The mad scientist ran up to me with a shiny gold nugget in his hand exclaiming “Dude, I think I found a part of your costume! “. Sure enough, one of the rivets from my club had fallen off and found it’s way across his path somewhere deep in the parking lot. Floating above my shoulder, or Orko’s glowing eyes smiled. Ratha Con was going to be good.
I had some friends head out of this show several years ago and it’s one I’ve always wanted to go to – based on the sheer niftyness of the name alone. The problem is, it’s a small show– even by my standards – and a long way away. Those two things don’t usually compute, but I had to drop a birthday gift out near Columbus and the rest of my Saturday was free so I decided after four or five years of procrastinating to finally take the leap and cruise to the Athens Community Center. I’m glad I did.
I say small show, but it’s a small show that feels big. Ratha Con leans heavily on its programming and activity options. In a lot of ways it it felt like a small-scale anime show or the Cleveland ConCoction. There was a tabletop gaming room catering to war games and RPGs, as well as a video game room – and let me tell you something, I’m a sucker for a good video game room. It was the one place I kept wondering back to when I had 10 or 15 minutes to kill – chatting with the room attendant about how much we both loved the arcade version of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and losing embarrassing races on Mario Kart 64. Along the same hallway are the two rooms used for panels. The small room was set up as more of a round table discussion area where as the larger one had a traditional rows of chairs with the guest sitting behind a table with a Mic.
I made a point of attending The 3-D printing workshop. They were using better equipment than I am, with heated print beds, hotter extruders, and quicker speeds – there wasn’t a lot for me to learn there on the printing side though I did take notes on some of the modelling software they have been dabbling in.. I’ve actually had very good results using my traditional brace 3-D and Microsoft 3-D builder – but I’m open to trying something if I get better and easier results, and ended up walking away with some new ideas .
Down the hall, I heard music, so I popped out of the 3D printing panel and found myself at the video game music trivia. A trio of wind and reed instruments would play out the score from a game and the audience would guess the game for bragging rights and prizes. These very talented musicians would be up at the main stage later, rendering out the bouncy sounds of the Cantina band from Star Wars.
Jake Kearney was up next, with his walking dead panel. Kearney bit player who betrayed one of the Saviors for a few episodes last season until he finally got mauled by the tiger. The problem with Walking Dead panels of curse is that most of the behind the scenes anecdotes are already covered in the companion show Talking Dead. What Kearney brings to the table is more of an outsiders view – someone who has appeared on the show, but isn’t IN the show. It was a sparsely attended panel, and he seemed a little unprepared. It was as if he merely wanted to take questions, questions that largely weren’t coming from this small audience. That’s okay, I had to cut out early any hour to make it to the main stage so I could watch the magic show.
That’s right, there’s a magic show.
Ratha Con brought back a return guest from previous years – “Big Daddy Cool” who billed himself as an “Impossibleist”. It was a fun show, with good visuals. The audience however, seem to be a little hesitant to participate so when he called for volunteers I wandered up in full Man-At-Arms regalia and choose my card! Big Daddy would later host a magic workshop in one of the panel rooms which I was also dying to see. It’s been a few years since I did magic regularly, although my daughter Lydia has been picking it up from here and there for her YouTube series. Big Daddy showed us a few simple effects, demonstrated some ideas and then when I mentioned that I happened to be a magician as well, he pulled out a variation on a mentalism effect he was showing us – one with cards, using a mechanic that would only be familiar to another magician – that was fun.
The dealers room sprawled across a gym area, with rows and rows of vendors, one corner reserved for the main stage as well as a couple of photo ops against the front wall – a Tardis and a speeder bike from Star Wars. This, in addition to the green screen photo booth in the video game room gives attendees a lot of options to play around and get silly at the show when you’re not in a panel or watching the pirate themed belly dancer on the main stage.
Because it’s a pop culture show and not necessarily a comic con or anime con the vendor’s room was filled with a lot of artists, jewelry makers, prop makers, and sellers of generally weird things – it’s a sort of vendors room and you expect from an OddMall or RenFest. There were a couple of toy vendors, a VR station, one comic book vendor and a lot of interesting things to see. I dig ecclectic flea markets but always have a hard time finding something to buy in them.
