Awesome Con draws out D.C.’s nerds and secret superheroes

April 16

(Sam Bosma/For Express)

Ever wanted to see Darth Vader flirt with Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Looking for the perfect place to debut your handmade TARDIS replica? Then you probably already know about Awesome Con, D.C.’s largest gathering of dorks, geeks, gamers, cosplayers and, most likely, some confused-looking folks who just came for “The Walking Dead” panel. It’s an event that brings the fantasy worlds of comic books, video games and more to life through the eyes of the superfan. Last year’s inaugural Awesome Con drew 7,000 attendees, and organizers expect to quadruple that head count this weekend. Get an early start and make the most of your convention experience with our guide to the geekery.

Don’t miss the big draws:

1. Get in costume and help set a new Guinness World Record for “most people dressed as comic book characters” at the Capitol’s reflecting pool at noon on Friday. China’s World Joyland holds the current record at 1,530 people.

2. Watch artists duke it out onstage at 2:15 p.m. Sunday for Super Art Fight, a live drawing competition with pro-wrestling-style characters and drama.

3. If you’re in the market for a gold ring that doesn’t channel Sauron, try your luck at Sci-Fi Speed Dating (there are sessions all weekend).

4. Stroll through the more than 200 booths in the Artist Alley and pick up prints, books, novelty items or geeky clothes and jewelry.

5. Sign up for a professional photo-op with one of the celebrities on-site, like Billie Piper, Cary Elwes or Sean Astin. “I usually get one [photo] per convention, whichever guest I’m most excited about,” says Ben Penrod, Awesome Con’s co-founder. “Then I’ll make that my profile pic on Facebook and all my friends get jealous.”

Steer clear of the crowds with these under-the-radar events:

1. Increase your life expectancy with tips from a local expert on the undead at Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse 101 at 11 a.m. Saturday.

2. Meet the humans behind cartoon characters at Q&A sessions with voice actors. Penrod recommends seeing Phil LaMarr of “MADtv,” “Futurama” and “Justice League,” who will speak at 6 p.m. Saturday and at noon Sunday.

3. Play a card or board game with the founders of College Park, Md.’s Looney Labs, the producer of the ever-popular Fluxx card game, in the tabletop gaming room at 3 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. “There might even be some surprise test runs of games that haven’t been released yet,” Penrod says.

4. Take a drawing workshop with comic book artists like Greg LaRocque (“The Avengers”) or Alitha Martinez (“BatGirl”).

5. Make your costume even grosser at a special effects makeup class at 5:15 p.m. Saturday that promises how-tos on “zombies, cuts, bruises, gore and more.”

While you’re there:

1. Most of Awesome Con’s events are held Friday through Sunday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. It’s a big venue with lots of ground to cover, so make sure your costume’s shoes don’t make your feet bleed.

2. Whether or not you rolled deep to the con, don’t miss this chance to connect IRL with your online friends from Twitter and Reddit at meetups on all three days.

3. Bring the kids if you have ’em: Children 10 and younger get in free, and there’s loads of special programming (including a Star Wars-themed Nerf gun game) to keep them busy.

4. If you drive, buy parking passes in advance on the Awesome Con website.

Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW; Fri.-Sun., $30-$200; 240-346-0399, awesomecondc.com. (Mt Vernon Sq)

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