Comics

AICN COMICS SPECIAL REPORT: Prof's WizardWorld Austin 2010 Con Report!!!

Published at: Nov. 22, 2010, 8:41 a.m. CST by ambush bug

Professor Challenger here. I know it's a week late, but you can't rush a proper Show report. Add into that, a total meltdown of the official "Challenger Computer" and you have a recipe for slight delay. Take note of a few things. I don't mention every celebrity or every comic book pro at Show. None of that is meant as any disrespect. As well, I know it is fashionable in geek circles to take swipes at the whole Wizard World experience. You will find that I am not going to do take down Wizard World in this report, although, I am also not pulling any punches on those aspects of the show that were...shall we say...less than spectacular. Overall, the Austin Comicon was a rousing success for dealers, pros, and attendees. This year has been a choice experience for me in that my Show experience has been limited to 2 brand new cons: C2E2 back in the spring and now the Austin Comicon a week ago. Ultimately, my goal here is to give AICN Comics readers who could not make it to the new Austin Comicon a taste and a feel for what it was like and I hope you enjoy your time spent in my virtual head.

@@@@ DAY 1 @@@@

Easy drive in to downtown Austin. Good thing I decided to be there in the morning rather than waiting until later in the weekend because in addition to Comicon, it was also "play-offs" night at various high school football arenas, and it was the U.T. vs. O.S.U. game on Saturday, and it was a state teacher's conference meeting in the same location, and a friggin' movie was filming in downtown this weekend. So, Austin traffic was pretty much a nightmare the entire weekend.
I headed in just as the gates opened wide. Walked right up to the press booth to get my wristband for the weekend and headed inside. Man on a mission. Snapped some general pics of the entrance as I walked in, no crowd at all yet so I strolled right up to the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner) and Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson). Wagner is still gorgeous and seemed terribly shy. I told her I was here on behalf of Aintitcool and she asked what I did. She was pleased to hear I still draw “old-school” and then scan the art in to digitally manipulate and/or add color. Then in a Columbo-moment I asked one other thing...could I snap a picture? She got nervous. The lady with her got stone-faced and clipped. I think, did I say something wrong? So I mutter out..."for the website?" Wagner looks at the other lady like she's hiding Jews in the basement and I just showed up wearing a swastika (I make the Nazi reference for reasons that will become clear later). Awkward silence hung in the air and then I just shrugged and said "Really, its no prob..." Then the other lady interrupted in a mollifying tone that "Well, there's the paid photo-ops and we're not supposed to..." And I said, "That's fine...I wasn't thinking in personal terms but for the website..." and smiled. Then the two of them looked at each other and said "Okay..." So, I snapped a nice picture. The fact that I was probably only the second person to talk to her made that possible. I promise that any later in the weekend, I would've been shut down immediately and likely had a cattle-prod shock to the groin.
Next up was Richard Anderson right next to Wagner. He was terribly nice and friendly and soft-spoken. I may have been his first customer. I told him that he and everyone else from the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN show were a little bit of a lifeline for me as a kid while my family was stationed in Puerto Rico. Everything on TV was in Spanish except for a handful of primetime shows that had the English audio simulcast over military radio, and their show was one of those. He wanted to talk about Puerto Rico.
