“Dragon Con is always either a year or a day away.”
Dragon Con has sort of crept up on me this year.
I think it’s mostly due to the fact that The Dirty Dirty Con Con Game Game Show Show is no more. Preparation for that was absolutely exhausting and usually got started around February, so in one way or another I was thinking about Dragon Con for at least the six months leading up to it.
If you’d like the details on why that epic game show had to go away, check out Episode 201 of the Needless Things Podcast.
If you’d like to know what in the world you’re supposed to do on Saturday night at Dragon Con now that our record-breaking, over-capacity-every-time game show is done, stay tuned to the rest of this article for news about THE BIG DAMN GAME SHOW.
While I do feel that Dragon Con is suddenly upon me, don’t take that to mean I’ve got any less going on this year than usual or that I haven’t been preparing. More on that later.
This year’s Progress Report is now available on DragonCon.org. You might also be able to pick up a physical copy at your Local Comic Book Shop. Or you might have already gotten it in the mail.
Every year I like to run down the newest Progress Report and provide summaries of the Tracks, Performers, Guests, and maybe a few events that are confirmed.
This post is a way for me as both a performer and as an attendee to start getting my ducks in a row and planning for Con. Obviously I’ve been planning for months now, but once August hits it’s the Death’s Head Panoply blitz of planning. Shit gets real.
I’ll be looking mostly at the things that interest me personally, but there will be plenty of general information, as well. Dragon Con is simply too massive for me to cover every Guest or detail.
As of right now I only have a general sense of my schedule, as it hasn’t been finalized, but I will point out some of the more concrete events that I’ll be hosting or participating in. As ever, nothing at Dragon Con is guaranteed to happen until it already has, and even then there might be doubts.
For now, pull out your Dragon Con Progress Report and follow along!
In case you’re not already familiar with it, Dragon Con takes place across five hotels – Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Marriot Marquis, Hilton Atlanta, Sheraton Atlanta, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza - within walking distance of one another in Downtown Atlanta. Because of this, you need to plan your schedule beforehand and allow at least thirty minutes of travel time between events. Also, buy a large water bottle and keep it with you at all times. Most hotels have water coolers scattered about, so you can stay filled up all day and night.
Phantom Tip: If you’re not peeing once an hour you’re getting dehydrated! By the time you realize your lack of hydration is effecting your fun, it takes a long time to recover. It will suck away at your energy and your ability to focus.
In order to plan your schedule, download the Dragon Con app from iTunes or the Play Store.
IMPORTANT: As of 2018 Dragon Con is no longer releasing a Pocket Program. Instead, a Quick Start Guide will be available that will feature the schedule grid in a new format. It sounds like it will be a more convenient tool, especially considering how much the app has evolved over the past three years. A full Pocket Program is somewhat obsolete at this point, though I expect there will be plenty of grumbling from old-schoolers.
If you’re staying in a host hotel, be sure to find out what channel is carrying Dragon Con TV. This is the network run by a bunch of crazy Dragon Con volunteers. It provides original content, music videos, comedy sketches, short films, and also broadcasts many of the guest panels. It’s the best television channel I’ve ever seen and I look forward to seeing it every year. I just leave my TV tuned to it and on all weekend.
“Track” is the term used in reference to all of the events involved in a particular genre or field of interest. For example, the Trek Track encompasses all things Star Trek. There are panels featuring celebrity guests, genre experts, and fans. There are also parties and events such as the Miss Star Trek Universe Pageant, which involves costuming as various species from the Star Trek universe. So to make things easy, you simply find the Track that represents your area (or areas) of interest and look for that schedule. Typically most or all of the events for one Track will take place in the same hotel and even the same general group of rooms. It all depends on the size of the Track.
Here are all of the Tracks, with brief notes about the nature of each:
Alternate History – Exploring themes of time travel, old world culture, Steampunk, and historical “what-ifs?”
American Sci-Fi Classics – Celebrating science fiction movies and TV of the past. One of the most fun and immersive Tracks at Con! I am thrilled to be a part of this family.
American Sci-Fi Media – Modern and current genre programs and movies.
Animation – Your home base for the creators and voices of your favorite cartoons.
Anime-Manga – All about the art of Japanese sequential storytelling.
Apocalypse Rising – Media dealing with the many different ways that civilization could end, as well as what happens afterward.
BritTrack – This one focuses on the many genre and entertainment contributions of Great Britain.
Costuming – Where the art of character building through costumes, props, and apparel gets its due.
Diversity – An all-new Track looking at representation in all of genre entertainment.
Electronic Frontiers Forums – Internet, law, technology and their impact on society.
