Standing between me and making it to a panel on time was a tightly-gripped conga line of 100+ Deadpool cosplayers. And here I thought I was finally getting the timing of moving around this convention down.
For those unfamiliar, Dragon Con is an annual pop culture convention featuring more than 3,000 hours of comics, film, television, costuming, art, music, and gaming over four days. There’s pretty much something going on somewhere twenty-four hours a day. This year’s show saw 70,000 attendees. Over 100 of them were Deadpool.
Navigating the event is a game in itself is not only because of the large number of attendees but also because of how spread out everything is. By the time I left, it was only slightly easier to predict if I’d be able to get on an elevator within five minutes of pushing the call button or half an hour. Whether the sky bridges would be easy to pass through or we’d move at a shuffling pace seemed far more luck of the draw.
The ballrooms, meetings rooms, and lobbies of five hotels and two floors in a convention center – that’s how much space Dragon Con reigned over in Atlanta this year. So with all that taken into consideration, the event feels very appropriately named. It is indeed a beast of a show.
Deciding what to do at any given moment could result in the debilitation that can come with having too many choices. Merely choosing which panels to attend usually ends up being the big to-do for me at conventions. There’s always schedule conflicts between interests. Some panels require lining up an hour (or hours) in advance while others you can still find a seat at five minutes before start time. Factor in the distances you may have to travel from one panel to another at this particular show and, well, I didn’t get to as many panels as I originally thought I would.
Despite the Deadpools I did make it on time to the panel about the evolution of Star Wars costuming for The Force Awakens – from a certain point of view. I grew up with a love of costuming and Star Wars so this one was a no-brainer. And since I’ve been studying and making Rey’s costume from the new movie, I was invited by panelist Bria of White Hot Room to model my costume build while they discussed that particular character.
The costuming panel was part of the Star Wars Track at Dragon Con, also known as SWatDC. It’s one of 37 different programming tracks at the show. Others include BritTrack, Animation, Horror, Puppetry, Robotics, Trek Track, Whedonverse, and Writer’s Track. Although it’s not a hard-and-fast rule, they generally have rooms or a hotel they’re centralized in. For the Star Wars Track the exceptions included Meet the Stars of Star Wars with Vanessa Marshall and Peter Mayhew as well as Speculating on The Force Awakens.
There will be more about those panels as well as the one I was a part of – Strong Women of Star Wars – in some upcoming posts. For now, though, I want to give a shout-out to Brandy Roatsey, the director of SWatDC, as well as her team. Not only did they put together a great roster of programming, but their room was fun, well-decorated, and inviting.
The Star Wars Track Room was also home to a gathering for Kathleen Kennedy Day, which is not an official holiday… yet. We at FANgirl are very big admirers of this inspirational woman who has taken on the big task of handling the reins of Lucasfilm, but we’re not alone. Buzz around the idea began on Twitter and before you knew it there were fourteen fangirls (and Travis!) sporting the ensemble of white blazer, jeans, and Her Universe lightsaber Star Wars t-shirt that Kennedy wore to the opening of Star Wars Celebration Anaheim.
Speaking of dressing up, if there’s a show to do it, it’s Dragon Con. At most conventions I’ve been to, costumes and cosplay are seen on a minority of attendees, sometimes maybe even half, but at this show it seemed like at least 85% of the people there were in some kind of costume. Pretty much anything goes. From the well-known characters out of various pop culture media to the more obscure, from art references to original characters – anything you might want to cosplay was probably represented in some form. It’s not the easiest to take photos of people as you walk the show floor due to the crowds, but I’ll have a gallery up soon of some of my favorites.
Costumes I spotted included:
Magritte paintings, Ninja Turtles, Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Playboy Bunny versions of every pop culture thing you could imagine, Pac-Man Ghosts, My Little Pony, Downton Abbey kitchen staff, Daft Punk Fett, Lichtenstein paintings, Xena, TARS, Jimmy Buffett from Jurassic World, Rocky Balboa, every character from Mad Max: Fury Road, Mojo Jo Jo, Cammy from Streetfighter, Triceracop from Kung Fury, Sith, Loki Stardust, all the Katniss costumes, Marriott Carpet Warriors, a steampunk Ood, Unicorn Kitty from The Lego Movie, competitors from Legends of the Hidden Temple, Post-Apocalypse Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, Audrey II, Batty from Ferngully, Belle, Halo Spartans, Miss Piggy, every incarnation of The Doctor, Maleficent, Rocket Raccoon, and John Wick.
