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DRAGON*CON 2003 REPORT
by Noel Wood

Last year, one of the most popular features on this site was the report from the annual Science Fiction and Fantasy convention here in Atlanta known as Dragon*Con. Well, it's come and gone again, and I was there, camera in hand, and ready for action. And again, I'm here to report some of my findings, as well as give a critique on some of the many costumes found this year.

I'll be doing things a little differently this time out. If you need an introduction to the world of Dragon*Con, I urge you to check out last year's report. Last year there was less than a roll of film worth of images, as I wasn't prepared to do a report until after I actually got there. This year, however, I brought along my trusty Sony digital and snapped over 200 images over the course of the day. So while you can prepare to be bombarded with images, I'm now preparing to be bombarded with the chore of coding all of said images. Thank Jebus for freeware Thumbnail makers, because they made my life a whole lot easier. In other words, make sure you're clicking on the little images, because big ones will open up. Oh yeah, and just to be extra bossy, I'm gonna tell you now to turn off any popup blockers you may have running for the moment.

This year, I headed downtown with MCFTR contributor Jay "Me So" Hornsby and my self-proclaimed little buddy Keefer around noon to check out the festivities. We'd barely made it through the door before we ran into a bevy of STAR WARS regulars, including some Stormtroopers of various color configurations and all kinds of Fetts. I could tell immediately that it was going to be a fantastic year for costumes. Interestingly enough, There wasn't nearly the number of STAR WARS costumes running rampant as in previous years, save for the usual army of Stormtroopers. But a little variety is the spice of life, so we set out on our way to purchase our day passes.

The line was much longer than last year's, as seen in the image to the left. Eyeing ahead in the line, we spotted a friend of ours from a local nightspot, who was roughly halfway through the line. He pantomimed "thirty minutes" from afar, so we knew we were in for a long time. Jay realized that he wished he had used the toilet ahead of time. After a good hour or so, we had managed to make it all the way through, forsaking the planned Credit Card route because it would have taken an extra ten minutes or so in favor of the cash line. Soon we had our badges and were on our way in.

We headed back to the convention floor where we discovered that the King of Rock and Roll was indeed still alive and was, in fact, planning on taking over for Harrison Ford in the next INDIANA JONES sequel. We gazed around the room and found costumes from every facet of entertainment. STAR WARS, Star Trek, Farscape, G.I.Joe, Tomb Raider, you name it. Hell, there was even a pro football-inspired costume, showing the variety that Dragon*Con was providing this year.

It was time to head downstairs into the hotel's lower floors to peruse the dealer rooms, and snap up a few pics on the way. It was there we ran into a couple of Con-goers dressed up as Lion-O and Cheetara from The Thundercats. Jay recently penned an article for the site mentioning people who deserved a punch in the face, and I'm actually quite suprised that he didn't add to the list guys who wear womens' swimsuits. Of course, the fact that this guy is dressed as Lion-O, who is essentially a cat, puts him at the top of Jay's punching bag list, but the swimsuit really is the icing on the proverbial cake.

Of course, we saw Klingons. After all, it's not a 'Con until you've seen Klingons. Apparently, though, these Klingons were tourists, making sure that they spent their weekend enjoying the festivities rather than focusing too hard on their mission to wipe out the Enterprise.

Last year, we encountered this chick (yes, I know, it's a terrible shot; blame bad lighting and a crappy scanner) at the 'Con in her please-use-your-imagination Predator costume. This year, we descended the same escalator we found her posing in front of, and sure enough, there she was again. This time, though, she had competition: The badass huge Pred you see standing next to her. Now, this girl had an entire year to brush up on her costume, but apparently did not. Add to that the fact that the other costume blew hers out of the water, and you just gotta wonder what the hell she's doing still posing and showing hers off, going so far as to try to hog the camera.

Moving along the convention floor, I saw a score of undersexed males crowding around an unseen focal point. "this can only mean one thing", I said, "scantily-clad women!" I was right, of course, as There stood the obligatory Leeloo from THE FIFTH ELEMENT, having her photo snapped by dozens. I got her to give a quick pose, and the normally-dressed girl she was with said something along the lines of "you're going to wind up on the internet". Uhm, no, I'd never think of doing that. It was at that moment I realized what a dumbass I was for not printing up a bunch of business cards to leave laying around the convention.

