I have always considered collectibles shows to be something of a mathematical equation. The enjoyment factor of the show is equal to a combination of the distance traveled, celebrity guests, merchandise selection and price, and the potential for meeting up with friends. At approximately a two and a half hour drive from Jacksonville, Orlando isn’t exactly close for me but it is an easy ride so that has never been much of a problem. The guest list at this year’s Megacon was the single least impressive I can ever recall in the close to ten years I have been attending. Merchandise is always a crap shoot and generally beyond the control of the promoters. It’s also an element than can only be estimated in advance based on the performance of prior years. The final and most personal of all factors, the potential for meeting up with friends, was also at an all time low for me this years since almost no one I knew was attending. The reasons I received for the lack of participation ranged from economic to prior commitments to just a general lack of enthusiasm based on pre-con buzz. Once everything was tallied, the 2011 Megacon was not adding up to a very high score.
This year my wife Cindy agreed to handle the photographer duties for the con and as large as Megacon is, I definitely need someone to be in charge of taking photographs while I am talking to vendors and attendees. Since it was just the two of us going and we had no extracurricular activities planned, we decided to day trip the event and departed Jacksonville around 7AM. This put us at the Orange County Convention Center about 9:30 and gave us enough time to find a parking palace, pay $8.00 for the privilege, find the show inside the massive building, pick up our badges and get in the starting blocks along with about a thousand other people waiting for the doors to open. One thing I can always credit the staff of Megacon for is being well organized and with a convention the size of this one that is by no means easy. There were lines to wait in but everything went smoothly and we made it inside without a problem.
Upon entering the hall and making a quick perusal of the area before the crowds started to form, I noticed no shortage of dealers. I had wondered if the current economic downturn might negatively impact the number of vendors this year and while I noticed that some of the heavier hitters had purchased smaller spaces, the overall number appeared unaffected. The floor space occupied by the show seemed as large as always and the room was well filled. One person I talked to told me he missed out on being a vendor this year because his partner sent the forms in too late and the tables were already sold out. This isn’t surprising and I had also been told that the show was cutting back on the number of free tables given out to artists and local guests in favor of selling them to vendors.
Regular convention goers in Florida will remember the black day that immediately followed the 2010 Megacon when the long running Florida Extravaganza Collectibles Show (FX) was canceled just a few weeks before that year’s date and a local icon came to an unceremonious and undeserved end. FX was probably the closest thing Megacon had to competition up to that time and I was wondering if some of the vintage toy dealers from that show might migrate to Megacon this year. Merchandise wise, the 2011 Megacon seemed about typical for previous years with the best selection of Golden and Silver Age comic books to be found in this part of the country, a heavy dose of anime and cosplay merchandise, a smattering of vintage and plenty of modern toys. I also noted that the refreshing trend of declining bootleg DVD vendors was continuing but the few who remained were still trying to sell many titles that you can buy legitimately at good prices right off of Amazon. Anyone foolish enough to purchase a bootleg copy of a television series like Gary Anderson’s UFO or a film like War of the Colossal Beast from an event like this would be likely paying a premium for an inferior product they can easily obtain a legal version of, so I can certainly see why these video vultures are dying off.
For me personally, my purchases were similar to previous years as well. There were deals to be found but it was the proverbial treasure hunt as usual. With the economy the way it is, I had expected there to be more vendors willing to make deals this year than normal but this was not the case. The rare deals that could be struck were few and far between and it seemed like even some of the vendors I typically frequent were charging higher prices than I recalled. This may have been motivated by a concern for recouping their table costs but with online sales so economical these days they were only appealing to impulse buyers or collectors with serious concerns regarding condition.
My big purchase for the show came as an unexpected surprise when I spotted a person bravely hauling two large plastic tubs on a hand truck through the rapidly filling hall. I struck up a conversation with Larry Crowe of Crowmag Toys in North Carolina who was attempting to set up a trade with one of the show’s vendors. His tubs consisted of a very nice selection of vintage toys that went from the mid-70’s through mid-80’s and included some cool Mego figures that I immediately zeroed in on. Mego made some of the best action figures of the 1970’s including their most popular line, The World’s Greatest Superheroes (sounds like a future article doesn’t it?). Thanks to my good fortune in meeting Larry, I walked away with figures of Green Arrow, Black Falcon, Shazam, and Batman’s foes The Penguin and The Riddler. He also had a Mattel Shogun Warriors figure of Mazinga in very nice condition. This was the first edition of this giant figure with a removable spaceship “brain” and most of the fourteen rockets he originally came packing! Unfortunately this was the one item that belonged to his friend Kyle Coker who was running loose somewhere in the con. We were never able to hook up there and strike a deal but see the postscript below.
