One of the most exciting parts of cons for me is going to one and knowing several years later that if all goes well the con will have matured into a whole new, even more exciting experience! With that in mind, I think GMX will have a tough time accomplishing this thanks largely to their great debut. Truly GMX can have more people, hosting an approximate max of 500 registrants this year, but it’ll be hard to beat the fun I think we all had this year.
That said let me say I truly didn’t know what to expect from GMX going into the con. GMX, aka Geek Media Expo, is a spin-off convention from many of the fine folks that bring us MTAC, aka the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention. However unlike MTAC, GMX separated from anime fandom and delved into more diverse niche areas such as fantasy, comics, Whedon, indie, steam punk, etc. While I like all or most of these areas of geek-dom, anime will always be my comfort zone. So anytime I leave for uncharted territories, I wonder if the ride will be rocky or not.
Thankfully Friday taught me early on I needn’t worry. Lucas, the con director for MTAC and GMX, welcomed us all and set the stage early on for the convention. Truly this would be a relaxing con, with few folks, again a mere 500 people to cap, but much love for the fandom’s new and old. After we were introduced to the guests in the Opening Ceremonies, I began to ease myself into the con. I had already begun to take some video of GMX, but to further the experience my friend John and I began to take some snaps of cosplayers here and there. Friday night was a light night for crowds, even with the con starting at six, so there was no real challenge tracking down that ‘awesome cosplayer’ we just had to get a picture of.
After a few minutes of this we decided to venture into the Star Wars realm to check out the “Expanded Universe” panel. While many of the attendees were deep into the Star Wars fandom, my limited knowledge proved, well limited, rather quickly. Thankfully this panel was as much conversational between those in the know as it was instructional for those not quite in the know. Summary point is that while I learned a lot I really think I need to start reading more Star Wars books. John and I followed that panel up with “Defeat the Geeks” situated in the main Atrium of the hotel. We watched as geeks challenged geeks in an all-out geek out. Needless to say it was pretty exciting. I again learned, as I did often at GMX, I don’t know nearly as much geek-chic as I realized. Anyways the battle was fierce and I learned much.
Sometime right before “Defeat the Geeks” ended I found myself conversing with John, Chris Sexxx of The Man Power, Niko (MTAC/GMX PR), Andrew (Black Flower Music podcast), and an unnamed Klingon GMX staffer. While the group wasn’t cohesive for the whole time, we ended up chatting about all sorts of things for 3 to 4 hours. I had so much fun, especially since I hadn’t planned to do anything else at that time. I’m not a raver you see, so that was out, but the conversation did its own magic and afterwards, realizing how late it was, I returned to my SleepNumber Mattress. 35 was my number.
Thriller. That’s what I awoke to. The GMX Girls were teaching Thriller to the con goers present, who clearly are morning people, while I sluggishly stepped out to take some video of it all. That said the dance is really hard of course, and I think they all did quite well. I sense I came at the end of the lesson. Anyways let me get on with the day.
For me Saturday, at any con of any size, will always be the busiest day and usually the toughest day to schedule. Therefore, I appreciated that the main events on the Atrium were so accessible even to the passersby, because I always seemed to be en route to something. That said I really started the morning by casually listening in on The Shazam Hour with Jackson Bostwick – Captain Marvel himself. After perusing the guest’s tables and the table of a retro game dealer, I then joined John for a panel I know he was looking forward too called “Anatomy of a Time Lord”, which was basically a look back, and forward, and back again, at Dr. Who history. Unlike the Star Wars panel where I at least thought I knew a fair amount, I went into Dr. Who knowing my ignorance. That said while I learned a lot about the show, plenty of facts and figures for British cocktail parties, I really just need to sit down and watch Dr. Who.
Following the Dr. Who panel I had to make one of the toughest decisions of my GMX experience. Do I go and see the Zombie Walk in the mall or do I head back to the Atrium for “Name That Toon Tune”? Well largely due to my general dislike of malls I suppose, and Niko’s promotion of the “Toon Tune” panel, which he helped with, I chose “Name That Toon Tune”. The concept as suggested in the name is that American retro cartoons theme song will be played and different folks will get to test their mettles and try to guess what cartoon show the songs originated from. John was on top of his game with this one, as was a bearded guy in the front row. The rest of us just knew a couple retro songs here and there and otherwise just wished that Saturday Morning cartoon time could have always remained for us through the ages. Ahhh…. Wait childhood memory flashback sequence over! Back from my “Toon Tune” to the real world – of more GMX fun!
Next John and I remained in the Atrium as we gathered around for “37 minutes with Marilyn Ghigliotti” who is best known for her role in Clerks as Dante’s girlfriend Veronica. Having watched Clerks I just assumed everyone of the actors was that zany in real life; however, Marilyn is truly a down-to-earth lady who is serious about acting and had a lot to share on the topic. I’m afraid I couldn’t think of any questions equal to the MC’s, so when the audience started asking questions I merely just listened. While I don’t want to be an actor myself, after talking with so many Voice Actors in anime lately listening to Marilyn helped remind me about the power of live action film, as odd as that may sound. Plus just getting a chance to hear someone like Marilyn talk about her work, what she does, why she loves it, is just an overall cool experience.
