My First Comic Convention

Originally published on Medium at https://medium.com/@BreezeRiley/my-first-comic-convention-6e3ea0ff2158#.5yamjzddp. Resharing now since SDCC is so soon!

 

Anyone who knows me, or has at least seen my Twitter feed, knows that I am a pop culture nerd.

More specifically, I’ve loved science-fiction and fantasy (including the superhero genre) my whole life.

So it’s probably less surprising that earlier this month I went to my first comic convention, Awesome Con in Washington, D.C.

One of the smaller regional conventions, this was the 4th year of Awesome Con. Despite its smaller size, however, I was still thoroughly impressed.

The convention had a great mix of celebrity and comic guests, panels and vendors. I was able to pick up comics from a local comic shop that had a booth on the floor as well as peruse all the awesome fan art. It was like Etsy IRL.

Most impressive to a convention newbie like myself was the cosplay. Of course there was a lot of the expected (Suicide Squad Harley Quinns, Deadpools), but also some welcome surprises that filled my geeky heart with excitement (Static Shock, Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, tons of Agent Carters).

Parenting done right.

I attended panels for Matthew Lewis (Neville from the Harry Potter films), John Barrowman (Doctor Who, Arrow) and Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who). One of the negatives of this convention, and any convention, is that there is bound to be overlap and you’ll miss some of the panels. One good thing is that Awesome Con clears the main hall between panels so you don’t feel pressured to camp out all day like at San Diego Comic-Con.

For the most part, the panels were extremely entertaining. I’ve done screenings and talks before at festivals and in college, but these panels felt a lot more casual and had a large segment of fan Q&A instead of depending on the moderators. Most pleasantly, all the actors seemed genuinely happy to be there and answer questions for their fans. Of course, coming to these conventions is a job for them, but they’re also grateful to their fans and the opportunities the dedication of fans can lead to.

To quote John Barrowman, “When the fans speak up that’s when they listen.”

John Barrowman’s entrance

The one major incident that happened during the convention to put a damper on the experience was the hot mess of the Jenna Coleman and Peter Capaldi photo opps. Apparently the convention oversold them, causing the scheduled panel to start two hours late and to be shortened by 15 minutes. Since I didn’t have a VIP pass, I had joined the general admission line two hours early which means I ended up waiting a very long time for a 30 minute panel. I can only imagine how much more frustrating this was for the people who actually bought the photo opps.

Despite all the chaos, Peter and Jenna were absolutely lovely at their panel. To me it was still worth it to see them together since Jenna has left the show and this might be one of my last chances for a while. Their playful banter in real life is not unlike their relationship on screen. They told some great behind the scenes stories, and the sweetest moments were when they were answering questions from young fans who addressed them as their characters.

Now I can also say I’ve seen David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi all in person which is quite special for a Whovian like myself.

I still can’t get over how lovely they are in person

I do trust that next year Awesome Con will plan better for having such popular guests.

This year I was lucky enough to win passes from the local CW affiliate,DCW50. However, at $80 for a weekend pass, the convention would have still been a great deal (children under 10 go for free, which means lots of cute kids in cosplay). If they manage to keep the level of quality for the same price, I definitely plan to go again next year.

Unfortunately I didn’t also win this car.

Before going to Awesome Con I loved the idea of going to a convention, but wasn’t quite sure if the experience would be worth it. Now I know it’s even more fun than I could have imagined.

While I won’t be heading to any of the bigger conventions this summer, this experience has made me even more excited to attend in the future.

See you next summer, San Diego Comic-Con?…

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How Agent Carter taught me to “know my value”

 

“I know my value”

The end of 2015 felt like a giant win in regards to female representation in fantasy and science fiction. Just in the past three months we’ve gotten Jessica Jones (of the eponymous show) and Rey from Star Wars.

But the woman who really kicked off 2015 wasn’t in a record-breaking blockbuster or a critically-acclaimed Netflix show.

