I’m not much of a “con” guy. I’ve never been to Comic-Con, Dragon*Con, WorldCon or any other science fiction fantasy convention. But that changed this weekend, as I exposed myself to the con-tagious world of Cons by attending one of the biggies: MegaCon 2010 in Orlando, Florida.
I had only a rough idea of what to expect as I walked into the convention center. Most people I’ve talked to about these events focus on the costumes people wear, some of which are amazingly elaborate. I was also told that the costumed folks are more than willing to have their pictures taken as they strike the trademark pose of whichever character they’re imitating. More than anything else, I was told to “expect some really weird stuff.”
My first thought after passing the guarded entrance was, “Holy crap, this thing is freaking enormous!” 160,000 square feet of exhibit space blanketed in fantasy indulgences of every conceivable kind. I took my sons with me and watched as their bottom jaws went limp from sheer sensation overload. We’d entered a portal to escapism on a gargantuan scale.
The costumes ranged from full-body painting to homemade felt and glue jobs to movie-studio quality outfits, and a multitude in-between. Most of the characters were chosen from the world of Manga (not a world I’m too familiar with so I didn’t know most of their names), with a smattering of comic book superheroes (those I knew), scifi movie and TV show characters, and a small army of craftily adorned zombies.
The undead in general were featured across the exhibit hall. I felt a sense of fascination with death in row after row of exhibits, that and midnight dark humor. I glanced over to one table where a gent with a well-plumbed goatee and horn rimmed spectacles gestured to me with a comic book in his hand.
“Do you like dark humor?” he asked. “Sure” I said. He handed me the comic opened to a particular page. “We’re going to do a test to see if you’d like the comic books I write. Read this.” I quickly read through the vignette that showed a smiling cartoon family opening a package they’d received in the mail, only to find a stillborn baby inside. I handed it back to the guy and didn’t have to say anything for him to see it wasn’t a sale. He looked down at my youngest son and said, “You see all these weirdos in this place? Don’t grow up to be one of them.”
Overall, people were pleasant and fun to be around. Many of them, I suspect, hit a slew of these events all over the country. It’s their element and they love being a part of it. That was a cool energy to feel, and feeling it I better understood the allure of the Con.
Beneath every fantasy motif, the merchandising mavens were clearly in charge. I can only guess how much product was sold during the three-day event. The way figurines, DVDs, t-shirts, comics, autographed prints and tons of other items were selling, signs of the recession were no where to be found.
But that’s part of the appeal of these events–it’s escapism from top to bottom, so why not spend it up while you’re there? The last thing you want to think about at a fantasy convention is economic reality. (Worth noting that it’s $24 a head just to walk through the door on a one-day pass. Three-days will run you $55.)
My bottom line takeaway: it’s weird, it’s out there, it’s a money sink, it’s all that and then some–but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and won’t hesitate to attend in the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll go full-bore and put on a costume myself. I just need to beef up so I can compete with the guy in the shot below.
Or, maybe not. Might be bad form to go from Con virgin to Con poseur too quickly.
Credit for photos goes to CA Bridges