Fantasy Literature – Focusing on the written form of the genre.
Filk – Folk music about genre topics.
High Fantasy – I somehow missed the addition of this Track last year. It seems to encompass any form of fantasy media that Fantasy Literature doesn’t.
Horror – Focusing on the gruesome and macabre aspects of genre storytelling! I’m excited to be returning to the Horror Track for a third year!
Independent Film – Packed with screenings and panels devoted to filmmakers who operate outside of the studio system.
Kaleidoscope – Entertainment for kids and young teens.
Military SciFi Media – Franchises such as Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, and Firefly tell very specific kinds of stories that utilize military settings to sell genre stories. This Track covers them all!
Paranormal – Start your day with a Tarot reading and then stick around for examinations of the unexplained!
Podcasting and New Media – And exploration and showcase of new media.
Puppetry – Every year the Puppetry Track manages to grow and encompass more facets of the entertainment world. Puppetry is everywhere, and these folks are going to share that magic with Dragon Con. For the second year I will be involved with something special for this exceptional Track.
Robotics & Maker – For those that create.
Science – For fans who enjoy a little reality alongside their fantasy and speculation.
Sci-Fi Literature – Where we all (or at least most of us) got started – exploring the words that brought us to where the genre is today.
Silk Road - Asian cinema and culture.
Skeptic – A Track for critical thinkers and lovers of science
Space – Still looking to infinity and beyond.
Star Wars – Business has never been better for these folks, huh?
Trek Track – Focusing on the books, comics, movies, and, of course television inspired by the mind of Gene Rodenberry and those that followed in his footsteps.
Urban Fantasy – I’m not sure how to describe this one, but some of the television shows it covers include Lost Girl, Being Human, Supernatural, and my wife’s favorite – The Vampire Diaries. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel join this Track’s list of topics for the first time this year!
Writers – Where writers help writers write.
X Track – It seems like this track focuses on cryptozoology and the paranormal as they relate to conspiracy theory. Sort of. I believe it takes its name from The X-Files, so that should clue you in.
Young Adult Literature – It’s funny how this category has exploded over the last twenty years – Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and the like have created a whole new fandom that didn’t exist when I was a Young Adult.
That’s thirty-one Tracks covering every major aspect of genre entertainment and some straightforward real-world subjects as well – Electronic Frontiers, Science, Space, and more. Every year Dragon Con looks at its Tracks and figures out where there is a need or not so much of a need anymore. The people in charge are very good at adjusting Dragon Con to its attendees’ interests year after year.
Just a few things worth noting. Some are new, some are not.
You can read all of Dragon Con’s policies here. I felt that these paragraphs were particularly important:
“If you feel you have been harassed please find the nearest Dragon Con volunteer. This year, all 2000 Dragon Con volunteers will be easily recognized by their bright tie dye lanyards. They will direct you to the security operation in the Marriott. If, at any time, you feel that your personal safety or the safety of others is in jeopardy, please contact the Atlanta Police Department in an emergency via 911. The Atlanta Police Department non-emergency phone number for Zone 5 is 404-658-7830.
You may also go directly to the security operation – room L405-L406 in the Marriott, on the Marquis level – to report an incident. We have set up a private screening area, staffed by an Atlanta Police Department officer to counsel individuals who feel they have been harassed. We will work closely with the APD to determine the best course of action.”
*Once again in 2018 Dragon Con will be offering Thursday-only badges (on site only). This means that you can come down for Dragon Con Wrestling, the Classics Track sing-along, the Bunny Hutch party, and many other events that have now become Nerd Year’s Eve traditions! Count down to midnight with your ol’ pal Phantom Troublemaker in the Marriot!
*Beginning on Saturday, July 14, 2018 and ending on Friday, August 17, 2018, a limited number of Saturday ONLY and Sunday ONLY memberships will be available through the Dragon Con Store for $50.00 and $45.00 respectively. No group discounts or transfers allowed and badges may only be picked up on the respective day purchased. Additional day badge memberships are available only at the door on the day that you wish to attend.
*If you already purchased your passes to Dragon Con, bring that postcard with the barcode on it that they sent you in the mail. It will make your badge pickup much faster. And if you didn’t receive it or lost it, let them know now. They can send you another one. I know this because a few years ago I thought I hadn’t received one and I asked for another and they sent it and then after Con I found the first one.
*You will need your badge to get into the host hotels. Not just into panels and stuff – into the hotels. This policy started in earnest in 2013 and I approve one hundred percent. I invest a lot of time and money in Dragon Con and I don’t need any freeloaders bringing down the tone.
