Saturday, May 10, 2014

My First (and Likely Last) Comic Con

Having virtually no interest in comic books or fanfare or science fiction, etc., a Comic Con(vention) isn't necessarily a place you'd see me. I'm sure the eleven or so people I recognized there found it a surprised when, dressed in a panama hat, button shirt and jeans, I walked by.

The reason was, a friend of mine invited me, and I took into consideration all the costumes people likely wear at those things, especially girls. There's people. Maybe I can have a sociable time - after all, that's one thing I'm trying to work on. And maybe something of interest would be there.

The likelihood of my going brightened when I looked up the guests. I recognized none of them except for Christopher Lloyd, and a woman named Summer Glau, whom I saw in an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Then there were other "guests" featured such as the DeLorean from the Back to the Future series and the gigantic white car from Ghostbusters. Interesting. And because I wasn't willing to spend fifty dollars considering the lack of money I currently have, my friend was willing to contribute $15 towards my ticket to bring it down to the pre-order online price. So I went.

My first taste of the experience was Hunt Club Road. I was in the right-hand lane early so I could make a later right turn, and the traffic stopped. It didn't move. When I pulled out and drove on, I saw a long queue going down the road, turning right onto Uplands - a collector road that goes straight to the convention centre at which the Con is hosted. Geeeeez. The line up was easily a couple of kilometres.

About two hours later, after driving, inching, parking in an endless field rented by the arrangers of the convention due to the full parking lot, walking, and navigating a maze between finding the place to buy the tickets and the open doors to the hall, my friend Brent and I entered.

As any convention, there's not much to do other than walk around and browse the stalls or booths that are set up. With a comic convention, you get multiple comic book stores and dealers in one place, as well as places to buy themed clothing, prints of various kinds, and other related paraphernalia. The DeLorean was indeed parked in its own stand, as well as the Ghostbuster car - apparently named Ecto 1. Makes sense. I've seen the first and second movies, just not in many years.

It was difficult not to walk into somebody's picture. Indeed, there was a constant majority of costumed people, often photographed. None of those people were staff - just enthusiastic young people having fun with their interest or passion. I could simply say I was walking around a sea of nerds and geeks, but that's negative and restricting; rather, I myself was the dull outsider circulating among a sea of people who'd come to a place to be themselves, and comfortable, and happy. Other than a comic book store, there probably aren't many places in which you can walk in dressed as Captain Kirk or Sailer Moon or some other comic book character I don't know. I was the ignorant one. I had no idea what most of the costumes represented. I was the one looking in.

Everyone of almost all ages enjoyed themselves. It wasn't unusual for one person to compliment another's costume or its complexity or faithfulness to the original. People openly asked to take pictures all the time. The atmosphere was positive and and bright. I guess people just felt comfortable and open and happy. That's probably it - most people similar to me would probably turn their nose up at that sort of thing and ridicule the person wearing the most complex or faithful costume, deem it 'pathetic' that they'd devote so much time to such a childish activity. But most people are wrong; what's wrong with having an interest, regardless of what it is?

I've never looked down on those who like that kind of thing, just never been interested, and now that I've actually tried going to one of these things and experienced it, it makes me happy that everyone's just comfortable and open and fun. You can dress up as whoever you want, make the convention a secondary Halloween, and no narrow-minded idiot will judge you.

A secondary area was devoted to artists and autograph panelists. Each one sat as his or her table with an associate that collected money and presented images for choosing to be autographed. A line stood in front of each table at length. I saw that Summer Glau woman at a distance; she was often smiling and appeared likable. I stared for a second, trying to see if seeing an actress I'd seen on TV would stir any fandom in me, any starry-eyed wonder or disbelief. After a few seconds, nothing. Just a woman I'd seen on TV, nothing bigger. Pretty face. Her line was the longest. At one point, I saw her get up and crouch down to hug a little girl.

Eventually, after seeing the prices and determining that if I was going to get anything out of this, this would be it, I joined the line up for Christopher Lloyd. In front of me stood several girls who had that exact starry-eyed wonder about them, leaning out to try to see him, etc. As we got closer and I did see him, none of that disbelief or wonder made it in me. He was just an elderly man, a year younger than my maternal grandmother, with little hair on his head and glasses. He shook the hand of a father of two kids before they left, and we moved forward.

