Dragon*Con 2009 Report #5 – Day Three

Geesh. We’re only just now starting Day Three? It feels like I’ve been writing these things forever. I’m sure the handful of loyal readers are thinking much the same thing. Rest assured, there aren’t too many more. In fact, I can break it down for you. Day Three will be two parts – the regular day and the masquerade. Believe me, the masquerade and the ensuing craziness of the evening warrants it’s own post. After that, there will be a post about the much shorter Day Four and travel (combined into one), one about the hotels, and one about the many things we missed and final sum-up. At the moment, I think the hotels and “things we missed” will be in one big post. That’s the plan for the time being. After I finish all the regular housekeeping tasks, I’ll be able to dive into all kinds of fun stuff. I’ve got Interviews! Advice! New Costumes!

For now, though, that must wait. On to business. ::puts on Mighty Blogger cap::

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts Maggie and I made the decision to wear light-weight and crowd-friendly zombie outfits for Sunday, since we would need to be navigating those same crowds with big costumes later the evening. We weren’t going to have handlers while in our PPP costumes so it was imperative that we be able to pick up and carry all our crap…er, stuff…easily. The zombie costume was the only one I took to Georgia that had actual pockets. I could stuff my wallet in back, my change in one pocket and my phone in another and, for the most part, I was good to go. I did bring my camera bag with me. It was lighter than my usual con backpack, which was a definite plus. In addition to the camera bag and my very well-ventilated zombie clothes I pinned a foam sign I had picked up from the dollar store to the front of my shirt. It read “Dead Zone.” Since Maggie and I already try to inject a little humor into our zombie getups with our choice of shirts (Hers reads: Don’t worry, it’s not my blood. Mine is advertising a blood drive) I figured the sign would fit in well with everything else.

The makeup that we do for our zombies doesn’t take as long as everyone seems to think. The materials we work with aren’t particularly expensive, either. The most important thing in the creation of our zombie look is simple: green stick concealer. You know, the stuff that looks like seafoam green lipstick? That stuff. You can usually pick it up for pretty cheap. Wet’n’Wild makes a nice one – goes on smooth, easily spread, fairly easy to clean up – for $2-3. It twists up and down just like a normal lipstick tube. Just be sure you don’t leave it in a warm car, or it’ll melt. But that’s usually the case with most lipstick-consistency cosmetics.

I actually didn’t use Wet’n’Wild this time around. I had used up my old green stick when we did the makeup effects for a friend’s zombie film (that one had been made by Neutrogena, by the way) and was lucky enough to pick up another stick at the dollar store. Or, unlucky enough, as it turns out. The stuff was a little harder to use than my usual stuff. Not because it didn’t spread well, but because it was too soft. Big chunks kept breaking off of the tube and falling on the floor. The rest of it was rendered useless when it melted completely and gooped up in the lid just during the drive from the hotel to the convention. I threw it away but, unfortunately, don’t remember what the name of the company was.

Usually I don’t “set” my zombie makeup, but I happened to have a case of green powder with me. The powder is actually more useful in my daily life than the green stick is. For those of you lucky enough not to have to know this already, pale green makeup – stick and powder form – is used to tone down skin redness. I’m not talking about the kind of redness you get from infections or rashes or that kind of thing. If you’ve got broken skin of any sort you shouldn’t be using makeup on it at all. But if, like me, you tend to have blotches of red mussing up your skin tone, the green helps. I recommend the powder for everyday use.

And, of course, for making the green stick of your zombie makeup less prone to wiping off.

The bottom base of green helps give you a general, sickly/undead look. Then you take regular eyeshadow in hues of purple, brown, and gray and add in details. I suggest purple around and under the eyes and gray on the side of the nose and hollows of your cheek (below where you’d normally apply blush) to create a nice gaunt look. I used a little bit of yellow here and there, trying to imitate the color changes one sees in a bruise but that needs a little bit of work. After you’ve done that, you can either head on out or add a few special effects. This year we had fake blood and Maggie mixed up some of her burn makeup. I didn’t do any burn effects on myself this year and so had to take her word that the stuff smells atrocious and itches like mad.

I will caution you here about the fake blood. First off, make sure it’s not the kind that’s automatically going to stain your face. The makeup underneath should create a bit of a barrier but it’s always best to test it on a less obvious place than your face first. Second, make sure you know how your particular fake blood will act after you put it on. Does it dry and flake off? Does it stay wet the entire time? Does it have a tendency to drip? Ours apparently can do all of the above. It tends to dry on Maggie. With me, it stays wet, moves down my face and my hair attaches to it like leeches.

