Writer/fan ED Tucker and PCR publisher Nolan Canova meet at MegaCon 2003

The March 2003 show was the second Megacon I have attended. For those unaware, Megacon is large (for Florida) comic show held annually in Orlando, FL. The show is notable for both it’s size, selection, and what is probably the largest, and certainly the most eclectic, media guest list in Florida. Reports of this show and its past list of “celebrities” (I am going to use this term and “star” very loosely from here on out) had been coming to me for years but it was only in 2002 that I finally broke down and attended, mainly to meet about half of the surviving cast of my all-time favorite show, Lost in Space. As collectible conventions have morphed from being simply “by the fans, for the fans” fun into “big business for blatant businessmen”, Megacon has been no exception. The current admission price is $18 per day, $15 in advance, with no multi-day discounts. On top of this, the Orange County Convention Center charges $10.00 for parking so plan on being out at least $25 before you step inside the show.

Byron Rocher with Buck Rogers' Erin Gray

Allow me to preface the observations to come by saying that while I have attended many different types of collectibles shows in my lifetime, only a handful have been primarily comic book oriented in nature. I can probably best be described as a moderate comic book fan as I do collect certain series from the silver age of the 1960’s and 70’s. These were comic books that I grew up with as a child and, while I do in a technical sense collect them, I buy them solely for the purpose of reading. Holy crap Batman, he actually touches these time-worn treasures with his bare hands! Yes that’s right dear reader I buy these comic books as a sort of time capsule to return to the days of my youth and relieve a simpler time. This causes me to steer clear of archive editions and most reprints because I want the total package experience of reading a comic book – advertisements, letter columns, and all. Is there a 70’s comic reader alive who didn’t want that $6.95 Polaris submarine (large enough to hold two kids!) or the $1.49 Capture the Flag game that included genuine “exploding tanks”? Because of this my main concern with a potential purchase is the price and I do not mind buying comics that are only in “good” condition. I think the entire concept of the “CGC” system is a joke and an insult to the artists who created these books to be read and provide entertainment.

The vendor mix at this years show seemed about the same as last year. It consisted predominantly of comic dealers but there were also purveyors of gaming items, fantasy wear, toys, and bootleg movies. To the best of my knowledge this is the only show in Florida to feature such a large selection of golden age and silver age comic books. While I did not see as many key issues this year, there was still a lot to plunder through. I have never been able to really grasp the disparity of price ranges at shows like this. I understand the basic conditions and guidelines of books like the Overstreet Price Guide but I doubt any comic in that guide is listed as worth 100 times more in mint condition than in good. I saw multiple examples of comics for sale at prices ten to twenty times more than what I have paid for them forom other dealers in the past year or so. I bought a silver age Green Lantern comic from one dealer for $12 in very nice condition after I saw the same issue, in comparable condition, for sale at another booth for $400! I guess I should have tried to resell my copy to this dealer for $100-$200 but I think we all know how that would have gone over.

ED Tucker with "2001: A Space Odyssey" star, Gary Lockwood. The poster (of "They Came To Rob Las Vegas"), from ED's personal collection, was a gift to Lockwood.

I collect autographs in about the same manner I collect comics. 95% of my collection was obtained in person and it is dictated by whether or not the celebrity in question really means anything to me personally. While this year’s show featured guests as diverse as Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nicols from the original Star Trek, Jamie Farr from M.A.S.H, and Kathy Garver from Family Affair, the one draw for me was actor Gary Lockwood. I am sure Mr. Lockwood is best remembered from his role in the second pilot to the original Star Trek series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, and a close second for his role as ill-fated astronaut “Frank Poole” in the awe-inspiring “2001: A Space Odyssey”. I will always remember him as the Prince Valiant wannabe hero in the underrated classic “The Magic Sword” which, according to exploitation producer Bert I. Gordon (a.k.a. the notorious Mr. B.I.G.) was “The Most Incredible Weapon Ever Wielded!”. It was fun to get to see a lot of these celebrities in person, but purchasing an autograph from them was an entirely separate experience.

David Prowse (Star Wars) Jamie Farr (MASH)

Kathy Garver (Family Affair) Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers)

David Prowse (Star Wars)

Jamie Farr (MASH)

A trend that I have found rather alarming in recent years is the rising price of autographs at shows. I can still remember the good old days of the 80’s when celebrities were paid to attend

shows and would autograph anything for free. Eventually it became a paying propositionbut usually it was only $5.00 for a signed photo and then they would sign any personal items for free. As time went on this price began to rise to $8.00 and $10.00 for the photo and then at least $5.00 each to sign personal items. Today most stars are charging $20.00 to sign anything whether you purchase it from them or bring it yourself. Some have even taken to charging a sliding scale depending on the type of item you bring,

Kathy Garver (Family Affair)

Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers)

as if they are entitled to some percentage of the supposed profit their signature adds to your collectible. As a fan of these stars, many of whom have not acted professionally in anything significant in multiple decades, I find this rather insulting. I realize that, for some, this may be the majority or even sole source of their income but I believe this price gouging is an insult to the very group of people who sustains them, the fans. I can say that I have never had an item signed because I believed the signature would increase it’s value and I have never sold an item once I had it autographed. I think it is understandable if a celebrity wants to charge a few dollars for a signature but keep in mind that’s all it is, the act of signing your name. I can also say that in many instances I have had fewer items signed or just foregone getting a signature altogether because of a guests prices or pricing structure and I have seen many people walk away when they see how much it costs to get a signature. It seems to me a celebrity guest would sell more autographs and make their fans much happier if they kept there prices at a reasonable rate. I believe this is a policy that seriously needs to be rethought at conventions like Megacon before the whole concept of celebrity guests becomes a losing proposition.

Megacon is a fun show as long as you are familiar with their procedures and informed about what you are getting into. Their was certainly no lack of attendees for this year’s show and the long lines for tickets and crowded isles Saturday morning proved that fans still want a place to go and socialize with other fans. The highlight for me was getting to finally meet Nolan and crew in person as well as seeing other friends and associates at the show, but getting a copy of Justice League of America #4 from 1961 for $10.00 was pretty cool too!

After an early negative encounter with Buck Rogers’ Gil Gerard, this is as close as we’d dare get to most of the “stars” for fear they’d call security to confiscate our cameras They were all charging $20 a pop for a photograph/autograph of any kind. —Nolan