A Preview of MegaCon
By: Scott Muller
Mark your calendar for May 25 and check the price of flights to Orlando, Florida, because that’s the time and place of this year’s MegaCon, the Southeast’s largest comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming event!
Actually, MegaCon has been taking place in Orlando for years, and I’ve been in attendance for the last three. I can say from personal experience that MegaCon is a great way to spend a long weekend in the sunshine state.
MegaCon is a four-day event that takes place from May 25 to 28 at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), smack dab in the middle of the most tourist-friendly part of Orlando. On one hand, that means plenty to eat, drink, see, and do; on the other hand, it means tons of people, hotel rooms that book quickly, and lots of traffic. If you’re even considering attending, keep in mind that you’re competing with thousands upon thousands of other people who are attending conferences, going to the beach, taking cruises, or going to see Mickey Mouse or Harry Potter.
The fact that the conference is in Orlando presents many benefits and many challenges. As I just mentioned, crowds will be substantial, especially since this is a holiday weekend. However, with some planning, you should be fine. Try to be where you need to be before 8 A.M. or before 4 P.M. If you can get a hotel near the venue, that’s a bonus. There are several reasonably priced options within a mile of the venue. There are also literally hundreds of other options if you’re willing to walk, drive, or take public transportation. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re going to walk, there’s really only one season in Florida: summer. It will be hot, or it will be raining, neither of which are good for folks that are dressed in realistic Chewbacca costumes.
One benefit of a convention in Orlando is that Florida is relatively cheap when it comes to food and lodging. A cheeseburger that might cost you $20 in a city like Chicago, Atlanta, or Philadelphia will cost half that much in Orlando. Those rules go out the window at Disney World or Universal Studios, but on International Drive (the tourist area of Orlando where the OCCC is located), you won’t be paying a week’s salary for a meal. The same holds true for hotel rooms. I choose to stay at a hotel about two miles away and drive over. It serves an exceptional hot breakfast and is around $145 a night, with free parking. That’s another tip: make sure you look at hotels’ parking and “resort” fees. Some hotels charge as much as $25 per night for parking and extra for resort fees that include things like wi-fi, bottles of water, use of the fitness room, or newspapers. These can often turn a $150 room into a $200 room.
As far as the convention itself, it starts on Thursday, May 25 and ends on Sunday, May 28. Experienced convention goers will know a lot of this, but for some folks it may not be as obvious, so bear with me. You can buy tickets at the convention’s website or at the show’s box office, but they’re more expensive there. Tickets are cheaper on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, but certain celebrity guests won’t be attending until Saturday, and by Sunday, most of the choice merchandise is gone, so you have to balance saving some money with getting to buy what you want and seeing who you want. You can buy tickets for all four days (and save around $40) or buy tickets for individual days. You can also buy some different packages that provide additional benefits (such as a “fast pass” for lines). It’s up to you to determine what’s important to you and what you’re willing to pay. Just keep in mind that as far as buying and seeing stuff goes, a lot of people don’t realize admission to the convention doesn’t get you free pictures or autographs! Your ticket gets you admission to the convention and vendors, panels, and planned activities such as costume contents and film festivals. Getting a picture (professional or otherwise) or autograph from a celebrity will (most likely) cost you extra. I won’t get too far into the logistics, but celebrities charge different prices for selfies, autographs, and professional photo ops. You can get more information about the convention, in general, at the convention’s website. One thing you’ll want to do is bring cash, because celebrities typically only take cash for selfies or autographs at their tables and ATM machines at these events typically go dry pretty quickly.
With all this talk about celebrities, I guess I should mention some of the folks that will be at the convention. While you can find a complete list online, here are some of my favorites.
• Stan Lee (All four days): Come on! He’s the God of the Marvel universe! Word is that this will be his last MegaCon. His lines are long, so be ready to spend a while waiting to meet this titan of the comic world.
• Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Saturday and Sunday only): These two favorites from The Walking Dead will have lines for miles, but both of them are super-nice guys that really seem to enjoy interacting with fans. Their signatures and pictures cost a pretty penny, but people are willing to pay. I think if they held a convention that was Reedus at a card table, it would still make $25,000.
