There has been a lot of buzz around Albuquerque’s newest comic convention and we are gonna give you the inside scoop on how its inaugural year went. But before I go any further, we want to take a moment to thank all of the incredible staff and volunteers that made New Mexico Comic Expo even possible. We saw all of the hard work that went into this con, and we can never thank you enough for bringing a breath of fresh air to the Albuquerque convention scene.

Albuquerque has long been due for some fresh blood in the nerd industry and New Mexico Comic Expo (NMCE) really brought their A-game. Not only did they support local artists, writers, and cosplayers, but they managed to bring in some big name celebrities that have never been at other conventions in the area i.e. Hayley Atwell, Jason Isaccs, Tom Felton, Elija Wood, and not to mention Jason freaking Moama! New Mexico is not exactly known for pulling big names so this really drew a lot of attention and expectations to NMCE and they delivered.

Day 1

The big event kicked off on Friday afternoon with a handful of panels, vendors galore, and was wrapped up with a superhero prom. The very first thing I did was head to a panel on strapping armor presented by our favorite local foam armor-smith, Leah Stevo. She has done plenty of armor crafting 101s in the past and wanted to go a step further this time and focus on how to strap your armor and make it actually wearable. She went into the materials she uses and how she attaches it to EVA foam. With a little creativity you can use anything from hook-and-loop tape to magnets to nylon strapping and parachute clips. In a real pinch, some well placed magnets and duct tape will do the trick too. Along with being one of the judges for the cosplay contest, Leah did a live paint demo at her booth all weekend. We really do love Leah, she is an incredible artist and craftsman, but is also a genuinely wonderful human and loves to help others develop their own skills in armor crafting. If you ever need help figuring out how to do something with your build we recommend reaching out to her at @leahstevoart on Instagram.

Traffic for Friday was a little slower than I had hoped for, but given that it was only 6 hours and the big name celebs had all of their panels/ photo-ops/ autographs on Saturday and Sunday it did make sense that people waited to go to the other days in the weekend. They upside to going on day 1 is that it is much easier to see everything that the vendors have to offer and really get a feel for the layout of the con floor. So that is precisely what I did. One thing you learn after going to so many cons, is never buy anything on your first pass through the floor. Take a look at everything all the vendors have to offer and then decide what you can’t live without. I am always on the lookout for new buttons and I did find a handful that I just had to have. I also managed to find a pair of cactus earrings that continue to fuel my cactus obsession. I also acquired a beautiful light fury dice bag, but the purchase that keeps on giving is the mug I picked up from Wild Bill’s Soda which includes free refills all day on the day of purchase. 10/10 do recommend. 

As the expo floor began to close down for the night, people made way to the charity event Superhero Prom in which the cover charge and any additional donations all went to Safe House New Mexico. They raised a total of $530 by the end of the night. This event ran from 7-10 pm and included both a live band and a DJ which led to much dancing and entertainment. Being a cosplay event, costumes were recommended and many delivered on the superhero theme. There was also a surprise visit from Don McGregor (Black Panther) and Tony Isabella (Black Lightning) who both have a strong presence in the superhero world. Overall, it was a wonderful first day and I couldn’t wait to come back for day 2!

Day 2

I pulled out Sadie Killer from Steven Universe and took to the floor once more. This was the big panel day, but I did roam the vendor hall and took advantage of the Guitar Hero game that was provided by Dave and Busters along with Mario Kart. The first panel of the day that I wanted to attend was Felicia Day: Embrace Your Weird. While initially a platform to talk up her new book, Embrace Your Weird (available on October 1st), the panel’s main topic was how Felicia made a name for herself by being true to who she was. A big part of her success is due to her DIY spirit and producing her own projects like The Guild and creating a platform that shows what real gamer/nerdy girls look like. She spent most of the panel answering fan questions so I’m going to give you some of the highlights. When asked how she stays confident in auditions she responded that she is horrible at auditioning and also hated having her self worth be determined by casting agencies. Her solutions to this was production her own projects because when you have control and faith in yourself it builds confidence.

In her rapid fire round we learned that ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog’ and her biggest inspirations were her mom and Dr. Beverly Crusher [Amen to that! Check out why Gates McFadden is a feminist icon and our hero as well in The Day of the Doctor(s)]. However, my favorite answer she provided was in response to a mother asking for advice for her 12-year-old daughter that is a little “weird” and has begun to be bullied at school. Along with the general advice that; we should just let girls be who they want to be, I think we should all remember that; “Being unique is a superpower, never give up your superpower to the super villains in your life.” 

