Debrief: Dragon Con 2019
Atlanta, GA – August 29 through September 2, 2019
Dragon Con 2019 is in the books! I had a better time this year despite the larger crowd numbers. It’s hard to predict how the crowds are going to ebb and flow from year to year, but you could feel the 85,000 attendees like the pulse of the con this year.
We also did tons of good works this year for the Atlanta chapter of the American Heart Association. $110,000 is a lot of money, and I hope it goes a long way to helping a good charity with a good mission.
Right out of the gate, I want to thank the track directors and their volunteer staffs for welcoming me into their homes for the weekend and offering a chance to talk on their stages.
- Regina Kirby (Main Programming)
- Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel (American Science Fiction Classics)
- Kellen Harkins (American Science Fiction and Fantasy Media)
- Karen Henson (Military Sci-Fi Media)
- Caro McCully Tidwell (BritTrack)
Second, but by no means any less important, I’d like to thank the volunteers. There are so many who help bring this convention to life every year – in fact, the vast majority of the hundreds who work the con are volunteers – but my deepest gratitude goes out to those who kept the tracks I worked moving. Like I said last year, these folks push the limits and innovate to keep this show moving. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.
Third, I’d like to thank the convention for having me back as an Attending Professional. This was my eleventh Dragon Con and my fourth as an Attending Pro. I really enjoy spending the weekend having fun, catching up with my geek family, and meeting new people.
In what has become tradition, the weekend started with the Dragon Con Newbies walking tours and Q&A sessions. After last year’s surge, we decided to start earlier this year. We kicked off at 1:00pm and ran tours for three hours. We followed up with some Q&A time and sent nearly 600 newbies on tours before the crowds got too thick to navigate.
As always, Sue Kisenwether, Kim McGibony, and Kevin Bachelder are just awesome to work with, and all of our tour leaders and wranglers deserve kudos for volunteering their time and knowledge in the Atlanta heat.
Friday was my busy day this year. After the Friday morning Newbies Q&A, I took the opportunity to see David Tennant’s debut at Dragon Con. He was moderated by the wonderful Tony Gowell, and it was honestly one of the best celebrity panels I have seen at the convention. Tennant is high energy and effervescent, and he quickly showed us that he cannot be constrained by a wired microphone on a stage table.
I mean, chair races, people. Chair races.
That afternoon, I joined Bethany Kesler, Casi Hamilton, Jenna Johnson, and track director Kelley Harkins to discuss Captain Marvel. We had a great discussion about the highs and lows of the film and how it ties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of this particular crew would also close the con on Marvel… more on that in a bit.
Next up on the docket was a discussion of the most recent series of Doctor Who. I joined Angela Hartley, Allison Lane, JM Tuffley, and Robert Lloyd to talk about the good, bad, and ugly of the series. The episode Rosa was by far one of the favorites and a huge talking point, and we only had one angry guy who was pissed off about the whole thing from regeneration to Resolution. I was impressed with my fellow panelists as they thanked him for his opinion and moved on, but I was doubly impressed with the audience as they turned his complaints back and forced him to look at them critically.
There’s a reason why episodes like Rosa should make people uncomfortable. It’s the same reason why the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights museum should make people uncomfortable. There’s a lot of ugliness and despair in our history, and it is our duty to learn from it and take steps to be better.
My next panel was my debut on the Military Sci-Fi Media track and, honestly, I don’t think I could have picked a better topic than the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. It was a fun panel with Andrew E.C. Gaska, Van Allen Plexico, and Kevin R. Grazier – yes, that Kevin Grazier – where we talked about the origins, the mythology, and the science of the show. I think Kevin even turned the audience around on the finale. It was a sight to behold.
The day ended with a charity screening of Mac and Me. No, seriously.
The American Science Fiction Classics Track has a Sci-Fi Court panel where people defend bad movies. It’s a fun panel full of laughs, and when we were brainstorming ideas for 2018’s version of it, I tossed Mac and Me out there as a joke. I mean, this E.T. The Extraterrestrial rip-off is considered one of the worst films of all time and even has a 3.3 rating on IMDb.
But, somehow, they took me seriously.
So, I constructed my defense, bought the DVD on the cheap from Amazon, and watched the movie for the second time in my life. Come Dragon Con 2018, I had a scheduling conflict between Sci-Fi Court and the discussion of Luke Skywalker’s legacy on the Star Wars Track. I chose Luke, so Gary and Joe chose me to host this film at the 2019 charity screening.
The same one where they “lock” the doors and ask people to donate to the charity for the privilege of tapping out.
Darin Bush, Gary Mitchel, Joe Crowe, Chris Cummins, and I had a ball talking about our memories of the film, discussing the history of its creation, and watching it on two big screens. Joe had never seen it before, and it even inspired a Mac-sized meme in the Facebook group thanks to Kyle and Austin.
After seeing this movie three times in my lifetime – two of them over the last two years – I’m confident that I don’t need to see it ever again.
I dodged the parade shutdowns Saturday morning to jump in with the American Science Fiction Classics Track irregulars on a celebration of Batman’s 80th anniversary. The track used their trademark roll-a-panel format – twenty topics are placed on a custom-built Dungeons & Dragons-style D20 (that is later auctioned for charity) and the audience rolls a new topic every five minutes – to discuss topics from across the last 80 years of caped crusading.