The next few hours were spent scoping out where everyone was situated and getting a feel for the place. I hit up Greg Horn for a gorgeous "Star Sapphire" print (and wound up buying a Vampirella print too...I'm a sucker for Vampi...have I mentioned that I have one of those life-size posters of Vampi from the '70s signed by Vampi herself?). I checked out Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard) and Wilma Deering (Erin Gray). Erin Gray has aged quite well and were I single and she willing...well…I'd canoodle a bit.
On to Mike Grell to buy a WARLORD print and get him to sign a copy of an issue of GL/GA that I am pretty sure was the first Mike Grell comic I ever bought. Grell was signing your first comic for free and additional comics are $1 for each. It's an easy way to keep away the ebay-ers because they hate anything that erodes their profit. Grell is an energetic guy with a nice tough-guy persona and an entertaining story to tell for each and every hand he shakes. A great guest. I'd love to see him on a panel with Howard Chaykin, another great storyteller from the same generation of creators.
Visited bunches of dealers just looking for a good deal. One guy had a bunch of longboxes with random comics thrown in for 50¢ each. I found mint copies of all 3 issues of GREEN ARROW: THE LONGBOW HUNTERS...a series I regret having gotten rid of years ago during a comics purge. Knowing Mike Grell was at the con, I was thrilled to find them. So, I presented them to the dealer who looked at me with a constipated look and groaned "Are you sure you can't find one more?" I said "Well these are all I wanted." He groaned again "....I don't have.... 50¢" Really? He didn't offer to just let me take all 3 for $1.00, so I said "I'm sure I can find something." I remembered flipping past an old '70s BATMAN comic I had as a kid, so I grabbed that one. Dealer was happy and gave me my change...in bills. Mentally tucked away the fact that I needed to get back to Grell for another sig.
About 30 minutes before Lee Majors was scheduled to show up for signings, I made my way into line to wait. I was the third person there. He eventually showed up, not too late. Obviously, Majors' appearance here is coordinated with the release (finally) of the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN series on DVD in the U.S. for the very first time (legally). The only downside to this great news is that it's a $250 package from TimeLife and unavailable for rent or in individual seasons. You gotta buy them all or nothing. And no stores are allowed to carry them. So, a good news/bad news situation for fans.
Majors himself is in real good shape and seemed completely overwhelmed by this whole experience. The TV show predates the modern convention mania, so he was obviously quite outside of his comfort zone here. However, he was very friendly and nice. I shook his hand...TWICE! So sue me...he's the frackin' SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and I wanted to hold his hand a little bit!
I told him that I was an actual member of his "Fan Club." To which he laughed and said "I didn't know I still had one!" So, I smiled and told him about how when I was 9 years old I clipped out the form from a comic and slipped 10 thin dimes into an envelope and sent it in to join the official "Six Million Dollar Man Fan Club." But, a few weeks later, I received an envelope back with 9 dimes inside, my form, and a note that said I had only sent 9 dimes instead of 10. A very sad me was shocked and surprised and gloriously happy about a week or so later when the full Fan Club package arrived anyway! So, I walked away the first day with all my birthday money spent on autographed photos of Lee Majors, Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson and autographed prints from Mike Grell and Greg Horn. Like a friend of mine said...I was "like a kid in a candy store." All I know is that those 3 photos join my Johnathan Frid (Barnabas Collins) signed photo and my birthday sketch from George Perez as most prized possessions. Now I really need to finally get that Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing) autographed photo.

