Brittney D. Wojtek
Brittney is an avid con goer from Texas. She has a bachelor of music with a vocal concentration from Angelo State University and is currently working toward getting her teacher certification. She loves showing her geek side, through both cosplay and photography, and has attended six comic conventions all around the Lone Star State including: Houston Comic Con, Alamo City Comic Con, Space City Comic Con and Fan Expo Dallas. Her favorite fandoms include sci-if and fantasy favorites: Star Wars, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Firefly and also Disney. Her most memorable con experience was cosplaying as Clara Oswald from Doctor Who, meeting and taking a picture with the current Doctor, Peter Capaldi, then fake proposing to him at his panel. (He graciously turned her down.)
Many people get excited when they see Cinderella’s castle at Walt Disney World. Other people thrill to the feel of foreign soil under their shoes when stepping into another country for the first time. Some people just get happy when they glimpse the McDonald’s arch around lunchtime. Me? I become like a kid in a candy shop when I step into a room filled with people dressed up in costumes. No, confused people were not celebrating Halloween in April. They were cosplaying for the 2017 Fan Expo Dallas. Fan Expo HQ is one of the largest convention groups in the world and, as this was my third year attending the Dallas location, it should be obvious I have not been disappointed. Like all conventions, however, there were pros and cons, but for me with comic con still on the brain I think the good definitely outweighed the bad.
First of all, this year the guest lineup was amazing. For many people, legendary names like Stan Lee, Tim Curry and Mark Hammil alone made the price of admission totally worth it and let me tell you, I am definitely one of those people. Of course, Fan Expo didn’t stop there. Walking Dead fans were not disappointed because this year two major stars were making an appearance: Daryl himself, Norman Reedus, and big bad Negan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. This year was also quite special for fans of the Vampire Diaries, as the two Salvatore brothers themselves were attending: Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley. (And let me tell you, ladies and gentleman: they were just as handsome and charming up close as you might imagine they are.) Being a Whovian, I was especially excited to see the crazy, always entertaining John Barrowman, who played Captain Jack and Alex Kingston, who played River Song. I thought the real treat was the first con appearance by Catherine Tate, who played my favorite companion, Donna Noble. Also attending was the lovely Milo Ventimiglia who currently plays Jack in This is Us. Last but certainly not least, I was very excited to see actor Alan Tudyk, a man whose portrayal of Wash in the short-lived series Firefly originally captured my geeky heart, and whose portrayal of the sarcastic droid K-2SO in Rogue One blew my Star Wars-obsessed mind. Also appearing were many other greats including Batman legends Adam West and Burt Ward, Rocky Horror reunion guests Meatloaf himself, Barry Bostwick, Nell Campbell and Patricia Quinn, and Boondock Saints reunion guests Sean Patrick Flanery and David Della Rocco.
My con experience was a little different from those I’ve had in the past because I was on something of a budget. I opted out of purchasing photo ops, instead deciding to enjoy as many “free” Q & A panels as I could. Although I did walk through the main exhibit hall where you can buy everything from artwork to comic books and other memorabilia from hundreds of vendors, really I only had two things on the agenda today: the first one was what we had been told was the last Texas con appearance by national treasure Stan Lee himself. Although he is 94 years old, he has the spirit of a much younger man. During his panel, he constantly joked and teased, keeping us all laughing and smiling. Unfortunately his hearing has been going, so the moderator had to repeat audience questions to him, but Stan took it all in stride. He spoke about all things Marvel-related from his favorite superhero, Spiderman, to the character he would most like to hang out with, Tony Stark (Stank), because then there would always be beautiful women around. (Stan’s still got it.) I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with a tear in their eye when we stood up to wish him a fond farewell, and listened to Stan bid us his fond farewell by yelling his trademark “Excelsior!” Here’s hoping he still has many more years to regale us with tales of creating his wonderful, colorful comic-book world, entertaining us with cameos and just making you feel like a kid again by being in his energetic presence alone.
The second event on my Friday schedule was Mark Hammil’s panel. Having been fortunate enough to see the princess herself, Carrie Fisher two years ago at my very first con, I couldn’t wait to be in the presence of Luke Skywalker. Right before the panel, the moderator had everyone raise their lightsabers in the air in tribute to the late Carrie Fisher. While there weren’t that many lightsabers (he commented he thought we would have more) it was still a touching tribute to such an inspirational woman. For this panel I did jump up in line behind a mic, hoping to ask Mr. Hammil a question. Unfortunately they ran out of time RIGHT AFTER I reached the mic, but at least I got a closer view of him as I was waiting in line. (Nope, I’m not bitter.) And really, the man rambled a lot but it was amazing so I wasn’t too bitter. He talked about everything from Star Wars to voicing the Joker from Batman: the Animated Series to playing the Trickster on the Flash. Memorable moments for me were him talking about how people think everything he says or tweets are possible spoilers for the next movie, the Last Jedi. When he was talking about how beautiful and talented Daisy Ridley was, he feared he was coming off as a “creepy old man” so he quickly added, “in a fatherly way.” Of course people assumed he meant that oh, Luke Skywalker really IS Rey’s father! Although Mark wasn’t in that much trouble, he got a mild talking to by a higher-up. He informed us the only time he’s heard five scarier words was when Harrison Ford called him up and said, “Hey kid. Let’s go flying.” (re: Mr. Ford’s fairly recent flying accident. Also, Mark does a great Harrison impersonation.) He also brought one of his newest rescue dogs on stage and all the cell phones whipped out to take pictures of Mark with an adorable mutt on his lap. Although I didn’t pay the $195 to get Mark’s autograph or a photo op, I was highly satisfied just being in the same room as one of my childhood heroes.
