Walking through downtown Athens this past weekend, things were looking a lot more like late October than mid-January. No matter where I looked, the familiar was mixed with the unique. To my right, Batman was coming out of Jittery Joe’s, coffee in hand. While waiting to cross the street I was joined by a group of storm troopers. A mass of other characters, some recognizable and some more obscure, are working their way down the streets, all headed to the same place that I am: AthCon 3.0.
AthCon is described officially as “a multi media popular culture convention”. The terms multi media and popular culture are perfect descriptors because they could encompass just about anything, which is really what this event seems to encourage. The convention emphasizes comics and videogames, but anyone who is passionate about anything can find a place there. The space is packed with activities from a dinosaur petting zoo, fencing demonstrations and panels about everything from general cosplay to star wars. For some, it’s a chance to show their skills. Many people spend months and hundreds of dollars creating the perfect costume of their favorite character. During one panel, a speaker dressed in a very impressive Batman costume said that if he can make a costume that costs under $200 then he’s happy. Of course, plenty of other people make much simpler costumes for a lot less and have just as much fun. The real draw of the convention is the “come as you are” atmosphere.As I walked through the vendors’ tables I was struck by how friendly and open everyone was. Many people spoke about how much they looked forward to this event because they could be themselves and express their unique talents that may be underappreciated by others. The booths were filled with crafts from ceramics and woodworking to sci-fi themed fine art prints. At one table a team of movie makeup artists covered themselves in realistic gashes and bruises.
The level of commitment, creativity and acceptance are really what intrigued me at AthCon, though others are drawn to the demos, the costume contest and artists. I attended several panels, one of which outlined the dos and don’ts of steam punk fashion. One passionate individual talked about how cosplay gave him an outlet to deal with losing a loved one. However, though all of the panels were covering different subjects, when each speaker was asked what they felt they gained through participating in the cons, the answer was almost unanimously: friends. It seems that the ultimate goal of these types of events is providing the opportunity to not only express your interests outwardly, but to meet and form strong bonds with others who relate to you. Any time creativity, diversity, and acceptance come together as the themes of an event, you can bet that I will be planning to attend next year…I guess I had better get started on a costume!