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Tom Bastian chronicles his first experience at a comic book convention.  It's negative, jaded, and pretty funnyComicon fans duck and cover

"LoserCon 2000"  by Thomas K. Bastian

Comic Conventions can be a weird experience. Ok, not can, they ARE!! They make you wonder if youíre as weird as the rest who go, and embarrassed by your chosen hobby, interest, or past-time. For some, itís like a pilgrimage to see washed up old TV stars, and bask in their career limbo, or to find that rare toy or comic so they can lord it over their classmates, or worse, co-workers! If youíve never been, youíre really not missing much. You arrive at the hotel or convention center and are immediately confronted with people who are way too excited at the chance of meeting the guy who played opposite a real celebrity on a TV show or sci-fi movie 30 years ago.

I went to one of these things last year with a friend, and before I even left the house, I knew it was gonna be the perfect opportunity to mock every living soul we encountered, at least to some degree. Some fared better, but most guys were labeled in some way if I couldnít figure out what "his deal" was. And let me tell you, most of them had deals, so I dealt them as I saw them!

This applies to the convention goers as well as the sellers, and the third-rate celebrities. (Do these people even qualify as celebrities anymore? There should be a term just for these people, like "cubic zircons of fame" or something!)  So we get there, and check out the celebrity room. And we see this one guy we immediately recognize as being the star of a certain popular 70`s show, (I wonít use any names cause he might charge me 10 bucks, but he played the Incredible Hulk, ok?). So we go over and say hi and ask for a picture with this guy, just cause we thought it would be cool to do, but we were shot down, and told if we bought a picture of him, heíd sign it. Why would I spend 10 or 15 bucks for a picture when I can get one with the guy for free?? Let him sign his name on someone elseís picture for all I care. But he musta been confronted by camera toting conventioneers before because he had his sales pitch down pat. He also wrote a book about fitness we coulda bought, but he didnít seem like the best source for bettering oneself. At least not anymore. So we left him hunkered behind his table of unwanted pictures and books, and scanned the rest of room for anyone worth a second look. There were a couple guys from old shows like Battlestar Galactica, and Lost in Space, but none of the ones youíd care about.

But along with these zirconians, there were pin-up model/actresses, and centerfolds from the Nixon era! The pseudo actress/models only want you to buy a picture of them, and will flirt with, or seem interested in, any guy who happens to glance one micron in her direction. The guy could be covered in pimples, and have cat-hair imbedded in his black X-Files shirt and she makes like heís a hunk of choice beef, when in reality heís only gristle and filler. But selling these pictures is her source of income until she gets that killer bit-part in a Toxic Avenger flick, so sheís gonna work it to death until some poor sucker buys a picture. Or worse, like us, get suckered into paying 5 bucks for posing with this floozy, while we use our own camera to take a picture! Hmm, bet mean, that other guy didnít think of this! So we posed with "Candy Summer" or whatever her fake model name was, and high-tailed it away from her with our faces burning with shame and embarrassment, and each 5 bucks poorer. We steered clear of the former pin-ups, and didnít see what they were hawking, but Iím sure they werenít current pictures! 

We then took our leave from this den of obscurity, and hit the dealer room. I like Star Wars I admit it, but that doesnít mean I`ll fork over wads of cash for anything related to it. But I encountered these two guys at a table who tried to sell me this cardboard tube resembling a lightsaber filled with candy, from Europe! Yeah, sounds ultra-cool donít it? I didnít ask the price because it was a cardboard tube filled with candy!! From Europe. I was happier to walk away with my wallet, filled with money. Aside from the dealers selling comics, toys, and useless candy-tubes, from Europe, thereís always the ever-present video bootleggers. For $15-30 bucks you can own a poor quality copy of a movie or TV series so bad it was never released on video legally! There are reasons for that. But these guys sit behind tables full of videos; they frantically made themselves the weekend before, with a TV/VCR set up showing samples from his inventory. Funny thing is, this doesnít make people scatter like roaches but it draws them closer to look for that lost TV classic or a tape of Star Trek Bloopers! Again, being a Star Wars fan, a fairly discriminating one, I found a tape of the truly horrible 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, shown on TV once, and vowed by George Lucas to be hunted down and every copy destroyed! I saw it when it was shown that one time, and I always wondered if it was as bad as they say, (I was 8 years old at the time so it was cool cause it was Star Wars!), but itís true, itís pretty bad! Chewbacca`s Dad has to be seen to be believed! Heís got the mange pretty bad! And a wicked case of dry-rot to boot! And on his mouth. But I wanted to see this travesty, so I bought it.  There wasnít too much else in the dealer room that interested me. If I look hard enough, I can find all the new toys in stores like they did, and avoid paying the 150% markup they tack on.

Next to the dealer room was this elaborate set-up. Swords, knives, and silver skull-shaped things you decorate with, hang around your neck, or stash your weed inside! Naturally the people selling these weapons of battle, or wall-decorations above the bed, are dressed in period costumes, plastered in black eye-shadow, sporting beards that put ZZ Top to shame...although I think the ZZ`s washed theirs! (I say ďperiod costumesĒ assuming the Conan the Barbarian movies are based on fact. They arenít are they? Never a big fan...).

By now, after gawking at the celebricons, geriatric playmates, videos grainy-er than a gas-station security-cam, and not falling for any of the "special deals" on action figures, youíd probably be getting a little hungry. We were, so we perused the food area. Now...hotdogs are tasty, I admit, but are they worth $3.50?? I`d understand if it was a hotdog from some fancy French restaurant, but it`s a comicbook convention! They had other food too, but 3.50 was the lowest you were gonna get. Wonder what a T-bone was going for. So rather than spend a bomb, we went across the street to McDonalds! I guess we werenít alone in our money-saving scheme as we saw tons of other obvious convention attendees there already (you canít miss the fashion sense of them people, they must all shop at Spencerís Gifts and Pot Accessories).

After lunch, and staring at the geeky fanboys, we went back, to check out the Q & A rooms. Thatís where they stick the guy who played so-and-so on Lost in Space or whatever, and he gets asked questions heís plainly heard a million times before, makes a few lame jokes about his female co-stars, and sips his water waiting for his timeslot to be over.  It all has such a pointless, has-been quality to it, but hey, people paid to get in and wanna see this mook, so I guess someoneís happy...but who?

This was my first comic convention, and I already couldnít imagine how people do more of these, including the has-beens. I`d blow my brains out if I was still clinging to a bit-part from decades ago! Hey, they could still stuff and mount my carcass for display at a convention! But I imagine it would be harder to stop people from snapping a picture, you know? I bet Lou is already working on this...

It wasnít all bad though, I saw for myself what these things are like. Live and learn I guess, and I gotta admit I met a few very nice people, like comic artists Dick Ayers, and Franchesco. If they had more people like this, I`d go again. Ditch the dim stars who wonít acknowledge you without paying, and the snobby artists who know how lame it is to be in the same room with an old guy who hasnít acted since the 70`s, and maybe the thick vibe of hopelessness would dwindle...maybe.   


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