COMICS PORTAL: Awesome Con DC 2014

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The comics convention season is now in full swing, and I had the opportunity to attend a relatively new “con” on the other side of the country from Wondercon (now called the “real” Comic-Con by some folks I know).

The event I went to is Awesome Con DC, which has just concluded its second year entertaining fans and their friends and families.

It was held in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the downtown area of Washington, D.C., and it seems to have grown tremendously since last year.

The folks behind this convention have been conducting smaller “cons” in the Annapolis, Maryland, area for some time. They’ve been much smaller events, but then someone got the bright idea to start holding a con in the DC area proper. Good going!

THIS YEAR WAS AN “AWESOME” SUCCESS

Now, I didn’t get an official press release on how the convention did, but I did get the chance to talk with some of the staff who appeared to know what they were talking about.

Last year, the first time it was held in DC, they reportedly attracted about 7,000 attendees, which is really good for things in this area.

Then, it seems the leaders of Awesome Con DC got a great idea – they set up a Kickstarter fund-raiser, and they much more than met their stated goal, which helped them make 2014 even more “awesome.”

Instead of 7,000 folks going, this time they had an attendance more than three times last year – estimated at over 20,000! Now THAT’s a success story!

THE GUESTS WERE A BIG DRAW

Granted, I go to these conventions for the comics because I want to touch base with folks I want to interview for future episodes of my Wayne’s Comics podcast. Since I don’t in any way want autographs or photos of myself with stars (I’d break the camera if I did that.), I often don’t care much about the media guests – people from TV shows and movies.

But because of this year’s influx of cash, Awesome Con DC attracted some real star power that impressed even me! Billie Piper from Doctor Who, Danai Gurira from The Walking Dead, Sean Astin from The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, and Ron Glass from Firefly, among others. I know a LOT of sci-fi fans who said the con had developed creds with them just for the guest list!

It should be noted that some of the guests, including Phil Lamarr and Melissa McBride, were recently at another con not far from DC which shall remain unnamed. That event drew about 3,000 people, and still those folks had long lines at Awesome Con DC even though they’d been in the region not long ago.

The comics folks were pretty good, with some people I hadn’t had the chance to talk with previously, including Jonathan Luna (Alex + Ada), Steve Conley (Bloop), Justin Jordan (Green Lantern: New Guardians) and some folks from Action Lab, an organization I’m getting more and more interested in. I got to briefly chat with George Perez, my all-time very favorite artist, JK Woodward from Star Trek/Doctor Who, and Joe Harris from The X-Files.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A CON IS A BIG SUCCESS?

Awesome Con DC, Justin Jordan, Kickstarter, Steve Conley, Billie Piper, Doctor Who, Green Lantern, Joe Harris, The X-Files, George PerezAll the signs I’ve come to recognize when a convention is doing extremely well were present this weekend at Awesome Con DC.

For blocks around the convention center, people were walking in costumes or comics-related shirts. They were like living ads, drawing more people in every hour. And that seemed to literally be happening, people coming and going during every hour the event was open.

Certain parts of the main floor were crowded, with lots of people stopping occasionally to peruse the wares of various dealers, artists and such. (Luckily, I discovered that around the far edges were spaces I could walk in to bypass the great many folks around. Gotta remember that for next year!)

And I know this will sound selfish, but I forgot to print out the email acknowledging that I was able to receive a press pass. When I got there, they couldn’t find my name on the list. I was very worried because when that’s happened at other cons, I’ve had to make my case to get a pass, which can take a lot of valuable time away from my schedule. Instead, the guy there wrote my name and podcast down, then handed me my pass! He’s now my new best friend!

SUGGESTIONS FOR 2015

Last year, the word of mouth about Awesome Con DC was so great I heard about it a lot. After this year? Expect that attendance will continue to grow, perhaps by the same percentage!

There were a lot of families who said this was their very first convention experience ever! I saw several of the folks I spoke with later in the day, and they were beaming!

It’s expected that growth can happen unevenly. According to Ben, the president of Awesome Conventions, the organization behind the events, there was quite a back-up early Saturday because, get this, 15,000 people showed up at the same time! I don’t know many cons able to handle that size crowd at one time. And the computers didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, either! Still, they did their best, and there were some complaints, but they’ll do better next year, I’m sure.

Of course, as a comics guy, I’d love to see more “name” creators there in 2015. I mean, they had a great gathering of comics pros to interact with, but I’m always on the prowl to meet big talents in the industry for my podcast. Still, I did get to meet several new people, so Awesome Con DC did a great job attracting who they did. Just a thought, folks, just a thought!

I wonder at times if conventions might be on their way out. After all, we can talk with many of the folks we like best via their websites or on Facebook or Twitter. After this event, I think there’s still a lot of life in the convention experience!

Next year, Awesome Con DC will be held on Memorial Day weekend, May 29-31, 2015. I actually think that will be a great time to hold it since many of us in the DC area are looking for things to do on long weekends like that, although I understand that may not have been the organizers’ first choice.

To check out this event’s website, go to this link: http://awesomecondc.com/. To read Ben’s thank-you to everyone, go to this link: http://awesomecondc.com/thanks-for-coming-2014/. And if you’re in the region, I recommend you mark your calendars so you can attend in 2015!