On March 25th 2011, I had the pleasure of attending MegaCon in Orlando, FL at the Orange County Convention center. The Orange County Convention Center is located technically a block away from International Drive. I say technically because there is a hotel complex that separates the convention from I-Drive. I was lucky enough to get a hotel that was about a 5 min walk to the convention. You would think that would make things easier, but http://www.perezstart.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=12505&action=editconsidering this was my first time at MegaCon, I didn’t realize how huge the Orange County Convention really is. The OCCC takes up about 4 or 5 city blocks, has a north, south, east, and west wing. Basically I could fit both the San Diego and NY comic cons and still have plenty of room for Anime. Not really knowing that I ended up on the south wing of the convention and then had to make my way to the west wing. Besides it being a long walk from South to West, Florida is already having summer weather that was just killer. Once I got to the West Wing I still had a few more feet to travel before arriving at the “Welcome to MegaCon” banner.
MegaCon was not only my first time attending, but I was rolling with my brother Nelson D. Martinez who just got back from Iraq and was coslpaying and attending MegaCon for the first time as well. Walking with a cosplayer is like walking in quicksand, you’re just not going anywhere fast. The plus side it netted me a lot of cosplay photos along the way. As you walked into the convention right away you notice a S.H.I.E.L.D. booth where you can get you very own S.H.I.E.L.D. ID and next to it was the S.H.I.E.L.D. car which will be seen in the upcoming Thor movie. Right next to that was the Pirates of the Caribbean booth, complete with ship, busty wenches and a skeleton Jack Sparrow. Once we entered the Dealer’s room, that was where the heart of the con was. As crowded as it was, it was still evenly spaced out compared to the ailes at last years NYCC. It was a nice mixture of anime and comic book sellers. Whether you were searching for the newest or oldest in toys, comics, or statues, if you couldn’t find it there then you’re probably gonna have to shell out crazy money on ebay. Seller’s such as Jasmine Becket with her amazing paintings and handcrafted fairies, The always amazing YayaHan selling prints & wings, the very sweet and Heroes of the North Star: Marie-Claude Bourbonnais, and Cosplay in America author Ejen made appearances through out the con. Stores like COLISEUM OF COMICS had a great selection statues that were very reasonably priced and the guys at SNAFU Comics/Shark Robot had some great original t-shirt designs. Local schools that were in attendance: The Dave School: Digital Animation and Visual effects, Full Sail University, Art Institute of Tampa, and the SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART & DESIGN. Stylin Online of course made their appearance known with their tower of T-shirts.
Artist alley had Anime and Comic Book artist in the same area, which was surprising to me. You didn’t notice it at first just because there were so many artist there. Artist such as Jamie Fay & Rich Bernatovech of Neverminds, Jeff Balke, Scott Blair, Kevin Yan, and Jinny Liang. Well known artist such as Billy Tucci, George Perez, and J. Scott Campbell made appearances all 3 days at MegaCon. Further back was the Autograph area featuring stars such as William Shatner (who surprisingly appeared all 3 days instead of the one), Jonathan Frakes, James Marsters, Kevin Sorbo, Gil Gerard, Marina Sirtis, and John Schneider to name a few. Right next to them was the Greater Florida LEGO User’s group with an awesome Star Wars Display that just blew your mind.
Besides your traditional artist, you also had tattoo artist on site ready and waiting to spread some ink on ya. Shops like: TATTOOS BY BRIAN STRINGER, TATTOOS BY JOSH BODWELL, Fox Valley Tattoos, and GearHead Tattoos were in full effect tattooing throughout the convention. So far, I guess only in Florida can you geek-out and get tatted like a bad ass or cry baby depending on your tolerance for pain.
In the dealers room all the way towards the right was a food court, even outside the dealers room was another food area, and if you walked just past the panel areas you could find one last food court. So you had a lot of variety as far as food. As far as prices, some were decently priced compared to others.
Two things of note:
The MegaCon blood drive, Florida’s Blood Centers, was on site taking blood donations the entire weekend. Florida’s Blood Center is a local organization that was first to do mobile collections and do advanced screenings for diseases such as the west nile virus. You just had to schedule an appointment while at the con and give as much as you could. The first 100 donors received an exclusive MegaCon Blood Donor T-shirt. The turn out was quite surprising, especially since it is a con after all, and there was a lot to check out. But it was great thing that those who gave blood during the con did. I have always wanted to give blood but never had the right opportunity to. If you can give blood, then by all means please do, a lot of blood banks do and can run low on supply.
The Hero Initiative made their presence known with their league of cosplayers, taking donations for the relief efforts in Japan. Having the group of cosplayers that they had brought a huge crowd and a lot of attention towards their cause. If you purchased your MegaCon ticket to MegaCon through the Hero Initiative’s site, MegaCon donated a portion of sales to Hero Initiative. They also offered various discounts towards movies and restaurants. Featured artists that made appearances at their booth were: George Pérez, Khoi Pham, Tim Sale, Mark Waid, Roy Thomas, and Jim Valentino.
