If you stroll along Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta during Labor Day weekend, you will likely come across Storm Troopers, Zombies, and Elves. The weekend brings superheroes and superfans to participate in Dragon Con.
The convention has drawn science fiction and gaming fans since its beginnings in 1987, when it drew just 1,200 attendees to meet guests like Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons. In 2000, the event filled two hotels – the Hyatt Regency and the Atlanta Marriott Marquis – and in 2014, expanded to five host hotels. In 2019, the number of visitors to Dragon Con broke records when it reached 85,000.
Costumes at Dragon Con
Since its inception, Dragon Con has welcomed fans disguised as characters from favorite movies, video games, or literary books, a practice often referred to as “cosplay” for “costume play.” Today, Dragon Con is a must-attend event for cosplayers and people who love to watch them, with special events such as the masquerade costume contest and the annual convention parade.
“Dragon Con is a place where everyone can come and celebrate the things they love, and every year we have many guests to the current and recent TV shows lineup, but we also celebrate classic TV shows. , movies of the 1960s and 1970s, through lineup and guests, ”said Dan Carroll, a 58-year-old IT project manager from Woodstock, Georgia. He is also the director of media engagement for Dragon Con.
“From kids in costumes from a party store, to homemade costumes, to costumes that could be screen-ready for a movie production… Dragon Con welcomes everything.”
Carroll made sure to mention the Star Wars themed group known as 501st, who disguise themselves as stormtroopers in the service of the Empire, and their partner team The Rebel Alliance. “They’re both a dedicated costume group and a fantastic year-round charity,” he said. “They visit sick children and share a little joy. “
Some of her favorite cosplay highlights tend to be comic book characters, such as Doctor Strange, Iron Man, and X-Men, “… store to get comics that spend hours reading them,” Carroll said. .
Regarding his own cosplay, “I did a subtle cosplay for 12 years as Iron Man villain Obadiah Stane, who is really me putting on a costume,” Carroll said. “A few years ago I borrowed a costume for the Star Wars character Rex, and this year I hope to reveal my own Rex costume.”
A lot of choices
David McAlister, 68, an attorney who lives in Decatur, has been attending Dragon Con since 1989. “I enjoyed taking my young children on short visits to see a bit of the convention and the costumes,” he said. . “They got hooked and they try to come back to Atlanta every Labor Day weekend so they can fuck around.”
He said what he loves most about Dragon Con is that there are so many different activities, but one thing everyone enjoys is the costumes. “Probably only 25% to 30% of people wear suits, but they definitely dominate the view wherever you go,” McAlister said.
For many years, he went to the convention in formal attire, even though he admired what others were doing. “Then my daughter started making and wearing costumes, mostly based on characters from [BBC fantasy series] Doctor Who. About 10 years ago my wife suggested that a costume she made for a church youth play could be used as a wizard costume. I wore it one dumb afternoon and enjoyed being a part of the cosplay experience, so I decided to try it again, ”he said.
A few years later, “I disguised myself as Abraham Lincoln, the vampire hunter, from the not particularly good movie of that name. Since then I have tried a few other costumes. My most successful is a pirate captain costume based on Captain Morgan’s look from the bottle of rum and the commercials that aired a few years ago, ”McAlister said.
captain, my captain
McAlister reported that he had fun with the Captain Morgan costume. “Wearing the Captain Morgan costume is a great excuse to stand in the crowded Marriott hotel lobby with a drink in hand, toasting the people wearing the most interesting costumes that pass by,” he said. declared. “In Captain Morgan’s TV commercials he is always surrounded by other captains so he can address everyone as ‘captain’.
At Dragon Con, McAlister said he tries to call “Captain” to anyone he sees dressed as any captain – Captain Kirk, Picard or Janeway from Star Trek, Captain America, Captain Marvel and other pirates. . “They almost always call me ‘Captain’. A year ago, I spotted someone disguised as Captain Kangaroo, the host of a children’s TV show many years ago. Of course, I called him ‘Captain’. He was surprised, but smiled when he recognized the reference and called the “Captain” back.
A less pleasant aspect of cosplay can be the heat of Atlanta. “Walking outside in a heavy pirate captain costume or a wizarding costume is quite difficult when the temperature hovers around 90 degrees,” admitted McAlister.
Despite this, he will continue his cosplay at Dragon Con. “Without a costume, you’re just seeing the con. Wearing a costume, you are part of the scam. You are part of what people have come to see, and that makes the whole experience better.
The family who cosplay together
Lee and John Dodds, 63 and 66 respectively, are retired and reside in Peachtree City. They’ve been going to Dragon Con for 10 years in person, and “a year virtually  due to COVID. We’ve been cosplaying for this long, ”said Lee.
Their daughter heard about Dragon Con via the internet and got the family into cosplaying. “John was a college theater student, so the costumes and acting fit naturally,” Lee said. “We have also always enjoyed Halloween. Dressing up and adopting someone else’s personality or characteristics for a night out has always been a pleasure for us.
The Dodds said they were primarily drawn to general pop culture and science fiction at Dragon Con. The three dressed up as characters from the Top Gear and Dr. Who TV shows on the BBC, the Gravity Falls animated TV series, and the Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV series.
“We all loved them and loved doing it together as a family,” Lee said. “Although, along with Dr Who, John was the doctor, our daughter was [the Doctor’s sidekick] Clara and I were [the time-and-space-traveling ship] the Tardis. It was fun to do, but I don’t think I would do this one again. Then John and I were the main characters in Moonrise Kingdom [from the 2012 movie], which was our favorite cosplay so far.
Lee said one of the best experiences was when they were dressed as the three main characters on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV show, a name often abbreviated as MST3K. “We went to an MST3K panel and Joel Hodgson (the show’s creator and star) saw us and asked to take a picture with us. It was pretty awesome.
Stop and watch the zombies
The atmosphere at Dragon Con is what the Dodds love the most. “It’s fun to see people sharing your fandoms, the signs can be a lot of fun, and the parade is a must-see every year,” Lee said.
“It is not unusual for someone disguised as a zombie, covered in fake blood, to stop and hold the door open or help you find the bathroom.”
The Dodds said they found a comfortable place to sit and watch the show unfold. They especially enjoy watching groups of people cosplay together, like several people dressed as characters from My Little Pony, or a dad and son as Indiana Jones and dad.
“We also like costumes or groups of people that represent a play on words or a joke. Like a “Deadpool” disguised as “Po from Teletubbies”, he is therefore “DeadPo”. Or a group of men dressed up as sailors, but the costumes are like the characters in Sailor Moon.
“One of our favorites was someone who was [the arcade game] Zoltar from the movie Big. He had built the whole fortune telling machine, moved into the lobby of the Marriott, and sat inside.
everyone is welcome
Dragon Con Disability Services supports participants with physical or other disabilities. Services include wheelchair accessible buses, sign language interpreters, and special seats for people in wheelchairs and those with assistance dogs. For more information, go to the “Handicap” section of dragoncon.org.