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Comic Con Part II: Why You Shouldn’t Double-Book the Bard…Again.

My last con experience in October was, frankly, bizarre.

It was the last run of that particular convention, ever. And on a Friday afternoon, the place was empty.


This time, I could see the line spilling out the door and down the sidewalk. A wizard girl in mossy green was hiking from somewhere with friends at least a block away.

It was going to be packed.

How packed I wouldn’t know until I got into the main floor of the con itself, but I got a clue. Both the October con and this one were held in the same expo center. But where the little con had been set up, with vendors and gaming tables and a few cheerful cosplayers?

That was the entryway. This big room, and all they had in it was ticket-takers, security, and black partition curtains.

This was going to be big.

Photo by Vishnu R Nair on

It was. There was the main floor, a second hall with the celebrities/special guests, an upstairs for panels, and a quieter hall with fewer booths where cosplayers were camped near the concessions, overlooked by a half-floor balcony.

And add to all that, the main convention floor had so many people in it, in the narrower aisles, we had to wait for each other to pass and sometimes just stand there, stock still, shoulder-to-shoulder, until traffic started to move again.

That packed.

Don’t worry, the crowds didn’t get to me too badly.

It’s been a while since I’ve been around that many people at once, but everyone was pretty polite, even if we were squished a little closer than was comfortable.

And when a woman pushing a stroller needed to get through an aisle, the crowd parted for her, as was only right.

Still, it’s something to keep in mind.

I’m aware that my renfaire/adventure posts have persuaded people that these events are awesome (they are) and that they should attend one (good for you). But if you’re using this as your guide to ComicCons–you should know there are things I leave out.

Take renfaire for example. The people who do it, we do it because we’re a little crazy, and we love it. But it’s a long day outside in all types of weather–hot, cold, dust blowing in your face. ComicCon’s like that too. It’s terrific, really terrific, but if you’re heading in for your first time, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Population being only one of them.

I had a great experience at this one, but there were still a few moments I was like “Wow, the security here is kind of garbage, isn’t it?” And “yeah…wish this person wasn’t saying that…glad I didn’t bring a little kid over here.”

It happens. Pop a lot of people together, you’re bound to find some you wouldn’t hang out with normally. And some events are more family-friendly than others.

That said, I’ve never had anything really bad Go Down, so mostly I have slightly awkward and funny stories.

Case in point?

So night before the con, I was scrolling through the event’s webpage, picking out panels I wanted to go to, trying to gather information, take note of the guests, all that stuff, and I stumbled across this:


Clearly the “health & safety” concerns are understandable, in these Days of the Plague, but this happens so often that they made a rule for it?

Then writer brain kicked in, trying to think of a situation in which that would be plausible (and wholesome), and suddenly I’m imagining a Good Dad panelist going down a line, kissing the foreheads of all his little fans.

Well. That would be okay. In non-plague times.

Unfortunately, I told a friend about this clause and we proceeded to make jokes about it for the entire day.

Me pretending to kiss a stuffed cat plushie through a mask? Unacceptable. Receive hard stare. Cute couples sharing a kiss in the middle of the chaos that was the main floor (I mean, it was near Valentine’s)? Much raising of eyebrows and trying very hard not to laugh audibly.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on

So I know a lot of going to cons like this is sitting in on panels, meeting professionals in creative industries, and general nerdery.

It didn’t go quite like that.

As luck would have it, I picked out a panel with podcasters. I don’t recall the exact name now, but I assumed it would be crime/horror/etc. Fiction with knives. Exactly my sort of thing.

You’ve probably guessed by now I hadn’t listened to the podcast. I was in a hurry.

Turns out it wasn’t fiction. True Crime. Distinctly not my thing. No offense to anyone who likes it, of course, but not my cup of tea.

But that turned out not to matter, because the podcast boys never showed up.


No. There were a handful of us in a smaller, much stuffier room, waiting until a staff member came in, slightly wide-eyed, and explained that he had no idea where the panelists were or why they weren’t here.

There was some speculation that they had become involved in their own true crime.

He was nice enough. Ran a podcast himself, apparently. He chatted with the audience for a little while, but since fifteen, twenty minutes in, the panelists still showed no sign of actually coming, I slipped out.

There was another panel with a voice actor, but unfortunately, sitting on the back row as lurking bookworms tend to do, I couldn’t hear a word even with the amplification of the sound system.

Flaw in planning. The “Main Stage,” the one they used for the really important guests, was really the second half of that entry room, separated from the ticket-taking and security sweeps only by a curtain–meaning that in that uncarpeted, largely unfurnished space full of chatting, eating, walking, photo-taking and sword-wielding nerds, we could hear all the blurry chatter and almost none of the important stuff.