Okay. Now that we’ve had Zombie Makeup 101…

Maggie and I finished the rest of our preparations and headed out to the parking lot. I had a little bit of fun mindlessly shambling to the car but from what I could tell there wasn’t anyone in the parking lot to see my method acting. We hopped in the car and headed through the downtown Atlanta traffic. Once again we found a nice spot in our usual parking lot and took off in the direction of the host hotels. Maggie wanted coffee and I was in need of some breakfast myself, so we hoofed it over to the Marquis. We knew there was a Starbucks next to the hotel store and, while it’s not exactly our first choice of coffee shops, Maggie was at least familiar with the types of coffe they had there. We got up to the correct floor only to find a HUGE line already winding through the door. We immediately backpedaled and hoofed it over to the Hyatt, where Mag was convinced she had seen another Starbucks. It ended up being a place called Perks, but it had a sign saying it sold Starbucks coffee and that was good enough.

After forking over my life savings for the world’s smallest muffin (okay, maybe half of my savings) and a frozen mocha I joined Maggie at one of the tall tables. Just as I was setting my stuff down at the table and hooking my camera bag on the back of the chair a woman came up wanting to know if she could take a picture of us. We asked her to wait for just a second while we grabbed our drinks from the pick-up counter and then posed for her. She was curious about how long it took us to do our makeup, convinced we’d had to wake up real early to get the whole look finished. Imagine her surprise to learn it takes about 15-20 minutes from start to finish for most of our zombie looks. It turns out she had recently done zombie makeup for her son. Hers had taken much longer. She thanked us for posing and headed off and we set down for a quick breakfast. Maggie had picked up a yogurt and fruit parfait thingy that really looked like lumpy brains. We quickly decided pictures were in order.

After breakfast we headed off to find our first panel of the day. We had both seen the puppet panel in the list of events and decided it was something that applied to some of the costume work we do. I had actually taken a puppetry class years ago, during my undergrad. It had absolutely nothing to do with my history program. I just wanted to take it. Puppets were something that had intrigued me from an early age and, honestly, that interest has not waned one bit. It’s an interest that is clearly shared by a large number of people at Dragon*Con, judging by the number of people I spotted walking around with puppets throughout the weekend. People at Dragon*Con are absolutely puppet crazy!

We got to the room where the panel was going to take place a bit early and decided to sit in on the last ten or so minutes of the shoe panel that was finishing up. Marty was there, performing his duties as a panelist. Though we’re not closely acquainted with him it’s still nice to see a familiar face from our neck of the woods. The folks in the shoe panel had created a VERY well put together and informative powerpoint presentation that showed how to make and alter a whole bunch of different kinds of footwear. What little we saw was rather daunting. Apparently there is so much information covered in this particular panel that they only run it every other year, in order to give people a bit of a break.

The next panel’s presenters filed into the room and started setting up their props and powerpoint slides. There were two versions of Mr. Hat, Mr. Garrison’s puppet from South Park. The point of this was to show how source material can be interpreted by two different puppeteers. It was clear that both puppets represented Mr. Hat, just as it was clear that both creators of the puppets have very different styles. They ran through a couple of the types of puppets there are: rod puppets, hand puppets, shadow puppets, pageant puppets, etc. Obviously, since the panel was only an hour long, it couldn’t be as in depth about all the many different kinds of puppets out there as my class had been back in college but they did a wonderful job introducing the main types and giving ideas of how they could be made.

Most of the panel actually ended up being kind of a Q&A, with specific questions about puppets and puppet-making. I got some wonderful ideas about some new materials to check out. I’m sure that, in most cases, these same materials and techniques can be applied to other non-puppet related costumes I intend to make. For instance, I’ve just decided to add the Mondoshawan from The Fifth Element to my costume list. They are a combination of regular costume and puppetry and as such require a good deal more thought, planning and skill than my usual costumes. I have a feeling I’m going to end up asking questions on a lot of puppetry forums.

We didn’t really have big plans for most of the rest of Sunday. We went back through the dealer’s rooms, found another exhibitor/dealer hall that we hadn’t known existed, people-watched…basic Dragon*Con activities. At one point I had considered going to the Miss Klingon Universe. I figured it was the best place to finally interview a Klingon. Maggie looked it up and discovered it was over in the Sheraton. That, unfortunately, sealed it’s fate and we decided to look for other things.

We considered going to the Patrick Stewart Q&A session but, when we wandered outside to see where the line ended we found out it stretched all the way around the building. We didn’t really want to walk down the stairs and find the end of it, only to possibly be turned away from a crowded room when the end of the line finally made it to the auditorium so we decided to wait out on the balcony. If the end of the line happened to get up to the top of the stairs in about 15 minutes we figured we’d join it then. In the meantime we amused ourselves watching the group of people dressed as vampires and lycans from the Underworld movie franchise getting their pictures taken by a professional photographer. The costumes were really impressive.
Twenty or so minutes later we still hadn’t seen the end of the Patrick Stewart line. We decided to cut our losses and find something else to do in the last few hours before we needed to report for the masquerade.

