Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Awesome Con: Nerds Strike Back

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COMICS HIT D.C. Celebrites from famous comic franchises will appear at the inaugural Awesome Con.

Building any event from the ground up is no easy task, and for Ben Penrod, the man behind Awesome Con D.C., conceptualizing and planning Washington, D.C.’s first ever pop culture and comics convention has been a labor of local love.

“This is the area I’m from,” Penrod said. “I know that there are a number of successful comic shops in the surrounding area — my partners at 3rd Eye Comics are in Annapolis — and there have been successful shows like Baltimore Comic-Con nearby. I know for certain that this is the kind of thing that people in this area have been waiting for.”

The programming at small conventions like Awesome Con D.C., which will be held April 20 and April 21 at the Washington Convention Center, can often make or break the fan experience, and Penrod has made a serious effort to accommodate a wide range of geek interests. There are three main types of programs at this year’s event: fan-submitted panels, including a gathering of steampunkcosplay enthusiasts; live podcast recordings like “Nerdpocalypse,” “The Carolyn and Joe Show” and “Trekoff;” and programs organized by Penrod himself such as Super Art Fight Live, question-and-answer sessions with the convention’s big-name guests and the weekend’s numerous costume contests. The convention will also feature a kids’ room where young geeks can gather, and the Mind of the Geek game room, which will feature a rotating array of the most popular tabletop games in nerddom.

Comparing Awesome Con D.C. to cons like Comic-Con San Diego or WonderCon — which have exploded in size and influence in the past few years to fundamentally alter public conversation about popular nerd culture — may be easy, but the comparisons are misguided due to Awesome Con’s limited size and scope.

“In physical scope, [Awesome Con] is not that big — nothing is — we’re going to have a lot of comics dealers, artists and creators but we don’t have any of the other crazy stuff like at Comic-Con. We’re just not that physically large,” Penrod explained.

Though this may seem like a letdown for those expecting ComicCon-like extravagance, Awesome Con’s smaller size has many profound advantages to the hyper-commercialized larger conventions, which in many cases become giant ad campaigns for studios to build hype around their newest projects and are marred by massive lines and limited interaction with artists and actors.

“I think it’s going to have a more intimate atmosphere,” Penrod said. “Everyone will get to see everything that they want to and get the chance to look around and meet all of our special guests and artists. They can meet everybody because the show isn’t that big.”

These special guests, including Nicholas Brendon (Xander from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Billy West and Phil LaMarr (voice actors from Matt Groening’s “Futurama”), Ernie Hudson (Winston fromGhostbusters) and Theodus Crane (Big Tiny on AMC’s “The Walking Dead”), may be less prominent Hollywood figures than those who appear at larger events, but the opportunities for fans to meet and interact with those directly involved in the production of their favorite programs is something unique to smaller cons like Awesome Con.

The ultimate success of Awesome Con D.C. rests in the hands of the local nerd community. If they embrace the intimate interactions small-scale conventions boast and fully embrace everything it has to offer, Awesome Con could begin to cement itself as the East Coast alternative to ComicCon. But if the D.C. community lives up to its own hype and is too wrapped up in its own political dramas to take advantage of everything Awesome Con has to offer, it could falter and end up another valiant, yet failed, experiment. Penrod, though, is confident in the work he has put into making Awesome Con a reality and has faith in the underground nerd community.

“You don’t realize that a lot of those suit-and-tie people are still the kind of people who are going to be coming to this show,” he said. “It’s going to be nonstop awesomeness.”

Follow The Hoya’s extended coverage of AwesomeConDC this weekend on Twitter @thehoyaguide and online on the Fourth Edition (

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