Wizard World Chicago 2017

After missing its 2016 iteration, I was so happy to be back at Wizard World Chicago this year! Like all Chicago Comic Cons, this event took place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL August 24th-27th.

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I attended with my sister, Little Dove Cosplay, who was showcasing a new Sansa dress on Friday & Saturday… but I am getting ahead of myself.

Since we were presenting two panels, we picked up our badges in the ‘Exhibitor/Vendor’ section in Hall B. In past years, we were able to pick these up from the VIP or other sections, but this year we waited longer in line.

On Thursday evening, we walked the con floor and established what we wanted to see before heading to the “Make a Nerdy Living” panel. This panel featured The Pumpkin Geek, Amanda Meyer, Emily Evans, Scott Larson, Onrie Kompon, and later Mogchelle showed up (who was overbooked and hustled from panel to panel with nary a moment’s rest!). Make A Nerdy Living PanelI was really impressed by what The Pumpkin Geek had to say; he was incredibly personable and gave good advice, like how reaching out over social media allowed him to save money traveling to different cons by staying on folks’ couches. Despite the panel being titled “Make a Nerdy Living” (emphasis mine), the majority of the panelists have a “day job” that pays the bills separately from their nerdy passion projects. This disappointed me because I still don’t know how to turn my passion into something that pays the bills. With six panelists, the conversation felt crowded and no one really got enough time to talk. Friday, my sister wore her X-Men: Days of Future Past Jean Grey cosplay, super comfy for a short day at the con, and I wore my coveralls.

On Friday, with an increased attendance, security had folks go through several metal detectors set up outside. Though some lines were dedicated to folks without bags, everyone filed through whichever line they could. My sister was dressed as Sansa in her black, season 6 dress (the one with all the feathers) and had her trusty direwolf purse with her (it’s name is Lady), and I wore my blue silk jacket and flip flops along with my coveralls for more of a pilot episode look. Once we got through security, I hosted my panel on ‘The Expanding Firefly ‘Verse,’ which is always shiny. This year, I incorporated new info on upcoming board games and some rumors about the fabled Firefly Online. AKF and Firefly Cosplayers WWCC17I met with a bunch of other Firefly cosplayers for pictures with them before going to Artist’s Alley. This year (unlike my last Wizard World Chicago in 2015), the Artists Alley had its own huge area between vendors. I think this was a nice set-up, though I didn’t care for the second floor of the convention center being only cars and a haunted house. Oh well, it meant me and my sister didn’t have to crowd on the escalator!

We closed our Friday night watching “Dungeons and Dragons Improv,” featuring a Bloodrager Dwarf named Buttsteak, a punny bard halfling named Matthew McConaughey whose signature tune was “Take On Me” by Aha, and a shapeshifting gnome by the name of Cuddles who could only turn into marbles. These three were on a quest to rid Detroit of the Unicorn plague, fight a Spiderman-o-taur (half bull, half spider-man), and get a lapdance from Striptease the Unicorn, but in the end it turned out they might have been part of the problem. We left the con with tears of laughter streaming down our faces.

On Saturday, we returned bright and early so I could catch a panel called “Intro to Podcasting.” Intro to Podcasting Panel WWCC17Despite several experts (David Vox Mullen, John ‘Bear’ Kolb, Patrick Newson, Paul Hinic, Nick Mataragas) clearly knowing what they were talking about, the panel was not very planned out. The panelists didn’t follow an outline and it was more of a Q&A than an introduction… and they kept pimping their new website which is a podcasting platform. Vox Mullen advocated paying for all of your own things (a website to host, etc.), and spoke most of the time, leaving very little time for Hinic and Mataragas to speak. I don’t think this panel was wasted time, but it definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for or expecting.

Saturday, I wore my screen accurate floral top with my coveralls, and we naturally went to see “One Season and a Movie: A Conversation with Summer Glau & Jewel Staite.” The panel started late, but it was refreshing to hear Lindi of PureFandom instruct everyone in the Q&A line for “No Personal Requests!” When asked where they would want their characters’ stories to go, Jewel answered that she wanted Kaylee and Simon to have lots of babies, and Summer offered River as babysitter. Jewel politely declined.

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Jewel’s favorite episode was “Out of Gas,” while Summer’s was “Objects in Space.” “I don’t know if you can recapture something in the same way,” Summer said, when asked about a Serenity 2 focused on River. “I really respect what the show was.” Finally, if Summer could change one thing about Firefly, she’d wear shoes and brush her hair more. Ha!