It’s a shame. He seemed like a cool panelist. He made everyone with a question tell him their name and favorite dessert, so they could be involved in the moment too. I thought it was a really nice idea, but when the first girl said her name and favorite sweet, he cheerfully replied, “That is incorrect!”

Maybe it was a little mean, but it charmed me. It can be really nerve-wracking to talk to your heroes, and the irony of it, the silliness (how could you possibly be wrong about facts only you know?), just made it feel like we could all relax and laugh a little, like we were already friends.

Photo by Dome Dussadeechettakul on

Hm? The sword fighting?

Well, before you worry too much about the security, nobody had sharpened blades. It was while I was sitting on that back row in the panel that I noticed three or four boys over against the wall, attacking each other like true best friends with their newly-bought treasures from one of the booths downstairs. Nothing that had a real blade on it, but experience warned me solid metal could hurt. They were swinging for the neck. One boy had nunchaku.

This is a weapon that I do not like to see in the hands of anyone not particularly experienced, because like a whip, it is all too easy to whack oneself in the eye and miss the intended target entirely.

Needless to say, I was poised between deep concern for their welfare and continued longevity and shouting “FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!”

Right. Anyway.

Boy with a Sword (1861) by The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

So since I didn’t spend a lot of time on panels or guests, this was more of a wanderabout. Honestly, I think that’s the best part of a con (unless, I don’t know, you’re going to meet Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and Arwen in the flesh). So much of the experience is just the energy you get from everyone there, so much passion and excitement, shyness and nerves, love for their characters and sense of fun in the same room.

Also cosplay.

There are no rules for cosplay. Your costume can be as elaborate or laid-back as you like. But whatever you choose, some people will treat you as if you are the character you’re playing.

But you already know that from post 1 about the con.

Who did I see while rambling about?

To name only a few:

  • Jester from Critical Role
  • Steven Universe T-shirts…I think…
  • Eeyore (human version)
  • SpiderGwen from Into The Spider-Verse
  • SpiderDad (DadSpider? I don’t know his official title. Wears sweatpants and a coat. We like him.)
  • Captain Carter
  • Captain America
  • a petite lady Captain America (she was amazing)
  • various anime characters who I do not know, but am informed the shows from which they derive involve murder and must therefore be of quality,
  • Bee from Bee and Puppycat (fangirl screams)
  • Hogwarts robes and hogwarts robes
  • Professors McGonagall, Umbridge, and He Who Must Not be Named
  • Joker (a really good one. I almost asked for a photo, but…Joker…)
  • the character with the white mask from Black Bullet (I had to look this one up. Don’t be disappointed in me. Know nothing about the show but can definitely appreciate the aesthetic of the mask)
  • Kirby
  • Belle from Beauty and the Beast
  • Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney Version)
  • Pikachu(s)

Funny story about Captains America and Carter here.

I’d spotted Captain Carter and had accordingly perked up, delighted to see her even if I haven’t watched Marvel’s What If…? yet. Peggy Carter is amazing, and no, I will not be listening to any arguments to the contrary.

It so happened that Captain Carter sat in the row in front of me during the panel, so I had the perfect vantage point to appreciate the detail she’d put into her costume. The uniform, the famous shield, the curled hair and lipstick (Peggy would approve. A lady must look her best while kicking villains down the stairs).

And who should stroll by, flanked by two dudefriends, but Captain America, in an equally detailed cosplay.

Here is where I discovered I had the perfect vantage point. I noticed both Captains before they noticed each other.

Behind me, one of Captain America’s friends said, “Oh, it’s Captain Carter.”

They scuttled away.

And this is when Captain Carter told the friend sitting next to her that her first instinct had been to hide behind the shield…which would have made her even more a target for Friendly Small Talk between Fellow Cosplayers.

She might not have used those exact words.

So whether the two had an instant rivalry or were just too shy, I don’t know, but I had the perfect seat to watch them studiously avoid each other.

And it’s kind of hilarious to say that Captain America ran away because he was too shy to meet Captain Carter…even if that wasn’t quite the case.

Time to run away from Captain Carter…walking faster…
Photo by Duren Williams on

Other fun moments from the con?

The rest of it is a bit of a blur. So I’ll give you snapshots. My favorite moments.

Early on, I walked past a table with one of those animal fursuit heads sitting on it. Not the suit, just the head. And a slightly sweaty person manning the booth, who had apparently been wearing it.

