Overheard on an Atlanta street corner:
“Look at that person with blue hair.”
“No, over there.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Cool, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. What other place can you say, ‘No, the other person with blue hair.”
The “place,” of course, was DragonCon. September 2-5. I have been for the last six years, but this year was special: the 30th anniversary. It started in two downtown hotels, Hyatt and Marriott. The Hilton was added later, then the Sheraton and Westin. When five hotels were not enough space, the vendors were moved into the AmericasMart, a four-building, seven-million-square-foot trade show monolith. This year, AmericasMart became the new home of two other DragonCon mainstays, tabletop gaming (formerly in the Hilton) and Comic and Pop Artist Alley (neé the Hyatt)—evidence that DragonCon, despite its venerability, is still figuring things out. Perhaps that is how it became venerable: refusing to be complacent.
And more growth is on the way. Some programming was held on Thursday this year, and according to media director Dan Carroll, we will see Thursday “full-time real soon.” My colleague Michaela McPherson has written about shifts in the Saturday morning parade. This was the inaugural year for the Dragon Awards, a fan-driven awards program to “recognize the creators of science fiction and fantasy in books, comic books, games and filmed entertainment,” according to a press release. (Awards results are located here.) Attendance grew this year as it does every year, with over 77,000 showing up–and, in some cases, suiting up–for the weekend. These attendees walked (Walk to End Lupus Now), gave blood (about 6,000 units), raised money ($98,000 for the Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency through auctions, karaoke, a lip-synch battle, and other events), and enjoyed the 400+ actors, artists, writers, and other guests who formed the convention’s foundation.
I was excited about one guest I had never seen at DragonCon, or any convention: Christopher Paolini, author of the four-volume Inheritance Cycle. Paolini wrote the first volume, Eragon, the story of a farm boy who protects a dragon egg from an evil king, when he was a teenager. His parents self-published the book, and for a year, Paolini promoted it himself at libraries, book shows, and other events. In 2002, the book came to the attention of the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, which re-released the book a year later. This led to three other books, the last one appearing in 2011.
On Friday night, Paolini was one of several panelists for a discussion of self-publishing. The other panelists were freelance writer/editor Jaym Gates, editor Dayna Linton, Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf, writer Chris Kennedy, and Todd McCaffrey, son of Anne McCaffrey and custodian of her Pern universe, to which he has contributed several volumes. Some highlights from the panel:
- McCaffrey: The biggest mistake in self-publishing is to “think you can do everything yourself.”
- Eragon was a family project. Paolini’s father, who had press experience, designed the book. Paolini drew the cover and the maps. They borrowed money to finance the printing (the first 50 copies were cut wrong). He dressed in medieval costume and made presentations to schools, libraries, and bookstores. Sold maybe 15 books at a time. Two chain bookstores rejected him, saying the novel was “not commercially viable.”
- Gates: “Readers and writers have different ideas of what works.” This led to a vigorous discussion of the value of editing. It’s the biggest difference between professional publishing and self-publishing (a view echoed by this Slate article). Writers know their own story, but editors are storehouses of stories. They understand the market, and what will appeal to readers. Thus, they can guide the author, helping to bring out his/her voice. As Gates said, “it is the editor’s job to help the writer say what he/she wants to say in the best way.”
- Paolini was skeptical of the wisdom of a beginning writer paying for editorial services, but the other panelists–I won’t say they shouted him down, but they were unified in saying that it would be money well spent. Paolini did agree on the worth of an editor, saying an editor “can fix bad writing. They can’t fix a bad story.” Bottom line: the author has a job, and the editor has a job. Good books result when each person does their job.
- McCaffrey talked about “hybrid authors”–authors who write for traditional publishers and do some self-publishing. Here is a good discussion of this type of writer. The panel agreed that the hybrid approach is the best, blending the advantages of self-publishing (speed; flexibility; more profit per sale) with the comfort of traditional publishing (editorial, design, and marketing services; bulk sales; multi-book deals; advances against royalties). More authors are taking this approach, which is new in the history of publishing. According to Weisskopf, the “received wisdom” used to be that, if you self-publish, you’ve “tainted the waters and will never get a traditional contract.” The panel agreed that this is no longer the case.
