Dragon*Con – A "Choose Your Own Adventure"

Trent Pitt writes from Dragon*Con for Bleeding Cool;

Cons generally aim towards a specific genre of fandom. They tend to focus on comics, gaming, anime, celebrities, etc. There are bigger cons that overlap two or more of the segments. There will be minor variations to an attendee's individual experience but generally everyone attends the same type of con. This isn't true at Dragon Con. Dragon Con is the "choose your own con".

The variety of tracks, programming, guests and events taking place every Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, GA allows every con goer to have a truly unique experience. Attendees of Dragon Con may turn the con into an animation con or a gaming con. The con goers may choose to make the four days of Dragon Con into a four day British Sci-fi con. Those making the trek to Dragon Con may spend four days cosplaying and never realize that Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, and Jimmy Palmiotti are seated at joining tables in a basement level of one of the 5 host hotels.

The path of the comic fan at Dragon Con often feels like a secret path that no one knows about. Like a bigger busy freeway has opened up and left a beautiful scenic drive forgotten. Aspen Comics sets up a booth. George Perez, Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Mark Brooks, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Peter David are all present on the secret little path. Each comic legend takes time to interact and talk with fans. Peter David is feeling good, working on his next Marvel project but can't talk about it yet. Darwyn Cooke does quick sketches in hardcovers.

A cosplayer complains about visiting the secret world of comic creators and how packed it is. Last year she waited 10 minutes to meet J. Scott Campbell. Darwyn Cooke is there now, but how long will his line be? (I never saw it reach more than 10 people)

Choose the comic con at Dragon Con and it might be your best shot at getting a George Perez sketch with wait times reported around 15 minutes and costing $40.

That's just a small corner in the sprawling Dragon Con multiverse. Your Dragon Con badge could have been invented by Quinn Mallory for all the worlds it allows you to visit.

This year there were rumors flying around the con that a Warrior Princess turned Cylon was seeking to catch a glimpse of the furry world.

A dance party breaks out on the sidewalk in front of the Marriott. Cosplayers dance. Atlanta residents dance. College football fans dance. Slade Wilson watches and snaps a picture.


Dragon Con has gained a reputation as a cosplay con. It's also gained a reputation as a con with ample "adult" entertainment. Both of those cons exist at Dragon Con. That's not how Dragon Con should be defined any more than it should be defined as a puppetry con. It all exists there simultaneously.

Dragon Con is a business. Its purpose is to generate a profit for its owners. As such it behooves the con to appeal to as many customers as possible. Maybe the variety of offerings is rooted somewhere in that desire to each a broad customer base. If that is the case then that root is watered and fed by the creativity of the presenters, volunteers, and attendees.

The creative spirit is most evident in the thousands of cosplayers who attend. At night a constantly churning river of humanity flows through the hotel lobbies. Get caught up in the stream and allow it take you somewhere you've never been like the Last Party on Alderaan. Stand on the side of the river and watch the currents and you'll see characters you recognize come to life. Captain America, Captain Kirk, Captain Jack Harkness, Captain Jack Sparrow. They are joined by ripples that seem like they should be familiar Female Doctors, World Champion Deadpool, and a Male Kate Bishop.

The creativity subtly presents itself in the programming offered by the con. This is where you are allowed to "choose your own adventure". Over 40 different fan tracks are offered at the con. You can spend 4 days hitting all the programming for one track or split it up among a few tracks. Sample a few new things, mix in some old favorites and by the time you leave you'll have walked a unique path through the crowded skywalks.

DragonCon TV is available in the host hotels. DCTV rebroadcasts panels from the con, plays fan made films, and music videos. Panel rooms fill up and the parade's pretty early for some who's been up all night, so bringing the con into your hotel room allows you to cram in as much con as possible. The DCTV option also allows you to host some people you met on the Craigslist personals while you catch the John Barrowman panel. It's a great tool, but it's still not enough. Every adventure you choose eventually has to reach its end.

The only thing set in stone at Dragon Con is that there are too many things to do in four days. Like Quinn Mallory our time much more limited than our options of worlds to visit. Come on though, who doesn't have 15 minutes for Perez sketch?

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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