Instead she showed up in your local listings on ABC, the same channel you tune into for your Shondaland fix.

I’m talking about Peggy Carter, who after first appearing in Captain America, was given her own miniseries four years later in the aptly-named Agent Carter.

That’s right. Agent.

Read the rest of the post over on Medium.

agent carter

“Won’t you say nice things about me when I’m gone?”

I cringe a little when I think about how long ago college graduation seems from today. When my biggest concerns were whether I was going to trip on stage (I didn’t, though I did trip walking back to my seat) or whether my long-separated parents could stand having dinner together (they were fine).

A lot has happened since I wrote my graduation post way back in May. But one thing had not:

I was still in North Carolina.

But that recently changed because of two reasons.

  1. My apartment lease finally ran out.
  2.  I’m finally employed!

But mainly because of #2. After going from “I’m so glad I’m taking a little bit of time off after college!” to “I think I’m ready to jump into work now” to “I’M GOING TO BE UNEMPLOYED FOREVER,” I’m very excited to start my career in Washington, D.C. this week.

That said, I’m going to miss North Carolina. It became my home away from home these past four years. I really do feel like I became a resident of the state and not just a student at UNC. Of all the things living here has given me beyond a bachelor’s degree, there are three things I consider most important.

  • An appreciation of Southern Culture- Although I’m convinced I came to North Carolina with a stronger appreciation of grits and collard greens than most people I ended up befriending, I absolutely did not identify as a Southerner before I arrived. Maryland isn’t a Southern state. It really doesn’t have a strong regional identity at all. So living in the South gave me something I could adopt. Sure, at first I felt uncomfortable saying “y’all.” I didn’t know the difference between barbecues in North Carolina. And my freshman year roommate was British. But through classes that interwove Southern history, exploring places outside of Chapel Hill and meeting folks with some real strong accents, I finally came around.  I still don’t like sweet tea as much as I should, but you can bet I’ll keep on saying “y’all.”
  • Fearlessness- For someone who was beyond ready to get out of their small hometown, I had my fair share of homesickness my freshman year. Leaving our comfort zone isn’t always as easy as we imagine it to be. I was the only person from my high school at Carolina, and only knew a hand full of people coming in. I had to learn to build things from scratch. I had to learn flexibility, which isn’t something that comes easy for a type-A person like myself. Whether it was living on my own for the first time or pursuing opportunities in London and New York City, going to Carolina was the first step in a very long journey. And what a valuable first step it was.
  • Friends for a lifetime- More important than anything were the people. Friends I met the first week of school to people I didn’t know until senior year. People I bonded with through work, extracurriculars and those certain classes we suffered through together. People who opened their homes to me and took me in when I was feeling homesick for my own family. Mentors who guided me through tough decisions and friends who were always there to listen. Each person played such an important part of my Carolina experience, and I hope many of them will continue to play a part in my life.

So thanks Carolina, and I’ll see you again soon. Until then…

$25K. 25 Hours. 1 Cause.

What difference can one day make?

That’s what Carolina For the Kids is trying to find out. Starting yesterday and ending tonight at 9 p.m., Carolina For The Kids is trying to raise $25,000 in 25 hours for the N.C. Children’s Hospital.

You might have read about why I stand on this blog before.

Well, today is a reminder. I stand because it makes a difference in the lives of the patients and families. Because I am proud to be a committee subchair for an organization with such a great cause. Because I value using my life to help others.

I encourage you to donate today, even if it’s just a dollar. Carolina For The Kids is dreaming big today. A dream to make an even greater difference in the lives of others.

I hope you’ll help us make that dream a reality.

You can donate here, and learn more about our cause at http://www.carolinaftk.org/.

Carolina For The Kids

The Sounds of The (New York) City

Working close to 50 hours a week isn’t conducive to the most active blogging life. It was much easier to scribble notes in my journal on my morning commute than to sit down in the evening typing out a blog post for a public audience.

