This weekend, GeekDad was privileged to attend the Denver Pop Culture Con (DPCC), held at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver from Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 2. On Friday, I drove my 9-year-old daughter, Geek Young Lady, and her BFF down to Denver to experience the Con. I made notes of our goings-on at the Con, and here are some highlights from our day:
10:30 Arrival: This is it, the first day of DPCC! We’d been talking about it for a few weeks now, and mild excitement had been building in the Geek Young Lady (GYL), and she was very happy to be bringing her BFF. And then, they saw the line to get in. “Do we have to wait in that?” GYL asked me. “No!” I exclaimed, and swiftly whisked them to the side entrance for media, exhibitors, and guests (thanks, GeekDad media pass!). “Dad to the rescue!” I told them—but they weren’t as impressed with me as I was with myself.
10:45 Scouting the Con Floor: We wandered around a bit to get a sense of the main floor layout, including Artist Valley (where all the comic book guests and artist exhibitors had set up booths), the merchant rows, and the Kids’ Lab section. I told them about some of the special guests at the con, including Zachary Levi of Shazam!, and Christopher Lloyd and Tom Wilson from Back to the Future! And I even showed them the row where some of my favorite comic artists like Greg Capullo and Andy Kubert would be signing people’s books later! So excited!
And… blank stares. They’d never heard of any of these people; these names made no difference to them. GYL had one guest in mind: author and cartoonist Terri Libenson, who wrote a couple of young-adult graphic novels that both the GYL and BFF love. I checked the program, and found the exact time for Libenson’s signing later in the day, and we went and scouted the author signing booth. In the meantime, we picked up two of Libenson’s books at a vendor, Positively Izzy and Just Jaime, so we’d have them for the signing. I asked the girls what they wanted to look for next, and they emphatically told me: the Food Court!
It was at that point that I realized I needed to adjust my expectations for how the day would go. It wasn’t going to be filled with perusing author booths for interesting new reading materials, or attending panels to learn about fun topics like storytelling or fascinating comics, movies, and television. Not today. I would have to save that for Saturday, when I came back by myself. I decided to cede much of my agenda to the girls, because after all, I had brought them to have a good time, and it was important that they get to define what would be a good time for them. So, off to find the Food Court we went!
11:00 Kid’s Lab: Luckily, the Kid’s Lab was located near the Food Court this year, so I was able to convince the girls to explore the kids’ section before we did whatever at the Food Court. The Kid’s Lab was already fairly busy with tables and booths full of activities and crafts. The girls sat down at a table to start working on a multi-part detective activity that involved things like analyzing fingerprints and sleuthing through different character profiles. But they got bored after the first fingerprint part and decided to leave.
We wandered around the section a little more, and they were able to pick up some odds-and-ends freebies like stickers, Dum-Dum suckers, and some science comic books. But nothing further piqued their interest, and we made our way out of the Kids’ Lab. “Can we have a snack?” GYL asked, so I gave in, and we went into the Food Court and sat down.
11:30 Snack Time: I had planned ahead this year and packed my backpack full of yummy snacks like granola bars, dried cranberries, and snack-size PBJ sandwiches. While GYL and BFF munched, I took the time to flip through the DPCC events guide, trying to find events that they may be interested in. I told them about a fun session on drawing funny monsters or other sessions where they could learn about animation or even movie stunts. “What would you like to do?” I asked them. “Are you interested in seeing any of these panels or events?” “Nope. We just want to look around,” was GYL’s reply.
11:45 Looking Around: So that’s what we did for a little bit. After the snacks were finished, we wandered around the Artist Valley section, checking out various artist booths. GYL and BFF found a couple of artists who managed to intrigue them with cute kitten illustrations or sparkly trinkets, but they decided to wait to buy anything until they had explored more and had seen more of what the con had to offer.
We also wandered around some of the vendor booths, and GYL noticed a Pokemon-orb thing (this GeekDad is ignorant of Pokemon lingo) that she’d had her eye on for a while. This actually turned into a brief exercise in smart shopping: “Dad,” GYL told me, “the price on this is $18!” I reminded her that she had seen the same toy at a local comic shop. “Yeah, and it was only $14 there!” She decided to wait and acquire it elsewhere, and I told her that was a good choice. And then I heard the question that I had known was coming since snack-time: “Dad, we’re hungry again. Can we go have lunch?” So, it was back to the Food Court.
