Megacon Orlando 2017

I’ve been attending Megacon for nearly as long as I’ve been waiting on Kingdom Hearts III to release on the PS3 PS4. And, like that elusive third installment, Megacon has seen numerous reimaginings in the last few years—changing hands and concourses alike in an ever-evolving effort to expand the experience (try saying that five times fast).

The jury’s still out on the finale of the Kingdom Hearts trilogy, but I am back from yet another year of Megacon—and it was mega-cool.

The Scoop:

What – The Southeast’s premier Comic Book, Anime, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, & Pop Culture event!

When:

Thursday, May 25: 2PM – 8:30PM
Friday, May 26: 10AM –6:30PM
Saturday, May 27: 10AM – 6:30PM
Sunday, May 28: 10AM – 4:30PM

Where – Orange County Convention Center, North/South Buildings

Who (I saw) – Gaten Matarazzo, Paige O’Hara, Billy West, Coleen Clinkenbeard, Mike McFarland, and Charles Martinet

Price – $20-$55 (single-day), $110 (weekend)

Perks – Costume Contest, Stan Lee’s final appearance in Florida, celebrity photo sessions, the Rocky Horror Picture Show Experience, cosplay photo park, artist ally, indie pavilion, over 400,000 square feet of shopping madness, 501st Legion, Kids Zone & Family Lounge, cosplay repair station, and more!

Zelda fans know the saying: “Wherever there is a meeting, a parting is soon to follow.” After spending a few days in reflection, my mind settled on this quotation as the mantra that characterized my Megacon experience. (Runners-up included: “Not all who wander (the Vendor’s Hall) are lost” and “Where there’s a Deadpool, there’s a way.”—I’ll… get to that one in a bit.)

Nostalgia is a bittersweet thing. It preserves my memories of Megacon 2012 behind a gilded frame of fun and fancy—along with my clumsy first cosplay and a handful of friends who have slowly drifted apart on the tide of life. Nostalgia is also a clingy thing. It likes to stick its nose in my current affairs and whine a bit when things aren’t just like the “good old days.”

That’s not to say nostalgia is an unwelcome attendee when I travel to Megacon each year. Megacon is, after all, built on a culture of nostalgia—not just because of its longevity as an event but also because of the appreciation geek culture holds for its earliest memories of discovering new fandoms.

Tempering that nostalgia, though, is a longing for innovation—to get those 100% completionist runs, catch (and evolve) ‘em all, and go where no man has gone before.

War may never change, but Cons certainly do, and Megacon 2017 marked a year of permanent “partings” from the norm. Hall-loitering without a wristband finally got the big red X, Stan Lee made his final Florida cameo after years of his appearances being a Megacon staple, and “weapon checks” became “prop checks”—meaning even my friend’s foam owl, Cedric, got the big red bow treatment. In the midst of the averted Phoenix Comicon crisis, already-tight security became ever-so-slightly tighter, though for altogether justifiable reasons. Prop weapons were graciously allowed on-site—which was a mercy, because I wasn’t exactly looking forward to lugging a 6-foot scythe back to my car.

Even if I had had to make the long journey back to the parking garage, though, it would have been bearable. Megacon’s buses were especially impeccable this year, as was the $5.00 parking fare and streamlined traffic. One evening, I even hopped on the wrong bus but the driver was kind enough to let me off at my stop regardless. Coming and going from the Con was 100% hassle-free, which, under a 15-lb pair of wings, three layers of clothing, and a full-body belt harness, made my life a whole lot easier and set an ideal mood at the start of each day.

The four-day affair was rather streamlined itself. I hit the biggest bumps Thursday morning, when I arrived at 2:00, expecting that press would be allowed early access to the Con, along with the Deluxe Pass holders. However, I found myself among numerous other press persons and cosplay guests in the unmanned “Press Pass” line until 4:00. I can’t complain about the time I spent among such good company in the wait line and elsewhere, but I none-the-less found the delay surprising—and with a whopping 400,000 square feet of vendor space to traverse in a mere four days, I wouldn’t have protested about having two extra hours to explore the wares and wonders.

Simply put: the Vendor’s Hall was massive, with entire chunks of the concourse separately designated for artists, authors, and merchandisers. After four days of exploring, I still managed to find entire booths I had missed, dedicated to such geeky niches as Triforce-shaped chocolates and an interactive VR experience. This is perhaps the first year of Megacon that I spent 100% of my time just traversing the Vendor’s Hall (only stepping outside on the terrace for a brief photoshoot). There was simply that much to do.

