A DAY AT THE CON - RHODE ISLAND COMIC CON 2016
It has been quite a while since I was able to find myself in attendance at a comic convention. The reasons are varied but at long last I was able to get to my second Rhode Island Comic Con. I was there for Saturday October 12th, the second day of the con.
This time around I was accompanied by my brother, J.M. Roberts, Sr. ( AWOLgypsy.com ). I needed him to shoot the show photos that you will see throughout this article. For the first time at any con I've been to, I also had a second person as part of the traveling group. A friend of mine's 18 year old was coming with us. We share a love of geekdom though we are in different areas of interest. Aidan is a cosplayer and a fan of the webcomic Homestuck. She was even a member of a Homestuck panel at this year's convention. It was actually quite fun to hang out with her for a little bit before we went on our separate pop culture adventures in the Rhode Island Convention Center.
And that last part brings up a little something. I want to stress that I had a pretty good time at the show. But it wasn't perfect. The event was split into two venues, the Convention Center and the Dunkin Donuts Center. They had the headliners in the "Dunk", while non-headliners were in the Convention Center. But in order to get from one to the other you had to go back outside and get in a line to get into the other venue. Because I didn't feel like doing something as mind-numbingly stupid as that, I made the decision to forgo the headliner part of the convention. This meant I missed out on meeting Alice Cooper and had to eat the money it cost for me to preorder the pro photo session with actress Summer Glau since those sessions were held in the Dunkin Donuts Center as well.
Following the event, I read a large amount complaints about a lot of what happened at the show. While I can't confirm everything from my own experience (and more than a few of the complaints came off as whining from overindulged crybabies used to getting whatever they want whenever they cry about it), I do know that I dealt with 5 volunteers during the day I was there. While there was one that couldn't give me an answer to the question I asked, the other four I spoke to gave me the information I needed at the time I spoke to them.
A couple of things that you can always seem to find at conventions came about as expected. The first was the long lines to get into the building while I was outside in the breezy, chilly weather. However, once the doors opened, the three of us made it inside relatively quickly. The second expected thing was how the crowded nature of the floor made for the expected stop and start of moving around. It annoys me when I'm the polite person to say "Excuse me" when you bump into someone and then you get bumped into and get ignored or a dirty look. Thankfully, it wasn't so bad as to make you just want to leave the floor. To be clear, I accept these things are going to happen and I try not to let it affect my enjoyment of the day too much.
As for the rest of my day's activities, here's what we did:
The first thing my brother and I did after splitting off from our traveling companion was stop at the table for David Labrava. My brother is a big Sons of Anarchy fan and when he saw that Labrava was going to be at the show, he hoped to meet and take a picture with him. I ended up buying him the pic opportunity as an early Christmas present. While I'm not much of a photographer, I took the pic for him. It wasn't busy at Labrava's table when we were there so my brother got to spend a couple of minutes talking to him.
I ended up passing on my plans of meeting former Doctor Who co-star Arthur Darvill. I was hoping he was doing table photos, but he wasn't and his line was long enough that I didn't want to spend more time standing around in another line.
I also got to meet actor John Ratzenberger. Best known as "Cliff Clavin" from Cheers, he's also fashioned a voice-over career with appearances in the Pixar movies. My brief encounter with Ratzenberger was pretty cool as I got him to sign my Season 1 DVD set of Cheers. He told me a quick story about Nicolas Colasanto and how he prepared for playing "Coach" on the show.
The second best part of the show for me was something that didn't even happen to me. Instead it was the person in front of me in Ratzenberger's line. It was a little girl about 10 or 11 years old. She was looking at the table full of pictures to choose one to have him sign. Now when you see someone that young, you pretty much figure she's going to pick one of the Pixar movie character stills. However, she ended up choosing one from his Cheers days.
When it was her turn to talk to him, she was a bundle of nervous energy, bouncing on her feet and shaking like a leaf in excitement. She was getting to meet "Cliff"! Yes indeed, this girl was a megafan of the show that ended years before she was even born. John talked to her for a few minutes, seemingly a little surprised that she watched the show and was a huge fan. He asked her if she was from Rhode Island, but it turns out the girl and her family were at the convention all the way from Clearwater, Florida.
I found it to be so cool to see someone that young be such a huge fan of something you wouldn't expect her to be. She left the table with her signed photo like she was walking on air! As I said, it was such a great moment to witness.
Of course, the single best moment of the show was getting to add Summer Glau to the list of Firefly / Serenity cast members that I've been able to meet. She was the main reason I was at the show. When they announced she was going to be a guest months before the con, that's when I knew I was buying my ticket.
