WAS MEGACON ORLANDO MEGA? OR A CON?

A few short weeks ago, I was fortunate to attend Orlando's biggest four-day convention extravaganza, Megacon! I've been going to Megacon for almost a decade now. While I could easily say that it was the best yet, I could also argue that some aspects of it were the worst I've ever experienced. As an extension of my thoughts and experiences, I've compiled a list of the pros and cons of Megacon 2022.

PRO: Cosplay And Costumes

Cosplayers were in full force from the streets to the south concourse red carpet runway this weekend. The Justice League was seen hanging out with Deadpool, Jedi and Sith dueled in the concourse with lightsabers in all colors, and every Spider-Man under the sun gathered together to take part in an amazing Spider-Verse photo shoot. It's always a delight to see people dress up as their favorite video game/film/anime characters and bring them to life in a captivating way. They work year-round on their cosplays, and it brings me great joy to see them being stopped to get their picture taken by fans who are amazed by all the effort they have put into their outfits.

Living my best life cosplaying as a Cog Soldier from my favorite game series Gears Of War.

CON: Parking

This year I am so glad that I booked a hotel that was within walking distance of the convention because parking was an absolute nightmare. On Saturday, Megacons official social media accounts were flooded with negative comments and refund requests due to a lack of parking spaces. Several fans were stuck in traffic for up to four hours only to get turned around due to no available parking. If the organizers want to do better next year, they either need to provide more parking spaces or cap off ticket sales after a certain number has been reached.

PRO: Guest LineUp

The all-star lineup of celebrities and voice actors at Megacon was, without a doubt, its defining feature. Fans traveled from around the world to meet their favorite stars and take pictures with them. There were several celebrities in attendance, including Brendan Fraser (The Mummy), Nathan Fillion (Con-Man, Firefly), William Zabka (Karate Kid, Cobra Kai), and even WWE Legend The Undertaker. Several amazing voice actors were also present at the event, including the Dragon Ball Z heroes Sean Schemmel (Goku) and Christopher Sabat (Vegeta), as well as the legend that is Kevin Conroy (Batman), and the Master Chief himself, Steve Downes. Lastly, all four Hobbits from The Lord Of The Rings also made a special appearance. I was able to relive my childhood dream of meeting the heroes I had grown up reading about in books and watching in films. It was a rather magical experience for me, I'd say.

You could tell my child wanted to be on the other side.

CON: Hobbit Lines

So I was one of many that purchased a ticket bundle where I was granted a photo op and signature from all four Hobbits; it doesn't sound too difficult to obtain, right? WRONG! When you bought the bundle, you would think all four autographs could be obtained at once, but that was not the case. There was a line for each of their tables, and you had to wait hours just to reach the front of the line. Several people failed to get the autographs they pre-purchased by the end of the two days that the Hobbits appeared due to the long and unorganized lines. If I hadn't been extremely lucky with how I planned my trip, I would have been one of those poor unfortunate souls. Of the four lines I waited in, the longest one lasted four hours, while the shortest was an hour and a half. It was even more difficult because the talent was either breaking for lunch or had to do a panel or photo op every 45 minutes. The situation wasn't made any better by the fact that a majority of the staff working there didn't know when or if the signings would resume. It got to the point where some crew members were asking those in line when the celebrities would return. My disappointment has nothing to do with the talent, but with how the bundles and lines were organized. If you paid for a special package, they should have at least grouped those with it together in its own line and allowed a time slot for them.

PRO: Artist Alley 

It's always a treat to see all the incredible artwork talented artists display at conventions. Every year at Megacon, I never seem to be disappointed. I find a few shops that stand out among the rest and amaze me with their creativity. As I was walking through the exhibit hall on the first day of the con, I discovered a shop named Ali Wagner Sculpts. My wife Taylor and I bought quite a few of their gorgeous handcrafted figurines on custom-painted canvases. We look forward to purchasing more as soon as we can to add to our growing collection! With an impressive array of beautiful artwork available for a great price, Rossome Designs is sure to leave you speechless with an abundant amount of designs from Marvel, Disney, and countless other brands. The one booth Taylor looks forward to seeing every year is Studio Hadley. Artist Mark Hadley has some of the most fascinating artwork out there. His pieces are both beautiful and spooky at the same time, and it works! All three of these artists are unbelievably talented at what they do and deserve some serious love, so please do me a solid and support them by giving them a follow on their socials.

Magnificent artwork from Ali Wagner Sculpts (Top left), Rossome Designs (Top Right), and Studio Hadley (Bottom).

CON: Overbooked On Saturday 

To put it simply, Saturday was a disaster. There should have been a cap on how many attendees were allowed on that day. Guests were constantly arriving on the show floor, elbow to elbow, as crowds piled in by the minute. There were still hundreds awaiting parking outside, trying to get in. On top of that, the website was still selling tickets for the event on that day. Although I am aware that Saturdays are usually the busiest and most crowded days of the convention, I have never encountered a situation this horrible in all my previous experiences at this convention or any other.

Taking everything into consideration, Megacon Orlando 2022 had its ups and downs. Yes, parking was difficult, crowds were excessive, and how they handled celebrity lines was less than pleasant. In no way do I intend to discourage you from experiencing all that it has to offer. In my opinion, there is nothing quite like the feeling you get walking into the con for the first time on opening day and being exposed to all the crazy, fun-filled adventures that await. With a variety of artwork to browse through and the creativity of cosplayers to marvel at, you are sure to have a wonderful time taking part in the convention. Despite its shortcomings, no con is without flaws, so don't let it stop you from unleashing your inner nerd!

