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DRAGON*CON 2002: MY DAY WITH DORKS
Ah, Dragon*Con. To any self-respecting fanboy, gamer, geek, dork, nerd, LARPer, or dweeb, it is the premiere convention of the Southeastern United States. Held annually in my hometown of Atlanta, GA, Dragon*Con draws the socially challenged from all over the country together every single year for a weekend where for once in thier lives, they are the rulers of the roost. Remember the fat kid with the glasses and bad acne that wore his Green Lantern shirt to school very other day? Elsewhere, he always got picked on. At Dragon*Con, though, he's a hero because he has two copies of Action Comics #27 hidden away in a safe somewhere.
There are basically two types of people who attend fantasy conventions. The first type are the hardcore fanboy/geek type. These are the ones who usually dress up in elaborate costumes for events such as this. these are the ones who might spend their weekends in their parents' basement with nothing but a few friends, a fridge full of Mountain Dew, and a pack of Magic the Gathering cards. These are the people you might actually overhear say "Then I told the guy, 'but you don't understand, I'm a 12th level swordmaster!'" (a snippet from a conversation I actually heard this year.)
The other type of people who go there are the dabblers. I would say that I fit in to this sect. Dabblers are the ones who do enjoy a comic book every now and then, who might have a nice little collection of action figures at home, and might know a little too much about some trivial subjects. But the dabblers come for more than just the joy of finding that rare variant Jango Fett figure where his head is cocked just 3 degrees more to the left and his blaster is a quarter inch longer. Dabblers often come for the party. Dabblers tend to have social lives outside of the fantasy world as well.
I haven't had the pleasure of attending Dragon*Con in a few years, for no other reason than pure laziness. But this year, a few friends and I decided to take a trip down to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta to see what we could find. Fortunately, my friend Jay decided to purchase a camera to chronicle the events of the weekend. Since many of the heroes that are worshipped at fantasy conventions are rooted in the motion picture industry, I decided to compile some of the better photos here on this website.
First off, the cast of characters for the day's festivities. Above we see us all in action toward the beginning of the day. From left to right above, that's myself, Spider-Man, Pete, Carnage, and Jay. Unfortunately, Spidey and Carnage decided they didn't want to hang out with us all day, so the three of us were the primary ones there for the daytime activities. It shall be noted, however, that we returned at night with a much larger group of folks, but most of the documentation here is based on the less intoxicated, more geek action filled daytime hours. Anyway, we're not really sure why Spidey and Carnage were hanging around together to begin with, so it's probably a good thing that they didn't decide to follow us around because there's no telling whether or not they'd start duking it out eventually. I guess they were chumming it up while discussing which movie sequel Carnage would eventually show up in. I'm shooting for part 3.
Fortunately for us, we discovered that the convention this year was obviously being patrolled by the Empire. We knew that we were safe with Lord Vader and legions of Stormtroopers watching our backs. On the left above, I'm showing my respect to one of the galaxy's finest while Pete taunts him from behind. You may notice that from this point on Pete never appears in another photograph. I'm not going to go into it, but let's just say it's never a good idea to taunt a Stormtrooper in the line of duty. On the right, Jay and myself pay Lord Vader the respect he so deserves.
Actually, the majority of the Stormtroopers in attendance are members of the 501st, which I guess could best be described as a geek version of the Hell's Angels. There are currently 841 standard Stormtroopers in the 501st, but there are also hundreds more members serving as Imperial Officers, TIE Fighter pilots, Sith Lords, Bounty Hunters, Biker Scouts, and various other denizens of the Empire. The 501st has chapters all over the world, and are commonly found at conventions of this type.