As the proud owner of one particular “over-sized” cosplay (because wings), I appreciated the re-distribution of hall space this year, which created an immense, gymnasium-like area in-between the special guest lines and photo op curtains at the expense of a more closely-quartered dining area. Cosplayers looking to step away from the wares, take unobstructed (and un-obstructing) shots, and find an informal “forum” to chat with cosplay peers could congregate in this open space for a breather. The elbow room not only allowed for fast-travel from one half of the hall to another, but also made locating and accessing those must-see special guests a painless ordeal. Reasonable wait times ensured that standing in line to obtain autographs was easy on my achy legs, with queues spaced far enough apart that my personal space bubble never threatened to pop.

I was amusedly reminded of my Roller Coaster Tycoon days, when I’d “hire” a panda-suited performer to entertain my park guests while they waited in line to ride my super-cool coaster. Cosplayers, without prompt, often came right up to me while I waited in line—either to chat, snap a selfie, or (in the case of a particularly inspirational Deadpool) have me hold their leg. The funny thing about that latter interaction is that, 20 years from now, I’ll still remember that Deadpool cosplayer saying, “You can do anything if you think about it hard enough. 3 + 3 + 3 can equal 10 if you believe it can.” The Merc with a Mouth walked from across the hall to grab a selfie with me and then left me in stiches over some unrequested “life advice.”

There’s an old saying that goes: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Cosplayers are still at the heart of the Megacon experience, and it’s those personal interactions with “characters” that instinctively store themselves in my long-term memory.

Perhaps that’s because the geek “language” is one of art—it’s putting a piece of yourself into a “story” that is shared by thousands of others, creating an instant connection between you and others around you by using a pop culture narrative as a catalyst. It’s why we “squee” a little inside whenever our obscure movie quotes are recognized (and responded to) by another Con-goer, or why cosplay itself is the ultimate physical social network.

When an overly rambunctious Eren Yeager cosplayer nearly wiped out on the floor on his way to see my Captain Levi cosplay, I immediately knew how to connect and interact with him because of the context of the Attack on Titan story we shared. Without exchanging a word of personal information, we revealed a deeply personal piece of ourselves to each other—the stories and characters we have shaped into our identities.

I may have gone off the deep end a bit there, but I took that philosophical scenic route to bring myself to this particular point: Megacon may have changed in some significant ways—wrought by management decisions and circumstances beyond control—but it has none-the-less continued to create an opportunity for “meetings,” where geeks can engage in new experiences and cosplayers are encouraged to be themselves.

My over-sized cosplay was not only permitted in the main hall, but also praised by the staff. Nobody complained when I removed the gaudy “prop check” bow from my cosplay weapon in order to maintain the illusion of my character. Everything from the re-distribution of space in the hall, to the prompt service of bus transportation and low parking fee emphasized a desire for encumbered cosplayers, in particular, to feel at ease from beginning to end. And as though to maximize on the memory-making, Megacon supplied many novel means to immerse attendees in the experience. Various setplays and a “cosplay photo park” provided fantastical backdrops for cameras to capture that ideal shot.

In the end, any bittersweet nostalgia I felt over the “partings” of Megacons past was minimized by thrice as many “meetings”—meetings with a stellar lineup of special guests, meetings with new friends and some of the most imaginative cosplayers I’ve seen in a long time, meetings with artists worth taking a print and a business card from…

Meetings with, well, memories.

If there’s one thing Megacon knows how to cultivate, it’s memories, and each year I’m drawn back to the Orange County Convention Center to add more magical moments to the proverbial mind palace. It won’t be easy to trump meeting my childhood hero, Paige O’Hara, finally purchasing that print I’ve been hunting for the past 5 years, or getting to pose alongside an incredible winged Wonder Woman while the cameras snapped for minutes… but I’m confident Megacon 2018 can do it.

Why? Because I believe it can. And, according to that Deadpool cosplayer whose leg I held, that’s all it takes.

The Southeast’s premier Comic Book, Anime, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, & Pop Culture event! MegaCon is a playground for fans of all ages who love genres from gaming to sci-fi to comics and more!

Visit the Megacon Official Website

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Photography by Amy Covel and Shutter Spade Snapshots

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Author: Casey Covel View all posts by
Casey Lynn Covel (known online as “Cutsceneaddict”) is an award-winning, published writer, avid reader, and aspiring author. She runs a nerdy writing blog called Meek-Geek and founded PROJECT: Magic Kingdom Hearts in 2012. When she’s not writing for Geeks Under Grace, Florida Geek Scene, Beneath the Tangles, or FROM JAPAN, she enjoys cosplaying, and has won several awards for her work. Follow her on Instagram for her latest cosplay endeavors. #meekischic

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