*Once again, some Tracks have moved from their traditional stomping grounds. Be sure to check the Dragon Con app and the Pocket Program – don’t make assumptions about where things are happening and miss out on fun stuff!
*The Comics and Pop Artist Alley will be on the fourth floor of AmericasMart building 2. This gives that area much more space and also allows the expansion of the vendors and exhibitors on the first three floors. I’m good with this decision because the Alley is a destination for me and it gets frustrating when it’s buried in the middle of all of the vendors.
This is simply my own personal list of Guests that I am super excited about; my highlights, if you will. Just because someone isn’t mentioned here doesn’t mean I’m not stoked they’re at Con. I just can’t write about everyone. This list is nowhere near compete. The website is the most current resource for Guest Announcements. Chances are even more will be announced between now and Con.
Note: LOTS of Guests have been added since the publication of the Progress Report – Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Tom Welling, Michael Rosenbaum, and many more have been announced via Dragon Con social media.
John Barrowman – Barrowman is without a doubt one of Dragon Con’s most legendary regular guests. His panels are always outrageous and he brings incredible levels of personality and energy every year he attends.
Tom Cavanagh – Harrison Wells is possibly the best part of CW’s The Flash, but Cavanagh has a long history with television prior to that and is an exciting addition to the Dragon Con guest list.
Michael Cho – A unique comic artist, his fantastic covers are a highlight of DC’s variant program every month.
Amy Chu – The writer of the fan-favorite Poison Ivy miniseries has also worked on KISS, Red Sonja, Dejah Thoris, and plenty more.
Mike Colter – Luke Cage himself will be at Dragon Con this year!
Peter David – One of my all-time favorite comic book writers. From Hulk to X-Factor and everything in between, I always love his work.
Felicia Day – A true DIY geek role model.
Emilio Delgado – Luis from Sesame Street!
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair – The greatest professional wrestler of all time. I’ve been asked if Flair will make an appearance at DCW on Thursday night. I cannot answer that question.
Victor Garber – An absolute delight whether he’s on stage or screen. Most recently known as Professor Stein on Legends of Tomorrow.
Gil Gerard – Buck Rogers!
Stacey Gordon – One of Needless Things’ favorite puppeteers and performers. Be sure to stop by the Puppetry Track table and buy some of her amazingly adorable puppets! Remember that sandwich I got last year? That’s one of Stacey’s creations.
Doc Hammer – One of the creators of The Venture Bros. and an all-around nice guy. If there’s a Venture panel this year, be sure to go. They’re the best.
Walter Koenig – I can’t imagine how tiring it must be to constantly hear about “nuclear wessels”. One of these days I’ll get around to watching Babylon 5 so I’ll have another frame of reference for Mr. Koenig.
Evangeline Lilly – She’s come a long way since I first saw her on Lost however many years ago. Her portrayal of Hope van Dyne is one of the highlights of the awesome Ant-Man movies.
Bob McGrath – Bob from Sesame Street!
Jaime Murray – She’s been in tons of recent and current genre stuff and she’s always awesome. My favorite role of hers was Stahma Tarr on Defiance, a show that was gone too soon.
John Noble – A true hero of sci-fi, from Walter on Fringe to the voice of Scarecrow in Batman: Arkham Knight, Noble is always a welcome presence.
Roscoe Orman – Gordon from Sesame Street!
Jonah Ray – Now the human on Mystery Science Theater 3000, this Nerdist alumni has a sense of humor that sometimes skews a little too close to my own, which I find unreasonably annoying.
Caroll Spinney – BIG BIRD!!!
Tad Stones – A former Disney Imagineer and the creator of the seminal Disney Afternoon shows Chip N’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck.
Tara Strong – One of the best-known and most talented voice actors working today. She’s worked on virtually all of the biggest cartoons you watch.
Babs Tarr – A phenomenally talented artist and storyteller with an immediately recognizable style. I highly recommend you find her in Comic Artists Alley and buy some art.
Christopher Uminga – Another artist with a unique style, Uminga’s designs for Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were recently released as a series of PVC statues from DC Collectibles.
Crüxshadows – A staple of Dragon Con, I think there’d be a riot if they didn’t show up. Their shows are truly a spectacle to behold and are a cornerstone of the proper Con experience.
Jess-O-Lantern – I don’t know anything about her, but between her name and the description of “blend of acoustic horrorpunk crossed with a cabaret...in a graveyard!” sounds excellent.
Tom Kenny & The Hi-Seas – I bet this will be one of the most fun performances Dragon Con has ever seen.
For the full list of guests and performers, go to DragonCon.org.
