MARCON (Multiple Alternative Realities Convention) was held at The Greater Columbus Convention Center in the heart of Downtown Columbus, Ohio. 2015 marked MARCON’s 50th anniversary! As such, the convention was full of guests, events, and memories enjoyed throughout the past 50 years of MARCON. As well as panels, exhibits, and events to usher in a new direction MARCON is looking to take in the next 50 years.
In 1966, MARCON started as a literary convention which focused on sci-fi literature. Over the years, it evolved into a multifaceted convention focusing mostly on sci-fi and fantasy, but all things that could be considered “alternative reality” soon fell in line. Throughout the years, MARCON has welcomed guests such as the Babylon 5 cast, Kevin Sorbo, Wizard’s of the Coast, Looney Labs, and Paizo.
Special Guests: NASA reporter John Getter and Astronaut Clayton Anderson
MARCON’s attendees took cosplay to an entirely new level. Creating life-sized daleks that roam the halls via remote control to a Tardis or two tempting passers by to walk on in. In the hall you will find Darth Vader with his Stormtroopers, Judge Dredd, every Disney princess imaginable, and about thirty depictions of Dr. Who. In the main hall of MARCON was “Jail and Bail”. A fun way MARCON raised money for their chosen charity, The Columbus Zoo. Also in the hall was a company called the “Sci-Fi Photo Guys”. They set up a blue-screen in which they let attendees stand in front of and they would photograph them in the Sci-Fi world of their desires. Be it Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr.Who, or just floating in space.
One of MARCON’s biggest claims to fame is it’s panels. This year, MARCON scheduled 250+ panels over a three day weekend. With subjects of every possible alternative reality discussion you can think of and titles such as “Empowering Women to Feel Comfortable In Gaming”, “How To Play A Role Playing Game”, “Cosplay Shame No No”, “Gripe Session with the Con-Chair(s)”, “MARCON Brainstorming”, “Who Has Time To Write”, “Why Sci-Fi”, “Living On Mars and Other Bad Ideas That Take Us Away From The Internet”, “Buffy Match Game”, and so on.
Marcon’s Most Unique Guest:….
Teatime With Deadpool
MARCON took a chance and tried something very new and very different to be part of their convention this year. They invited a group that puts on what is called “Teatime With Deadpool”. A tongue in cheek performer who goes to several cons dressed as Deadpool and puts on a show for con-goers 18 and over. Teatime With Deadpool has performed at Wizard World and also has had the pleasure to meet Stan Lee. This year, Teatime With Deadpool helped raise $300 for the Columbus Zoo via their stay in the Jail and Bail.
Here is a little more detail about Teatime With Deadpool:
It began with Deadpool. The “merc with a mouth” he brought laughter and chaos wherever he went, singing Disney tunes and Queen in the hallways when not leading his panel, ever the pied-piper as he raised con hall and Dealer’s Room volumes to the max with rowdy renditions of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The rooms would pack full of attendees wanting to be part of the fun.
He soon realized he needed a hype-man; someone with a voice as loud as his to help keep the crowd on their toes, to help segue between topics, and elevate the levels of witty banter. Someone who could be his ring announcer. Fortunately he knew just the man: Cyclops, whose voice earned him the place next to DP as the “Rod Roddy” to his “Bob Barker”, the “venerate of the regenerating degenerate”.
Long-time friend, rapper and tech-guy Cable was soon added and in 2014, as Spider-Man.
Joining forces with Deadpool, the TEAm went from small panels to Saturday night main events within months! Amassing an army of faithful fans who followed them from convention to convention! By the end of 2013, Tea Time was a featured event at conventions all across the state, packing rooms with every event! From Columbus Wizard World, to Midoricon– where they partied well into the early morning hours with hundreds of attendees. The TEAm could not be stopped.
Things reached a new high at Colossalcon 2014, where the show’s line wrapped almost entirely around the event room block, two hours in advance! Over 700 people witnessed the show. Within months the TEAm was back as the Saturday main event to the con’s “Fan Appreciation Weekend”, packing the room again! Shortly after, they were invited to return to Columbus Wizard World, topping out with over 1,200 audience members in attendance!
2015 promises to be another banner year. In their third event this year, Tea Time with Deadpool makes its Marcon debut!
Win prizes during “The Match Game”, get your up-to-the-minute news on comic book goings-on and movie updates, top-ten lists, “best of” movie synopsis of the worse the superhero movie genre has to offer, sidesplitting videos, and an experience you’re sure to tell your friends about! Come see what con-staff and attendees alike praise as “high-energy”, “inappropriately hilarious”, and “non-stop fun”- Tea Time with Deadpool!
