By Steve Bunche

Dolly Death Star

As a dyed-in-the wool comics fan I have wanted to attend the senses-pummeling annual San Diego Comic-con. As a fan, think about it: shitloads of comic books everywhere, movie and TV celebs who’ll be signing autographs, comics creators from all over the globe, and a myriad of fun and geekish possibilities, all within arm’s reach in sunny California. Seriously, what’s not to like? But in recent years that pipe dream has slowly been deferred since I first imagined hitting the big show in San Diego way back in 1994, during my days as a member of the illustrious (yeah, right) Marvel Bullpen of the 1990’s boom-and-crash. Due to the multi-headed bitch and a half that includes the prohibitive costs of plane fare from coast to coast and accommodations in a decent hotel for the duration of nearly a week, as well as the con insidiously being co-opted by Hollywood interests as a source of R&D for television, movie, and video game properties to exploit, I’ve found its appeal eroding year after year, so much so that now I have no desire whatsoever to go. I may not be in the biz anymore but I’m still in close contact with many of my friends and former colleagues, and I can honestly say that each and every one of them dreads their yearly trek to the west, but it’s a necessary evil if they want to put themselves out there and further their careers by showing goodwill to the fans (to say nothing of shilling whatever latest project or any original art they may have up for grabs). And while it’s much easier for me to deal with the logistics of New York City’s Javits Center show, even that convention is morphing into an impossibly overcrowded nightmare on wheels that’s equal parts dry-humped-by-the-devil nightmare and the most spectacular thing going for geeks here in the east. No matter what, it seems like I, and my fellow geeks, can’t win for losing. So what the ever-lovin’ eff is a geek to do?

Two words, effendi: Dragon Con.

For the first time in about eight or nine years I hauled my high-yella ass from the naughty north to the sexy south — Atlanta, Gee-Ay, to be precise — to immerse myself in what has always in my experience been the most fun and unabashedly enthusiastic convention of its kind in these here United States, and I was amazed by what I witnessed. A hell of a lot can change in a mere decade (or less), and Dragon Con has now grown to the point of requiring four hotels and their convention centers to handle all the madness on display. And it’s a good thing they were all available; the Hyatt, the Marriott, the Sheraton, and the Hilton were all bursting at the seams with the faithful, many in wild and geekish costumery, all eager to see and be seen while checking out the dozens of panels, live shows, costume contests, and such, along with the specialized shopping one always finds at such events.

Eager though I was to see and cover as much as I could, it immediately became apparent that it would be physically impossible to see even half of what was going on, even if I could pull a Jamie Madrox and multiply myself into at least six people, so instead I’ll just give you a brief overview of the cornucopia of fun.

Upon arrival I was inundated with the con’s sunny vibes and upbeat attitude. Families had come with their kids in tow, many decked out in outfits that celebrated their particular fannish bent, such as mom, dad and the little ones rocking the gear of characters from Star Trek or Star Wars, and sights like that warmed my heart. But while family fun is great, let’s face it and admit that the best costumes are usually reserved for the legions of women who take full advantage of the con setting to shed their drab work personas and unleash their tightly-fitted inner super-heroine or scantily-clad fantasy-type female. Acres upon acres of geekish hotness were there, rocking it loud and proud, and I guarantee the sight of all those lovelies running around as favorite characters incited the spontaneous onset of puberty in many a young lad present. (And do not get me started on what happened in the later hours, when the free-flowing grownup libations ingested at the various hotel bars and theme parties worked their magic and costumed revelers of all genders and orientations got together…)

Since I couldn’t possibly go to all the panels I wanted to see, I concentrated on my initial goal of seeing the “Meet Traci Lords” panel, and I’m glad I did because it not only turned out to be very entertaining, but also revealed Miss Lords to be a savvy, funny and sincere entity worthy of a fair re-evaluation well removed from her notoriety/infamy as a coked-up underage porn star. That Traci Lords is dead and buried, and from the exploited kid’s ashes has arisen a really cool actress who studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Hollywood, and when asked by the panel’s moderator why she chose to enroll at Strasberg Institute, Lords responded with, “I thought it was the logical thing to do after porn. I mean, what does one do after porn?” I was also taken with her attitude toward how one’s adolescent need to fit in can adjust to, “When you’re older you’re glad not to be part of the cookie cutter crowd. You just don’t give a fuck and you just be who you are.” Well said, and I could not agree more. Look for Traci in the upcoming adaptation of the best-selling book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, which should be a riot if it’s even one-eighth as funny (and appalling) as the source material.

