The Dragon*Con 2000 Report

Dragon*Con pictures are now up!!!

Here it is gang! The official GPF Dragon*Con 2000 report! This will probably grow over time, as I add photos and new (repressed?) memories. While I originally intended to do this "live" at the Con through the message boards, I failed to find a live and unencumbered Internet connection. However, I did keep a journal of events (so to speak), which here's a few samples of.

Day Zero: Wednesday, June 28

Keri (my wife) and I left work in Greensboro, NC, USA, and started heading south to Greenville, SC, where we were going to meet up with our good friend Wally. Unfortunately, it rained the entire trip, so we arrived later than we anticipated. Also unfortunately, my work laptop went into the shop to be brainwashed (have it's hard drive wiped and all software completely reinstalled), so I didn't have all my collected extras to show to everyone. (Curses!)

We spent the night at Wally's, since it was a half-way point between Greensboro and Atlanta, GA. Notice I didn't say "sleep;" sleeping implies getting a good, full night's rest. Four bouncing, playing cats made extra sure we'd be nice and groggy for the next day's drive. :)

Day One: Thursday, June 29

We awoke the next morning, showered, and loaded up the caravan to Atlanta. Wally informed us he was going to go in full costume as Fooker, and that he did. Proudly wearing his Fred T-shirt, he shaved off his weeks-old beard down to just a goatee and threw on a pair of fake glasses. To complete his ensemble, he somehow acquired a mass of bright green "goo" to make his very own Fred. (Don't ask me to explain what that stuff really was, because I don't know how to explain it without showing it to you.) He planned to clip "Fred" to his shoulder using an office paper clamp, but the contraption would not hold well. Eventually, Wally abandoned "Fred" altogether... the goo later became a semi-popular attraction at the Plan Nine booth.

Back to the story. Wally led the caravan most of the way to Atlanta, then we took over, using our handy directions provided by MapQuest. It wasn't long before we discovered the horrible truth... MapQuest was wrong! It turns out Georgia has changed how they number interstate exits, and "our" Exit 99 wasn't the "real" Exit 99. Fortunately, Wally used his small scrapes of Atlanta travel knowledge to get us to the right location. Within a few more minutes, we were smack dab in the middle of downtown Atlanta.

Finding the hotel was relatively easy, but finding parking was another matter. Keri and I managed to find a parking garage right across the street from the hotel, while Wally circled the block a couple more times before resigning to the same place. We checked in with relative ease. Right behind us was none other than Pete Abrams (Sluggy Freelance) and his crew, including "Shirt Guy Tom" Ricket. Unfortunately, they weren't so lucky, and there were several frantic calls to David Allen to straighten out their room situation. Eventually, we made our way to the VIP registration desk (always feels good to say that), got our passes, and made our way to the Dealer's Room.

We found the Plan Nine booth quickly, and everyone quickly got aquatinted. (After all, this was the first time many of us had ever met in person! :) Present and accounted for was myself, Pete Abrams, Darren "Gav" Bleuel (Nukees), Duane Abel (Zed), and the infamous Bill Holbrook (Kevin & Kell). Terrence Marks (Unlike Minerva) was also there, helping out and happily announcing his new deal with Bill. (Terrence is now coloring the Kevin & Kell strips for him.) Soon to arrive were also Thomas Dye (Newshounds) and Ian McDonald (Bruno the Bandit). Throw in three or four more Plan Nine people and stuff us all behind the tables into our small little booth, and you'll have a good picture of the fun. :)

Now, I will quickly admit that, before this, I had never been to any sort of science fiction or fantasy convention before. That's right, you heard me... the guy who wrote the Space Con story had never been to one before. I was told by many people that I pegged things pretty squarely on the nose with that story, but I wasn't prepared for just how accurate I was. :) Sure enough, there were Klingons and other aliens, plenty of leather corsets and Stormtrooper helmets, and none too few strange things that defy description. While I stayed in the booth the majority of the time, I did get to walk around some, and there were plenty sights to see.

Other minor events of the day included a great deal of artist "jam sessions" behind the table, where we each swapped sketch books and drew each others characters. (Needless to say, this kept on throughout the entire weekend. :) Keri was very kind to me, and stood in line to get Bill Mumy's autograph (Lennier of Babylon 5, as well as many other projects). And everything capped off with a wonderful evening between Darren, Thomas, Keri and I about everything under the Web-comics sun, from Plan Nine to Keenspot and beyond. (We also revealed a number of top secret upcoming plot lines for each other's comics. What? You expect me to give them away here? I don't think so...! <evil grin>)

Day Two: Friday, June 30

Friday started out with probably one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of the whole Con. We had discussed months before about trying to have an "online comics panel" set up, where we could tout the benefits and pitfalls of the art form in front of anyone who would listen. To our surprise, they actually did schedule such a forum, and the turn out was incredible. Before a packed and very attentive audience (spilling into the aisles and the hall), we fielded questions and shared our triumphs and trials with eager listeners, several of whom drew online comics themselves! We were also joined by John "the Gneech" Robey (Suburban Jungle, NeverNever), who snuck in before we realized it. Being my pessimistic self, I had pretty much resigned the panel as "just a room where the few of us could sit and chat quietly while we drown in self pity," so I was obviously wonderfully shocked by the number of people present. Thanks to every one of you that made it!

