Wow. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more disappointed with a WWC than I was with last year’s. This is an all new low in conventions for me. Not only were DC and Marvel absent again, but creators for both of those comic book companies didn’t show up, not even Brian Azzarello (who lives in the area). It was an absolute disaster for anyone who loves comic books, and it went wrong for me from the beginning.
First of all, they didn’t let the press in early this year, like they had for every year previous. This sucked, because I arrived early, thinking I could get in before the crowds and get a good lay of the land to figure out what stops I needed to make, where I could meet people I need to interview, things like that. Nope. They didn’t let me or any of the other press in. Instead, I sat in a corner and watched all of these poor bastards (the customers) lined up to get in. The VIP crowd was lined up first (those suckers who paid more for their tickets), and the rest were lined up like cattle in a chute, not just in one room, but two. You see, they organized everything differently this year. Instead of walking into the lobby and seeing the ticket booths, you had to search around for them. The traditional entrance was simply an exit this year. At least they put a few booths in the lobby to keep people entertained while they waited to get into the actual show.
Sadly, the clowns who ran this year’s show thought it was cool to work the crowd a little. They kept crying out for bullshit cheers while these poor bastards waited in line to get into the convention. Behold! The suckers actually cheered back. Were they that desperate to get in? Did they even realize that they wouldn’t really get to experience anything comic book related? Oh right. They weren’t here for comic books. They were here for the guests. Sorry, I forgot. I was still in C2E2 fantasy land.
Wait a minute. Why are they playing Johnny Cash on the overhead? This went on for a while, until they switched to something a bit more germane to the show: the Star Wars soundtrack. In the meantime, while I was people watching, I saw some of the strangest cosplay imaginable. Why was there someone dressed up as Madonna in A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN? Why were there so many people dressing up as the BATMAN & ROBIN version of Bane? Did I really just see some moron dressed up as Tumblr? Ugh! An emo Freddy Krueger?! That piece of shit didn’t even wear the burn-mask, he just brushed a wing of dark hair over his face. And did Rick Moranis from the first GHOSTBUSTERS just walk past me?
Whoa! That’s Karl’s brother from DIE HARD! Okay, that one was pretty cool.
Also while waiting, I saw a box of WWC bags. You know the kind. Everyone gets one when they buy their tickets. I took a peek into one of them to see . . . a bunch of plastic World of Warcraft cups. That’s it. Who the fuck would want these things? Shockingly, quite a few people. And for those who missed their bags, they put up a table with a bunch of free cups stacked up on it, and dummies surrounded it, grabbing up more free shit.
I was really, really happy I brought a flask full of whiskey. It helped a great deal.
Once inside the actual show, I noticed that they’d changed everything around. It used to be that if you walked in, you saw the big publishing companies crowded together. Off to the side, you’d see an autographing area. To the back and side of the big boys, you’d see a mix of smaller presses and comic book stores hawking their wares (as well as other comics-related stores). All the way in the back, you’d find Artists Alley, comprised of several rows.
This year, as soon as you walk in, you see the autograph areas. I guess that makes sense, seeing as how no one is here for comic books. They’re here for celebrities like William Shatner, Stan Lee, Scott Bakula, Lou Ferrigno, a plethora of Buffy people, you know. The usual. To the left and right of this area are the people selling comic books, props, movies, t-shirts, and other various pop culture products. Behind all of this, rather than all the way off to the side, is Artists Alley . . . except it’s not much of an alley this year. Rather than sequester it off to the side, they decided to have the whole thing line the back of the convention in very, very long rows. Thanks to this, you could wander into AA without even knowing it.
People are of two minds on this setup for AA. Most people (me included) think it’s awful and confusing. In the minority is Josh Filer, the creator of GROSS GRANDPA!, who told me that he expected business to be much better due to this new setup. Because most people don’t realize they’re wandering into AA until it’s too late, something might just catch their eye that they wouldn’t have ordinarily seen before, and they might just buy that something. From what I’ve witnessed, it did make AA seem busier than usual (at least the first few rows; if you were in the last few rows, like Jason Yungbluth, the creator of DEEP FRIED and WEAPON BROWN, you weren’t quite as surrounded), I don’t think it led to more business. I don’t have the numbers, of course, but it seemed to me that most people were confused by wandering into this area back here.
Another change from the usual years: ordinarily, they have one bar all the way at the back. This year, they added a bunch more bars and scattered them throughout the show. I appreciate booze with easier access, but I noticed one thing at least remained the same: no matter which bar I went to, the line was always supremely short. There was never more than one person in front of me.
Also: once again, they stuck us with wristbands instead of lanyards. This is possibly the stupidest thing they could do, especially for people who will be there more than one day, such as myself. I had to keep this thing on Friday through Sunday, even when I showered. I can’t tell you how much I hate the wristband.
As far as purchases, I made out pretty well. Many of you know, I can’t go to a convention without picking up a pulp magazine. This year, I scored big. Check it out: WEIRD TALES! This one contains the first appearance of a story by Robert Bloch in which he kills off Lovecraft (published when Lovecraft could read it and thereby retaliate). An excellent purchase.
I also found an issue of THE MAGAZINE OF HORROR. Digest-sized horror books are hard to find, as there aren’t many of them. MoH didn’t last for very long, but it was a quality magazine, and I’m proud to now own issue two.
Holy shit! Troma was there this year! They haven’t been here for a very long time. I remember when I first started going to WWC, and I picked up a bunch of VHS Troma movies at their booth. This year, I got a handful of DVD’s, including SHAMELESS, TASTELESS, previously reviewed here. With every purchase comes a free set of TOXIC CRUSADERS stickers. Remember those Panini sticker books? This packet was for one of those. Talk about a blast from the past!