Phew… At this point in the day, even with my 8 hours of sleep I already felt a bit worn out from all I had done. Especially since in addition to the panels we had already attended, John and I were still walking around, meeting guests, taking pictures of cosplayers, checking out the cool dealer’s alley, and playing in the game room, all activities best described in one sentence. Therefore, I at least decided to take a break in my hotel room for awhile so as to rest up for a likely busier evening.
I still am grateful I did take a break because John and I would remain busy for the rest of Saturday evening going to some pretty sweet panels and video showings. The first panel I chose to attend for the evening block was one titled “Moore vs Morrison”. Being in the comic track, I knew Moore as being Alan Moore creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta just to name a couple of his works; however, I had no idea who Morrison was. Seeing as how I’m trying to learn a few things from my comic co-horts I headed right in to learn all I could. First thing I learned is that the Morrison in the title is actually the last name of Grant Morrison a quasi-rival of Moore’s. Of course, I learned about the rivalry, but I also learned about how Moore was a deconstructionist, breaking down the superhero myths, while Grant successfully returned many of the superheroes back to mythic status. I also learned about way too many comic books of both of theirs that I need to read, including a collection of Alan Moore’s DC work out now for cheap. Indeed this was a very helpful panel and it helped me learn about DC and superhero comics, surprisingly enough even with my improved comic knowledge not something I could really claim to know much about at the time.
Having gone to so many panels to learn about what I knew so little of, I decided to join John for a panel I felt was right up my alley from the get go – Serenity Now!. That’s right I had to go to a Firefly panel, and well I certainly had fun but I just wish it was more about… Firefly. I knew right off this was going to be a strange panel because at first it seemed like an organizational meeting for a new chapter of Browncoat fandom based out of Nashville. I was mostly wrong about this though as we instead spent much of the time debating questions such as “what makes a Browncoat?” and “what is considered canon?” The first question fits well enough for me, but the canon question took up at least half of the hour given to the panel. Admittedly it began from a relevant conversation about two fan films coming out in the future, but sadly instead of learning much about the fan films as I was promised I learned about people’s opinions on canon. I am glad that they made me aware of the fan films certainly, but otherwise I was disappointed with the experience. Everyone was having fun it seemed in the discussion, and I will say it was enjoying to watch all the craziness, but I wished it could have been more.
That is definitely my only complaint though for Saturday and thankfully the night just kept getting better and better from there! Up next was the screening of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog” complete with live shadow casting, which is essentially where fans act along with the film. Not surprisingly, being a Whedon fan, the eccentric host of the Firefly panel was part of the spectacle playing Capt. Hammer. To his great credit, and the entire shadow cast, the whole performance was truly awesome. I think the level of effort that the actors shadow casting Capt. Hammer, Penny, and Dr. Horrible alone made it worthwhile, but I was so happy to see such great enthusiasm from every member of the shadow cast. I guess I can’t help fanboy when I know others like what I do so much, and this was a moment that exemplified our shared adoration for something so cool and so Whedon. I must digress now for fear I shall start watching it on Hulu.
Having great seats remaining from the Dr. Horrible showing, John and I decided to hang around for the apparently great, definitely last minute, addition of a screening of Repo: the Genetic Opera with Terrance Zudnich, co-creator and Repo actor, in attendance. We were joined by Chris Sexxx of The Man Power and to be honest between the three of us we were all as curious as we were apprehensive. We had been told it was a love it or hate it film and even when Terrance introduced the film he said that was a common reaction. So we three waited and watched the film and the shadow casting that also accompanied this film expectant of anything. Without giving a full on review of the film let me just say what I thought in summary. I loved it! The film is laid out like a comic in many ways which was a plus from the get go. Following that the music sounded pretty sweet and add to that the acting was superb! The film had truly an eclectic cast too, which had me worried again, featuring the likes of Paris Hilton, Anthony Stewart Head (Giles in Buffy), and Alexa Vega (Spy Kids). The only one I was worried about was Paris, but the fact that I didn’t recognize her till near the end proved I was won over before my criticism could fall. All in all, I have now become a Repo fan to say the least, and I know I’ll be spreading the love come Christmas time.
With the film over and my mind blown I decided that bed was the place I needed to be, so instead of some midnight gaming as so many were doing, I decided it was time to return to my #35.
Sunday was an even tougher rise and shine than Saturday for some reason or another. Perhaps the activities of the previous day were too much for me, although I think the realization of another con near its end hit pretty hard too. Anyway John and I packed our room and decided to take Sunday as mellow as possible, considering we weren’t hanging around too long. Essentially that meant two things: take more pictures of cosplayers and watch the Street Fighter tournament going on in the atrium. Both activities were exciting but alas John and I knew we planned to leave early, so instead of teasing ourselves with one more panel we decided to head home.
In the short time that John and I were present at GMX, less than the 48 hours of its duration, I know we both truly fell in love with the con. What’s better than an intimate setting for geeking-out with friends? Not much, and GMX provided exactly that sort of atmosphere. On top of that, I felt like GMX could be my ConNooga experience only in the Fall, thus allowing me to expand my fandom twice a year!
All in all, I am definitely glad Lucas and his legion of MTAC/GMX staffers took on the task of making a sister con. While I’m sure the con will grow, I hope they don’t rush too quickly too mature. Enjoy the little things at first and then let the con grow as needed. Who knows? This con could become sort of the word-of-mouth success story of cons? Guess I’ve told you now so maybe I can see you there next year. We’ll have a grand ol’ time!