As previously mentioned, the celebrity guest list this year was the worst one I could remember for this show. Two heavy hitters, William Shatner for media and Stan Lee for comics, were the featured guests but the selection went off the cliff after that. With few exceptions, all of the remaining media guests had been at Megacon and other Florida based conventions multiple times over the last few years and the lines, or lack thereof, at their tables reflected this. I was actually asked several times before this show by potential attendees who knew I had gone to it for several years why the guest list was so poor this time. I contacted the show and was essentially told that they are limited in the guests they have to choose from and many of the ones who do appear don’t cost the promoters anything. Based on this information, I would speculate that Megacon spent its guest budget on Mr. Shatner and Mr. Lee this year and had to scrape up whoever else they could get to fill tables. Shatner, like Leonard Nimoy before him at FX, was charging $65 for his signature which eliminated the option for many fans including myself. Unlike Nimoy, William Shatner actually did have a line waiting to get into the curtained off section he was sequestered in lest any non-paying attendee accidentally catch a glimpse of the great and powerful Kirk! This made the guest area appear to be busy but almost everyone was in line for either Shatner or a few of the repeat modern Trek guests.
I did make a brief visit to the celebrity area to scope out who was actually selling autographs – which didn’t take long. I noticed that the stringent photography policies from previous years seemed to have been lifted as no signs or convention personnel seemed to even be present anywhere except near Shatner’s already obscured area. I stopped by Cindy Morgan’s table to talk to the still amazingly lovely actress about her recently unearthed debut feature and her conspicuous absence from theaters last year. The 1979 film Up Your Ladder was a late in the game sketch comedy movie, like The Groove Tube or Tunnelvision, that disappeared off theater screens without making much of an impression. According to Morgan, who plays the voice of an apartment building in her first feature (no joke), after Caddyshack hit it big a year later and she gained some celebrity, the producers added some nudity to her earlier film to better qualify for an R rating, plastered her photo on a new poster and reissued the still unfunny comedy as Up Yours. While Morgan’s limited screen time is probably the only even mildly entertaining portion of this dud, which made its DVD debut recently, it still deserved to remain lost. On a more mainstream note, I could not pass up the opportunity to ask her why she wasn’t in last year’s big budget Tron: Legacy, since her character from the original Tron, Yori, could have been easily integrated into the new story. I was directed to a Facebook page called Yori Lives, which proves I am not the only fan wondering this but still doesn’t give much insight into why the producers made this glaring omission when it would have been so easy to have her return.
After quickly wrapping up the celebrity area, I finished my pass through the vendors and did manage to pick up a few Silver Age comic books and a nice Golden Age issue of Doll Man. This diminutive superhero was published by Quality Comics and pre-dated the similarly powered Atom at DC by many years. DC acquired the rights to all the Quality characters in the 70’s and eventually revived Doll Man and many of his fellow heroes as a new team in their universe called The Freedom Fighters (another article?). By the time I got to the final row, the hall had really started to fill up and it was almost impossible to move freely or get close to a seller’s table with any ease. I’m not sure it is practical but it would really be a benefit to attendees if the con could group its sellers better and put the anime vendors together on one side of the room and comic book merchants on the other. This would help ease the traffic issues as more of the anime fans seems to appear in costume and this further slows down the aisles when they can’t maneuver well and get stopped constantly for pictures.
When a show the size of Megacon jams up to the point of the aisles being nothing but asses and elbows, I know it’s time for me to call it quits. It was only 12:30, just a mere two and a half hours into the show, but, for this year at least, I felt I had done an adequate job of covering everything. I compared notes afterwards with a person who attended on Friday. After hearing about several interesting items he saw that were not there on Saturday and his report that the Friday crowd wasn’t nearly as crowded, I think I have a new game plan for 2012. Over all, this year’s show was a positive one for me thanks to some good buys which helped raise the score. I sincerely hope though that next year the Megacon promoters will concentrate more on new and unique celebrity guests from the mid-range price category so they don’t repeat the disparity that occurred this year.
Postscript to Megacon 2011: I had given Larry Crowe my cell phone number at the show in the hopes he would find his friend and call me. On Monday afternoon, I did receive a call from Larry saying the he and Kyle had stayed the weekend in Orlando and would be returning to North Carolina on Tuesday. Kyle still had the Mazinga figure and a box of vintage G.I. Joe Soldiers of the World figures he had brought with him but not taken to the show because he decided that was the wrong place to sell them. Larry also had a few vintage items left and they were both interested in a collection of modern Joe pieces I had been storing for a while, so we made plans for them to stop by Jacksonville on their way out of state. After much fanboy conversation and a great lunch at Hurricane Wings, we did some horse trading and Larry and Kyle filled their king cab truck to the very brim with sixteen large containers of modern action figures of all sorts. I was left stuck with my coveted Mazinga, a great box of vintage Joes, a few other vintage pieces and a nice chunk of change. I watched dubiously as Larry and Kyle pulled out of my driveway with their teetering treasure in tow and hoped silently that everything and everyone would make their six hour drive home OK!