Geekiness is fluid. Ask around.
Comic books — sure, most people would agree that’s geeky. Sci-fi: yeah, that’s geeky. Wrestling? There’s a geek element to that, too. Video games? Anime? Cosplaying? Fantasy? Probably. Yes. Definitely.
But TV comedies? In a way, yes. Or at least many, like the American version of “The Office,” have developed cult fandoms, thanks to streaming services, says Sandy Martin.
Martin is co-founder of GalaxyCon, a fan convention whose aim is to bring those geeky interests together under one roof, even as fandoms evolve and expand with technology. From July 25-28, there will be a slew of personalities from all of those worlds — and yes, “The Office” — at the Raleigh Convention Center and nearby venues.
“I think Netflix is kind of changing the game of fandom. Anything someone’s willing to binge for four to eight hours a day, several days a week…” Martin begins, trailing off, considering what it all means. “I wonder if Netflix is creating fandoms because of binging culture.”
Whatever one calls it, fans’ passions for specific corners of pop culture drives conventions like GalaxyCon (formerly known as Supercon), which have panels, autograph sessions, screenings, collectibles, and plenty of opportunities to fanboy (and fangirl) in costume.
Locally, there are longstanding comic book conventions, like the NC Comicon, and established Anime conventions, like Animazement, not to mention smaller cons for an array of other subcultures.
“Our whole approach is about diversity and inclusivity of geekdoms,” Martin tells The News & Observer. “We really try to break down barriers between the geekdoms.”
The heart of GalaxyCon, and for many its primary draw, is a stacked lineup of celebrity guests. This year’s roster includes George Takei, Tim Curry, Ron Perlman, John Cusack, John Cleese (with a livestream Q&A) and Pauly Shore, among dozens of others. (Check the GalaxyCon schedule for last-minute changes to celebrity appearances.)
Cast members from sci-fi franchises “Star Trek” (Takei, Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes); “Battlestar Galactica” (Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell); and “Dr. Who” (David Tennant, Catherine Tate) are scheduled to appear, as are professional wrestlers, voice actors, “Rocky Horror Picture Show” cast members and actors from “The Office.” (Look for Meredith, Creed, Stanley and Nellie — Tate doing double duty).
Attractions include cosplay wrestling, in which pro wrestlers dressed as fictional characters like Skeletor, Black Panther, Spider-Gwen and Bane, duke it out.
During GalaxyCon, the floor of the Raleigh Convention Center is packed with vendors selling collectibles, comics, vintage toys and props on one side and celebrities selling autographs and photo ops on the other. Autograph prices vary per celebrity.
Cosplaying attendees — dressed as everything from superheroes to real-life pop culture figures like Bob Ross or Hunter S. Thompson — wander the con, and typically are happy to be in photos if asked. (But don’t touch a cosplayer’s outfit without permission. That’s a no-no!).
This year, GalaxyCon has expanded its footprint to include the downtown Marriott, which hosts video gaming, and the downtown Sheraton, which hosts tabletop gaming.
The GalaxyCon street festival takes up one block of Cabarrus, though this year nearly saw a full-blown street festival. GalaxyCon was approved to close Fayetteville Street on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the approval came only weeks before the event — not enough time, Martin says, to plan something worthy. So she kept the outdoor elements to Cabarrus, but is thinking ahead to 2020.
“We’ve never done a real street festival, not to the level that Raleigh knows a street festival, and I wouldn’t want to do a halfway job on that,” Martin says. “Next year we plan on expanding and having a real solid plan in advance for what to do on Fayetteville.”
This is GalaxyCon’s third year in Raleigh, but its first under the new identity. In March, Martin and husband Mike Broder, owners of the multi-city convention, sold the Supercon name. Florida Supercon has been held in south Florida since 2006, yet Miami — its most recent home — has become a challenging place to oversee a convention, Martin said.
It was time for a bigger company to run it, Martin says. So she and Broder sold the Supercon name, but needed a fresh title with just months to go before the Raleigh event.
GalaxyCon, one of Broder’s early suggestions, fits the spirit of including a galaxy of different fandoms, Martin says. Appropriately, GalaxyCon aims to be an enormous umbrella, and even Martin’s not entirely sure where it ends.
Even though traditional sports has a long tradition of trading card culture, GalaxyCon doesn’t book athletes. There are numerous pro wrestling guests, though wrestling’s fandom culture parallels that of comic book or sci-fi fandom, with wrestling-specific cons like The Gathering in Charlotte and WrestleCade in Winston-Salem.
“Fandom is a tricky thing to try to evaluate for a show,” says Martin. “Anything … that has a strong fan base, I think now we’re seeing is something that people want to have at a show like ours.”
What: GalaxyCon Raleigh
When: July 25-28
Where: Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, and surrounding blocks
Cost: $20, July 25; $30, July 26; Sold out July 27 daytime; $40 July 27 after dark (after 4 p.m.); $40 July 28. Kids 9 and under free.