One Man, Three Cons, Three Weeks
By Charles On 28 Jun, 2012 At 07:20 PM | Categorized As Conventions, Editorials, Featured, Reviews | With 1 Comment

No GravatarI’m kind of insane. Not the bad kind, I swear there are no women in a pit in my basement trying to steal my dog to prevent me from throwing lotion at them, just the kind that comes from spending too much time and energy doing what makes my life filling. And while in the pursuits of said endeavors, I often wreck my body (especially my voice), spend hours cramped in cars and trains, and often wedge myself into impossible crowded rooms, all for a few hours worth of validation and education. And only half the time do I get paid for all this.

All I can say is: I’m an active fan, that’s what I do. Insanity comes with the territory.

It’s been about a month since I’ve written anything here, with good reason. I spent the past 3 weeks in perpetual transit visiting conventions. Two of those weekends required 7+ hour commutes, from the southern edge of Virginia, all the way to Portland, ME. While that might sound like the prime time to spend working on a flurry of articles, trust me, it’s not (most of Portcon transit was spent watching anime and staring blankly out the window). So, instead of preparing three separate reports on the three cons I hit up, I’m going to try my best to sandwich them all into this one article, and hope I can touch on everything.

June 8-10: AnimeNEXT. 6 panels, one cosplay, 10 hours in line.

What can I say about ANext that hasn’t already? Well, it certainly was crowded. And I mean CROWDED. I’ve been watching this con grow since 2003, when it was a small social con in Rye, NY. That year I had a great time hanging in the halls and watching random people (and getting glomped down a flight of stairs, but that’s pretty much a legend now). Then there was the move to the Meadowlands, then to the Garden State Expo Center, with each successive con getting bigger and bigger…

Well, this year will forever be etched into my memory as “Line-con 2012.” Everywhere you looked, there were lines. Lines for Main Events. Lines for the Dealer’s Room (even as late as Saturday afternoon). Lines for EVERY SINGLE PANEL (i’m not exaggerating). The only places I didn’t see lines were for the Artist Alley and the LARP. It was THAT crowded. At some point, the Fire Marshal got involved, and then those lines had to be relocated outside to prevent code violations. Panel rooms were packed to capacity and shut down, sometimes with half the line not getting in. If I remarked last year that the lines for the rave were Cartman’s worst nightmare, this year he likely would have summoned Cthulhu and devoured the entire con.

But if one could look past the lines, the event itself was fun. Plenty to do (if you were willing to wait), plenty to see, lots of photoshoots and random hallway hijinks. A solid variety of panels and artists. And despite the crowding, it never felt like the con was suffocating under its own weight (at least not for me). I’ve read a good deal of scathing criticism on both the forums and the blogosphere about how the event was “mishandled” and ended up an “administrative nightmare,” but honestly…it reminded me a great deal of this past Katsucon. A bit crazy, a bit frenetic, but ultimately fun. Panels staff were courteous and kept things flowing as best they could, there was a minimal amount of “glut” and I still found time to relax. Final verdict: B+

June 14-18: Anime Mid Atlantic. 18 hours travel, 7 panels, one girlfriend.

My strongest memory of AMA has to be that I “programmed” closing ceremonies. Seriously, I spent about 4 hours of my weekend working on a video project that “opened” the closing, and got one of the best reactions I received all weekend, with numerous calls to “do it again.” All I can say to that is…maybe.

AMA is my “vacation” con. Of all the cons I attend, this is the one I use to “take it easy,” (yes, that includes the 7 panels I presented). And of all the cons I attend, AMA might be best suited for it. It’s not the smallest, not the most laid back, but it does wonders to recharge me, despite the effort I put into commute getting there and back.

This year was no exception. Coming off the craziness of ANext the week before, AMA was comparably placid. No lines, no crowding, lots of relaxation outside (courtesy of the mild temperatures and consistent breeze off the bay) and a general air of mellow that kept my head clear for the entire weekend. Also given the close proximity of everything, it lent itself wonderfully to late night wanderings (mostly to Wawa) and plenty of food choices for the gourmand (or foodie, in this case) to sate their appetite.

That’s really all I can say about the weekend, honestly. I have no complaints, no criticisms, not a single bother to recount. I got there, I had fun, I hung out with some voice actors and played a late night game of “Betrayal at the House on the Hill,” and took the scenic route back home. Final Verdict: A-

June 21-24: Portcon Maine. 4 panels, 2 hotels, 5 cheap SciFi DVDs.

I got a gift bag. Full of Maine-related stuff, my favorite brand of gum, water, and a notebook that saved my life at one point.

For a con with around 2000 attendees, Portcon was a “hot damn mess,” but not in the bad way. I had a rather flat opinion of the con last year, but this year that was rectified quickly. There was an energy that swept through the con on Friday morning that blew my mind. The lines were back too, but somehow that wasn’t a bad thing either. Yes they did block the hallway a bit, and left some of the rooms packed to the hilt, but it just added to the charm of the weekend.

Portcon attendees are both forgiving, and a hoot to be around. When my panel on Supernatural TV got swapped last second with one on Anime OPs, nobody complained. In fact, I think they enjoyed the OP chronology more. When thunderstorms rocked South Portland for a chunk of Saturday, nobody fled indoors and we got some rather unique cosplay shots. From what I’ve been told, the same rain actually made “Extreme Geek” better than usual. Newbury Comics sponsored a cosplay competition in the Maine Mall (right across the street) which drew out some of the best cosplay of the weekend. And I spent a total of 4 hours playing adult “Apples to Apples” that was the perfect capstone to my nights.

Portcon is billed as the largest, and longest running, geek culture celebration in Maine. This is true. It is also one of the best multi-genre conventions anyone can attend. The friendly atmosphere, excellent location and diversity of programming ensures that there is always something to do. I used to give out this “award” called “The Best Kept Secret in New England” on my website, and I feel the need to confer it this year on Portcon, simply for maintaining the fun and making me feel welcome for 4 days of conventional irreverence. Final Verdict: A

As for those DVDs…I blame FYE and Newbury for taking my entire slush fund on Alien movies and James Cameron.

And here I now sit, in the lull weeks between cons. Up next for me are Connecticon, a personal favorite of mine in Hartford, and Otakon, where I’m a featured panelist. Pray for my sanity, I know I will need more of it.

About - Charles has written for ROG since 2010. An anthropologist and culture lecturer, he has previously been a featured panelist at Anime Boston and Otakon, the first educational guest at Anime USA, and frequently speaks at cons up and down the East Coast. He received his MA in cultural anthropology in 2011, and currently writes on convention culture, sacred culture in media, otaku identity and mythology.

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