- On traditional contracts: beware the predators. Gates brought up two blog posts by John Scalzi (here and here), who has always been an advocate of authorial self-interest, about Hydra, an imprint of Random House with shockingly bad contract terms. The panel’s message: don’t be so desperate to publish that you’ll sign anything.
All the growth in DragonCon has brought some irritation. At 2:30 on Friday afternoon, the vendor room in the AmericasMart reached capacity and was shut down. I have never experienced that at a convention (I read about it happening a couple of years ago at the Rhode Island Comic-Con). The room was open an hour or so later, I think–I didn’t wait around to find out–so it wasn’t a disastrous inconvenience. But I did find myself wondering, is there no building in Atlanta large enough to handle DragonCon?
The lines in the hotels were certainly longer than ever. I waited nearly two hours to buy Saturday-only badges for members of my party. (It is useless to buy these in advance because DragonCon mails you a card that you have to redeem on-site for a badge.) There may be no space to do this, but I would love to see registration expanded. Or split into two buildings. Why do one-day badges have to be claimed on site? Why can’t they be mailed? One thing is for sure: a single ballroom in the basement of the Sheraton is inadequate for the thousands upon thousands of people who opt for one-day badges.
DragonCon is a study in lines. Walking around the sidewalks, you’ll often see a line with no discernible beginning snaking into an unmarked side door. It’s like a speakeasy line. If you ask someone what they’re waiting for, they respond without confusion, but what if they’re wrong? What if the real purpose of the queue has been miscommunicated all the way down, so that someone who thinks they’re waiting for William Shatner’s photo op is actually in line for the blood bank?
It isn’t that hard to form a line, after all. My wife and I did it for Chris Paolini’s Sunday autograph session, which was scheduled for 2:30. Jim Butcher had started signing in the same room at 1:00. His line was capped at 1:30, and we knew that people looking for Paolini would start showing up soon. So we stood a few feet behind the last person for Jim Butcher and declared it the Start of the Line. Within minutes, a hundred people were standing behind us, and when a DragonCon staffer came along and legitimized us, I felt like Saul Alinsky.
If you have never been to DragonCon, you need to go. It is not the largest convention in the U.S., but it is unique, being spread across five Atlanta hotels. I have often wondered why it doesn’t move to the Georgia International Convention Center or the Georgia World Congress Center. It may need to, especially when attendance reaches 100,000, as I believe it will. But I hope DragonCon doesn’t move. I love the atmosphere of hotel-based conventions. There are other hotels in downtown Atlanta, and maybe DragonCon will incorporate those. Whatever happens, I look forward to many more years of attending this convention, which was my first and will always be one of the best.
Cinderella, Wonder Woman, and an assassin walked into a bar. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Actually, it was the first day of DragonCon 2016.
DragonCon is one of the largest conventions in the Southeast. This was my third year, but my first as a journalist. Even as a veteran convention goer, you really never know what to expect, especially for a place such as this. With over 75,000 attendees, it’s hard to find the same cosplayer twice, and it’s easy to lose your companions, like the Doctor loses Rose in every episode.
This is especially true of the Saturday morning parade. Several streets in downtown Atlanta are blocked off, and the sidewalks are covered in Disney Princesses, Deadpools, and Batmans (Batmen?) all converging together. It’s one of the few places you can see the Punisher pull Bullseye out of the street to prevent him from being run over by Doc Brown’s DeLorean. Until recently, people could register to be in the parade up until the day before. It has grown so popular, however, that last year registration for the 3,200 slots closed in August. This year, registration closed on March 1st. Also, for the first time, the parade was broadcasted on the CW Network. One of the best things about this parade is the fact that they have a specific place for just the Deadpools to roam, and it’s certainly one of the most popular cosplays done in any convention I have been to.
And then of course, due to the new movie that came out recently, Suicide Squad, my colleague, Anthony Aycock, and I were curious to see just how many Harley Quinns and Jokers there were, but only from that movie. We counted a total of ninety-one Margot Robbie Harley Quinns and nineteen Jared Leto Jokers. Most of the Harleys were in her usual outfit, complete with the shirt that says “Daddy’s Lil’ Monster,” but we noticed some variations. One Harley was wearing the prison uniform from the beginning of the movie, a few were wearing the “stripper” Harley outfit, and then there were a couple that had dressed as Harleen Quinzel, the pre-Harley Quinn – long white lab coat, no nonsense blond bun, and leading a prisoner Joker with a makeshift leash. I also saw one Charlie Quinn, a male Harley with “Mommy’s Lil’ Monster” scrawled on his pecs. I suppose one reason that there were more Harleys than Jokers is because most people seemed to have had a distaste for Leto’s portrayal of him. It might be because I was a fan of 30 Seconds to Mars far before the movie was even thought of, but I actually quite enjoyed it. One criticism I have though is that we didn’t see much into the abusive relationship, and now most couples who are unfamiliar with the characters are thinking “OMG hashtag relationship goals!”
