Atlanta was bursting at the seams with thousands of enthusiastic fans this Labor Day attending the 31st annual Dragon Con. Over 80,000 people, many clad in their favorite characters’ costumes, flooded the Hyatt Regency, Sheraton, Atlanta Hilton, Marriott Marquis and Westin Peachtree Plaza hotels to discuss shared interests.
DragonCon is the blend of all media that could be considered nerd culture. Video games, comics, anime, movies, shows, tabletop gaming and even history itself all have places within the massive convention. For many who live in Georgia or its surrounding states, it is their Comic-Con. “I attended the panel for Janet Varney, the voice actor for Korra,” said Benjamin Barrett, a Norcross High School student. “For every hour there were maybe 20 different things you could be doing at once, and that was surprising to me.”
One of the more popular activities at the convention was meeting some of the most famous celebrities in fiction. Senior Chris Lee said, “Stan Lee was there. I saw him on the Mustang – just being 20 feet away was enough for me!” Stan Lee was by far the most prestigious creator at the event, but many others were adored by their fans. Voice artists in particular enjoy the limelight after many months behind their booths. Some actors including James Urbaniak from Venture Bros, Scott Adsit, the voice of Baymax, various characters from Agents of Shield and several classic Star Trek protagonists to name a few.
That is not the only appeal. For many, it is the souvenirs that really commemorate the experience. Vendors reserved spots months in advance to sell some of the strangest products imaginable to the excited masses. Custom clocks, actual bladed weapons, real leather cosplay straps, the IDs of fictional characters, K-Pop rock band posters, a bizarre arrangement of fezzes (hats), ocarinas (an instrument), incredibly tacky t-shirts with pop culture puns; it is just the tip of the iceberg. The staff behind the convention rented out three floors of a separate hotel specifically for these vendors, one of those floors being reserved for artists. Senior Morgan Biagioni recalled, “It [felt] a lot like an outdoor farmers’ market, except indoors, with back-to-back booths separated into rows.” It truly was paradise for the individual looking to show off to their friends at the fan club.
Crammed, blisteringly hot and with a superb sense of community, DragonCon rollicked for a full four days. MARTA and the surrounding roads were jam-packed with tired, extravagantly dressed people – surely a strange sight for the everyday Atlantan. With an entire year of waiting ahead, the web page for 2018 memberships sits tantalizingly open to the aspiring cosplayer.