Words: Garnet Nagato + Photography: All + Video Editing: Sherif Badr, Kevan Kase, Dwayne Fundano
Over the weekend Atomic Lollipop made its fifth appearance at the Ontario Science Centre. Billed as a geek festival, Atomic Lollipop is really a pot-pourri of all that constitutes nerd culture, from anime kitsch and cosplay to Disney song singalongs and internet irreverence. In truth it is difficult to describe. Even the Crap Advice Guy was there.
There was the ramen eating contest, won by the unassuming ‘Anthony’ (really, I should have entered). There was the Pokeyman Challenge, where people who don’t know Pokemon draw Pokemon from vague descriptions from an expert panel from the audience (the Jynx was oddly spot on). There were a wide range of DIY classes, from activism to crafts. There was competitive fanfiction, where Raditz discovered what his genitals could do, in what was described as ‘fifty shades of filth.’ The list of events and panels was exhaustive. In all this there was the contrast between location and event; the juxtapositioning of the stodgy and brutalist architecture of the Ontario Science Centre and the general irreverence of - oh I don’t know, what example do I choose? - Ms. Frizzle stripping down in the 90’s themed burlesque show (this may have drawn the largest crowd).
Which leads to the strong undercurrent of sexuality, from the examinations of the tropes of queer anime, to the age old question of ‘who is my ideal waifu?’ that yoked the serious and the profane, but nevertheless provided a platform to explore these subjects. And with an audience largely in their 20’s, the retro often provided the avenue for the not-so-subtle melding of their childhoods and the sexualities that they could be more overt about now as adults.
Oh and the music. There was a retro music dance party which really does beg the question: what is ‘retro’ anyways? The Tupperware Remix Party were probably best in show with their electro pop and whatever the hell they were wearing. But while Elijah Wood DJing a set was exciting, really, we were here for Prozzӓk (in spite of the excellence of the TWRP). Reunited after a long sabbatical, the cartoon duo were the biggest treat from the weekend. They started the nostalgia off with ‘Strange Disease’ and proceeded to run through a set list that, in retrospect, was a pretty impressive musical canon for a band of such short tenure. They even allowed a Milo faced fan onto stage. Garnet Nagato has since dusted off his Hot Show album and put it back in the car CD player, where it belongs.
There are other conventions out there for sure, but (and talking to some of the artists in the marketplace seemed to confirm this) Atomic Lollipop is decidedly younger, fresher and maybe captures the essence of nerd culture better than other conventions I’ve been to. It is less polished (and this is not a bad thing), more organic in execution. There is the conspicuous absence of large corporations for that matter, no Marvel, no EA, little promotion. Come to think of it, Face to Face Games must have been the largest organized presence there. The commercial aspects that have maybe dogged other conventions have been decanted off, with nerdy concentrate left over.
Editor's note: If you could look at this event with respect to the other big anime/cosplay events in TO, Atomic Lollipop is a lot like the rebellious little sibling in the family; slightly less popular with less experience, yet more willing to do crazy things, make mistakes and potentially die in a glorious James Dean-esque explosion. Here you will find burlesque portrayals of your favourite childhood character, as Edward highlighted and mini events that the more well known conventions wouldn't dare do due to liabilities such as the nerf battle featured in some of the montages above and massive lightsaber duels.
Overall, the quality of cosplays is getting better each year as this event gains more credibility as a legit cosplay venue. APOP's ability to pull stars is also increasing and it was a pleasure to meet good old Frodo (Elijah Wood) as well as Prozzak during the rave.
DWAYNE'S FULL GALLERY
How do you feel about Atomic Lollipop compared to other cosplay events?