Yes, folks, it’s a report about a comic book convention: my first since 1997. If you cannot stand the sight of such things, you may move on! No one will judge you.**
In between then and now I’ve attended what I guess you could call Show Conventions, in the sense that they revolved around specific TV shows or movies, rather than the Whole of Fandom.
Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon lasts three days, and since Friday was kind of a big day for me, I’ll likely make this its own post, then combine the weekend. I will try to skip the rinse-and-repeat nature of cons. Also, I did not take a lot of pictures of people in costumes, aka cosplayers. That’s because that involves approaching strangers, which is most unnatural for me. Apologies in advance!
**I lied. I will judge you!
Was a travel and check-in day, but it was memorable as something of a sneak preview of the event. The Sheraton is directly across the street from the convention center, so it became its own kind of hub for guest activities. There was even constant gaming going on here.
It was easy to tell who the attendees were by their clothing, which was typically like something you’d see on The Big Bang Theory. Also, a lot of people bring props and collectibles with them in large storage tubs that are somehow either carried onto planes or checked in.
A minor bit of culture shock took place shortly before I was heading upstairs to turn in for the night. There were a lot of people already in costume, and some folks walking around with their badges in lanyards. I don’t exactly have a smartphone with comicon apps constantly informing me of activities, so if the convention had begun a day early, I certainly hadn’t been informed!
Beautiful Downtown Seattle, or Why I Didn’t Bother to Sightsee:
No offense meant to Seattle-ites. I just don’t lke CITIES, as in the urban centers.
Please indulge a little bit more before I move on to the convention proper: I was also one of those people who’d brought something specifically for the convention. It was something I’d sculpted over several months and was bringing as a gift. I’d been having a lot of trouble finding the right sized container for it, and finally found one at a hobby store. 14″ x 12″ x 8″. That’s a harder size to find than you’d think!
I packed my item in a clear, plastic storage tub with a handle on top and that was juuuuust the right height to slide into a Jet Blue Airbus’ overhead bin. I rolled up a lot of bubble wrap, cut to size, to the point where shaking the tub only barely moved my item. It was NOT intended, under any circumstances, to be checked in!
The prospect of airport security becoming suspicious of my piece, especially if they spotted the bundle of electric wires coming from its back, was terrifying to me. I imagined myself losing all control if they decided to start ripping out the bubble wrap with no concern for the delicacy of the piece and not allowing me to help or even give instructions.
The happy ending: the TSA guy, as I was showing him the reference photo for the piece, and describing it after taking off the top, admitted to being an artist himself. This meant that he understood what it would mean for a piece of art to be mishandled!! And I was through! I think it also helped that I was traveling through the Long Beach Airport, which is tiny and thus not exactly a trouble spot.
I may have been away from a real comicon for almost 20 years, but one thing that didn’t catch me by surprise was the necessity of getting into the entrance line EARLY, if you want to have any hope of entering within the first hour of business. Who cares, you say? Well, convention programming waits for no one, and to attend any of it, you WILL stand in lines to stand in line. It’s like visiting a Disney park, except that the queue surroundings are really boring.
Lucky me, I got up at 6am, which is 1.5 hours earlier than I do for my JOB, and by around 7 got to the queue to wait in the queue. There were about 50 people ahead of me. 10-15 minutes later, we were allowed inside the big auditorium, were handed programs along the way, sardined ourselves into corrals… and waited. See, the convention didn’t open until 10 am. It was now something like 7:15. Cue Jeopardy music for the next 2 hours and 45 minutes.
I’ve been a part of nerd culture all my life, so I’m used to the kinds of conversations that inevitably spring up amongst these strangers forged into friends by the fires of… waiting. But even I grow weary of nerdrage. This is the term used to describe the sorts of thing that nerds get worked up about, like Ben Affleck being cast as Batman, and… Well, that seems to be the big one right now. Personally, his casting intrigues me. There. I said it. On this particular morning I only listened and didn’t join in. Because the convention’s minions (yes, they were really called that – even on their shirts!) were adamant that we squeeze together as tightly as possible, I was particularly worried about my already-heavy backpack (things to sign, man. things to sign) and plastic storage bin would get trampled and/or kicked around.
A view from Corral #2, down the center of the auditorium. Note that every row is filled.
I say Corral #2, even though I was very early, because ECCC was kind enough to have a Corral #1 for the same sort of people who would pre-board a plane. I’d never seen that at any con before, and thought that was cool.
Okay, not quite, but it is exciting to finally be let inside. I had a map but still needed to get my bearings and figure out who was where. First stop was a company that makes custom Lego kits, such as various Dr. Whos, Companions and the TARDIS. The Impala and cast of Supernatural. Cool stuff like that. And like any good Lego set, Ex-Pens-Ive. Yeah, maybe later.
