DragonCon, the cosplay convention of the year, or certainly one of the biggest cosplay-centric conventions in the USA. For those who don’t know what it is, DragonCon is a massive, 70,000+ people comic convention held in Atlanta, Georgia with a heavy focus on two things: cosplay and partying. This year’s DragonCon, held last weekend, was the biggest to date, breaking ticket sales records from previous years plus who knows how many other people joined in on the non-official happenings. Now, I’m no noobie to comic conventions. I’ve attended several including my local Planet Comic Con and Blizzard’s BlizzCon in California. With that said, I’m certainly no veteran of the country’s largest shows, having never been to SDCC, New York Comic Con, or C2E2. So please, keep this all in mind as you read my take on DragonCon 2015.
My Expectations for DragonCon
I’m a cosplayer and a nerd. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Futurama, Tron, and DC Comics. So, my hopes were to spend most of the convention cosplaying. I had three cosplays lined up: Green Lantern, Rocketeer, and I was debuting Star Lord. I also wanted to check out the creators, artists, and vendors. I love getting things signed, purchasing prints, supporting small, Indie, or local publishers, and I’m big on swag and collectibles. If time and money allowed, I wanted to meet a few celebrities, specifically those from Star Trek and The CW’s various DC Comics universe shows. I also wanted to check out the parade which features tons, probably hundreds of cosplays, among other exciting features. Finally, there were a couple of parties I was excited to check out in the evenings, especially one at the Georgia Aquarium after hours.
This convention has so many talented and dedicated cosplayers, truly. I saw some amazing builds including sewing jobs, armor crafting, and unique ways of creating the illusion of a character’s power… like floating on a cloud, for example. It was great seeing so many characters, so many incarnations, and so many unique concepts. DragonCon also hosted some amazingly talented artists and creators. I was lucky enough to meet Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. Such fantastic people, and incredibly talented. I was pumped to get my books signed by both of them, plus a couple cool prints. Then, there’s the vendor area, which takes up two floors in America’s Mart. So. Many. Vendors. Seriously, it took hours to walk through it all and all of my willpower to not max out my credit card. You could get everything from action figures and statues, to prints, bookmarks, buttons, pins, replica weapons, clothing, and, of course, Funko POP Vinyls.
Outside of the convention itself, I was able to attend the DragonCon Georgia Aquarium night. Imagine a massive cosplay party with a costume contest, all held in a cool aquarium after hours. Ya-Ya Han hosted the costume contest which was display on a big screen for all to see. Meanwhile, all of the exhibits were open so we were able to see the penguins, dolphins, and even the octopus came out to play, which is apparently rare. Atlanta also has some great food. We hit up the Hardrock Cafe, of course, along with Ted’s Montana Grill (since the one out in KC closed), and Pacific Rim… just in case my sushi was going to be delivered by giant Jaegers. It was not. But still, fantastic food.
Convention aside, being in Atlanta means some sight seeing. We took a ride on their big Ferris Wheel called SkyView and also took the self-guided tour of the World of Coca Cola museum. It was a decent tour that ended with a lot of soda tasting. My personal favorite was Inca Cola from Peru.
Alright, so I had fun. Truly. It was a good weekend and I’m glad I attended. With that said, I doubt I’ll be back. Why? I just don’t think it’s my scene. My issues break down into the following categories: physical size, population size, primary attendee focus.
Let’s talk about the physical size of this convention. It takes place across half a dozen different hotels. We spent time in the Marriott, the Hyatt, the Hilton, America’s Mart, and didn’t even make it to the others like the Winston. Ever have trouble finding a vendor or panel in a giant convention hall? Try hunting something down when you don’t know which hotel hosts which things or where the hotels are in relation to each other. In retrospect, I should have done a lot more research from a mapping perspective and memorized locations. On top of that, I would not have used the skywalks to get around. Too complicated. City streets are much easier. But due to the straight size of the convention, I never saw the Walk of Fame nor any panels. Additionally, so many guests, creators, vendors, artists, etc. were there that I missed tons of people I would have loved to see or I didn’t realize they were there and didn’t bring things to have them sign.
Then there’s the population size. Yes, I get that this convention does not have a cap on tickets and, yes, I get that’s kind of the point but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Many places are impossible to walk due to too much traffic. People are literally walking into each other. No one wants to bend or move. I was strong armed on multiple occasions because people were just rude or frustrated. The patron to convention official or security ratio also seemed way off. Except when entering a badge-specific area, convention officials were no where to be seen and it’s tough to ask them questions at entrances when they are constantly telling you to keep moving, don’t stop… even when you are clearly walking. There were lines wrapped around buildings with people waiting to get into who knows what. I would cross streets out of my way because entire blocks were completely filled with people in line.
Finally, the convention focus. Now, this does not go for everyone, honestly, but the majority of people at DragonCon are there to party more than anything. Thousands of people were just standing, drinking, in areas that don’t even require a badge. Every night was party after party, people walking back to their rooms to replenish their alcohol, etc. In fact, you could do almost everything I did without a badge. The only times my badge was required was to see the creators and the vendors. The hotel lobbies, streets, and parties don’t require a badge. So how many people were there without a badge just to party and cosplay? Who knows but I’d estimate in the multiple thousands.
At the end of the day, I had a good time. I bought tons of art and collectibles, got some stuff signed, and cosplayed. With that said, DragonCon is just not for me. I’m not a party-er. I don’t like to drink, especially while in costume, and definitely not in an atmosphere that warned me on several occasions about badge and wallet thieves. I’m not a fan of the multiple hotel situation where I spend more time walking place to place than I do actually being in those places. I think I’ll focus on attending some more Comic Con-focused conventions like C2E2 or Emerald City Comic Con. With that all said, if you love to cosplay, if you love to party, if you love the absolutely massive crowd, and don’t wish to stick to a schedule to get certain things done, then DragonCon might just be the convention for you. If so, you might want to book your room now. Oh, one bright side to driving from Kansas City meant a quick stop in Metropolis, IL to see the home of Superman. They’ve got some great Man of Steel stuff there including a giant statue and a museum.
Have you ever been to DragonCon? Tell us your thoughts below.