One of the best feelings in the world is walking into a con on the very first day. The show floor is buzzing with excitement, the cosplayers are dressed up, and you feel a sense of giddy, childlike glee. You’re about to spend a weekend in geeky paradise, surrounded by people who love pop culture just as much as you do.
I always feel a sense of bittersweet melancholy settle over me the week after a con, because there truly is nothing quite like that experience. But the joy of attending a con is worth the post-event blues, and I find myself already looking forward to the next year.
The largest con in my region is Planet Comicon in Kansas City, Missouri (I know, it’s weird that a city named for Kansas is actually in another state, although part of the city actually is located in Kansas, just not the part where this con is held, and that is probably way more context than any of you wanted and/or needed). My dad and I first attended this con in 2017, not quite sure what to expect. We both fell in love with the con immediately, and we’ve gone back every year since, except for the COVID-19 hiatus.
Planet Comicon annually draws about 50,000 attendees and I’m always impressed with the caliber of guests. This year had a Star Trek theme, with guests like William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner all attending.
I’ve never done a celebrity autograph session before, although one of my enduring regrets is that I didn’t cough up the money and get Stephen Amell’s autograph the two years he’s been at Planet Comicon. (If you come back, Stephen, I will hopefully be smart enough not to let the opportunity pass me by again.)
One of this year’s guests was Dee Bradley Baker, who voices Captain Rex (and all the clones, plus the Bad Batch) on the different Star Wars animated series. Captain Rex is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters, and I decided to take the plunge and get in line the first day of the con.
Overall, my first celebrity autograph was a great experience! Baker was friendly and affable, and I got to tell him how much I loved Captain Rex while managing to stay semi-professional and speak coherently despite my nervousness, which I was proud of. Each of us in line didn’t get too much time individually with Baker, which was a little sad, but I do understand why. There were a lot of people in line and everybody needed to get their turn. My autographed print of Rex and a group of clones is now one of my favorite geeky memorabilia items.
The first year we attended, my dad and I were impressed by the quality of artwork in vendor’s alley, and this year was probably the best ever. I ended up buying three different art prints throughout the con. I wish I could have gotten more, but alas, there’s only so much wall space in my geeky den. I love getting to meet artists and tell them how much I love their work, and to support their business.
Saturday was the big Star Trek day at the con. My dad and I waited in line for an hour for William Shatner’s panel, and it was a full house. I’ve heard mixed reports about fans’ experiences with Shatner at cons. Sometimes, he seems very personable, other times, dismissive. But he was in great form Saturday, and it was just such an honor to sit in the same room as a pop culture icon. He told some great stories and had the audience’s full attention from start to finish. The original series era is my favorite Trek era, and the panel was an experience I’ll treasure forever.
Jonathan Frakes’ panel followed Shatner’s, and while I’m not as familiar with Next Generation, I’m really glad I stayed. He was very entertaining and funny, and I learned a lot about Star Trek behind the scenes.
The last day of the con, I took my two year old daughter, dressed as the galaxy’s cutest Ewok. It means so much to be able to share my love of geeky stuff with her, and to watch her having fun at a con. She is obsessed with Grogu right now and she got to take her picture with a Mandalorian cosplayer and his Grogu prop. She was a little scared of the masked Mando at first but the cosplayer was great and helped her feel more relaxed. Plus, she got to meet some Star Wars droids (which she calls “doots”), including R2-D2.
As always, getting to cosplay at a con is a blast. I wore my Episode IX Rey costume the first day and had several parents ask if I’d take a photo with their kids. An experience like that makes you feel really special, and I love to see love for my favorite Star Wars character.
Day two I dressed as Rhaenyra Targaryen with some dragon scale gauntlets I handmade and a little crochet dragon I created. The long white wig was itchy and made my head hurt by the end of the day, but it was still fun. I think people didn’t necessarily recognize who I was (I had people think I was Daenerys and some guy asked me if I was the Witcher, which made me chuckle). But you know what? I had fun wearing the outfit and it made me feel happy, so that’s what counts!
While I’m sad this year’s con is over, I’m already dreaming about Planet Comicon 2024. It’s just so awesome to hang out with other geeks and have random conversations. On Friday night, my dad and I ended up chatting for about an hour with two guys who were sitting at a table with us, and I had fun going to a Game of Thrones cosplay meet-up. There weren’t too many of us this year, but I had a great time chatting with the others about our love for Game of Thrones and what we loved (and didn’t) about the show.
In short, if you’re a geek who has never been to a con, I highly encourage you to go. It’s like a great big family reunion, and nearly every interaction I’ve had at cons is kind and friendly. Sometimes I get discouraged by the negativity in fandom spaces online, but then when I go to a con, I’m reminded why I fell in love with pop culture fandom in the first place.
Thanks for another year of great memories, Planet Comicon – can’t wait to see you again soon.