12:30 Lunch: We ate food, again. Nothing much to see here, other than this recommendation: pack a lunch when you come to the con, and save yourself from over-priced Food Court fare that’s frankly nothing remarkable. I learned this at last year’s con, and I’m glad I followed up on it this year.
1:00 Event Motivation: At 1:00, GYL promptly told me that we needed to go get in line! Terri Libenson’s signing was scheduled for 1:30, and she wanted to make sure we got a good spot in line (during last year’s con, there was quite a long line for the signing of another of her favorite authors, Raina Telgemeier, and she was determined to be near the front of the line this year). So we quickly cleaned up our mess and then made our way back to the author signing booth.
No crowd whatsoever. So, not wanting to waste time in a line of our own making, I told the girls that we would go over to the comic artists’ section real quick, so that I could get a couple of my comics signed. The girls sat down to read the new books we had bought, while I had Steve Orlando (current writer of the Martian Manhunter series from DC) sign a couple of my comics. Then, we headed back to the author signing booth, where a queue had actually started to form… but there was only five people in front of us. Hooray!
1:30 The Signing: We only had to wait a couple minutes for our turn. GYL presented Terri Libenson with her two new books, and told Libenson how to spell her name. Terri Libenson cordially signed both books, and even personalized them and sketched a very quick drawing in one. We said thank you and moved on, so that the next person in line could do the same thing.
2:00 Wandering: We then meandered our way back up toward the Kids’ Lab, pausing to look around at some scattered booths along the way. In the Kids’ Lab, artist Kyle Puttkammer, author of Hero Cats, was in the middle of a high-energy session of teaching kids how to draw cats and funny other animals. We caught the tail end (pun intended) of the session and the girls spent a few minutes drawing.
Reviewing the event guide, we saw that Terri Libenson was actually scheduled to hold a panel for kids at the same location, but we had around an hour to kill. So, more wandering around various booths and then doing some people-watching was our solution. The girls returned to the booth with the cute cat illustrations that we had visited before, and we picked up a small print and a couple of fun buttons from artist Audrey Miller. I also insisted on meandering by some of the comic book merchant booths, where I managed to find a copy of the Batman/Elmer Fudd special that DC released a couple of summers ago (I’m a fan of Tom King comics, and this particular comic had eluded me for over a year now—success!).
3:00 Drawing and Laughing with Terri Libenson: Back to the All Age Stage at the Kid’s Lab, where we took our spots on the floor to await a second even with Terri Libenson (she was quite popular in our little group on Friday). Libenson came on stage and began talking to the small-yet-enthusiastic crowd about how she draws her fun characters in her book. Then, she took requests from kids for characters to demonstrate drawing. Both GYL and BFF raised their hands, and Libenson quickly sketched out the characters from her books that they asked for (for GYL, it was Izzy, and for BFF it was Brianna). What made the event even sweeter was that once Libenson had finished the sketches, she ripped each page off from the large sketch pad and gave them to each of the kids who had requested the sketch! This made both GYL’s and BFF’s day. Then, she wrapped up with a short Q&A session, and afterwards both GYL and BFF approached her off stage to say thanks and to ask her another quick question or two, which Libenson was gracious enough to answer.
3:30 – 4:00 Wearing Down: We wandered around a little more, and made our way back over to the section of Artist Valley where some of the popular comic artists were stationed—I wanted to get a comic signed by artist Greg Capullo. The girls said they were hungry (again!), so they sat down in a side area out of the way, where many others had also sat down for a short rest, and I gave them another snack while I waited in line to get my comic signed. When I finished and returned to them, both girls said they were tired and were ready to go home. I lamented for just a moment, because it was only just after 4:00 and there were surely still more things we could see and do. But I realized that we had been walking around for the better part of six hours, and they probably were tired enough. So we concluded our day, went back to the car, and promptly got stuck in rush-hour traffic driving home.
All told, it was a perfectly pleasant day at Denver Pop Culture Con 2019 with my daughter and her best friend!