Too bad those motherfuckers left early on Sunday. I had plans to go back and buy more stuff from them, and they were gone by one in the afternoon. Fuckers. They were about to make another hundred bucks off of me, money that Lloyd Kaufman probably needs for the new CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH movie that he’s shooting right now.
All right, there was one celebrity I was interested in meeting. Check that, two. I say one because I knew there was no chance I’d meet Scott Bakula due to his high prices. I knew James Hong would not be quite so greedy, though, and thankfully I was right. For a mere $25, I got to meet Lo Pan himself. I talked with him for a little bit, mostly about the episode of HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL he did waaaaay back in the day. It was a good conversation, but when he signed the picture of Lo Pan and let the ink dry a little bit, I went to shake his hand as a nice-to-meet-you kind of thing. He then stared at my outstretched hand, as if I’d just tried to stick it in his ass. Finally, he held out a fist for a bump. That was perhaps the most awkward fist-bump I’ve ever taken part in.
After that, I sat down near the back of the show to gather my wits. Unbeknownst to me, I’d sat down next to the door all of the celebrities used to get from their cushy lounge to the autographing area. Before I knew it, Scott Bakula zipped right past me, talking with someone I assumed was a publicist. Being that close to Sam Beckett brought me back to my childhood and filled me with a little fanboyishness. He actually doesn’t look all that old in person, not as old as he looks on that stupid sitcom he does these days.
Another brush with celebrity: while I was walking back from a smoke break with Leo Perez and Jon Lennon, I practically ran into Amber Benson of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fame, presumably out for a smoke break, herself. At first, I didn’t recognize her, but then it clicked in my head. She must have seen that click, because she offered me a smirk before going on her way.
I also saw Sherilyn Fenn from
who had aged rather poorly, and Sean Young, who had aged even worse. Anyone who has ever gone to a convention
knows how hot it can get during the show.
Granted, I’m a huge sweater when it comes to that kind of thing, but no
one goes into one of these shows and gets cold. Young was wrapped up in a blanket as she
signed autographs. Weird. TWIN PEAKS
No one was lined up to meet Joey Lawrence.
As with last year, the real fun of WWC is hanging out with people in AA. Faithful readers will know of my association with Leo and Jon, but this year I got to hang out with Josh Filer (who brought excellent beer that you can only get in
), Kevin Bandt, John Hoban, Jason
Yungbluth, Menton 3, and a number of other great writers and illustrators. (Incidentally, when I was out on that smoke
break with Jon and Leo, Menton 3 accompanied us, and he’s got amazing
stories. Remember that video Johnny Cash
did for “Hurt”? Menton 3 got to hang out
at Cash’s house during the shooting of that video.) Just before and after my interview with Josh,
we had an excellent conversation about comic books of the past, in particular
the underground comix movement. We also
talked about Chaos!, and I told him about how Brian Pulido invited me out to my
first WWC. I wish I’d recorded the entire
conversation. It would have made a good
addition to the actual interview. Wisconsin
And I also got to see a friend of mine I haven’t seen for a few years. However, he told me something that saddened me. I can’t name him because he was talking to me as a friend, rather than a journalist, and this seems like the kind of thing that could get him in trouble. You can probably guess who he is, though, if you’ve been reading my stuff for a while.
Once upon a time, this guy was a pretty big creator in the industry, but he ran into financial problems. He lost his publishing company and went to work for another company. He now shares a writing credit on a pretty high profile book for that company, but I feel the recent work on this book is a far cry from the way it used to be back in the old days. I told him this when I saw him at this year’s WWC, and he said that he has very little control over the book anymore. He said this in such a way as to imply that his name is on the book only because he owns the character, that the company has ultimate say in the direction of this book. It’s too bad.
That pretty much covers everything except for one thing: the Saturday night after-party. I don’t ever really go to these things, and now that I’ve actually experienced one, I can say that they’re not worth the effort. It was scheduled to take place at 8:00 in an adjoining hotel, so I went over there with a group of people from AA. It took us a moment to figure out where the actual party was, but once we did, we sat around outside, waiting for 8:00 to roll around. When it got closer, we crowded around the entrance and were told to line up along the side. We got pretty good positions in line when the news came back to us: no matter where you are in the line, people wearing costumes get in first. LAME.
Somehow, we got in as a group, and the music was really bad techno music played loud enough to make your guts squirt out your belly button. As if that was intolerable enough, as soon as we walked down the stairs to the dance floor, we saw a bunch of costumed people dancing with neon hoops. I don’t think this could have gotten lamer. The bar down there was not well-stocked.
We were in there for maybe a minute, but probably less. As a group, we decided to go across to another party instead, where we all had a bunch of drinks, told a bunch of stories, and had a great time.
I had to walk for about a half-hour to get back to my car that night, and it was kind of odd. I’ve never left WWC so late in the night, and it was a bit creepy, walking down that abandoned skyway, looking out at the empty city below.
So . . . am I going back next year? I found this question equally hard to answer last year, maybe even moreso. I had a lot of fun with my friends, and I made a few excellent purchases (I even got caught up on my INVINCIBLE and PARKER collections), but all of my other experiences were pretty lousy. So, it’s hard to say for sure. I’ll have to wait until next year.
The last thing I did at this WWC was buy this piece by Jon Lennon. I really do hear Christian Bale’s Batman voice when I read this speech balloon:
One more thing: this was up on Jon and Leo's table for quite some time, in addition to issues of PRODUCT OF SOCIETY. Yet for some reason, kids and their parents were crowded around this table. Why? Because Leo was doing a bunch of ADVENTURE TIME sketches. That's right, one of the most questionable tables in convention history was doing business with children. Can it get any more incongruous than that?