Here Jay and I get a chance to mingle with a few more Imperials as well as infamous bounty hunter Boba Fett. Suprisingly, the Stormtroopers were quite easygoing. They never seemed to give us a hard time. You'll also notice in this shot the T-shirts Jay and I are wearing. Both becme quite the magnet for comments at the convention, to the point where we decided to run a contest to see who got the most comments. In case you can't tell, my shirt bears the likeness of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs of the Church of the Subgenius, while Jay is wearing an Onion T-Shirt that reads "Your favorite band sucks". During the course of the day, people kept approaching me and saying "Praise Bob", "I quit my job for Bob!", or some other comment to let me know that they were hip to the significance of the shirt. There was even a video dealer who asked me if I knew where he could get the Subgenius recruitment videos so that he could ply his craft by bootlegging them and selling them to unsuspecting conventiongoers for more than the real things go on the Subgenius website. Jay got a lot of different comments, mainly people coming up to him and saying "Well, what's your favorite band?", to which he would respond "Not Yours!"
Still more Imperials abounded the further we got in to the convention. The place was crawling with Stormtroopers and overweight Imperial Officers, as we see here. Good thing that it's not just the police officers here on Earth that tend to spend too much time munching on doughnuts and getting kind of doughy. There were times in the day where I wanted to take off from Leia's line in A NEW HOPE and ask one of our uniformed friends, "aren't you a little FAT to be a Stormtrooper?" That never did happen, but later on in the evening after I'd had a few too many beverages I did steal Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's line and ask Darth Vader which of the buttons on his chest called his parents to come pick him up. On the right, you see Episode 2 star Jango Fett trailing behind and keeping a watchful eye on the worst-looking Ash I think I have ever seen. Apparently Bruce Campbell's famous EVIL DEAD character hasn't aged well, if the guy in the picture is any indication. Site contributor Terry did a hell of a lot better job capturing Ash last year at Halloween, the same year I pulled off a rather unconvincing Silent Bob with my friend Bill playing the role of Jay. There were a lot of Jango Fetts in attendance this year, obviously, but it's too bad the majority of those in the costume just recycled their Boba Fett costumes by applying a coat of silver spray paint to them.
What a sad state of affairs it is when you see something like this. Two of the most nefarious, evil men to have ever walked the earth, Cobra Emperor Serpentor and his right-hand man Dr. Mindbender, are reduced to working an information booth at a fantasy convention. What a shame. I guess a lifetime of attempting world domination through mutant spores, weather dominators, mass devices, and killer mind-controlled pets will eventually find you out of work and burned out in general. Fortunately, these forces of evil were kind enough to stop and let us have a photo op before they slithered off to do their own thing. I also looked for other Cobra bigwigs like Cobra Commander, Destro, and the Baroness, but they were not to be found.
Well, except for one... ...Storm Shadow! Yep, the one and only Cobra assassin did manage to find his way to the *Con this year, decked out in full classic regalia. Frankly, I was a bit suprised at just how short he was. For such a vicious killer, he looks like a stiff wind would knock him over and send him packing. No wonder Snake-Eyes always kicked his ass in their battles for ninja domination. Yet another reason Cobra was doomed to fail: Who the hell needs ninjas when you've got tanks and bomber planes?
On the right, you see just what has become of the once mighty Skeletor. After years of trying to defeat He-Man through methods perhaps even sillier than the ones Cobra had employed, Skeletor must have entered into a deep, dark depression. As you can see here, he's not nearly as svelte and trim as he once was, as years of hard boozin' and the couch potato life have set in. Frank Langella he is not.
For all the naysayers that insist that functions such as these are bastions for lonely men with nary a lass to be found, well, I'm here to prove you wrong. Not only were there plenty of members of the fairer sex to be found, but some even showed up in costume. On the left, if you can't tell what the hell is in the picture, we see a woman dressed in a pretty obviously homemade Predator costume. Somehow I think that the movie would have been a lot shorter had this girl been the menace rather than the one that ripped Jesse Ventura a new asshole in the Arnold Schwartzenegger sci-fi classic (and if you don't believe that it's a classic, then explain to me why the hell AMC shows it all the time?). The picture is shoddy and cut off at the left, but she's leaning forward in a fighting pose. She did a lot of posing. I mean, a lot. We saw this girl all day long, standing at the base of escalators and in other places where she thought she was bound to get attention, and just stood there acting like she was in Madonna's "Vogue" video.
