Denver Comic Con 2015 - A First-Timer's Experience

Hello, readers! My name is Andrew, and I am here to write about my experiences at my first ever time visiting a comic/scifi/etc convention, the 4th annual Denver Comic Con. Now, I’ve attended things and stuff before, including multi-day concert runs in another state, the Great American Beer Festival here in Denver, and I even traveled to Toronto back in 2009 for the World Baseball Classic, but I have never gone to something sci-fi/comic book/nerd related, especially of this magnitude.

Now, leading up to this, I had very little idea of what to expect, aside from the stuff I’ve seen on the various internets - that is to say, I was expecting to see elaborate cosplay. But what else could I expect to see? I’m already a people-watcher, so I’m going to get more than my fill of gawking at costumed fanatics over the course of the 3-day weekend. Should I be expecting celebrities? I know they have the officially invited guests, including Karen Gillan and Patrick Warburton (and many many others). I know there’s going to be merchandise upon merchandise to buy. I know there will be comic books. There will be fanatics of all sorts of fanbases. This much I know. So let’s go see what those things are like.

Leading off, I’ll give you a brief rundown of all 3 days I spent at the Convention Center for Comic Con. After that, I’ll talk about neat cosplays. After that, I’ll review some of the panels I saw. After that, more cosplays. After that, I guess a bit of reaction to the entire experience. Finally, cosplays.

Let’s dive right in.

Day 1, I rolled up to the Convention Center at around 11AM dressed in a vest and checked shirt. Looking nice. Gotta be professional. I'm wearing a media pass, after all. This carefully crafted air of professionalism went immediately out the window as I entered the hall and found myself with my jaw down by my knees. Thousands of people milling about the main exhibit hall at the Colorado Convention Center, 20-foot high walls covered in comic books, cars from movies, and cosplayers of all shapes, sizes, and comic book universes.

I slowly progressed through the mass of humanity that was crowding the opening area of the exhibit hall and headed back to the artists section to find the Gameslave crew. Once we’d touched base, I then headed out to attempt to follow the itinerary my friend Amanda had set me up with. I then proceeded to get horribly lost and missed my first scheduled panel. That left me with an hour or so before the next thing on my itinerary, so I just started wandering around the convention floor. I eventually found other friends at their respective tables, greeted them, chitchatted, ate their candy, and then moved on to find something else to gawk at. At some point Brandon handed me his camera to go and take pictures during my wanderings.

Some time later, I checked the time and realized that I’d missed the next panel on my list as well, and at that point I pretty much decided to spend the rest of the day cruising the exhibit hall. Again, I can never fully emphasize how massive the convention center is. It’s huge.

Once I’d given up on trying to follow the itinerary (there were a good number of events rescheduled at the last minute and everything was thrown into disarray), I decided that SUNDAY would be the day that I do a bunch of panels and I allowed myself to just wander around and look at stuff. Brandon and I did some time wandering and found some cool fantasy artwork, and the artist even drew me a quick sketch! Nice guy. Drew me a sketch of a dwarf.

I also made it a point to swing over by the celebrity meet-and-greet area, complete with long lines and printouts of prices of photos and autographs near the entrance of the line.

Hours of wandering later, they started dimming the lights and gave everybody the GTFO notice, and I declared it a day.

Day 2 was the day of panels. All the panels I could get to, anyhow. I arrived about the same time, however dressed in shorts and a tshirt this time. Jim and I coordinated on the panels we were attending so we didn’t end up writing about the same panels. This stunk, because I ended up not going to Jurassic Park related panels and that’s a problem. I did, however, find my way to a Star Wars panel, so that’s a win by itself. I attended a handful of panels and wandered around the ballroom area most of the day, making it a point to stop back by the home table several times throughout the day.

