Now, I'm a proud nerd who grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends every weekend throughout high school, but my husband isn't so much into those sorts of things. He reads the Game of Thrones books and has a passionate crush on Wonder Woman, but he just doesn't get excited over the rest. He probably doesn't know the difference between Thor and Aquaman. I admit, I was concerned about how much fun he would have. However, I not only convinced him to tag along for one day, but three. Friday we went solo, Saturday we took our two daughters and Sunday we took our two younger sons. Monday we let our oldest son and his friends use the passes. The first day it wasn't as packed, as I assume many people had work that day. Some of the bigger name celebs weren't there, but there was still plenty to do. Saturday was insanely packed, Sunday less so but more than Friday. My son said Monday was not crowded, but again, many of the celebrities weren't there.
Neither of us really knew what to expect, but the Comicpalooza app helped us plan what we wanted to do and mapped out where the interesting things were. The George R Brown is gigantic! Without some sort of direction, we'd probably still be walking around trying to find our way. I was awed by the elaborate costumes most of the 'Paloozers were wearing, many home made. We weren't the only ones who weren't dressed up, but it seemed like most people were at least wearing some sort of costume, and quite a few had stunning, professional looking outfits. I saw a large number of women dressed as Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell was a guest), as well as people dressed as Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Spiderman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Poison Ivy, Captain America and, for some reason, pirates. If you plan to dress up next year and want to stand out as an original, maybe steer clear of those, but they were quite popular with the public. Be prepared to be stopped often and asked for photos if you do dress up, especially if you put a lot of effort into your look. If you are quite conservative, be forewarned that many people wear next to nothing, but my husband had no complaints about it.
Walking in to the main area on the first floor and walking to the right, you find yourself amongst an assortment of celebrities signing autographs and posing for pictures, from film and tv to wrestling, voice actors, musicians, and more. Featured guests this year included Jeremy Renner, Stan Lee, George Takei, Haley Atwell, Colbie Smulders, Laurie Holden, Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Shada (the voice of Finn from Adventure time), The Comic Book Men, TMNT creator Kevin Eastman, several cast members from Gotham, Barry Bostwick, Patricia O'Quinn and Lil Nell from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Summer Glau, Linda Blair, Peter "Chewbacca" Mayhew, John Schneider, GWAR, Marky Ramone, Henry "the Fonz" Winkler, wrestling legends such as Roddy Piper and Sting, Larry "The Soup Nazi" Thomas, and so many more that I will get a finger cramp listing them all. In order to get autographs and photos from the most popular celebrities (Stan Lee, the Avengers, and Haley Atwell) you needed to first purchase pass for that person or group, or stand in a mind numblingly long line to purchase a ticket before lining up in an equally horrible line to meet the celeb. For any other celebrity you could pay cash at their specific table. The lines for George Takei, Kevin Eastman, Laurie Holden, Summer Glau, Jason Isaacs and some of the Gotham cast got pretty long, but many of the other people had very short or no lines at all. Although some celebrities had assigned photo op times and said no photos at their tables, I discovered that if they didn't have a line and you were very polite, they were more than happy to take several pictures right then and there. Barry Bostwick, Larry Thomas, Marky Ramone and GWAR were especially friendly and chatted with us for awhile. While we did not get a chance to talk to Henry Winkler, every time we walked by we saw him up interacting with his fans, doing magic tricks for them and being extremely personable. There are ATM machines nearby the autograph tables so don't panic if you find yourself wanting a few more than you planned.
On the other side of the autograph section there are vendors set up as far as the eye can see. Again, many of these dealers (but not all) are cash only, so keep that in mind. The majority sell comic and anime related books,toys, and t-shirts, but we also found authors, artists, medieval looking weaponry, cosplayers, haunted houses, handmade soap, beauty products, ecigarette vaping products, samples of Virus vodka, and even a table where you could win tickets and t-shirts from the Texas Ren Fest (we got 4 tickets and two shirts, yeah!), There is a little something for everyone, even if you aren't a comics lover, like my husband.
Past the vendor tables are the food courts, options being Chick Fil A, sandwiches, stir fry, and snacks. The tables and chairs were all taken so you may need to find a spot on the floor to camp out and eat, but don't worry, you won't be the only ones doing so, unless more seating is added next year. Directly across from the food area are games and interactive areas for younger children, Our kids were older so we didnt really venture over too far into it, but I did see an area where kids could play with some fun robots, and sign up for classes to learn to build them themselves. There was also a spot where kids and adults could fence/swordfight with wooden swords and PVC, and an instructor on hand to teach them a few moves.
Now that alone sounds like plenty to keep you occupied, but believe it or not there was even more to do upstairs. All day there were panels and classes you could attend in any number of the rooms in the George R Brown, from Q&A sessions with the celebrities origami classes, advice on becoming a director from Houston's own Larry Wade Carroll, tips on writing, gaming and blogging, art, and a little bit of everything. If you are a gamer of any sort (video, computer, live action, board, role playing) there are areas set up for that as well. On the third floor, all the way to the left we were able to see my good friend Josh's band Jealous Creatures, roller derby, and wrestling exhibitions. Friday night Jackie Earle Haley (whom I had the pleasure of taking part in an interview with, which I will have up on this blog soon) showed a premiere of his upcoming movie Criminal Activies (more on that in another post), and Saturday night there was a showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (though I don't think attendees were lucky enough to have Barry Bostwick, Patricia O'Quinn and Lil Nell as the shadow cast).
If you are under the impression you can come to Comicpalooza one day, stay for a few hours and see all there is to see, you are mistaken. I urge anyone interested to at least plan for two days, and get the four day pass if you can afford it. Your feet and legs will ache and your wallet will be empty, but you will have an absolutely incredible experience. My advice to new Con goers is to wear comfy shoes, bring lots of cash (or map out the ATMs), eat before you arrive, download the Comicpalooza app to keep track of when and where the many upstairs events occur, and plan to stay late to catch some great shows. Dress up and let your inner nerd roam free if you'd like, you will be in great company. If you are coming from out of town, or for what ever reason don't wish to drive back home at night, there is a Hilton hotel connected to the GRB and you may run into the celebrities at the bar or in the hallways. And if you are curious how my non-nerd husband enjoyed it, he's already planning for next year with me. I think I'll go as Lara Croft.
*disclaimer - I received four 4 day passes in exchange from Comicpalooza, but all opinions and thoughts are strictly my own*