I was still reeling from the wake of the FX show a mere two weeks earlier when the 2007 Megacon stormed in to Orlando the weekend of February 17. With both events held at the Orange County Convention Center and so close together this year, a sense of déjà vu was almost unavoidable. Fortunately, Megacon is always its own distinct event.
Due to some good fortune at the beginning of our trip, Byron and I pulled out of Jacksonville about an hour ahead of schedule on Friday which helped us cope with some serious traffic back-ups on I-95 near Palm Coast. We arrived in the land of the Evil Mouse around 7PM and met our friend John Thrailkill and his new wife Amy at our usual hangout, Alfonso’s Italian Restaurant. After a feast of wings and beer, Amy parted company with us and we hit a late show of “Ghost Rider” which had just opened that day. We all agreed the film was better than anticipated but we were dragging by the time we got back to John’s place and crashed.
Even after our late night Friday, Byron and John and I still managed to be up and coherent early Saturday morning and ready to go. We prepared for the day with a big breakfast at the Ponderosa on International Drive and then made our way down to the convention center to get parked and in place by the time the show started. Unlike FX, Megacon was still in the older section of the convention center, which we were more familiar with. The admission of $20 per day in advance ($22 at the door) has remained unchanged over the last several years and, aside from having to pay $6.00 for the privilege, parking was no problem. We were ready to ride the tide of attendees when the doors opened at 10AM.
My chief priority, as usual, was the celebrity area and preferably avoiding the lines. Fortunately, the guests I prefer to meet aren’t necessarily the most popular but since they are all corralled together the lines can overlap and the area can get congested no matter where you are. This year’s show featured a variety of guests from recent science fiction shows like “Farscape”, “LEXX”, and the new incarnation of “Battlestar Galactica” as well as a few time worn faces like “Incredible Hulk” Lou Ferrigno and walking flea market Virginia Hey from “Farscape” and “The Road Warrior”. Poor Bob May, the man in the gray metal suit (a.k.a. The Robot) from “Lost in Space” was stuck on his own after co-stars June Lockhart and Mark Goddard canceled out. Luckily, Captain Crane of the submarine Seaview (“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” star David Hedison) was there to help flesh out the Irwin Allen contingent. The headliner for this year’s show was Sean Astin from “Lord of the Rings”. While I have enjoyed that film series, I would have much rather had the opportunity to meet his father John Astin or mother Patty Duke!
I had one major celebrity ambition this year – Lois Lanes! That‘s right, Lois Lanes, plural. This year Megacon brought in Superman’s girlfriends from both the original 1950’s television series and the 1978 motion picture! Noel Neill from television’s long running “The Adventures of Superman” (and both Kirk Alyn Superman serials and cameos in both the 1978 “Superman” movie and 2006’s “Superman Returns”) still looks great at 87 and warmly embraces her time playing one of the most famous fictitious female reporters in history. Her distinctive voice is still strong but her table of photos with co-star George Reeves served as a sad reminder of one celebrity guest fanboys will never get to meet.
Margot Kidder has had some ups and downs in her life but has always managed to find a steady stream of work in her acting career. While her turn as Lois Lane in the ’70’s and ’80’s Superman film series will probably always be her crowning achievement, she has appeared in number of other fanboy favorites. Her pre-Superman career found her in two horror icons, Brian DePalma’s “Sisters” and Bob Clark’s original and vastly superior “Black Christmas”. Immediately following Superman, she appeared in the more humorous than scary “Amityville Horror” and the comedy “Some Kind of Hero” with Richard Pryor. I had her sign a poster from her 1990 film “Mob Story”, a mediocre comedy where she plays a mob moll but is decked out in some great lingerie on the poster. She told me that when the film was being made in Canada, she was actually harassed by the police while wearing that outfit because they thought she was a real “working girl”! Ms. Kidder also passed the “Marina Sirtis Test” when she was kind enough to sign my March 1975 issue of Playboy featuring a pictorial of her.
Following my detour into celebrity territory, I launched into the convention proper and began the arduous task of wading through the dealer’s tables. This year there was the expected preponderance of comic books and Japanese anime paraphernalia but one could also find gaming supplies, fantasy weapons, T-shirts, and even tattoos! The number of bootleg DVD vendors appears to be declining but there are still too many by Byron’s estimations. The comic book selection actually surprised me this year. While affordable Golden Age books continue to become harder to find, there was an availability of Silver Age bargains that has not been equaled in the previous years I have attended.
Thanks to two specific dealers, I was able to fill in some major gaps in some of my Silver Age DC collections. One dealer I have done business with for many years was blowing out his already reasonably priced inventory at 50% off the marked price! It took some time and calculating to go through his offerings but the end result was satisfying both from a collecting and an economic standpoint. I would have been happy to walk away from the show with just this one stack but then I found a truly rare opportunity for these days. A dealer who was new to me had recently purchased a huge collection (about fifteen long boxes by my count or roughly 4,500 comic books) of prime Silver Age real estate. These were Marvel and DC comics running from the early 1960’s to the early 1980’s and covering most titles from both publishers. His purchase had been so recent that the books had not even been bagged yet and he was selling them all for $4 each. Needless to say I spent a considerable amount of time going through every single box but the stack of bargain priced quality titles I came away with was well worth the effort.
I wasn’t the only comic book fiend in our group. John managed to put together a respectable pile of Marvel “What If” issues and some monster and horror titles for a very reasonable price. Byron picked up several foam padded practice swords and beefed up his Dungeons and Dragons army with some loose figures. By the time the three of us regrouped around 12:30, the temperature inside the show was getting uncomfortably hot from all the people and we decided it was time to call it quits. Since the Tampa crew was conspicuously absent this year, we broke with tradition and headed for a nearby Chinese buffet to compare our hauls and review the event.
It doesn’t take much to make or break a convention on an individual level and this year’s Megacon was one of the best for me. The celebrity list was adequate but it is obvious they are starting to feel competition from other shows. The comic book selection was one of the best I have ever seen so I can only hope this heralds a new direction in shows moving away from the today’s dollar box castoffs and into affordable quality issues.