Eventually we found ourselves in the room where all the artists had their work on display. Like most conventions we’ve been too Dragon*Con provided artists who hadn’t necessarily been invited as guests with the opportunity to bring their original work to the con for sale. I’m pretty sure there’s also a competition of some sort but, not being one of the competing artists, I don’t know what the details of that competition might be. There were tons of things throughout the room that I would have loved to have purchased and taken home with me: paintings, sculptures, pottery, etc. Basically, if you can imagine someone making it, they’ve got it in the artists’ hall. I was extremely excited to see a piece by one of my favorite fantasy artists up on one of the walls. There I was, walking along, and I thought to myself “That looks like a Stephanie Pui-Mun Law piece.” I wandered over and leaned in towards the tag and…it was! If I had the money, I would buy a bunch of her pieces. At the moment I only have one of her prints: a watercolor of Morgan Le Fey that I don’t see on her website.

With the 6:30pm meeting time for masquerade participants looming on the horizon Maggie and I weren’t inclined to wander very far from the Hyatt and the Marquis. We figured we’d head to the bathroom around 5:45 to start de-zombifying our faces, then pick up the stuff from the car by 6. Neither of us felt like getting makeup or fake blood all over the inside of the puppet heads. I was already having a devil of a time keeping my hair from getting glued to the fake blood on my face. If I didn’t wash it off before putting my head on I knew I’d end up with bits of fiber-fill stuffing from the inside of Harry stuck to my face. Our self-imposed deadline of 6pm meant we only had about an hour more of goofing off.
I decided I’d best use that time to get some actual work done for the blog. I had gone to the con with two blog-related goals: interview a Klingon and a Stormtrooper (and hopefully get one of the Stormtroopers to let me try on their helmet). A quick scout of the Marquis lobby failed to turn up any Klingons. I’m sure that they were all still over at the Miss Klingon Universe. As Maggie and I rode the escalator to the topmost lobby floor I quickly spotted three hapless Stormtroopers standing off to the side. I made a bee-line straight for them.
I’m not sure whether it unnerved them to see a very determined-looking zombie heading straight for them, as the presence of their helmets sort of makes it impossible to read facial expressions. I introduced myself and explained what I was doing. Eric, Ed and Rob, as they introduced themselves to me, all seemed quite willing to stop and chat with me for a few minutes.

Well, I thought that two of them were willing to chat. Ed and Rob took their helmets off to talk but Eric stood there with his still on. When he wandered off a few seconds later I figured he either had to go to the bathroom, saw someone he knew, or just didn’t plain want to be interviewed. A few seconds later he wandered back and answered a few questions through his helmet. I found out later from Maggie that he was having problems with this helmet. Apparently when he wandered off he tried – unsuccessfully – to remove his helmet. When he couldn’t pull it off he just decided to come back and say what he could.
Next I stopped to talk to a guy in a Jango Fett costume. He was quite the popular character. He kept having all sorts of people – usually kids – come up to him to ask for pictures. He was very gracious with all of them, like everyone else I met at Dragon*Con (well, with one notable exception we’ll get to in the next report).

Both interviews will be posted later, after the bulk of the con reports are done.

As we made our final circle towards the escalators, preparing to go wash all the undead makeup off, we happened upon a wonderful find. Well technically he happened upon us. He was walking along in the opposite direction when he caught sight of my sign and started laughing. He came over to talk and pointed out his own costume: a Verizon Network zombie. The costume was inspired by the Verizon commercials where people talk about the dead zones. He had even put a little motto on the side of his hard hat. Please enjoy this truely unflattering picture of me standing with him.
I loved the interplay of our costumes. It was only the second time that whole day when that had happened. The first had been when Maggie and I were eating lunch in what became our usual spot, under one of the staircases in the Marquis. A guy dressed as Shaun from Shaun of the Dead wandered by and kind of shot us a playful/wary look. I pointed and said “You’ve got red on you,” to which he replied “So do you.”
While Verizon Guy and I chatted we spotted two young women walking around with pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They hadn’t just dressed in 50s style fashion. They had dressed in black, white and shades of gray and had used body paint on their skin. They looked like they had just popped out of a black&white movie. Which, of course, was the point. I inquired how they made their pods and they explained it was made out of linoleum, duct tape and fiber-fill. And paint, of course. I didn’t get to hold one but they said they were pretty light. I’ve since filed that away for use in other costuming projects. Namely, the Garthim from Dark Crystal.

After we parted ways with the Verizon Guy Maggie and I headed downstairs to the bathroom. It actually probably took longer to take all the makeup off than it had to put it all on in the first place. Maggie had brought cold cream to add in the clean-up process but we had forgotten to bring washcloths with us. We ended up using horribly scratchy paper towels and my face was upset at me for most of the rest of the evening. As we finished taking the last little bit of makeup off Maggie checked the time. 6pm on the dot and time to pick up the heads from the car!

NGB awards for the first part of the day:
Funniest: Christmas Story bunny, who happened to be walking around drinking a beer at the moment we spotted him.
Most common: Hogwarts students
Best interaction with ours: Shaun of the Dead and Verizon Guy
Best random awesome find: Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China

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