Awecome Con 2017
By: Jay Smith
With a name like Awesome Con I expected nothing short of greatness and I received that and more. Ben and Steve Anderson from Third Eye Comics first created the Annapolis Comic Con and it was soon followed by the Southern Maryland Comic Con. Both are still thriving and cater to comic book lovers like themselves. Ben started planning Awesome Con in 2012 and the first one launched in April 2013. It was an instant success and has quickly grown into one of the largest fan conventions on the East Coast. The event used up every inch of the massive space in The Walter E. Washington Convention Center on June 16th to June 18th, 2017.
The guest list included Stan Lee, David Tennant, Nolan North, Phil LaMarr, Felicia Day, Zoie Palmer, Melissa O’Neil, Eliza Dushku, Rachel Skarsten and many, many more. The Exhibit Hall held vendor and photo op booths and the area was honestly overwhelming for me. There was so much to take in and I felt I didn’t have that much time to explore every corner. The main hall where the big panels were held was breathtaking. In the early morning it looked small because of the amount of people in different lines for different sections to open but once it was clear it was easy to be amazed at how the space was able to hold many.
I applaud the convention for being handicap friendly, especially with the sign interpreters and Pride Alley. I think it’s wonderful for a convention to cater to and include everyone. The food selection wasn’t all that great to me and the food that was good I felt it was overpriced. Luckily, we could come and go as we pleased but we always had to go through the main doors for a security check and we were allowed to bring food back in. I thought this was great, especially for those on a tight budget like myself.
This was my first convention and I’m absolutely happy it was. Not only did I cosplay for the first time, as Supergirl by a fan poll and Mary Jane, but I got introduced to new actors and TV shows. Of course, I was like a kid in a candy store and I wanted to attend every panel but that was not feasible. With the panels I did attend most of the panelist did run late because of their other panels or photo ops, but we were all patient and the panels were worth the wait!
I was lucky enough to acquire passes for all three days and my little brother and I attended Friday later in the day to get a feel of the convention. I was so awestruck by the amazing cosplays that I at first was too nervous to ask people for photos. I eventually got the courage to ask a Rose and Stevonnie cosplay pair and I couldn’t stop asking for photos after that. I wasn’t scheduled for any panels on Friday, but I took it upon myself to attend Representation Matters held by Jerry Gaylord, Penelope Gaylord and Bryan Turner and Full Spectrum: Why Color in Comics Matter with Karama Horne, Roye Okupe and Chuck Collins. As an African American woman I think it’s important for me to see myself in comics as any other person should. We’re in the age of inclusivity and no one should be left out because of their race, gender or sexual orientation. I forgot who said the quote, but it has stuck with me since hearing it, “Diversity shouldn’t be a hot topic. It should just be.”
As a bonus to my brother for attending my panels of choice, we attended the Phil LaMarr Q & A. At this point of the day my brother isn’t so jazzed about the convention. Not because it was boring, but because he’s a teenaged boy and it being summer his friends were more important. Once Phil LaMarr came on stage, joked about MadTV, told us how he got into Pulp Fiction and the scene involving his death and then answered fan questions with some impressions thrown in here or there, my little brother was completely on board with attending the convention for the full weekend.
Saturday was the big day for me. I revealed the fan picked Supergirl cosplay and I was attending the David Tennant panel early that morning. Since my boyfriend couldn’t make it to Friday he was able to attend Saturday and Sunday with my brother and me. Going through security was a breeze, but finding the correct line to stand in for the panel wasn’t so easy. The lack of signage needs to change. Yes, the volunteers were great but if you hadn’t spoken to one or a neighbor you could have been in the wrong line for over twenty minutes like my brother, my boyfriend and I had. I was thankful we did get into the panel, but we had missed about fifteen minutes of his time due to initially being in the wrong line and for the long line. I wasn’t too familiar with “Doctor Who,” but by the amount of cosplayers and the huge main hall filling up I knew David and the franchise were a big deal. He was so witty, charming and straightforward with his answers to fan questions.
