I can only hope writing this is a touch less exhausting than Dragon Con was this year. But it was worth EVERY BIT OF IT.
Here's the thing, I wasn't going to go to Dragon Con this year. When I decided to go to NYC in May, I figured that would exhaust my fun funds for the rest of the year and that I'd have to miss Heroes Con in June and then Dragon Con. Well, I missed Heroes but as spring turned into summer, I started to think I might be able to swing Dragon Con but I was kind of holding off to see who they'd have as guests and, honestly, wasn't sure I wanted to run the gauntlet that Dragon Con can be again. It's a BIG show.
Then they added Julie Benz, Darla from "Buffy" and "Angel" who's done all sorts of TV to the guest list. I'd met Julie before (see previous Dragon Con posts) but, you know, it's not like I couldn't meet her again.
Then they added Amy Acker. She doesn't do a lot of cons. She was Fred on 'Angel.' SHE WAS IN "THE CABIN IN THE WOODS."
I called my buddy Shane - "I think I can do Dragon Con." Shane helps run an exhibit called The Armory and loves anyone who's insane enough to help out, so he supported my decision. Besides, Shane and I always support one another's rash and often expensive ideas when it comes to fandom.
Then they added Katie Cassidy, who most people know from the "Arrow" TV show but to me is the star of the "Black Christmas" remake and the good part of the "Nightmare On Elm Street" remake. I'm a BIG fan. I'd just missed a chance to miss her at Motor City Comicon. I wasn't missing this one!
So I made my plans to go to Dragon Con again.
Where to start ... well, at the beginning, which means, at The Vortex in Atlanta. Once you get done reading this assuredly long but awesome recap I'm writing, bop over to The Vortex's website (http://www.thevortexbarandgrill.com/) and check the place out. The food is insanely decadent and the place has a really loose and irreverent attitude. In fact, the one picture I took there I'm pretty sure Facebook would delete on my behalf, but you can find it on Twitter, where pictures of giant fake cock statues are perfectly acceptable.
Shane, our friend Nick and I spend most of our time on Twitter talking about The Vortex's patented Nacho Tots - nachos with tater tots instead of chips. There are times during the cold Ohio winter, that the late summer promise of Nacho Tots are all that get us through. When we get to Atlanta for Dragon Con, we IMMEDIATELY to go to The Vortex and order Nacho Tots. This year was no exception. And they were heavenly. We were also joined by the Cranboyz' namesake himself, The Cran!
My sandwich was called the Zombie Apocalypse. It was two burger patties, pulled pork, two over easy eggs and BBQ sauce open-faced on a bun. I pretty much could have gotten back on the plane and gone home satisfied after eating that meal, but we did decide to stick it out for the rest of the con.
Wednesday and Thursday (and some of Friday) were spent setting up The Armory, an exhibit of weapons, from ancient spears to the most modern guns, that's been at Dragon Con the past five years now, run by Kevin Dockery. Look, anyone who's set up a travelling exhibit knows set-up and tear down run the gamut of 'oh, this isn't so bad' to 'WHY DO YOU HATE ME SO MUCH, GOD' often in the same minute. It's a lot of work and it can be frustrating, but everyone hung tough and we got it done without any major disasters or blow-ups. Sure, people got cranky here and there but it passed and no one held onto it. You have to blow off steam sometimes.
Oh, and 'a member of the Armory staff' may have hit one of the sprinklers inside the parking garage causing a mini-flood. I don't want to say who it was, but for some reason we called the puddle 'Lake Cran.'
