This weekend, there will be sure signs that the fifth Awesome Con has moved beyond its baby-steps years and is fully hitting its stride.
One prominent indication is the headlining guest Stan Lee, who is scheduled to appear all three days at the pop-culture convention, held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which is expected to draw more than 50,000 visitors Friday through Sunday.
“This is something we’ve been trying to make happen for a few years,” Awesome Con founder Ben Penrod says of finally landing the man who co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man and the X-Men, Thor and the Fantastic Four. (The special Q&A retrospective with the Marvel legend will be Sunday morning on the main stage.)
When Awesome Con kicked off in 2013, there were skeptics who wondered whether Washington had a high enough geek-to-wonk ratio to support a multi-day comic-palooza. But Penrod, who grew up in Annapolis before moving to Waldorf, firmly believed this town was chock-a-city-block with comics and sci-fi nerds. He also did his homework, asking questions while exhibiting across the nation.
“Between 2012 and 2014, I probably traveled to 100 or more comic cons in North America,” says Penrod, who since then has hired a firm to help him with the growing slate of programming.
Penrod is especially pleased to have booked such guests this year as David Tennant (“Doctor Who”); Felicia Day (heading a reunion of actors from the web series “The Guild”); WWE stars Charlotte Flair and Shinsuke Nakamura; former International Space Station commander Col. Chris Hadfield (whose cover of “Space Oddity” while in space went viral); and director Edgar Wright (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “Shaun of the Dead”), who on Saturday afternoon will offer exclusive footage of his new film, “Baby Driver,” which was a hit at this year’s South by Southwest.
Other highlights, Penrod says, are a discussion among artists from Identity Comics Studio, which focuses on diversity in the media; the Saturday-evening panel “Brave New Girls: Women in STEM”; and Saturday’s “Let’s Go Lego! With John Gallagher” and “Padawan Lightsaber Training” sessions.
Another D.C. native who believes the region is plenty geek-heavy is former CIA agent turned Will Eisner Award-nominated comics writer Tom King (“The Vision,” “The Sheriff of Babylon”), who will appear Saturday on the “Tech of Batman” panel.
So could King, who worked overseas with the agency’s counterterrorism unit after 9/11, ever see the Caped Crusader making it as a CIA agent?
“I can see Batman doing the job,” King says, but it is “harder to see him filling out the paperwork. And without good paperwork skills, you’ll never even make GS-12 in this town.”
This town, where sometimes the political wonk and comics geek are the same person.
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW. awesome-con.com .
Dates: Friday (noon to 8 p.m.), Saturday (10 a.m. to 7 p.m.), Sunday (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
Prices: $35-$45 daily passes; $75 weekend pass. $10 for children 10 and younger.