@@@@ DAY 2 @@@@

Friday had been a steady but not overly large crowd. The Saturday crowd was monster sized already. In terms of space, this was not a particularly large space...easily about 1/4 of the size of the C2E2 for comparison. So, when this crowd descended on Saturday...well, there were times during the day where I literally could not move because there was simply no space, just bodies. Of all the comics guys there, the top three in terms of continuous long lines were Greg Horn, Joe Madureira, and Arthur Suydam. Suydam was the most popular (again, in terms of lines) with his massive Marvel Zombies banners and hundreds of zombie prints for sale.
There was a huge emphasis on THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE at this Con, which is bizarre to me. I don't get that appeal at all. But the guy and the two hot girls who star in that low-budget torture flick were there and the most disturbing thing I overheard as I walked by was a guy holding his signed picture from one of the girls and telling her he loved the movie. *shudder* How anyone loves a movie where that girl gets her mouth surgically attached to a guy's butt is beyond my comprehension. Had no interest in Xander from BUFFY, but he was there.
One thing I noticed immediately upon entering the Con was a deep fixation on the camera I wore around my neck. It was kind of crazy. Every time I moseyed anywhere within sight line of a celebrity...if I even glanced their way I would be staring eye-to-eye by someone with a badge either shaking their head at me or actually putting their hand up and saying "No pictures." Nobody seemed to mind when I stood back and took a string of pictures of Ernie Hudson of GHOSTBUSTERS fame...wearing his costume. Try taking a picture of Billy Dee Williams or Lee Majors and I got the distinct impression that my children might become orphans. This kind of thing eventually started pissing me off...because I really don't like people treating me like that and I get kind of immature. Especially considering what the WizardWorld sign outside at the entrance says:
"By entering these premises you consent to be photographed, filmed and/or otherwise recorded for any use and waive all rights you may have to any claims for payment or royalties in connection with any exhibition, televising, or other publication of these materials." [emphasis mine]
Sometime after lunch, I felt the need to visit the men’s restroom. What I found in there is difficult to describe, but besides the enormous line of geeks waiting to use the various holes, the place looked like a bunch of angry chimpanzees had had a poo party or something. So, I tried the other restroom. It too was a disaster, and now it was becoming urgent. Then I remembered the Teacher's Conference upstairs..."teachers are less likely to conduct themselves like angry chimps" and hopped on the escalator and snuck into the restroom up there. Clean, quiet, victory.
I rushed back downstairs to sit in on the Walter Koenig panel. Took note of the sign at the entrance to the Exhibit Hall with two stages set up. The sign said "Photos allowed in Exhibit Hall while celebrities are on-stage as long as photos are for personal use only." Woohoo! So, I happily snapped away with my phone as ol' Walter talked. I'm not kidding when I say that he was asked TWICE to say "Nuclear Wessel" in 30 minutes. If he was Del Shannon, he would've killed himself on the spot.
After Walter's talk, I got my picture taken with the “Soup Nazi” and headed back inside for Bill Sienkiewicz's panel. Snapped a couple of shots of him just with my phone. Good sized crowd. Immediately after that was the Adam West & Burt Ward panel on the other stage.
Crowd was pretty huge, so I went off to roam again for awhile and strolled back in about 15 minutes into the panel. I stood way in the back to listen in and snap a couple of grainy zoomed-in photos. By the time I snapped the second picture I was being manhandled by this long-haired dude (too old to keep his hair that long unless he's a member of an '80s hair band). He was in my face about how he told me "4 times from the stage that there were no photos allowed!" To which I informed him that I just walked in and didn't hear that announcement and... he interrupted that we needed to let security deal with me. And I, again politely but firmly, pointed out to him that I obviously understood there was a policy against photos out on the floor because of the paid photo ops (I'm not a moron) but that the sign at the entrance to the panels says that photos ARE allowed while the guests are onstage...for personal use. He smirked and mockingly said "really...show me the sign." I said.."Okay. Unless someone has taken it down or something." Which got me a superior snort from him. So, I walked him to the entrance and pointed out the sign triumphantly. His puffed up chest deflated as he read the sign and he didn't outright apologize, but he told me that I could keep the picture I took. I accepted that as an apology. Then he hustled off to get that sign taken down because, according to him, it was "not supposed to be there." Pissed me off, but there was a sense of satisfaction in that I was right this time. But thank you long-haired Whitesnake reject for ruining the West & Ward panel for me. I had no interest in walking back in there after that. Basically, the Con organizers and their bullies need to lighten the hell up on the quick-snap photos or they need to just outright ban cameras entirely from the event.
The Costume Parade and Contest was a lot of fun. Hosted by that guy who won WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPER-HERO and included Doug Jones and the “Soup Nazi” as Celebrity Judges. After 2 hours, the guy dressed as Mario won. He was funny and good...but Power Girl, Blue Falcon, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl were all much better and all deserved Best In Show...in this humble reviewer's opinion. Honorable Mention should go to "Pimp" Vader.
Headed in to the last hour of the GHOSTBUSTERS screening and afterwards visited outside for about another hour with the drop-dead gorgeous cos-play model "Taffeta Darling" and Scott from busygamer.com. I avoided the costume after-party at the Gypsy Lounge when I realized it was waaaayyyy down on the east end of 6th Street. I no go there. Sorry.
I overheard a lot throughout the day as I went in and out of the pathways of celebs, comics pros, and dealers. The most obvious constant was that they were without exception very very happy with the response in Austin.

