Dragon*Con vs. San Diego Comic-Con: Which Convention Should You Attend?
For the past three years that I've been covering conventions for LA Weekly, people have been telling me to go to Atlanta for Dragon*Con. I've heard it from commenters, friends and professional contacts. There are many who believe that Dragon*Con is the best of the U.S. fan conventions, that it trumps San Diego Comic Con in many regards. I was curious, curious enough to fly out to Atlanta last Labor Day Weekend to find out for myself.
Shannon Cottrell San Diego Comic-Con 2011
Both Dragon*Con and San Diego Comic Con are massive gatherings, but they are drastically different conventions. Comparing them isn't easy or even necessary. If you can only attend one of these two conventions, make sure you pick the one that best suits your interests. I've broken down some deciding factors below, excluding price, as neither is cheap and the actual cost will depend on how far you have to travel and how early you start making arrangements.
If you're a cosplayer and you have the means to get to Dragon*Con, do it.
The cosplay scene at San Diego Comic-Con isn't great in comparison to other Southern California conventions I've attended (if you like costumes and are in L.A., go to an anime convention), and it's downright terrible when held against Dragon*Con.
In San Diego, you'll often see people dressed in costume only to find out that they are part of a street team for some TV show or movie. Sure, there are some great cosplayers who attend, like the group who formed Gender Bent Justice League and the guy who showed up at The Venture Bros. panel dressed as Plugface, but they're in the minority. Geeky t-shirts and jeans or shorts is the standard dress here.
At Dragon*Con, though, at least half the crowd is costumed (a conservative estimate). We're not talking run-of-the-mill costumes either, although there were an awful lot of Poison Ivies entered into the convention's beauty contest. My roommates at Dragon*Con dressed in Nerfpunk, which is sort of like steampunk rendered in bright, Nerf colors. I shared an elevator with a guy dressed as Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. Not only did the obscure Plugface character make an appearance, but we caught him at The Venture Bros. Blog party with Mommy Longlegs. Hell yeah!
After Dragon*Con, I talked to my pal Marc Illagan of The Venture Bros. Blog. He goes to both San Diego Comic-Con and Dragon*Con and is torn between which one is his favorite. Both cons have their advantages. One of the plusses of SDCC, he notes, is that the exhibit hall in San Diego has a much better selection of toys and collectibles.
Dragon*Con had two exhibit halls, plus one artist alley, which I visited at this year's convention. Still, it's only a small fraction of what you'll see at SDCC. Since the San Diego con is a major, international event, many companies release items that will be exclusive to the convention. The lines are long, but the toys are almost guaranteed to become collectible.
Moreover, SDCC is a major event for designer toy artists and the selection of vinyl figures is excellent. This year, the first Designer Toy Awards took place during SDCC. I didn't notice any sort of designer toy presence at Dragon*Con.