Every good con features “Artists Alley,” an area reserved for writers, cartoonists and illustrators, both aspiring and seasoned, and Dragon Con’s was peopled with the likes of Eisner Award-winner Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier), George Perez (The New Teen Titans), Bob Burden (The Flaming Carrot), Amanda Conner (Power Girl), Michael Golden (Bucky O’Hare), Jimmy Palmiotti (Jonah Hex), and many others. There they greeted their gushing fans, signed books, did sketches, and basically gave back much of the love their admirers have showered upon them for years. Artists Alley is always a favorite place for me and I had a great time there this time around.

Rodney's Statement

Rodney Ramos lays down the law.

My two favorite moments from this con had to be Rodney Ramos — inker extraordinaire on Transmetropolitan and a host of other books that would never have made their deadlines without his skillful hand — broke out his oft-seen sign proclaiming that he is not Humberto Ramos, immediately after which a fan approached him with a fistful of Humberto’s books in hope that he would sign them. Then there was the bizarre, show-stopping sight of Darwyn Cooke strolling in and ready to sign while dressed from head to toe in an adult-sized Winnie the Pooh getup for no apparent reason.


I was also glad to be able to sit and chat with my old friend Amanda Conner, (Above) who, as per usual, broke out with a memorable quote, this time in regard to the overly milky coffee I’d snagged her from the food court. Quoth Amanda, “I like a latte, but it needs an extra-strong shot of caffeine. I’m talkin’ enough caffeine to come right up and kick you in the vagina!” Yep, that one was just as memorable as the sweaty, overweight guy who was seen wearing a black t-shirt emblazoned with “Dead Girls Don’t Say No.”

On Saturday night I hit the Cry For Dawn costume contest and found myself surrounded by a plethora of lovelies who showed up to embody the many aspects of Joseph Michael Linsner’s goddess of birth and rebirth. I wandered about backstage (fueled by more tequila than I care to admit to), snapping pictures and talking with the very friendly and “into it” contestants, and one of them, a lady identified as “Shelli Da’Neal,” explained her participation with, “I like dressing as characters, designing characters, and showing admiration for other artists,” so if you ever wondered why some of these women go for the whole costume thing, I’d say that was a pretty good answer.

Hilariously emceed by Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels, the contest was a hoot and a half, unleashing an avalanche of creativity, pulchritude, and mirth that was greatly enjoyed by all present. And while she somehow did not win the contest, famous cosplayer Yaya Han represented in an incredible outfit with a pair of wings that blew my mind.

By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was miraculously not hung-over, but I was somewhat exhausted as I returned to Artists Alley and pretty much planted my tired tuchas when not making last-minute runs to the dealer’s rooms, the food court, or the art show that was located right next to the Alley (I would have taken some pics of the art show, but photography was strictly verboten). And then, before I knew it, the day was done and I had to retire back to my room at the Best Western after snagging as meal at the IHOP. My flight back to NYC was early in the morning and there was still a day left to the Con, but the last day of a show is usually pretty low key, so I didn’t feel bad about leaving early so I could get home and settle in before resuming my duties as a copywriter/proofreader at a Manhattan design house.

My experience at the ’09 Dragon Con was nothing short of dizzying, with an overload of sights, sounds, familiar faces and the joy of total immersion into the culture of my people, namely my fellow geeks. Christ, I love this stuff, and I’m already setting my sights on next year’s event. Take my word for it, folks. Dragon Con is the exemplary con that isn’t plagued with overcrowding, poor crowd-control, bad vibes, of Hollywood jerkoffs swooping down to usurp the fans’ fun. This is my kind of shindig, and I hope you’ll join me there next year. I may just deck my flabby, hairy ass out in a leopard print Speedo and rock it Tarzan-style, so lock up your daughters!

Oh, and for your enjoyment, here’s a wee look at some of the fun to be had at the show:


Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels chats with Marie Antoinette at the Cry For Dawn costume contest.


The Dawn who should have won. I know the character is very much open to interpretation, but she looks like she walked right off the cover.

WINGS 1.jpg

Yaya Han’s amazing take on Dawn (also not the winner).




I think I dreamed about this when I twelve. Oh, the humanity…






USAGI 2.jpg



A closeup, just so we’re clear on this.



A stunning real-life Power Girl poses with Amanda Conner’s version of the character.


The stunning P.G. with your roving reporter.


An excellent pair of 1950’s Invasion of the Body-Snatchers pod people, in black-and-white no less!


These Nostromo crew members  were posing for me when this totally unrelated dude in a totally appropriate xenomorph getup happened to stroll by. Such is the magic of Dragon Con!



Going female is the best thing to happen to Loki in ages.