The next panel I attended was Felicia Day’s. I, again, was unfamiliar with this actress and her roles, but by the end of the panel I fell in love with her humor. She was so amazing with her fan answers, especially to quirky questions like creating a story involving a Stormtrooper and a dinosaur. She answered “Supernatural” questions and half joked and scolded a fellow fan for spoiling the season finale for people. My favorite part of the panel was how happy and excited Felicia was when she talked about her new baby girl and the things she hopes to teach her.
The Nolan North panel was the absolute panel my brother and boyfriend were not missing. My little brother is a huge “Uncharted” fan so he was extra excited especially since we were able to sit so close to the front. Of course, Mr. North did his voices but the news of him and fellow attendant Khary Payton wrapping up an episode of “Young Justice” Season 3 sent the room into a frenzy. He thanked us, the fans, for being so adamant on the show continuing and joked about us keeping him employed.
Throughout the day I took photos of the amazing cosplayers from Loki and Marilyn to Princess Tiana to a bad ass Wonder Woman and Deathstroke. I really felt at home in my cosplay and loved the faces on the tiny kids who high fived their favorite character that walked by them. I was also so elated to be asked for my photo. In the midst of photo taking and scrolling my Twitter feed I discovered that my photo was taken by Black Girl Nerds. I was so happy to be featured because I love that website/Twitter page and what it represents. And let’s face it, people saying they love your cosplay is never not an amazing feeling.
The final panel of that day was the “Dark Matter” panel with Melissa O’Neil and Zoie Palmer. Again, I was unfamiliar with the show but the girls’ banter and answers made me instantly fall in love with them. Zoie quickly became my favorite as she reminds me so much of Daria. The girls were comical and tried not to spoil the new season when a fan question asked for a favorite moment. I definitely applaud the girls for answering questions they had no clue about the topic at hand.
The last day was heartbreaking and amazing. Reality set in that Monday as near and we all decided to wake up super early to be early for the Stan Lee panel and we invited our friend to experience it with us. I did an easy cosplay and went as Mary Jane. The Stan Lee panel did start late, but no one minded because he was probably the main reason why all of us had gotten into comics anyway. He was super funny and adorable. He did have problems with his ear piece, but the moderator was great at relying the fan questions to him if he had missed it. You can hear and see that Spider-Man is the pride and joy of Stan’s legacy. Of course, he couldn’t pass up the opportunities to rag on DC Comics but he did give props when he had to. After the panel we rushed to see the Stan Lee Museum since it was the last day, but unfortunately we couldn’t visit because the line was extremely long and we didn’t have enough time.
The “Lost Girl” panel with Zoie Palmer and Rachel Skarsten was hilarious because there was no moderator and the ladies tried to do it themselves until the fan questions started. The common theme for me this weekend was unfamiliarity because again I was lost about the show but the interactions between these women and their fans made me want to check out their work.
The Eliza Dushku panel moderated by Clare Kramer was so nostalgic for me as I loved these two in Bring It On. Hearing the story of how Eliza got the part and she having to go through extra training for the choreography was super funny. The ladies did answer “Buffy” and “Angel” fan questions as well. Eliza’s whole vibe was her being okay with her chosen roles, her works ending as that’s the business and the fans that have stuck by her through all her shows and movies.
While I was at the Eliza Dushku panel, my guys had gone to the Samurai Jack live reading with Jim Zub and Phil LaMarr. I unfortunately had missed pretty much all of it but I did get the final page read. Jim went over how Cartoon Network had at one point vetoed most of his episode ideas until they agreed to them later down the line. As a treat to the people in the first two rows, Jim gifted them with Samurai Jack comics and he and Phil signed them. My guys were fortunate enough to be in those two rows and received the comics. After the panel was over a few of us hung around in hopes of talking to or at least shaking hands with Jim and Phil. The guys eventually had to leave but I did get a video of Phil LaMarr doing the voice of Hermes from “Futurama” for me.
I couldn’t have planned a better weekend for myself and the guys. I’m eternally grateful for finally experiencing my first convention and covering it for this magazine. I really can’t wait until I get more into cosplay and attend more conventions. I urge any and everyone who wants to attend a convention and or cosplay to do it. There’s so much love from strangers who have the same interest as you that you can’t help but feel safe and welcomed.