Last weekend, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas hosted thousands of anime, gaming, and pop culture junkies for the Dallas Fan Expo. This year’s expo featured celebrity guests such as Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Morgan, aka Darryl and Negan from “The Walking Dead,” and Milo Ventimiglia from “Gilmore Girls” and “This Is Us.”
Being a first-timer at any kind of con and someone who is not-so-seasoned in all things comic, sci-fi, horror and so forth, (I got scared on the “Pinnocchio” ride at Disneyland and the extent of nearly all my superhero knowledge is from the movies that have been released in recent years) I decided to take a broad approach and check out as many different kind of events as I could. My strategy was to choose the events that seemed the most odd or involved industries I knew the least about.
Celebrity Q&A with Milo Ventimiglia
I was fortunate enough to start off my con experience with the Milo Ventimiglia panel immediately upon arrival. Despite arriving about five minutes before it was set to start, I managed to get a seat in one of the first ten rows! (Being alone has its perks) and was fortunate enough to have him walk right past me as he walked on stage. Ventimiglia answered the burning question on many fans’ minds who have finished watching the revival, “Will there be more Gilmore Girls?” While Ventimiglia wasn’t able to speak to that, he did send a reminder to fans to “remember the people in this have lives too.” As to whether or not he would participate should Palladino decide to make more episodes, he didn’t give a yes or no response, and instead uttered the phrase “I wear makeup and read lines for a living.” As for how Jack Pearson of “This Is Us” will die, he brought up the popular saying that “it’s not important to know how a man dies, but to remember how he lived.”
Next on my list was the baffling concept of a “sketch duel” (Jae Lee v. Cary Nord). That’s right, like drawing, but also fighting. How even? I was about to find out. First, the audience gives the artists a character and a theme, and the artists both have to draw something within those requirements. No official winner is declared, though audience reactions are welcome. Since most of the hour is spent with them drawing, the event also serves as a Q&A for the entire hour while the artists draw. You also get the chance to score some free, original art by a professional comic sketch artist. This one’s a two-fer. During the 1 p.m. duel between Lee and Nord, the artists held a fun and lighthearted discussion ranging from topics as serious as what it takes to join the industry, to answering the age-old question “Batman or Superman?” (drawing-wise of course). It was fun to see the professionals’ humorous side and the character behind the caricature.
Saturday wrapped up with the much anticipated costume contest. I was pretty excited for this one from what crazy cosplay talents I had seen on Tumblr and BuzzFeed. Cosplayers ages 13 and up compete in four categories (Youth, Novice, Masters and Journeyman) with awards like “Judges Choice,” “Best Overall” (one winner per category) and of course, the top prize winner of “Best in Show” who is awarded $1,000 for their costume.
Characters like Storm, Spider-Man and Buzz Lightyear all made an appearance, but it was Rey from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” who came out on top in the youth division and Reinhardt from the video game “Overwatch” who took home the $1,000 for best in show.
Over the years, the hosts also added a walk-on category where members of the audience walk across the stage to hype music while the judges deliberate. Since judges are not present for the walk-on contest, a winner is chosen by audience reaction.
Kids Costume Contest
Lastly, I ended my Fan Expo Dallas experience with a pint-sized version of Saturday night by attending the kids costume contest, where no cosplayer was older than 11 (upping the chances for peak cuteness). Contestants competed for first, second and third place, while there were no physical prizes given out, applause and recognition are good enough for an 11-year-old. Some kiddos went up solo, while others used their siblings as props like 11-year-old Lily who had her two sisters accompany her as Eleven and the Demogorgon while she dressed up as Dustin from “Stranger Things.” Their parents in the audience were also dressed as Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper. Most contestants had the help of their parents, or as one female contestant put it, the Disney store. One competitor (age 10) created her entire costume herself and took home an honorable mention. At the end of the day, it was a different trio of siblings who took home first prize dressed as Alien, Predator and Kane. I also stopped by “Artists Alley,” which had an endless amount of shops provided by over 600 different retailers. In here, there’s something for everyone to geek out and spend copious amounts of money over.
Until next time Fan Expo!