Impossible to tell otherwise, as those sort of costumes completely hide the wearer’s face and identity.

He looked up. We made eye contact. Felt peculiarly like I was seeing that which I was not meant to see. I looked away.

Squishmallows. Squishmallows as far as the eye can see. One unicorn Hello Kitty easily the size of me if I squished down into a huddle sat high on a shelf looking down over us all. She was the True Queen of the Con.

There were two Pikachus (pikachu? pikachi? is there a grammatical plural for this creature?) in matching costume. The yellow was more of a brown. Heads bent, hoods deep, they shuffled down the aisles like eerie monks. I did not ask them questions.

There was a booth vendor/author who made jewelry based on his books. He had a dark complexion and green eyes, a shade of green I have never previously encountered. The effect was startling. I came to the conclusion this man might possibly be a wizard, and his eyes spoke of arcane knowledge I was perhaps not prepared to know.

Friend informed me later that seeing as we were at ComicCon and bloodred, orange, black, and various other shades of eyes tend to be very popular, it was not only possible but likely that he was wearing colored contacts for the fun of it.

I still refuse to rule out the possibility that he holds certain secrets of the universe.

Some of the booths brought their own music. So you’d be walking along, minding your own business, and then woop, this alley has a beat.

Waiting to go into a booth (crowds, revisited), and my friend chokes on a laugh and tells me to look.

I do.

On my right is a young man wearing cat ears. He is glaring. Hard.

On my left is another young man wearing cat ears. He is having fun. He is dancing in place. He is vibing. He feels the beat.

I am confused. I believe that the two cat-eared guardians are security for that set of booths (yeah, uniforms are not really a ComicCon thing), and Right Guard is glaring at Left Guard for goofing off on the job.

Friend had a better look at the situation and explained that this was not the case. Apparently they were both having a good time and were taking turns, like a conversation, vibing to EDM, a little dance party of two.

Photo by Pixabay on

The booth is crowded. A mother and daughter are picking out jewelry. Another young woman and I are standing behind them, waiting our turn. She knows what she wants. I am just looking. She asks politely and reaches in for a pair of ceramic mushroom earrings. The situation is so ludicrous, all of us so close together, the quest so worthy, that I become silly.

“Yes! Go for the mushrooms!” I say.

I am not certain my encouragement is appreciated.

There was a booth with lots of manga and several swords set out on a table. These were not ordinary swords. They were The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie replica swords.

Many extroverts got permission to lift and hold those swords that day. Mostly guys. Mostly guys larger and (one would expect) stronger than bookmarkedone.

I waited my turn. I had to ask a couple of times before the vendor heard me over the din of the con if I might hold Glamdring, if you please? No, not Théoden of Rohan’s sword, beautiful though it might be. Today we were looking for Gandalf’s.

I got to hold Glamdring.

I got to hold Glamdring.

It was a good day.

Especially so because the vendor had joked that (because of the cramped/awkward position of the booth) everyone pointed the blades at him. And discussed the weight as many were surprised upon trying to lift it.

Did not point the blade at him (courtesy of this style important in renfaire culture). Nor did tip of blade dip when placed in bookmarkedone’s hands.

I am particularly proud of this point considering the way the vendor was holding the sword, expecting its weight to be too much, as had happened with various other visitors.

Not so. I know my swords, good sir. This was a matter of pride.

How did it feel?

Well, it was heavy. I mean, the thing is almost four feet long and the blade is solid steel. The grip is a smooth, rich, blue leather. I’d been wearing gloves for the sake of cosplay, so the flat of the blade was cool against my skin when I returned it.

But gripping it in my hands?

It felt right. It felt good.

A photo from the One Wiki to Rule them All

There was a vendor whose organizational skills almost frighten me. I wasn’t even working at the con and I was embarrassed for the lack of organization all the other booths displayed in comparison with his.

He was selling, along with flags and pins and necklaces, a variety of rings. The rings were tied down to his booth so they could be displayed but would not sprout legs.

Two people bought rings while I was standing near his booth. He asked which ring, then asked to see the hand. Both times, he was able to guess within one size what was needed only by looking at the buyer’s hand. No measurements. No questions. A brief glance and a dive behind the counter for the box of carefully categorized treasures.

This man is the Ringmaster. He may have learned a small piece of the author’s arcane secrets.

There was a rock booth near the back of the convention floor. I spent far too long and far too much of my paycheck at this booth.

She had carved dragon heads. Tiny fairies. Star shapes, crescent moons, skulls of various sizes, stone hearts (yes, I finally bought a stone heart after blundering in the rock shop and saying “No, I don’t need a heart,” to the amusement of at least three very helpful clerks).