I was determined to be someone who did not want to see him just because he'd been in all the Back to the Future movies. I'd seen him in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when I was in 12th grade, in English class. I'd seen him in My Favourite Martian when I was a kid. I know I'd severely dislike being known as a one-hit wonder or as a star of one big lasting film that defined my career, so I wished I had more film appearances under my belt for when I met him.

The attendant waved me forward towards the lady at the table next to Lloyd. The cost was $70 - the only money I'd be spending at that entire convention other than parking and the ticket. There was a large selection of promo shots and movie stills, several being from Back to the Future. After a small look-over, and talk with the lady who shared my wish that she'd seen more of his film appearances, I chose a shot of him as Max Taber from the Jack Nicholson hit and moved over, putting the image in front of the man.

"Hey, yeah, kind of wish I saw you in more films, all I've seen is that and My Favourite Martian...hope you're enjoying Ottawa."

"Oh, yeah."

He said that as he wrote his signature, in a deep voice, deeper than I expected.

"Well, you have a great afternoon." I waved, and walked away, a small smile on my face.

The exchange was extremely short - I'm really not good at starting conversations or small-talk with people I don't really know, and I'll end up saying exactly what's on my mind, however blunt or short-sighted it sounds ("All I've seen is that..."). If he said anything else, I didn't hear him and I hardly looked at him properly. All I know for sure is that my good afternoon wish to him was and felt as sincere as possible.

The stardom thing still didn't hit me. Seeing Mr. Lloyd, I saw a man for who he was sitting behind that table, not a guy who'd been on camera since the 1970s, acting with Danny DeVito in Taxi or Michael J. Fox in that time-travel series. Ever since, though, I have felt a bit of tickle of delight considering I did meet him in person. That probably draws upon the simple fact that I did, the memory, and not the actual moment. It's a fact about me now that I have "Christopher Lloyd" written on an image of him. That's the neatness aspect.

I don't think I'll ever understand star culture, or fandom, in that regard. Sean Astin of Lord of the Rings was there, as well, but I couldn't muster the interest or the will to spend more money, or the patience to wait. He's just a guy. They're all just men and women of various age. What seems to matter to me, really, is the simple fact that I had met any of them. Yet in the moment, my time with Christopher Lloyd amounted to about 14 seconds of me mumbling direct phrases and him signing with a marker and responding "Oh yeah." What an amazing moment! Nah. Just your average autograph signing with someone who has had a career in front of the camera.

Because it is just a very large room filled to the extreme with people, I didn't hang around all day. Brent and I started at around noon, and we were both gone by four in the afternoon. I would have left sooner, except I was looking for another friend and I wanted to make the long entrance worth it. I saw four people from work, two people from high school, and four people from my recent semester in writing. Plus a teacher from the Fall semester, dressed in a green bikini top of some sort and green garments that I don't know how to describe very much. My other friend, Jim, suggested it was a character named Poison Ivy. Uh-huh. Never heard of them. Never expected to see a teacher dressed like that.

As it says in the title, this is likely my last. This is probably true, due to the hassle to get in and the simple nature of the event - walking around looking at things, avoiding people's poses and photographs, jostling through crowds. It's a massive way to deplete all your money - the thousands of comics, T-shirts, hoodies, being able to sit inside and take a picture in the DeLorean and the Ecto 1 for a price, hanging out with those robot things from Star Wars or Trek or whatever, going to a Q & A with a science-fiction actor, autographs - all of them come at prices, most of them steep. It doesn't help in my case where I'm so dumb and ignorant of what anything is or means, and I have little to no interest in finding out. I respect the culture and I think the people who participate in it are wonderful, I just can't muster up my own interest in participating. Or walking around forever. And not everyone's perfect - when I wondered out loud who Bruce Campbell was, an attendant gave me a look that felt slightly like amazement mixed with condescension.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience and I'm glad I tried it. It made the day interesting. And some of those costumes were quite nice. If there's a big star next year that I've heard of and enjoy, I may go, but I probably won't be starry-eyed or all over the place. I've never been to a Comic-Con before, and I'll just say that for the people who enjoy that kind of thing, I'm glad they have it. It's a positive thing in a world of disinterest and ignorant, unfounded hate.
'Ecto-1'

Justin C.

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