Sunday, I was up with the sun and vitamin B-12 was coursing through my veins. I'm was sitting on the Orange Line Dart Rail on my way to West End Station, as I prepared myself psychologically. This was my first time covering Dallas Comic Con, but my second time attending the convention. I was so excited that I decided to raise one of my old Halloween outfits back from the dead. I tend to switch it up every year at Halloween. One of my all time faves was from Joss Whedon's classic web series "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog". As you can see from the picture, I don't look like Neil Patrick Harris, so for the time being, I was the Black Version of Dr. Horrible - Dr. Blorrible.
Here I was sitting between the seats, putting safety pins on my costume because, when I ordered it years back, the costume was one size too big. But any Cosplay fan will tell you, when life gives you lemons, or a costume that doesn't fit, make lemonade - duct tape it, and carry on. I also had to deal with that fact that I'm working without a photographer, which would have been a great help. I was too cheap to buy a digital camera, and I should have used a smart phone. One thought that passed through my head, "Hey, why don't I use my old 35mm camera?" Boy was I wrong.
Already Behind The 8 Ball...
So I swing by CVS pharmacy to buy a new camera battery and 35 mm film. I enter through the double doors of Dallas' Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and immediately take a seat at a Starbucks, and start loading the camera before my costume change. I press the zoom feature one time, one time, and here we are. My Sunday Funday hasn't even started, and I'm already behind the 8 ball. You know the saying "I got a bad feeling about this." Ladies and gents, trust your instincts. Given the setback that was thrown my way, the only direction I could go was up. Since this was the final day of Dallas Comic Con, I took my belongings, tossed my broken camera in the garbage, and took a deep breath, and walked gallantly towards the men's restroom to change clothes.
"What's the big deal about Firefly? I don't get it."
I enter into the main hall as Dr. Blorrible, and my senses are overwhelmed. Fan Expo really outdid itself this time by moving the location of Dallas Comic Con from the Irving Convention Center, to Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, situated right next to the swanky Omni Dallas Hotel. There was a lot to take in as far as people-watching and exhibits: comic book vendors, indie artists, and characters looking to make a name for themselves. Many were brandishing all sorts of makeshift weapons (realistic or otherwise) to make his/her Cosplay character even more badass. There were more scantily clad models dressed as popular video game characters than a preteen brain's could handle.
I bumped into an old college pal of mine, Brandon. He was working at Crenshaw Comics with his father-in-law. We talked about the good ole' days and such. What I learned is many local comic book stores value the attention that a convention like Dallas Comic Con can bring. "One guy showed up before you got here and paid $800 dollars for our vintage comics," said Brandon. Surprised? Well don't be. One fanboy's pastime, can be another collector's treasure. Go on Ebay, and there are scores of vintage comic books that go on sale for thousands of dollars. So a comic con is much more than just a place to play make-believe; it's also a place where one can make a fortune.
I was among a full audience of people who arrived to the Firefly reunion panel. Seven of the nine original cast members of FOX's scifi-western "FireFly" were there to make appearance. They were given a warm Texas welcome. Part of the curtain stage fell to pieces, so many people gasped and freaked out when it happened. Thankfully the actors joked about it, making it not a serious as it looked. It could have gone the other way - part of an AC vent could have fallen on Summer Glau's head.
If I had paid for the ticket, I would have said it was money well spent. But since I had a media pass, it was a pass well used. The panel made you feel very much at home, like you were listening to a DVD commentary track of a classic movie. The actors felt as comfortable as than I did in my Dr. Blorrible outfit. Ron Glass talked about how much he didn't understand the big fuss about his character. Jewel Staite, talked about the time Joss Whedon put on turban disguise and took multiple tequila shots at the another comic con event overseas. Sean Maher, really doesn't like fame comparisons to Zac Efron. However, the show stealer of the panel was when an 8-year-old girl came up to the microphone to ask the panel a question and it was this: "What's the big deal about Firefly, I don't get it."
The crowd exploded in laughter. Gina Torres said in a causal tone, "Can you please escort her out?"
