The Top Ten Things to Catch at Denver Comic Con

The fifth annual Denver Comic Con will invade the Colorado Convention Center over Father’s Day weekend, June 17 through 19. What started as a humble hometown show (albeit one with big aspirations) wound up breaking attendance records year after year, taking off from just over 25,000 attendees in its inaugural year to over 100K in 2015. Numbers this year will assuredly be even higher — and with those sorts of crowds, you’re going to need to prepare. While all three days are full of geeky goodness, here are ten things about Comic Con you don't want to miss.
10. The Cosplay
"Cosplay" is a relatively new word, a Japanese portmanteau of the English words “costume” and “roleplay" that came into common usage (at least among attendees of comic-book conventions and the like) in the 1990s. These days, it’s no small hobby. People spend copious amounts of time and money to look like their favorite characters from comics, anime, television and film, and they like being complimented on the outfit and makeup and even voice on which they’ve worked so hard. So feel free to take pictures of cosplayers who impress you. Tell them they look amazing. Ask them how they made that costume or perfected that look. Enjoy the show...and speaking of shows, if you want to see all the best costumes all at once, get in line for the Cosplay Shindig on Saturday night.

9. Artists’ Valley
This feature takes up a major section of the convention floor, so it would be pretty tough to miss — and you definitely don't want to! Artists’ Valley is full of both aspiring and established artists, all of whom have the ability to knock your fanboy/fangirl socks off with their talent. Yes, there will be huge stars of the comic-book art world there — Tim Sale, Jae Lee, J. Scott Campbell and John Romita Jr., to name only a few — but there will also be up-and-coming artists eager to share their talents. You get something awesome for your wall or collection, they get paid for their hard work, and everyone enjoys the convention just a little bit more. Win-win.
8. Dave Acord
The only Star Wars-related guest at this year's DCC (the great Carrie Fisher had to drop out because of scheduling conflicts with Star Wars VIII — disappointing, sure, but a pretty damn good reason) is Dave Acord, whose résumé just with the Star Wars canon is pretty deep. Most fans will know him as The Force Awakens First Order Trooper FN-2199 (also known as TR-8R), but he’s also voiced characters from The Clone Wars and the medical droid Polis Massa from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, who delivered the twins Luke and Leia. If you’re hungry for some Star Wars awesomeness, there are also panels, an auction and a trivia game — but if you’re looking to expand the universe of your Star Wars autograph collection? Dave Acord is your guy behind the mask.

7. Snape-ricot Ale
Every year, Breckenridge Brewery teams up with the DCC to brew a specialty beer, offered with a customized pint glass. Year one was called “The Fantastic Pour,” followed by “Caped Brewsader,” “Brews Wayne” and “Hulk’s Mash.” This year, in honor of the late Alan Rickman and his fan-favorite Harry Potter character Severus Snape, the brew is Snape-ricot Ale, an apricot lager that also gives you too much Potions homework and sneers at your best efforts to hold your liquor.

6. The Original Cast of Karate Kid
Well, not all of the original Karate Kid cast. Pat Morita, sadly, passed on in 2005, and Elizabeth Shue was nominated for an Oscar once, and is apparently too good for reunions like this one (Sharknado notwithstanding). But Ralph Macchio, Daniel-san himself, will appear with his onetime nemeses Johnny (William Zabka) and the sensei of Cobra Kai (Martin Kove). I know they were the bad guys, but the battle cry “Strike first, strike hard, no mercy SIR” always made good sense to me. Bonus: Since Ralph Macchio will already be there, DCC also invited C. Thomas Howell, his co-star from The Outsiders. Take the opportunity to catch these ’80s legends while they’re in Denver, because after all, nothing gold can stay, Ponyboy.

Keep reading for five more things you don't want to miss at Denver Comic Con
5. Writers Like Peter David and Terry Brooks
Yes, comic books are a visual medium — but they’re also a narrative medium, which requires more than a room full of monkeys with typewriters. Peter David, for example, is the award-winning writer of a bunch of comics that you love whether you know it or not — including his signature run on Incredible Hulk, as well as notable work with Spider-Man, X-Factor and much more. And outside the realm of comics is Terry Brooks, legendary author of the Shannara chronicles. Brooks is also heading up the new Author’s Alley at DCC, a feature produced in concert with Tattered Cover bookstores. Buy a book, get it signed, shake an author’s hand — it’s every kid’s dream, right?

4. Agent Coulson
Phil Coulson, that is, the Marvel everyman-turned-hero who took on no less than Norse God Loki and got skewered for his trouble. Currently starring in Marvel movies like Thor and The Avengers as well as ABC's Agents of SHIELD, actor Clark Gregg (sort of a superhero-y name in its own right) plays Coulson as both super-spy and administrative politico, as well as an uber-fan who collected the full set of vintage Captain America trading cards. Sure, he died, but whatever. He got better. Because comics!

3. Buy Lots of Stuff...Seriously, Just Stuff
There’s a ton of free swag at any comic con, but don’t forget all the good folks hawking their wares, too. And it’s not just comic books and related merch — far from it. Sure, there are Superman socks and Spidey lunchboxes and posters and T-shirts and various underoos. But you'll also find gaming supplies, toys of all types, replica weapons, working lightsabers and more. One tip: Don’t buy one of those expensive light-up sabers for your six-year-old, because what do six-year-olds do with swords? They fight, of course. And if you’ve ever wanted to see a nerd parent weep, see the aftereffects of a swordfight with a brand-new $120 lightsaber that is now a non-light-up stick.

2. Panels, Panels, Panels
If you’ve ever been to a convention of any sort, you’re familiar with the obligatory panels. But panels at DCC are far from the punitive bore-fests to which you might be accustomed. Want to check out the cast of the gritty Fox series Gotham? That’s at 11 a.m.on Sunday. Participate in some LGBTQ Speed-Dating, comic-con style? That’s 3:30 p.m. Friday. Meet Cary Elwes from The Princess Bride? At four Saturday. And that’s just a sampling. Panels run all day Friday through Sunday, so check your programs, folks, and hang out with some of the best creators and stars — along with your fellow fans — while giving your aching feet a rest in comfy convention stackable chairs.

1. Stan Lee
You’ve seen him in every Marvel movie worth a damn, you’ve heard his voice as the narrator of your favorite cartoons, you may even have seen his short-lived superhero game show…but nothing will prepare you to meet The Man himself. (Maybe you were planning to see him back in 2013, when he had to cancel.) Don’t miss this opportunity to get an autograph, a picture with this legend of comics, or to get a VIP package that includes both of the above and a whole lot more (and also costs a bunch, though it’s worth every penny). At the very least, get within sight of the guy at one of the panels where he’ll be presenting. Think what you will about Stan’s work with Marvel, his relationship with Jack “King” Kirby or who invented what, and when, and how. Stan Lee is a legend. He’s also 93, and sadly won’t be with us forever. Don’t miss this chance to at least be able to say you saw him, that you were at the fifth DCC and were this close. Excelsior!

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen