I’m sure you’re all surprised, shocked, even, to know that the Hartford Convention Center does not take its name from the Hartford Convention, when the entire New England region of the US threatened to secede from the Union after condemning the pants-on-head stupidity that led to the war of 1812. Rather, it’s merely a Center in Hartford where we have Conventions. It’s got a great spot next to the Connecticut river, so it’s a short walk to a pretty view, but other than that it’s a section of the city that’s mostly empty thanks to all the office parks that make it pointless to commute in anything but a car. NYC it ain’t.
It’s here where Connecticon is held every year in July, where we celebrate our inability to go to San Diego Comic Con by having a fiesta for three days with a whole bunch of activities for various fandoms, some contests and panels for some relatively well known people in entertainment. “Relatively” being the operative word; there’s webcomic artists here that can actually make a buck off their franchises, and there’s some people who voiced really popular anime characters in the 90′s. It’s kind of a niche thing, but it draws a lot of people.
Friday and Saturday are the liveliest days. I was there for Saturday, and it was pretty crowded. There was no shortage of cosplayers, of course; I think they probably had a numerical advantage over the normally-dressed con-goers, though of course it’s easy to overlook them when the cosplayers stand out so much. It’s effectively the same layout every year, with comic artists, merchandise, video and card games on the first floor- also where registration is- and the third floor dedicated to panels and events. There isn’t much of a second floor, it’s more or less a bridge to the third level with a couple doors leading to other places that are off-limits.
It’s a busy place, and the con-goers aren’t the lazy quiet type. The artists’ booths are always clogged with people, and you have to carefully maneuver through walls of flesh to buy a set of Magic cards or Gundam models. It’s noisy and busy, but the air conditioning is pretty damn powerful and that makes all the difference. I can’t imagine how lethal this place would be if it were stuffy and hot.
Rows and rows and rows of tables permeate the first floor cavern (well at least it’s cavern-sized) for all your RPG and card-gaming pleasure, with an island where you can borrow board games and purchase stuff, while a giant video game room is situated next to the artist colony and the merchandise center. Personally I don’t really care much for the merch. It’s hella expensive anyway. Also, I didn’t really plan my budget correctly. There was some pretty high quality cosplaying going on this year, if you ask me. I saw a girl doing a Commander Shepard cosplay that was easily a 9/10, the uniform looked that good. (Speaking of Shepards who are Commanders, if I had the cash I would have bought the toy Mass Effect 3 assault rifle someone was selling.)
The good cosplay was an exception though, which is typically the case with any convention like this. If you really want to look good as a cosplayer, it takes a ton of effort and resources. All I can ever think when I see legit good cosplay is, “where the hell did you find that exact pair of shoulder pads?” (Okay, that’s not the only question, you get it, you get it.)
They actually have quite a few events here. One that I sat in on for a little bit was some kind of Battle Royale where a bunch of cosplayers get together on a stage, and they fight by voting; two characters pair off, and whichever one gets the louder cheers wins, leading to a choreographed fight that ends with the winner’s victory. I didn’t see Super Art Fight, which was founded by Jamie Noguchi (whose work I reviewed a while back) but I assume they still have that since I saw it last year. Even if you don’t get to see Robert Downey Jr. here like you do at SDCC, people are still excited to be here. The stage battle I just mentioned had people screaming constantly. I don’t think it was pained screaming but then this is the first time I’ve left my cave in a while. Still, the general impression I get from the crowds is not one of grumpiness or homicidal rage, but rather it’s opposite.
It’s kind of expensive, at least for me. 60 bucks for 3 days probably isn’t too bad a deal, but 40 bucks for just Saturday is a lot, so you better be ready to have fun or you won’t get your money’s worth. It’s better to have friends there, or to make them, but other than that it’s not for just hanging around and watching. I guess there’s like, a dance too or something, but I did that once. It was okay. Haven’t done it since.
If I sound less than enthusiastic, it’s because SDCC is pretty much the cool older brother to Connecticon. That’s not so much to denigrate “CTcon”, but seriously. SDCC is to CTcon as China is to Guyana size-wise. Also, I’m a quiet person by nature, so it’s kind of hard to enjoy if you don’t open up to people or gush over your favorite character impersonators. The most ubiquitous activity here is the photo-op, and I personally can’t get excited enough to ask people to pose while I slap my smartphone silly for photos. I still like being in the middle of a gaggle of people since the activity just makes me feel comfortable, even when I’m not talking to anyone. It’s the atmosphere I come for, is what I guess I’m trying to say.
I did chat with the good people of Rumbirds and Atomic Robo a little, and the creators of Baman Piderman were there. It’s nice, being able to see some of the people whose work on the internet makes you laugh. There were a few others I didn’t get to but wanted to, but I wasn’t lucky this time. I did play a card game or two with some new acquaintances which was nice. Other than that it was a lot of walking.
CTcon is one of those kinds of things where it’s about as ambitious as it wants to be, and that’s fine. You can enjoy it if you go with friends, and you can see some webcomic names that are pleasant to talk to. If you’re into all the goofy stuff with costumes, you’ll be right at home.
Here’s a tip: get to know someone new when you’re there.