Awesome Con 2016 rolled through the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this past weekend to staggering crowds and an amazing array of guests for a convention only in its fourth year of operation. For this convention goer, this year’s Awesome Con experience was a mixed bag. There were some amazing, dare I say awesome, highs coupled with a few confusing and easily avoidable lows. How did the ever-expanding East Coast convention do this year?
The volunteers and staff. Everyone couldn’t have been nicer with smiles all around and helpful attitudes. We had an exceptional time with a volunteer named Will that went out of his way to personally help us find where to pick up the Press badges on Friday. Adam, one of the lead staff members I saw the most corralling lines for panels was authoritative and attentive to the con goer’s questions every time he showed up. Out of all of the conventions I attend every year, Awesome Con continues to have the nicest most courteous staff and volunteer crew around.
The Less Awesome
That being said, a common complaint I heard about this year was the lack of information on just about everything ranging from panel start/end times to line queue hall locations and everything in between. The volunteers simply didn’t seem to have enough information. At a certain point our group gave up asking the volunteers for help because while we knew they’d be nice and try their hardest to help, there was a good chance they wouldn’t have the info we needed. The staff members however were on top of most situations the moment they’d arrive on the scene, but in a better world we wouldn’t have run into so many ships that needed righting.
The program guide and the mobile app did them no favors this year as information such as where to find the largest panel hall in the con and which booths celebrities were stationed at were absent. Different prices for autographs were listed in the program guide compared to the price asked at the booth on more than one occasion. We found ourselves more than once directing fellow con goers to where they had to go and ushering crowds in the right direction. Thankfully for the most part the Awesome Con crowd seemed amiable enough to deal with the lapses in organization but if the con continues to expand like it has, it needs to get these kinks worked out fast before the crowds become even bigger.
The costumes! There were so many amazing costumes on display from so many different series. The level of craftsmanship was strong this convention in a big way.
Being an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan all weekend. Once we found Brett Dalton and Elizabeth Henstridge’s autographing tables, there were plenty of fans lining up to get signatures and talk with their favorite stars. Their handlers and team of volunteers were incredibly sweet and focused on giving everyone as much time as they could with Brett and Elizabeth. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Q&A panel on Saturday morning played to a packed crowd of Marvel TV fans with the actors joking off one another frequently. The moderator kept things moving at a great pace though there was confusion at the end of the panel over what time the Q&A would end.
Favorite Responses from the Q&A
- Brett and Elizabeth both considered FZZT the episode where the show really started to find its footing. Filming the skydiving scene involved a lot of harnessing up on scaffolding and once you were strapped in, you were IN.
- When asked if there was something in the script they were apprehensive about doing, Brett admitted it was the Hive goop bath which Elizabeth joked she was perfectly ok with.
- When asked how they felt being original characters in the Marvel Universe, they enjoyed discovering who their characters were and knew on set that they were in good hands with Clark Gregg guiding them along the way.
- The Marvel characters they’d like to crossover with would be Mojo for Brett and Black Widow for Elizabeth.
- Elizabeth loves seeing Simmons in the comics and loves signing them for fans. Brett is stoked that Ward gets to wear an Iron Man suit in the comics.
- Brett’s favorite version of Ward to play was evil, Hydra Ward.
- Their favorite props from the set are Simmons’s microscope for Elizabeth and Hive’s coat for Brett.
The Less Awesome
Being a Doctor Who fan on Sunday. I’m not a Doctor Who fan so I managed to completely avoid the kerfuffle on Sunday. From what I gathered the Q&A panel with Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi started 2 hours late because of the Photo Op with the two actors being overbooked by a large margin. On top of that it was a madhouse around the Photo Op booth because it was located directly next to the Doctor Who signing booth. That’s just flat out poor planning and forethought on crowd management. Again, this is forgivable for now during Awesome Con’s teething stage and I salute the convention staff and volunteers that kept the understandably irate con goers under control. The convention also issued a statement addressing the issue.
Con goers had to walk near or walk through Artist Alley to get to the autographs. Speaking for someone who is frequently on the other side of the artist table at conventions I love that the Artist Alley isn’t shuttered away into a corner or pushed to another hall. The continued attention to artwork and comics is a major plus of a convention that also caters heavily to media guests and Photo Ops.
The wide range of types of panels and guests. Even though I was mainly at the convention for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there were plenty of other things for me to do. This year Awesome Con hosted a Science Fair sponsored by the Science Channel for the children to interact with. On the comedy side, the Kevin Smith Q&A on Friday was a delight. Regardless of what you think about his movies, it’s always a worthwhile time listening to the man tell stories and inspire the crowd to go out and make things. Saturday was the Eugene Mirman stand up show where he picked a fight with his Amazon Echo and showed us snippets from his Comedy Central pilot. The segment with fellow comedian John Hodgman in action fight sequence was something I had no idea I needed so badly in my life. Sunday was the Billy West and John DiMaggio Q&A panels and my face hurts from grinning like a child every time they did any of their signature voices. Hearing DiMaggio explain how he developed his unique take on the Joker voice was incredibly insightful too.
In its fourth year Awesome Con showed a few growing pains the convention needs to address before it gets any bigger. Because it WILL get bigger. The fact Wizard World Philly was the same weekend didn’t phase this convention one bit. It had the crowds, it had the guests, and it had the fun. The partnerships with other DC located attractions will only strengthen Awesome Con’s place as one of the East Coast’s fastest growing conventions and the pride of the DMV area pop culture nerd scene.