After that panel ended, we headed down to Game Of Thrones Trivia, though sadly we didn’t participate (or win). It was a nice way to get excited about the season finale and hear speculations on how it would end. Tess was again wearing her black Sansa dress, and a lot of folks really loved it. After that, we went to the Creative Stage which was at the back of Artists’ Alley near a food station. I really like how this Creative Stage was set up and I think C2E2 could learn a thing or two from Wizard World. Not only was there more than one microphone, there was also an A/V set up to show a powerpoint! This was the first time I presented my panel “Getting Started With Etsy” and I was really glad to have Laura of Rebel Among the Stars Studios alongside to help me. We both have very different ways we use Etsy; they do it full time for a living, whereas I do it to fund going to conventions. We got some excellent questions and I can’t wait to see new Etsy stores that I hope were inspired by our info!

Sunday was a much more relaxed day since we were quite tired! We love that 5 Hour Energy has a booth at cons, because drinking those made us able to get through our last day! On Sunday, I wore my Elizabeth Swann cosplay and met up with friends (Sparrow Style Entertainment & Gormassmuss) who were both cosplaying Jack Sparrow! Elizabeth & 2 Jacks WWCC17Since I was walking around with my sister as Sansa Stark, a lot of people thought I was a Game of Thrones character too. Whoops! I may have to start cosplaying Margaery again! My sister had opted for her pink King’s Landing Sansa dress, which she loves to wear because it makes her feel like a princess.

Overall, I had a really great time at Wizard World Chicago. I was excited to present both old and new panels, while spending time at a convention with my sister

My next convention is New York Comic Con, October 5-8th. Stay tuned for a panel announcement soon!

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Meet Me in St Louis! Wizard World St Louis 2017

About two and a half weeks ago, I received an email acceptance of three  panels for Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con! Despite the short notice, I was able to rearrange my schedule for an earlier flight into Chicago so I could rent a car and drive down to St. Louis. I got into Chicago very early Thursday morning (after recording my new Cargo Crate Unboxing video very late on Wednesday night), took a nap, then re-packed my suitcase for the trip on Friday. My co-panelist stayed at my house that night so we could put the final touches on our panels for the weekend. Friday was another early day of catching public transit to the Midway airport then taking a shuttle to the car rental place.  omw to ww stl 17

When we got to the rental place, we found out that unless we had a return ticket for the day we returned the car, we needed to have a credit card with $100 on it. Neither of us had this and neither of us knew we’d need this. Our original plan of getting to St. Louis in a leisurely fashion with ample time to drop off our things, shower, eat, and change into cosplays turned into driving as fast as we could just so we could try to make it to our panel on time.

Somehow, we made it both to St. Louis and into the convention center at 3:52pm (our panel started at 4) to grab our wristbands and then could. Not. Find. Our. Panel. Room. We knew it was room 151 but were directed first through a hallway that was locked, then outside to re-enter through doors that were locked. We finally cut through the exhibitors’ hall and found the room…with a much smaller audience than we anticipated. It turns out that attendees weren’t able to find out room either (unsurprising, due to volunteers giving us differing information). After brief technical issues, we connected the computer and had an awesome time presenting “What Not to Ask at a Celebrity Q&A.” After the panel, we meandered the show floor, then headed to a comedy panel presented by Aaron Rabe as Cpt. Jack Sparrow. Rabe’s comedic rapport with his audience was great but the audience volunteers were a bit lackluster. We left the con before it closed for the day so we could order pizza and work on tomorrow’s panels.

Saturday, we slept in before heading to the convention for the Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things panel. He was totally adorable but, despite the moderator saying something to the effect of “Don’t ask him questions about season 2, don’t ask him personal questions, etc.” she didn’t do a great job of buffering these questions when they were asked. We then walked the floor a bit more before getting sandwiches at a nearby shop. Compared to other conventions I attend, Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con is on the small side. I estimate that it’s the size of Totalcon, Templecon, or Wizard World Madison, which are the smallest cons I’ve been to. The limited number of vendors at WW St. Louis meant we didn’t feel like spending the whole day inside the convention center. Instead, we opted to leave after our second panel, “Comic Con on a Budget.ww stl 17 comic con on a budgetWe stopped for groceries on our way back, dining on snack foods and wine as we finished up the next day’s  panel.

Sunday, we went to the con first thing in the morning so we we were able to get a parking spot in the less expensive garage right next to the convention center. I woke up early to contour my face in hopes of evoking more Keira Knightley and less Jewel Staite. I think I did a pretty good job for my first try. Rather than wearing my beloved Kaylee cosplay, I elected to wear the Elizabeth Swann outfit that I made last fall. It worked perfectly with our pirate panel that day. The panelists before us ran late, which was frustrating as we needed all the time we could get for “Historical Accuracy & Trivia in Pirate Media (Black Sails & PotC).”brethren goals At previous Wizard World events, a Wizard World representative comes into the room at 20 till the end, to give a 5 minute warning before ending panels at 15 till. This was not the case at this event where I sat at the back of our panel room, waiting for the folks in front of us to wrap up. Unfortunately, many of the clips we wanted to show did not work, but we still had an awesome and informative panel. It’s one of my favorite panels to present, especially because I learn something new every year! After that, we finished at the con, packed up, and got going on our long trip back to Chicago.

