WIZARD WORLD - PART 3
PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES: PART ONEThe flight out of LaGuardia (New York City) was an adventure. They boarded us, they pushed the plane back, and then stopped all westbound traffic for the next three hours. Just to save face, they were kind enough to serve us some warm water, if anyone wanted it. I was one of the idiots to accept it and ended up thirstier than when I started.
When we got to Midway Airport - an airport that hasn't seen a repair or remodel crew since 1960 -- the usual hour-long wait for the baggage began. Can I ask my fellow airplane passengers a very stupid question: What do you do after your plane arrives? Don't you go to claim your luggage? Why, then, am I forced to wait an extra twenty minutes while I watch the luggage from the previous flight circle around the baggage carousel, unclaimed? Where are you? Watching the other planes take off? Eating dinner?!?
So then we take a $40 taxi from Midway to the Holiday Inn. (You could probably try negotiating the train system, but I'm no good at that, so I took convenience over cheapness.) At the hotel, we get in line to check-in. After waiting for a few minutes - it's midnight now, by the way - we're told we're not supposed to be there. That's right; we've been booked at the OTHER Holiday Inn. Did I mention that the other Holiday Inn is an $8 taxi ride away? It does have a shuttle bus, but that habitually goes through O'Hare Airport, and rarely runs on time.
They send the shuttle bus, we check in, and promptly the next night our keycards don't work. They mistakenly only encoded them for one night, instead of the three that we'd be there.
I'm now beginning to see why so many comedians' routines revolve around airports and hotels. A lesser man by now would be wailing. Me? I'm just thinking how great a con story this will be for the grandchildren. How sick am I?
VARIOUS AND SUNDRYI'm reminded of the political conventions this time of year. After each occurs, the candidate gets a bounce at the polls. The percentage of people likely to vote for each of the major party's presidential candidate surges up, sometimes as much as 10 or 15 points. It all balances out and things settle back into their usual ennui before the mad scamper for the finish line on the first Tuesday of November.
Between CCI: San Diego and Wizard World 2000: Chicago, I have all the bounce I need to keep me going for the next couple of months, no problem. I'm writing this column a week in advance for the first time in a long time. I just can't stop myself.
Now for something completely different:
(My apologies to the 99% of the reading audience who won't understand a thing of what this means..)
Hey Bill? Don't you think it's time you bought poor Jeff that lunch you owe him? It's been so long now that I think he deserves interest on top of that. That's right - he gets appetizers, too!
Now, back to our regularly scheduled column:
There were a lot of costumes around. Not nearly as many as San Diego, but there were a lot of high quality ones, that's for sure. One group showed up Saturday in the classic X-Men costumes, including Rogue, Beast, Cyclops, and Wolverine. (Yes, there were one or two others, but I didn't get any pictures, and my memory is fading already.) They looked really good, and they were stopping every ten feet to take pictures with people without whining about it.
Wizard, of course, had its full course of characters in costume. The Wizard Bunny was there, as was Galactus and the omni-present Doctor Doom.
But the one truly scary one was the guy in full-body white leotard type thing with lime green shorts, domino mask, and male/female insignia on his/her/its chest. I saw him wearing this on both Friday and Saturday. I never got the chance or the nerve to get a picture.
Unlike San Diego, there weren't any overweight women in Vampirella costumes. For that, I'm eternally grateful.
Buying your pass for the con was relatively easy. Even on opening day within the first hour of the con, the line was minimal. It just kept moving. In San Diego, the lines wrap around the building for the first three hours each day of the con. I imagine a large part of that is due to all the information you have to give to CCI in order to get a pass. At Wizard World, you just flash your cash or plastic, and they let you in.
It was only later that I noticed some people walking around the con with press passes. I wondered back outside, passed by Paul Dini and Judd Winick as they were checking in, and asked the person behind the pro registration booth where the press reg was. She pointed me to a table loaded with red folders and press releases. So I went over and signed up, got a tag with my name on it, and went back in. I gave the pass I paid for to the friend I flew out with.
I noticed that on Saturday they had put up a sign at that table to let people know that it was for press registration. ::sigh::
I took some heat last time for name-dropping during my first couple of con reports. Being the overly sensitive type of columnist that I am, I held back a little in the last couple. (Well, almost. The final report from San Diego started off with some majorly gratuitous name-dropping.)
What surprised me in Chicago was talking to a few professionals who I also saw in San Diego who wanted to know why their names weren't dropped.
Some of their names have previously been dropped, but I saved this one:
I talked to Marvel P.R. guy Bill Rosemann. (I don't think that's his official title, but it works for me and covers much of what he does.) He's enthusiastic about his work; I'll give him that. He's a one-man cyclone of energy for all things Marvel. And I mention this just so I have a good excuse to run his picture in front of the Marvel booth in this spot.
(Oh, and don't forget to buy Chris Eliopoulos' DESPERATE TIMES when it reappears on comics store shelves in November!)
I stopped in at both the Chaos and Earth X Hardcover parties on Saturday night. The Chaos party was loud beyond human comprehension. I lasted through the first half-dozen karaoke numbers, but then had to leave before my ears started to bleed. Mark Waid did a sterling rendition of that Dean Martin classic, "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime." The younger set did some much louder 80s heavy metal type stuff. Image's Anthony Bozzi stripped to his boxers during his number. I jokingly asked Jim Valentino afterwards if Bozzi was fired, and Valentino answered in the negative. Then he said something about giving him a raise. =)
The EARTH X hardcover collection looks to be quite a winner. It's been delayed beyond all human comprehension by now, but when it comes out it should be a pretty terrific package. I didn't read the mini-series, but I think I'll be picking this one up for all the bells and whistles.