After finishing on such a high note with Felicia, I was looking forward to Hayley Atwell’s panel which followed immediately after. As a classically trained thespian from the World Shakespeare Company, she elaborated on some of the differences between live theater and a movie set. The biggest differences being that, in theater, you get weeks to practice and rehearse and when you perform you only get one shot, but you get to feed off the energy of the audience. However, in a movie, you don’t get as much rehearsal and may do many takes of one scene and you don’t get to connect to the audience until much later. She gave us insight into what it was like being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and being the last shot of the highest grossing movie in history. She had never read any of the comics when she went into her first audition which she was thankful for, because she had no idea how big of a project she was signing up for so she was less nervous. They had her do an 8 page screen test immediately followed by a fight scene in which her history with dancing helped with the stage combat. When asked what similarities she had with Peggy she responded that they have similar values on justice. She loved working on Agent Peggy Carter, because they gave her full creative freedom in the role of Peggy. She also fully embraced the popular fan ship ‘Carternelli’ because of how important is was to the LGBT+ community.

When we got to the Fan Q&A part of the panel, we learned some fun facts about Hayley. Her ideal Shakespeare role is Iago from Othello. An actor that inspired her to pursue acting is Tom Hanks. She also was inspired by courtroom dramas and The Sound of Music. Some of her favorite fictional characters growing up were Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, Sarah from Labyrinth, Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Matilda from the movie of the same name. She also told us that her most rewarding experience on the stage was Rebecca West in Rosmersholm and on the screen was Martha in Black Mirror. However, my favorite answer she gave was in response to a young woman asking for advice for someone that wants to go into acting. This is the advice Hayley gave: “Don’t go into acting for fame. Fame is a byproduct of acting and often a negative or distracting one. An actor’s responsibility is the serve an audience with storytelling, so if fame is your goal you are not going to get far.”

After another inspiring panel I was looking forward to the Cosplay contest at the end of the day. The contest was judged by three cosplayers who really knew what they were doing.  Riki “Riddle” Lecotey, one of the top names in cosplay; Alina Masquerade, an Arazona based cosplayer; and Leah Stevo, our own local legend. Contestants were introduced by category (adult, youth, and group) and, overall, had good pacing. After everyone had been presented the judges took a few moments to deliberate and then we got our results. The youth category only had one entry, but she killed it.

Next was judge’s favorite, Scarecrow, and then the audience favorite. We then got 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the adult category. And, finally, the 1st and 2nd place in the group category. It is not very often that a cosplay contest actually gets out on time, but that is exactly what happened here and it was nice not having to wait too long for the results. As the event continues to grow, we look forward to seeing the cosplay presence grow too. 

@dapperdorian took over on Day 3, as he had been working all weekend and continued working at the convention.

Day 3

I spent the first half of Sunday escorting some of the celebrity guests from my work around the convention. The community was thrilled to take free photos and get signatures from their local pro-soccer heroes at our booth and the guys really enjoyed getting pictures with their costumed fans. After we packed up the booth I hopped in line for my photo op with Hayley Atwell. I have had the unique opportunity to fan-boy with almost all of my favorite queer onscreen ladies at ClexaCon or Dallas Comic Expo, but this was the first photo-op I have paid for at a local convention.

The fact that they brought Agent Carter here to New Mexico is absolutely incredible and I was so excited to meet, if only for a second, this brilliant Brit. It was quick in and out as most celebrity photos are. As photo-op setups go, this one was well structured with shelves to dispose of your bags quickly before stepping into the photo. I barely got to say hi and take the photo before the experience was all over, but Hayley Atwell’s magnanimous smile and presence is something I will forever remember—which is commemorated in the photo I got to take away from this experience. I look like a total buffoon next to such respectability and perfection, but I stand by my decision to rock my Tardis shirt as we totally matched in our navy blues!

One thing this convention offered, which no other convention I’ve ever attended has, was on site tattoos. There were two tattoo booths set up in the convention hall right alongside other vendors. This is apparently a trend as I met an author at BuboniCon that got a tattoo at El Paso Comic Con, so I’m glad that we are at the head of innovation here in New Mexico. I’ll admit I very nearly got my first tattoo right there in the convention hall, but unfortunately they ran out of time. However, I am now of strong conviction to buckle down and get my Dragon Age Inquisition symbol tattoo on my right bicep from Libby the Liberator at The Divine Eye Tattoo & Piercing Shop.

We took home some good loot; nerdy dice bags, the White Canary POP I’ve been looking for along with some other incredible swag; learned some new foam armor tips; and got to add to our celebrity memories wall. This convention was, by far, the best in state comic convention we have attended. We are already looking forward to next year, the dates of which have already been announced for August 21-23, 2020.

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