“The Hero Initiative creates a financial safety net for comic creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. Since inception, the Hero Initiative has been fortunate enough to benefit over 40 creators and their families with over $400,000 worth of much-needed aid, fueled by your contributions! It’s a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment”.
The 501st Legion hosted the comic book cosplay contest which was being held on Saturday. All you had to do was grab a sign up sheet on Friday, have it filled out by Saturday, and just bring it with you to the contest. It was open to both kids and adults, of course each being judged separately.
The 501st Legion “an all-volunteer organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work”. They had an amazing display of Star Wars related costume items from helmets to adult and kids sized storm trooper outfits.
As you walked around the convention you noticed a lot of belly dancers around. At first thought, just a lot people cosplaying belly dancers, but in reality The Florida Tribal Dance troupe were performing as well as giving basic belly dancing lessons. Q&A sessions with George Perez, Gil Geread(Buck Rogers), Kevin Sorbo(Hercules,Andromeda), and the cast of the Original Battle Star Galactica. Speed Dating, which I still have yet to try in all my years of going to cons, went on all 3 days. The US Marine Space Corps held fire range sessions, where you can actually load up and fire a few rounds on certain targets, using the same weapons that they use. And trust me the weapons they were using were no joke. The HobbyFanatics.com and the IPMS of Orlando hosted a model kit painting session in one of the panel rooms. The size of each mode varied, but the detailed of the painting was just amazing. You could also go to the moderators and get advice for what colors to use or any advice for that matter. The last panel for me was the Starr Trailer Show, which was a panel dedicated to showing the extended trailers of new upcoming films such as Green Lantern, Thor(which made me want to see it more than ever), and Captain America. As well as any gossip that may be floating around.
Saturday was probably the biggest day of MegaCon. Only because Stan Lee was making an appearance, signing autographs, doing photo ops, and of course a Q&A session with the fans. This wasn’t a free to the public kind of appearance. There were 2 packages available that you had to pre order before coming to MegaCon. The first was just an autograph signing package, and the other was a VIP package which included a photo opportunity as well. Then everyone gathers together for a quick Q&A session with a major announcement from Stan the man. There were 2 appearances on Saturday and one more on Sunday. Saturday was in the early morning and then later on in the middle of the afternoon. To say that Stan Lee is popular is an understatement. The line that filled the waiting area to go and get an autograph with this man was nothing short of impressive. So impressive that my brother and I had to think twice about waiting in line just to see Stan Lee. It would be worth, but standing in that line throughout the whole convention still made it an iffy decision. So we decided we would check back with the line situation and go walking for a few. While the lines for Stan Lee was long, the crowd for the convention was even bigger than ever. Barely any elbow room to walk, and barely any room for cosplayers to stop and take pictures. It was like NY all over again. It was a great crowd and amazing energy, but still crazy crowded. The amount of cosplayers and fans literally blew up over night.
The growth in number size can also be attributed to the Cheerleader convention that was taking place a few feet away from the convention. So as you were walking into Mega, what you first thought were other cosplayers, were cheerleaders from I guess all over Florida, maybe some outta state. And of course if you were cosplaying you thought the same thing the cheerleaders and their parents were probably thinking, which was “What are these people doing here?”. Surprisingly a lot of the cheerleaders did attend MegaCon and wanted pictures of and with the cosplayers. Regardless of how weird people may think a person who cosplays is, they still wanna a picture with the person who put in the time and effort to make a badass cosplay of their prospective character.
The good thing about a crowd that huge was running into friends/peeps you keep in touch with on facebook or twitter. It was also great for meeting up with old friends and making new ones. Once I met up with a few friends, we decided to get a photo shoot going outside the convention. We were hoping to find a nice quiet area, but between the Cheerleaders and MegaCon attendees, that was not going to happen. The cosplayers involved were: Nelson D. Martinez as Deadpool, Gala Brand as Femme NightWing, and Cap Santiago as Aries. Again I cannot say enough about the weather, it was gorgeous, hot as hell, but for a photo shoot it worked out perfectly. We had the occasional interruption from the cheerleaders that wanted to get their photos taken.
After the taking some great shots outside it was nearing time for the Comic Book Cosplay contest hosted by the 501st Legion. Prior to that was the Anime Cosplay contest Hosted by Anime Sushi. The contest was split between adult and kids, and the categories were best movie, best comic book, best and best design overall. The kids that participated I gotta say were just too cute. Their costumes were actually very well done, some you could see were store bought, and others took the time out to make their own with help from parents. It was watching the beginning of a whole new generation of cosplayers. One of the most creative family cosplays I thought came from the parents who did Jor-El and Lara-El with their baby as Kal-El before being sent to earth. The top winners in the kids division were Star Killer(Force Unleashed), Cora(Tron), Spiderman Noir, and Jedi Aayla Secura. All well deserved and great job done by all.
