Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Saturday With Adam West and Barack Obama

Over the weekend I headed down to the New England Comic Con in Boston and had a chance to buy some back issues, rub elbows with creators and pop stars and, oh yeah, enjoy a visit from the President of the United States. So here's a quick recap of the festivities for those of you who didn't have the unusual experience of seeing Adam West and Barack Obama in the same hour.

This year, the NECC (which really should be sponsored by New England's traditional candy, the Necco Wafer, don't you think?) was put on by the folks at Wizard, who are responsible for Wizard World Chicago and that sort of thing. I was a little iffy about this since I mostly consider Wizard to be a tool of the devil, but on the other hand I hadn't been to a show in a long time and Mike Grell was supposed to appear so I figured, what the hell. How bad could it be?

You'll notice my mistake right up front there -- it's the part where I wondered how bad a Wizard experience could be. My trip to the show itself, though, started out just fine; held at the Hynes Convention Center, the show had the privilege of sharing the building with a rally for Governor Deval Patrick, where a certain special guest by the Name of Barack Obama was suppoed to appear. That doesn't happen every day, so I thought it might be cool to both hit the comic show and see the president, but when I arrived those hopes were dashed thanks to a massive queue of several thousand people who had apparently been camping out all morning for a chance to get into the rally. So, scratch the Prez off the want list. I thought.

My con pain began when I got to the ticket counter. See, I've been to a lot of shows in Boston and at no point have I ever paid for than ten bucks to into one. So it never even occurred to me to see what the prices for this show were going to be because, really, ten bucks isn't that big a deal.

You know what is a big deal, though? $35. Which happens to be the one-day admission for the show. I was pretty much caught the Demon and the deep blue Sea Devils at that point, though, because my options were to a) pony up, b) go stand in line for another 3 1/2 hours to see Obama or c) waste my whole day driving into and out of Boston for no reason. So I reluctantly paid up and headed into the show, hoping it would be so awesome it was worth every penny.

Which, no. The reaosn the price was so high, it turns out, is because Wizard has decided to try and emulate San Diego Comic Con in every way possible, which means tons of pop stars and whatever. But since, unlike San Diego, there's no reason to show up in Bosotn, Wizard has to pay appearance fees, meaning that my #35 helped subsidize some other random person getting an autograph from Charisma Carpenter. Whoopde damn doo.

Plus, to be honest, there just weren't a whole heck of a lot of real deal comic book dealers. There were probably a half dozen booths of dealers just selling TPBs, which is kind of sad for a comic book show in my opinion, but whatever. Add in another four or five guys just selling recent issues and you're left with basically five dealers who had authentic back issues. Only one of these, though, had the classic Comic Show Cheap Boxes, which on the one hand made it a lot easier to search for bargains but on the other hand meant I didn't actually find anything I needed.

Basically, I was a grumpy damn dude.

There were some highlights of the show, though. Firstly, official Friend of the Vault Bob Almond was on hand and was as personable as ever. He also was working hard on behalf of The Inkwell Awards, which recognize outstanding achievement in comic book inking. I got to talk to Bob for a good while, which is always a pleasure, and I strongly recommend checking out his website for some learnin' on inking.

I also had the chance to meet a personal idol of mine, the legendary Mike Grell. After paying $35 for entry to the show I wasn't too psyched to find out he charges $5 for every signature after the first one, but I'm guessing it's to cut down both on people bringing entire stacks to be signed as well as those stacks then appearing on eBay. Since I rarely bring more than two or three issues to get signed (in this case I wanted one each of Warlord, Jon Sable and Green Arrow) it wasn't that big a deal. After getting his autograph I thanked him for finally tying up that goddamn Tinder storyline that had been unspooling as a subplot for over three full decades; he seemed very pleased that someone other than himself cared about that and shook my hand, so that was cool.

(As an aside, he was working on a drawing of Hawkeye when I spoke to him that was totally awesome beyond belief.)

And I did find a couple of very hard to find and quite expensive golden age comics I was looking for, namely (and you know what's coming) Boy Comics #5 and #13. I was extremely happy with the purchase of #5 in particular as it's the third issue of the series and very hard to get in decent condition.

But overall I was pretty displeased with the whole experience. I mean, Lee Majors is cool (even if I didn't actually see him) and there was a line for those Buffy people, so I guess someone gives a flying crap about them, but when I go to a comic book show I want to buy comics and I want to talk to comic book writers and artists. If I wanted to go to a pop culture TV convention I'd do that, but I don't and frankly it pisses me off that I had to pay through the nose so other people could co-opt my comic book convention experience. Even standing elbow to elbow with Adam West on my way out of the show wasn't cool enough to redeem the day.

But you know who was cool enough? The President of the United States, that's who.

So, it's like this: as I exited the convention, I ran smack into a crowd of people being ushered down a long hallway by some workers telling everyone to keep left. At this point it's like 3:30, a full hour after I thought the rally was scheduled for, so I figured, hey, these must be the people leaving the rally. So, assuming they were all being shown the exit, I joined in the mix and wandered with the crowd.

About halfway down the hallway, though, it donned on me that this wasn't leading to an exit but rather to some escalators going further up into the building -- and these folks weren't leaving the rally, they were heading in. Well, far be it from my to skip out on the President, especially since I just somehow skipped several long hours of standing in line for it. So, saying what the hell, I headed up into the convention hall.

Sure enough, there was a big stage set up (with, I might add, James Taylor playing live) and a crowd of folks waiting eagerly for Obama to come out. And we didn't have to wait long; about ten minutes after arriving, the rally kicked off, first with an introductory speaker, then the Lt. Governor, then the Governor and finally the President of the United Damn States of America. Right there, bro, no more than 75 feet away.

So that was pretty cool, though it would have been cooler if he had autographed my copy of Amazing Spider-man #583. And naturally I didn't actually stay for his whole speech; I mean, he's a great speaker, but i already knew what he was going to say and after hours of standing around the con I didn't feel like getting stuck for another hour pushing through a mob to get out. So I bailed.

All in all, the experience as a whole was surreal enough to make up for how disappointing the actual comic convention was, but next time Wizard comes around I'll be taking a giant skip on the proceedings. I only have so much money to spend on comics, after all, and wasting $35 of it for a chance to chat with James Marsters really isn't part of my fiscal planning.

Now, if they can get the President to come back again and sign this time, maybe we'll be in business...

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