The Dragon*Con 2005 Report

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Dragon*Con is one of the main staples of our convention schedule every year, and for good reason. It's the largest science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture convention in North America, with over 20,000 in attendance. They treat us like gold, and you guys always come out with a strong show of support. We've been going to D*C since 2000, and even in leaner times we do our best to make this con a must-stop on the GPF Road Show. This year, Dragon*Con was held on Labor Day weekend, September 2-5, 2005, in Atlanta, GA, USA, in the usual locations at the Atlanta Marriot Marquis and the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, as well as the new additional host hotel, the Atlanta Hilton.

Day One: Friday, September 2, 2005

As per our usual custom, my wife and I packed up the car Thursday morning and drove half-way to Atlanta and stayed at our usual mid-point in Greenville, SC. We kind of started this tradition back in 2000 when we stopped by to pick up our friend Wally, and for some reason it kind of stuck. This gave us some time to unwind and enjoy ourselves before the next hectic day at the con.

Unfortunately, just days before, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf states, wrecking havok throughout the South. While there were certainly greater problems to be encountered in the areas hardest hit, the rest of the nation was hit hard by vastly inflated gasoline prices. (Several oil refineries were devastated by the hurricane, severely limiting the nation-wide gas supply.) Throughout the South especially, prices were ridiculous, compounded by the fact that it was a major travel holiday weekend. Fortunately for us, our happily little Honda Civic Hybrid sips gas, so we were less impacted than others, but I think it curtailed attendence somewhat at the con.

(After last year's encounter with Hurricane Frances, one begins to wonder if Dragon*Con is becoming cursed....)

We arrived in Atlanta around noon on Friday. As usual, I managed to get us slightly lost by taking a wrong turn too early, but we eventually found our hotel and got checked in. Next was a brisk hike over to the Hilton to register (registration was moved there from the Hyatt this year) followed by a walk across the street to the Marriott to find Comic Artists Alley. There we found Bill Holbrook (Kevin & Kell) already getting set up. I hiked back to the hotel, drove the car around to the Marriott, unloaded our stuff, and parked the car back at our hotel. After walking back (man, if I didn't get my daily exercise before...), it was time to get set up.

Friday was pretty brisk. Usually the first day is slower than most, but not this year. Fans were coming by all the time, and it was great meeting all of you who dropped by. There were plenty of sketches and autographs floating around, and it's always great to hear what's on your minds about the strip. Unfortunately we were sold out of the first and fourth GPF books before the con, but plenty of you picked up Books #2 and #3. Thanks, guys!

Dragon*Con is, by far, one of the best cons I've ever been to when it comes to costumes. Comic-Con may have more by number just because of its sheer size, but Dragon*Con definitely has a higher costume per capita ratio. There are tons of costume pictures in the slide show (and we have plenty more that couldn't be used because the pictures didn't turn out). Make sure to check them out.

After Artists Alley closed, my wife and I walked over to Azio's Italian restaurant and had a wonderful dinner. When we got back to the hotel, we spent the evening talking with a couple friends who fly down to meet with us, then crashed for the evening. After all, Saturday is always the busiest day....

Day Two: Saturday, September 3, 2005

And it certainly was. Saturday started early for me, with a quick breakfast at the hotel and a brisk walk to the Marriott. Things kicked off nearly immediately. My wife and her friends walked over the registration area to pass out GPF flyers to folks waiting in line. Unfortunately, some folks had to wait in line over two hours to register, which greatly limited the amount of time they had to explore the con. At least we gave them some extra reading material during the wait. (And thanks to Lila and Casper for all their help.)

At the table, things were hopping. People were coming and going all the time, and it was great talking with everyone. During a brief lull, I doodled a funny sketch of Kevin from "Kevin & Kell" as Mr. Incredible from The Incredibles. One mutual GPF/K&K fan loved it so match that he commissioned me to sketch the entire core K&K cast as the Incredibles. The sketch was awesome in my humble opinion; he's supposed to scan it for me, so I hope to share it with everyone as soon as I get the scan.

My wife took a spin down the Walk of Fame and procured some great autographs for me. (Unfortunately, I'm usually so busy I don't get a chance to check it out myself.) Among the autographs and pictures she obtained were LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Robert Jordan, Peter S. Beagle, Connor Trinneer, John Noble, Bruce Hopkins, and Max Grodénchik.

Even despite the busy traffic, I usually get to spend a lot of time talking with Bill about various nefarious plans. (It was, after all, at Dragon*Con 2003 where we hatched the "A Tail of Two Species" crossover.) I also spent time conversing with John Lotshaw of Accidental Centaurs.

Saturday evening, we had a delicious dinner over at Steak & Ale. Afterward, while my wife and her friend Lila talked, I spent the rest of the evening working on comics. Unfortunately, we had a major project due that week at work, which kept me from working on comics before the con. So I was in a mad dash to finish, as I wasn't going to post any con pictures until I was done!

Day Three: Sunday, September 4, 2005

Sunday was a bit slower than Saturday, but not by much. It was back to the table early in the morning, followed by lots of meeting and greeting.

The big event of note, of course, was the panel. The Electronic Frontiers Forum of Georgia sponsored the "Nuts and Bolts of Producing a Webcomic" panel Sunday evening. Shortly before the con, the panel was moved to a bigger venue (the International Ballroom in the Hyatt, where registration used to be held), and this was one smart move. The panel was packed with people, with more people coming and going throughout its duration. On the panel were Erin Lindsey (Venus Envy), Jennie Breeden (The Devil's Panties), Chris Impink (artist of Fragile Gravity), Bill Holbrook (Kevin & Kell), Rob Balder (Partially Clips), and myself.

The panel went smoothly and was well moderated. There were lots of great questions asked, mostly about starting and running an online comic, so it was definitely geared more toward other cartoonists and less toward random fans. While there were lots of great discussion, I wish there could have been more questions from the audience. (Last year's panel was a chaotic bunch of questions from the floor, so perhaps the tighter rein was intentional.) Still, it was great to hear from everyone there, and several new signatures were added to the Con Shirt of Doom! I was even able to finally unload the Pocket Kingdom T-shirts I received from the marketing competition way back in October/November 2004. (See this News item for that announcement.)

By Sunday evening, we were running low on merchandise. Book #2 was sold out, and we thought the #3s were gone until we found a small stash hidden away in a box. Several plush Freds were adopted out to good homes. For one of the first times ever, we almost broke even on this con! (Cons are always a financial loss for us, but we think of it more as an investment in new fans than a money-making machine.) Thanks, everyone!

Once the doors closed, we walked over to Benihana for some yummy Japanese. Back at the hotel, I finally finished my strips for the week and managed to upload the first batch con photos. Only one more day to go!

Day Four: Monday, September 5, 2005

Monday, however, is always slow. I suspect most people are exhausted (or hung-over) from the previous two days, so Monday mornings only bring out the weirdos (like me) who wake up early in the morning. I did, however, get to speak to several people during the few hours I was there. Bill, Rob Balder, and I also got to discuss several evil secret cartoonist things, but you don't expect me to tell you about those, do you? ;)

Sadly, I could only stay for a couple hours. It was time to pack up and head for the hills (literally). We hit the road around noon and drove the entire trip in about six hours. Needless to say, we had some very happy kitty cats when we got home.

That's about all there is to say, folks. I always enjoy Dragon*Con, and they always treat us like gold. You can bet we'll do our best to get back there next year, and hopefully we'll get to see you there!

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