By Steve Winter
It’s common knowledge that dogs and cats don’t typically live together; vampires and mummies rarely coexist; Star Trek and Star Wars inhabit parallel universes and — as every comic book aficionado will quickly tell you well – Marvel simply doesn’t mix with D.C.
And yet, there they were, side by side, Superman, Spiderman, Batman and the Fantastic Four … seemingly impervious to the oxymoronic nature of that relationship.
But wait … there’s more. Dr. Whos, by the dozen; more Daenerys Targaryens than one can count; Elsa, in all her Frozen glory, plus Wookiees, wizards, Mockingjays and ninjas, all in one place, all at one time, and all under one roof.
The venue was the Washington, D.C. Convention Center, June 3-5, where Awesome-Con, the region’s proprietary version of the pop culture phenomenon spawned by the now-legendary Comic-Con, roared to life. More than 200 artists, 300 vendor booths and 50-plus celebrities from sci-fi, fantasy, action and adventure movies, TV shows and video games created what can best be described as the ultimate place to be for anybody in the National Capital area who embraces the term “geek.” And unlike decades gone-by when one might cringe at the use of such a politically affronting term, the crowd at Awesome-Con actually embraces it.
“I’m thrilled to be here to interact with geeks very much like myself,” said Ema Griffin, aka, Supergirl, who says she attends several such shows each year. “While I love the booths, the products for sale and the chance to meet the stars of the shows I love, what I really like the most is the opportunity for ‘cos-play.’”
Without question, ‘cos-play’ (short for costume-play) – and those who revel in its practice – are the real true stars of Awesome-Con. Asha Gray, a Washington, D.C., relationship counselor by day was Belle from Beauty and the Beast for the weekend, Tim Black, Jamie Harrison and Tracey Harrison produced a fascinating hybrid of Mad Max meets Game of Thrones while a fellow known only as “Mino, the Black Mage” was an erstwhile Jedi Knight (although he appeared perhaps to be more a Padawan in training).
Without question, the crowd – fueled by several hundred cos-play characters – is what makes the show so much fun. “Washington, D.C., is kind of a hub of geekiness,” said show manager Ben Penrod, a native of Annapolis. “We’ve seen this influx of young people moving into D.C. which is just perfect for Awesome-Con. These young people are passionate about the things they like and those things just so happen to be in line with what we do at Awesome-Con – it’s pop culture, TV, movies, super heroes, zombies … so having these people who are into that stuff, moving to D.C. in hordes, is really good for us.”
Adding to the excitement, Penrod said, is additional programming above and beyond the action on the show floor. “Awsome-Con also includes panels, workshops and discussion groups, plus we throw in some really big special events like a conversation with Kevin Smith, the writer/director of Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Bill Nye the Science Guy, coming in to talk about science and education. These are extra events on top of everything else we’re doing out here.”
And finally, there are the celebrities. While perhaps not the cream of the crop “A-List” personalities, Awesome-Con has brought to town some of truly major players and characters in TV and movies including Adam West and Burt Ward (of Batman fame), Peter Capaldi and John Barrowman (Dr. Who), Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy in the rebooted Star Trek films), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom from Harry Potter) and Robin Lord Taylor (Penguin in Gotham), among others.
Perhaps there’s something truly to be learned from such unity. After all, if these stars from different genres can peacefully coexist, it stands to reason that so too can superheroes learn to “cross the aisle.”
After all, this is Awesome-Con, in Washington.
(Steve Winter is president of Brotman |Winter|Fried Communications, a Sage Communications Company, a Capitol Communicator sponsor.)