I never knew that I needed to see a tiny Hello Kitty charm carved out of a piece of solid black crystal, but I did, I very much did.

There was a lucky cat carved out of solid rose quartz. I didn’t buy it, but it was very nice to feel its weight resting cool and heavy and smooth in the palm of my hand.

Shiny pebbles. Very important. If you do not yet understand the value of having small, polished rocks in your possession to clink together in your pockets or hands, I suggest you find your way to a shop with cubbies and jars and tubs full of them, appreciate their charm, and possibly welcome yourself to the wholesome side of goblincore.

The experience was made even better by two women hunting through the rocks at the same time I was, who knew far more about them than I did. Me, I like it, it shiny, it comes home with me. I know a few of their names.

They came asking for specifics. Poking through the dishes for just the right one. Coming for moss agate and claiming kambaba jasper instead because they were carved into the shape of tiny green mushrooms and they have spots!

One of the pair was having a hard time choosing her mushroom (she had perhaps four laid out in her palm at one point) and was asking the opinion of the second woman (whom, as far as I know, she had never met before this moment but was now getting along with as if they were the best of friends).

There was some conversation about, “Do I need them all? Do I need that? Just mushrooms of different sizes?”

One of said spotted mushrooms may also have made its way home with me.

Photo by Egor Kamelev on

Long-stemmed red roses. Where did they come from? No one knows. They are beautiful. They are plentiful. They are silently mysterious.

Went wild fangirl mode and chased a cosplayer through three blocks of booths for the chance to ask for a photo. Success, but now must live with the knowledge that I probably unnerved a few visitors who saw Carmen Sandiego enter Hunting Mode.


I got my photo.

Even though I had a friend with me for part of the con (buddies are great), I also had some time to myself.

I wandered. I didn’t have a panel to get to, I didn’t have anything in particular I hadn’t already seen. I stumbled into booths I’d somehow missed before.

If you leave the main floor the way you came in, you come to a quieter hall. Two flights of stairs lead down to it, very dramatic, with a balcony above.

I stood on the balcony, doing nothing, just watching the people go by below. So many people, so many colors, so many stories unfolding before my eyes. I leaned against the rail. I took off my gloves, risking dropping them all the way down to the floor.

It’s a busy place, the con. All that energy bottled up, like an orange soda with a good shake. But to be still, to absorb, that is something special also.

It’s funny, in all that, the things you see. The things you don’t. I was wearing bright red, so I was easy to spot. I didn’t see my friend walking below me until the aforementioned cat plushie was plopped upon friend’s head.

There was a plastic tree in the middle of that hall I looked down into. I don’t know why I remember that. I don’t know why I shouldn’t.

Photo by Saeid Anvar on

I mentioned this balcony to a friend later and some comments were made about my needing Carmen Sandiego’s grappling hook and kite wings.

I got perhaps too quiet considering this. Using one would have granted a very swift and easy way to circumnavigate crowds. Using either would probably have resulted in my expulsion from the con.

It might have been worth it.

And then I had a concert.

I thought a lot about performance over that weekend. What it means, what I want it to mean. How to make it something good, rather than a lot of stress in scratchy clothes under stage lights.

And depending on how you look at it, cosplay is a sort of performance, too. You play in orchestra, you go to a con, you’re never alone. But there’s that same edge, that kick of adrenaline. You want it to be good, but no matter what materials you have or how professional your final costume is, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re playing the game, you’re part of it, part of something much larger, together. Strangers, and friends.

I’m sure I could get a lot more poetic about all this. Maybe sometime I will.

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on

When I was planning this con trip, there was a possibility that I’d be going straight from the con to rehearsal…again.

Lucky me, it didn’t happen. I got the whole day to myself…and then promptly had three rehearsals and a concert the same week.

Hint: this is why we skipped a Tuesday in the posting schedule. Because bookmarkedone was tired.

Valentine’s concert. So the Romeo and Juliet overture. Full house at our tiny venue, which is always nice. It’s a good group I’m with now. Can’t think of anywhere else that the conductor uses a purple glowstick as a baton. And we’re not opposed to messing with the audience a little either…we had unannounced tango dancers emerge from the back of the audience this time in a way that was…quite satisfying.

Because having said nothing about it, we the orchestra were grinning because the audience (for a few seconds at least) had to wonder, “Is this planned, or are these just other people in the audience who decided to hop up and dance in the middle of the concert?”

Okay, I was grinning.

It was a good time.


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