I think all the Steampunk stuff was grouped together. Fair enough. It happened to be one of my destinations – except for the guys selling fezzes. I know that fezzes are popular in Steampunk culture, but I just can’t grasp their appeal. Ironically enough, one of the vendors that I purchased from on Sunday happened to be… a fez-wearer!
If you’ve visited my fanfiction blog, which I hope that you do constantly – Constantly! – you’d know that one of my current interests is the Girl Genius webcomic, still going strong since 2002. The item I’d brought with me was a sculpture of the main character in the story, but done chibi style.
I explain. No; there is too much. I sum up. The main webcomic is drawn in Style A, by Phil Foglio, and occasionally his wife Kaja, also an artist, does her own interpretations (Style B) of the characters, which tend toward the cute side. Giant heads, tiny bodies. That kind of style. So I sculpted an interpretation of one of her drawings.
But first, I wanted to try an experiment that served no purpose at all (SCIENCE!), which was to pretend that I’d totally lost track of what Mr. Foglio had been up to since Buck Godot, Myth Adventures, and so on. I parked myself by the display of those books and asked him about Buck Godot, which I genuinely do miss. Then talked about Myth Adventures, then gestured to all that Girl Genius stuff and said something like, “So, this is like steampunk, then?” Affirmative reply. Then I said something about having a growing interest in it, so would he mind if I showed him something?
There was a lot of packing to remove, so I deferred his attention to other fans until I could get it out. “You’ll just have to go for it,” he said as people kept coming up. “It’s going to be like this all day.”
“True, but there’s packing in here, so I need to make it safe to remove.” That done, I said, “I think this is the same kind of genre. I’m hoping that it’s familiar to you?”
I pulled out this:
He dragged his wife over to see, who made a girly-squeal. I pulled out the reference picture, which she knows pretty well, of course.
“I apologize for the deception,” I said. “Yes. I’m a fan.”
Then I switched on the lights. More girly-squeals. This is the first piece I’ve ever electrified. I won’t go into detail here, but will when I eventually get around to adding her page to my art blog. I had hoped to hide the wires, either in a tube or the base or somewhere, but then I might never have found a carrier for it! The base would need to be extra large to contain the battery pack, which would had added unwanted height.
Kaja insisted that I pose with it for one of her pictures. I’m not fond of doing that, but obliged. Before handing it off, I demonstrated the proper way to put it into its lovingly-crafted plastic storage container. It’s all in the wrist. Well, the arm. Then she left the lights on and put it in the center of their table. Because I’m a full-service artist, I threw in a pack of extra AA batteries. I had also printed out “in-progress” pictures of how it was made and some other pictures of sculptures. I also turned on my camera and gave her a sneak preview of the latest character being sculpted. She seemed pleased.
This is another sculpture that I did of the same character, photobombing… herself? Anyway, it’s in the style of the webcomic proper. It was not brought with me, though. I had made it for MEEEEEEEEE. The Chibi Agatha was, and always was, intended to be a gift, so I had no emotional ties to it preventing me from giving it away. The other Agatha, not so much. She, too, will have her own page someday.
Before leaving their table, I described a commissioned drawing that I hoped to procure, and asked about a price. Before you think I was crazy to think he’d charge me after laying that gift on them, I’ve been disappointed before by other artists/exhibitors, so I expected nothing. “Ohhhh, let’s see,” he said. “How about a handmade sculpture of the main character, and… oh! I want it to light up!”
Okay, moving on! The Foglios were also co-hosting a panel about “Mad Science” in webcomics, so they, plus Shaenon Garrity and Jeffrey Wells were there to discuss their respective webcomics. There were many mentions of Young Frankenstein as influential. Also, Mary Shelly, Nikola Tesla, and Dr. Shrinker. He’s a madman with an evil mind.
Shaenon was double-booked and informed us of this at the beginning, so that we’d be properly prepared for when she suddenly took offense at something Jeffrey said, ranted at him, threw down her microphone, and stormed away to thunderous applause. And for the remainder of the panel I waged glorious battle with my own bladder, which is weak and demands constant draining. Nothing like a potty emergency when a panel still has 30 minutes left.
I survived long enough to take this picture of the panel’s end, because I didn’t know at the time that I could’ve taken pictures during it.
The Foglios had another panel in the afternoon, but I decided to wander aimlessly around the convention instead. On the 6th floor was the Celebrity Signing area, which was divided into voice actors fore, and face actors aft. I had brought a handful of DVDs with me to sign, but the actors I was interested in either weren’t there, their queues had been closed off, or their signing fees were too damned high. My wanderings led me to Jim Beaver, character actor. In this case my interest was due to the TV show Supernatural, in which he’d played Bobby Singer. I was the only one in line at the time, so I bantered with the convention minions running the booth, and finally Jim himself. To my dismay I had totally forgotten to bring any Supernatural DVDs, so he signed a photo.
