Milwaukee is flush with celebrations during the summer, ranging from big lakefront ordeals to neighborhood events full of carny food. That leaves a lot of time to fill the rest of the year, with recent summers being roughly the length of an extra-long-play cassette tape. This year, however, has seen a resurgence in the nerd convention. Three new cons joined the Midwinter Gaming Convention and Anime Milwaukee this year, looking to distract those who fear the Daystar with costumes, vendors, and important philosophical questions about who was the superior Starfleet commander. One of those conventions, Fantasticon, takes place this weekend, October 24-26, at the Crowne Plaza and Ramada Plaza hotels near the airport.
“Milwaukee is one of the most passionate geek cities in America, and gets no comic con of its own due to its proximity to Chicago,” says Michael Bollow, founder of Fantasticon. “The corporate cons turn away, but it took a fan like me to say ‘Let’s put on a show where we will be appreciated.’”
Conventions often struggle for the first few years finding good guests, but Fantasticon’s lineup is strong out of the gate. John Barrowman, the guest of honor, has memorable roles in both storied sci-fi franchise Doctor Who and better-than-it-should-be comic book show Arrow. He’s joined by young stars from the CW—Caity Lotz and Chad Rook—as well as the usual suspects of professional wrestlers (“Mean Gene” Okerlund!), local comic book artists, and reality show contestants.
Local nerd stores Board Game Barrister and The Game Store are pitching in with giant gaming rooms for those looking to try out the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons released this summer, or see if Sentinels Of The Multiverse is really that fun. (Spoiler: they’re both fun.) There are also a variety of panels for those looking to Kickstart their comic book, argue about Doctor Who canon, or speculate about the next Star Wars movie in person rather than a comment board. Exhibitors offer a chance to stock up on back issues (or trades for the unwashed), talk with fans of multiple shows, and interact with artists directly instead of the strange fog of Etsy.
Tickets are $20 on Friday, $30 on Saturday, $25 on Sunday, or $65 for a whole weekend pass. VIP tickets are also available for parties featuring appearances by the guests, though the one with Barrowman is already sold out. The guests also charge for photo opportunities and autographs. Prices may vary, and the guests only take cash, so leave your Republic Credits at home.
Bollow is looking to the future, too. Fantasticon is already booked for next year, moving into the MidwestDelta Wisconsin Center and partnering with the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour for an even bigger show. “It may not happen next year but it will happen,” teases Bollow. “I want a parade. One of my favorite things about Dragon Con is the parade. Milwaukee is such a vibrant city and they LOVE parades. Imagine all the streets blocked off for 200 stormtroopers.”