Next up were the adults of the con and I must say there was a great level of competition. Whether it was singles, couples, or group cosplayers the creativity really showed through. Its when you gave them the mic that it kinda took a wrong turn. The cosplays weren’t just comics and video games, you had cartoons such as a Peter Griffith cosplay which was pretty well done down to the laugh. You had old school with Captain Nintendo and Powder Toast Man, Hollywood with Black Swan, Over the hill Scott Pilgrim and Marty McFly, and the largest Avatar: The Last Airbender cosplay group I have seen to date. The winners were the big surprise of this event especially when you saw what came on stage, but it came down to the judging criteria or how much work was put into the cosplay. The winners in the Adult division were: Best video game: The Big Sister cosplay with working drill, Best Group: Doctor Who with Tardis, Best Prop design: The H.G. Wells Time Machine, Best comic book: My good friend Larry S. as Spiderman 2099, best Star Wars: Hans Solo, and for best overall cosplay: Padme Amidala. Great work by everyone involved, wish more people had signed up considering the amount of cosplayers in attendance. But that could do with the fact that it wasn’t as advertised as much as it should have been.
The day may have ended after the cosplay contest, but the night was just beginning. The official MegaCon after party was in full effect that night. Cirque De Mentia, a twisted dark and sexy carnival was being held at the Rozen Plaza hotel at their night club “BackStage”. A hotel with its own night club is pretty cool in my book. Of course there was line out the door, but luckily I didn’t have to wait too long to get in. Once inside you were greeted by a giant eyeball, go-go/pole and belly dancers, Midget clowns, sexy clowns, bearded and cat ladies, an assortment of freaks took the main stage. It may not have been the biggest arena but it was an incredible site to witness. Great music that had the people going all night non stop, drinks were fairly priced, but hard to get with the crowd being as big and only few bartenders to accommodate. Throughout the night they had some cool giveaways going on, as games with free beer as the prize. I didn’t stay the entire night, but it was definitely worth checking out, even after a long day at the con.Go-Go Dancing provided by Defenz Mechanizm, Live Body painting by Dr. Skull, Live Freak show by the Misfit of Mayhem, and music courtesy of DJ Nelson Flux
Sunday was the easy day, not as crowded, easy to walk through the dealers room without bumping into 15 other people at the same time. It was just nice. The abundance did die down however, I think even more groups came out that day. Like most people I like to do my shopping the last day of the con. The amount of bargains, or bargaining that go on is just great. Considering not everyone wants to bring back all that stuff with them. It was definitely worth getting anywhere between $5-$25 off certain statues, toys and books, sometimes T-shirts. Stan Lee was also doing his last meet and greet of the con, so I’m sure whoever I did not see on the Con floor was most likely waiting on the huge line for the Stan Lee panel. William Shatner added an extra day to his signing, which I’m sure pleased and surprised a lot of fans. I didn’t want to just do my last minute shopping that day, I wanted to really push the limit by waiting till the last minute, well hour, of the con to really squeeze some deals out. Luckily for me when you got friends who cosplay you find ways of passing the time, like stagkng a big fight scene between Carnage, Deadpool, and Captain America. The ultimate villain, vs the ultimate hero, with the ultimate opportunist definitely brought out a crowd out by the entrance. I believe they were lucky enough to gain the attention of one of the people from Marvel to at least take a cell phone pic. With the con winding down, the cheerleaders were still flowing in, pictures were being taken as if it were the last, and there deals a plenty in the dealer’s room. The best deal to date was the deal my brother got for this big statue of Elektra for only $20. Still can’t believe it, and it looks great on his mantle at home. Bunch of 2 for 1 deals going on as well. The best thing was even though the lights were being turned off to get everyone out, you still could have bought something as long as merchandise was still displayed or artist still had their prints out. Hell I got 2 for one deal on a cool Street Fighter Animated characters t-shirt on my way out.
The best thing about this con was that if you were lucky enough to get a hotel close by you had a bevy of restaurants that were next door to every hotel, that you could run into almost anyone in or out of cosplay. MegaCon overall was a great time. The weather made it that much better, the short walk to the con was great, and the event itself was a spectacle indeed especially when you mix in the other conventions going on at the same time. I’m sure everyone has a story to tell, and hopefully they are all good. The memories that can be made from events like this are what keep everyone coming back for more. For someone like me coming from NY, it was worth the trip. Still can’t get over the weather being so awesome, and never having a dull moment. Just hours of exhaustion and the body to match.