Overall, Wizard World St. Louis was a pretty different convention than what I am used to. Its smaller scale meant it was a more intimate show and, had we been interested, we could have met some of the cool celebrities more easily there than at other events. Most conventions stage celebrities in their own section with curtains and lines for meeting them. At Wizard World St. Louis, the celebs were easily approachable in the center of the exhibitors’ floor. St. Louis also had multiple stages, mostly notable a large main stage behind registration where the costume contest and the Rocky Horror Picture Show occurred. Inside the exhibitors’ hall, there were three smaller stages: the Entertainment Stage at the front,  where we saw the kids costume contest and an acapella group perform; the Creative Stage in the back, where artists and cosplayers spoke & presented; and the Kids Stage which had magic & puppetry. Down the hall, the panel rooms were hidden away and quite hard to find. We agreed that the convention hall seemed much too big for the convention itself. We thought a nearby hotel would be better off housing this convention, given its current size.

All things said and done, it was an enjoyable convention experience. It was definitely more relaxed than other conventions I’ve done, but there are benefits to going to smaller cons. My next convention is the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), and it will be interesting to compare the differences between the two!

How I Comic Con on a Budget

As many of you know, I have been cosplaying since New York Comic Con 2012. Since then, I’ve gone to more than 20 conventions all over the US. While there are countless articles that acknowledge how expensive cosplay is, and ways you can save money when making your own costumes, there aren’t many that discuss how expensive it is to go to conventions and show said cosplay. It is possible to save money while still going to conventions, so I want to share the ways in which I have been able to afford to go to so many conventions.

When saving up for a convention, it’s important to think about all the costs that go into it. Most money is spent on these three things:

  • Convention tickets (around $100 or more for Wizard World and larger conventions)
  • Rooming (usually a couple hundred dollars for a weekend)
  • Travel (usually at least $200 if you have to fly)

Aside from these, it’s also worth keeping in mind that you’ll likely have to pay for public transportation to/from where you’re staying or parking (unless it is a hotel-based convention, and you are staying in the hotel). If you’re going with friends, it’s worth figuring out if parking ends up being cheaper than all of you taking the train or bus. For example, even with $13 parking at Wizard World Chicago, for my best friend, sister, and I to take the train in and out costs $16.50. This doesn’t account for gas prices, but driving also means we can leave stuff in the car/go get it later, and means we save time on the commute and don’t have to worry about catching the last train.

Birthday dinnerEating is another important (and necessary thing) during conventions. It’s important to be aware that, depending on the location of the convention, there may not be a lot of options for food. NYCC is located near a ton of food carts, but most cons only have the food within the convention center, which is usually fried and/or incredibly expensive. I save money and eat better by bringing granola bars, small sandwiches, or trail mix with me and munch on it throughout the day. While a lot of places do check bags at the door, most will let you get away with small snacks, and you’ll feel a lot better eating healthier and saving money.

Not to mention, you’ll probably want to create (and stick to) a budget for things like cosplay or buying things in the exhibit hall.

With that said, I’ve found four ways that really help save money when going to conventions:

  1. Go Local

Not only will you you save on room and travel, you’ll also save on food since you probably have groceries and a way to prepare them at home. That, or you probably know of cheap places to eat! While not every city has a big convention, there are loads of smaller (read: cheaper) conventions to go to all over the place. This website lists cons all over the country, by state, regions, guest, theme and more! Starting with smaller/local conventions also can be a good way to build your way up to bigger cons.

  1. Plan Ahead

Buying convention & travel tickets in advance often makes everything a lot cheaper. Many conventions offer cheaper rates for tickets the earlier you buy. The same applies to travel tickets and hotels. The earlier you can plan for a convention, the more you can save up for it as well.

  1. Make FriendsNYCC 2015

I have only once paid for a hotel room at a convention, and even that was split among friends. More often, I make friends in various online fan groups & at various conventions I have gone to, and trade housing for their & my local cons. Hotels can be super convenient (especially when the conventions are held in them, like Arisia, Super MegaFest, or Dragon*Con), they feel more like a vacation, and they often save time in terms of getting ready & traveling back and forth to the actual convention. But they can cost a lot, and often mean you’ll have to pay extra for food because you won’t be able to cook your own.

Making friends can help with more than just rooming prices. Making friends with artists & vendors is something I try to do at every convention. Maybe your exhibitor friend will have extra tickets that his booth isn’t using, maybe your artist friend will let you store snacks or your jacket under their table so you don’t have to coat check. If nothing else, it gives you another perspective on the convention & someone to talk to throughout the con. Also people in booths love it when you bring them food because they are often trapped inside FOREVER.