“I packed every DVD I wanted to bring, except the Supernatural one!” I said. “I guess that would make me-?”
“An idjit?” he said (Bobby’s signature insult, aka “idiot.”).
“I was going to say ‘schmuck,’ but ‘idjit’ works, too.” That got a chuckle, which was pleasing to me.
Another lonely (kidding!) guy was Bill Farmer, the official voice of Goofy – yes, that Goofy. I run into him a fair number of times because we both dwell in southern California, where Disney fan clubs are pretty active. Someday – someday! – I will get him and Mark Silverman together to play a game of Clue, Tower of Terror style! Look it up: that version of Clue exists!
Bill didn’t get the job just by doing a good Goofy, but because he’d been performing voices for a long time, such as on the radio. He’s quite a versatile guy, is quite approachable – one might even say goofy – and loves doing the voice, especially for kids. After years of just bantering with him at events, I finally broke down and bought a picture/signature.
Actors with longer lines: Jeremy Shada (Finn from Adventure Time), Andrea Libman (My Little Pony characters. And now you know why!), Nancy Cartwright (Simpsons, anyone?), Bill Salyer (The Regular Show) and Cree Summer, who… oh, just look her up.
…came from the very long Subway line. I never thought I’d be saying that I willingly stood in a very long line for a Subway sandwich.
AND FRIDAY’S CURTAIN CALL…
Another thing that the Girl Genius crew does at all(?) cons is an after-hours Girl Genius Radio Play. Because the webcomic proper is steampunk(ish. They prefer “gaslamp fantasy”), there is a certain tilt towards melodrama and Really Big Emotions on display, so this is their way to have fun with that. The plays are old-timey radio dramas, with lots of over-acting, that happen to star their GG characters. As far as I can tell, the core characters remain as Agatha, Zeetha, Krosp, and Othar, and each play has different weirdos for them to encounter. Oh – there’s also always a Narrator. More on that.
Here they are, prepping the stage, and just about to ask for volunteers from the audience to fill in for different roles.
Phil called out different character names, and if hands went up, he asked them to demonstrate words and/or phrases that their character might utter. If he was happy, then up the fan went onstage. I was holding out for a Jäger, which in the GG world look like well-dressed Orcs that all speak with outrageously exaggerated German accents. Unfortunately, Phil never asked for a Jäger, but did ask for a Narrator. My hand went up, and so did somebody else’s. We both said something narrator-y, like “It is a world ruled by Mad Science!” Long story too late to be made short, I got the job.
Our plays were “The Return of Deathwish Dupree,” and “Six of One.” Yay for getting two! And I only missed my cue, and the entire page I needed to be on, twice!
Maybe thrice. But STILL! They were cold readings, so any comical inflections had to be totally on the fly. There were five of us volunteers total. I thought that the fellows playing the title role (Deathwish) and Krosp (a talking cat) were standouts. Your mileage may vary if you think I was, too:
Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceE7BfQtrEA
Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aSBnSl69eg – labeled as part 3 but is really 2!
Part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwP7SBGhnO8 – labeled as part 2 but is really 3!
Part 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zziaqHyHxg
These are the only videos I can find, but hey, that’s show biz. Afterwards we were allowed to keep our script copies. Yay again.
After the show a woman talked to me about… my coat, which is big, fuzzy, and has wolves all over it. I bought it in Salem, Massachusetts many years ago, and have never seen its twin.
Kaja was only there on Friday, so I seized my opportunity to start the Signing of the Scripts! She had to return home to work on one of their novels. Yes, I am a fan of their work, but with apologies, it doesn’t extend to reading their novels, too.
Last item before signing off! Of all things to forget to pack: deodorant! In a desperate act, that morning I had dabbed the body lotion in my hotel room all over the usual “problem areas,” but you can guess that lotion does not offer all-day protection. I could smell myself by the end of the day, and that’s not good! So when I returned to the hotel, I tracked down its gift shop and bought a roll-on. In the hotel I tore off my shirt, deodorized myself, then wore a different shirt – a glow-in-the-dark one depicting Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.
Riding the elevator back to the lobby (to eat dinner!), a family joined me, then started staring, grinning, and pointing. I thought they were digging on the shirt. I gave them a better view and said, “It glows in the dark.”
“No, no,” said the mom. “We saw you in the play!”
Ohhhhhh….! Another look revealed that their daughters were loaded down with Girl Genius merchandise. Heh heh heh. When the doors opened, I exited first and switched to Narrator Voice. “Perhaps I could do it again someday!”