THE MAN, THE MYTH, THE LEGEND -- The whole point of this whole trip was to meet The Bruce, The Man Himself, Bruce Campbell. How did it go?
Well, The Bruce was awesome.
Wizard World, however, was something else entirely.
Despite having The Bruce in Philadelphia just last year and just last month, they seriously mishandled the crowd any exploitation film fan worth his salt could tell you was coming. Hell, they could have asked Flashback Weekend, being held at the exact same time in one of the connected hotels. The Bruce was there for two days, Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's attendance was maxed out. No kidding, the fire marshal closed down the ticket booths. The line for Saturday at the door admission literally stretched through the main entry, out the door, down the block, AROUND the block...it was huge. I have never heard of any convention maxing out before. Congratulations, The Bruce.
Goddamn, am I glad I got the VIP package. In order to see him, you either had to get in line early or cut in line. The VIP package let you do the latter. In addition to the four day pass, a wristband in my favorite shade of blue, you got a lanyard. On the clip was a placard declaring you a Bruce Campbell VIP and two smaller cards, one for the photo op and one for two signatures. So I was confident that my primary goals for the weekend, getting the photo op and two signatures, was in the bag.
Saturday comes around. I am horrible at keeping track of time. I can't do it. And knowing the size of the lines I was looking at, I didn't want to miss anything. The Wizard World website mentioned the times for the Bruce Campbell photo ops, but not signings. I entered those times on the calendar function on Fermata, with multiple reminders going off. Then, I made it there on Saturday on time for the opening of the show for the first time in years.
I had already taken in the lay of the land on Thursday and knew exactly where The Bruce's booth was. I stopped there first thing that morning and asked when he would be signing. They said he was going to do the photo ops first, then sign. Bruce had two photo ops both days, first by himself, and then as part of the Evil Dead reunion. The photo op for Saturday was at 100PM (Sunday's was 1100AM, but I wasn't going to wait that long), and with the rest of the Evil Deaders afterwards. Forty minutes time allotted. Cool.
I got in line about thirty minutes before it was to start. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew what I was hoping for. In my pack was a copy of my Hannah Singer, Celestial Advocate book and the softcover Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way that Mornblade and his lovely wife got me for Christmas. My plan was to get a picture of me holding his book, him holding mine, and the two of us giving a big thumbs up to the camera.
Obviously, from the picture I posted, that didn't happen.
The line was rushed through. Each person went through the curtains, got into a fast position, got their picture taken, and moved out. Grand total time, based on watching? About five seconds per. I started wondering if I'd even get to propose my idea, let alone see it happen.
The line moves. I move. I get to the curtain. I have my books in my hand and leave my pack on the check table. I go through. I'm standing ten feet away from The Man Himself, expertly dressed.
I derped out.
With no time to even say hi, all I can think to do is lean in, putting my arm buddy style over his shoulder. I didn't even get a good look at him, I only know it was him because I know his voice so well. I moved out, reacquired my pack, and went on, knowing that on August 13, 2011, at 122PM, I touched Pure Awesome.
I decided to just cool my heels for a little bit. He needs to do the Evil Dead photo op next, then he's back at the table for a little while before the Bruce Campbell panel happening at 500PM. I eventually make it back to the table, and see he's already there, signing autographs. I go up and politely ask where the end of the line is.
"Sorry, but we had to cap it for today."
And so, the O'Hara Rule ("Tomorrow is another day") kicked in, and I decided to make my way to the panel. I think to myself, heh heh, I have a VIP pass.
The panel rooms are usually on the main level to the left of the convention hall proper, in what is called the Fountain Area. This time, they were moved upstairs just off the convention hall. I had never been in that area before. The line for the Bruce Campbell panel is already reaching the staircase/escalator. I get in line and wait. I then realize that I'm not seeing anyone else with a VIP pass. I ask one of the yellow shirts if this is the line for the Bruce Campbell panel. She takes one look at the VIP pass and says I'm in the wrong line, VIP's go that way. I say thanks, tip my straw gambler, and hoof it.
The entrance to that panel room was about a city block down one hall and then halfway down another. The VIP line stretched from there the rest of the way, around the corner, and down another city block length of hall. And it was a smidge longer -- I was almost at the corner, and I was one of the last few in that line. So when you add up how many people were in the regular line....
Oh, why didn't I just go the other way and save myself some walking distance? There was no other way -- that section has a ballroom, the only one bigger than the one The Bruce would be in, and it was being set up for a Star Trek fan band called Five Year Mission to play in, so no one unauthorized could cut through there. This will be important later.