  1. 10309098_286752051492721_8489566264219115016_nHelp Out

Finally, volunteering in some form or another can get you free admission into conventions. Many conventions offer tickets if you help load in or out, and even the bigger cons like Wizard World and NYCC regularly use volunteers for tons of jobs (including sitting with celebs at their booths!) and reward them with admission and even sometimes photo-ops or autographs. If you’d prefer a bit more freedom with your weekend (or you’d really like to cosplay rather than wear a volunteer shirt), submitting panels or programming is an excellent way to get in. A huge percentage of the cons I’ve gone to, I have either performed or presented panels.

Going to a convention will almost always cost some money. But it’s possible to enjoy huge conventions without breaking the bank. Have you used any of these tactics? Do you have other ways you save money? Share them in the comments at the bottom of this post!

Madison Comic Con 2016

After thousands of miles of travel, and almost every single kind of mode of transportation possible, I am finally home from Wizard World Madison Comic Con 2016.

Havin1460122604781g never visited Madison, WI before now, the invitation to present my “Expanding Firefly ‘Verse” panel gave me not only the chance to visit my family in Chicago, but also a chance to see a new city! Plus I got to visit cosplay friends I don’t see very often. Oh yeah, and bring my panel to more folks… and see Jewel Staite in person.

The trip began on Wednesday night when I took a train into Boston. I stayed the night with a friend and then took the first Silver Line on Thursday to catch my 7am flight to Chicago. Once in Chicago, I stayed for just one night before getting up early and taking a train to the bus that would eventually take me to Madison. I traveled on the Van Galder bus line, which is $30 no matter what and resembles a double decker Megabus. I got the best seat in the house: the front row on the top deck which means huge windows all around. This bus had great wifi, but also randomly leaked through the ceiling at times. 8/10.

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I stayed with my friend SparrowStyle who happens to live right near the bus stop. We ate lunch before heading to the convention. Day one was relatively slow. We walked the entire convention floor (comparable roughly to the size of Wizard World Philly the first year that I went, or the Rhode Island Convention Center), and scoped out the room where I would be presenting my panel on Saturday. After that, we called it a day and headed home for sushi and Netflix. 

Saturday, we headed to the convention around 11 in the morning, so I would have time to set up the room for my panel and make sure my laptop hooked up correctly. I met up with my co-panelist, and we went over a few things before the panel started. This IMG_20160410_123403panel was a lot more in depth than the last time I presented it. I included information about new graphic novels (the next one comes out in less than a month during Free Comic Book Day) as well as about QMx’s partnership with Loot Crate for the Firefly Loot Crates. I also added information about fan films that exist or are being made, including Browncoat Redemption, The Verse, Browncoats: Independence War, and A Faithful Companion.

You’ll have to catch me at a convention to see the whole panel (and have a chance at some of the shiny things I give away at panels), you can check out future panels and events by clicking here. SparrowStyle and I walked the floor again, stopping here and there to pick up art. SparrowStyle and I also entered the cosplay competition, before I headed over to see Jewel Staite’s panel. I caught the tail end of the Agents of Shield panel and, as that was emptying out, managed to get a seat in the very front row of Jewel’s panel!

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We didn’t get much new info from Jewel, but she did talk about being a new mom: her son is now four months old! She did talk about how she almost got a role in Buffy, but scheduling meant she couldn’t. When she was cast in Firefly, she was asked by Joss directly to film a tape for Kaylee, she didn’t even have to put in a general audition. She did mention reading the character descriptions and wanting to read for River. Jewel also mentioned being so grateful for being able to travel all around the world thanks to Firefly, and how she still runs into people who’ve seen it or are just starting to watch it. She’s been working a lot lately, including a recent episode of Legends of Tomorrow and an upcoming episode of Castle, where she loved working with Nathan Fillion again.

The Arena
The Arena

After the panel, we spent more time around the convention floor before lining up for the cosplay competition. This year (unlike last year, according to SparrowStyle), the competition was held in the Arena, rather than the main convention center. This is also where all the celebrity panels were held. We lined up in the main convention center before we were escorted us over to the Arena (the area between the two was outdoors and pretty chilly). We waited backstage, and then were announced and had our four seconds to shine! Madison Comic Con had tons of fantastic cosplays this year in the contest. There was a whole group of Doctors (as well as the Doctor’s daughter and Amy Pond), a guy who made the power armor from Fall Out, and even a set of hands of blue. You can see pictures from the whole convention on the Wizard World Flickr page.

Overall, I had a fantastic convention experience. Madison is definitely an up and coming convention that I see getting bigger and bigger every year. I hope to be invited again in the future!  

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