I’m not a seasoned con attendee, though I have been to hundreds of professional conferences. At those events, however, people’s costumes run more towards suits and power ties, not Batman and Doctor Who. Which, of course, makes events like Denver Comic-Con 2014 terrifically fun to attend. But as someone new to the scene, it’s also surprisingly confusing and it’s hard to catch the nuances of what’s going on, not to mention identify all the amazing cosplay outfits people were wearing!

My photographer daughter and I will be posting tons of Denver Comic-Con cosplay photos in the next few days, but in this post, I want to just share the overall experience of being at a pretty big Comic-Con.

First off, it’s not just comics. In fact, comics and comic books seem like a fairly small part of things, and there’s as much buzz about TV shows and movies, toys and games, graphic novels, props and jewelry as there is for those 48-page soft-cover books.

And there were a lot of people. Projected attendance for Denver Comic-Con was 75,000 this year. Very impressive. It means there are a lot of people milling around at any point:

The huge display are of movie posters and poster-size reproductions of famous comic books. Notice on the left the hat display too. Lots of hats. Rather amazing hats, actually.

There’s actually quite a bit happening on the exhibit floor, more than just people selling stuff! On one end was a marching band (of all things!) playing arrangements of classic comic-book superhero movie and TV show music. And when a drum corps is playing in a conference space with steel ceilings and concrete floors? It sounds AWESOME!

At the other end of the exhibit hall medieval cosplayers were competing to show off their sword technique:

Quite exciting and there were a surprising number of people watching the battle! No “it’s just a flesh wound” cries, however, but perhaps that was good given that there were little ones in the crowd. I did appreciate the emcee’s oblique ‘Game of Thrones‘ reference about “it’s not too dangerous, no squished heads!” Yuch. Still, cool.

One thing that’s really terrific is Artist Valley, where you can meet and admire the work of dozens of superb artists, some amateurs with oodles of talent and others pros from various publishing companies. More importantly, you can watch them at work:

She was working freehand, but it’s startling how many artists had their smartphone in hand for a reference photo of whatever they were drawing. Here’s one where he’s working on a piece tied to ‘The Walking Dead‘:

I could just stand and watch any of these talented individuals create their illustrations. It’s great to see the creative process!

And then there were the professional companies, like WETA, all the way from New Zealand. They had a terrific booth (did I say “booth”? I meant “store”) guarded by this creepy dude:

An amazing model, I almost wanted to take him home, except who would want something that creepy in their house?

While a lot of companies simply had their wares spread across a few tables, some went to extraordinary lengths to make things more fun and engage us con attendees. Like this sick extra-large Operation game:

Surprisingly hard, actually. The did a good job with it. And I’d love to see the look on the TSA people when it’s opened up for a random security audit at the airport!

Remember how I said there weren’t a ton of comic books? I lied. There were a lot of comic books.

As someone who used to be a collector — I even had a first edition ‘Swamp Thing’ as a kid! All gone, thanks to my parents and their overzealous cleaning when I went to college. AUGH! — most of the comics shown were alien to me. But to you, ScienceFiction.com reader, they were the stuff of dreams:

I like that Catwoman, I have to say!

And t-shirts. There were a surprisingly number of t-shirts. I mean, towering displays of t-shirts:

We looked, but nothing caught my eye, so no t-shirts were purchased. Just as well. Stuff on the Denver Comic-Con floor can be a bit spendy, to put it mildly.

It wouldn’t be a show without food, and the food options at the Colorado Convention Center were surprisingly good — and popular:

I ended up having a sort of Asian fusion bowl, fried rice, veggies, chicken and a spicy curry sauce. Surprisingly delicious and much needed after hours of shuffling up and down the aisles like an extra in ‘World War Z’. Oh, no, in that movie we’d have been sprinting and climbing on top of each other. Like, um, an extra in ‘Night of the Living Dead!’

Geeks are people too (I think there was a t-shirt that had that slogan) and so it was amusing, but not entirely surprising, to find that there was an underground matchmaking service available for single adults:

I like the “Must be single” part. I mean, ewww, of course. And, given the male/female ration at Comic-Con, it’s no surprise to see “Ladies are free!” on the sign either.

All in all, Denver Comic-Con 2014 was really terrific fun and a day well spent. The only wrinkle is that the talks, the panels, the sessions were all confusing as heck. In fact, when I asked my buddy Steve Oatney (in Artist Valley, booth F5 ) he said he had no idea about the schedule and wasn’t planning on attending any panels. I now know why: it’s really hard to figure it all out, and the lines are outrageous for even the semi-popular events. Here’s part of the grid (once you find this piece of paper in the first place. For some reason it wasn’t widely available upstairs in the expo area):

Got it figured out? There are different halls and different times and different panels start at seemingly random times too, certainly unsynchronized. Super confusing to this con n00b and when we did finally find a panel we wanted to attend, we went downstairs just to find over 150 people sitting on the floor in a long, snaking line, waiting to get in. Sitting. On. The. Floor. Somehow spending hours waiting to hear some people talk? Not my cup of tea. Your mileage may vary.

The overall experience was super fun nonetheless, and it was really great to see people so into cosplay. It really has a feel of Halloween for adults and some of the costumes? Well, yowza! There are some cosplay folk who are in very good shape and are happy to share that with a crowd by wearing abbreviated and sometimes rather risqué outfits. Men and women, by the way.

All in good fun.

Photo credit: All photos by Dave Taylor