So, I'm there about a half hour before the panel, watching videos on Fermata and proofing Hannah Singer stories. They were actually late in letting everyone in (in fact, things didn't start until about twenty minutes after). The line starts moving, and I move. I actually got a pretty good aisle seat. I had my Canon video camera, using DV tapes, at ready to record the whole thing. I start getting ready, and decided that, since the panel can't last over an hour now, I might as well start recording now and get the MC's patter.
Major MAJOR problem. I'm recording audio just fine, but no video. Nothing. Black screen. Disappointment crushes down on me as I wonder what I'm going to do.
Then I remembered that morning. I had a 4G memory card in my digital camera, but I didn't know how many pictures I could take on it before it filled, so I stuck the extra 16G card I bought for Fermata in my bag. I quickly swap the cards and set the camera for video. It works. I got almost all of the panel. The camera stopped recording at exactly thirty minutes, so I lost a few seconds when I saw what happened and hit the record button again. But I got it all.
Folks, I've done improv, and I would hate to versuses The Bruce. The guy is lightning quick. He's also got the best gig in the fandom. Who else can spend an entire panel insulting his fans and have them begging for more? I'm going to convert it to MP3 and stitch it together to put on Fermata. The panel was that great.
Sunday rolls around. According to Fermata, The Bruce was doing his photo ops that day starting at 1100AM. I stop by the booth and ask when he will be signing. They say 200PM. The show ends at 500PM, so I resolve to get in line early. I do, and wait patiently.
The time comes, and the line starts moving. It's moving a lot slower than the photo op line, The Bruce is chatting with everyone as he signs. The VIP line is split into two, and I'm in the first section. With me are five items -- the picture I took with him on Saturday, my Briscoe County Jr. perfect collection, my Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way hardcover and softcover, and a poster of Bruce as Sam Axe on Burn Notice (I had spent two weeks searching my boxes of video tapes for my copy of Sundown, and I still don't know where the hell it is). I had ordered the poster (24x36), thinking everything would be cool. But when I received it, I smelled something. This was a photo print. In other words, it might not be a legit item. There are certain items The Bruce does not sign, and they are comics by Dynamite and unofficial merchandise, so if you have a VHS bootleg of the alternate ending of Army Of Darkness, you're SOL. So I ready my Plan B's in case he won't sign the poster.
I finally get up to him. We were each given two small Post It's, on which we put what name we wanted The Bruce to sign and stuck it where we wanted him to sign. I unroll the poster and ask if he's okay with it. "Sure. I sign stuff like this all the time." I reach in my pack and grab whatever for my second item. It's the Make Love hardcover. I also realize I'll never get a chance like this again, and ask if I can give him a copy of the Hannah Singer book. He says no, he's not going to read it anyway, I might as well let someone else have it, but he does ask me about it and we have a very brief conversation about it. He says the concept is intriguing. I thank him profusely and move out of the way.
And so, at 242PM on Sunday, August 14, 2011, I finally met Destiny.
I had shaken hands and talked with The Bruce.
DOWNSIZING -- There was one major comic publisher there, Top Cow. Here's their booth:
YOU GOTTA GIVE THE FANS WHAT THEY WANT -- So, there was a booth there offering massages from women dressed as fanboy fap material.
Target marketing hits the bull's eye.
MAYBE I'M MORE TALENTED THAN I THOUGHT -- On the Thursday preview night, I am wandering around, and I come across Peter S. Beagle, the legendary fantasy author behind The Last Unicorn. I look over the setting with him and his business partner, and start chatting. His partner mentions a "show special" on prices because of the end of the lawsuit.
For those who came in late: Beagle licensed The Last Unicorn to ITC Entertainment to make the movie. ITC eventually got gobbled up by Granada International, which began pimping out the movie to cable and DVD outlets. Beagle felt that his contract meant he was owed money. ITC said no. And there have been petitions to pressure Granada to quit being stingy and a lawsuit from Beagle over it.
The lawsuit is over? I asked. What happened?
Beagle's business partner decided enough was enough and convinced Beagle to contact Granada's parent company. The parent company reached two conclusions -- 1) Granada did owe Beagle money and forced them to pay up, and 2) the parent company could make a lot of money if they helped Beagle make a lot of money. So the parent company has taken over The Last Unicorn rights from their subsidiary and entered into a new deal with Beagle to develop more of his stuff, and the company that has been shafting him is out in the cold. Excuse me while I break into derisive laughter.
While talking, I ask Beagle if he has any advice for a self-publishing writer struggling against his own insignificance. He asks me what I've written, and I tell him about Hannah Singer. For reasons known only to my angels, I ask if he would like a copy.
He said yes.
I think my surprise was showing on my face, because he asked if I was okay.
I couldn't help it. I said, You want a copy of a book I wrote.
"Why wouldn't I?"
