This is no typical comic convention.
Atomacon is Charleston's multi-genre three-day festival for the fan of everything from Mario Kart to ghost hunters. It's got a literary and film element, there's an entire room dedicated to console gaming, and "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" will both be thoroughly represented through a variety of sci-fi panels during the long weekend.
Atomacon, which stands for "All Types of Media Art Convention," was founded a little over five years ago by Janet Iannantuono, a lifelong "Star Wars" fan and collector, whose obsession began with the original 1977 movie release.
"My mom was a big Elvis fan and she collected a lot of Elvis things," Iannantuono says. "I got the collector gene. It started off with comics and newspaper ads and then training cards and bubblegum cards back when they actually had bubblegum in them. Then, it was 'Star Wars' action figures and special editions."
She then got into the Southeastern convention circuit in 1996, when she attended her very first Atlanta DragonCon, another multi-genre festival that includes everything from cosplay to video gaming to a pop art show. "Star Wars" actor Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) attended that year.
While she didn't get the chance to meet him, she did participate in the "Star Wars" programming and had a few ideas on how to improve it. She made the mistake of voicing those suggestions aloud, and before she knew it, she had volunteered as assistant director.
She did that, and assisted with other conventions, for almost two decades before starting her own convention, Atomacon, in Charleston. It was created to fill a void in the state.
"We have plenty of comic conventions, but no multi-genre conventions," Iannantuono says. "Most people are like me: They may be a big 'Star Wars' fan but also like 'Star Trek' and Marvel and DC superheroes and all kinds of sci-fi books and even paranormal stuff like ghost hunter TV shows. We have a little bit of everything, something for everybody."
The 5th annual three-day festival, which draws between 500 and 1,500 attendees, will take place Nov. 30-Dec. 2 at the Hilton Garden Inn on International Blvd. in North Charleston. "Star Wars" author Jason Fry will be the guest of honor. He'll be part of a Q&A, a few panels and "Star Wars" trivia.
"We want it to be a size where it’s still very friendly and you’re able to actually talk with authors and spend quality time with them and guests rather than waiting in line for two hours to get a $100 autograph," Iannantuono says. "It's more of a social-type convention."
Atomacon mostly consists of panels, which take place simultaneously on a variety of subjects, from technology to literature, throughout the weekend. Some of this year's topics are "Stranger Things" and "How To Get Published."
But it also has several interactive elements, like trivia, fiction writing workshops and cosplay contests. There's a gaming room, which will be set up with sanctioned Pokemon Nintendo DS and Mario Kart tournaments.
This is the first year that an independent film festival element will be incorporated, managed by Iannantuono's daughter Michelle, a filmmaker herself.
"She's been writing since she was, like, 2," says Iannantuono. "And she got her first camera when she was 13."
Now, her latest feature "Livescream" has garnered film festival awards from across the country. It will be one of the independent movies shown at Atomacon.
The convention is not for profit. All proceeds are used to pay for the rental of the hotel hall space and for the following year's convention. It's a passion project for the Iannantuono family. Janet's parents, who are in their 70s, help hand out passes to attendees.
"They're almost as big of geeks as me and Michelle," Iannantuono says with a laugh. "It's a true family affair."
For a full schedule of events and panels, to purchase tickets and for more information, visit atomacon.org.