But there are several companies who put on conventions around the country, including Wizard World, DragonCon, FanBoy Expo, etc. The one that comes here to Nashville is Wizard World. It's a much smaller convention than San Diego and New York, but still generates a good turnout. My main complaint about it is that the celebrities for Nashville in particular often seem to be "has-beens", for some reason. Other Wizard World cons don't seem to be the same way. Perhaps it's because the Nashville con has only been going on for 3 years.
So what do you do at ComiCon? Well, if you're not in San Diego watching movie trailers and hearing grand announcements, the main activities will be 1. Celebrity panels and workshops, 2. Autographs and photo ops, 3. Exhibits and vendors, and 4. People watching.
First, whatever celebrities are attending the convention will likely hold some kind of panel where they'll chat about their past, present, and future projects, and have a question and answer session. This takes place in a separate meeting room, away from the main exhibit hall. Sometimes there will also be panels hosted by "non-celebrities" who are experts on a particular subject...for instance, we attended a Doctor Who panel two years ago where a few people who were close to the series were discussing and speculating on the 50th anniversary special. There are also usually some workshops available where you can learn about cosplay, comic book writing and drawing, etc.
The celebrities are also available for autographs and photo ops, and sometimes VIP meet and greets. At our con they each have their own booth set up in the exhibit hall where you can line up for autographs, and then a separate booth where they take turns doing photo ops. However, this generally costs an arm and a leg, so we have never participated in this part of ComiCon. Maybe one day, if someone I care enough about to pay $50 to have my picture taken with them shows up...maybe. In the meantime, we just creep on them from a distance while they sit in their booths.
The main physical area of the con is the exhibit hall. This is where you'll find most of the people, so it's a prime opportunity for the last thing on my list, which is actually my favorite - people watching! I've always loved people watching, and when half of those people are in costume it makes it so much better. Of course the costume contest is the best way to see a bunch of costumes all at once, whether you participate or just watch. Anyway, the exhibit hall is home to dozens of booths, mostly vendors selling everything geek you could possibly imagine. We also have rows of artists, some famous and some local, displaying and selling their geek related artwork.
To give you a taste of what the exhibit hall is like, I took a quick video while standing in the middle of it all.
Now that you understand ComiCon a little better, time to share our costumes from this year! Oh, and in case you're BRAND new to all of this, I'll answer another quick question...what on earth is cosplay? Basically, it's a fancy word for geeky adults playing dress up as their favorite characters. And it's FANTASTIC!!
My Arwen Undomiel cosplay
DH's Indiana Jones cosplay
Sugarplum's Arwen Undomiel cosplay
Later on I will have more detailed posts on these looks and how to create them for yourselves.
So now for my general survival guide to ComiCon. A lot of these tips will be geared toward cosplayers, but many can apply to anyone.
1. Plan ahead.
If you are cosplaying, you should start thinking about your costume as soon as possible. Of course I usually start thinking about next year's costume before I've even been to this year's con, but if it's your first time, find out when your con is and then start brainstorming now! The more time you have to make your costume or find all of the pieces you need, the better it's going to turn out.
2. Wear what you want.If you're a seasoned cosplayer who puts a ton of time and attention into your very detailed and accurate costume, great! You'll probably get lots of compliments and people wanting to take your picture. If you're brand new to the whole cosplaying thing and don't really have the time, money, or desire to put a whole lot into it, that's perfectly fine, too. I have seen just as many people wearing off the rack costumes as those with handmade ones. Now, as you go to the bigger conventions, you'll probably see more of the elaborate stuff and may find more people who are persnickety about the "art of cosplay". But hey, I say if you want to cosplay, do it, no matter what it looks like. And finally, if you really aren't into the whole cosplay thing but still want to do ComiCon, that's great, too. I'd say only a quarter to a half of the people at our con are cosplayers. It's just as acceptable to show your geek pride by wearing your favorite Superman or Minecraft or Ninja Turtle t-shirt. Try doing what some people do and pair it with a lightsaber...and a Deadpool mask...and a Jayne Cobb hat. Seriously, I see those people all the time.
3. Double check the schedule.
If other conventions are like ours, they will post a schedule online before the weekend of the event. That's great, but I definitely recommend double checking the schedule once you get there. You may find that everything is exactly the same, but things happen. Celebrities cancel, rooms get switched, etc. For us, this means going to each meeting room where events are supposed to take place and reading the signs outside the doors...don't even trust the brochure that they hand you, because that was printed ahead of time and won't reflect the last-minute changes.