When I took this shot, a mother walked by and remarked aloud to her kid, “Look, honey. A robot!” And then the groans from the fans started.


An absolutely killer Hawkeye.


Jimmy Palmiotti sketches Jonah Hex for a fan. 




An audience with Traci Lords.


Ya just gotta love Electra-Woman and Dyna-Girl!


After decades of witnessing estrogenic vitriol hurled at the film for it allegedly being a wall-to-wall festival of rape and general misogyny (which anyone who’s actually seen the movie can tell you it isn’t), it was refreshing to see female fans show some love for A Clockwork Orange.


Ditko-era Peter Parker, as portrayed by Thor Parker of Manhattan’s Midtown Comics.



Darwyn the Pooh searches for some inter-species lovin’ from the Flaming Carrot.



AT_AT 2.jpg

Is this the ultimate geeky couples costume? You decide!



Perhaps the ultimate expression of southern geek pride.



  1. There will be no further cosplay/costuming competitions.

    We now have an all time Grand Champion. Further efforts are futile.

  2. Ummm..Traci Lords? Yeah, that should NEVER be the highlight of a, supposed, COMIC BOOK convention!

    But while a lot of cool creators and stuff were there and the pics are cool, I really don’t see the difference with this and the larger cons, with the exception being people talking about more cosplay and more sex. Is that what I go to a con for? Not really.

    But, it seems like people have fun and should keep more to the billing that Dragon-Con is like the dirty, little Vegas of comic cons, with regards to sex on display, all the sex parties and all that.

  3. Michael… Dragon Con *isn’t* purely a comic con. And it isn’t exactly small. What makes it different is that it’s… kind of one-stop shopping for your geeky convention needs, all in one place. Sci Fi authors? Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner in person? Goth, period, steampunk and filk concerts? Dragon Con has all of it covered. Comics and sex are just a part of it.

    But yes, Dragon Con *is* infamous for the vast amounts of, er. Risque behavior in the evening. Because it isn’t corporate, it’s made by and for fans, so it, ahem. Serves *whatever* needs those fans might have. Perfectly PG-13 up until about 5pm, though.

  4. OK, I usually just sorta shake my head at costumers, since unfortunately the body rarely matches the outfit. But some of these are really really good. Hawkeye is very convincing. And the Spidey-Peter guy gets points for originality.

  5. Dolly Deathstar? That lady has a wicked sense of humor. I bet she has some funny stories.

    I love the pudgy Kirk in the background of the Flaming carrot shot– LOL

  6. I second the Peter Parker spider sense guy. I also loved the black and white pod people, and the Alien crew. The Disney princesses are great. I got a photo of the whole line-up of them at comic con… I didn’t realize at the time that they were “low cut” versions of them, until I was showing the photos to my three year old daughter, later that night. She thought they were great. So did I.

  7. Looking at all these DRAGON*CON cosplayer pix, I can’t help but wonder what would’ve the original d20-rolling D&D players thought of what the hell has become of “their” Con— esp. of that Pris-from-BLADE RUNNER-gone-to-seed-auditioning-for-the-Ring-Cycle-with-her-ectomorph-boyslave from the earlier D*C entry. When did their ‘tribe’ began to be displaced by the newer costumed ‘invaders’?

    DRAGON*CON does seem to have evolved over the years into the polymorphously-perverse Yang to SDCC’s Hollywoodified Yin— and apparently, there are a LOT of nerds and geeks thankful for the option!

    (Then again, reading about the sordid court case involving one of the original founders of D*C really puts a shadow on this kind of development of Con culture… )

  8. I don’t understand the costuming impulse at all beyond a rudimentary intellectual acknowledgment but I doubt they deserve to be splattered with the spare tar from that particular brush.

  9. I LOVE DragonCon. It has so much to offer and doesn’t end when exhibit halls close for the night. Some of what I did there was 6 slots of Living Forgotten Realms 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. Walked around the Walk of Fame which had something like 30 tv & movie stars signing autographs. I hit three panels on the paranormal hosted by guys from Ghosthunters on SyFy and Paranormal State. The DragonCon parade is a personal favorite of mine. I also got to sit on a panel on how to write and sell graphic novels. I also sat in o the DragonCon indy wrestling show where The Iron Shiek, Raven and Demolotion were signing autographs a row in front of me.

    I missed the multi-player on-line gaming track, the skeptic track, most of the writer’s track, most of the panels with famous stars and authors, all the bands that were playing, The Cry For Dawn Look-a-like contest, writer’s workshop and a ton more stuff. There’s actually too much to do at DragonCon which is why I love it. And least I forget, just walking around costume watching. Just go to and search DragonCon 2009 to see costumes that look like they are right off of movie sets.

