One For The Road: Looking Back on DragonCon
It’s been a week since my last day at DragonCon.
Somehow, even though it’s been a week, I’m still exhausted. Cons will take a lot out of you, especially if you’re a first timer. But is it worth it? Absolutely.
I spent Sunday at some stellar panels, including a fun and nostalgic hour with John Wesley Shipp, the original Barry Allen and Henry Allen of CW’s iteration of The Flash. Any time you can spend around Shipp is a delight: he’s friendly, smart, and funny, and is truly passionate about his fans and the success of the newest Flash venture.
Later in the day I sat in on a panel on lettering and coloring work in comics — even if you’re not a comic creator, panels on the creation of comics are a valuable experience for anyone interested in breaking into comics journalism. No matter how many comics I read, there are plenty of small details I can’t really comment on in reviews only because I don’t know how to talk about them. Reviewing and journalism is probably one of the rare instances where we do in fact want to know how the sausage is made, and cons like DragonCon are the perfect place to expand your knowledge.
The afternoon brought a packed panel featuring illustrator Babs Tarr and Brenden Fletcher of DC’s Batgirl of Burnside, well-moderated by Lan Pitts of Newsarama and ComicBook.com. Babs Tarr’s work on Batgirl is gorgeous, and she, Fletcher, and Cameron Stewart have brought a really interesting twist to a fan-favorite character. For current readers, keep an eye out for an upcoming wedding issue: Brenden Fletcher says this is “a full Babs Tarr issue,” meaning we’re in for a treat with stunning art, a slew of visual gags, and undoubtedly all of the feels.
The highlight of the evening, and of the weekend, was the Diversity and Sexuality in Comics panel. Of everything I attended throughout the con, I think the Comics and Pop Art panels were some of the most impactful I sat in on. The Comics and Popular Arts Conference (CPAC) is an incredible event and their panels are must-sees for anyone with an interest in the more academic side of pop culture consumption. If you like a little research with your comics, or if you’re passionate about the history of comics or its future as a medium, do your best to make it to DragonCon. The Comics and Pop Arts track brings incredible guests (both comics professionals and academics alike) and their panelists, moderators, and volunteers are committed to ensuring DragonCon is a safe space for productive conversations of all stripes.
On the whole, DragonCon has an incredible team. From the Media Relations team who put on fun and informative newbie events for first time press attendees (like me) to the volunteers and panelists who graciously helped me address some issues outside the con related to some personal questions about registration, everyone was helpful and committed to ensuring the event ran smoothly so that all attendees could have the best possible time. I have to admit that as someone unfamiliar with traditional con offerings I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of panel options, and I was very impressed by how well-coordinated and efficient the volunteer teams were as they managed a record number of attendees.
I had my doubts about DragonCon as a first con, but between my panel experiences and the very controlled chaos, DragonCon managed to completely dispel all of them. By late Monday night I’d already bought my badge and convinced two of my friends to go with me for their first times next year, and by Tuesday I was so ready I spent twenty minutes fighting with a host hotel website to make sure I got my room booked right away.
If you’re on the fence about going, or if you’re worried it might be too big for a ‘first con experience’, I say go for it: attending DragonCon is one of the most positive fandom experiences I’ve ever had. It’s going to take a lot out of you, but if you’re well-prepped and willing to be a little flexible with your schedule, DragonCon is worth it. You will make plenty of friends, and you will not regret attending. I certainly don’t, and I can guarantee that I was scared to death as soon as I rolled into the hotel parking deck. But with my first con ever in my rear view mirror last Monday, I knew I was ready to tackle NYCC in October — and even more ready to make my second DragonCon an even bigger and better experience next fall.