Yesterday my wife and I attended a little comic book convention close to home (only about 20 minutes away by freeway) called “Comic Con Revolution.” Usually my wife and I pack up a few days worth of food/clothes/autographables, book the hotels months in advance, and trek on out to L.A, San Diego or even Las Vegas. My wife has even been to the legendary DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia (before we got married). Convention going for us is almost like a tactical military operation; we plan all of our events, autographs and panels well in advance, and we pack accordingly. After about 16 years of these things, I’d say she and I are pretty good at it now…
Comic Con Revolution (CCR) is a first for the Inland Empire (aka the sprawling, seemingly endless suburbs of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, east of Los Angeles), as it marks this convention’s first year in existence. It kicked off at the Ontario Convention Center on Saturday, May 13th of this year. Interestingly enough, the convention center is right across the street (literally) from a little Residence Inn hotel my wife and I called ‘home’ for two months while our house underwent major repairs from water damage over 3 years ago. Long scary story, but the Ontario Residence Inn was a nice enough place to call home in a pinch. Every time I’m in this area, I’m reminded of that time.
But I digress; back to CCR…
CCR was like 1/100th scale San Diego Comic Con; small, but sincere. And with a lot more emphasis on actual comic books, unlike San Diego Comic Con, and even WonderCon; both of which seem a bit more focused on movies and TV shows these days (I’m thinking Comic Con San Diego might as well call itself MultiMedia Con at this point…).
And since this was CCR’s inaugural year, I had NO IDEA what size of crowd to expect. Well, I was pleasantly surprised at a very healthy turnout. Not anywhere near the 130,000 who hit San Diego every July, but very impressive for an Inland Empire gathering. Much of the time we were there, the dealer halls and corridors of the convention center were fairly packed; but with enough ‘breathing room’ to not experience that near-suffocation you may feel at the larger events (to clarify, I suffer mild claustrophobia; which has mellowed with age, but still flares up now and then… sometimes at really large gatherings, I need to just duck out and get some air). Put it this way; you could still park at the convention with little difficulty… something that is simply impossible at Comic Con San Diego now.
My wife and I got there around 8:30 am (the event officially began an hour later, but we’re seasoned vets of these things…. you always come earlier than posted), and we killed time at a little in-convention center cafe for a bit.
A couple appeared dressed as a husband/wife version of “The Flash” (I later discovered they were vendors working a food booth inside the con). I thought they were adorable, so I took their picture. My wife also ran into a former student of hers who was dressed as “Miraculous Lady Bug” from an animated French feature; she had some issues with her costume, and my wife (being ever the teacher) gave her a hand.
Soon enough we were inside the Exhibit Hall (after a brief address from the local mayor, most of which we couldn’t hear above the rising din of the crowd, and frankly, we weren’t that interested in hearing it anyway…).
I had a few modest goals in mind. There were two autographs I was hoping to get: actor David Naughton, star of the 1981 cult horror-comedy “American Werewolf in London” (a movie I have fond memories of watching on cable TV at my best friend’s house as a teenager), and writer Doug Jung, the cowriter of the movie “Star Trek Beyond”, which I felt was a personal best of the Bad Robot-JJ Abrams’ Star Trek films. I immediately found where the autograph areas were located (at this point, I can sniff them out like a bloodhound…) and almost immediately I met Naughton, who was still very recognizable, even with gray-hair and glasses (made me feel right at home). I shook his hand, and pulled from my trusty red Borders’ bag, a large hardback copy of John Landis’ “Monsters in the Movies” (oh, how I miss Border’s bookstores!). Landis was also the director of “American Werewolf in London” (as well as “Animal House” and SO MANY more). I opened the book to the section on “American Werewolf…” (page 56) and Naughton signed. Nice! It was soon afterward that I bumped into my wife again. Our strategy for these things is usually “divide and conquer”; she does her things and I do mine. We then meet later, compare notes, eat, and air drop iPhone pics with each other. A time-tested strategy that allows both of us to get the most out of these things.
It was after we met and parted again (when I swore to myself that I wouldn’t spend much money at this convention…) that I ran into two relics from my childhood; staring me in the face were two Marvel Comics’ large soft-back adaptations of the original Star Wars movies (!!). The first being an adaptation of the 1977 original movie and the second of “The Empire Strikes Back” (my personal favorite Star Wars movie). I had the ’77 adaptation when I was about 11 or so, and I read it to tatters as a kid. It was the first time I ever knew of the infamous ‘deleted scenes’ involving Luke’s pal Biggs on Tatooine, or the scene of Han Solo talking with Jabba the Hutt (who was drawn very differently from his later “Return of the Jedi” appearance). I had to have these! So…I meekly forked over the dough and bought them. When I had a chance to sit down later on, I actually took them out of their plastic slipcases (screw the collectors; I like to READ these things) and smelled them… the smell took me back almost 40 years. They both smelled like the old, pulpy paper we used in school. They smelled like libraries. They smelled like… well, my childhood. A childhood spent amidst hundreds of books; both at home and at school. My favorite places in the world were bookstores and libraries. These SMELLED of those places. My first taste of Ray Bradbury smelled like these two books, as did my first Arthur C. Clarke novels. It was as though I’d purchased an olfactory lobe time machine. It astonished me just how much memory is embedded in the smell of something as simple as aged paper….