    It’s also set across 3 hotels all in a line. This helps to break up congestion of people a bit and I like it very much.

  10. there is a sense of joy and wonder about this show that is lacking in others…everyone i know had a fantastic time and the comic pros were treated like gold.

    If i was dc, i would set up a vertigo booth there next year…its made up of people that would be those books audience…but probably dont know those type of books exist. just an observation.

    we all had a blast…and to answer a few people, its nothing like a regular comic book convention, trust me. totally different vibe.

  11. Except for the attendees themselves (and a quick dash into Artists’ Alley to say hello to a few folks), I feel like I attended a different, albeit very enjoyable show (I indulged my geek heart and went to much of the Sci Fi media programming tracks [Shatner/Nimoy best panel ever] plus a panel by one of my favorite authors of recent years, Diana Gabaldon). But I totally agree that everyone was really happy to be there, and stuff that would have been security nightmares anywhere else were handled very smoothly by the staff (SDCC take a hint from this show and put 30 minutes between big panels so there is time to clear out rooms and let people in – and, yes, this was done with rooms holding a few thousand people). I had not been to this show for 12 years and, while it had grown, it was not overwhelming (although I also would need clones to see everything I wanted to see).

    The one down side was that a lot of people were not aware of Artists’ Alley because it was in a different hotel from the other exhibitor/dealer rooms. There were several people I met in line for panels who were into comic books, but unaware of everyone who was exhibiting at the show or where they were. Hopefully, Dragon*Con will rectify this next year and somehow make more people aware of Artists’ Alley (the difference in traffic in that room and in the other exhibitor rooms was rather telling).

    But a really great, fun show. Well worth continuing to come to (and I received tremendous value for the $90 4-day pass I bought).

  12. Hi! I’m the Pod Person on the left in your picture, found your site looking for pics :) It’s funny; because I’m primarily a costumer I think of D*C as a costuming con, and it is huge for costuming. But my fellow Pod Person and I were discussing exactly the idea that it has a lot of different facets; some of our friends are there to drink and party, some to make and show off elaborate costumes, some to go to panel after panel and get autographs, some to game, some to attempt a World Record Thriller dance. This was the first time I stayed up past 1 or 2 at the con and that was b/c I went gaming in the wee hours of the morning.

    It’s not really focused on being a trade show like San Diego Comic Con is (at least, not yet, knock on wood). I always end up describing it as “Mardis Gras for nerds” to my friends, and I think they get the idea. (PS, we weren’t the only pod people there! not sure that counts…)

  13. Eve11, your costumes were great! Easily my favorites of the bunch. I think designing them in black and white made all the difference. It really sets you apart from some of the others.

    Great job! =)

  14. Hey, I think I met the writer of this column while running around for the Dawn Look-a-Like Contest (hi there Steve). I’m happy to see Dragon*Con written up on the Beat. As it grows, its attitude towards comics has shifted noticeably, especially in the past few years.

    Is Dragon*Con, a comics show? No, not particularly. It’s more of an all-purpose Geekapalooza, with all the types mentioned above; actors, gamers, goth musicians, sci-fi authors, & cosplayers. But they have a fairly new (3 years? 4 years) comics track director & the new artist alley space, though in a different hotel, is a huge improvement from where the comics artists used to be (sequestered in tiny basement rooms of one of the hotels). Every stripe of geeky freak & freaky geek can be found there, Twilighters & Buffy fans existing in harmony.

    I don’t think the DC/Marvel crowd would necessarily flourish there but anyone who does titles that are slightly off the beaten path – alternative comics, anything sci-fi/fantasy, Jimmy P suggested Vertigo – could probably do very well there indeed. The thing about Dragon*Con is people come prepared to shop & they’re not the same folks we spend the rest of the year selling to @ other shows. New eyeballs.

    Back to the contest for a moment: the Dawn that should have won, as you call her, was Karen Lee, was was indeed awesome (she was also on CNN, woot)! As was the very famous & gorgeous Yaya Han (& you weren’t the only person who wanted to know after why she didn’t win). But the woman who won, Carlye “Star” Carroll, just embodied Dawn. It’s more than a costume contest – it’s how you carry yourself onstage, too. Amanda Conner was an aweome judge. You can see all the girls at photographer Tad’s gallery, here:

    Thanks again to the brave gals & a few guys who entered the contest. & Power Girl was last year’s Dawn Look-a-Like winner, BTW. Gorgeous.

    People keep *telling me* that there’s all this naughty fun going on after-hours at the show. I’m working it, so I am clueless on that front.