We waited in the winding line for over an hour since we were in the "general" line instead of the VIP fast lane. But at long last it was my turn! And while I didn't come close to pulling a "Wolowitz", I was quite excited to meet Summer.
I shook her hand in greeting and had a brief conversation where she mentioned how much she loved the "Jaynestown" T-shirt I was wearing. And dear readers, this is where I had my one fanboyish moment of the con. I say this because my response to her comment was an almost shy and retiring "I wore it because I was getting to meet you today." And yes, I was mentally slapping myself as I heard that sentence coming out of my mouth. I'm pretty sure my brother wanted to make the slap a reality. Of course, I didn't tell her that I also had a "Keep Calm and Bring Grenades" T-shirt underneath the first shirt.
I brought my copy of the Firefly: The Official Companion - Volume One that I bring to have signed when I get to meet one of the cast members. I didn't ask her to personalize it beyond my name but she quite awesomely added, "No Power In The Verse Can Stop Me", which I love but would likely have never thought to ask her to do.
While she was signing the book I saw one of her stills from a Hallmark Christmas movie that she was in, playing one of Santa's elves. I commented that I really liked that movie and how I made a point of watching it when it aired. Summer said that she really liked the movie and that she missed her calling as a Christmas elf.
After the book was signed and the conversation ended, it was time for my photo with her and I think it came out pretty well.
WANDERING THE FLOOR
While I normally try to attend at least one panel of interest when I go to a convention, this time around I didn't bother with any of the ones they had on Saturday. The Summer Glau panel was being held on Sunday so I knew I was going to be missing that, but the list of panels for the day I was going to be there had little of interest for me. In fact, the only one that I had even an inkling of interest in was a "Basics of Podcasting" panel. But that was being held at the same time I was planning to leave for the day so I skipped that.
Instead, I opted to wander the floor to get the lay of the land so that I could check everything out for a possible return for later purchases.
I'm not one for spending a lot of my available show money on memorabilia anymore, but I do usually make a couple of small purchases. There's so much available and a lot of it smacks of cheap money grabs, so I try to limit what I buy so that it is something that I really want.
At one merchandise booth that was basically a mini store packed top to bottom with pretty much anything you could ever want from every kind of pop culture avenue, I found what was to be a birthday gift for my mother. We watched nearly every episode of the show NCIS TV series together and there on the last wall I looked at was a baseball cap with the logo on it, just like the characters wear in the show. It was a must have purchase for me.
The other purchase was a new Firefly TV shirt with the "Big Damn Heroes" motto emblazoned across the Independents flag. There were a couple of other great T-shirts from the show, but that was the one I ended up handing over the money to add to my collection.
MORE WANDERING THE FLOOR
After walking a good portion of the floor, my brother split off so that he could attend the Sons of Anarchy panel. When he ended up not being able to get into the jam packed room where the panel was being hosted, he ended up using his "alone" time to get some photos of the cosplayers and a well deserved smoke break.
Meanwhile, I used my solo time to check off the two of the comic related guests in attendance off my list.
I found Renee Witterstaetter's table and got to talk with her briefly about the Savage Sword of Conan story she wrote when that comics magazine was being published. I brought the trade paperback edition (Volume 17) that contained her story and had her sign it.
I had trouble finding Roy Thomas on the floor but one of the con volunteers was able to give me the location. While I waited in line, I got to listen to Thomas tell some stories including one about Harlan Ellison and the Conan The Barbarian series that was published by Marvel Comics. Thomas doesn't charge to sign but does have a donations jar and donates that money to charity. I had my Showcase Presents: All Star Squadron Volume 1 trade to have him sign, so I threw in some cash to the jar and got it signed. Thomas commented that he wished DC would do a second collection of the series.
As I mentioned above, I don't usually spend my money on a lot of memorabilia at a convention. Instead, I usually spend a decent amount of money in Artist's Alley where I pick up new comics or books from small publishers and the writers/artists themselves.
I did the majority of my purchasing while my brother was gone but went back to them when he got back so that I could get photos of/and with the creators.
NEW COMIC / BOOK MATERIAL BOUGHT
(I should point out that while I have bought everything I will write about below, I have not yet read the material so I have no opinions thus far on what I've picked up.)
The one prose novel I picked up was by a Rhode Island based author named Peter J. Larrivee. It's called Revenant - King of the Dead: Book One. While there is a supernatural bent to the story, there is a mystery aspect to the plot as well and that was what sold me on picking it up.