Another part of our responsibilities is we have to work two shifts inside the exhibit, assisting patrons and making sure no one accidentally beheads themself on a spear. Nick and I decided to work both our shifts on Friday so we could do the show the rest of the weekend. A good idea -- but working two shifts is 10 hours in a row, and 10 hours in a row on the day where we were in the exhibit a couple hours early finishing set-up. It was a long day, but it was fine. The exhibit is fun. We were aided and ebedded this year by a group called USA Knights, a group that does what they call 'MMA in armor.' Basically they get together with huge groups of people from all over the world and do medieval battles. "Like Medieval Times," you might ask. No. These are SHOOT FIGHTS. They're REAL. No, they don't stab one another and there are a couple places they can't hit one another (back of the knees and the throat basically) but the punches are not pulled and the goal is to KO the opponents. They use historically accurate weapons, armor and strategy. They ran some of the panel discussions in The Armory, too, which were great. They know their stuff and they got a great reaction from The Armory crowd. They were also really great people to have in the room for the weekend.
But after the exhibit closed on Friday, I was free to wander Dragon Con until Sunday night, when we did tear down.
Friday night, me, Shane, Nick and our friend Kaz walked the hotel lobbies - which at Dragon Con is something of an Olympic sport. There are 60,000 or so attendees at Dragon Con and over half of them cosplay for the weekend. Friday night we just went around and took pictures of people, most of which are posted here. There are a LOT of amazing costumes and the great thing about Dragon Con is you can cosplay as ANYTHING and people love it. It's not just super heroes or fantasy or sci fi, there are people dressed as characters from kids' shows, from books, from any movie imaginable, Disney characters - there were 3 guys dressed like Kurt Russell characters, one as Snake Plisskin, one as Jack Burton and one as CAPTAIN RON. They were having a good time. The only downside to the night was that when you cram a big chunk of 60,000 people into a couple hotel lobbies, it gets a little tight and a lot hot. After a couple hours, we packed it in.
Saturday my priority was to meet Amy Acker, who, as I mentioned doesn't do a lot of shows and who I figured would have a huge line. Katie Cassidy wasn't showing up until Sunday so I knew I could get her the next day.
I walked into the autograph room when it opened at 10 but Acker wasn't going to get to the show until noon, she'd been filming something the night before and was flying straight to the con. So I started waiting in line with a couple other people, who were nice as can be. Two hours in a con line -- that's NOTHING.
While I was waiting for Acker, Julie Benz came to her table which was right next door. I met her before but when I met her last time she didn't have any pictures from Buffy or Angel, just headshots. This time she had a great picture from Angel so I got that signed and we chatted for a bit about nothing of huge consequence.
As time went on, though, I was really on about five feet from Benz's table and could hear what her fans were saying to her, which was no big deal, until one guy went up to her and, I am not making this up, asked her why her first marriage ended. She was, obviously, a little surprised but handled it fine. When the guy was gone I looked over and asked her if he asked what I thought he asked and she said he had. A few minutes later her line thinned out and we started talking about all the dumb things people say to her, not necessarily malicious things, but things that one probably shouldn't say to someone. For example, Julie has dark hair now, which she dyed for a movie. She said people constantly walk up to her and just say 'oh, I hate your hair like that.' She said she's going to write a book called 'Things You Shouldn't Say To Celebrities At Conventions.' As time went on and more people talked to her, whenever they said something on the list, Julie would look at me and we'd smile. Look, Julie's like the most attractive woman ON EARTH, the fact that we were sharing a moment made this old dude pretty happy.
Acker did show up, although it was later than 12 but, come on, we're on con time, and we had a nice chat about making "Cabin in the Woods" and also about "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," which she'd Tweeted about seeing after the first preview. As most people know, if I can talk to an actor about musicals, I jump at the chance. We also talked a bit about the revival coming up of "You Can't Take It With You" that "Cabin" alum Fran Kranz is part of. She was nice as could be and seemed surprised at her rather lengthy line, which stayed long all weekend.
After I met Acker, I briefly met Emma Caufield, Anya from "Buffy." I'm trying to get as many pictures from Buffy/Angel people as I can as I wander through all these cons. I also met J. August Richards who played Gunn on "Angel." He's about as tall as me, which I didn't realize. He was very cool, too.
