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
Guest interactions: 5/5
Panels and events: 3/5
Would I recommend?: Yes
Overall rating: 4.5/5