Sunday night. Atlanta Marriott Marquis. A lone con goer in a full body Tyrannosaurus Rex costume dances to ‘Like a Prayer’ in front of a bar. Its gigantic head bobs and sways to the beat. Passersby stop to join in and hold its tiny but fierce hands in the impromptu jam session. The T-Rex isn’t promoting anything, it isn’t part of a group, and it isn’t a ‘booth’ dinosaur. This T-Rex felt the spirit of music inside it and decided 7 o’clock was the perfect time to boogy down to one of Madonna’s greatest hits.
That moment encapsulates Dragon Con in a nutshell; fans doing their own thing, letting their freak flag fly loud and proud. This year more than 77,000 sci-fi, fantasy and pop culture fanatics descended upon downtown Atlanta for nearly a weeklong celebration of all things geeky. Dragon Con turned the big 3-0 this year and the party didn’t stop until the last con attendee staggered blindly into the blazing sunlight late Monday afternoon.
Even the most experienced convention goer can easily become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to do, coupled with the staggering amount of walking you’re going to do to get there. Thankfully Dragon Con’s app, which rolled out weeks before the convention, laid out the schedule, maps and points of interest around Atlanta in easy to understand sections. The app continued to be updated during the convention providing up to date info on panel or guest changes and proved to be an invaluable asset.
Progressively the crowd attending Dragon Con has grown leaps and bounds every year with this year’s attendance hitting record numbers. There was the usual congestion in the main host hotels Friday and Saturday but for the most part navigating the streets was smooth. Food around the heart of the convention was easy to find as most of the hotels are connected by skyways to a sprawling food court. Outside of that, all of downtown Atlanta’s best restaurants welcomed con goers, Raku Ramen being a particular favorite of mine this year.
Representing Marvel this year at Dragon Con was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Brett Dalton and Daredevil’s Charlie Cox. While I wasn’t able to attend to any of Cox’s panels, I was able to attend three out of four of Dalton’s panels. He was charming, funny and engaging in each of his Q&As. A few of his answer highlights:
- Out of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ward, Hydra Ward and Hive, Hydra Ward was the most fun to play. “Bad guys are fun to play, they don’t have to follow the rules.”
- Ming-Na Wen couldn’t be farther away from Melinda May in terms of personality.
- Brett is proud of his daughter every day. She believes she can be whoever and whatever she wants to be.
- Brett’s back up job had acting not worked out would have been an English teacher.
- Brett would like to reappear on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if given the chance. He would deliver coffee in the background just to get back. He considers everyone on set one big happy family.
- When playing Hive, Brett had to remember to not overreact in human ways to things in scenes. He had to remember to be much more relaxed, as Hive was a being that didn’t mind waiting.
- Brett didn’t get to keep anything from set except S.H.I.E.L.D. stickers. He wanted to keep the Hive coat though. He also noted that Hive’s costume design was made to make him seem “futuristic & timeless.”
Dragon Con is also home to a massive parade that takes place Saturday morning of the convention every year for the last 15 years. Downtown Atlanta all but shuts down to allow roughly 200,000 people to cheer as costumed con attendees of all shapes and sizes walk down miles of Peachtree street. This year I joined the Ghostbusters section of the parade (organized by the wonderful folks at PKE Surge and the Atlanta Ghostbusters) and marched with well over 40 conductors of the metaphysical examination. Fans of the new 2016 movie mingled with long time fans of the old movies. New friends were made, proton pack construction tips were shared, and no childhoods were ruined.
Walking in the parade was a Dragon Con experience like nothing I’d encountered in my decade of attending the convention. The whole way our group high-fived children, took pictures and pretended to bust ghosts to the delight of the crowds. Watching the kids’ eyes light up when they saw me in costume, some young enough to believe I actually was a Ghostbuster, was an emotional rollercoaster I didn’t expect. If I’d seen a real life Ghostbuster that looked like me when I was a child, I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself. Putting on the jumpsuit was suddenly a responsibility I wasn’t expecting but gladly accepted. Realizing I was giving those children a memory they wouldn’t forget made my whole weekend.
Dragon Con is one of the most unique conventions I’m lucky to attend every year. It’s a convention for the fans, run by the fans. Many conventions claim that in name but Dragon Con consistently lives up to the responsibility of providing the best fan experience ever. Don’t come to Dragon Con for exclusive hunting, dry industry panels and daylong lines. Come for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 marathon, WWE’s Austin Creed stopping by to talk about You Tube, practical sword fighting seminars, multiple nights of comedy improv and filk sing-alongs into the morning. If you’re into something, ANYTHING, Dragon Con probably has an event there for you.