Obviously you can’t just base an event of this magnitude on guests. They’re important and all, but there has to be stuff going on. Dragon Con has more stuff going on than you would be able to do in a month, let alone in five days. Here’s just a little sample of the scheduled events (once again – the stuff I care about):
17th Annual Dragon Con Parade – If you’ve never seen the parade, you must see the parade. There’s just nothing else like it. No Hollywood movie can compare to the spectacle of hundreds of costumed nerds/dorks/geeks/superheroes/knights/wizards/ zombies/paranormal investigators/Hobbits/spacemen/etc. marching through downtown Atlanta. It’s breathtaking.
2016’s parade blocked me from getting to the Westin for a Horror Track panel, so be aware that if you’re not planning on watching the parade, it can still impact your plans.
Unless you’re hungover in your room. Which is how I used to do Saturdays.
The Armory – Not really an event, but a museum-style display of weaponry, both historical and fictional. This is something unique to Dragon Con and I highly recommend you make some time to check it out.
Charity Events – To keep up with updates of new events, fun ways to help with Dragon Con’s goal of giving back, as well as new items being added into the Auctions, follow Charity Events on social media: DragonConCharity on Facebook, and @DC_Charity on Twitter and Instagram.
The Late Night Puppet Slam – This is the greatest and best thing at Dragon Con that isn’t wrestling or a game show hosted by me. I cannot possibly express to you how strongly I feel you should attend. They should build a Bob and Carl amphitheater behind the Hyatt just so that everybody at Dragon Con can attend the Puppet Slam.
Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge Live! – Participants will have the chance to have their creations judged by Brian Henson (Labyrinth, Farscape), Kirk Thatcher (Dinosaurs, Muppets Tonight), and Halle Stanford (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), with host Gigi Edgley (Farscape). One winner will be invited to tour The Jim Henson Company in LA or New York and receive a travel stipend courtesy of Dragon Con and The Jim Henson Company. Get ready for the ultimate Creature Shop competition! Details will be announced the week of August 6th on The Jim Henson Company and Dragon Con social media platforms. #CSCLIVE
The Big Damn Game Show – Your pals Dave West, Sean Reid, and the Lovely Oz return with the pop culture offspring of your favorite game shows! Audience members compete in a multimedia cavalcade of fun for fabulous prizes! (this is our new game show – Saturday night at 10 PM)
DC FRAKKIN’ W! – Once again, your ol’ pal Phantom Troublemaker and the insane athletes of DCW kick off Dragon Con with the greatest wrestling show of the year! Come see high-caliber competitors from all over the world give their all to entertain the Dragon Con masses!
That’s it, folks. I strongly encourage you to visit DragonCon.org, download the app, and go listen to all of the Earth Station One Dragon Con Reports for the best information available.
Stay tuned to Needless Things throughout this month and beyond as we cover all things Dragon Con!
Be sure to join the Needless Things Podcast Facebook Group to get in on the fun and to find out when this year’s Needless Things Meet-Up will occur! If at all! Because I am super busy!
Join us for an auspicious celebration of our new special exhibit Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: World of Myth and Magic. The evening will include celebrity guests, a costume contest, heavy hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine bar, and a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to the Great Conjunction! Guests are encouraged to wear Dark Crystal-inspired costumes or fantasy masquerade attire and masks. Tickets are limited. Ticket information is below.
General admission tickets are $175 and include access to the Ball, heavy hors d'oeuvres, and admission to the Worlds of Puppetry Museum and the Dark Crystal special exhibit, which opens to the public on August 31, meaning you’ll be among the first to see it! Beer and wine will be for sale at the bar.
There will be 20 VIP tickets available for $300 each. VIP tickets grant admission one hour earlier at 6 pm and includes a cocktail hour with the celebrity guests and open beer and wine bar. VIP ticketholders will also receive a gift bag with exclusive items. (Cash bar during the Ball.)
Finally, for the Ultimate Dark Crystal Ball VIP Fan Experience, there will be two pairs of seats at the Skesksis Banquet Table! These packages will be up for auction, with a starting bid of $1,000 PER PAIR of tickets. These packages include entry to the VIP cocktail hour; reserved seating; an open beer and wine bar all night; and an Ultimate Fan gift bag with exclusive items. You will have a dedicated podling server to bring you bottomless food and drinks. You will also have one DJ song request for a spotlight dance with your companion.
Bidding for these packages will open Friday, June 1 at 12 pm EDT and will close Friday, June 8, 11:59 pm EDT, and we will post a link when bidding is live.
VIP Happy Hour: 6pm
General Admission: 7pm