- Batman & Robin
- Batman Forever
- Bane from The Dark Knight Rises
- Alfred from Batman ’66
- Batman: Dead End
- Aunt Harriett from Batman ’66
- Batman: The Movie (1966)
- Julie Newmar & Eartha Kitt as Catwomen
- Burgess Meredith as Penguin
- Cesar Romero’s Mustache
- Bat-Nipples from Batman & Robin
- Frank Gorshin as Riddler
- Heath Ledger as Joker
- Batman Returns
- Harley Quinn
- Batman: The Brave & the Bold
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman
- Yvonne Craig as Batgirl
- Mark Hamill’s Joker
After the Batman panel, my wife and I caught up with Lindy and Dan from the ol’ Scapecast days. You see, we had a date with some time travelers.
Freema Agyeman simply loved holding Percy during our photo. She even called him adorable!
The afternoon started with an Earth Station Who recording on the BritTrack where Mike Faber, Michael Gordon, Mary Ogle, Tara Newman, and I deconstructed Doctor Who and discussed what makes a good Doctor. Hanging with that crew was just as fun as it always is. The recording is already available on the ESO Network.
My last event of the day was a twentieth-anniversary celebration of Farscape. I joined the crew from the Military Sci-Fi Media track to discuss our memories of the show, the fandom, and how it has changed our lives. We even got a little inside info from the weekend’s Farscape celebrity panels: If you have Amazon Prime, boost the streaming numbers by watching the show there. There are rumblings that something big is on the horizon.
Sunday started off with Bond. James Bond. Or rather a discussion of four James Bond films with their corresponding anniversaries: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Moonraker, Licence to Kill, and The World is Not Enough. Mike Faber, John L Flynn, Bob Nygaard, Caro McCully, and I had a lot of fun talking about the films, their plots and characters, the real-world influences and pop culture of the time, and delving a little bit into the written world of James Bond.
After taking some time to laugh with the hilarious Catherine Tate, I joined a full house panel – Michael French, Sue Kisenwether, Jonathan Williams, James Palmer, and JC De La Torre – in discussing the worlds of Steven Spielberg. The discussion was spirited and (at times) a little contentious, but a good discussion of the famous director and producer emerged in the end. A few of us agreed after the fact that Spielberg’s legacy is a bit too large for a panel of that size and limited duration.
I took some time to enjoy RetroBlasting‘s presentation on The Vehicles That Drove the ’80s before grabbing dinner and returning to the Classics Track for the anniversary screening of Weird Al Yankovic’s UHF.
Kevin Eldridge moderated a brief discussion panel with Noel Wood, Beth Van Dusen, John Hudgens, and I before the film began. We also received custom Spatula City spatulas and reprints of the UHF Guide from the film’s premiere.
Monday began with the second roll-a-panel, this time focused on the years 1979 and 1999.
- Wing Commander (1999)
- Moonraker (1979)
- The Brood (1979)
- Captain America: Death Too Soon (1979) (I also included Captain America (1979) in my watchlist)
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
- The Sixth Sense (1999)
- Wild Wild West (1999)
- Deep Blue Sea (1999)
- Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
- The Green Mile (1999)
- Dracula (1979)
- The Blair Witch Project (1999)
- Phantasm (1979)
- Lake Placid (1999)
- The Mummy (1999)
- The Black Hole (1979)
- Mystery Men (1999)
- Mad Max (1979)
- Time After Time (1979)
- The Iron Giant (1999)
After that, my Dragon Con panel schedule ended with a discussion of Avengers: Endgame alongside Bethany Kesler, Lisa Manifold, Alison Sky Richards, and Jenna Johnson. It was a great discussion and the room was packed, which surprised me given the Monday afternoon timeslot.
And that was it. After some whirlwind packing, a late lunch, and goodbyes, we hit the road. With the badges off, the dogs home, and the laundry in the washer, Dragon Con 2019 was done.
There are some other smaller (but cool, nevertheless) items to note:
Second: Ralphth the Dragon‘s new duds.
Third: The Cult of Jon.
Dragon Con is a magical place where strange trends are born and celebrated. The former Marriott carpet is the reigning champion, but other elements like Trashy and Esca/Lator also take their fair shares of the spotlight. Well, now we have the Cult of Jon.
For several years now, FedEx has had a cardboard standee in the skybridge between the Marriott and Peachtree Center. Following the ongoing googly eye trend – one that I’m still on the fence about because it treads so closely to vandalism – someone put funny eyes on the advertisement.
It evolved beyond that, with stickers and drawings – yeah, now we’re in vandalism territory – until Sunday night when it was in its full glory.
On Monday morning, the ad was gone and a monument was left behind.
A full memorial service was held hours later, and the cult was born. After the con, while the fervor was in full glory, the Cult of Jon found their savior.
Enter: Eric Troy, the FedEx advertising model, who is now a moderator of the Facebook group.
Fourth: The Dragon Con Exercise Plan.
Six days at Dragon Con: 83,553 steps, 86 floors climbed, 37.72 miles traveled, and 24,556 calories burned.
Fifth: The LifeSouth blood drive.
Approximately 3,600 donors and 10,000 units of blood. Dragon Con members are just that good.
If you want to join us, the next Dragon Con will be held from September 3 to 7, 2010. Memberships (badges/tickets) are on sale now, and hotels will be available soon.