There’s more than corn in Indiana based on the variety of fellow nerds at Indy PopCon last weekend! Held at the Indiana Convention Center on June 7-9, PopCon held its seventh annual event in Indianapolis. All three days featured celebrity Q&A panels, photo ops, autographs, an array of fan-led panels, and a vendor room. Activities like escape rooms, costume contests, gaming rooms, and after-parties were also on hand to appeal to the hearts of Midwestern nerds. Myself and fellow Nerds and Beyond writer, Michelle Moats, were there on Saturday and these were some of our favorite moments.
There were quite a few celebrities from film, television and comic book fame that attended this convention. The headliners were Kevin Sussman, ( The Big Bang Theory), Dot-Marie Jones (Glee), Asher Angel (Shazam!) and voice actor Phil Lamarr (Futurama, Star Wars-Rebels). Justin Roiland, the co-creator and executive producer of animated series Rick and Morty was also there along with John Glover, better known to Smallville fans as Lionel Luthor, Lex’s sinister father. Glover is also known for his voiceover work for Batman, the Animated Series. Paul Soter and Erik Stolhanske of Super Troopers fame were in attendance as well.
I am a big fan of The Big Bang Theory, so seeing Kevin Sussman was a treat. As loveable loser and comic bookstore owner Stuart, Sussman brought the awkward geek persona to life. He talked about how he got the part of Stuart, appealing to Chuck Lorre (creator of TBBT) after he saw Kevin in CSI as a comedy writer with a penchant for murder. Sussman shared stories about the series such as how Stuart was supposed to be the ‘straight man’ to the nerdy and hilarious foursome of Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard but after he flubbed a line by awkwardly stuttering, Chuck loved it, called cut, and Stuart’s awkwardness became permanent. When asked about being emotional for the final episode, Kevin said he isn’t normally an emotional person and thought he wouldn’t cry during the last week but he cried within the first ten minutes of the table read for the series finale. He talked about his fellow actors on the show, how much he loved working with them, and where he would have wanted to see Stuart’s story go. Kevin spoke with great admiration and gratitude for having the opportunity to play Stuart for as long as he did.
Much like other fan conventions, PopCon was filled with cosplayers from many different genres. We saw everything from Hellboy to Captain Marvel to Batman. Captain America was holding Thor’s hammer while taking photos with fans because why not? When we stopped for a bite to eat, a group of cosplayers all dressed as Spiderman danced by in a conga line. But the convention wasn’t just comic book character cosplayers as Star Wars had representation as well. From Boba Fett to Rey, and many Storm Troopers guarding the vendor room, you could see Star Wars everywhere you looked. We also ran into two different people dressed as Michael Myers from Halloween, and each one was alone, stalking the crowd with a knife, and not speaking. *shudder*. Overall, the cosplayers were on point and very creative.
I loved Glee back in the day so I wasn’t about to miss seeing Dot-Marie Jones. Not only is she a talented actor but turns out she’s also a funny, engaging speaker. We attended her panel Saturday morning where she answered fans’ questions about acting, her family, and her journey to a career in entertainment. Jones is well known for her portrayal of Coach Beiste on Glee. She shared how she became a series regular and expressed appreciation for Glee producer, Ryan Murphy, for giving her the opportunity. She also expressed fondness for Norman Reedus who she worked with in the 1999 film, The Boondock Saints, long before his Walking Dead fame.
It was a surprise to learn that Jones worked in a correctional facility before pursuing a career in entertainment. She told the story of how she went from an officer at a juvenile correctional facility to an unexpected audition for a TV game show. Producers were looking for strong, athletic females and Jones landed the role. That opened the door for other opportunities in the industry and she has maintained a steady, successful career in entertainment since.
Her panel wasn’t just work-related stories. Jones also relayed some cute anecdotes about her family. Her wife was in the audience and together they shared the sweet story of their marriage proposal where Jones popped the question in front of the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland.
Panels didn’t just feature celebrities. Each day, fans held discussion panels and workshops on a variety of fandom related subjects. Time constraints wouldn’t allow us to attend any of these panels but from the looks of the weekend schedule, we missed some good ones. Some related to social issues and fandom, including discussions about mental health and improv and the representation of African Americans in video games. Others were industry related like learning how to write superhero fiction and how to write and perform skits. One panel I’m especially sorry we missed was on fan fiction titled, “Writing Smut for Fun and Profit”. That one came with an adults-only warning!
It wouldn’t be a fan convention without a vendor room. This is one of the best places to see all the creative cosplay. It’s also where you can buy all kinds of cool stuff. Everything from jewelry, artwork, clothing, and prop replicas was there – you name it, you could probably buy it. Whether you’re into sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes, horror, or anime, somebody was likely selling something that represented your fandom of choice. The most unique vendor booth was a photography “set” decked out with a dinner table surrounded by favorite horror movie characters like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Chucky. You could get a “family photo” taken and go home with an 8×10 print of you and your creepiest “relatives”. We opted out of the family horror experience, but we did walk away with posters of some of our faves instead.
The Midwest isn’t thought of as a particularly relevant place for fandom fun but just like everywhere else, there are lots of nerds here! PopCon is one of several events in the Indy area that showcase the passion and creativity of fans, proving that nerd culture isn’t limited to a geographic location. Check out PopCon next year to experience it for yourself!