Although I moved back to North Carolina more than a week ago, I thought it would be remiss to leave out of these chronicles one of the biggest parts of my New York experience, which was the music.

Despite giving up the viola in 6th grade, music has always been a huge part of my life.

And before I had even packed my suitcases, there were two concerts on my calendar: The Early November acoustic tour playing at The Studio at Webster Hall in June and the free Nickel Creek show in Prospect Park as a part of Celebrate Brooklyn!

The Early November is a band of my youth. Which is saying something since I’m only 21. They are one of my “middle school bands,” and one that I have no shame in admitting my love for ( I can’t say that about all the music I listened to back then.) I had seen Ace Enders tour solo before, but hadn’t seen The Early November perform since they got back together.

The venue was smaller than expected. Possibly even smaller than Local 506 in Chapel Hill. It was fitting, because the night felt like a gathering of friends. As they went through the hits, old and new, there wasn’t a soul who didn’t know every word.

It also helps that the band is from Jersey so NYC is the closest to a hometown show they had on this tour.

NYC boom

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I left the venue wondering why all concerts couldn’t feel this way- like a giant sing-a-long among friends.

The Nickel Creek show was less intimate-the Prospect Park bandshell can fit a few thousand, and I was worried I wouldn’t make it in time from my work to Brooklyn to even get a spot. Fortunately since it was a weeknight Tonya and I were able to stake out our own little patch on the lawn.

Having seen Punch Brother perform at Memorial Hall a few years ago I knew we were in for a good show based on Chris Thile alone, and the trio reunited didn’t disappoint.

On my NYC bucket list, I had mentioned I wanted to see a show at the Rockwood Music Hall, and preferably I wanted that show to be John Gallagher Jr. since he plays there regularly when not in Los Angeles (or so I had deduced from his tweets). It didn’t turn out exactly like that.

I ended up seeing Carolina-favorite Mipso at the Rockwood, with a crowd full of many Tar Heels and my sister who had become a fan of the band through my introduction.

I did end up seeing John Gallagher Jr. perform later that month at the Schott Leather music showcase at the Bowery Electric.

Most probably know Gallagher for his acting career, but he’s a talented musician in his own right.  Not to mention it’s no surprise that as a Tony-winner he has incredible stage presence. The only problem of course is that he hasn’t really recorded any albums outside of cast recordings. So unless you live in NYC or LA, you’re stuck watching bootlegs on YouTube.

To my pleasant surprise, he mentioned at the show that he recently recorded an album it just hasn’t been released yet. At least I’ll have a wonderful live show to tide me over.

I don’t have any eloquent turn of phrase to describe the show. Like my other NYC concert experiences it was fun. People were dancing. This seems like such a given, but it always amazes me the concerts I go to where the audience isn’t getting into the show. No one is singing along or dancing. They just stand there. Even for great bands I’ve seen this happen, and it befuddles me. I’m a shy person in everyday life, but concerts are meant to be enjoyed. Music is meant to be lived and New Yorkers know how to do that.

Of course, this also happened to be the night it took me two hours to get home instead of a half hour because of subway construction. Walking home from the 2 train at 1:30 in the morning on a week night was an experience by itself. But seeing that harmonica in person was worth every moment of sleepiness the next day at work.

John Gallagher Jr. at The Bowery Electric, New York

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And more than the music I planned to hear, there was the music that was a part of the city itself. The live jazz on the patio of Harlem Tavern during weekend brunch. The loud beats of Caribbean music being blasted from speakers on Frederick Douglas Avenue and Latin music on the boardwalk of Coney Island. The honking of taxi horns and the wind tunnel rush of the subway heard above ground through the grates.

Now I’m back in Carolina, and the sounds are a little different. The hum of the whirring ceiling fan in my bedroom, barely audible under the noise of the crickets outside. The cheers of thousands of students as our team leads us to a victory. The angelic harmonies of a cappella groups in the pit as they try to recruit new members. There will be more music this year I’m sure. But it will be hard to match the sounds of the summer.