During the day, we spent plenty of time swapping stories, drawing sketches, signing books, and roaming the floor. Pete, as usually, was swamped with rabid Sluggites trying to pick apart every aspect of Sluggy Freelance. The running joke of the weekend (for me, at least) was to try and get him to autograph books with a blue pen, which his constant reply was, "No! Blue is wrong!" Bill also had a steady stream of fans (although not quite as rabid :) pouring in front of him. Needless the say, the rest of us acted somewhat like satellites to the two of them, hoping some of their fans would recognize us. And they did; I had several awesome conversations with avid Faulties, and the Number One statement everyone had to make was: "I'm so glad you finally got Nick and Ki together!"

Four people deserved huge amounts of credit for keeping the Plan Nine booth buzzing. Two were Wally and Keri, who spent many hours roaming the Dealers Room floor, as well as the main convention rooms of the hotels, passing out fliers and sample booklets to anyone and everyone. The other two were Duane and his fiancee Denise, both of whom were incredible salespeople and never seemed to be standing (or sitting) in one place for any real length of time. Not to say the Plan Nine employees weren't busy themselves, but these four voluntarily did a lot of leg work in and out of the booth.

The night ended with the great "Sluggy Fan Dinner," where 120 loyal Sluggites (yours truly included) all gathered at a pretty fancy restaurant a few blocks from the Con. It was truly an event to be experienced, instead of described. Bun-Bun and Kiki were present (actually, two Bun-Bun's!), as was someone with a "working" model of one of Riff's laser canons. The food was excellent, and the dessert incredible. We spent a lot of time at the dinner talking with Ian and Terrence. I do feel sorry for the regular customers, though... :)

Oh, did I forget to mention I got a coveted Sluggy "Quatrix" T-shirt? <evil grin>

Day Three: Saturday, July 1

Saturday, of course, was the biggest day of the Con. Several times, the Plan Nine booth was so packed, we couldn't see anything outside it! David had a large, red Plan Nine helium blimp tethered, floating above, and somehow a plush Bun-Bun made its way up there, complete with a switchblade in hand.

Another interesting discovery made on Saturday was that the assistant to Walter Koenig (Chekov of Star Trek) had a relative who was a big Sluggy fan. To our surprise, Mr. Koenig walked past our booth several times. After much prodding from Keri, I finally walked up and spoke to him, and even got his autograph. (However, I'm dying of embarrassment as I type this, because I'm absolutely certain I was mispronouncing his name several times during our conversation.)

However, the absolute most funny story of the entire Con (for me, at least), was my encounter with Tracy Scoggins (Captain Lochley of Babylon 5). Many of you may remember this strip from the Space Con story, where Fooker hands Nick Tracy Scoggins' "phone number" to throw him off the track from learning that Ki is interested in him. After even more poking and prodding, Keri eventually got me to take a copy of the book and show her the strip. Of course, the most embarrassing part of the situation is that I misspelled her name in the strip ("Scroggins" instead of "Scoggins"). However, she read it and laughed (and it seemed like a genuine laugh, too). I signed the book and gave it to her as a gift, and in return she gave me a free autographed photo. In the autograph, she added, "Catch that Narn!" (Read the strip if you don't get it.) So yet another GPF book has made its way into famous hands. Keri even noted that she must have taken it with her, since it wasn't left behind or in her trash can....

Saturday ended for most of us with a very top secret, "hush-hush" Plan Nine business meeting, where David revealed his sinister, dark secrets for the world. While I am bound by my oath of silence, I would have to say that things will hopefully get very interesting in the not too distant future... :D

Day Four: Sunday, July 2

Sunday, however, was a completely different story. Although things ended up okay in the end, the day did not start out very well.

Our original plans were to check out of the hotel in the morning, help out at the booth until noon, and then begin our trip back to North Carolina. However, when I asked the man at the hotel desk if I needed my parking validated, his jaw dropped. He then informed us that the parking garage we had so luckily found on Thursday closes on the weekends. In other words, our car was being held hostage! Sure enough, I walked to the gate and saw them drawn and locked. It wasn't until then that I saw the very small sign that said they were closed on weekends. Fortunately, the hotel staff let us stay another night in our old room.

Later, when I finally managed to speak to the parking garage manager on the phone, I informed him of our plight and that we needed to leave if at all necessary. However, the manager replied, "Our garage never closes. It is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."

I replied, "But I walked up to the gate and saw it with my own eyes. The doors are shut and locked tight."

In the exact same voice, he responded, "Our garage never closes. It is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."

"What about the sign that says you lock your doors at midnight?"

"Our garage never closes. It is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."

Needless to say, his monotonous, robotic repetition grew annoying very quickly. So here's my plea to all Faulties: If you happen to live or visit Atlanta, please boycott Allright Parking garages. Right now, they're pretty high on my list of "Companies to Destroy Once I Finish Taking Over the World."

Despite this setback, Sunday ended up a very good day. I got to meet several more wonderful Faulties, spend a few more hours with my new friends, and helped the Plan Nine crew break down and pack. After we saw David and company off on the road, Keri and I wandered around downtown Atlanta, looking for dinner. We ate at Benihana (a Japanese steakhouse (nice, but not as good as the Arigato back home)), gorged ourselves on delicious food, and waddled back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.

Day Five: Monday, July 3

There's not much to say for Monday, except we got up, checked out, and drove the long trip home. Exhausted from the ride, we collapsed on the couches and vegetated the rest of the evening. (This is why there was no news update when I promised. :)

There you have it, gang. Dragon*Con was an absolute blast, and it was wonderful meeting online friends in person and finally putting faces with names (or nicknames). Thanks to all my webtooning compatriots for putting up with me, and to all the Faulties who told me how much you enjoy the strip. The 2001 Dragon*Con is August 31 through September 3, 2001, and if Plan Nine is planning to return, I'm definitely planning to be there, too. Maybe it's time to send it that pre-registration form... :D

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