@@@@ DAY 3 @@@@

Sunday was light and easy. I strolled in right at 11 a.m. to attend Matt Sturges's talk on writing comics. Very down-to-earth talk. Good to hear a working writer with a practical head on his shoulder and not worshipping a giant other-dimensional snake or chanting over sigils to get his work done. Sturges's work is marked by a nice syncopation to it and quirky sensibilities. I have a copy of his novel OFFICE OF SHADOW I'm trying to get to...but it got bumped once again on my reading list. This time it was bumped by Michael Moorkcock's DR. WHO novel “The Coming of the Terraphiles.”
After Sturges's panel it was time for Mike Grell's panel. And boy what a panel. Grell is one of those old-school got-a-story-for-every-occasion kinda guys. He was very fun and interesting. His story about how Vince Colletta made Jose Delbo cry over the butchered inkjob he did on an issue of JONAH HEX was a gem. As well, his story about how he came up with the entire pitch for THE WARLORD in 2 minutes while Carmine Infantino was taking a phone-call was classic. After his talk, he came down and shook everyone's hands and thanked them for coming. Very nice.
This being the last day, it was my day to go hit all those comic guys that had been too busy before. So, pretty easily, I was able to run by Michael Golden and get his sig on my copy of the BATMAN SPECIAL with The Wrath. Talked a little to Bill Sienkiewicz while he signed his EPIC ILLUSTRATED cover of Galactus. My personal favorite Sienkiewicz work is the adaptation of MOBY DICK he did for First Comics. He said "That needs to get back in to print." I agreed.
Finally, Suydam had no line. I got him to also sign a cover of EPIC ILLUSTRATED, the last issue, with "Cholly & Flytrap" on it. He told me that a new hardback collecting all their stories was recently released. I will look for that. I also had him sign one of the VAMPIRELLA covers he did and bought an unbelievable "Red Sonja" print from him. Got my chance to talk to Matt Sturges for awhile. He may be just about my favorite comic professional that I've met. Now that I know he lives so close to me, I expect an invite to Thanksgiving dinner.
Cartoonist Phil Ortiz was set up across from macabre cartoonist Angus Oblong and it made for an interesting thing to watch. Phil, of course, illustrates THE SIMPSONS comics and looks like a Simpsons character himself. Angus spent all 3 days in full clown-face makeup...including the red ball nose. Definitely a sight to watch. Both of them were entertaining delighted fans the whole weekend.
I finally ran on up to Grell for the second time, this time to get him to sign that first issue of THE LONGBOW HUNTERS I got on Friday. I told him my favorite part about the cover was that I could see the canvas and paintstrokes on it. I like texture in my art. He told me a story about seeing an actual painting by N.C. Wyeth that blew him away and humbled him when it said at the bottom that Wyeth had painted it in 3 hours. I told him "That's okay. You created THE WARLORD in 2 minutes." I actually stumped him for a second with that one. Then he started laughing and told me he was stealing that!
Last thing I did before taking off was run by to see Kerry Gammill at the Monsterverse table. I bought a copy of BELA LUGOSI'S TALES FROM THE GRAVE and the incredible painted promo poster from Gammill. I wanted to shake his hand finally. When I was a teenager I once wrote him a letter about getting into the comic biz and he handwrote back a very nice letter that I still own.

Austin's first large-scale Comic Convention was by all accounts a huge success and plans are already underway for next year.

“Prof. Challenger” is actually Texas graphic artist and lifelong reader of comics, Keith Howell. He really digs Green Lantern, most recently completed the cover art for the upcoming book THE WORLDS OF PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER, and has contributed award-winning art, design, and editing to a number of books and magazines. He occasionally updates his website at at profchallenger.com and welcomes feedback from readers, both pro and con, but if female please include an attached pic in a tasteful state of undress. Thanks for all the fish.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G


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Readers Talkback

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  • Nov. 22, 2010, 8:50 a.m. CST

    First

    by Droncz87

    BAM

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 8:55 a.m. CST

    How ironic

    by BetaRayBill07

    "I know it's a week late, but you can't rush a proper Show report." I'm sure this is what we'll get whenever someone actually gets to Lincoln news. Harry and the gang probably will sound like Belushi talking to Fisher about why he vanished- a bunch of bullshit excuses.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 8:59 a.m. CST

    Philly was amazing this year and next year looks good

    by shutupfanboy

    I don't know how you top Patrick Stewart and Bruce Campbell as well as Avery Brooks, but they are doing a good job so far. Last year was a Star Trek theme, this year is either women of Sci-Fi with Claudia from B5 and Margot Kidder from Superman. The other theme is Star Wars with Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew and the kid versions of Bobba and Anakin. I am hoping they can land one or two big stars or at least nerd big stars like Mark Hamill or William Shanter. Last year, everyone from Stewart to Avery to Walter Koening to Brent Spiner to Adam West was just amazing. Best Con in years.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 9:09 a.m. CST

    I dunno...

    by Prof

    ...I still wanna get to Philly in the next year or so, but having the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, BIONIC WOMAN, and OSCAR GOLDMAN was pretty darn sweet for a child of the '70s. And...wait...Lincoln was shot? I thought he just had his hat shot off and then returned fire...

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 9:16 a.m. CST

    A good read..

    by Righteous Brother

    I enjoyed that. I don't know if there's something tragic about these faded stars doing these signings and making a few bucks out of having their photos taken, or whether its just a really enjoyable event where stars and fans get together.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 9:21 a.m. CST

    Hmmm

    by Prof

    ..I kind of agree. One time I saw Margot Kidder at one of these things and I couldn't bring myself to go up there. She wasn't even featured. Just sitting in Artist's Alley with a bank bag and some photos. :/ But I will say that Claudia Christian, Erin Gray, Gil Gerard, etc. all were clearly having a blast and when lines were low they would just chat long and loud. Lee Majors was outright apologetic for the amount of money people had to pay but did an embarrassed shrug saying "It's out of my hands though." But he truly seemed genuinely taken aback by the attention.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 9:45 a.m. CST