The costume contests are broken down into kids and adults. The kids parade around the vendor’s are in before The casting has tests are broken into kids and adults – the kids parade around the vendor’s room before lining up and showing off on stage whether judge… I saw the scariest most serious looking joker ever – followed by a girl in a Tom Servo outfit from MST3K!
We won’t speak of the giant Pikachu waddling at the end of the line. I’m still trying to figure out how it got on the speeder bike.
It’s another one of those fun things about it being pop culture event and not strictly a comic con or sci-fi show – you get a marvelous variety of cosplayers. Walter and The Dude from the Big Lebowski were both there, as well as the blues brothers, as well as a stunning armor that took first place in the adult contest and the beautiful Five Nights at Freddys robot that took second. Unlike the kids, their adults are prejudged in a two hour block over in one of the panel rooms. It makes things easier and get you some time to really connect with the judges and explain what your costume is made out of. Honestly, I think I’m beginning to prefer this method.
I really enjoyed Ratha Con, and I’m a little bummed that it’s such a long drive to get there because I really can’t justify coming back unless I’m already staying in the area. Maybe next year I can arrange a weekend with my wife’s friends in Lancaster so I can sneak back out to Athens for the day. You know, that just might work!
I may not see you back there next year, but sooner or later I’ll be back for sure!
The search for Eternian allies continues. First to the north…
Then into the truly bizarre…..
When last we left Man-at-Arms, he had boarded the mysterious blue box and gone off in search of allies.
It begins in the northern wastes….
and then into the fiery depths.
Even on Earth (in the most 80’s photo ever)
and in the deepest reaches of space!
Still more to come!
I love these- there’s almost a narrative you can follow. It starts with War on Eternia.
Just as it looks like our heros are overwhelmed, an ally arrives and Man-At-Arms sets off in search of allies
The search begins in part two!
You can tell by the flyers and artwork that the promoter of NEO ComicCon tries hard to keep a fun and light atmosphere for his show. It’s kept that same atmosphere from it’s inaugural year in 2015, yet in some ways it feels like it’s taken a few steps back.
NEO brings some great vendors to the show, people like Fear’s Confections and the TRACE Doctor Who Drama. There’s cosplayers like Knightmage and local fan favorite comic talent like Dan Gorman, Ted Sikora, Marc Sumerak and Tony Isabella. Even Jason Fitch and Rick Lozano were there to promote their upcoming American Knight. It’s a fine guest list with plenty to see here and a dealer’s room big enough to take a bit of time to explore. In particular I found the booth with a TON of vintage Star Wars to be fascinating (and I have a couple friends who spent more than a little of their time there!). There’s deals to be had here to, though you have to dig just a bit more than just trying to spot the .50 bins. I found two of Checker’s Gold Key Star Trek collections for $3 each (originally $23 each) as well as a couple of issues of the Solution that I’ve never seen. I grabbed art cards for the girls at Gorman’s table and was sorely tempted by some of the creepies at Straw Dog’s booth.
The big problem however, was the dealers room was all there was this time around. There was no programming, no panels, no screenings, nothing. Last year I praised NEO for taking some time to actually do some panels in addition to everything else. This year, they sacrificed the programming for more dealers room space. And indeed, while it was SO much easier to get around this year, the lack of programming was sorely missed. Like I said, a step backwards.
What NEO ends up as….it’s more than a Bazaar, but slightly less than a full fledged convention. I had great fun today, meeting up with friends, taking photos, playing Cards against Humanity in the bar. However, if I’d have come alone, I would have done the dealer’s room in an hour and left. It explains all those cars I saw leaving again as I drove in. There was nothing to keep them there. I’d liek to see more going on here, and perhaps the move to a different location (down the freeway a bit in North Olmsted) will help facilitate that. I like NEO and the philosophy behind it, and I only hope it moves forward next year at NEO 3.0!