ABOUT US 2017-06-18T17:25:41+00:00

ABOUT US

BEN PENROD  CO-FOUNDER/CEO

Ben is the founder of Awesome Con. Ben started reading comics at age 13, and in the late 90s began selling parts of his collection on ebay and used the money to buy more comics on ebay. This hobby turned into a full-time job in 2008, and Ninja Pirate Gear (an online comic book store) was created. After spending the next three years traveling the country selling comics at conventions, Ben and Steve Anderson from Third Eye Comics created the Annapolis Comic-Con, soon followed by the Southern Maryland Comic-Con, both still thriving local shows that cater to comic book lovers like themselves. Ben started planning Awesome Con full-time in 2012, and the first one launched in April 2013. It was an immediate success, and it quickly grew into one of the largest fan conventions on the East Coast.

GREG TOPALIAN  CEO

The first time Greg attended a tradeshow he was 10 years old and it was the Boston Seafood Show at the Hynes, he was hooked. The idea of creating engaging and epic experiences has always been the most appealing part of the tradeshow industry but rarely is achieved. This is the driving force behind the creation of Leftfield Media. Greg started his career in the event business 17 years ago and was most recently Senior Vice President at Reed Exhibitions responsible for a portfolio of 38 events. Greg has consistently created new concepts and challenged the status quo and it shows in all of the events and teams he has been a part of creating. Greg is most well known for being the founder on New York Comic Con, which was launched in 2006. This led to the creation of ReedPop and the subsequent launch or acquisition of events such as PAX, C2E2, UFC Fan Expo, and Star Wars Celebration.

PETER TATARA  CONTENT DIRECTOR

Peter’s left-handed, a vegetarian, and his blood type is A. He works on guests, programming, and weird stuff. Prior to Awesome Con, he was part of ReedPOP for close to 10 years and oversaw content at over 20 conventions around the world including New York Comic Con, Star Wars Celebration, India Comic Con, and the Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Con. The high point of his life was meeting Alan Alda.  When not working, he’s writing terrible vampire fiction and running a guide to geeky NYC events called Nerd York City.

PAUL PETYO  CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Paul is the Creative Director of Awesome Con. He’s a super rad dude who loves himself some Studio Ghibli, Star Wars, Monster Squad and terrible 80’s action movies. Paul started out doing Graphic Design for an alcohol distributor in Washington DC. He later got a gig with a Maryland local design firm and in his down time worked to create The Octopus Tree House (OTH), a two person art team that creates various pop-culture artwork and t-shirts. OTH traveled to local conventions and eventually, that’s how Paul came to meet Ben. When he’s not insanely busy with making Awesome Con the best looking convention in the country, he’s usually working on illustrations for OTH, playing Destiny or dreaming of living in Japan.

JESS WEISS  EVENT COORDINATOR

Jess is the Event Coordinator of Awesome Con and has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. She went to school for show production and touring and got her first taste for live events when she snagged a production job touring with David Copperfield. When the tour ended she worked with America’s Most Wanted, and eventually CNN. At an early age she fell in love with all things fantasy and sci-fi. Always searching for a creative outlet, she co-founded The Octopus Tree House (OTH) with Paul. She is the brains behind OTH and is constantly thinking of new creations. Her ultimate dream is to become a wizard with great bo staff skills who will take over the world on her Dragon.

SAMANTHA VEILLEUX  GUEST MANAGER

Samantha works with the talent for Awesome Con. She has been in the entertainment world for as long as she can remember. She lives in NYC and has worked for Carolines on Broadway and the New York Comedy Festival as a Talent Producer and has worked with everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Kevin Hart to Louis CK. As the self-proclaimed evil twin, there’s a 50/50 chance that she once went to traffic court posing as her sister. She also is a fan of binge watching the same shows over and over on Netflix.

BECKY MEZZANOTTE  OUTREACH COORDINATOR

Becky is the Outreach Coordinator of Awesome Con. She has been attending conventions since she was 11 years old and though her interests have changed, her passion for cosplaying has definitely not. If you’re ever talking to her, she likes to say that she received her Master’s degree in tumblr and fandom, which is almost accurate. It was once prophesied that she would die due to a pothole in a crosswalk, but so far she has avoided such fate. She is a thrill seeking, tv/movie/media junkie who adores British and Korean television, roller coasters and traveling the world. In the free time that she has, Becky works as a stage manager in the DC area and makes films with her production team, Awkward Trio Productions.

RACHEL PENROD  VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR

Rachel is Awesome Con’s volunteer coordinator. She has been trying and failing to memorize 500 peoples’ names since the first Awesome Con. Rachel has always been a giant nerd, but she had never opened a comic book until Ben introduced her to Sandman. Not to be outdone, she introduced him to Buffy, then Angel (which they both agree was better). As volunteer coordinator, she now gets to hear about everyone’s favorite fandom, though she still doesn’t understand video games that have more than 2 dimensions. When she’s not responding to volunteer applications or building crazy databases to schedule a thousand shifts, Rachel is a home educator for her three children and a den leader for her local Cub Scout pack.

JOHN O’MARRA  SALES MANAGER

Want to exhibit at Awesome Con, or be a sponsor? John is your guy. He’s been a lobster fisherman, hippie music festival promoter, college lecture agent, and toy salesman. Cultural highlights include meeting Stephen King at 10 and having him read my Salem’s Lot book report, seeing the Grateful Dead in London on Halloween, and almost getting beat up onstage by Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers Band. Currently, he is way too obsessed with the musical Hamilton, and regularly annoys everyone is the office by insisting it’s the greatest cultural achievement of all time. John knows he will never be as cool as his kids Bonham and Redding, and has come to accept that. When he dies, he wants his ashes scattered in the ballroom at Disney’s Haunted Mansion.