We headed into the first dealer room, where the stuff that's too dorky for my tastes tends to be hidden. Roleplaying kits, 27-sided dice, live-action-roleplay swords, novels by H.P. Lovecraft, and other things of that nature. I did manage to get a few good costume pics in, including the one guy clever enough to dress as a Spaceball and a couple decked out like Trinity and Neo from THE MATRIX films, but with a baby in tow. I joked that they must be reenacting something from the fourth sequel, The Matrix: Reproduced, but nobody laughed at my joke.

Oh, and by popular demand, here's a shot of the girl from the Troma booth, who I'm sure was going nearly blind from the massive number of pimply-faced teenage boys snapping pictures of her. Of course, I was highly disappointed in the fact that the Troma booth was selling their DVDs for more than you can get them at Best Buy. That CANNIBAL: THE MUSICAL DVD has been calling my name for eons now, but I just can't bring myself to pay that much for it.

Of course, as Jay's face-punching article can attest to, one should not go dressed as a flashy comic book character and not expect to be the subject of photo ops left and right. Especially when that costume is the bright-red-and-white girlfriend of The Joker, Harley Quinn. Of course, Harley Quinn's also supposed to be thin, waifish in fact, so that may be why this lady decided to scurry off. Actually, I wasn't going to joke about her weight, but her dissing my lens left me no choice.

The next dealer room was the one we actually were looking forward to, not only because of the fact that the stuff we were more likely to partake in was sold there (comics, action figures, bootleg movies), but also because it was the celebrity room. There were a ton of sci-fi stars in tow, including Peter Mayhew, the man who portrayed Chewbacca in the STAR WARS films; Marc Singer, better known as The Beastmaster; Richard Keil of MOONRAKER; and the man who brought The Hulk to life on the small screen, Lou Ferrigno. Also peppered throughout the room were some pro wrestlers and various porn stars. I actually tried to snap a picture of Aria Giovanni but her agent pushed her hand over her face and told me it would be five dollars to take a picture of her. Jesus, I can find any number of pictures of the girl nude on the internet for free, and they expect me to pay five bucks for a shot of her fully clothed and sitting at a desk being fawned upon by fanboys? Please. Former pro wrestler Mike Jones, AKA Vincent/Virgil, tried to charge me to take his picture too, but then realized it was just a digital and mugged for me while Scott Levy, AKA Raven, looked on like the jaded character he plays on TV.

Back to the dealer booths, where I spent lots of time in vain looking for the Smallest Transformers toys from Takara, until one of the booth guys said that nobody there had gotten a hold of them for the 'Con this year, meaning I was going to have to shell out 75 bucks online for a case of them if I wanted to get my hands on some. Also ran into some more costumers, including a trio of Slave Girl Leias (or, for the sensitive schmucks at Hasbro, Leias as Jabba's prisoners, which has none of the ring to it that Slave Girl Leias does). Of course, some of the Leias were, well, better equipped to fill out the costume, but I'll let you be the judge of that for yourself.

I snapped a lot of other photos in the dealer room and just outside it, relying on the natural and flourescent lighting rather than my flash, because the LED screen on my camera likes to make things appear brighter than they actually are. So, unfortunately, not every shot turned out quite like I expected. There were some good Freddy and Jason characterizations, the Childcatcher from CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, and an excellent Flaming Carrot. I'll post a link to the entire album later, but I'm not going to post every single one here on the front page. After all, after editing some duplicates and ones that just didn't turn out at all, I still ended up with nearly two hundred pictures.

Shortly after leaving the second dealer room, we made it upstairs and to the bar, where I enjoyed a cold one before catching a cab back home for a nap and dinner before returning for drunken chicanery later that evening. I snapped a few more of the daytime pics, then went home to upload the ones I already had. After equipping myself with a bottle of the finest spiced rum and some cola to transport it with, I caught the train back downtown for the best part of the 'Con: partying with the dorks. Because, you see, these people may not be the most sociable folks during the rest of the year, but they sure do take advantage of their weekend. This is the one time of the year where anyone and everyone can fit in. This is the place where knowing the different ranks of Stormtroopers actually makes you cooler. This is the magical time where knowing the diffences between Elves and Orcs might even get you laid. This is a misfit's paradise, and man, is it a fun place to be.

We managed to bump in to a lot of the same costumers as before, some of which had been upgraded, if you will. Remember the Elvis-as-Indiana-Jones guy from earlier? Well, apparently, by night he fights for the Galactic Empire. I ran in to a couple members of Cobra earlier in the day, but by night, they were out in full force. Last year, you may remember that I plugged the 501st, a nationwide gang of Star Wars costumers. Well, sure, they were here in full force this year, but their numbers were challenged by Cobra Cares, based out of Texas, who have a similar organization based on the faceless villains from G.I.Joe. We chatted up these guys for a while, got some stickers and temporary tattoos, and of course, posed for a lot of pictures with them. And of course, no Cobra squadron would be complete without a Baroness. I've seen plenty of girls try to pull off the Baroness costume, and it's a rare occasion that I'm impressed with one, but the girl who appears in my photos was born to play the role. I think that a whole generation of twenty-somethings who have a thing for dark hair and glasses on girls were at least in part infuenced by the character of The Baroness in their youth.