Because you're Peter S. Beagle and I'm...well, me. This is like Stan Getz asking to hear your demo tape.
He assured me he was interested. I extracted a promise he would give me his uncensored opinion, no holds barred, and he said sure, it would just take him a while to read it since he was busy. So on Friday, with a stomach churning like the ocean in a hurricane, I gave him a copy of Hannah Singer, Celestial Advocate. I also asked if he wanted to try my other stuff, and he said sure, and gave him complete runs of Sound Waves, Head Above Water, and the Stress Puppy GN. His business partner was interested in Stress Puppy because he also has an affinity for comic strips. So I brought a story line for him to read, Loose Canons, the Christmas story. I got him laughing real good.
In the interest of being gracious and polite, I stopped by on Sunday just before the show ended to say goodbye. He mentioned that he'd read the first Hannah Singer story and was really enjoying it.
Whoa. I actually did something Peter S. Beagle likes. That just boggles my mind.
HOW TO BREAK THE ICE AND START A CONVERSATION WITH PETER S. BEAGLE WITHOUT EVEN TRYING -- Beagle is a brony. If that doesn't do it for you, he's also a Buffy nut.
STRIPPERS -- I stop by to say hi to Franchesco, and there's another guy hanging out there, who used to be the art coordinator when the con was the ChicagoCon (his first year was 1992, the year of the Image tent and the first con I ever went to). The conversation between the three of us turns to comic strips and such. I had the pages for Red Riding Hood with me because Franchesco hadn't seen them yet. To illustrate a point I wanted to make about artwork being a function of the story, I show him the pages. He digging them and laughing and talking about how great my art is. He starts asking me what all I've done, and I show him one of the Sound Waves comics I brought with me. He reads through it and loves it and asks if I would mind giving him copies of the books so he can show them around his studio.
Sure, I said. You'll be here all weekend?
"Yes. And if you don't find me, just email me and I'll send you a mailing address." He then produces his card and gives it to me. He turns to say ciao to Franchesco so he doesn't see the look on my face when I see the card.
The guy works for Paws, Inc. As in, the studio of Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield.
I didn't run into him again, but I sent off an email saying how great it was to meet him and asking for that address. And I was saying, HOLY FUCK the entire time.
SOMEDAY, MY PRINTS WILL COME -- The photo ops took forever. Everyone was told that the pictures could take an hour or two to process. They printed them out and just stuck them on one of five tables and you had to look for yours and pray no one walked off with it. (Interestingly, I saw that Ethan Van Sciver had a photo op with The Bruce.)
The Bruce pictures were usually done after an hour and a half or two hours. But a friend of mine who bought the Christopher Lloyd VIP experience waited four hours for his, and got it literally fifteen minutes before the show closed on Saturday, so he couldn't even get it signed. The staff bleated something about the servers and the pictures taking time to render. I wanted to tell them that might work on the NORP's but I know that's bullshit. (Lloyd is apparently losing his hearing, so he didn't hear all the cursing going on.)
HE REALLY GETS INTO HIS WORK -- Christopher Lloyd was doing photos in the DeLorean with whoever wanted the picture with him in the passenger seat.
TO NO LONGER BOLDLY GO -- A lot of fans were disappointed in Patrick Stewart. Stewart was telling people that this might be his last year for conventions because his hand is having trouble gripping the pen now. Well, age comes for us all. However, Stewart was reported being a little...snobby about people taking pictures of him, even though there were no signs saying No Cameras Allowed like at The Bruce's booth. Is he burning out? Don't know, I hope not.
AND NOW, A HUMBLE REQUEST -- I saw quite a few couples cosplaying this weekend, typically as Ash and Misty (or Red and Kisime, for you weeaboos). Now, don't get me wrong, togetherness is always a beautiful thing. But I saw some of the guys marching down the aisles while practically dragging their girlfriends/wives/whatevers behind them. I know you comic book fans don't have the best reputation in the dating department, and I know some of you want to prove to the world you aren't gay, but guys? Those women clearly did not want to be there and were clearly not having a good time. That is not how this is supposed to work. Show some consideration, will ya?
IT'S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE -- There was a guy there cosplaying as Catwoman. A friend of mine and I saw him and I commented that the shiny black costume looked like it was made out of an oil slick.
"Yeah...that's the weird part of the costume," he deadpanned to me.
THE FUTURE IS CALLING -- While there, three different indie studios asked to see more of my artwork. Not writing, but artwork. But once they got further into it, they decided to pass on me. They said my artwork was stiff, I needed to vary my camera angles more (side note: I have to disagree with them because the scenes they said that about, changing the angles and moving around the action axis undermines the flow. It may be static, but it works for what I'm trying to do, so I'm afraid I can't change anything).
