Raleigh GalaxyCon 2019 Review

Raleigh GalaxyCon has come and gone and the post-con depression may be setting in for some, but the anticipation begins for next year’s event for many others. This was a great time in the bustling city of Raleigh NC and it was clear that the convention owners are still trying to figure out how to put on a party that rivals the bigger ComicCons. I think they are ultimately on the right track. There was something to do from 10 AM every day until 1 or 2 AM, with early morning panels, afternoon events, and late-night parties. I was able to go to a healthy sample of each and it was a blast!

This year was a little different for me. Zach and I were too exhausted from the previous few weeks of life to really cover the event for The FoundryCast.com, and we did not do very much “shop talk” regarding the website either. We resigned ourselves to simply enjoy the Con and went about pursuing whatever was available. I also brought my wife for the first time ever, which added a completely different dynamic to the weekend that worked out rather well.

The costuming this year was a little less thrilling than last year. Of course, there were several dozen Spider-Man costumes and more than a handful of Harley Quinns, but the uniqueness level has surely declined. Now, there were some really nice outfits on display too and lots of enthusiastic people celebrating their fandom in all manner of costuming. There is one group of guys who have been dressing up every year so far as a group of WWE wrestlers, and they were a big hit with the crowds. They were so popular that somehow they absorbed my wife into their photo ops, as she was dressed as Hulk Hogan. She was pulled aside for a couple of quick photos all weekend in her various wrestling outfits, and Zach & Gill did some photos all throughout the weekend as well. I stayed casual and just enjoyed sitting around on the higher mezzanines, looking down at the crowd, watching the streams of costumes as they made their way through the concourses. Such bright and colorful characters! I believe that with the growth of the convention this year, the costuming was overshadowed, simply due to population size. There was also an explosion of My Hero Academia costumes, which dominated the entire convention.

The best panels of the whole event were WWE Legend Mick Foley, Doctor Who’s David Tennant and Catherine Tate, nerd icons Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton, as well as Will Friedle, who surprised the audience by bringing up Christy Carlson-Romano to join him on his solo panel. Also great were the other WWE panels, Jason David Frank (as always), and The Office cast (Leslie Baker, Kate Flannery, and Creed Bratton). I saw a few other celebrity Q&A’s that were well worth my time, but there were also ones that I had to miss out on due to scheduling and overlap. Leading into the last few weeks of June I was getting dismayed at the quality of celebrities that had been announced. But as opening day of GalaxyCon 2019 grew closer, more and more heavy hitters were announced, all the way until the last week. By showtime, it really felt like a star-studded affair, especially when we were walking through the rows and rows of celebrity autograph tables.

The vendor/exhibition space was a little lackluster this year. Some of the same companies came back, but there was nothing really exciting going on. The knick-knacks were there and several real artists were showcasing their talents, but it wasn’t as exciting as the last two years. Very absent this year was Wild BIll's Olde Fashion Soda Pop Co. It appears as if they had another event on the same weekend, but they were a delightful part of SuperCon last year. Absent also were some of the high-quality leather workers, a few of the handmade jewelry vendors, and virtually no video game vendors. It is understandable that certain companies might not be able to attend due to scheduling conflicts, but it was just an uninspiring year that left me (thankfully) with more money in my pocket than I had expected.

The biggest JEERS this year go to the convention layout. Thankfully, the GalaxyCon team have recognized some of their growth potention and have begun to push things around to try and maximize spaces. The ballrooms of two of the adjoining hotels became the new home for the tabletop game room as well as the video game tournaments. This opened space back up for more meeting rooms and smaller panels. However, the cues and lines to get into more popular rooms was just shy of nightmarish. While the idea of laying tape on the floor may seem silly, it absolutely can help when you know that the main ballroom is going to be back to the rafters with people for the David Tennant panel. Even Fantasy Super Cosplay Wrestling shows had high turn out and so the twisting and turning lines that were improvised by the people waiting their turn to enter was all kinds of dangerous and stupid. There were so many choke points and fire code violations that I was surprised the event didn’t get shut down a couple of times. I am not sure if the problem here lies with GalaxyCon Team, or the employees of the convention center, who all appear as unenthusiastic as I have ever seen. Hopefully in future years, they will improve on this process, put some well-trained people into the service of controlling these lines, and everyone will have a happier experience as a result.

Final Thoughts – It was a really fun weekend and I was so glad to get to spend some of that nerdy time with my wife and my good friends, but it was a different experience than I was expecting. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed certain unexpected elements and I was dismayed at things I was hoping would have been better. The growing pains of the convention are very evident now, as if they do not know how to manage the crowds and the demand as each year builds on top of the previous year. The lines were chaos and the seating was mismanaged, which sent my anxiety into overdrive. I was finally able to get back to neutral by the time I was seated and the guest speakers began, but I remember wondering if it was worth the hassle. Then if it isn’t worth it, then why do I still want to go?

What I am currently thinking is that I want to be MORE involved somehow. It is not so fun of an experience to go ALL-IN every year unless I am doing more for myself. I want to still see awesome celebrities and attend a few How-To panels, but I currently do not feel connected. This convention does not feel like it is custom built for me. I am too young to have funny money to spend without thinking about it, and I am too old to settle for less than a great time. Which all leads me to wanting to be having some new level of involvement, either hosting a panel, pushing The FoundryCast into the next stratosphere as a “press” source, or by getting much deeper into the costuming.

And so, the planning begins now……