Over the weekend of July 16 – 18th in Washington D.C fans spanning the spectrum of pop-culture came together to celebrate and embrace their fandom. During the course of the three-day event we also heard from some of the most talented and amazing figures in pop-culture, TV, movies, games, comics, and even science.
During the weekend I sat in on talks and Q&As with the tenth doctor and brilliant actor David Tennant, voice actor known for his role as Nathan Drake, Nolan North, the one and only Wil Wheaton, and the man, Stan Lee. That was only a sampling of the list of big names that came to Awesome Con. It’s these panels and Q&As that give a chance for fans to actually hear from their favorite actors, authors, and artists. They are an important part of the overall con experience and I tried to cover a range of actors and creators during my time at the show.
It wasn’t all about actors, writers, and artists but also real science and education. This year’s Awesome Con debuted Future Con, a partnership between Awesome Con and Smithsonian Magazine to bring together entertainment, science, and science fiction. Not only were there panels but also booths featuring NASA, National Science Foundation, The Planetary Society, and Smithsonian where attendees can ask questions, get hands on demos, and learn about the latest in science research and exploration. My favorite was hanging out at the NASA booth to learn about a 200 year-old ice core sample from Greenland and the ICESat-2 mission. I also learned that the upcoming solar eclipse will be visible in some form, totality or partial, over all of North America.
Now lets recap a memorable weekend and celebrate pop-culture at Awesome Con 2017.
Costuming Clubs: GI Joe and Star Wars
When not at a panel I spent the weekend wandering around the exhibit hall exploring the vendors, the incredible artwork from some very talented artists, and observing all the great costumes. Awesome Con spanned pop-culture fandom from sci-fi, Star Wars, Star Trek, anime, wrestling, tabletop games, superheroes, comics, and steampunk. There was even a Stan Lee museum with Stan Lee’s collectibles. Some of the artists and writers included Greg Capullo, Sam Ellis, and Scott Snyder. Even the former wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler was signing autographs and meeting fans. He is also a contributing illustrator for the comic book, Headlocked. As with last year’s con and events everywhere cosplay is a big deal and at Awesome Con 2017 there were plenty of costumed fans. Cosplayers were abudant but the event also featured costuming clubs from the 501st to The Finest: A GI Joe Costuming Club.
Besides GI Joe and Star Wars, which I will soon get to other clubs, including Avengers and even the Alien movies. were on hand to answer questions about the clubs. I got to stop by The Finest: A GI Joe Costuming Club booth to learn more about the organization and how to costume as a character from GI Joe. Mostly I stopped out of curiosity and it was the first time seeing a club of dedicated fans representing GI Joe.
Originally formed in 2007 it is composed of fans that create detailed costumes representing characters from both GI Joe and Cobra for events and charities. Creating a costume can be challenging but they are not as strict as say the 501st when it comes to every detail as long as it portrays a canon character according to the character reference. However, some costumes do need to be uniformed, like Cobra troopers, and there are manuals on the clubs website to guide potential members. For other costumes including GI Joe characters references can come from multiple sources, including action figures and the cartoons. There are also the movies for reference but if you want to costume as the original characters action figures can be a great starting point. Difficulty can come from finding the right costume pieces like helmets or clothing. One thing that stood out for the club is not just a group of fans having fun costuming as GI Joe but there work with military and veteran charities. At Awesome Con The Finest were highlighting their contributions to raising money for the USO and Wounded Warriors.
Moving from “GI Joe: A Real American Hero” to a galaxy far, far away was the well represented clubs of Star Wars costuming, the 501st, Rebel Legion, and the Mandalorian Mercs. The 501st being the bad guys, Rebel Legion the good guys, and the mercs could be both. By the booths they had a photo-op area where fans can get pictures with stormtroopers, Imperial pilots, Mandalorians, Kanan, Agent Kallus, Rey, and even Chewbacca and Han Solo.
The Mandalorian Mercs are always an interesting group as they pride themselves in dressing like their favorite Mandalorians. Actually I didn’t many Boba Fetts but there were some fantastic customized Mandalorian armors. The thing about the Mandalorian Mercs that set them apart from the 501st is the option to customize while still adhering to the costuming guidelines for armor and helmets. Another thing about these three Star Wars clubs is that one character can be associated with more than one club and members can be in more than one or all three. For instance Boba Fett can be both Mandalorian Merc and 501st or Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels can fall within the Mandalorian Mercs and Rebel Legion.
Another part of the event was the Backlot where panels and costume contests were held. One panel I attended was the “Ladies of the Legions”. The panelists came from all three Star Wars costuming clubs and discussed the challenges and rewards of women costuming in the Star Wars universe. As a woman it was great to hear that “Star Wars is not just for guys”. That means women can be stormtroopers, Boba Fett, Revan, Clone Troopers, Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and apparently there are more female General Hux’s then men. We can also be a Jawa, or anyone can be a Jawa, if you want to be a Jawa. Though it is easy to be a Mandalorian because women are represented in the Mandalorian culture in the games and TV shows.
The problem with non traditional female costumes is women have different requirements from men when it comes to things like placement, size, and shape of armor. We require different measurements for certain costume pieces and work with pieces that will sit differently then male costume pieces. Once the costume fits and modifications made to the reference, still keeping to club requirements, you can happily become that character. Hearing these awesome ladies of Star Wars costuming made me want to go costuming as a Mandalorian mercenery.
One of the great things about being a member of these clubs is the support group. The women hosting the panel talked about how members of all three clubs are supportive of each other and it is an opportunity to be apart of a great community. They also do good work for charities, do photo ops, and come to events.
Costuming is the biggest thing in these events and this show had many unique and familiar costumes. Yes we had a good showing of Star Lords and Spider- mans, but a range of characters from all fandoms as well as fan creations. You can come as almost anything at these events. Some were as simple as being Solid Snake hiding in a box to costumes with lots of armor detail. Superheroes are easy costumes to put together because of the amount of references but there were fans in costumes that were more obscure or not as well-known. Anime is popular as well as Steampunk.
I also saw fans in Disney costumes. Let’s not forget Wonder Women, she was popular to dress as with some unique twists to the costume. Captain America and Avengers made an appearance. Then there were the Ghostbusters having fun at the Ecto-1. One fan came as Rampage from the Bloodshot comic. He even had red lenses to truly become the character. Simply amazing how much fans are dedicated to becoming their favorite character. It was not just comics and movies, video games got their time to shine with Mortal Combat, Borderlands, and even a Lara Croft. Lastly we had Doctor Who, especially the Tenth Doctor.
After five years Awesome Con is continuing to grow and this year was a huge success. I look forward to next year’s con and continuing the celebration of all things pop-culture.
Enjoy the following cosplay photos from Awesome Con 2017.