One of the most popular areas of DragonCon is the Walk of Fame, which is overflowing with beloved actors of the traditional and voice kind. A few of my favorites were Carlos Valdes (Cisco from the CW TV show The Flash), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy, Commander Zhao, and Captain Hook), Nolan North (voice of Deadpool in the Deadpool video game, Nathan Drake from Uncharted, and Desmond Miles from the Assassin’s Creed series), and of course William Shatner (you already know who this is).
We stood in line for Nolan North (who was tardy to the party), and ended up talking to his agent for a while. She told us that voice actors usually make around $900 per four hours of work plus residuals (i.e., they get paid each time the episode they were in is broadcast). Anime voice actors make a lot less, roughly $65 per hour. Most conventions guarantee their celebrities a certain amount of money. For example Lana Parrilla of Once Upon a Time gets $10,000 per convention. If her autograph sales fall short of that, the convention makes up the difference. DragonCon, however, does not make guarantees like that. Not even for ol’ Bill Shatner. I found this fascinating, especially how undervalued anime voice actors are. I expect that to change, however, as anime becomes more mainstream.
Finally, Nolan arrived, and I managed to speak to him as he was signing a Deadpool Pop figure for me (I am not a nerd, I swear). Interviews are not allowed in the Walk of Fame, but I wanted to ask him a couple of questions out of my own curiosity. He was so friendly and engaging that it might as well have been an interview.
My first question was what he thought of Ryan Reynolds stealing the spotlight for Deadpool. He said, “There is no spotlight. Ryan does a terrific job, but I do have an idea for a cameo for the next movie. Deadpool is chasing someone, fires a gun, blows a hole in the wall, and behind the wall, I’m standing there wearing headphones, recording Deadpool’s voice for a video game. And Ryan looks at me and says, ‘You sound nothing like me’ and shoots me.” Nolan went on to say how funny Ryan is on Twitter, and I second that since I stalk him too.
My second question was how Nolan felt about the Assassin’s Creed movie coming out in December. He replied, “I’m a big fan of Michael Fassbender [co-producer and star of the movie]. What I like about it is that it will be an original take on the story. It won’t just be the game translated into the movie. The game is the inspiration for a unique movie.”
I stood there with Nolan so long that his agent started clearing her throat—thank goodness I didn’t have a third question—but it was interesting getting his perspective. As a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, I was a bit tentative to see the movie, but after hearing Mister Desmond Miles himself praise it, I have a bit more hope for how it will turn out. Oh, and when I got his autograph on Friday, it was only $20, but two days later, he was charging $40. Way to up your game, North.
Are you thinking about going to DragonCon? Here are five morsels of advice:
- Bring all the money you have plus what you can bum from your parents and what you can earn by selling a kidney. I’m not saying stuff is overpriced; you’ll just want to buy it all.
- Prepare to stand in line for an hour and a half, feet tired, arms dragging the floor, just to be told to come back later after the actor’s friggin’ panel (I’m looking at you, Carlos Valdes).
- The hotels in downtown Atlanta fill up fast, but don’t worry: you can stay outside the city and just take the MARTA in. It’s quick and cheap. But don’t let the homeless guys take your money—you need it for the autographs and the plushies and the posters and . . . you get the idea.
- Prepare to walk. I know a lot of you like to wear heels everywhere. Don’t. You will not be able to feel anything beyond the blisters that will begin to appear after just the first day.
- Have fun, but not so much it’ll land you in Erewhon.
Now have a look at these pix from DragonCon 2016 . . .
April 5, 2016 by Colin Solan
Filed under Animation, Anime, Comic Books, Convention News, Cosplay, Georgia, Horror, Manga, Movies, Other, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Television, Video Games, Webcomics
Dragon Con, Inc., parent company of the internationally known Dragon Con pop culture convention, and MomoCon LLC, parent of the fastest growing all ages fan convention in the country, have formed an unprecedented strategic partnership to share resources, knowledge and experience to ensure that Atlanta continues to have the strongest fan conventions in the country.
