The week preceding this year’s Megacon was filled with a lot of unusual changes to my usual con going routine. Chief among these was the last minute cancelation of my friend Byron who has attended every Megacon with me to this point as well as most other conventions. He just “wasn’t feeling” Megacon this year and based on the lackluster guest list and his preference to conserve his funds, I really couldn’t argue with him. Lisa Scherer, who planned to make this her first Megacon, also canceled at the last minute due to transportation issues. Another friend of mine who had planned to attend Megacon for the first time this year, John Hickey, had second thoughts after doing the math on admission costs but did agree to meet us for lunch on Saturday. Even my Orlando friend John Thrailkill was expressing eleventh hour doubts due to family commitments the same morning as the show. The one bright spot was that my wife Cindy, who has not been to any type of collectibles show in several years, decided she really wanted to go to Megacon this year and agreed to assume photographer duties.
Since it was just Cindy and I coming from Jacksonville, we decided to keep things simple and day trip the show. We headed south bright and early on Saturday morning after grabbing some fast food breakfast and arrived at the older section of the Orange County Convention Center, now referred to as the West Concourse, around 9:30. Admission for the 2010 Megacon show remained unchanged from recent years, $24 per day or $55 for the weekend, but parking was up to $11 at the center. The parking lot was already full by this time and we ended up in the lot of a nearby hotel that was only charging $8 and was actually closer to the area Megacon was in.
After procuring our admissions, I located the sole representative of the Tampa Fanboy Contingent this year, Lonnie Dohlen, but lost him in the sizable crowd only a few minutes later. Fortunately he caught up with Cindy and me shortly after the doors opened as we were making an initial pass of the dealer’s room and sizing up the 2010 offerings. This year, the artist area was located to the extreme right of the entrance, a line of concession booths and gaming tables were on the extreme left, and the celebrities were corralled in the rear of the hall next to a massive exhibit of Legos.
During our drive to Megacon, I had pondered the recent spike in prices for key Golden Age comic books and the effect it might have on the prices at this year’s show. While I did not notice an appreciable increase, at least not for the mid to higher range issues, there did appear to be a decrease in the number of Golden Age books offered for sale. This may indicate that there has been a recent purchasing spike or, more likely, that these books are being culled for auction to hopefully realize their top prices. Regardless of the reason, this was a below average year for these books.
The Silver Age front, thankfully, did not appear to be effected by the same factors as older comics. Prices seemed to be holding in line with previous years and there was still a broad selection available. I did the majority of my shopping with Cards, Comics, & Collectibles from Reisterstown, MD. Like many dealers at this year’s show, they were advertising substantial discounts over the marked prices on their inventory, in this case 50%. They had an excellent selection of both Silver and early Bronze Age DC comics and I netted a nice cross section of books including a Shazam #1. My buy for the show though was a very nice condition Atom #2 for $10 from a different dealer.
One source of personal amusement for me at large shows like these, particularly ones where the merchandise overlaps this much, is the wide disparity in price. Granted, when you add something like a CGC grade into the mix, the scale of comic book values goes out the window, so I don’t even bother checking those. If you spent enough time looking, you could easily find the same comic in similar condition with prices varying by over a hundred dollars on books that aren’t worth that much to begin with. This year’s show shocker for me was a copy of All Star Comics #58, the first issue of the 1970’s revival of the series and debut of Power Girl, for $100. Two tables down, another person had the same issue for $40. According to online and published sources it is currently valued at more like $12-$20. I do give credit to the majority of the dealers who had their merchandise clearly priced. I only ran across one real offender who was offering 50% off comic books without prices. Worse yet, all of his comics had blank tags on them where the prices should have been written. I asked him if this meant they were half off nothing but I was just met with a guttural grunt.
In addition to the decent vintage comic selection, there was also the anticipated array of Japanese anime merchandise. Surprisingly, and possibly due to the absence of the Florida Extravaganza (FX) Show this year (so far), there was a slight increase in vintage toys. Bootleg DVD dealers seemed to be on a slow but steady decline although I still noted many of them selling copies of shows like The Time Tunnel and Ultraman that you can buy cheaper in any large store. Media Blasters had a table selling their DVDs but they were trying to get $20-$50 for films and box sets that were liquidated for $7.50 online by Best Buy just a few weeks ago.
As I finished my first pass of the room, I ran into Bill Eubank, owner of Jacksonville’s finest comic book store, Sun Coast Comics. He and his son Billy had a very impressive display of a variety of merchandise including comics, cards, and models. They had also managed to score a great spot in one of the outside aisles. This was Billy’s first Megacon and as we discussed the show, I told him that I thought the attendance was down from previous years due to the relative ease I had experienced navigating the rows in early hours. This would be an opinion I would rethink in the very near future.
