Jokes aside, the annual convention, which kicks off its seventh iteration on Friday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, has cultivated a diverse lineup that will appeal to almost anyone who’s interested in pop culture. So if you don’t know what a TARDIS is, or the difference between “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” Awesome Con could still be, well, an awesome experience.
“We’ve got the lowbrow to the highbrow, and everything in between: high-level science and tech to your traditional comic publishers, like DC Comics,” Brister says.
The three-day convention includes dozens of panels, cosplay workshops, celebrity autograph and photo-op sessions (which come at an additional cost), and gaming tournaments. “Weird Al” Yankovic and Milo Ventimiglia RSVP’d “yes”; there’s a short film festival; and a live art competition is being heralded as “the greatest in the known universe.”
Fandoms rule at Awesome Con, and Friday’s programming includes a panel that examines being a fan in the digital age — this weird, unique time when our relationships with our favorite stars are no longer one-sided. Other opening-day panels explore politics in “Doctor Who,” what it takes to relaunch a beloved TV show, and the biblical background and plot devices used in the fantasy novel “Good Omens.”
Saturday sessions include a primer on writing with purpose and an examination of how Latinx, Asian and other often marginalized communities are (or aren’t) depicted in pop culture. And on Sunday, the Harry Potter Alliance’s D.C. chapter will discuss how fandom can fuel activism, while another panel will examine how TV and film are growing beyond tropes like the manic pixie dream girl.
Brister highlights the weekend’s Future Con programming, a collaboration with Smithsonian magazine, as further evidence of the convention’s broad appeal. “If you’re a tech-y person but not necessarily a scientist, you can go down on the show floor and meet people from NASA, from the CIA, and have conversations about things that maybe you care about more than comics,” he says. Future Con exhibitors include National Geographic and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; NASA engineers will discuss how robots are used in space, and another panel will explore how pop culture can be infused into STEM education.
Awesome Con attracts an international audience and guests of all ages: Brister muses that his parents would be interested in seeing Lou Ferrigno, who portrayed the Hulk in a 1977-82 TV series, while the toy-heavy Awesome Con Jr. is geared toward kids and families. There, cartoonist John Gallagher will instruct on the fine art of drawing Lego versions of popular characters, and designer Carolyn Belefski will guide kids on how to design their own superhero symbol.
Many attendees are expected to don elaborate costumes, as the convention tends to be a cosplay bonanza. But no pressure; Brister doesn’t dress up, and observing can be just as fun. “The level of handmade items people wear is pretty incredible,” he says. “That in itself is quite a spectacle. If someone ever wanted to dip their toes into the water and dress up, this is a perfect safe environment to do that because everyone is very supportive.”
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW; entry Fri., noon-8 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $40-$65 per day, $80-$175 for three-day pass, $15 for kids pass.