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TLO Travelogues: Fan Expo Dallas 2017

4:39 AM EDT on April 6, 2017

The recent attempts at creating a major comic-con here in Oklahoma City have missed the mark more than a few times, with low attendance numbers, unhappy celebrities and a just all-around piss-poor attitude from all parties involved. Leave it to Texas to take up the slack.

There were Okies aplenty (and a few Lost Ogle readers!) at the Fan Expo Dallas 2017 this past weekend, myself included. While a metaphorical good time was had by all, it’s amazing how much not only the whole convention scene but nerd culture, in general, has changed over the past 20 years, when I attended my first sci-fi event while interning at the erstwhile George Grube Advertising in high school.

It used to be shameful to be a nerd, a dork, a spazz or a geek. Fandoms based around Star Trek and Star Wars were openly mocked, Dungeons and Dragons was a dirty secret left in the basement and a random act of daily violence—such as upperclassmen ripping up your latest issue of Marvel Team-Up while the basketball coach laughs—were not uncommon. It was a time wearing a Spider-Man backpack, no matter how kitschy you though it was, to the first day of high school got you a nice little kick to the testes on the bus, as I can attest from personal experience.

Now, however, as comic books and science fiction fandoms are practically an inundated way of life and it makes me wonder: have we gone forwards or backward in culture? Every single hit movie is based on a comic book franchise, women who would never talk to you two decades ago now earn full-time livings dressing as even the most obscure of fandom characters and nearly everyone, from the high school jock to the baby boomer senior citizen, owns at least one Star Wars shirt. How did this happen?

Wandering around the vendor booths—packed with so much human livestock that the traffic, at times, became a maddening bumper-to-bumper standstill as costumed characters would become hilariously lodged in the madness—I was primarily searching for DVD bootlegs, apparently another bygone relic from days of conventions past. This marketplace was loaded with mostly clothing, as well as costume accessories and weapons replicas, as well as overpriced toys and memorabilia that only a fan high on their own supply would love. Nothing really interested me.

There were numerous aforementioned cosplayers present that I adored, from a Latina Moana to a Cholo Joker and Harley Quinn—La Raza represent—but what was truly troubling to me was the sheer amount of Negans present, the sociopath from The Walking Dead that beat in the lone Asian character’s head in with a barb-wired baseball bat. From scarily accurate replicas to sexy variations, to even children playing the part, it was the costume du jour, with everyone and their mother seemingly toting around a bloody rubber facsimile of Lucille.

The ultimate highlight, however, was an eight-year-old dressed as the wildly obscure 1987 DC Comics Punisher-rip Wilddog, so mad props to that.

If anything could have been better thought out, it was probably the food court area. Absolute masses of unwashed, sweaty con-goers standing in multiple, hurdy-gurdy lines, all for a flagon of root beer on one side, crosstown traffic on the other as attendees slowly shuffled from one ballroom to another, the body-heat index rising ever so slightly as food vendors ran out of even water, which made no difference anyway because the line for it stretched absurdly. Pro-tip: next time, stuff a few frozen bottles of Ozarka in your backpack instead of a vintage Ewok village playset, natch.

While Fan Expo Dallas offered many Q&A panels with a wide range of diverse celebrities, I was mostly excited for the 3 p.m. one featuring Bat Out of Hell divo Meat Loaf. From his operatic albums to his work in films like Roadie and Fight Club, he’s always been a bit of a plus-sized inspiration, so it was a lot of fun to hear him tell stories, both real and imagined, from his past as well as answer my own question about the legality of the unreleased Dead Ringer film, based on his album of the same name. I guess you had to be there.

I gotta admit though: after that panel, I was spent and on my last legs, stupefyingly dehydrated and in desperate need of some illegally prescribed painkillers. Slogging through the b.o.-drenched humanity until I finally reached the freedom and fresh air outside the doors of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, I breathed deep, wildly satisfied to know that I didn’t outgrow cons, they outgrew me. ¡Cómpralo ya!

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Special thanks to Fan Expo Dallas. Extra special thanks to Jerry Bennett.

 If you’re wondering what costume I wore, it was guy who is going to die alone. Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler.

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