• Richard Dean Anderson (All four days): Come on, it’s MacGyver! Bring him a stick of gum, a spork, a clothespin, and a marble and he might be able to make you a device you can use to escape a hairy situation!
• Mike Tyson (Sunday only): This one is sorta’ bonkers for me, but how cool would it be to meet Iron Mike? Just don’t steal his tiger…
• Tim Curry (Saturday and Sunday only): I’ve never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show (a crime, I know), but I realize the movie is a cult classic. I have, however, seen Curry in some great roles in movies like Home Alone 2, Scary Movie 2, and Loaded Weapon and he always kills it.
• Tom Wilson (All days): Most people don’t know his real name, but when someone mentions Biff Tannen, almost everyone knows he’s the bad buy from the Back to the Future franchise. The guy has really branched out post-BTTF with roles in other movies and television shows, a great standup comedy act, and (of all things) a career as an artist! Yeah, Biff’s an artist…butthead!
• The Dukes of Hazzard (Saturday and Sunday only): The original Duke boys (and girl) John Schneider, Tom Wopat, and Catherine Bach will also be in attendance. It’s amazing how well these three have aged, and all three are super-nice folks.
That’s just a small sampling of the celebrity guests that will be in attendance. In addition to these media guests, there will be numerous well-known comic artists such as J. Scott Campbell, Adam Kubert, Adam Hughes, and Mike Zeck. A full list of artists, writers, and comic-related guests can be found on the MegaCon website.
In addition to celebrity guests and artists, there will be dozens of vendor booths, displays, authors, and hundreds of cosplayers you can interact with during your time at the convention. This isn’t just a stereotypical “comic book convention,” it’s more like a “pop culture convention.” If you’ve never read a comic book, but love sci-fi, horror, zombies, vampires, music, video games, or television and movies in general, you’ll have a blast at this event.
Before I conclude, a few additional tidbits of advice. This event is huge. It’s crowded, it’s hot, and it can get expensive. There are a few things that can really help ensure you have a good time. One is planning. Book as much as you can in advance (including hotels, trips to theme parks, and non-con activities like meals) and use the MegaCon website to do a little bit of planning as far as how you’ll spend your time. You can buy photo ops in advance a few weeks before the convention; I highly recommend doing that. Take a look at the event schedule (posted to the con’s site closer to the event) and figure out what you want to do. Next, try to attend more than one day. If you want to see and do the most, Saturday is your best bet, but it’s crowded…really crowded. If you want to see Norman Reedus and Stan Lee and you’re only there on Saturday, you might be disappointed, unless you get there first thing and are ready to wait in line a long time (Bring snacks!). If you can go Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday, you’ll have a little more time to enjoy yourself. Finally, keep in mind that everyone else is in the same situation as you. Be kind. Show a little empathy. Help someone out if they need it. Convention attendees are typically cool people with great attitudes, but anyone who’s paid hundreds of dollars to wait in long lines in hot weather might start to crack after a bit. Be nice to other folks and you’ll find them being nicer to you. Also, be kind to volunteers! They’re not getting paid and are more than willing to help you out. They didn’t make it hot, they didn’t set the prices, and they didn’t make the event crowded. Essentially, just follow the golden rule: be nice to others and (hopefully) they’ll be nice to you.
I know that’s a lot of information to digest. It seems like a lot to remember just to attend a convention, but like they used to say in the GI Joe PSAs, “Knowing is half the battle.” Orlando is a fun place, and MegaCon is a great convention. You’ll have a great time if you know what to expect and temper your expectations with some planning, common sense, and a good attitude. If you have any questions, you can put them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer (or provide my opinion). However, I only know what I’ve learned from attending. Your best bet for answers is the MegaCon website.
That’s it for me, folks. I think I’ve given you enough information to determine if MegaCon is in your future. If you do attend, I hope you enjoy yourself!
P.S. I’ll also be covering the event for Nerd HQ. Look for my articles and interviews before, during, and/or after the convention for more information, insight, and a few giggles!