I told you earlier this year I was planning to write a comparison piece as a first time attendee to both Comic-Con and Dragon*Con. The biggest thing I have to say: they’re both freakishly awesome, but extremely different.
I think the main difference is people’s purpose for attending. Both have loyal fans and followers who have attended their respective event for years, even decades. I felt the purpose of Comic-Con was to see your favorite celebrities in action, secure autograph opportunities, and take part in a little bit of stardom. It’s like a geek’s portal into Hollywood. If you read my article about Comic-Con, you know how exciting this was for me, and all the amazing stars I got to see in person. But because it’s a portal into Hollywood, there’s a substantial “industry” presence. There are a lot of non-geeks in attendance, who are looking to network and otherwise advance their careers. Of course I saw this at Dragon*Con as well, but from
what I could tell, most of the industry people were geeks too. I found that the attendees at that convention were all geeky, rather than the distinct nerd/non-nerd distinction I saw at Comic-Con. Dragon*Con is really a convention run by fans for fans. The purpose of Dragon*Con seemed to be fun in all capacities, from meeting fellow geeks to taking part in interesting panels, not solely the thrill of meeting a favorite celebrity.
Because of the differences in purpose, the dynamic at each convention varies greatly, as do the actual activities. At Comic-Con, I waited in line. A lot. And I got used to it. Hanging around doing nothing is just part of the experience. After waiting in line, every panel is very similar to every other panel, with the subject matter and guests simply changed. At Dragon*Con, however, if someone is doing nothing, it was because that’s what they feel like doing. Waiting in line comprised a surprisingly small percentage of my time. What panels I did attend were all very different; some were led by celebrities in a question/answer format, others were moderated by fans who wanted to discuss their ideas and theories about a particular subject.
When there wasn’t a panel I wanted to attend, there was a lot more opportunity for meeting geeks than I experienced at Comic-Con. The presence of several bars in close proximity to one another probably helped a lot. Alcohol has a major presence at Dragon*Con. While I’m sure there are big parties and other events at Comic-Con, they aren’t really a part of the daytime festivities. At Dragon*Con, people are drinking all day long. And they’re sleeping in the very same hotel where they’re doing their drinking, so why not?
One of my favorite aspects of conventions is seeing other people’s costumes and showing off my own. While there were a few great costumes at Comic-Con, I must say I was underwhelmed. I guess I figured the biggest convention in the world = the best cosplay in the world, but I was wrong. There were more cosplayers at Dragon*Con, and they were significantly better costumers than most of those I saw at Comic-Con. If you costume, or if you want to costume, Dragon*Con is your destination.
I suppose I’d say Comic-Con is business event, and Dragon*Con is a party. Both were intensely enjoyable in their own way and had a plethora of activities. You definitely have to make choices though – there simply isn’t enough time to do everything. Having been to both events now, I know better what to expect for next year and can definitely manage my time better. Both were amazing, and I’ll definitely be attending Dragon*Con every year for the foreseeable future. If I get another opportunity to make the trip out to California for Comic-Con, consider it done!
If I had to choose a favorite, though, I’d probably say it was Dragon*Con. But that’s ONLY because the socializing and costuming aspects of conventions are the most attractive to me. Both definitely had strongsuits, and areas in which they out did the other. And both will certainly appeal more strongly to different types of people. But all in all, they were both amazing experiences and I’m extremely lucky to have been able to attend them this year.