And that’s not even from the parade. Yes, Dragon Con has its own parade. It’s a huge event for the city of Atlanta itself. You can even watch it from the TV in your hotel because Dragon Con has its own TV channel for the duration of the show.
I wore a few costumes and geek chic outfits myself. As you may have seen on Twitter, while dressed as Rey I finally found a Finn and together with Kylo Ren we went on a tour of a couple of hotels. My new costuming friend is the first Finn cosplayer I’ve seen, and I was the first Rey he saw, so there was a lot of excited noises and fist pumping. My favorite touch was that he carried a spray bottle around with him so he could look sweaty and distressed for photos like Finn has looked in pretty much everything we’ve seen of him so far.
And if that wasn’t enough to completely overwhelm me, wares were everywhere to be seen. Musicians and a few craftspeople had booths within the Marriott. Attendees could easily buy a CD or a scarf crocheted in the colors of their favorite Harry Potter house. Somehow, though, I never found this show’s Artists Alley. I thought I passed by it when I was first learning the lay of the land, but when I went back, it wasn’t where I was thinking it was. I figured I’d eventually pass it and go look around, but sadly that did not happen.
Three days managed to pass before I finally locked down where the official Vendor Hall was. Have I mentioned this is a big show? Even on the last day of the event, when crowds were noticeably thinner and you could even see the carpets inside the hotels, the vendor hall was difficult to get through. The aisles were narrow and packed.
I may have frowned at a few booths that displayed merchandise from Force Friday – which was not even three whole days before – at double their retail prices (or more). To hear more about my #ForceFriday experience, check out episode 23 of Fangirls Going Rogue. There were some happier moments in the vendor hall too, though. I was pleased to see one of those booths that sell framed photos and autograph collages of actors and actresses selling one of the new Supergirl, Melissa Benoist, at the same asking price of one of Chris Hemsworth.
For the most part the two floors hosted the items you’d typically expect to find at a pop culture convention. But there were still some pleasant surprises. One booth sold kimonos. There were more wigs available than I’ve seen at other shows.
Another highlight was Pendragon Costumes, a retailer incorporating geek interests into period clothing. And a company that makes Celtic jewelry that is seen in historical-based TV shows. If you’ve read any of my Fandom Fashion Friday posts you know I love finding pieces that can express fandom while being stylish. That’s why Sire’s caught my eye too. This is the second time I’ve seen them at a show and their wooden sunglasses and eyeglasses are not only cool-looking but customizable. You can get your favorite comicbook characters put right on the frames.
When it came time to wave goodbye to Dragon Con 2015 I was sad to walk away and also a bit relieved. Eventually I made my peace with the crowds and got accustomed to the flow of the show, but I was tired and relishing the idea of not having to walk as far and as long for at least a few days. All in all it’s an amazing show, and the fact that it’s put on by a huge volunteer group makes it that much more amazing. It feels like I only saw part of the whole thing, but as the beast evolves from year to year, I’m ready to go back and see more.
Special thanks to the volunteer managing the traffic in the area of the Marriott where skybridges, atrium, and panel rooms converged, who loudly but warmly encouraged everyone to decisively pick a direction and go for it to keep things moving. It’s not bad life advice to take outside of Dragon Con too.
Kay is FANgirl's resident geek fashion expert and co-host of the Hyperspace Theories podcast. She reviews books and movies for the site with a heart for storytelling and a mind that likes to analyze. Kay's been a guest on various podcasts sharing her love and knowledge of storytelling, film-making, fashion, and of course, Star Wars.
Most days are filled with her work as a creative services professional - designing websites & branding, photographing, voice acting, editing, and more. Kay spends the little bit of free time she has reading, costuming, and, of course, making pew pew noises. She would pick up more jobs and hobbies if she was a Time Lord.