After a day of wandering the exhibit hall and a day of rushing to panels and sitting in long lines, I decided that Monday, Day 3, would be a free-for-all. Usually after spending days in huge crowds, I just want to wander. I eventually get antsy just being in one place, so I decided to try and find Kevin J. Anderson’s table with absolutely no success, and ended up doing several laps around the convention center. It was then I discovered where the Main and Mini-Main halls were where many of the celebrity panels were located, and proceeded to facepalm pretty severely. Wandering was good though, I eventually found myself in a Meta-Modernism discussion about Adventure Time, which I’ll recap later.

OH and also this was the day that I wore my Animal Muppet mask and a black suit and was Business Muppet or possibly Jazz Muppet. Gotta participate somehow.

Post doors-closing, we all gathered at Jim and Crystal’s place for post-Comic-Con BBQ Chicken eating, a fine conclusion to a fine weekend.

So Cosplays happened. Lots and lots of cosplays. Given that Cosplays are an activity that rewards strong effort and attention to detail, it’s almost a quantifiable pastime, especially if you’re basing it off of “times stopped by people asking to take your picture”. Some of the cosplays were mindblowingly good.

For example, Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas, executed by 23rd Day Cosplay:

Or this guy’s Iron Man costume:

Or Scorpion and Jade

These are the people who would score a million on the scoreboard of “can I take your photo” stops. These are the people you see linked on imgur and whatever buzzfeed article eventually scalps said photos. The elite of the League of Extraordinary Cosplayers.

But it wasn’t all amazing cosplays, and day 1 was when the majority of them were out and about. By day 2, you certainly had to keep your eyes peeled for the really good getups, but they were still there. Interestingly enough, the dropoff in high-quality cosplay coincided with the day I planned to go listen to a bunch of panels, so panels we shall discuss.

I tried to branch out a bit and listen to a bunch of panels, but I quickly realized that at Denver Comic Con, there are lines for everything, especially panels even remotely related to super popular topics. For example, I stopped by

Rather than hit up every panel I saw, I’ll just touch on the 2 I enjoyed the most, and I just realized that they’re both about Star Wars, which is pretty great. The first was regarding how Disney’s acquisition of LucasFilms would affect the Expanded Universe, and the second was on the feasibility of the existence of Tatooine, astronomically/astrophysically/ecologically speaking (SCIENCE STUFF). As you can tell just by the descriptions, one of these presentations was intended to be an informative discussion of the topic, and the other was considerably more tongue-in-cheek.

The former, Disney and the SW:EU, was paneled by 5 people (well, technically 4, but the moderator was also supposed to be a panelist and instead volunteered to direct the panel), including Kevin J Anderson (author of the Jedi Academy Trilogy), Rebecca Moesta (author of many SW Young Adult novels including the Young Jedi Knights series), and Amanda Strong and Gail Wagner, young-adult fantasy writers (of a non-SW nature). There was a lot to glean from the insider’s knowledge of how the EU really began, and how decisions were made about the series. Turns out that authors such as Timothy Zahn, Dave Wolverton, and Anderson and Moesta would regularly collaborate on the happens of the EU in order to make their books work, which was entertaining to learn about. In fact, these guys essentially WERE the Holicron before the prequels were released and the internet happened. Past that, the big question of the panel was “What happens to the EU?” and variations of “Are you mad or disappointed?”, given the announcement that the EU would not be strictly adhered to for the creation of the new movies. Anderson’s response boiled down to “Lucasfilm treated us very well”, and also reminded us that there are 300 different works in the EU, and to ask any writer/director to adhere to the entire continuity of the EU was absolutely unreasonable. Stupid real people, having to bring concepts of feasibility into the discussion.