As far as costumes go, there were no limits. It wasn't limited to just the usual sci-fi and fantasy stuff like STAR WARS, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Farscape. Of course, there were the legions of comic book heroes, including the usual assortment of Batmen, Spider-Men, and X-Men. But costumers got more creative this year, dressing up as characters from films such as AUSTIN POWERS, BRAVEHEART, THE TERMINATOR, and even THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. There were a bevy of pirates, many of which were obviously inspired by Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow from PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN. Someone had put together a homemade Gir costume from Invader Zim, complete with squeakers in the feet that made noise with every step, that had my friends and me mesmerized for quite some time. Even the Stormtroopers got more clever this time around, modifying their costumes into hippie troopers, pirate troopers, and furry troopers, the last of which I'm afraid to ask about. There were characters from Strawberry Shortcake, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, and even a TRON deadly discs who was really embarrased about the quality of his costume even though I thought it rocked.

There was a naked mariachi band. The guys from Devo were posing in the classic "Whip It" stance. There was a whole friggin' squadron of Ghostbusters. I saw at least a half-dozen of the blue stewardess things from THE FIFTH ELEMENT. Classic Captain America posed with The Red Skull. Beetlejuice put down his drink long enough to conjure up a smile for the camera. Classic movie villains made for a touching moment as The Alien Warrior slow-danced with Hannibal Lechter. Harvey Birdman, attorney at Law, was there with briefcase and everything. The Buddy Christ from DOGMA hung with the Pope. Classic Adam West Batman was there hanging out with a Batgirl, and so was some weird Hockey-Masked Batman, also hanging with a Batgirl. Super Mario took the day off from fighting Bowser and the Koopa Troopas to come attend the festivities. A portly Gene Simmons from KISS rocked the fuck out with me. There was the requisite Dawn look-a-like contingent. Some people dressed as Nazis tried to justify their existence by saying they were "space Nazis", whatever that means, but that didn't stop us from wanting to punch them in the face anyway.

Hell, I even saw someone dressed as a character from Seaquest DSV. Roy Scheider would be proud.

At one point, the crowd seemed to focus around a single point again, giving the universal Dragon*con Scantily-clad-woman sign, and upon further investigation, it turned out to be a variation on the Slave Girl Leia thing (no, I'm not PC-izing it this time) where the top was replaced by bodypaint. And sexless males rushed the circle to snap photos of her. And, yes, I got photos too, but I have a website to run here, and it just wouldn't be proper journalism if I didn't.

Suprisingly, there seemed to be less of the "you don't need to be wearing that" element than in previous years; as, for the most part, the scantily clad women and men were built more for the part than before. Oh, sure, there was a Lara Croft or two that wasn't exactly meant to be wearing those hiphugging short shorts, but there were far less than usual. Maybe it was due to a higher concentration of the more-clothed characters from Lord of the Rings and various long-dress wearing pirate wenches.

As the night progressed, so did my stupor, and eventually (as is the tale told by my ever-worsening photography skills in the pictures the next day) I stopped focusing on the costumes so much and started taking more pictures of my drunken friends. When you can't remember taking the last dozen or so pictures on the roll (yes, I know, it's a digital camera, but some terminology was just meant to last) then you know you had a good night. somehow, some shots of my friend Pete mixing drinks in the bathroom wound up there, as well a shot of some random girl's bosom replete with a Cobra insignia rounding out the night.

Dragon*Con, as I predicted, was one of the most fun nights I've had all year. Next year, I'll be sure to grab my tickets early to avoid the hour-long line, but other than that, I wouldn't do a thing differently. I'm sure, if this site hasn't become a stuffy corporate deity by this time next year, I'll also be chronicling my 2004 Dragon*Con adventures as well.

Support your local fantasy Convention. Or at least just go for the parties. I know I will continue to. Oh yeah, and for more pictures of the craziness, click on our holiday Klingon friends below.

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All Material Copyright 1998-2006 Movie Criticism for the Retarded.

For questions, comments, or the occasional stalking letter, send mail to Noel Wood. Please give proper credit when using any materials found within this site.


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