On the weekend of the 16th of June, I decided to take a little trip to Washington D.C. to attend Awesome Con; a convention that our nation’s capital hosts once a year. It is a show that attracts all kinds of people, from major stars of popular T.V. shows to obscure, Z-list cosplayers, to people who are living legends in their respective industries and is one that I have been meaning to go to for a while and could not wait to sink my teeth into. In the weeks leading up to it I made a ton of plans regarding the panels that I would attend, interview that I wanted to score and the tons of articles that I would do based around the convention. Unfortunately, I suffered several problems the same week as the convention regarding my car, phone, camcorder and personal health that forced me to drastically scale back the number of articles that I would do to just two with this one first being my overall impressions of the convention.
Now before we go any further I think that it is important to disclose that this is by no means my first convention and overall, I am used to far different environment. The conventions that I regularly intend include, but are not limited to, Katsucon, Otakon and Dragon Con and if you know anything about these conventions you know that they tend to be big party cons with tons of options to choose from regarding panel content and take on a much more adult oriented environment when the sun goes down. During the day, the affairs are relatively family friendly but when it gets dark bad decisions begin to be made and the convention goes from being a fun dorky affair to a fun, raunchy dorky affair and Awesome Con is absolutely not one of these kinds of conventions. I feel that mentioning this was necessary so you would have a better understanding as to what I am generally more used to in a convention and why I bring up certain points within the article regarding the content and how the convention was run. But with that said, what did I think of my Awesome Con experience?
The first day at the con I can honestly say that I was a bit underwhelmed. Over the past couple of years Awesome Con has been one of those conventions that has constantly been shoved down my throat with con buddies seemingly always going or trying to go to it with the show always bringing in big names. This year, for example, the convention had no less than Stan Lee, David Tenant, David Hayter, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Tom King and Jason David Frank in attendance and many more. Yet when my friends and I arrived at the convention the crowds were surprisingly thin. There were lines obviously but for the most part they were easy to get through and I got the impression that if I wanted to I could have gotten my picture taken with any one of these people without much effort. But when you looked at the day’s scheduling it becomes far more apparent as to why this was.
Friday was a day that, quite simply, lacked as much content as the other two. Some of the bigger names like David Tennant, Edgar Wright, Nolan North and Felicia Day, for example, were absent during the first day of the show and weren’t actually scheduled until Saturday morning and more than likely contributed to the relatively low turnout. It wasn’t at all helped by the fact that the panel options for the day weren’t exactly great. Despite being one of the two longer days of the convention the actual panel selection was rather thin with a total of 59 panels taking place over the course of the day. Then consider the fact that Sunday went on for about six hours less than Friday but still managed to squeeze in almost as many panels and it became apparent that it wasn’t exactly a priority day for the people who ran the show. The panels themselves were unfortunately things that, sadly, I wasn’t particularly interested in. Most of them consisted of cosplay advice, homosexuality in fandoms, a few regarding copyright laws, and independent creators who wanted to share their experiences with potential new creators. While some of these were good panels with great ideas behind them they weren’t exactly the kind that could draw the crowds like say a Q&A with Stan Lee might. Heck, if I’m being honest the only ones that I found myself even remotely interested in were the copyright ones and the ones run by independent creators. But even those were ones that I was willing to skip because Subway was sounding really good around the time they were being held.
Then Saturday came and the con sprang to life in a huge way. People began to show up in droves and is a perfect example as to what a big convention is like. Throughout the day you could and would run into people all over the east coast. There were people that I met who lived right up the street and just wanted to get a book signed by their favorite writer. I ran into people from Philadelphia, Florida, and Maryland who all had their own reasons for being there. You would run into little kids in cheap little Spirit Halloween costumes to people in their sixties dressed up in elaborate cosplays that could best some of the movie designs. You would see people who were so toned and in shape that they looked like they belonged as body builders or models. Others looked as if they needed to focus on their own personal health as opposed to spending their time and money at a convention. Many others you would describe as being perfectly average and talking to these people and learning their stories is always an enriching experience.
The best treat, however, was running into people that I knew from other shows and from my hometown who I didn’t even know were showing up. I ran into people that I knew in high school and hadn’t seen in years. I ran into people who ran or are a big part of local shows that I attend regularly and seeing them put a big smile on my face. It ended up giving the whole thing a more familiar feel then I would otherwise get at large conventions and it was an absolute joy to behold.
The panel selection also got significantly better. You still had the legal advice and the LGBT stuff floating around but there were far more options in other areas then there had been on Friday. These included Q&As with celebrities, several scientifically themed exhibits and a good number of panels that were dedicated to specific subject matter. Sadly, I was unable to attend as many as I wanted to but the ones that I did had a joyous, enthusiastic atmosphere to them that you rarely see in your day to day life. The high of the day, thankfully, was one that continued well into Sunday. Sundays are, typically, something of a hangover day for attendees at conventions. It’s the day where people are usually sleeping off a hangover from Friday and Saturday nights as well as preparing to leave whatever hotel they stayed in so as not to pay an extra night. But the panel output and enthusiasm that was seen on Saturday carried over well into Sunday and made me incredibly grateful not to have left that day as I usually do.
Overall Awesome Con was a very fun experience. I didn’t necessarily have as much fun as I did at say Dragon Con last year but I also didn’t leave it feeling as burnt out and hating my normal life as I was when I left the Atlanta show. I got some signatures from writers and artists who I greatly admire and had some good times with some good friends both new and old. The whole experience may have cost me an arm and a leg but it is one that I would never have traded in.
Trey Griffeth is the Head Writer of The Nerd Hub's Comic Book Spotlight section as well as a contributing writer to Video Game Spotlight. In addition to his work with The Nerd Hub, he is also a Staff Writer for Heroic Hollywood.