I mention this because I made a new friend of sorts (name withheld to protect the innocent). We were talking and chilling out and I was looking over his artwork. He asked to see mine. Now, this guy is a professional graphic artist working at an ad agency who has done quite a bit of work for The Bigs.
He's looking over my Sound Waves comics and the Red Riding Hood pages and comments how much he loves my stuff. He described it as being very cinema verite because the camera angles don't convey things, the characters and their actions do. He mentioned a Russian director who had a scene in his movie that was a fifteen minute tracking shot of a couple walking through the park. No camera angles or metaphors, just one continuous shot, and it was one of the most amazing things he'd seen (this director, he didn't remember the name, but apparently Stanley Kubrick and George Lucas cite him as one of their biggest early influences. Thinking about Kubric's stuff and THX-1138, I can certainly see that).
After talking a little more, he mentions he's actually a little jealous of me. When I ask why, he says it's because I can do whatever I think will work for my stories. He hates working for The Bigs. He's trying to develop his own series and he says that, despite his connections in the industry and the interest in his stuff, he will have to self-publish it. The central character is drawn seven and a half heads tall (eight is considered proper, comic book art is usually nine to ten) and has realistic proportions to her anatomy. He has a number of scenes where the camera settles in so that the action will unfold for the reader. And he knows it will never fly with a publisher. Meanwhile, he's bored with drawing all the dynamism of regular comic book art. He regards all the detail and posing as noise, drowning everything out to grab attention. Meanwhile, I can do pages of pantomime and not only not lose the reader, but reinforce the scenes and give them more impact using characters the readers bond with instead of overwhelming them.
I said thank you. I mean, I still don't quite know how to react to that sort of thing, but it's wonderful to think I'm heading in a direction that makes sense.
FUZZY WUZZY WAS A BEAR -- Surprise. There was quite a few furries there, including three fursuiters (one of which, I recognized the colors of and knew he was someone to avoid) and others with the generic tail and ears or the standard modern furry dress -- dark T-shirt, loose cargoes with plenty of places to hang chains, and an attitude that basically says, "Aren't I just so punk?"
It's surprising because, aside from the odd exception, your modern furries don't really intermix with other subcultures. The furry subculture got its start in the anime fandom because of catgirls and bunny girls. The anime overlap with sci-fi cons and the ideas of paranatural life gave rise to furries, which eventually became a separate entity (the Chicago suburb sci-fi/fantasy con DuckCon eventually started a furry track, and it soon spun off into the Midwest FurFest). But as time went on, the furries tended to keep to their own little isolated community and conventions, and didn't really mingle with the others they came from. Statistically, this was the largest furry turnout I've seen at a comic book convention.
No, not saying anything, just finding it interesting.
DRAWING ON LIFE EXPERIENCES -- Scott Rosema saw me coming down the Artist Alley aisle and waved me over. He asked if I had any new Sound Waves comics (gave him #7 and the Christmas special) and if I was going to ask for a commission. I think quickly, and decide to ham it up. Using Fermata, I show him the picture of Rhapsody as a sort of Green Lantern. I ask for Rhapsody with a Green Lantern motif (and a treble clef) and Melody with an Aquaman motif (and a bass clef). These are the results......
Then, while talking with him,I mention the quest of Thorified characters. The idea is to take a character who is pure of heart, and hence able to lift Thor's hammer, and draw them Thorred out, and how I had one of Abby from NCIS. He said that sounded hilarious and he would love to take a swing at it. I thought it over, and commissioned two sketched from him of pure of heart characters lifting the hammer -- Fluttershy from My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic and Strawberry Shortcake......
I just love the soft lightning bolt behind SS.
He loved the Abby idea and told me he liked the thought of Denozzo picking up Thor's hammer, walking into NCIS like he's a big guy, and then seeing Gibbs as Odin. Folks, I would pay serious money to see that drawn out.
MOST POPULAR COSTUME AT THE CON -- Pikachu. Well, sort of. It wasn't like a full fursuit or anything, just some facial make-up, ears, yellow T-shirt, and sticking a tail on the back of their belt. This covered both genders.
If you split among genders, men had no real clear winner other than Pikachu. Women, however had an even split of Batgirl and Stephanie Brown Batgirls. Babydoll from
SPEAKING OF ARIEL -- Okay, so I was hoping to get a picture of the Ariel cosplayer dressed as Mermaid Ariel reading my Sound Waves comics, right?
Well, I spotted her (I'm lousy with faces, but she's actually fairly distinct), and she didn't do Ariel once. Not even Princess Ariel. I didn't say anything, it's not like I was owed anything, she likely just forgot. It just would have been nice to get that picture.