A Tradition Revamped
Nick Winks, a long time member of the MARCON team passed away in January. Every year, Nick would help MARCON host a human chess game. In this game, they use volunteers from all over the convention to play the pieces of the game. People would call out the moves and the game would be played as a traditional chess game. In his memory, the chess game was again performed… with a few slight alterations.
This year, MARCON’s Game Department spiced things up a bit and brought in the foam fighting group, Amtgard to host the chess game. Amtgard turned the game from the traditional chess game to a live action battle chess where the pieces fought to claim the squares. The game was unscripted and no one, even Amtgard, knew the outcome of the game until the final battle between the King and his possible captor. In this particular game, the triumph came down to Sir Juicy of the Red (side) defeating Sir Thorvald of the Blue (side) in the great battle of kings.
Amtgard is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that is dedicated to the recreation of the Sword and Sorcery genre as well as educational aspects of both Medieval and Ancient cultures. Amtgard focuses largely on a Medieval-based combat system but also encompasses the arts and sciences of the time, in a friendly, social atmosphere. Amtgard uses safe, foam-padded replicas of Medieval weaponry. Amtgard had a presence in the gaming department of MARCON and hosted training and tournaments for convention attendees to participate in throughout the weekend.
A Tradition Returns
For many years, MARCON invited a local Vampire The Masquerade LARP (Live Action Role Play) group to bring their game into the convention for the weekend. In previous years, these players were welcome to use the entire convention center and even the Hyatt hotel in which to play a fully imaginative game, rich with storyline and twisting plots. Somewhere along the line, however, this tradition fell away and the VtM LARP stopped attending. Taking with them something MARCON prides themselves on… the imagination that comes with open, continual game play.
Vampire the Masquerade is a role playing game using a D10 system developed in the 90’s by White Wolf. In Vampire, players find themselves cursed (or blessed?) with the immortal life of a vampire. Throughout the game characters desperately seek to retain their sense of self, humanity, and sanity. All while struggling through the politics and oppression often times dealt by the hands of their own kind. Where in other forms of RPG’s the line between good and evil are most often easily seen. Not in VtM. Everyone already is a monster. The struggle is holding on to what little humanity one has left. Some players happily let that go and explore areas of themselves most people would fear to even attempt.
Mind’s Eye Theater is Vampire the Masquerade’s Live Action Role Play. Full of gestures and movement that cue their actions. There are no foam weapons or toy daggers in the Mind’s Eye Theater. Everything is just that, in the mind’s eye. Characters are as grand or as plain as the mind can create. (Characters in the photo from left to right: Brujah, Giovanni, and Ventrue).
This year, that tradition was reinstated as the MARCON game department contacted Columbus In Darkness to bring their Mind’s Eye Theater (Live Action Vampire Role Play) back. Columbus In Darkness is a globally connected troupe using White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade live action role playing game. They do not really drink blood, physically accost anyone, or test the limits of the venue’s good graces by acting like fools. They do have fun, test their own ability to act in improv situations, and try to come out of each night with as many good stories to tell down the road as they can.
Tournaments At MARCON
Magic the Gathering: There were four Magic the Gathering tournaments throughout the weekend. The first of which was played on Friday evening, a casual 60 using Legacy rules. Right after that was a pre-made tournament. Where players were handed a deck and asked to play with what was handed to them. Attendees seemed to like this form very much. On Saturday there was a Commander/EDH tournament where only two people showed. Which made first and second prize giving rather simple. The last tournament was held late Saturday night/early Sunday at 2:30 am. This tournament was originally a joke amongst the MARCON gaming staff, however, the more they considered it, the more fun they figured it would be to just try and see how it goes over. The tournament was a “No Holds Barred”. The ONLY rule for this tournament was that every card in the deck had to be real (no “proxies”). After this, nothing was restricted, banned, or limited. If they owned the cards, they were welcome to play with it. Surprisingly, this was the most popular of the tournaments. The winning deck used Tinker, Mox Opal, Sol Ring, Lightning Greaves, Seat of the Synod, and
Blightsteel Colossus. “I never got my Ornithopter”, he said.
Tanto Cuore: The only sanctioned tournament at MARCON was Tanto Cuore. Taka from Japanime Games was on site to set up and judge the tournament. For those who are unfamiliar with Tanto Cuore, it is a deck building game where the cards are maids you hire to work in your mansion. All the the maids do something different to help assist your deck. Some are private maids, some are maid chiefs, many are just simply maids. In order to earn points, you are to send maids into your private quarters or in other words, remove them from your deck. Be careful though, there are other mansion owners who will give the maids in your private quarters bad habits! Therefore causing your points to diminish. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.