The Elephant In The Room
After the fun panel, I went about my Cosplay stroll throughout the convention. The thing about being in Cosplay (Costume Play) is that you are a character of a video game, TV show, anime, or movie that you love very much. Since it wasn't Halloween, I probably would have been mocked any where else in Dallas. Someone would have called the men with butterfly nets about me. But here I could be as cool and as popular as the rock star comic con celebs they invited to Dallas. It can really do a number on your ego when people call out your Cosplay name. You're asked to have pictures taken of you and with you. People can be inquisitive without being creepy, catty or sarcastic, and jealous without being insecure about how you got it all together so well.
When I look beyond the vendors, there's an even larger area where attendees could get autographs, a photo, and maybe even a hug from their favorite star. That day the Firefly cast were the Beatles, and everyone else that was there (Alice Cooper, William Shatner) got eclipsed. The Red Ranger from 90s TV show Power Rangers was there (well the actor that played him). He was signing autographs here and there, but that pales in comparison to a crowd of people who are willing to wait in a long line and cough up 20 bucks to have their pic taken with Nathan Fillion. It's one thing to see a Black '67 Impala from the show "Supernatural", but it's another to pay money to sit in the Deloren from "Back from the Future." I can only imagine the exhausted look on Summer's face when she could finally take a seat and sign more autographs from the same people that she just greeted from earlier that day.
On the outside, it does look like the Dallas Comic Con celebrities who were there, wanted to be, as long as you could pay their their asking price.
It's not a big secret that the more money you spend on talent to appear to a comic con, the larger the attendance with disposable income in hand. When I talked with some of the indie vendors who were there, to be candid, they couldn't be any more appreciative of the chance to sell their items and push their brand. On the inside, what they really felt about the spectacle was much more blunt. One of the reasons why Fan Expo moved their location from Irving to Dallas was to have more accommodating space for the vendors to make a profit. I remember when the last Dallas Comic Con, they were only able to get one or two members of Firefly to come, but now they had seven. They were able to wrangle multiple casts members of Star Trek: TNG to come over as well. They even got the legendary William Shatner, of all people.
The last time I remember, the recession didn't disappear. What started out so simple, ended up being the straw that broke the backs of many vendors who didn't really have the time, the money, or the patience to go all in on an event. This may have, in fact, backfired on them financially. It could be said that Fan Expo may have gone overboard with the new location. It could also be said that the new rent space the vendors paid for were unreasonable. However, with the changing times, new forms of social media, and current economy, you have to take risks, be more adventurous, by whatever means necessary to stay interesting and remain relevant. It may not have looked as if there was an elephant in the room, but it is a question that Fan Expo will have to address sooner, rather than later.
I walked around the convention for the remainder of the day. I was bummed that my trusty camera betrayed me. I went over to talk with Brandon a little more, and even got inspired by his wife Katie, who had her own vendor booth. I looked at some of her sketches and had no idea that Winter Soldier could look so cute and adorable. It was nice to forget my drama that Sunday by catching up with old friends. I tried my hand at a raffle game being held by Sony and won nothing. I drank some leftover orange Gatorade and had an interesting conversation with my nemesis Capt. Hammer. I was asked to have my picture taken by one random person after another. I let some people that asked check out my weird x-ray glasses, which isn't a part of the Dr. Horrible costume (but crucial for Dr. Blorrible's). I was too broke to buy anything, and spent a good deal resting my aching feet after the amount of walking I've did. All in all, a great time was had by everyone, including me.
What people tend not to understand is when you come to a comic con, it's a chance to escape reality. Reality bites. It's a sad truth, but you would never believe that when you come to a place like this. Here, we can be heroes. You don't have to fret about broken equipment. Having to pay off debt is not on your to-do list. Who needs a wheelchair when you can defy gravity? Being a girl, or a Muslim, bi-curious, or something that doesn't fit into a box doesn't define who you are on the inside when the fate of the universe is at stake. Maybe my thoughts do come off a little naive, maybe even juvenile, but that's the whole point of a comic con - to get a chance to thank a celebrity that made your day when times were rough. It's also to catch up with old friends and maybe make new ones and get your photo taken by people who think that your costume rocks. Last, but not least, it's a chance to grab as much free swag as humanly possible. This is how I survived my second Dallas Comic Con and lived to tell the tale. I can only imagine what they'll do next year.