Didn’t I just talk about this thing last year? YES, I DID!
And apparently, only three other posts on this blog since then. I… need to write stuff here a bit more.
But until I do, here’s a recap of my second visit to the Emerald City Comic Con, which had some minor changes – some good, some bad – from last year’s show.
Like last year, it was in beautiful, downtown Seattle.
Who could possibly resist sightseeing that?
The Sheraton had sold out its convention rooms, so I had to use the Grand Hyatt, a more expensive hotel. Fortunately it was still a mere block away from the convention center. This time I knew to visit the con’s Will Call. That’s where you can, the day before, pick up Stuff that would only slow you down after going inside that first time.
This year I had tried to buy their Deluxe tickets for quicker access to panels, but they had sold out during the longest 20-minute meeting I’ve ever had at work. All tickets had been put on sale at 10 am one September morn. When I got back to my desk, they had sold out!
So I had reluctantly bought the next level up, the double-expensive Celebrity Fast Pass, which was something new for this year. Because of its price, I grumbled at myself for buying it, but wanted to be, like, special and stuff. I blame my oldest sister for this. Money is no object to her, and that attitude is rubbing off on me. :-\ Fortunately I could afford to buy it; the dilemma was whether I should.
Like last year, I used Shuttle Express to get me from the airport to the hotel, and while I like the service, I can’t say that I’m a fan of their cramming nine people (three per seat) into seats better suited for two modern Americans. You know, folks with “wide shoulders.” I’ve lost a fair amount of weight over the years, but am not skinny. Even so, my seatmates were large enough to make things… uncomfortable.
Rinse and Repeat: GET UP EARLY. Earlier than I ever could to go to work, in fact. STAND IN LINE outside of the entrance for an hour or so, to then be let inside around 7:20 am for EVEN MORE QUEUING until 10 am.
Ah, but a twist this year! I had the Celebrity Fast Pass this time. It turns out that there were guests of sufficient interest to me that I really wanted them to sign something, and they were beginning this ritual at 10:30 am. The con organizers took people like me and put us into a separate line. By that I mean everyone who was eager to get autographs, not just the Passers. Then we were brought upstairs at 8:30 am in order to queue up where we wished to. It was a matter of picking which guest you liked more, in other words. People who were waiting for the general convention to open wouldn’t be let in until 10 am.
I’m an unabashed fan of any movie that’s big, loud, and full of superheroes, and right now, Marvel Studios is feeding that fix. Hayley Atwell’s – click the link to see who she is – only day was Friday, so I went there first. A bunch of people had queued ahead of me. Volunteers (aka Minions) were shouting orders to people. I walked up and showed them my pass, asking if it helped in any way?
It turns out that the pass did. Wherever you went, if the guest was signing, you were put into a separate line that always had priority over regular passholders. I was taken to the number 1 spot for Hayley, and then… time for the Waiting Game once more, because remember: not starting until 10:30. Other attendees can help you pass the time if you get into a conversation. I learned that this was Ms. Atwell’s very first convention appearance, so I was set to be the first person that she would meet after drawing back the curtain. Well. Not really. My spot was handed off by the minions to a, shall we say, special needs family, so the honor was all theirs. I’m not lamenting this – just making it a story point.
She arrived, we applauded and whooped, I thanked her for coming – she counter-thanked me for “having (her),” my thing was signed, and boom, we’re off. With very few exceptions, this is how autograph signings happen at conventions. The more popular the person, the less time you have to interact. Nerds know this. Sports fans probably know this, too. But it is not always the case.
Also on my list: Susan Eisenberg, long-time voice actor for Wonder Woman in her various animated appearances. She had no line at all, and that made me sad.
With the autygraphical stuff done, it was time to get to the Exhibitors’ Floor, where all the other Stuff to be purchased resided. It was… a bit more crowded than I expected. Certainly more than last year. Hm.
A rare lull in the shoulder-to-shoulder storm.
As before, I made a beeline to the Steampunk area, which had the usual fun dealers, including the Girl Genius crowd. Last year I gave its co-creators (Phil and Kaja Foglio) this:
This year I gave their inker/colorist, Cheyenne Wright, a bas relief of the Castle being struck by lightning. It, too, had been hand-carried through airport security, but due to being nice and flat, there was much less angst involved. The bas relief is at left. The original panel from the webcomic is at right.
The heroic inker/colorist is at left, receiving his tribute with quiet dignity and grace. Removing it from all the bubble wrap had been done noisily and with lots of frustrated grunts before I gave up on delicate work and just tore it all off.
For S&G I handed Phil some printouts of the Girl Genius in Clay series (so far), and reiterated my commission for four of his female characters dropping down a waterfall, Splash Mountain style. It’s for a… friend. In theory it’s a thank you for that light-em-up Agatha from last year, but I again offered to pay.
