It was the day after Valentine’s and the young woman reached out and handed a long stemmed carnation to the monstrous Skeksis. A gnarled, mottled claw reached out and accepted the flower. If you looked closely, you might think he was smiling. The little Primarina next to him certainly was.
It’s been a while since I made it out to Zip Con. It used to be a regular stop on my cn circuit, and my main anime show, but in recent years, with Maddie getting more into the anime scene, we’ve been expanding that range and haven’t made it back to Zip Con in a couple of years.
What the @#$% happened to Zip Con anyhow?
We managed to snagged a good parking spot in the structure right across from the building and got there early. The line was out the door, but hadn’t snaked down the steps into the street yet. They got us into the building and out of the cold in a reasonable amount of time. One young man walked up and down the lines with a clipboard having us sign our liability waivers in advance of hitting the table, but when we finally made it to the ticket table, the workers were confused as to where to go. Then, all of a sudden, the line stopped. It was discovered that the faculty to guest ratio was off. Someone had slept in and hadn’t arrived yet. Shortly they found the missing staff and ticket sales began again. In a bit over half an hour we were through the line.
Maddie and I explored the floors, looking to see what was happening where. Panels were inconsistent, and there were a LOT of D&D panels (as opposed to anime ones). Some panels weren’t running (The con would make a somewhat defensive facebook post addressing it but not quite apologizing “Hello! Just a friendly reminder that the panelists not showing up to panels should NOT reflect your view on zipcon!”). We found the Confused Greenies doing an improv workshop and hung out there before venturing over to the dealer’s room.
The dealers room seemed bigger than I remember, bigger or not – the vendors were excellent, offering a variety of fun and interesting wares. Maddie scored a pineapple cat plushie from The Nerdy Taco. We grabbed a couple of adorable food plushies from Live Dream Create, and even scored a catnip toy for Sparky from Mookies Cat Toys!
It was time for lunch so we made a mad dash for the car, and then got lost in the wrong parking garage. After much wandering around we finally located my vehicle, did a swag dump and seized our bag lunch to take back to the college. We found a nice quiet spot upstairs and began the somewhat complex process of eating in my costume.
While Maddie was debuting her Primarina, I was still feeling out my Skeksis costume. I wasn’t entirely confident in it yet – this particular creature seemed like it might demand more detail than my impressionist style contributes. I was worried it might not be recognizable or if it were, that it might not feel accurate enough. I was awed by the reaction. As I would enter rooms I’d hear gasps. There would be whispering and mumbles all around me, and I’d hear world like “Dark Crystal” and “Chamberlin”. Every ten steps we’d be stopped for a photo. One person knelt in front of me declaring “I bow before your masterpiece!”. My Skeksis was a huge hit and I was immensely humbled.
Maddie’s Primarina was doing good as well. The wig suited her and the belt helped with the ultimate look. One person recognized her right off, while several others could see she was a Pokemon but weren’t sure which one. As soon as she’d start to explain, you could see a light bulb go off over their head and recognition hit their eyes.
After another pass at the dealer’s room, we hit the dance room. This was really just a dark room that had been set aside if you wanted to bring your music (Not my idea of a dance room. My definition would include some flashing lights and perhaps a DJ or at least a sound system playing music on shuffle). When we had passed it in the morning the space had been empty, but now one girl had brought in some music and every one was doing a choreographed dance. My Skeksis rushed in and joined in. It was going fine until my head fell off (I’m going to have to fix that flaw).
We unsuccessfully searched for a game room or an anime screening. I’m told there was a video game room but we couldn’t locate it. I don’t know if there was a board game room this year, and I missed all of that stuff. We ended our day by sitting in on the Sonic the Hedgehog panel. This one focused on the IDW series – interesting because I hadn’t even realized Sonic had jumped from Archie to IDW. Still Maddie was fading fast and we were ready to head home. The college had mandated all minors leave at six and as that watershed hour arrived the place became a ghost town.
We had an okay day. We had fun meeting up with old friends and cosplaying – having a good time at cons is what we do. But I’m not sure we got our money’s worth. In just a few years I watched Zip Con go from Free, to Free, but if you pay five dollars you also get this cool lanyard! to Okay, five dollars for everyone, to ten dollars for everyone. I understand they have to control the crowds and are trying to get some voice actors in, but I honestly don’t see them drawing more attendees than what Zip Con already had. The show still feels like an nice amateur affair run by a college anime club, and if that’s what you want to be, then cool but you can’t charge that kind of admission for that kind of show. Higher admission includes higher expectations – Planned panels and activities instead of just accepting volunteer ideas and hoping the mods show up. Well run lines, constant programming and performances. I expect THEM to provide music in the dance room, and host the gaming tournaments. I expect at least one if not two rooms dedicated to screening Anime.
The magic is kind of fading. I do think we’ll be back once Zip Con figures out what it wants to be, but that might not be for a while.
Steel City Comic Con was this weekend, but that’s a bit big for me, especially with celebs charging an extra $20 for a photo at thier table on top of autograph charges. That didn’t stop me from sending my Victor Crowley poster with a friend to get signed, but I digress….
While we were taking a con break this weekend, Maddie finally got around to doing her own video reviews of the last couple shows she attended! I’m always interested to get her perspective on the conventions we attend. Below you’ll find her reviews of both Hazard Con and NEO Comiccon!
A man in a billowing black cloak approached me.
“Where were you yesterday? You would’ve been a shoe in at the masquerade!”
By my robotic side, my diminutive companion, resplendent in her Pokémon gear giggled. It was Sunday morning at Hazard Con.
