I attended Comicpalooza in Houston this past weekend and this con proved to be a very user friendly convention. At the convention center, Comicpalooza organizers had a group of well trained volunteers to direct the crowd as well as conveniently placed signs to help convention attendees find their way. The organizers offered special access to the panels, celebrities, and the exhibit hall via VIP, Fast Track and Special Access badges. My three-day badge was sufficient for the panels I wanted to attend. I only had to wait in line once and that was for The Defenders panel. On the positive side the time in line allowed me the opportunity to meet some really interesting people.
Also, in the immediate vicinity of the convention center there are several stores such as CVS and Phoenicia which have water, food, and other supplies. At the convention center, there is the famous Pappadeaux restaurant. I saw Chad Coleman and Scott Wilson having dinner there on Thursday night.
Comicpalooza had a great pantheon of stars, authors, artists, and writers such as Anthony Mackie, Chuck Norris, Jim Butcher, Felicia Day, and Candice Patton. Click here for the link to a list of all the guests who attended this year.
Even with all this talent, Comicpalooza had nowhere near the amount of mania or activities for which SDCC is famous. In my opinion, this was fun because it is smaller-scale in comparison to the larger cons like NYCC and SDCC. I walked the exhibit floor each day with relative ease (even Saturday). There was a lot of the usual merchandise and activity we associate with comic conventions but Houston has a unique flavor due its proximity to the NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA had taken a large area on the exhibit floor for a VR exhibit as well as space memorabilia. This is the only convention I have attended where NASA’s presence has been so prominent. It was quite impressive, entertaining, and informative. The panel schedule included a special science panel track with NASA scientists as panelists who talked about space travel, colonization, and other space-related subjects. For me, this is why you attend smaller conventions as it provides you something which is unique to the area. I would expect Las Vegas to emphasize Area 51, Albuquerque to emphasize Roswell, and Dayton to emphasize the alien bodies at Wright-Patterson.
While Comicpalooza had great movie and TV stars, they also brought a great literary line-up as well. I had a great one-on-one conversation with C. Robert Cargill (Doctor Strange) about the many controversies surrounding the making of Doctor Strange. He talked about working with Ben which took me a moment to realize he was talking about Benedict Cumberbatch as he is the only person that I have ever heard refer to him as “Ben.” I also attended several panels with Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) and Lev Grossman (The Magicians), who were entertaining and insightful.
I didn’t just attend literary panels, I attended the Defenders panels which was really a Heroes for Hire panel as Mike Colter (Luke Cage) and Finn Jones (Iron Fist) were the only Defenders who were there. Charlie Cox bowed out at the last minute and Krysten Ritter was never scheduled to be there.
Finn Jones and Mike Colter appeared to be enjoying themselves on the panel. They were very entertaining while they took special care not to drop any hints about what happens on The Defenders. I do have one quibble about the panel. They did not allow any photography at all. We were told if we wanted pictures we could go to the pay signing sessions. Also, there was no Q&A either and that was disappointing. There was one other ‘no show’ – Chad Coleman could not take part in The Expanse NASA panel because of a conflict with an autograph signing session. This was unfortunate and it was puzzling how it happened. Jon Bernthal lost his voice and could not take part in the Daredevil panel however he did do his autograph signings.
All in all, the convention was fun and it is a convention that is worth attending. While there were a couple of cancellations, this did not disrupt the enjoyment of the con. For the most part, the event was well organized and I did not hear of any complaints about the con. The exhibit floor was accessible and really packed with a lot of great exhibitors. We were able to get NASA on the podcast which was really exciting. NASA sponsored a great science block of panels as well as a great VR space station experience which I believe is unique to Comicpalooza.
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