    Loved Walter in Babylon 5

    by Aquatarkusman

    He played an really evil little fucker. I'm not absolutely sure I would have enjoyed seeing any of these people, despite my love for their shows/movies, apart from Ernie Hudson.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 11:01 a.m. CST

    Good report

    by hallmitchell

    I'm glad to hear Lee is a cool guy. He was such a hero to so many kids in the seventies.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 11:28 a.m. CST

    More Austin Comic Con

    by Raedar

    Nice report Prof! You saw some of the people/things that I didn't get to. Saw Lou Ferrigno's panel and even though I did not get to watch the Hulk series very much as a kid, he was a great speaker. The Buffy panel was fun because the cast just kept joking around and rolling right along even when the not-so-great audience questions came up. Ray Park was amazing! He was a great speaker, had loads of stories, and was one of the most gracious celebs I've ever seen. He talked at length with every fan that came up and if there were kids who were taking any kind of marital arts training he would step out and take real time to give them a few pointers! Even if those kids grow up to do something besides karate for a living, I bet they will never forget that!!! Then there were about 100 artists in Artist's Alley and they were all great and we bought way too many wonderful prints and got sketches and found a great new thing called Berona's War. For a first attempt at bringing this to Austin, it seemed to be pretty good. The only real fail was in the panel "rooms." They were originally supposed to be actual rooms instead of just cutained off areas in the hall, but the Convention Center fell behind in their construction/renovation schedule and so the Con was forced to improvise. So, really not the Con's fault. I agree about the somewhat "Nazi" tactics of policy enforcement, but all in all I can't wait to go again next year. Better start saving my pennies now.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 12:06 p.m. CST

    I would love to have more Austinites chime in...

    by Prof

    ...because I know my report is limited to my experience and space. Others who attended, like Raedar, please chime in. :)

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 12:20 p.m. CST

    I missed it because of work.

    by Human Worm Baby

    You lived in PUERTO RICO! I'm from there and now live in Austin. I really wanted to go but I worked.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 12:53 p.m. CST

    Puerto Rico..

    by Prof

    ... from '72 to '76 on Ramey Air Force Base baybee. :)

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 1:05 p.m. CST

    Jose Delbo...

    by McFlypaper

    That's a name I've not heard in a long time... Long time. He was my sequential art teacher at Kubert and I swear I can't count how often we heard what a lousy inker Vinnie Colletta was. Thanks for the closure on that.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 1:07 p.m. CST

    Also...

    by McFlypaper

    Missed it because real life came up. Hope to make it maybe next year.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 1:18 p.m. CST

    Supposed picture of Parallax from GL movie leaked

    by Bruce of all Trades

    http://tinyurl.com/35w5x4z <p><p> Good to see AICN is on top of things, as usual.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 1:19 p.m. CST

    Serious thought about Steve Austin and his Fan Club

    by Greggers

    Hello, my name is Greg, and I too was a member of the Steve Austin Fan Club. In fact, the signed 8x10 actually hung on the wall of this 5 yr old's bedroom, right next to the Fonzie poster. <p> Sadly, the prospect of watching THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN on dvd does not excite me. For as cool as Steve Austin was *conceptually* (half-robot superspy!), his actual adventures on the show were incredibly low octane. <p>For example, Steve would have to stop a band of smugglers. Not super-cool sci-fi smugglers. They may have had some sort of gimmick, like scuba tanks or somthing, but at the end of the day, they were just smugglers. Something Starsky and Hutch or even Baretta could probably handle. <p>Or how about the episode where they rolled out the old 70s tv trope of the Japanese guy living in isolation on an island and unaware that WWII is over. Seriously, every hourlong adventure series in the seventies had to have this episode, but more to the point, it seemed to be below Steve's paygrade.<p> I think the all time low was the episode where the mustachioed Steve Austin goes undercover as a dockworker, and somehow through the course of the episode, deliberately fools an inner city kid into believing in "fairies." WTF? I mean, forget the fact that the kid who he was trying to reinvigorate with a childlike sense of wonder (or something) was 9 or 10 years old and long past the age of believing in fairies, if you're Steve Austin, shouldn't you be off fighting Bigfoot, or even better, Maskatron? Come on! <p>And that's just it. **Steve Austin Never Fought Maskatron**. He had a battle of wits with robot John Saxon that may have ended in fisticuffs and the admittedly awesome (but totally impractical) wire face (I mean seriously, how would Maskatron move his jaw?), but it didn't really live up to its full robot versus cyborg potential, and they didn't even call him "Maskatron." The fights I created between my Steve Austin dolls were more engaging. <p> THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, and, arguably, STAR TREK were the methadone of sci-fi entertainment in the 1970s, until the full blown heroin of STAR WARS finally hit the scene. (THE INCREDIBLE HULK, where David Banner would help a single mom deal with her rent or something was like the nicotine patch.) You can blame it on budget, but I really do think they could have done some cool stuff within the constraints they had. <p>So by the time I was 7 or 8, the Steve Austin picture had come down off the wall.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 1:21 p.m. CST