On the right, we see the first of many Klingons we experienced throughout the day, this one also of the fairer sex. For some reasons, the Klingons tend to remain idle during the early hours, but start appearing in the early evening. Jay felt the need to capture at least one of these alien menaces on film, regardless of how the three of us feel about Star Trek. The reason why I have a look of fear in my eye is because that blade she's carrying is REAL, and was swinging in a pretty straight line right toward my crotch as the photo was taken. Ouch. Fortunately I managed to escape without any permanent damage.
This is it: the seedy underworld that you had only believed was a myth up until this point. I had never seen as many dice in my life as I did on that day. On top of that, I never realized the market for these things. The sign is kind of hard to read, but just keep in mind that if you hand-pick enough dice to go in that coffee cup I'm holding, It's 15.50. That's a lot of geek money floating around. It is reassuring that even in the slumping economy that exists at this time, there is still enough disposable income floating around that tons of action figures, comic books, and 12-sided dice can get bought and sold for unbelievable prices in such massive quantities.
Comic book superheroes, were, of course, the biggest attraction of the weekend. On the left, we see the gayest-looking Superman in the history of man hawking other superheroes' memorabilia. Poor Captain America must wonder what happened to his supply of mighty shields, but Supes is swiping them and hawking them at discount prices. Batman must have stepped out of the shower and wondered what happened to his trusty batsuit, but Superman swiped them as well. I guess times are tough for the Man of Steel lately. He must have gotten screwed out of those residuals from the Six Flags roller coasters and 'Smallville'. But thank god for us, he DOES accept Visa and Mastercard.
On the right, some fat fanboy tries to convince the world he's a big buff mutant with an adamantium skeleton. Nobody's convinced. I'm actually suprised that I didn't see more X-Men characters running about, considering the movie did so well a couple years back and the sequel being set to come out next year and all.
The costumes and props varied from the incredibly good to the incredibly bad. For instance, the R2 unit on the left was incredibly good. Extremely well detailed, working lights in all the right places, almost seemed like the real thing. On the other hand, the Homer Simpson on the right was just so incredibly bad that we had to get a shot of it. What s that, paper mache? Homer was seemingly omnipresent, we bumped in to him, literally, several times. What was extremely funny was watching Homer wobble around because he apparently had zero visibility in that suit, and his other half (who you can barely see on the left) had to guide him in the right direction.
And speaking of wobbling around, I present to you the reason why alcohol and dorks don't mix...
There were many more pictures taken during the evening hours, but these pretty much sum it up. It's never a good idea to allow 'dabblers' such as Jay and myself get hammered and hang around the hardcore fanboy type. Above, I get my chance to make friends with Rhino, while Jay makes the mistake of mocking Doctor Doom. The night wasn't pretty. Apparently I took the liberties of picking on some guy with glowsticks, going so far as to throw them about 50 feet after asking the holder if I could see them for a second. Later I antagonized some guy passed out in an elevator well dressed as a cat (which no male member of the human race should EVER do) by repeatedly stepping on his tail while his girlfriend sat over him weeping. I can't make this stuff up.
Aside from what is seen above, there were other highlights of the day, including seeing celebrities such as Lou 'Incredible Hulk' Ferigno, Sarah Douglas of SUPERMAN II fame, and the entire 'Men Behind the Masks' contingent: Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, and Jeremy Bulloch; who respectively are the STAR WARS characters R2-D2, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett. There was also a very surreal moment where we walked in to a room that was absolutely filled with gamers. Literally acres or people sitting around tables playing various role-playing games, to the point of ridiculousness. A lot of good costumes also missed the camera's eye, including a dead-on Beetlejuice and a pretty convincing Indiana Jones. Of course, there were a lot of things I didn't want to see as well, including way too many women packed in to clothes that they had no business wearing.
If you've never been to a fantasy convention, I suggest you do it. After forgetting how much fun they can truly be for so many years, I rekindled my love for amusing myself by being able to say "I am kind of a dork, but at least I don't dress up like an anime character." I'll be attending again next year without a doubt, and lord knows I'll probably be documenting it here as well.
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