Dublin Comic Con is a true success story.
Begun in 2013, it’s the driving force in an almost overnight explosion in SF and fantasy fandom, and particularly cosplay in Ireland. Back then it was a brave gamble; the brainchild of a small group of fans who held a belief that there was a market in Ireland for the types of cons and events seen across the US and UK, and a willingness to put their necks on the line in the hopes that they were right.
Ultimately, it was such a success that the main complaint was from people who showed up to buy tickets on the day only to find it had sold out so completely that they couldn’t get in. This fact they eagerly took to the internet to moan had never happened at an Irish convention before.
The following year, possibly concerned that initial popularity was a fluke, or would fade, DCC was held in the same, reasonably modest, space on an edge of Dublin dominated by the airport and a myriad of industrial estates. As of last year they were ready to make the jump to the Convention Centre Dublin, a space twice the size and nestled in the heart of the city itself. This year, another achievement has been unlocked. They’re still in the CCD but this time they’ll have full command of the cavernous central theatre for the panels and shows.
This made for by far the biggest DCC yet, with well over 16,000 fans through the doors over the two days. That may be just over 1% of San Diego’s footfall, but in a country with the population of Louisiana (or, if you like, British Columbia) and an event in its third year, it was massive. It had a transformative effect on the whole city, from the Margery Tyrell and Lara Croft spotted on the city’s main thoroughfare running from an unexpected rain shower (a nearby Kaylee had a handy parasol) to the father I chatted to on the tram – who had rushed out to buy a cheap Spider-Man fancy dress outfit and tickets for himself and his son once he saw the fun going on in town.
But DCC has grown in more than just numbers. 2015 was headlined by Michael Rooker, star of Mallrats, The Walking Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy and dozens of others. He was a total hoot, with one photo request somehow turning into him holding the attendee upside down in a mock pile driver. Another time, when I was having my photograph taken with Jabba the Hutt by a helpful stranger (as you do), her daughter suddenly ran up to her and, between what could have been sobs or laughs, said something about “he just grabbed me” and “he was hugging me.” Unsure if this was a good story or a bad story, it was a relief when she proclaimed “I’M SO HAPPY!”
It was, of course, Rooker at play again. Aided and abetted by the mischievous Irish Pubcast crew, who moderated all the guest panels, he spread raucous, hilarious, chaos wherever he went. At the end of the weekend, he departed back to the States with, somehow, an Irish policeman’s hat and a suitcase full of Cadbury’s Flakes chocolate bars (apparently these aren’t sold in North America, which is why I could never live there). But also with the hearts of thousands of Irish fans.
Other top guests included Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon and Emma Caulfield (the latter, of course, also known to AbbyShot readers from her turn on Once Upon a Time). Brendon, especially, was remarkably kind and generous with his time, making a fuss over my niece, there for her 16th birthday, and pulling the entire family into a group hug and photo. Steve Cardenas, the Mighty Morphin’ Red Power Ranger himself, also caused a stir – if only for the truly heroic efforts one group of cosplayers went to in order to assemble an entire team of Rangers to greet him.
This year DCC is maintaining the same high bar, with another Walking Dead alumnus, Scot Wilson, bringing some of Hershel’s folksy wisdom to the emerald isle.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of DCC’s growth has been how they’ve grown the comic book professional and art side of the con as well, rather than pushing it to the side as would have been so easy. There was a focus on Irish companies and creators, too, in the con’s Artists’ Alley and it was great to see indie creators like Lightning Strikes sitting among international legends like David Lloyd and Simon Furman last year, and back again alongside iconic TMNT creator Kevin Eastman.
A further strength of DCC has always been their fantastic sets and backdrops for photos, and the volunteer ‘official’ cosplayers who form part of the experience. There’s an understandable Walking Dead slant with some superb recreations of the iconic “DON’T OPEN. DEAD INSIDE” hospital door, and last year a prison yard that came complete with walkers ready to wander up to anyone who strayed too close to their fence, looking for brains. But there was also a small jungle patrolled by a trio of fully suited up Predators, an interactive LV-426 where a Space Marine would shepherd you past Xenomorphs and cocooned victims, pleading for help, and many more sets besides, from Gotham City to a Fallout shelter. Every year, new sets are added and existing ones upgraded and improved, with teases of what new treasures are in store, via their Facebook and Twitter accounts, as much a part of the anticipation as planning and crafting a new cosplay.
The Emerald Garrison, Ireland’s section of the 501st Star Wars cosplay club are also DCC regulars, bringing with them the likes of Jabba’s palace, Death Star corridors alongside various Sith Lords, Wookies, Jedi and Stormtroopers to patrol the crowds. A charitable organization collecting for various excellent causes, they’re guaranteed to put a smile on many fans faces, child and adult alike. And with First Order Stormtroopers, Kylo Ren and Rey added to their number since Force Awakens’ debut, they’ll be more of a crowd pleaser than ever this year.
Similarly, the “Wasteland Carnival” presented punters with a series of carney style games on the theme of Wasteland and Fallout, complete with a full sized Fallout shelter door, and it raised over €1,000 for charity over the two days.
Any issues DCC has as it expands are largely the inevitable consequence of a con growing so large and attracting such a large mainstream crowd. With thousands of Not-We, to borrow a Doctor Who phrase, in attendance there will always be some who will express shock and outrage at the fact that there were queues, and guests charging for their autograph, and then not even sitting down for a biscuit and a twenty minute chat with you about your cat. All such complaints can be dismissed, I think, with a simple “Hello, welcome to the world of comic conventions!” By the same token, inexperienced con-goers, too amazed by what’s in front of them to spread out, can clog the entry hall badly at the start of each day while those of us who’d ridden this rodeo before retreat to the top floor to let things settle down a little.
More than anything, DCC is a con that rests on the shoulders of its noble staff. The author David Gerrold has said that convention volunteers are the true heroes of fandom, though the 95% that goes right is largely forgotten in favour of discussion of the 5% that was less than perfect. He was talking about WorldCon but the same applies here. Dublin Comic Con is an obvious labour of love, held together by volunteers who are never less than helpful, friendly and energetic. They can’t be thanked or appreciated enough.
Dublin Comic Con is a jewel in the crown of Irish fandom and a massive pleasure to attend. If you’re in Ireland this August 6th and 7th, you owe it to yourself to come along. Even if you’re coming from further away, it will be worth the trip. And, on top of everything else, this year DCC coincides with the opening weekend of Suicide Squad. With a multiplex only ten minutes walk from the convention centre, you just know the next screening after the con’s doors close with be knee deep in Harley Quinns and Batmen and wonderfully bonkers fun.
Dublin Comic Con 2016 is being held at Convention Centre Dublin, Spencer Dock, Dublin, Ireland on August 6th and 7th.
Tickets available at
By: Peter Nolan