    Oh and...

    by Greggers

    Did they have to use the slow motion bionic effect EVERY time? Could they have thrown a regular speed effect in every once in a while so we could get a sense of scale?

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 2:17 p.m. CST

    Yes, they DID have to use the slow-mo every time...

    by Prof

    ...that's how we knew something "bionic" was happening. :) And that's why the show is awesome.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 2:32 p.m. CST

    Ramey base??

    by Human Worm Baby

    That's in my hometown! I'm always surprised that people were stationed there since now it's civilian.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 2:35 p.m. CST

    Ramey...

    by Prof

    ...we were the last of the "army brats" before it went civil. :)

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 3:40 p.m. CST

    I can offer some perspective on the "photo issue"

    by The Reluctant Austinite

    I work for a couple of different sci-fi/horror/pop culture conventions, and I feel your pain about being treated like a leech for carrying a camera and snapping photos at the show. Con organizers generally turn the staff in the Hell's Angels of protecting their money and it's unfortunate, but I'll tell you their perspective. It's all about money, not fun or fandom. That's become a sad reality. Con celebrities realized around 10 to 15 years ago that they could potentially made a living (or a large part of it) by signing autographs at conventions. This went hand in hand with the explosion of the internet and the rise of ebay where such things could be mass bought and sold. Nobody used to charge for anything. Now celebrities (the draw to bring people to the shows for organizers) can ask for huge guarantees that promise them thousands of dollars to be paid just for sitting at their table during certain hours. If they fail to earn that back in autographs and photos, the organizers have to compensate them for the rest. This can cause some celebrities to get "lazy" because they're promised thousands of dollars no matter what they do, but the organizers want them SELLING! Lou Ferigno, for example, charges $30 for a photo, and he doesn't want someone taking his photo across the room for free. This causes security havoc. Most celebrities, you have to buy something to get a free photo with them. The problem has gotten worse because the economy has hurt fans everywhere who will pay $25 just to get in the door and can't afford $20 per autograph so they'll attempt to take photos as free souveniers. Another problem is that now for everything 5 or 10 people at the Con, at least 2 have a website, pod cast or blog and most of them think that entitles them to free passes and interviews with all the celebrities. Some, like AICN or Fangoria, have real credentials from large readership and years of web presence, but most are Joe & Jeb's FearTalk, broadcasting for 5 months out of their parent's basement. Still, Joe & Jeb consider themselves famous journalists. It's gotten murky. Most of the Con celebrities (and staff) have never even heard of AICN, and although they might recognize Harry, they have 10 other people claiming to write for AICN every day. The organizers are necessarily the bad guys; they just don't want to lose their shirt (and house) for a poor weekend. The celebrities are going to make money no matter what. They get free rooms and travel, and if they're a big enough celebrity, they get a guarantee too. Even if they don't, they'll make something. The organizers only make money if they don't have to pay off all these guarantess AND have a large turn out of paying customers. I tried to handle photo security for Linda Blair once and totally failed. The flash bulbs were going off from every direction and I'm just not a threatening enough asshole to stop them from taking photos, so I had to be replaced by a bigger asshole.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 4:40 p.m. CST

    Reluctant, I'm a sometime-con-goer & I agree w/you

    by soma_with_the_paintbox

    There are people out there who are not willing to shell out $20-30 for a (most likely has-been) actor or property that was special to them? Here's a idea: if you don't have a giant nostalgia boner for the actor/property, don't bother. That way, you'll definitely stay within your budget. To those who'll retort, "But in this economy, fuzzy freebies of pissed-off actors are the only way my fan-wank will be as gigantic as in the past!!!11" That's exactly what it is: wank, and you are exactly what is wrong with geekdom, which is really just a specialized form of consumerism.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 6:25 p.m. CST

    "Photo Issue"

    by Raedar

    Thanks to Reluctant Austinite for the insight. While these are all things I know pretty intimately, I guess I stil have one question/problem with the way some of these gathereings approach their policies. Do they have to be so rude? Is it simply because they have had various attendees over the years that took a mile when given an inch that they just have to automatically nd without exception treat everyone with suspicion? I would never dream of trying to get something for nothing at these things, but i know that the people behind the tables don't know me from Adam, so I guess they have to assume the worst. However, is is really necessary to about take someone's head off who happens to be passing by within sight of a celebrity table on their way to somwhere else and they whip out their iPhone to read and answer a text they just got? While I understand the "need" to enforce certain things, I just wonder if there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Thoughts?