Then I went to the front of the room and met Ralph Macchio and C. Thomas Howell. I can't imagine I have to tell many of you who they are. Macchio had the bigger line but they were signing "Outsiders" pictures together, although Macchio obviously has his huge Karate Kid following. Martin Kove who played the mean-spirited head of the Cobra Kai dojo in "Karate Kid" was there too and it was hysterical how many people were cosplaying in full Cobra Kai gear, and he loved every second of it. I posed for a picture with Macchio and Howell and both guys were great, especially Macchio who is just one of those guys who's easy to talk to and tried to engage everyone as much as he could. At one point someone said to him that she worried they were weird for liking "The Outsiders" as much as they did and Macchio told her "you're not weird, this is why we do this stuff, it's great that 30 years later people still want to talk about it." That was a class thing to say.
Ok, Saturday night was big because I was cosplaying for the first time, as Dr. Horrible - from the Whdeon-penned sing-a-long blog that starred Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day. Shane dressed as Grifter from Image Comics "Wild CATS," old school Grifter too, right out of the pages when Jim Lee was on the book. I've done theater, so I wasn't so nervous about being in a costume, but I was a little worried that no one would notice or care. It's not like I'm a gorgeous girl or a buff guy in a cool 'Avengers'-themed super hero outfit, I'm a 41 year-old guy who could lose a couple pounds in a somewhat obscure costume. I got dressed and we headed down the elevator and as soon as the doors opened and we stepped out, within a few seconds someone said 'good to see you Doctor.' That made me feel a little better, then a few seconds later a girl ran up to me and asked for a picture, which was also cool. We basically did the same thing we did Friday night, walk the hotels and look at people in costume, stopping for anyone who asked for pictures. It's not like I was besieged with photo requests, but a decent amount of people did take pictures, there were a lot of high fives and 'Hey, Doctor' or just people yelling 'Dr. Horrible!" and pointing and smiling when I walked past. I even got into a scrap with a corporate tool, Captain Hammer, at one point. People loved Shane's Grifter costume too and we did set out at one point to get a picture of him putting down a Deadpool. There are a million people dressed as Deadpool at Dragon Con and we're old enough to know how lame Deadpool is. The guy we found who Shane 'killed' was a great sport and got into the picture as much as we did. At first Shane just asked for a picture with him and the guy said sure, then Shane said 'the bad news is I want to be shooting you in the head in the picture' and the guy just said 'oh sure' and got on his knees in a really funny pose, begging Grifter not to shoot. Shane was a bit upset that only guys asked for his picture and only girls asked for mine. Story of our lives :)
The whole cosplay experience, I gotta say, was FUN. Everyone supports everyone and enjoys the costumes and the party and the comraderie. The only drawback was the smothering heat of too many bodies in too small a space and wearing a full body suit and rubber gloves didn't exactly help. My goggles kept sliding down my sweaty forehead. Honestly, it was too crowded in one lobby, which made the other lobbies kind of dead. We'd thought we might stay out all night but we were wiped out by midnight. As a first foray into cosplay, it was the best, though. Just sweaty.
Sunday the priority was finally meeting Katie Cassidy. I got inside the room at 10 but they weren't even letting people line up for her until 10:45, so I promptly walked across the aisle and waited there (if you see the 'restraining order' picture Shane took, that's when it was taken.) When we finally got the line started I got into Cranboy Con Mode and started directing traffic and organizing the line. It's what we do. Katie got to the show a bit after 11 and, like Acker, had been shooting scenes (in VANCOUVER) the night before and had come to the con. She was very sweet but did seem pretty worn out. We talked a bit about the "Black Christmas" remake that not a lot of people like and she was really happy when I told her I was looking forward to a new indie horror movie she has coming out called "Scribbler."