In 2009, Megacon made some appreciable changes to both the quality and variety of their celebrity guests. I was hopeful that this would be a continuing trend but unfortunately that was not the case. The 2010 media guest line up started off weak and continued to decline as many of the people originally announced dropped out. Obviously health issues and professional conflicts are beyond the control of show promoters but when the guest list doesn’t offer much to begin with these factors can have a major impact. The majority of the guests this year were split between a cross section of Star Trek actors, including Nichelle Nichole from the original series, and Star Wars suit actors, with the exception of Billy Dee Williams. The only other guests of note were Lea Thompson from the Back to the Future film series (and Jaws 3D filmed in Orlando) and James Hong, a steadily working actor probably best remembered for his role in Big Trouble In Little China. Most of the remaining guests were a mixture of repeat offenders, voice actors, and other minor players. It is rare at a show of this size when I walk away without a single celebrity signature but 2010 was that type of year at Megacon.
Adding insult to injury on the guest front was a surprising new policy of not allowing photos to be taken in the guest area. I have seen this at previous shows on a case by case basis depending on the particular guest but this was the first time I have ever been told it was not allowed at all. I always like to use photos of guests interacting with their fans to illustrate their participation at a particular event. This year, as I was busy collecting candid photos of the guests in attendance, a show volunteer from Lea Thompson’s area told me that no photos were allowed without the guest’s specific consent. At first I thought she was just referring to Miss Thompson but after I requested clarification she said that it applied to all guests. When I asked her if this had anything to do with the professional photo services being offered for nominal fee by the convention, she just rolled her eyes and said “I don’t know, maybe”. I later observed that this new policy was unevenly enforced at best as people were using everything from cell phones to professional looking 35mm cameras to take photos as they wandered the area. Some celebrities did have it noted on their tables that they charged to have photographs taken and Billy Dee Williams was willing to pose with a couple of cans of Colt 45 malt liquor!
John Thrailkill had called me earlier in the morning with good news that he and two of his children had wrapped up their other obligations and were on their way to the show. He arrived about 11:30 and we rendezvoused at the front of the hall. By this time, it was becoming obvious that my initial prediction of a down turn in attendance was wrong. The aisles were quickly starting to get congested and I was very glad I had arrived as early as I did. One of the advantages of showing up late was that I had already cased the convention and, since I am familiar with the comics John collects, I could point him towards some vendors likely to have what he wanted and speed up his shopping. The first few I directed him to had a few maybes but no immediate deal makers. When we reached the aforementioned Cards, Comics & Collectibles, I could tell by John’s eyes that he was in his element and we would be there for a while. In the end, he came away with a respectable stack of comics, including Weird War #1, at a very reasonable price. His daughter Jordan, who collects Archie Comics’ Betty & Veronica series, also found a few choice issues.
As John was wrapping up his first round of purchases, I was starting to think about lunch. I had arranged to meet my friend John Hickey at the legendary Crazy Buffet around 1PM so I was surprised to see him calling about 12:45. He had arrived early and was forced to deliver the devastating news that Crazy Buffet was no more! He was standing in the shopping center that had once housed this scrumptious smorgasbord and staring at the vacant building it had occupied for at least ten years. We made hasty arrangements to move our meeting to the China Buffet close to the convention center but nothing could erase the somber mood caused by our evaporated eatery.
Rounding everyone up was easier than anticipated as John and his family had eaten breakfast at about the same time we did and were starting to get hungry too. Everyone climbed into my truck and the six of us headed over to meet John Hickey at our substitute lunch spot. Since John Hickey is a relative new comer to modern conventions, although he is a veteran of the Necronomicon years, we filled him in on the day’s happenings and enjoyed some much needed relaxation after close to four hours of nonstop walking. The food was good as usual and very fairly priced but the Crazy Buffet will be sorely missed.
Following a few group photos outside the restaurant, we said goodbye to John Hickey and carted John Thrailkill and family back to the convention center. In between, we dropped Lonnie off at the nearby hotel he had been forced to park at even though he arrived earlier than us. As Cindy and I drove away from the convention center, we noted there was still a huge crowd of people outside and we noticed costumed walkers on the streets almost all the way back to the Interstate.
The 2010 Megacon Show was almost the mirror opposite of 2009. Attendance was definitely stronger, vendors were amenable about dealing, and the merchandise continues to be impressive in most areas. Unfortunately the celebrity guests were a disappointment after last year’s marked improvement. Hopefully this is not an indication that this facet of the show is on its way out. While many of its competitors have fallen by the wayside, Megcon is still going strong and, if the crowd at the 2010 show is any indication, the Fanboy community still loves these events.