I've been going to comic and pop culture conventions for quite a few years now. I've seen the popularity of many of them explode in the last couple of years so much that it's become more and more about the business and less about the fans, the comics, the books, TV shows, films, music, etc. Now, I will admit that I enjoy going to some of the larger conventions because I get the opportunity to meet celebrities that smaller conventions can't afford, but that's about the only reason I go to those anymore. And to be honest, meeting those larger-than-life celebs is starting to lose its luster. I would much rather attend a small local convention or even a mid-sized regional event in order to check out the work of artists, writers, and musicians that don't necessarily draw massive crowds like a William Shatner or Matt Smith appearance might garner.
These smaller conventions are great places to meet up with friends, some of which I only get to physically see at conventions, and hang out with them. These smaller conventions also allow you more face time with minor celebrities. Sometimes these celebs are background actors, stuntmen, or just say a few lines in a very popular program.
One convention that seems to be on the cusp of becoming a mid-sized regional event is CyPhaCon, which started a few years ago as an almost purely anime event. It's first year was much more successful than another local event that was into its third year. Each year since, CyPhaCon has grown in both attendance and, more importantly, quality.
This year was the convention's largest one yet, with three packed days of events, panels, celebrities, and fun. I purchased a weekend pass for the convention, and took in as much as I could over that three day weekend.
I ventured out to the convention on Friday evening. I walked around, visiting many friends that I had not seen in awhile, and checked out the vendor area. It was there where I found a brilliant artist by the name of Jessica Grundy. I had seen her work before, as I am friends with an artist she often attends conventions with, but I had never purchased anything from her. I ended up purchasing prints, a mirror, and a wooden portrait from her over the course of the weekend. She also drew autograph cards for Chuck Huber, who I'll talk about a little later in this review.
I also attended one panel that evening, "Self-Defense With Batman." No, you didn't read that incorrectly. It was a panel taught by a friend of mine who dresses up as Batman and attends conventions. He is trained in multiple martial arts and schools of self-defense, and he gave five quick tips (with demonstrations) on how to protect yourself in certain situations. It was a brilliant panel.
Saturday saw the arrival of the celebrity guests, which included the aforementioned Chuck Huber, anime voice artist Tiffany Grant, and Kandyse McClure of Battlestar Galactica. I didn't take the opportunity to talk to Grant, simply because I'm not personally familiar with any of her work. I did speak at length with Chuck Huber, though. He's a well-known anime voice artist, but I wanted to talk to him specifically about his work on Star Trek Continues, a web-based series that picks up where the original series left off on television. Huber will be portraying Bones beginning with Episode Three, due out later this month. I also sat in on one of his panels. He is an extremely funny and friendly person.
I once again visited the vendor area, bought more stuff from Mrs. Grundy, and attended panels by the 501st group, Star Trek costumers, the Rebel Legion, and a few others as well. Food was provided by Stellar Beans and Mary Ann's Cafe, two local places (I'm particularly fond of Stellar Beans, a great coffeehouse).
I also got to meet Kandyse McClure. While I'm not that big of a BSG fan, she was very pleasant and friendly. She has a very unique perspective on llife, as she's originally from South Africa and grew up in Canada. Her stories of dealing with racism in Hollywood were very interesting. I snagged an autograph from her and turned her on to Tabasco Ice Cream.
Saturday night was topped off by an improv performance group and the Suzaku 7, an alternative anime-theme song band. I picked a copy of their CD, Super Effective, and got them to autograph it for me. They were very good and I recommend checking them out if you are so inclined. I don't even watch much anime, but I really enjoyed their music.
Sunday was filled with more visiting, more panels, and a few "till next times." I bought more stuff from Jessica Grundy and picked up a Commander Appo figure from Paper Heroes, a vendor that has a comic shop in Lake Charles. I had to leave a couple of hours early on Sunday due to other obligations, but it's safe to say that the event was a success. I can't wait until next year, which promises to be bigger and better.