Importantly, Dragon Con, Inc. will provide MomoCon with back office and administrative support while the current MomoCon leadership, including founders Chris Stuckey and Jessica Merriman, will continue to organize the convention and serve as its co-chairs. Stuckey and Merriman will also take expanded roles with Dragon Con, Inc. and the Dragon Con convention.
Founded in 2005, MomoCon began as an outgrowth of Georgia Tech’s anime club. Its first convention attracted about 700 people to a free event on the school’s campus. Ten years later, MomoCon attracted some 22,000 total attendees (more than 60,000 at the turnstile) to a four-day convention held in the Georgia World Congress Center.
“In today’s competitive convention landscape, having Dragon Con and its founder Pat Henry on our side is an incredible advantage,” Stuckey said. “This partnership gives Jess and I the ability to pursue our vision for MomoCon while continuing to provide our fans with the high quality event they expect from us year after year.”
“We believe deeply in home-grown, well-run fan conventions that bring real value to the community,” said Henry, who was one of several Dragon Con founders in 1986 and serves as the company’s president today. “I am excited to be working with these two enormously creative entrepreneurs. I believe that their leadership will also help keep Dragon Con on the cutting edge of the convention scene.”
MomoCon 2016, which brings together fans of Japanese anime, American animation, comics and gaming, will be held May 26 through May 29 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Dragon Con will celebrate its 30th year as the internationally known pop culture, sci fi, fantasy and gaming convention on Labor Day, September 2 through September 5 at five host hotels and the AmericasMart in downtown Atlanta. More than 70,000 people from every state in the union plus a few foreign countries attended Dragon Con in 2015.
About Dragon Con
Dragon Con is the internationally known pop culture convention held each Labor Day in Atlanta. Organized for fans by fans, Dragon Con features more than about 3,000 hours of comics, film, television, costuming, art, music and gaming over four days. For more information, please visit www.dragoncon.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Founded in 2004 by Jessica Merriman and Chris Stuckey, then students at Georgia Tech, MomoCon has grown from a 700 person on campus event to one of the largest conventions in the southeast United States for fans of video games, animation, cosplay, comics and tabletop games. More information about MomoCon is available at www.momocon.com.
Comments Off on Dragon*Con Ownership Reorganizes as Dragon Con, Inc.
DRAGON CON, INC. REPLACES DRAGON CON / ACE, INC.
Dragon Con will Continue the Agreements With Hotels, Guests and Performers.
ATLANTA – July 8, 2013 – The Board of Directors and Shareholders of Dragon Con / ACE, Inc., producer of Dragon*Con, Atlanta’s internationally known pop culture, fantasy and sci-fi convention, have agreed to merge the company into Dragon Con, Inc. (Dragon Con) in a cash-out merger.
Led by Pat Henry, David Cody and Robert Dennis, ownership of Dragon Con includes five of the six founding owners of Dragon Con / ACE (the old Dragon Con). The effective date of the merger is July 8, 2013.
Edward Kramer, who has not had any role in managing or organizing the convention since 2000, was offered cash for his shares in the old company. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“This decision only affects the ownership of the old Dragon Con,” said Pat Henry, President and Chief Executive Officer of Dragon Con. “Our members and others who attend Dragon*Con 2013 will experience the same fantastic convention they have come to expect from us.”
Dragon Con will continue the agreements with each of the host and overflow hotels associated with the convention as well as all of the guests and performers scheduled to appear at this year’s event, either “as is” or with amendments recognizing Dragon Con as owner.
Dragon*Con is the largest pop culture convention featuring comics, film, television, costuming, art, music, and gaming. Held each Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Dragon*Con attracted more than 52,000 attendees in 2012. For more information, please visit www.dragoncon.org.
Comments Off on Scene on the Web Weekly: February 4-10, 2013
Cobra is recruiting, a congressman is going to SDCC, and you can make your own bat signal! All this and more for the week so far.
Comments Off on Scene on the Web Weekly: January 28 – February 3, 2013
Win VIP tickets to Emerald City Comicon, find out why Nancy A. Collins has called for a boycott of Dragon*Con, and check out reports from the Amazing Arizona Comic Con.