Check out this video for the Mark Hammil panel.
Saturday was a busier day for me. First of all, that day I did actually put some effort into my cosplay: I dressed as Maggie Greene from the Walking Dead, complete with a gun, thigh holster and plastic cap gun. It was especially fun teasing my hair into a big mess and using black and brown eye shadow to affect dirt on my skin. As busy as the con was, I only spotted one other Maggie, so I was pleased with my cosplay choice. The Negans ran wild, of course, including one small child dressed complete with a leather jacket and the dangerous bat, Lucille. (Parenting done wrong or right? Just kidding, he was totally adorable.)
Secondly, I really only had three things on my agenda today, and the first was the panel for actor Milo Ventimiglia who currently stars on the show This is Us. However, I know and love him from Gilmore Girls and Heroes (although now I just have to watch his current t.v. show.) He was humble and down to Earth, and answered questions as if he were talking to friends. Afterward, I just had to get his autograph and the chance for a selfie on my phone. (He was that handsome, guys.) Unfortunately… the throng of people seemed to have appeared while I was in the panel. The vendor room was so packed that you could barely move. I’m not a person prone to panic attacks or claustrophobia, but I was beginning to feel overwhelmed so I left the room to get in line early for my next panel. This meant I had a good seat for the Vampire Diaries panels featuring Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley. Paul entertained us by answering questions first because Ian was running late. When he finally came running in, he informed us he had to pee really bad because he had just come from photo ops and he hadn’t wanted to be late. The two men were attractive, engaging and funny, and had a kind of brotherly camaraderie similar to that of the boys on the show – but with less brooding and glaring. Let me tell you, my phone is filled with way too many pictures of these boys.
The last panel of the day was one I had been looking forward to. I had missed John Barrowman at the last Texas con he attended and, having seen recordings of some of his previous panels, I knew I was in for a unique treat. He did not disappoint. John is known for having absolutely no filters, messing around with the signers for the deaf and hearing impaired, and generally just making you laugh until you cry. He regaled us with stories from the set of Arrow, to representing the gay community, to accidentally filming his husband in the nude while he was in their hot-tub doing a Facebook Live video for his fans.
One of the people in charge tried to end his panel early, but because his lateness had not been his fault, he insisted he have his entire hour with his fans. (His assistant, a young woman he had fondly nicknamed “my Asian bitch,” fortunately worked it all out for us.) He closed his panel by singing “A Thousand Years” to the audience, his lovely voice moving me to tears of a different kind than before.
On the last day of the con I cosplayed as Maggie once more, but with a different outfit. I had the pleasure of meeting two guest cosplayers that day. The first was Riddle, an adorable girl who loves squirrels and told me how she was sad to have missed out on witnessing one of her rescue squirrels giving birth while she was at the con. (Her husband sent her footage.) Apparently there is a rare issue of Squirrel Girl with her dressed as the heroine on the front, but sadly it was nowhere to be found at the convention. She was dressed as Laura from the movie Logan, complete with the pink sunglasses and a can of Pringles. I also met Monika Lee, a cosplayer I was anxious to meet so I could tell her she had inspired one of my friends to purchase a sewing machine. She told me that people didn’t realize how difficult sewing actually was because after you’re done “you have to wear that shit!”
My first panel of the day was Alex Kingston who is best known for playing River Song on Doctor Who. She was lovely and charming, perching on the table at the beginning of her panel to actually lying down on it at the end so she could be in the proper pose to receive closing compliments from the moderator.
I was very excited for the next panel because I am a huge Star Wars geek. Although I first discovered Alan Tudyk as the lovable Wash from the show Firefly, I’ve loved him for all his Disney voice-overs, including Hei Hei the chicken from Moana, to his more recent portrayal of K-2SO in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He was funny and geeky, proving himself to be just like us, and my favorite story was when he talked about his improvisation on the set of Rogue One. Apparently the slap to Cassian Andor was improvised, and if you look closely enough you can actually see Diego Luna hiding a laugh behind his hand. Although I’m not sure I have a favorite panel, the very last one of the con was definitely a highlight for me. Catherine Tate is most well-known for playing Donna Noble in Doctor Who. She began her career as a comedian and her comedic chops were obvious during this panel. Catherine had a lovely, poignant moment with a fan who told her how her character, Donna, helped her out of a bullying situation. The highlight of the panel, however, was when we were given a surprise in the form of a pesky photographer who turned out to be more than he seemed. (Spoiler alert: it was John Barrowman.)
Check out my video footage of the Catherine Tate panel.
All in all, this was a fun comic-con for the girl on a budget. In the past, I’ve returned home with autographs, cosplay prints, artwork and photo ops galore, but that didn’t mean that I enjoyed myself any less this time. Although this con was a little unorganized at times, I would definitely recommend it to anyone, whether they’ve been to a hundred cons or never experienced a con before. Whether or not you cosplay, you’re in for the experience of a lifetime. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes, bring snacks, your camera, and an incredibly patient attitude.