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 7:06 p.m. CST

    Raedar, where there's money there's little trust.

    by The Reluctant Austinite

    They don't even trust the celebrities. Many try to enforce a "ticket system" where the customer buys tickets for autographs so the celebrity can't lie about how little or how much money they took in. They can trade in tickets for cash at the end of the day. To answer your question, however, there is NO REASON for staff members to be rude. They should be GLAD you're there and kissing your ass for coming to the show. Bad behavior often happens at semi-organized shows where everyone there is volunteer, has never been to s single meeting and has been told to enforce strict rules without exception for reasons they don't understand. Concert and event security is often like this. Events like this can be confusing when not everyone is in communication with each other and on the same page. But a good staff is a wonderful thing; see examples like Wonderfest in Louisville or the Famous Monsters Con in Indy. I don't work for FM, but they're staff was friendly and informative.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 7:28 p.m. CST

    Let's talk about these policies a little...

    by Prof

    I was hoping that my report might spark a little discussion on this issue. I do know and understand the business side in which the celebrities, particularly, are guaranteed a certain amount and the organizer has to cough up the rest. The issue here for me centered around the manner in which the policies were communicated and enforced. First of all, as a member of the press, I came into the event taking that responsibility seriously. And as such, I brought my "good" camera rather than just my cellphone because I was planning to do a full on photo-journalistic type report. When I realized early on that nobody was going to give me that access because they are so incredibly distrustful of everyone, I switched gears and decided to just basically attend "as a fan" instead of "press" and make my report one from a fan's perspective. It is not how I originally intended it to be. It transformed into that by necessity. It seems to me that for this type of event to ensure that casual or personal photos are not snapped, that they need to declare personal cameras not allowed...but allow for some type of reasonably priced option for unsigned snapshot-style/polaroid-style photos...say $5 or $10. There is, and always will be, without such a policy in place, an expectation by those who drop $25 or more a day to be able to snap pics to commemmorate the event...and these unposed lo-res/cellphone/quick-snap type of pics are never going to impinge upon the photo-op money. Those who want a picture WITH the celeb will drop the cash to do so.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 7:39 p.m. CST

    Furthermore...

    by Prof

    ...I did hear some grousing from people on the floor over some of the signing policies. Everyone uniformly understands that these celebs are here to make money and no rational person begrudges them that. But this right here is the policy that does cause begrudging because it is irrational and does nothing to engender positive fan reaction nor does it particularly increase the profit margin (and in some cases could actually reduce it). Celebrity Joe Blow comes in and offers photo ops for, say, $60 a pop. With the photo op, fan gets a picture WITH the guy AND gets it developed on the spot and signs it. For Joe Blow, that sounds reasonable to fan. However...for the SAME price of $60, fan COULD go and get an 8x10 glossy from Joe Blow and get him to sign it. ??? OR Fan has an old video-cassette of Joe Blow's movie that Fan used to watch over and over as a kid and thought it would be awesome to bring it and have Joe sign it this weekend. When Fan gets up to meet Joe, he finds out that it costs $60 for Joe to sign his beat-up old videocassette. That, at least to the average person, seems irrational. At least have the good sense and decency to do something like price the photo-op at $60, the glossy at $40, and the sig at $20. It still may be silly to pay that for a signature at all, but it would foster more positive reaction from those who do plan to pay for them.

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 7:43 p.m. CST

    My personal philosophy...

    by Prof

    ...and this is just what I personally set for myself. I will sometimes ask for the occasional signature on a book or comic that I already own...without paying for it. In my view, I've already paid my dues with the creator by purchasing the book in the first place. However, out of respect to artists who come to these types of things to make money (and being an artist myself), I usually only bring 1 or 2 personally owned items to be signed and will, as a general rule, purchase something that the artist has for sale at the con. Which is why I love when the artists have reasonably priced prints available. I have intentionally not approached some artists precisely because I did not have anymore money to buy their wares. Writers are a harder type to deal with like that because usually the best they can offer is copies of their books and, like in Matt Sturges' case at Austin, I already had the books he was selling. :/