That party was slightly more sober, with just music playing in the background from the Earth X soundtrack. It had some pretty nice orchestral stuff on it, and it wasn't being played too terribly loudly. You could also view the hammer of Thor, Captain America's shield, and Iron Man's helmet in a prop display case. Sorry - no pictures were allowed.
The convention pamphlet/booklet was a thin glossy thing. It was 20 pages laid out with all the same bells and whistles of a WIZARD magazine. It's aimed more at the first-time con-goer, complete with articles in the back for those who are new at attending cons - items to look out for, how to avoid looking like a dork, etc. There's also the prerequisite con schedule programming, laid out in an easy-to-read colored grid. (I would have liked to have seen the names of the panel participants in bold face, as well, but that's minor.)
The floor map is pretty easy to read. The only real issue seems to be the lack of organization. The list of special guests at the con all has headshots shown, along with the stuff they're working on currently and where they'll be appearing. But most of them don't have any sort of schedules listed. Judd Winick, for example, has a note to see the DC Comics and Oni booths for appearance and signing schedule. It seems like only if you have an official Wizard World signing or Marvel booth appearance that you got your schedule listed in better detail. Of course, this might have been a failing of DC, amongst others, to nail down a schedule further in advance so that they might be included. Who knows?
The bottom line, however, is that if you're coming to this con as a WIZARD reader, the convention booklet should be a friendly and open invitation to various events being held throughout the con. There was also a photocopy sheet listing all the names of the artists in artist's alley, with a floor plan for that, too.
That's also the big problem with the Marvel booth. There's so many signings always going on that there's no use for the booth otherwise. You can't get anywhere near it when the line wraps around it. On the other hand, aside from a table with some comic previews and some video game stuff on another side, there's not much there to look at.
DC has different tables for each section of its comics line, complete with previews, buttons, and creators doing signings almost at random. It's a much more open space, with more room to move about, mill around, and talk to people. A television sitting high above the middle of the booth shows who is currently signing at the booth, along with random episodes of the SUPERMAN animated series.
(The bad side to that, however, is that the poor person who is doing a signing at the table underneath the speakers for the television is going to have a bad time. When I met Chuck Dixon, we had to occasionally stop talking to let The Flash and Superman whiz by while running on the ocean, or as a boat was torn apart by bad weather in the cartoon.)
The thing about being in town for a comic book convention is that it gives you no right to take a higher ground and pounce on the geeks at the Beatlemania convention at the Hyatt. Damn, it was tempting, but who was I to speak, clad in a giant COMIC BOOK RESOURCES logo t-shirt?
Joe Kelly's nickname for Joe Casey's WILDCATS? "Chattycats."
Yes, it's a lot of talking heads. It's also a really good book. Give it a shot.
Nautica was a much lesser name in the landscape of my mind than, say, that guy's name who used to talk real fast for Federal Express about fifteen years ago. Ever since the deal with DC and IMPULSE happened, however, I can't get away from them. I can't tell you how many people I saw wearing Nautica t-shirts in airports this summer.
Really weird. Where'd they all sprout up from all of a sudden? It's like this summer's fashion decree that Capri-length pants were the thing to wear. Maybe it's a guy thing, but it continues to astound me the way everyone was all of a sudden wearing them within a week. It's not like they were sitting in their closets from last year, were they? I don't remember seeing them at all last year. But as soon as the summer clothes got broken out this year, everyone - including some guys! - had a pair or five.
Like I said: Really weird.
I never thought I'd see the day where I sang the praises of a professional wrestler. But Tyler Mane gets special mention for being so danged nice and outgoing at the con. The man was everywhere. He handled long lines of people asking for his autograph with nothing but a smile and the willingness to get up and take Yet Another Picture. The man was a machine.
PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES: PART TWO
It's a literary device to bring your story full circle. So I end this column with a heartwarming little airport story. This was Sunday night, on my way out.
I took the ultra-expensive cab ride to Midway. Thankfully, the taxi driver was nice and not at all smelly. This is doubly ironic since he was originally from New York City. (Yes, he and I had a lovely conversation on the ride over. It's always interesting holding a conversation with the guy through his rear view mirror.)
I got to the airport real early. Checked in and seated myself at Gate C1. About an hour before the plane was scheduled to leave, they announced that my plane would be coming in at gate B12 instead. For those of you not familiar with Gateway - hopefully, that's most of you - that's at just about the extreme opposite end of the airport. So I grabbed my bag and began walking.
Just when I got to B12, I looked out the window. It was a friggin' monsoon out there. Then the announcement comes in - the airport has been shut down. It's one of the hardest downpours I've ever seen in my 24 years of existence. Thankfully, it only delayed my flight by a couple of hours, and I didn't have to wait it out inside the plane on the tarmac.
With all the flights cancelled or delayed, there wasn't much room to sit, so I pulled up a piece of floor and a wall to put my back on and started pulling out some reading material - HOWARD THE DUCK #23, in this case. I look over, and five or six feet to my left, Rob Liefeld was seated with his back to the wall and a comic book open in his lap. The convention was over, I was happy with the sketch he had drawn for me, and so I chose not to bother him. Not too much later, someone did bother him. But he took it with grace, and the next thing you know, Rob Liefeld is sitting on the ground at the airport, just next to the public phones, his legs crossed, with backboards in front of him and drawing sketches for fans.
You can sling all the $%&^! you want at Liefeld, but if he were half the horrible monster people often make him out to be, he wouldn't have been doing that.
There was a kid of about 12 or 13 years seated next to me waiting for his plane. He wasn't there from the comic convention. He saw me reading HOWARD THE DUCK and asked me about it. He borrowed it and liked it, so just before I left for my flight, I gave him a GROO comic I bought at the convention. I had already read it earlier so I didn't mind giving it up. Maybe it will light some fire in him. I was his age when I first started reading comics. Who knows?