As for the comics I gathered in my wanderings, there were some fantasy titles, some superheroes and some horror/dark comedy stuff in the mix.
I talked briefly with Pat Broderick and got a signed copy of his Nibiru and the Legend of the Anunnaki #1. He wrote, penciled, inked and lettered the comic. You can check out his work at http://www.patbroderickart.com
Summerlands Fanzine #1 & 2 from Outside The Box Comics deals with horror, fantasy, mythology and sci-fi stories. I picked up both issues and spent a few minutes talking with artists/writers Justin DiMeglio (to my right) and Ogmios (left).
PKMM Entertainment had a couple of #0 issues available, Law of Resistance (featuring inks by Bill Sienkiewicz) and COR - Controlled Organic Robotics (with pencils & inks by Paul Gulacy on one of the stories).
Chris Campana's First World - The War of Souls is the trade collection of the first four issues of the fantasy series. When I listened to his brief pitch about the series, it sounded quite fascinating and I had to grab it up. You can learn more about it at First World Comic.com
I had a great time when I stopped by Mark McKenna's table. While he's had a long and distinguished career working with Marvel Comics (Exiles, Deadpool) and DC Comics (Aquaman), I was taken more by his Combat Jacks series that he had for sale at the con. I picked up the #1.1 Director's Cut issue. I also got to spend some time talking to him and he had a pretty funny story about a cartoon he and another artist had thought about doing about their convention horror stories. He was a really great conversationalist, knowing how to engage his audience and keep their interest. For more on McKenna, check out his website.
I also spent a decent amount of time talking to Joe St. Pierre about his series The New Zodiax. In fact, he never really got to finish his pitch because I was taken with the character he described for my own astrological sign. Said character is featured in the trade collection of the first four issues (from St. Pierre's own Astronaut Ink), and I was sold on picking up the book after he described her. The purchase of the trade came with a signed mini-poster and a head sketch of the "Cricket" character on the title page of the trade.
After I went back to get the photos with the various comic creators, my brother and I were pretty much done with the day, so we made our way to where the Homestuck panel was being held and waited for the last member of our trio to finish up and then we headed out for the day.
I know that cosplay is a big part of the convention experience and I normally enjoy seeing the various characters represented throughout the course of the day. However, this year was a little boring for me overall. There were so many people dressed up as "Negan" from The Walking Dead or "Harley Quinn" from Suicide Squad that it seemed like variety was a bad word. The photos below are a small sample of the costumes that my brother or I really liked.
(Probably the only kind of "biker" that I'll ever hang out with.)
The one missed photo opportunity we saw was a fantastic group of people dressed up as various characters from the Disney Peter Pan movie. They were exceptionally well done but we missed the photo.
All in all, each of us had a great time at the show as we got to partake in our various interests and have all new experiences with our fandom. While there were hiccups to be sure, the 2016 Rhode Island Comic Con ended up being a fun day in the end.
I didn't have the time to read, so I'll come back later.
I'll be interested in hearing what you think once you've read the article.
My brother took the photos, so he'll appreciate the compliment.
I nearly got to go on a Comic-Con myself 1 or two months ago, in Copenhagen, but I had the feeling, that it was mostly concentrated around games and such, and I'm not in to games at all.
I am a big Marvel-fan, though, and collects the big Omnibus-collections (comicbooks) of Fantastic Four, Captain America and many more from the "silver-age Marvel (late 60's - 70's), and of course all the great Marvel-movies, and a fan of great artists like Gene Colan, John Buscema and Mike Ploog.
"Missed out meeting Alice Cooper". Ouch, that's a bummer!!
Very cool, that you met Cliff from Cheers!!
all in all, it sounds like, you had a spectacular day!!!
Funny to see those charachters from "A Nighmare Before Christmas", since I saw it (again) only two days ago.
I must go, the next time, I get a chance for a Comic-Con, but I think, it'll be somewhat smaller than this. Awesome!!
Surprisingly, this is actually a smaller show despite the space it occupies. It's not like it is San Diego Comic Con or Dragon*Con...those things are HUGE!
So is the cost to attend them so it is unlikely that I'll ever get to those.
I had a good day, but it could've been better if I'd been able to do all the things I'd hoped for. Still, my complaints are relatively minor.
Wow, great day for you buddy. I've never been to anything like that, but then again, I'm not really into this type of stuff. I've always wanted to attend some sort of music convention, but I've never gotten to do that either.
Glad you read the article even if it isn't something you are into. I'd love to go to a music convention as well.
By the way, the article is being read and shared by some of the people featured in the piece so that's a good thing!