If you came out Friday to the US Capitol, you got a chance to see cosplayers attempt the Guinness Book of World Records for most cosplayers gathered in one spot. Although the attempt did not succeed, it could be said that it was the most in DC at lunch, the most on Good Friday or even the most that got together to promote Awesome Con. If nothing else, the cosplayers had a wonderful time in the attempt.
The show itself opened on Friday afternoon at 3pm and there was a nice steady stream of people coming through until the close of the show at 8pm. During that time, I managed to stroll through and got a chance to talk with a lot of people including Simon Fisher-Becker who told some wonderful stories about his career and also gave me his personal perspective on football (soccer to us Americans!). With the quiet and leisurely evening I also had a chance to say hello to Kevin Sorbo, Jeremy Ambler and Raphael Sbarge. Joe Rubenstein was on hand to do a few sketches as well as others like Timothy Zahn who signed my old Star Wars books; he said that he loves signing books that are well warn because it shows that they were loved and indeed they were! Steve Niles and Joe Harris were also on hand to give their perspective about the con and they were happy with the turn out as well. The biggest draw of the evening was Ernie Hudson. In my opinion, he is one of the most affable people you will ever meet. He spoke to everybody, gave hugs and just made the rest of Friday…awesome.
Saturday was the biggest day and thousands turned out to see the media guests from Phil Lamarr, Dirk Benedict, to Melissa McBride IronE Singelton (who was pretty much his own One man show!) J. August Richards and Ron Glass. The biggest draws of course were for Danai Gurira and Billie Piper. I spoke to one fan who told me that she drove 6 and ½ hours from Connecticut JUST to see Billie Piper. Fans and friends of course went to the Q&As, checked out the Artist Alley, shot at stormtroopers, played with puppets and so much more.
Sunday, as for any con was a bit lighter and probably in part due to it being Easter Sunday but there was still a nice turn out. It was a good day for people to do some last day shopping, get a few nice sketches done by the legendary George Perez (they had to move after his lines wrapped around his table!) as well as check put a few of the vendors such as Third Eye Comics, Fanthom Comic (located right here in DC) and Comics Nirvana who traveled all the way from North Carolina just to attend.
So what went right?
First and foremost, was the huge growth for the show. If anyone attended last year, you saw how the area where purchased tickets WAS THE CON FLOOR LAST YEAR. The organizers saw that they were going to grow and wisely expanded the space to accommodate the throng of people that came through.
It also must be noted that the layout was well organized. It was nice to be able to come in the door and hit the comic vendors first, make your way back to the comic guests who were there, then artist alley and lastly the media guests. There was also a lot of space behind everything in which to sit out of the way and near the food courts. Also the way everything was set up, there was enough room in the aisles to easily walk back and forth without being impeded by the crowd and there were no bottlenecks. Also, there was just enough room on the far sides of the hall where if you needed to get from the near side of the hall to far end, you could use it without running into a lot of people.
The volunteers were very helpful and courteous even if they looked frazzled; they still treated guests courteously and got them where they needed to go. The size of the show was just right because with most of the guests there, it wasn’t difficult to walk up to them and talk for a few minutes and then be on your way and that is an advantage a show like this has over much larger ones. Also, the atmosphere was just right. It wasn’t too loud like larger cons can be that you couldn’t hear anything and anything media related was off to the side without interfering with much else.
Also the advertising campaign really worked because there were a lot of first time con goers that attended people with children, many of whom were dressed in costumes, as well as people that missed last year who didn’t think that DC could put on a show also turned out. If you live in DC, you couldn’t miss the commercials, ads on the trains and in comics as well as any comic shop that you went to handing out flyers. It really worked to get people out to the show. One of the con goers, I spoke with told me that this was his first show in 25 years and he brought his son with him for his first show. His son after seeing some of the cosplay, now wants to do a Spider-man costume for next year.
Were there any misses?
As with any con there are always some downs. People get upset because they miss a panel, the lines are ‘too long’ or any of the long list of complaints that goes with dealing with this type of setting. As I would tell anyone, your miles may vary when going to a show, you just have to know how to be prepared. Sure the lines for Billie Piper and Danai Gurira were long for photo ops but when they started up, those lines quickly disappeared. Sure the lines for their signings were longer, but when you finally reached the front and got their signature and talked to them for that brief moment, it made the wait well worth it. I think some of the concerns that I heard that have a little bit of weight, was some of the parents were a bit concerned about the kids’ area and seemingly it was a bit too easy to access if someone had any ill will, yet thankfully nothing happened. One thing that did stand out, that was probably more on the convention center than the organizers were the food vendors. Yes, at any con you go to, if you try to get food, the lines are always long and the prices are exorbitant but there were a few cases where there were some vendors slowly raising their prices during the course of Saturday and that did not sit well with a lot of people. I mus also say, and this wasn’t a miss, speaking of prices, some of the vendors had pretty reasonable prices for their items that they were selling. One particular comic book vendor I went to actually had some items I wanted that were actually competitive, if not cheaper that online prices. But granted it wasn’t the same for everyone.
The only other miss is probably with the show being on Easter weekend may have kept a lot of people from attending from attending on Sunday or at all. Many people I spoke with before and during the show told me how much the holiday affected their attendance but not to fear, next year’s day has been set as May 29-31, 2015.
To sum it up…
Awesome Con took a huge leap in growth from last year to this year and it was great to see what was done. There were some great media guests past and present who were really nice with the guests, there was plenty to see and do in artist alley and some great vendors there to buy some really cool stuff. Again it was great to be able to work with friendly staff and have a nice show that was easy to navigate as well. It’s really hard to say if there are any changes or additions could be made as in my opinion, it was well executed and nearly everyone I spoke to enjoyed themselves with very little complaint. Many who I spoke with are already passing the word along to friends who opted out of coming to let them know that this con is not one to be missed and next year is certain to be bigger and better than before.
So now that the con is done and free comic book day around the corner, con season is in full swing and it was great being at Awesome Con to kick off 2014.
See you next year!!!
(here are a few more pictures below. CLICK HERE to see the entire set)