Before leaving the Girl Genius gang, I asked Mr. Phil if there were any character that he’d like to see rendered in clay. His answer was unexpected… and will be answered when the time is right! And by that I mean if I manage to actually make that character.
BAD NEWS ALERT
A bad change to ECCC this year was their failure to provide space for the Girl Genius Radio Play, which was a small event last year, but enjoyed by all who attended. Or in my case, took part in as The Narrator. This year I’d worked out my audition line and everything. And then… ECCC “forgot” to schedule it.
This must not go unavenged! And if you have any ideas how to avenge them, please let me know. I’m terrible at
revenge avenge fantasies. They always end up with quiet discussions about the issue at hand, and no explosions at all.
NOT DONE YET
I had a schedule to keep here! I couldn’t frolic with the Foglios all day – nor would they want me to – and it was time to queue up at 1pm for Orlando Jones, a wonderfully funny and approachable actor who was also at his first convention as a guest. He was late thanks to Seattle traffic (don’t get me started) and apologized with comedic aplomb. His line was not that long – 30 people? – but his handler had been acting like it was 400 people thick and was trying to rush us. Orlando took things in stride.
By the way, for his line, I was truly the first person to ever have something signed, and it was his first convention. That will become important later. Stay tuned!
3pm: Hayley Atwell had a photo session – no, definitely not free – with fans, and I learned that the Fast Pass perk worked for those lines, too. I had already bought a ticket online, but to queue up for the session, Fast Passers had a separate line that went first. Cool. Just as for autographs, photo sessions are wham-bam-thank you, ma’am fast, and ultimately just serve as a “See? I ‘met’ this person!” memento for us fans. I may be self-aware about it all, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing anything to change it! (Yet?)
She’s on the right, in case you’re having trouble telling us apart.
5:30 pm: Stan Lee. If you don’t know, Stan is basically the Grand Marshal of Marvel Comics. He has a cameo in every Marvel-based movie and TV show, but more because he co-created (as writer) a good chunk of the company’s core characters. Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, the X-Men, and so on. His co-creators were the various artists who designed their initial look. Very few characters have strayed from that.
Because of the price of his ticket, I did give some thought whether or not to get one. But he’s in his 90s, and while still pretty spry, reread what I said about his age. Realistically, there won’t be lots of opportunities to meet him at other conventions.
At 5:30 he had his first signing session of the weekend. I went to the line right after finishing my photo with Hayley. A minion was holding a sign that indicated that his line had been cut off due to demand. In fact, it had been cut off since around 2:30.
This was when I learned the true power of the Pass. Cut off or not, they will put the Fast Pass people in line, and they will go first. Yes, even ahead of the people who’d lined up by 10am, and subsequently done nothing else at the convention for an entire day. Yes, I’m aware that I’d spent a buttload of money to essentially cut in front of those people.
I… might not be making it to Heaven. (Idolatry, putting other gods before God, etc)
Er… So, as usual, I struck up conversations with other folks in line to pass the time. Many people had brought magnificent works of art, lovingly created just for Stan to sign. This is what I brought for my one and only item to ever be signed by him.
The slipcover to a PS3 LEGO game. But in my defense, Stan is all over this game as a character – first to be rescued by the other heroes, and then as a playable character. He also happens to be the most powerful character, with almost every power available. It may have been the equivalent of a bar cocktail napkin compared to other people’s items, but dangit, it does encapsulate the Marvel universe pretty handily, and fits very easily in a suitcase.
When it was my turn, do you think I got a chance to have a conversation with him?
BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Ohh, you haven’t read this at all. :-p
Oh, but there’s a tiny bit more. There were a lot of guests this year, so I had to make a budget for myself and stick to it. Yes, I would have liked to have Chloe Bennett sign something Agents of Shield-related, but stuck to my list. But a nice thing about the con is that they will allow people to just come up and say “Hi,” assuming that the line is short and the guest isn’t needed elsewhere at that moment.
While waiting for Stan Lee, Chloe popped out from behind the curtain to say “Hi!” to him and get a hug. Fans silently cursed ECCC for their rule about No Unathorized Pictures Or Be Kicked Out Forever. For older readers, it was a Kodak moment that we were not allowed to capture. So this text-only summary is the best I can give you.
But after she returned to her table, I was allowed the chance to walk up and say “Hi,” because her line had died down. But man: the handlers were acting like I’d asked the Secret Service if I could shake hands with the President. Repeats of “She’s not buying a ticket; she just wants to say hello!” were passed from handler to handler to handler. Then a curt “Okay, go!” to me, and I was allowed to say: “Hi!”
Well, I said a little more than that, at least.
My brain fart moment came when she asked where I was from. I’ve lived in many different places, so I wasn’t sure which one to pick! Finally I just went with my hometown, then broadened it to “southern California,” just in case. And squeezed in that I like her character in Agents of Shield before being shooed away.
Seattle. It’s a magical place.
—To be continued for Saturday and Sunday! Sorry, you don’t get off that easily.