The Time To Say Good-Bye
As I stated at the beginning of this article, MARCON has been running for 50 years. Several people on the MARCON staff have been working the convention for almost that long or what seems close to it. Over half of the traditional staff have decided MARCON 50 was their last MARCON and are stepping down from their posts. Along with them will be Kim, the con-chair for Marcon 50.
I sat down to ask her about her experiences as con-chair and her involvement with MARCON:
Question: How many years have you served as con-chair for Marcon?
Answer: Marcon 29 was my first convention – ever – I worked on Registration – it was the first year for both Shell, too. For the next 2 years I went to every convention I could. Mostly Midwest, but I managed at least one con on each coast. I went to Fan-ran, all volunteer Science Fiction Conventions. I have never bothered with DragonCon or ComicCons. I want to see conventions like Marcon so that’s what I went to (all sizes and shapes). Marcon 30 I was Department head of registration, Marcon 32 I was vice Chair and became main programming when the person who was doing it quit (in February). I was Programming Department Head again for Marcon 33 and then in Marcon 34 I was Chair (Shell was my Vice Chair). I was Chair for Marcon 35 and 36 too. Then again for 40, 45 and now 50. So, I guess that’s six times. I have also been Treasurer for 5 times and hotel liaison every year since Marcon 34.
Question: What made you decide to become the chair for such a large convention?
Answer: I didn’t choose “such a large convention”, I chose Marcon. It’s just grown (a lot) through the years. Of course, Marcon 36 was over 3,600 people, then 9/11 happened and the economic slow-down and attendance fell, now it’s growing again. It goes in cycles. But I love Marcon, in all its phases. It’s going to be hard to step away.
Question: How has Marcon survived for 50 years?
Answer: The Concom! There are some dedicated people who work for Marcon, and they come through in a pinch every time.
Question: What hopes do you have for Marcon’s future?
Answer: I hope it keeps going and going – like the Energizer Bunny on steroids. I hope Anime and Gaming grow, but do not take over the convention. I hope Media grows, but it could bankrupt the convention really fast (there’s that financial side of me talking again). I would like more science panels, to me Science Fiction is hard science with a left turn into imagination. Fantasy has “magic happens here”. Marcon has been the Midwest’s biggest fan-run science fiction AND fantasy convention for some time now. I am a collector of science fiction and fantasy artists and authors, so of course, more of those too! In order to stay solid, the concom is going to have to get a balance between us old -farts and the young fans (Traditional fans and younger fans to be PC, which I don’t think we have to be). If we ignore the “old guard” we’re going to leave much of our history behind, and they are the ones who have kept Marcon alive in some very lean years.
Question: What advice would you give to the con-chairs of other conventions?
Answer: Love the convention you are working. Don’t set out to be Chair, let it happen, it will. I am going to be one of the Co-Chairs for World Fantasy in Columbus in October of 2016 (I also had it in Columbus in 2010).
Try to go to a SMOFcon. Don’t talk about what you do, but go and listen to others, it’s a great chance to watch and learn.
Use good business sense (it means not being afraid to say no to your friends). Then go to a lot of conventions, see what they are about. Watch and Learn. The larger ones will have some things, but the smaller ones will have dedicated fans who keep them alive. Don’t try to be the biggest, just keep your convention solid.
Did I mention – Love your convention!
I believe I am going to end this article on that note. The note of reminding everyone to love your convention. Whether you are working Con-Chair or just attending for a day. Love it. Love your time with it.
Now in it’s 6th year C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo) has had it’s home in the windy city of Chicago. Held in the city’s convention center downtown, the McCormick Place. C2E2 is put together by ReedPOP which also runs New York Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, UFC Fan Expo and Penny Arcade Expo, so it’s […]
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…” J.R.R. Tolkien That’s the inspiration behind the name for Gamehole Con. In its third year, it has already graduated from a small hotel to a the Alliant Energy Convention Center. And since Gary Gygax himself started Dungeons & Dragons in March of 1974 in Lake […]
This past weekend, I attended ACen for the first time. ACen was actually one of the first anime conventions I ever heard of, but due to scheduling conflicts, financial issues, and other whatsits, I have never successfully made it up to ACen. Until now. ACen is an annual three-day anime convention located in Rosemont, Illinois…just […]