4. Register for the costume contest ASAP.
Most conventions that I've seen have a costume contest sometime over the weekend. At ours, it's at the very end of the day on Saturday. If you want to participate, find out when it's happening and how to register right after you get there. They may or may not advertise it, but it can fill up super quickly. Try asking at the information desk, they will probably have the sign in sheet.
5. Pace yourself.
Our con is a weekend long event. You have the option to go just one day, or up to all 3. We have only ever gone one day, because we get done everything that we want to in one day with no problem. But just that one day completely wipes us out! It's a lot of being on your feet and walking back and forth through a quite large convention center, often in a costume that's not necessarily the most comfortable thing you've ever worn. Thankfully, the panels provide a great excuse to sit and rest a while, and are also prime opportunities for feeding little ones (or yourself!). In between panels, though, I definitely recommend finding other times to sit in a quiet place and catch your breath, most especially if you have children with you. While you're checking the schedule (see tip #3) is likely a great time to scope out quiet corners to come back to later when the kids need a nap, or just a break from all the stimulation, or to hop out of their strollers or carriers and stretch their legs for a bit. Also, don't feel the need to stay the WHOLE day. We like to stay until the very end because of the costume contest, so we don't get there first thing in the morning when it opens. And like I said, we have never had a problem getting everything in (though I'm sure at bigger cons it's harder).
6. Bring your own food.
Some conventions might not allow this. Ours doesn't seem to have a problem with it. And seriously, if you value your budget at all, you really need to bring your own food. If you can't, I would even think that leaving the con for a while to go to a nearby fast food place would be a better option. The food at ComiCon is OUTRAGEOUS.
7. Have a dress rehearsal.
This is one that we didn't do ourselves until this year, but we will be doing from now on. You just never know what might happen the morning of the con if you are trying on your costume in full for the first time. That hairstyle or wig might not be as easy to accomplish as you thought it was going to be, or you might find a small alteration you want to make to your costume. It's a great time to figure out things like shoes and undergarments that are important but can be easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things. Plus, you've worked super hard on this costume (or maybe not, but you love it anyway!) and you need pictures! Don't leave those until the last minute, especially if you're trying to get to ComiCon at a decent hour.
8. If at all possible, wear comfortable shoes.This goes back to tip #4. Some costumes require very specific shoes, and they may not be comfortable. If you're really committed to your costume, there's nothing you can do about that. But if you have the option (such as my Arwen costume where you couldn't see my shoes), wear something comfy that you won't mind standing and walking in all day. If you have to wear heels or something equally uncomfortable, please do yourself a favor and do everything you can to stave off blisters and achy soles. Dr. Scholl's, Band-aids...you get the picture.
9. Seriously consider whether or not to bring a stroller.
Don't get me wrong here, I have brought a stroller the last two years and will probably continue to do so. I know some mamas wear their babies all the time; I personally do a little of both. But at ComiCon, for me, it would be too tiring to wear her all day (see tip #5). Plus, wearing a carrier would cover up the entire top half of my costume. So a stroller can be a good idea. However, I just think I should warn you, pushing a stroller around at ComiCon is a PAIN. There are so many people who are not watching out for a stroller coming through, randomly stopping to look at merchandise or take pictures without paying attention to their surroundings, squished between lots of booths. It's an exercise in patience, that's for sure! But no worse than going to a theme park or something similar.
10. Whatever you use to get ready, take it with you.
Hairspray, gel, bobby pins, safety pins, makeup...no matter what you needed to get ready to go, take some extras with you. Even if you make it through the day with no mishaps to your look, you'll be able to refresh right before the costume contest.
11. Have fun, take pictures, geek out!
Self explanatory. ComiCon is the one time to see so many like-minded geeks gathered together in one place and having a great time celebrating their geekery. Yes, that sentence was ridiculous. So is ComiCon. But it may the most fun ridiculous thing you do all year!
Alright, time to wrap up this super long post. Just a few more pictures of our 2015 ComiCon experience before I go!
Firefly panel with Jewel Staite and Adam Baldwin
Taking a leg-stretching break
Waiting for the costume contest