Megacon 2005 proved to be a year of changes, but most of them were not for the better. Admission prices were raised $2 to $17 (advanced, $20 door) this year and the number of dealers appeared about the same. The celebrity guests seemed to have not been very well thought out and this was really the worst selection I have ever seen for a show of this size in Florida. Bootleg DVDs were still prevalent but did not seem much worse than last year. The comic selection had changed considerably over last year but was divided into two very distinct camps. Getting to meet new friends and visit with old ones is always a blast and was the high point as always but I really don’t need a convention to do that.
This year’s pilgrimage to Orlando started out on an excellent note even before the show. On a side excursion to visit a friend, I discovered that “Rock & Roll Heaven” (1814 N. Orange Avenue in Orlando– check it out!), one of the coolest record stores in Florida, is still in business and better than ever. The store’s well stocked inventory of CDs, LPs, and music-related ephemera is surrounded by the owner’s awesome collection of pop culture memorabilia including movie posters, vintage toys, and Aurora monster model kits! It was a trip to nostalgia land for me and coming away with a brand new import CD of Badfinger’s final album for Apple Records, ASS (which has never been released on CD in theUS) was a great bonus. I wish this momentum had carried over into Megacon.
There was a very wide division between the comic book selections this year. While I was extremely pleased to see the return of hardcore golden age issues (I actually feasted my eyes on real live copies of Detective Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman, and All Star Comics #35, the only time Superman and Batman actively participated as members of the Justice Society of America) but the prices were far out of my league. Unfortunately the selection of silver age titles is continuing to languish as “bronze” or “modern” age comics fill the void. I purchased a few current titles but since I buy these comics the first time around, I have no interest in them on the secondary market. This was truly a lean comic year for me at Megacon since I only purchased three silver age issues of Justice League of America. Thankfully, FX was unusually bountiful in the comic book department this year so I still feel like I have had my fix until next year.
Gil Gerard wonders why the tables at Megacon get smaller every year.
Unlike the comic books, I knew the celebrity guests this year were a meager lot going in so my expectations were already set low. There were many repeat offenders including the Buck Rogers crew (note to Megacon – enough already!), Lou “The Incredible Hulk” Ferrigno, and George “Hey everybody I’m the voice of Space Ghost” Lowe. One notable new addition was Richard “Apollo” Hatch from Battlestar Galactica but unfortunately he is this year’s recipient of the “Gil Gerard Award for Most Haggard Looking Celebrity at a Convention”. Apparently Mr. Hatch has made the wise decision of pursuing a writing career these days rather than appearing in front of the cameras. Speaking of Gil Gerard, he must be planning to cast his hat in the ring for the lead in a new Orson Wells biopic because he can certainly no longer fit in the cockpit of a fighter ship.
Cousin Itt & Mr. ED
The highlight of this year’s guest list for me was Felix Silla, who was unfairly lumped in with the Buck Rogers repeats because of his role in the series as the robot “Twiki”. While probably best known as “Cousin Itt” on the Addams Family television series, his career has spanned forty years in Hollywood as an actor and stunt man and his diminutive size has caused him no end of work. Mr. Silla is a true convention pro. While most celebrities bring a half dozen pictures from their most popular projects, Silla had at least 20 stills from things that surprised even me. I actually got a little creeped out when I realized from one of his photos that he played one of the troll/goblins in the scariest movie ever made for television, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. I finally settled on a photo of him as “Cling”, part of the Rescue Racer duo of Cling and Clang (with “Clang” being Angelo Rossitto), from Sid & Marty Krofft’s Saturday morning staple, HR Pufnstuf.
One new area I ventured into this year was the comic book guests. I am fairly content just to read comic books without getting too far into the fandom of their creators and artists, but when I saw Roy Thomas’s name on the attendee list, I knew this was about to change. For those unfamiliar, Roy Thomas is considered the ultimate golden age fan. In addition to his work as a writer and editor for both DC and Marvel Comics, he has done more than any other individual (with the possible exception of Julius Schwartz) to keep the legends and characters of the golden age alive in modern comics.
Roy Thomas extols the virtues of golden age comics.
Being a DC fan, I have always appreciated his work in the ’80s as the driving force behind such titles as All Star Squadron, Infinity, Inc. and the majority of that decade’s run of Secret Origins. Not content to just remind us of what has gone before, Mr. Thomas seems to have undertaken a personal crusade to integrate all this information into modern comic continuity and anyone with more than a passing interest in comic books can tell you what a lofty goal that is! It was an honor to have him sign my copy of his (highly recommended) book “The All Star Companion”.
Unlike their celebrity counterparts, the comic book guests were not charging for their autographs. Brandon Jones and I discussed this in detail at lunch and apparently this is the norm at these conventions. After years of battling celebrity price gouging and sliding signature scales, I found this very refreshing. Unfortunately some people take advantage of this opportunity and try to have every comic book they own signed! While I was in line for Roy Thomas, a woman came up with a shopping cart loaded with zip locks bags filled with comics. At first I thought she was just having a much better year of buying comic books than I was until she pulled out the bag marked “Roy Thomas”. The bag contained at least 20 comic books that had all been marked with post it notes where she wanted them signed! I then noticed that all the other bags in her cart had the names of other guests on them.
Richard Hatch plugs books these days instead of Cylons.
Now this woman may have just been a huge fan of some of these people but it is more likely that these items were headed for the resale market faster than The Flash on espresso! Fortunately, she was several places behind me in line but I feel sorry for those people who had to wait through her turn just to get their one book signed.
It appeared that the lackluster cloud of this year’s convention was threatening to spill over into the traditional “Fanboy Luncheon”. After finally organizing everyone at the convention center, we loaded up our respective vehicles and headed for Darryl’s restaurant on International Drive. Imagine our surprise about ten minutes later when we were the only cars in the parking lot and a small sign on the door informed us they were no longer in business! Fortunately a nearby UNO Chicago Grill served as a viable alternative and while the food was very passable, the prices (possibly inspired by its location in this tourist-heavy area) were a few dollars higher than I would have expected.
The Bald Avenger and Hungry The Barbarian patrol the halls of Megacon for evil villains.
The “Fanboy Luncheon” has easily become the highlight of the Megacon trip for me and it shown even brighter this year in contrast to the dull convention. This was my first time getting to meet Brandon Jones, Lisa Zubek, and fellow “Bearerhead”, Lonnie Dohlen. We were joined by returning members Nolan, Josh Montgomery, Byron Rocher, and Scott Van Sickle. Along with Lisa’s two offspring, it was a crowded table! Byron, Brandon, Lonnie, and I staked out one end of the table and spent most of the meal discussing comic books, eBay, Walt Disney, and, of course, Dr. Paul Bearer! This was the kind of true fanboy interaction that you cannot put a price tag on and I walked away in awe of the quality of people I am fortunate enough to associate with. The only sad note (aside from Darryl’s being closed and the Big Bamboo blowing away during a hurricane last year) was the first time absence of Will Moriaty who was busy with other projects. We missed you Will!
This was an off year by my standards for the Megacon convention and definitely the weakest of the four I have attended. Hopefully, this was a fluke and next year will find it back up to speed. Otherwise, we may have to move the annual “Fanboy Luncheon” to Tampa and save the majority of its participants the drive!