The second SW panel really catered to the science nerd/engineer in me. The topic of this panel was regarding whether or not a planet such as Tatooine was scientifically feasible, both in terms of its existence in a binary star system as well as the fact that there are gigantic animals living on a desert world, drastically devoid of vegetation. Leading off the presentation was Dr Erin Macdonald, who discussed how a planet with 2 suns, like Tatooine, could exist. After some background on how stable orbits and such work, she introduced the audience to Kepler 16b, a planet indeed in orbit around 2 stars. So that answers the question of “could this planet even exist”. Dr. Macdonald was followed by Dr. Eric Spana, who focused on flora and fauna of the desert world of Tatooine. After some background on the basics of how food chains work and pointing out the obvious limitations in the ecology of Tatooine in producing banthas and krayt dragons, he then came up with a ridiculous but thought-provoking idea on how something as large as a bantha could survive on this desert world: eating sand. As absurd as it sounds, he compared it to the blue whale. Blue whales eat krill, as we all learned from Finding Nemo. The largest creature on the planet survives just by filtering seawater and eating mountains of krill, a practically invisible shrimp. Dr. Spana postulated that there had evolved on this planet some tiny species of sand crawling insect that ate a dry-climate version of phytoplankton (microscopic organisms that survive on sunlight). By the end he admitted that this was pretty far-fetched, but it was a really neat presentation to listen to, and both presenters were very enthusiastic in their delivery.

Of course, in attending these panels, I managed to run into more cosplayers (what are the odds?), so as promised, here are more cosplay pictures.

Skull Kid from The Legend of Zelda

An incredibly creative take on Tom Servo and Crow from MST3K

ALL The Avatar/Korra peoples!

Finally, and I should probably wrap this up quickly and get to my final cosplay pictures, I suppose I should sum up the weekend, give some reactions, you know, conclude. I think that my conclusions might best be summed up in the forms of lessons learned (or refreshed, anyhow).

  1. Attention to detail is great, but your material has to be good to begin with. Attention to detail is what pushes a good cosplay over into great cosplay, and what makes artwork a treat to witness. This is true of just about anything in the creative world, at least from a consumer/observer’s perspective. But if the basic composition of a costume or a comic just isn’t up to snuff, it really detracts. There were some artists who had all of their minutia in order, had quadruple-checked their sources, had all of the little insignia and facial features and uniform paraphernalia in the right places, but their artwork was just not pleasant to look at. If a comic has a great story but I’m not drawn into the visual aspect, I might as well be reading a conventional book. It’s a bummer to say, but even if you have custom wheels, racing slicks, and a lightweight body kit, if your engine won’t turn over, you don’t have much of a car.
  2. Enjoying what you’re doing is priority number one. When you’re really into what you’re doing, you want it to be awesome. You want to do justice to your topic. Some of the simplest things that were clearly put together by people having fun were the best parts of the weekend. Enjoying stuff sparks creativity and a desire to put out your best work, and I think it shows to people who are looking for that.
  3. Homestucks are everywhere. Expect them.
  4. I am nowhere near the comic book fanatic I’d like to be. I absolutely love the subject matter, superheroes and mutants and technological geniuses saving existence, and I still hold the X-Men cartoon from the 90s close to my heart, but when it comes to sifting through countless back issues of Green Lantern or Hawkman, I think I’d just as soon watch the movie or get one of the big volumes and read it all at once. Maybe I’m just out of storage space for another massively detailed pursuit, thanks to baseball statistics and jam band catalogs.

All in all, this was a really fun weekend to spend with friends and meet new people and just have a good time enjoying the nerdy stuff in life that I don’t get to enjoy nearly enough. So thanks to the Gameslave crew for having me along and putting up with the sheer tardiness of this post, and as promised, here are some more cosplay pictures!

One of 7000 Harley Quinns I saw over the weekend. I gotta say, the Harleys were all of a higher costume quality than most of the Jokers I saw.


Drag Wonder Woman. Friggin awesome. That eyeshadow just doesn’t happen magically, that’s some effort right there.

This guy might have been my favorite costume of the entire weekend. It’s just so stupid and simple and the guy was just stoked to be dressed up as Thor. I mean seriously, how geniune is that smile? After taking the picture, I heard his wife say “honey, I thought I told you to stop posing for everyone who wants a picture!”

I dubbed him “Meathead Thor”.

I literally did a doubletake as this lady walked by the Gameslave table and interrupted Jim to go get a picture. Spot-friggin-on.

Powerpuff Women

I loved this cosplay. The red contacts really made it for me.

And finally, Business Muppet meets Stage Muppet.