Enjoy some photos from my experiences at Megacon, including a few of my cosplays and some awesome artwork.

Did you attend Megacon Orlando this year? Will you be attending any other cons in the near future? Share your thoughts down below in the comments.

Mjolnir Perfect: Halo The Series Episode 1 Impressions

Halo The Series orbital dropped on Paramount + yesterday, and from a long-time Halo fan to you, it landed with a wondrous bang! Here is what I thought of this much-anticipated entry into the Halo Universe. 

Hint: There will be spoilers

Within six minutes, Halo The Series establishes a brutal and violent universe where the Covenant (a collection of alien species) are an extreme threat to humanity. I don't know why, but the sudden and intense level of gore in a TV-14 rated show surprised the heck out of me. In a post Game of Thrones world, this is a smart move to show fans and newcomers alike that those behind the show are taking this serious. The last thing I would have wanted from a Halo show is “The CW” version that is overly dramatized with no weight or stakes to the conflict.

Silver Team on the move

Halo The Series is an alternate timeline take on the story, setting, and characters of the games and not a retelling. Similarly to how J.J. Abrams' latest Star Trek films used the same characters but told a different story with an alternate dimension scope. Let’s be honest there is no way they could have captured the true Steve Downes (the voice of Master Chief in the games) version of Spartan 117 on-screen. The choice to have John take off his helmet and show his face early helps us as an audience connect with him emotionally. Unlike a video game where we embody the chief and get to know him by being him, we needed to see his face for a television show. Show star and Master Chief actor Pablo Schreiber says it best on the Halo Declassified aftershow, “ … the video game is a first-person shooter, and they treat the character in one way because (of) the nature of the medium. Television is a very different medium and what works for a video game is very different than what works for tv.” 

Master Chief

The Series does an excellent job of establishing the universe, the Covenant, the UNSC, and how these all relate to each other while separating itself from the story of the games just enough so that it is unique. In the first episode, “Contact,” Spartan 117, along with Silver Team (an equivalent to Blue Team, Master Chief’s unit in the books and games), fight off a group of Covenant Elites (Sangheili) from a rebel base on planet Madrigal. Madrigal is a colonist planet in deep space that is home to a small group of humans that are fighting for independence from the UNSC. After the Spartans dispatch the attackers with righteous fury (and lots of satisfying and gory headshots), they find that the Elites have uncovered what looks like a Forerunner artifact that, upon touching it, causes Master Chief to have “a vision,” as he explains to Dr. Halsey, the creator of the Spartan program. This is the start of a story that, as a Halo fan, I was really hoping for from any Halo movie or show. 

As of now, in this version of Halo, the Spartans are a fairly new set of soldiers and, as such, are essentially brainwashed supersoldiers. After John 117 touches the forerunner artifact, he is snapped from his “programming” and starts to think for himself. Opening the door to not only the Master Chief as we know him, but exploring what subjects of the original Spartan-II program went through as told in the Halo novel Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund.

The Spartan program was started on the planet Reach, and in the show, the UNSC is headquartered there. The timelines are a little blurry between the show and games, but this would indicate that the show is set before the fall of Reach, before Halo, and before Master Chief meets Cortana, which is hinted at as an upcoming event in the show. Operating out of Reach are Dr. Halsey, the scientist behind the Spartan Program, and Cortana, Miranda Keyes, a young Lieutenant in the UNSC and specialist on the Covenant, and Miranda’s father, Captain Keyes, seemingly in charge of the Reach headquarters. A variant from the games here is that Dr. Halsey is Miranda Keyes's mother in this setting. New faces include Kwon, a rebel girl who lost everything, Silver Team Spartans Kai, Riz, and Vannak. Along with a mysterious girl working with the Covenant named Makee.

Let me tell you, right now, everything shown and heard looks great and feels true to the video games. The Spartans presence is powerful as each member gets a spotlight to show how skilled and badass they are. The Elites look incredibly menacing and almost identical to the games. They even refer to the Chief as Demon. The only other race from the Covenant we see in episode one is the Prophets (San'Shyuum) which also look amazing and true to form. I can not wait to see the Grunts on screen. I also think it was smart not to include them in this first episode as they tend to be a bit of comic relief and would have probably undermined the episode’s tone. Fans will also recognize many sounds right from the games, including the energy shield warning and recharge (check video below) and the ever classic Elite grunt “Wart Wart Wart.” 

Although I could have used a lot more of the Halo theme and wished it was part of the opening, I dare you not to get goosebumps when you hear the Gregorian chant cleverly placed into a scene. Maybe, they will use the theme more and more as the show progresses. Maybe they will have an amazing revelation that crescendo’s with the Halo theme and every Halo fan and myself will explode with exhilaration! … ehem, sorry I got a little excited. If that is the case, then I am ok that they haven’t used it yet.

Was it just me, or might there have been a Mass Effect reference easter egg? At one point in the later half of the show, an announcement can be heard in the UNSC headquarters requesting Commander Shepherd to report to a Skillian Response Center, which seems like a clear reference to the beloved space epic RPG.

Ultimately I am delighted with what I have experienced thus far, a new and unique narrative that has the ability to pull from the known lore but also play with it and keep us guessing. Rather than try to replicate the game’s story one-to-one or give us something that is unrecognizable as Halo other than in name, I am ready to “Shut Up and Get Behind Me…Sir”

What did you think of the first episode of Halo The Series?

Be sure to watch the Trailer Talk reaction video for the Halo trailer to see what some of our early predictions and hopes were.