Tales from the Con Floor
While conventions like San Diego Comic Con and New York Comic Con are known to spawn experiences that withstand the test of time itself, it doesn’t mean they are the only conventions worth putting your efforts and hard-earned money towards. Sure, if you have the cash to spend hundreds of dollars on passes and book your hotel room a year in advance, they are without a doubt worth every cent. It definitely does not mean you should avoid your local worlds-colliding, cultures-clashing conventions that happen in your community by any means though. If anything, your local cons can be more exciting; with the possibility of running into local or semi-local fam you may know, or favorite local artists or celebrities around every corner.
Depending on the type of con you are attending your experiences may differ, for an event that covers most if not all of the bases, you will want to aim for your larger, local comic con. An anime convention or toy convention will definitely yield completely different, and very specific results, obviously.
The recent convention ‘Fan Expo Dallas’ headlined with the infamous Stan Lee, following up with names like Frank Miller and Todd McFarlane. Depending on how much you would be willing to pay, you had options ranging from sharing a meal to sitting in on an exclusive Q and A, also including autographs and photos of course. Other guests included William Shatner, George Takei and crew to celebrate the Star Trek 50th anniversary, as well as Kevin Smith and company. Many of the voice actors from Dragon Ball Z were on hand, and many other folks, on a list too long to type. The only category lacking was the horror area, but luckily Dallas has their horror convention, FrightFest, to make up for it once a year. Be warned, though, in most situations if you want a photo or autograph it will cost some extra money, no matter what convention you are attending. This year at Fan Days Dallas they also had a local tattoo shop on hand, ready to turn those freshly signed autographs we never want to part with, into a permanent part of you.
Mike McFarland, English voice actor of Master Roshi ( below )
Another great aspect of conventions, if you can’t decide between an autograph or a bag of hard to find toys, artwork, clothes or comics; you have plenty of time to walk around and see everything before you decide. Also, chances are you will find someone or something you never expected to, while venturing around between workshops and Q and A’s with your favorite entertainers.
If you have a favorite local convention, I highly recommend you look into possibly volunteering. Not only are you supporting something you are passionate about, but you get to see how it works behind the scenes. If you volunteer a certain number of hours per day, or during the event; most conventions will give you a free volunteer pass, so when you aren’t putting in hours you can walk around freely. Some events have shared volunteer rooms to rest up in as well, which can cut down on transit time if you put in enough hours. You may even get to volunteer working a celebrity event, where you might be able to get a photo or autograph for free if you are lucky. You generally can tell them what part of the convention you would prefer to work in, but ultimately the staff makes the decision. Be warned, though, I have come across conventions that charge a reduced pass rate your first year if you haven’t volunteered for them before. When I did encounter that, after your first year of volunteering they didn’t charge you for additional years, if successfully volunteering a certain number of hours continually.
One of the best parts of conventions is the cosplay, at the recent Fan Expo Dallas there was every character you could imagine walking around with you in the crowd, as well, the DFW Ghostbusters were in attendance in their full gear. Proton packs not optional, so much so that they had a table covered in movie quality proton packs and a beautiful ghost trap. Not to mention a jar of slime and a proton pack that burned to a crisp, I’m guessing the particle accelerator had a bit of an overheating issue. Don’t even get me started on the life-size 700 pound Rancor Monster, or the black Power Ranger that looked like he stepped straight off of the tv set.
I will say if you have time to save up a decent amount of cash before attending you won’t be sorry, or feel as bad when you are surrounded by the coolest stuff imaginable without much more than two pennies and a ball of lint in your pockets. Don’t fear, though, if you keep your eyes peeled there’s plenty or rad con swag laying about you can trade your cash for, and it won’t get you behind in all your bills for a month.
I guess what it comes down to is no matter if you are attending a local comic con, the upcoming Alien Con, a wrestling convention, toy convention, or the like; plan your schedule out ahead of time. Just make sure you don’t forget a camera so you can get a new Facebook profile picture, or a dozen, with your favorite cosplayers and celebrities.
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