Despite the ongoing pandemic, AwesomeCon 2021 managed to have a lot of highlights and something for almost everyone.
AwesomeCon, typically held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, has been one of the major comic conventions in the Washington, DC area since its founding in 2013. After two postponements and smaller virtual event in 2020, AwesomeCon returned to an in-person event this past weekend. While the ongoing pandemic was a major factor for AwesomeCon 2021, there were still many highlights a wide variety of fans.
Guests for the convention included Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Carl Weathers, George Takei, Christina Ricci, Billy Boyd, and William Shatner. Notable cancellations included three cast members of The Boys, Sean Astin, and Giancarlo Esposito. The number of total guests was down from previous years and was most likely a result of the pandemic. Hopefully, future AwesomeCon conventions will continue to have a wide variety of guests, including some more from smaller fandoms in addition to the major ones.
After opening up programming on the Main Stage with cast members from Power Rangers and Charles Martinet, the voice of Nintendo mascot Mario, Carl Weathers took the stage on Friday. Weathers was originally scheduled for a dual panel with last-minute cancellation Giancarlo Esposito on Saturday morning. While many of the questions during Weathers’ panel involved The Mandalorian, there were questions about Rocky, Predator, Happy Gilmore, and Arrested Development. Regarding The Mandalorian, Weathers discussed the process of filming such an effects-heavy show, his admiration of Star Wars’ long history of impressive visuals, and his experience directing an episode.
After a few additional panels on Friday, including William Shatner, the main stage opened on Saturday with George Takei. After opening his panel with a speech about the pandemic, he talked to the audience about his upcoming projects, including a future adaptation of his graphic novel retelling his childhood experiences in a Japanese internment camp. One of the first questions was asked about Takei’s acrimonious relationship with William Shatner, leading to groans from the audience. Takei handled the awkward moment by urging the fan to read his memoir on the incident and went on to say that Shatner’s arrogant personality was perfect for Captain Kirk. The few other questions asked led to Takei paying tribute to the fans that helped keep Star Trek on the air back in the day and discussing his experiences returning to the property years later with subsequent movies.
Christina Ricci took the stage later in the day. The actress, who is most known for her role as Wednesday Addams in the Addams Family movies, detailed her experiences growing up in Hollywood as a child and teenage actress. She discussed her transition into more adult roles as she grew up and shared interesting stories about the sets she had been on. Fan questions spanned the entirety of her career, from blockbusters to independent films. When asked about her role in the upcoming Matrix sequel, Ricci was adamant that she could not say anything about it.
The last of Saturday’s celebrity panels featured Billy Boyd, most known for playing Pippin in the the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Boyd shared his experiences working on the films and funny behind the scenes anecdotes. He also talked about moments from the books he wished had made it into the movies and was very clearly a fan of the books. He detailed how he ended up writing and performing a song for both the original trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy and serenaded the audience with one of the songs at the request of a fan. A few of the questions discussed his current podcast with Lord of the Rings co-star Dominic Monaghan.
Another highlight of AwesomeCon is typically the costume contest on Saturday night. This year was no exception, with several beautiful costumes that were hard to judge. The many fandoms represented on stage ranged from superheroes to cartoon characters to video game characters. After an on-stage dance contest while the judges deliberated, the judges handed out several awards. The best in show award went to a cosplay of The Mandalorian that looked like it was taken from the set of the show The accuracy was impressive, and the side pouch with a plush Grogu was a nice touch. Overall, many of the costumes on stage were impressive and all were deserving of accolades.
While celebrity guests were the highlight of the convention, there were many other panels. While there were many fan-submitted and hosted panels, there were also specific rooms with specialties. For the past few years, AwesomeCon has offered science-based discussions sponsored by NASA and other scientific organizations. In addition, AwesomeCon has made an effort to include LGBTQIA+ programming with a designated pride alley that features both programming and booths of LGBTQIA+ creators in artist alley.
New additions to specialty programming included cosplay and a book fair featuring several authors located on the show floor. While not given a specialty focus, there were also panels devoted to diversity in media and disability representation. There was something for everyone and hopefully AwesomeCon will continue to offer a wide variety of programming going forward.
One of the bigger highlights of the weekend was the rare appearance reuniting Back to the Future stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. The separately ticketed event was a treat for those willing to spend extra money for the panel. The Back to the Future fun extended to the show floor, as fans could take pictures with a model of the famous DeLorean.
While the pandemic was a big factor of this year’s event, AwesomeCon 2021 remained awesome. Between celebrity panels, specialty programming, and amazing cosplay both on stage and off, AwesomeCon remained a familiar experience for fans despite the vast changes around the world. With 2022’s dates already announced, hopefully AwesomeCon 2022 will be able to put the pandemic behind and continue to offer great experiences for every type of fan.
Author: Jessica Wolff
Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.
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