No, I don’t regret buying those books. Not a bit…
After the comics’ purchase, I decided to take a peek inside a couple of the panels. I met my wife briefly after taking a peek inside a cosplay panel (on which my wife’s former student that we’d met earlier was a panelist). After a few minutes, I ducked out again and stepped across the hall into a panel discussion on “The Thing: Art Book”; a 400 or so page coffee-table art book commemorating the 35th anniversary of John Carpenter’s horror/sci-fi classic, “The Thing.”
The panel was moderated by comic artist/writer and documentary filmmaker Jon Schnepp (“Slayer” “Metalocalypse” “Death of Superman Lives”). There were several artists from the forthcoming book, which promises to be a great scifi art collectible. Schnepp also led a ‘colorful metaphor’ laced rant about the 1982’s movie’s wonderful use of makeup genius Rob Bottin’s practical makeup FX, and how that look was sorely lacking in the more synthetic 2010 prequel/remake.
Also on the panel was Sandy King Carpenter, wife of the aforementioned horror legend John Carpenter. She talked about her husband’s music career as well. John Carpenter (for those who don’t know) also composed many of the musical scores for his films; including the classic theme to “Halloween”, which has all but become that holiday’s official anthem. His wife hinted at at the possibility (someday) of John Carpenter performing live with Italian progressive horror band “Goblin” (who scored a lot of Dario Argento movies). And for those who love “The Thing” as much as I do? Here is a look at the book’s cover (the book goes on sale this summer and is available for preorder now):
Sadly, I had to leave the panel after a half hour or so, because I was hoping to catch Doug Jung (Star Trek Beyond cowriter) and get his autograph; since he was supposed to appear between 1 and 3 pm in the autographing area. And this the only real disappointment of the convention: Jung apparently no-showed (!). I arrived at the autograph area on time (about 5 minutes till 1 pm), left for short breaks, and then checked back in at regular intervals. Nothing. So, as of 2:30 pm (the time we left the convention) he’d never showed up. I can understand it if he were stuck in traffic (L.A. traffic is infamous, and that reputation is exceedingly well-earned), but what irritated me was a seeming lack of communication to the coordination staff at the convention.
No one knew where Jung was, and it seemed as if there was no official cancellation either. I’ve been to many conventions (ALL of them really) where a guest or two (or more) has had to cancel at the last minute. That’s par for the course. But to not leave any word with the people coordinating the event is a bit… odd. Especially in this day and age, where people have smartphones practically embedded in their palms. It seemed to me that either Jung’s people or Jung himself could’ve got word to the event coordinators somehow (?). Oh well. This was more of a minor snag than a convention-killing calamity. What are ya gonna do, right? Moving on…
One of my favorite things to do at conventions is to observe the talented, creative cosplayers; and CCR had quite a few. I was half-tempted to wear my oft-worn Fred Flintstone costume to this one, but I demurred at the last minute in favor of attending incognito. This time I just wanted to observe, and not be observed…
Two of the most technically impressive cosplayers that I saw included a SpiderMan “Hobgoblin” villain costume and a Transformer “Optimus Prime” costume on stilts (!). Now, I am in no way/shape/form a “Transformers” fan; in fact, I know little about it except that it’s a cartoon and that begat a series of loud, CGI-laden movies. But the Optimus Prime cosplayer was magnificent…
On a nice side note, I also ran into a young man who works at the local Honda Dealership, where I’d recently taken my car in for an expensive service call. His name was Nathan and he is a shuttle driver for folks like myself who take their cars in for service and need a ride back home (we met on, ironically, “May the 4th” day of this year). Nathan drove the shuttle that took me home, and later picked me up from my house to get my car at the dealership when it was repaired. During the trips (in local traffic, well over an hour or more, combined) I discovered that he was a hardcore Star Wars fan who had an extensive knowledge of all things Star Wars. His knowledge easily exceeded my own, and he had many interesting insights into the franchise. He was a bottomless well of Star Wars lore & love, and it was a delight to talk with him. We compared notes on the movies, asked about our favorites, the first time we saw them, and about “The Last Jedi”‘s recently released teaser trailer. I later told my wife that particular shuttle ride was the most entertaining shuttle ride of any kind I’d ever had. In fact, I was so grateful for his talk and friendliness that I gave him a Darth Vader PEZ dispenser that I had (mint; still in package). When I gave it to him on the way to retrieve my repaired Accord, he laughed, took out his wallet and showed me his matching Darth Vader credit card! Meeting him and his girlfriend again at the convention was icing on the cake. If you ever read this blog, Nathan? Once again, I thank you for making a traditionally unpleasant experience (expensive auto repair) as pleasant and as memorable as possible. May the force be with you!
As a promise of things to come? I’d say Comic Con Revolution in Ontario California is off to a pretty nice start. My wife and I will attend as long as we’re able and as long as it’s local. It’s nice to have a convention like this so close to home that we don’t have to pack half of our house’s belongings and both toothbrushes to attend. Here’s hoping it gets even bigger and bolder in the years to come (but not too big; part of its charm for me was its smaller, more manageable size…).
Viva la (Comic Con) Revolucion!
Below is the link to the complete Flickr album of pics from the event: Enjoy!