ComiCONN 2017 In Review

ComiCONN 2017 In Review

Casinos, cosplay, and comics...oh my!
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ComiCONN, "A Show for the Fans by the Fans!" took Foxwoods Resort Casino by storm last weekend in Connecticut. Fans descended upon the convention from all over New England for the chance to congregate with fellow nerds and meet their favorite actors, comic book artists, wrestlers, cosplayers, and more. This year’s guests included Gaten Matarazzo ("Stranger Things"), Ray Park ("Star Wars), Theo Rossi ("Luke Cage," "Son of Anarchy"), and many more.

I’ve been going to cons for two years now, and rush of excitement that courses through me when I first walk through the exhibition hall still feels as fresh as the first time. ComiCONN was no exception. This year was my first time attending this con, and it definitely won’t be my last.

The con took place June 10th and 11th, and my best friend/con partner-in-crime Katie attended on the second day. We began the morning walking through the plethora of vendor booths and spending way too much money on nerd merchandise. Come on, I mean how am I expected to walk past walls of Funko Pops and not buy at least three? Among the vendors were graphic designers, comic book artists, jewelry makers, and even a tattoo artist inking people right then and there.

I had a few panels I wanted to get to, but first, we made a pit stop at Gaten Matarazzo’s booth. I’m a huge "Stranger Things" fan, and Dustin is easily my favorite character… so let’s just say there was a lot of fangirling going on.

He’s so tall! I’m 20 years old and 4’11…he’s 14 and towers over me. Gaten was an absolute delight to meet and is just as friendly and funny as you’d expect. I had him sign a Dustin Funko Pop for me that I’ll be donating to the lovely folks at Cancer Gets LOST, a charity that raises money for various cancer organizations through online auctions of entertainment memorabilia.

After that, we made our way to the panel rooms to get ready for Ray Park (Darth Maul in "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace") and Spencer Wilding’s (Darth Vader, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story") highly anticipated Star Wars panel. We caught the end of a Karate Kid panel with Martin Kove and Billy Zabka that was being moderated by Ming Chen of AMC’S "Comic Book Men." Katie and I caught up with Ming briefly after the panel as he was #1 on our list to meet that day. We have a mutual friend and have been dying to finally connect with him at a con.

The Star Wars panel was everything a sci-fi geek could ever dream of. Spencer and Ray – who are unbelievably hilarious and down to earth – gave us some insight on how they were able to channel the presence of some of sci-fi’s most infamous villains.

“To play that character…the presence, the spirit took over,” Spencer described about playing Vader. He also recounted the incredibly secretive audition process for the role, explaining that he didn’t even know the name of the character he was reading for until his third callback.

Ray described his great connections with fellow cast members like Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) as being a driving force in embodying his character and detailed how surreal the whole experience was as a mere 24 year-old.

“I was just in the moment,” he said, never anticipating the legacy Darth Maul would come to have.

Afterward came what was perhaps the most unexpectedly disappointing part of the day: the Diversity In Geekery panel. I was so excited to put on my social justice pants for this discussion about women, race, and the LGBTQ+ community in the entertainment world. My first disappointment came from seeing that on this panel discussing women and diversity, there was one woman and five men. Really, y’all?

The lack of variety in the voices on this panel is really what disappointed me. Though I was glad to see something of a spectrum of ethnicities on the panel that allowed for a solid conversation about racism in the cosplay community, the discussion felt incomplete to me. No one discussed issues within the LGBTQ+ community, which shocked me given the recent concerns over the “bury your gays” trope multiple shows have been accused of employing. The questions about women’s representation most frequently came in the context of women’s oversexualization and objectification; not why it happens or how to end it, just that it occurs and there doesn’t seem to be a way around it. I would’ve liked more of a variety in panelists and more discussion about activism and what can be done about these issues. The conversation felt hesitant and lacking, and there simply weren’t enough unique voices for a panel about diversity.

From there, our day came to a close. Overall, I had an incredible time at this con and I will definitely be attending next year. There were multiple organizational complaints after the first day, but by the time we arrived on Sunday, ComiCONN staff had heard their attendees and did what they could to correct the issues, which I applaud them for. I thought the venue was an excellent choice as it offered free parking and a fantastic variety of dining options, which always seem to be an issue when I travel to cons. Despite my qualms with the Diversity panel, I still enjoyed myself and cannot wait to see what this show has to offer next year.

Cons are my home away from home, and it would take a lot to disappoint me. No matter the guests or events, the greatest experience of any con is always being surrounded by people like me who find comfort, escape, and purpose in nerd culture.


Experience Ratings for Sunday, June 11th at ComiCONN 2017:

Foot traffic and organization: 4/5

Venue: 5/5

Guest interactions: 5/5

Panels and events: 3/5

Would I recommend?: Yes

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Cover Image Credit: ComiCONN

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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This One’s For Africa

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Read through to the end for an amazing Toto reference.

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It's now been a week since I stepped foot on the African continent for the first time in my life. I first visited Johannesburg, where my dad and I spent a day on an 'apartheid tour.'

This tour consisted of visiting Shanty Town, one of the poorest communities in South Africa. The living conditions were indeed different. They had to steal electricity through homemade wires connected to the telephone poles. They had only a few porta potties for ten families to share. They had several spickets to obtain fresh water from. There was no heating in the houses, which were made from pieces of painted aluminum.

Such inconvenient circumstances have come from years of oppression towards black people in South Africa. It was incredibly sad to know that these problems still exist and that apartheid only ended so recently.

On the other hand, the people showed very little anger. Despite their living situations, the people of Shanty Town were so kind and welcoming. Everyone we passed smiled and waved, often even saying hello or asking about our wellbeing.

It brought some serious warmth to our hearts to see their sense of community. Everyone was in it together, and no man was left behind. They created jobs and opportunities for one another. They supported each other.

The next part of the day included a tour of Nelson Mandela's old house. We then made a trip to the Apartheid Museum.

Overall, Johannesburg did not disappoint. The city contains a rich history that human beings as a whole can learn a lot from. Johannesburg is a melting pot that still contains a multitude of issues concerning racism and oppression of certain cultures.

After two days in Johannesburg, my family made our way to Madikwe game reserve, where we stayed at Jaci's Lodge.

The safari experience was absolutely incredible. Quite cold (it's winter in Africa right now), but amazing enough to make up for the shivering. We saw all my favorite animals: giraffes galore, elephants, zebras, impalas, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, rhinos, you name it. While my favorite animal will always be the giraffe, I don't think any sighting could beat when two different herds of elephants passed through a watering hole to fuel up on a drink.

Finally on June 1st, I flew to George to start my program with Africa Media in Mossel Bay. On Sunday, we went on an 'elephant walk.'

The safari was certainly cool, but that makes the elephant walk ice cold. We got to walk alongside two male elephants - one was 25, the other 18. They were so cute!! We got to stroke their skin, trunk, and tusks. They had their own little personalities and were so excited to receive treats (fruits and vegetables) at the end of the journey.

My heart couldn't be more full. Africa, you have become my favorite continent. And it sure is going to take a lot to drag me away from you.

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