Everything Shiny from Whedon Con

Whedon Con

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Whedon Con from Nerd Out contributor, Christina Nagawaka

So as much as I’m sure they would love to, Nick and Michelle just can’t seem to make it to every con around. (What! Not every single one?!) Which means this last weekend I got the awesome chance to help the Nerd Out crew and check out Whedon Con in their place.  Now, you might have seen Nick’s super informative post about Whedon Con, but for those of you who haven’t and don’t feel like opening another tab and adding to your already full browser window…. Whedon Con is a convention that focuses on the Wonderful Works of Whedon. If you sing along to a blog by Dr. Horrible or dream of a trip aboard Serenity, this is your con.  What makes it even more special though is that this is all in the name of charity. The efforts here went to support the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, which provides after school support for children in grades 3-12, and My Friend’s Place, which supports homeless youth in an inclusive environment.  Basically, Whedon Con bills itself as a convention for fans, by fans, “with the aim of harnessing the power of fandom for charity.”

Whedon Con

So how is it?

Well, this was only the con’s second year. It definitely wasn’t the size or scope of any con I’ve been to before, but keep in mind that I’ve really only stuck to broad “comic cons”- nothing as specific as Whedon Con.  However, what it lacks in size it makes up for with the sheer accessibility of it all.  In one way it was the most inclusive con I’ve been to. You could see it in the “all genders” signs on the bathrooms or their support for My Friend’s Place, which specifically aims to help the high risk and marginalized community of homeless LGBT youth.  In another sense, the organizers took great pains to allow attendees an unparalleled access to the special guests. They offered special Cards Against Humanity games and cocktail nights with the celeb guests that allowed anyone the legitimate chance to hang out with some of the cast from their favorite Whedonverse movies or shows.  This went far deeper than the long line of fans waiting to walk along a table of 6 actors from their favorite show and meet them all greeting line style.

Whedon Con Podcasts

There was also a cool variety of panels.   Some were directly related to the Whedon-verse,  like screenings of Buffy, Firefly, Serenity, or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog or panels like “Speculation of Season 2 of Firefly” and “Ladies of Whedon.” Other panels incorporated special guests like a live taping of the “Big Bad Buffy” podcast or “Behind the Stunts with Jeff Pruit and Sophia Crawford.”  Still others ranged from industry related (“Finding and Pitching to a Producer”) to fan-based (“Character Acting in Cosplay”) to everything in between (“TRAPPIST-1 System” or “English is Easy: A Historical Exploration of They/Them”). Truthfully, the variety of panels they managed to fit into a smaller convention really impressed me.  Not everything was necessarily intriguing to me, but I think that fits right into what seemed like the best part of the convention – everything was possible for everyone.  I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t make it into a panel or have to prioritize and choose just one to wait in line for while missing all the other things I wanted to see.  And when I did go to a panel, there was plenty of space where I could comfortably listen and take part in the panel.

Whedon Con

For example, on Saturday we got to see The Movie Guys recording their podcast live.  If you don’t know who they are, The Movie Guys podcast basically is their group talking and joking about the new releases everyone else is talking about. Here, despite rushing in at the last moment, I still found a spot in the second row. I could comfortably laugh along as they talked about Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the fact that Baby Groot was the best part of the movie. Duh!  Sunday I got to see panels like “Hackers, Don’t be a victim” or “Crowd Funding and Fan Acquisition with Legion M.”

Whedon Con Panels

In Hackers, they had a member of the LAPD discussing ways to be aware and defend yourself against hacking attempts and the audience was able to discuss and question certain hacking attempts.  Side note: if someone calls you saying its a friend or family member and they sound funny because they “have a cold” but know all this personal information and even an approximate location that person might be and now they immediately need you to send money for their bail and the best way to do this is with a Visa giftcard and just read them the numbers once you’ve bought it….. this is a scam.  You can thank me later for passing that on.

In Legion M’s panel, they discussed how their company is embracing the crowdfunding scene but offering something a bit more than a trinket, a shirt, or early access to exclusive footage (read: Kickstarter or Indiegogo). Instead, they offer donors shares in their company. To really get into what they’re all about deserves a blog post of its own. Point is, it was such an intimate setting that we were able to ask plenty of questions. Like having a conversation with a group of friends – no microphone line necessary.

The Exhibit Hall

Now of course, no convention is complete without an exhibit hall.  This one was named “Sunnydale Mall” and had a nice selection of vendors.  Again, nothing too overwhelming in size, but the tables that were there all displayed a connection to fandom.  The artists there clearly cared about what they were making and selling and it made the “mall” more worth it.  One in particular had 3D paintings and carvings- all handmade and intricate.  He in particular also contributed a peice to the charity auction at the end of the convention- a cool Mutant Enemy carving with a moveable zombie that the convention staff got signed by most of the special guests. Grrr, argh! It ended up taking in some of the highest bids at the auction. Speaking of, the auction was an awesome display and included things like signed Firefly loot crates or vintage Buffy memorabilia.  It was hosted by UK comedian Bill Paddon who helped the auction raise more than $1700 to go straight to charity while keeping the audience laughing and interested.

 

Whedon Con

Conclusion

My overall takeaway then was mostly positive.  I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again… it was a small convention.  Whedon Con is in it’s infancy and that does show.  Some parts were a bit unorganized and there wasn’t an overwhelming attendance.  But feel free to think of it as one of those toddlers that you know are already a little advanced.  It had a great variety of panels and used the coziness to make it a better experience for fans.  It did it all in the name of charity and relied on its volunteer staff entirely.  Definitely a convention that I would love to see grow. I can’t wait to see the name that it can make for itself and how much good it can do in the name of fandom.

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Nick Kelly
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Author, musician, blogger, and podcaster. He authors the cyberpunk Leon "Catwalk" Caliber series, and is co-author of the urban fantasy series featuring the Urban Samurai.
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