  • Nov. 22, 2010, 8:43 p.m. CST

    My thoughts on these conventions...

    by qweruiop

    ...coming from someone who is still fairly new to them (having only been to two). But as with anything I'm new to, I immerse myself in information in order to get the most informative opinion. I like the fact that these cons are a place to totally geek out with other people. I like the fact that there's a bunch of pseudo-celebreties there to pick and choose from. Most are childhood favorites that one might never get a chance to meet again. But it's still so strange to approach someone you're a fan of and talk with them for a few minutes as you get their signature, but to have to essentially pay up front for that "privilege". I firmly understand that these celebrities are there to make money, that they're taking time out of their schedules for this process, and that they should be duly compensated for it. Still, there's something not quite right about it. It's a natural reaction to wonder at which point it's fandom, and at which point it's...well...sleazy. I'm a much bigger fan of the photo ops because at least there is a quality, one of a kind item that is what it is. Just a quick moment with the celebrity, a nice thank you for being here, and that's it. But with having to essentially pay money just to talk with a celebrity, ...something still feels awkward there.

  • Nov. 23, 2010, 6:55 a.m. CST

    Heard this con sucked.

    by teethgnasher

    Go to Kansas City Comic Con. Less Media guests. More comic book dealers. I personally don't give a crap about these "media guests". Make dealer tables cheap and have lots of different products for sale. Don't waste money on autographs. Spend it on books, statues, and prints.

  • Nov. 23, 2010, 7:04 a.m. CST

    Are "media guests" needed?

    by teethgnasher

    Make dealer tables affordable. Pay hot chicks (and guys) to dress up as superheroes. College kids and older collecters will show up. And let's not forget about little kids. Put on an event for children like a costume show or coloring contest with winners getting (get ready) Comic books!

  • Nov. 23, 2010, 9:29 a.m. CST

    Thought the con sucked...

    by Darth Rude

    Honestly I had high hopes for this show, maybe unrealistically so, when I heard the show was being relocated to Austin. Having attended all of the past shows in Arlington I knew from experience the Wizard World shows ran hot or cold. Thankfully the Arlington run ended on a high note which made the Austin show all that much more disappointing. I purchased my three day ticket, drove down from Dallas, and checked into my hotel. While I appreciated all of the celebrity guests, just not the prices they were chagrining (Lee Major’s…$65.00…REALLY) to sign a photograph, this show was touted as the Austin Comic Con and not the Austin Celebrity/Sci-Fi/70’s Con. From the comic geek perspective I was highly disappointed. Where the hell were all of the comic vendors?!?!? The comic artists were, for the most part, the same as past shows that Wizard rolled through Arlington with, with a couple of exceptions. So while I expected this show to be new and fresh, it sadly wasn’t. Disappointing to the point, that while I planned to attend all three days fully, I actually only attended Friday for a few hours and then only a couple of hours on Saturday. After that I got the hell out of Austin as I had better things to do with both my time and my money. It this is any indication of future Wizard World shows I won’t be back. I’m not a huge fan of the Ben Stevens shows (Comic / Sci-Fi / Star Wars / Star Trek / Toys) up here in Dallas (Richardson/Plano) but I will give Ben some credit to having a nice mix when it comes to his shows. If he hypes it as a Comic show it will have plenty of comics, if he hypes it as a Star Wars show it will have plenty of…well, you get my drift.

  • Nov. 23, 2010, 9:31 a.m. CST

    Table cost.

    by Darth Rude

    Buddy of mine was considering setting up a table/booth at the show until he was quoted a price of $900.00. WTH?!?

  • Nov. 23, 2010, 9:37 a.m. CST

    Last point...

    by Darth Rude

    What's with all of the wrestling T&A at these shows? Am I missing some obvious link between comics and wrestling chicks? Other than they're nice to look at.

  • Nov. 23, 2010, 9:43 a.m. CST

    This discussion makes me remember..

    by Thalya

    Wizard didn't have this No Photo rule at Philly con. i remember right after the Patrick Stewart panel, he went back to the Wizard booth on the floor to sign autographs with John deLancie and it was like the paparazzi had descended. Huh..

  • Nov. 23, 2010, 9:49 a.m. CST

    Darth Rude

    by Thalya

    There was (?) a partnership with Spike TV. Thankfully they rid of the half-pipes and the DF tower.. Maybe there's a Frazetta-type connection.

  • Nov. 23, 2010, 10:12 a.m. CST

    Thalya...

    by Darth Rude

    Interesting...I guess that explains that. Thanks for the heads-up!