Shane wanted to meet actor Stephen Collins and get his "Tales From the Gold Monkey" book signed so I went over while he did that. As he was waiting I said I was going to go bug Benz again. I walked over when Julie didn't have a crowd and asked if she'd gotten anymore weird questions and she laughed and told a friend sitting next to her that I was the guy who was next to her the day before and heard all the crazy questions she got asked. Yes, this means Julie Benz told someone a story about me and, yes, I plan to have that put on my gravestone. From there though we had a pretty interesting talk about actresses in Hollywood, about how they're perceived, the pressures of looking young but, at the same time, being criticized for getting work done to keep looking young and things of that nature. She certainly made me realize that telling someone 'you look good for your age' is kind of a dick move (seriously, don't say that.) I'm under no delusions that if I ever see Julie again that she'll have any clue who I am but, you know, as a fan, it was pretty cool to have two memorable moments with her.
The next thing I had to do Sunday was get my professional photos taken with Acker, Benz and Cassidy. I had to go find where the pictures were taken and when I got down there I realized it was quiet and that there was room to sit on the floor, with a water cooler right there. In other words, for a comicon it was Nirvana, and I sat down for about two hours and uploaded pictures, drank water and talked to people who were also hanging around waiting for their photo ops (including one lady who looked and sounded just like my late Aunt Margaret, which was bittersweet, she was kind as can be but it made me miss my aunt, which was a random thing to have happen at a con.)
Late Sunday is also when Adam Baldwin of "Angel," "Firefly" and currently on "The Last Ship" popped by The Armory and was very generous with his time, playing around with the crew. He likes to play with big guns and has been at The Armory two years in a row now. Lou Ferrigno came down this year 3 days in a row and Peter Weller also came by (but I missed those guys.)
Sunday night we started tear down of The Armory before calling it a night. The USA Knights stuck around to help with tear down and came back the next morning for as long as they could to help us breakdown the walls and stage lumber for load out. This was incredibly cool of them, way beyond the call of duty. The plan seems to be for The Armory the the Knights to keep working together in the future, hopefully that's the case. They're some really stand-up people. (Check out their website http://usaknights.org/ if you get a minute.)
There's always one night at Dragon Con where The Armory staff gets back to the room and just gets silly. That was Sunday night. We sat on our beds and laughed uproariously about the weirdest and most random stuff. At one point we all googled ourselves to try and find the most ridiculous story about someone with our name, which I won (there's a John Popa who is a former pro wrestler who went to jail for mislabeling fish.)
Monday was all tear down. As tear downs go, it was smooth. We got everything torn apart (keep in mind we build The Armory from the walls up) and loaded pretty quickly, then got everything over to the storage facility, where we loaded everything from the truck into storage. Oh, there was one drawback for this part - it was 97 degrees. In Atlanta. In Summer. We had a case of water bottles but everyone was still sweating out. It was just miserable but everyone pushed through. Cran went into his Buddha pose. We got it done, though, and, by dinner time, The Armory was torn down and put away and we gave ourselves a round of applause, then headed off for the now annual post-Armory BBQ at our friend Lamar's house, all the food prepared by another friend Fred's wife.
The BBQ was great and we even had alligator (because why not eat dragon after Dragon Con?) We all cooled down, talked a bit, laughed, Kevin Dockery, the head of The Armory thanked everyone and we gave ourselves another round of applause. Hey, we worked our tails off, we deserved some applause!
It's tough to put into words (no matter how many I write) but in terms of interacting with people - fans and celebrities alike - this was the best con I've ever been to. No matter who I was stuck with in line, there weren't any dicks, everyone was nice, everyone was just talking about whatever and I bumped into a lot of line partners later in the show and chatted some more. And the celebrities I talked to were also all great, no divas, no one thinking they were too good for the room. Believe me, Amy Acker and Katie Cassidy were TIRED, they easily could have cancelled, but they made the show and they made you happy you took the time to come talk to them for a couple minutes.
The sad part is I probably left out a ton of stories. Granted, a lot of them involve Nick's toxic ass gas. Still, a lot happens at Dragon Con. You should totally go next year. Just don't plan on sleeping much. But you'll laugh. Believe me, you'll laugh. At least if you're with us :)
Oh, and at the end of it all, I got home with exactly one dollar in my pocket.
Oh, and at the end of it all, I got home with exactly one dollar in my pocket.