Atl comic con back for fifth year: Convention closes out February

Photo by Sloan Salinas Student Publication

On the last weekend of February, the Georgia World Congress Center welcomed back Atlanta Comic Con for its fifth year. The convention took place over three days, starting at 11 a.m. on Friday, and was constantly bustling with activity. 

The Congress Center was filled with people both in and out of cosplay who were exploring the various floors worth of activities and experiences that the Atlanta Comic Con offered. 

Before the convention officially opened on Friday morning, a Charmander (Pokemon) poked out from someone’s drawstring backpack in line, Scarlet Witch (Marvel) took pictures with The Mandalorian (Star Wars) in front of a concrete wall and Batman (DC) removed his cowl to drink a Starbucks in the Congress Center’s lobby.

On the venue’s first floor was the Vendor Floor  —  also called the Vendor Hall. Located in Hall C of the World Congress Center, the hall spanned several thousand feet of vendors, cosplayers and artists. 

Up and down the aisles of the open space, convention attendees could explore vendors selling everything from handmade Dungeons & Dragons dice sets and art prints to Funko Pops and plushies. Scattered throughout the room, multiple booths advertised almost any comic book a collector or fan could want, from “Walt Disney’s Donald Duck” to “The Walking Dead” to “The Mighty Avengers.” 

The Vendor Hall was for more than just artists and shopping, though. Various props and photo opportunities included the Batmobile, the DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” a jeep from “Jurassic Park,” an SUV signed by the cast of “The Walking Dead” and an anime themed race car.

What drew the largest crowds of the room, though, were the tables lining the back and side walls — Celebrity Row. Aptly named for the people sitting behind the tables, Celebrity Row was the base for all celebrity guests, where guests could pay to talk and get pictures with actors and voice actors. 

The row’s lineup included guests like Disney legend Jodi Benson (“The Little Mermaid,” “Enchanted”), original “Blue’s Clues” host Steve Burns and Miles Morales’ voice actor Shameik Moore — as well as actors from “The Walking Dead,” “Stranger Things,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and countless other
movies and TV shows. 

Throughout the day, different areas of the Congress Center housed many activities for convention-goers. Improv comedy shows, game shows, Pokemon battles and TV episode screenings were only some of the entertainment offerings. In addition, guests could move between the various rooms, attending discussions and Q&A sessions run by other fans or actors.

For example, Friday afternoon’s agenda included a Q&A panel with actors Josh Hamilton (Lance, “The Walking Dead”) and Daryl Mitchell (Wendell, “Fear the Walking Dead”). During the discussion, they talked about their experiences filming their respective shows and how they interacted with the ideas they had — not only for their own characters but for their co-workers’
characters as well. 

The panels ranged from actors’ stories to informative discussions following topics such as cosplaying while plus-sized, how to adapt a novel into a comic book and fundraising via streaming. It was truly a variety of choices, guaranteeing that people of all ages and interests would have something to keep themselves busy all day. 

If Friday’s attendance was already high, Saturday’s surpassed it entirely. Although there were just as many artists and merchants in the Vendor Hall, there were more attendees in carefully-crafted cosplays wandering the aisles, taking photos and making purchases.

However, something very distinct about Saturday’s crowd was the apparent lean towards costumes from the “Lord of the Rings” universe. It was quickly evident that the slew of Middle-earth attire was meant to pay homage to the convention’s headlining guests: Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd (Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin, respectively): the hobbits of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The four actors started the day on Celebrity Row, meeting fans and signing autographs before moving to the Congress Center’s third-floor ballroom, which had been established as a designated “Photo Op” destination. 

Later in the day, following a “M*A*S*H” spotlight with actors Loretta Swit and Jamie Farr, the hobbits took to the stage together in a packed ballroom to answer fan questions about their “Lord of the Rings” shenanigans. In order to make time for as many questions as possible, attendees were limited to only one question each; even so, many people did not get the chance to ask the actors questions. In the hour given for the panel, they answered questions about their favorite lines, most challenging scenes and the roles they think they could have played if they had not been the hobbits.

There is something very special about the fans that connect with the different franchises represented at Comic Con, whether movie, TV show or comic. A man proposed to his now-wife with the help of a “Lord of the Rings” cast member. Another man found representation as an army veteran through the real veterans cast in “M*A*S*H.” A woman got to bond with her daughter over “The Walking Dead.” Friday through Sunday, walking into the Georgia World Congress Center meant walking into a myriad of communities all blending together for the weekend. Whether it was a love of comic books, video games, the Marvel universe or any anime, Atlanta Comic Con offered a weekend of pure fun for every passion. Fans got to meet the actors whose characters they had grown up with, and vendors and cosplayers got to showcase their work and talent. Undoubtedly, there will be even more to look forward to next year.