In all fairness, I’m really not much more than a tourist when it comes to anime. However, my daughter just turned 13 and is slowly finding herself more and more ensconced n the genre – and she anticipates Anime conventions now with equal or greater interest than comic book conventions. While I had previously been content to include one every year, I get the impression we’re going to be hitting more of these as time goes on.
I had recently become aware of Hazard Con, though I never attended it before. It’s been about a decade since I need to drive into Erie Pennsylvania (is Erie Horror Fest even still a thing anymore?). It’s about two hours from Cleveland, but it’s not a hard drive – you basically drive in a straight line on a single freeway for the entire trip, the convention center being attached to a hotel that sits right by the exit.
We had chosen to come on Sunday for a couple of reasons. Hazard con does not offer single day passes for Friday or Saturday, you either by the weekend pass for $40 or simply go on Sunday when the admission is reduced to $15. Because it’s Sunday, hours are little shorter as well, with things closing up around 5 o’clock. That’s fine, I wasn’t even certain that Maddie would make it all the way to 5 o’clock. Besides, this seemed like a nice low key opprutunity to try out the newly repaired Voltron costume and see how the changes held up. Maddie for her part, was looking forward to bringing out her Serena outfit again.
In addition to a vendor‘s room, Hazard Con also sports a flea market – held for half a day in one of the panel rooms. If you think the dealers room is eclectic, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Movies and toys in bits and bobs littered the tables, and we resolved to come back and check it out a little bit later – that ended up being a mistake since we misjudged how long the market would last and by the time we returned, they were all packing up.
As we pressed further into the convention center, we passed the movie room, then rounded the corner and found ourselves face-to-face with a giant robot. I don’t just mean someone in a costume like a Voltron outfit I was wearing. No, there was an actual eight or 9 foot replica of one of the giant robots from Pacific Rim. Next to it was a small one person land speeder and they were both gorgeous! We took photos by the props before hassling into Kyle Herbert’s panel. Kyle is a voice actor – and an incredibly prolific one. He was a regular at the late and lamented Shinbokou Con. It was good to hear his casual and self-deprecating humor as he hosted a very informal panel – more of a talk with those of us in the crowd and the sort of easy back-and-forth that Herbert excels at.
Once his panel concluded, we proceeded to explore further – the vendor‘s room was in an adjacent wing. It seemed bigger than the ones I’ve seen at Woo-Con or Zipcon, but perhaps it was just the floor plan. Being set up in the atrium, the bright mid-day sun poured down on the room creating a warm and positive atmosphere – it was a remarkable effect. Inside, Maddie spotted a No-Face – one of the characters from Spirited Away. I prodded her and encouraged her to go and ask for a photo. The cosplayer happily greeted her. The No-Face’s arms slowly emerged from the inky blackness of it’s costume, and you could see a gold coin offered up in the black hand. No-Face had come bearing gold, just as it had in it’s movie. They were chocolate coins, and Maddie happily accepted them.
“Come pet our table!” One vendor shouted out. We wandered over to her table and noted half of it was covered in color changing spangles, and the other half was covered in soft fur. Among the curious wares were little stuffed dumpings. Each came with an adoption certificate and back story. Maddie had already dumped her con allowance into a pokeball with a small Pokemon and candy inside. I decided to grab a dumpling to take home to Lydia. It was by far the cutest thing I found in that dealer’s room. I grabbed a “Bag of Cheap” for myself and was excited to discover the blind bag contained Tenchi and Cyber City Odeo DVDs! I was hoping for Japanese candy – some of the more interesting Kit Kats or something, but didn’t find anything that really interested me. Nevertheless, I grabbed some more deals on a Cap figure and some Cash movies, topped off with a couple of buttons for my con bag.
We briefly checked out the tabletop room but they were between Pokémon tournament, and gaming is never really been a big thing for either of us. Around the corner and down in a separate hall we discovered the arcade. This game room flat-out puts to shame every convention video game room I’ve ever seen.Sure there were the tables with old systems set up for retrogaming just as you would expect, but what really drew your eyes as you entered was the room packed full of Japanese arcade machines – over a dozen games the US has never seen. There are familiar games like Dance Dance Revolution and some 2D fighters, but they were outnumbered by rhythm games and flashing light and spectacle. Maddie’s favorite was a rhythm game that involves two gigantic drums. Two players standing side-by-side would try and keep the rhythm with the graphics on the screen. I enjoyed seeing the Genesis set up again and the other retro games, in fact I probably could’ve spent all day in this room alone, but anime was calling our names!
We broke for lunch briefly and then hit the Anime room for three episodes of Seven Seeds. The second episode is really scary with some monsters on board and I wondered how Maddie was going to react – this stuff is more serious then a lot of the light-hearted magical girl things she watches, but she was entranced – and when they finally ended this run to break for the next panel, she was already insisting that we need to find more of this. It’s on Netflix by the way, it’s some good post apocalyptic stuff which probably appeals to Maddie‘s Hunger Games and Walking Dead sensibilities. Next up was the Studio Ghibli panel. Even I’m familiar with Miyazaki, indeed Spirited Away was the first film out of his studio that I ever saw (coincidently that was at Lake Effect Comic Con). It was interesting to hear a little more about the history of the studio and the idiosyncrasies of its creators. We headed back to the Anime room, but somebody had turned the air-conditioning way up to uncomfortable levels. Perhaps they were just trying to save us from having to watch the terrible Godzilla animation. We made one last pass at the game room and decided to call it a day. I was correct, Maddie didn’t last all the way until five, though she may have if that Anime room had frozen us out. We made our way out to the car around 4:15 to start the long trip home. This is one of those cons that is the exact right size for me, not too big not too small – I just wish it was closer to home. Nevertheless it looks like this might be one we come back to next year,and I’ll be interested in seeing what the guest list looks like then.