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At this point, it’s not much of a secret that D.C.’s comic culture is manifold and thriving. It’s fructified by podcasts, blogs, and a newsletter published by home-grown comics collective DC Conspiracy. Comics devotees in the D.C. area have kindred spirits in other breeds of nerds, too: Trekkies, steampunks, LARPers—-even Bronies, the adult viewers of My Little Pony, have a D.C. contingent.
Despite a large and multifarious geek scene, though, the District proper has lacked one major hallmark of fandom: a massive comic convention. “Every big city has a comic book convention,” says Ben Penrod, one of the convention’s organizers and founders. “Except for D.C.”
Awesome Con D.C. is looking to change that. The two-day comics and pop-culture convention opens up shop in D.C. for the first time this weekend, Saturday through Sunday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Early on, organizers promoted the event as the answer to comic fans’ prayers—-and it could be exactly that. With 30,000 square feet of dealers, panels, costumes, and guests, if Awesome Con doesn’t eradicate the District’s convention woes, it’ll at least keep geeks stimulated for two solid days.
Organizers have packed hours of fan-enticing events and panels into Awesome Con D.C., touching on nearly every offshoot of nerdom. It’ll host panels dedicated to pro wrestling, a science fiction speed-dating event, and a retrospective on Harry Potter. Then there are the guests: celebrated newspaper cartoonist Nick Galifianakis is scheduled to appear, as are voice actors Phil Lamar (Hermes on Futurama) and Billy West (Fry on Futurama and both Ren and Stimpy on The Ren & Stimpy Show) and Nicholas Brendon (Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters will be in the house. Awesome Con has planned some kids’ events, too, and of course, there won’t be any shortage of dealers hawking comics and pop-culture wares.
Penrod and his business partner, Steve Anderson, have organized two similar conventions in Annapolis and Southern Maryland, but this one’s bigger by a great deal. Judging by the success of local conventions like Bethesda’s Small Press Expo, Baltimore’s Comic-Con, Washington D.C. Comic Con at George Mason University, or Capicons in Dunn Loring, filling the Convention Center shouldn’t be near the top of their list of concerns.
If Awesome Con does well enough to return next year, it might get an opportunity to be even more inclusive. This year’s convention, sweeping though it may be, snubs the Bronies, for one. But Penrod says there’s still hope for fans of the show he watches with his kids. “I would love to have something for the Bronies.”
Passes to Awesome Con D.C. range from $15 to $75. Kids ages 10 and under admitted free.