Comments Off on Scene on the Web: Dragon*Con 2012
Keep checking back for more updates!
The Atlanta area art collectors are once again thrilled to bring a stellar display of comic and fantasy art your way at Dragon*Con 2012. This year our theme is the art of science fiction in books, magazines, comic strips, and comic books and we have a vast array of work from across all four mediums from the likes of Jeffrey Jones, Roy Krenkel, John Berkey, Gil Kane, Kelly Freas, Tim Truman, Frank Frazetta, Al McWilliams, Al Williamson, and many many more. The gallery will be set up in artists alley all day in Grand Hall East of the Hyatt Regency on Saturday September 1, 2012 and it’s a great opportunity for original art collectors to meet, greet, and see some great art!
Comments Off on Her Universe Brings Geek Chic to Dragon*Con 2011
HER UNIVERSE FOUNDER ASHLEY ECKSTEIN BRINGS GEEK CHIC TO DRAGON*CON
ATLANTA, GA, August 23, 2011 — Almost half of all sci fi fans (and Dragon*Con attendees) are women, and they’re just as eager as the guys to show their devotion to their favorites. Actress and entrepreneur Ashley Eckstein, who provides the voice of Ahsoka Tano in the hit animated series, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” has met the challenge with her new “geek chic” clothing line, Her Universe (www.heruniverse.com). Ashley will be offering her new line of female-focused apparel and accessories (including “Star Wars” and “Battlestar Galactica” convention exclusives), and meet the fans, at this year’s Dragon*Con.
Married to former Major League Baseball player, two-time World Series Champion and World Series MVP, David Eckstein, Ashley grew frustrated with the lack of merchandise made for the growing number of female Sci-Fi fans. When she couldn’t find Star Wars clothing for herself, as a fan, she made the decision to create her own line called Her Universe. As someone who always expressed herself through her sense of style, she now shares her love of all things sci fi with other geek girls. Ashley has made it her mission in fighting for the underdog, of spearheading the call to create a place for female fans in a pop culture community typically dominated by men.
Her stylish line of “geek chic” apparel and accessories features fashionable, female–focused products from such powerhouses as the Star Wars brand, and Syfy properties Battlestar Galactica, Warehouse 13 and “Syfy’s Original Movies,” among others. It may be a “man’s world,” but Ashley is quickly proving that there’s more than enough room in Her Universe for everyone.
Dragon*Con is the largest fan-driven science fiction, fantasy and pop culture convention in North America. Celebrating its 25th year, Dragon*Con brings over 40,000 fans to downtown Atlanta each Labor Day weekend to enjoy appearances by celebrity guests, musical performances, panel discussions, costume contests, and more.
Hero Initiative, the non-profit organization that raises money for comic creators in need, is proud to announce its attendance at Dragon*Con over labor day weekend, September 2nd through 5th in Atlanta, Georgia. Hero will be located at Booth #BT23.
Hero’s special guests include world-renown artists Steve Dillon and George Pérez. Dillon is the artist of the critically acclaimed Preacher and Wolverine: Origin. Pérez, the longtime artist of New Teen Titans and Avengers, is also writing the relaunched Superman for DC Comics, which starts in September. Both have generously committed their time to raise money for Hero Initiative at Dragon*Con, so stop by booth BT23 and be the lucky recipient of a sketch or signature while contributing to a wonderful cause.
Captain America writer/artist Karl Kesel will also be at the Hero booth on Sunday. While you are getting a coveted sketch ask our helpful volunteers about becoming a Hero Initiative member! Do It!
Schedule is as follows:
FRIDAY, SEP. 2 (con hours 1-8)
130-330: Steve Dillon
330-530: George Pérez
530-730: Steve Dillon
SATURDAY, SEP. 3 (con hours 10-8)
1030-1230: George Pérez and Roz Friday
1230-230: Steve Dillon
430-630: Steve Dillon
SUNDAY, SEP. 4 (con hours 10-8)
1030-1230: Steve Dillon
1230-230: Karl Kesel
230-430: George Pérez
430-630: Steve Dillon
630-800: George Pérez
MONDAY, SEP. 5 (con hours 10-4)
1030-1230: Steve Dillon
1230-230: George Pérez
About The Hero Initiative
The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterday’s creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. It’s a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment.