There are a lot of comic conventions. They range from the very small community cons that have a couple of tables shoved into a public library to the huge commercial cons that feature big-name celebrities and movie trailer reveals. But there can only be one Con of Cons and that convention is Dragoncon.
What makes Dragoncon so great? In short, pretty much everything. It features the big name celebrities (with less line waiting), a huge vendor area, and amazing cosplay that most big cons are known for. But it has something else. Something many cons attempt, but none to Dragoncon’s success. It’s the nerd party of the year.
This past year, I arrived at Dragoncon on a late Wednesday night. Technically the con doesn’t start until Thursday but you wouldn’t know that if you were to walk into the hotel. The lobby was filled with cosplayers, people in Dinosaur suits, and a DJ playing music. The party was raging before it was supposed to have begun. And it only got wilder from there.
The next morning I went out into the same lobby to see that the same party was still going on...at 9 am...on a Thursday. This is the scene across all of the host hotels and the close by bars, 24/7. The con itself drives into this wild experience by offering dozens of parties, raves, concerts, and shows.
Also, there are lots of unsanctioned con activities that happen in the various room parties the con goers throw. These allegedly range from the casual hangout to the full on sex parties.
Dragoncon isn’t all about the debauchery though. It features a little of something for everyone. There is a huge gaming area that has console games, arcade games, vr experiences, board games, dozens of guided RPG's, etc. There are tracks that are specifically organized for every type of fan. This past year I went to an amazing Star Wars track event debating the pro’s and con’s of “The Last Jedi”. I also attended a live podcast at the Trek Track that was debating the merits of a classic episode of “Voyager.” There are tracks about British Media, comics, and pretty much all of the main fandoms. Even if you are stuck in the room, working on your costume, Dragoncon offers its own television service that plays panels, interviews, and funny sketches.
They also have plenty of fun events. Between a celebrity improv show, a dirty puppet show, screenings of movies, and more, there are tons of things to do for fun. This year I went to a surprise live theatre production of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog” that was incredible.
The guest panels are also special at Dragoncon. For one, you will never spend your entire morning waiting in line for a guest. While lines aren’t supposed to start more than an hour before, there are “unofficial lines” that begin usually about two hours early at the most. Some of the panels are scheduled in such a way that you can also easily get into the back of one of their huge ballrooms to see your favorite celebrity guest.
I’m one of those fans that frequently watch panels from other cons online and I’ve never seen one like the ones at Dragoncon. For whatever reason, panelists seem much more relaxed than they do at other conventions. I’ve seen panelists get out into the audience, run makeshift game shows, and tell dirty stories they wouldn’t dare to at places like SDCC. There are also known to be a lot more personable at DragonCon when you go for autographs or pictures. I’ve heard countless stories of celebrities taking personal time with their fans that they normally wouldn’t. They are also known to come out into the party to get a piece of Dragoncon’s craziness. I personally talked with an actor from “American Gods” outside of a rave this year. Peter Capaldi also apparently hung out with fans and John Barrowman is known for riding up and down the elevators with fans.
Speaking of John Barrowman, he is the absolute headliner of Dragoncon. Anyone who has seen a John Barrowman panel knows the kind of craziness he gets into. At Dragoncon, this showmanship is on full display. This year he put on a full dance show, told jokes and stories worthy of an HBO special, did a “kilt check”, and serenaded the audience with his beautiful voice (he did all of this while wearing an expensive version of Cersei’s dress from “Game of Thrones” with the crotch cut out).
Above all else, what makes Dragoncon special is the people that go there. I have never in my life been around a greater group of people. Everyone around you is having a great time and is determined to share that with you. People shared booze with me, personal stories, dances, and hundreds of pictures. Whether you are looking for a great group of friends, a little romance, a place to share your fandom with, a place to discuss matters like feminism, representation, and what makes a hero, or just some people who will help you get drunk as hell, the people of Dragoncon will be there for you.