Friday, February 10, 2012

Atlanta Comic Convention 2/5/2012

I always end up working on Super Bowl Sunday and it pisses me off.

Not because I want to watch the Super Bowl. I couldn’t possibly care less about football or the guaranteed-to-be-shit halftime show. And all the commercials can be seen online afterward. They’re not even hard to find. I mean, that’s the point. The companies want you to see those ads.

No, my big problem with working on Super Bowl Sunday is that there is always a comic convention that day and I never get to go. Sometimes I am just scheduled to work and other times I end up working because everybody knows I loathe football and wouldn’t be doing anything anyway, so I work out a swap where they work for me for WrestleMania or something.

This year I just happened to have the big day off and the Troublemakers headed down to the Marriot Century Center to rub elbows with some nerds and creative-types. But first we went to have some breakfast at the International House of Pancakes.

Normally I start my first crazy diet of the year in mid-January. I never get anywhere near the three bills that I weighed three years ago, but because of my job and that fact that I am extremely lazy I have to do a couple of maintenance diets every year to stay around the size I feel I should be. And even then I have to be careful about what I eat the rest of the time. I pretty much don’t snack or eat desserts. Certainly not pancakes. But I’ve put off my diet until March this year because my optometrist said it might not be a good idea to make an radical dietary changes while my eyes are healing from the Lasik. Naturally this has led to me eating more junk than I should because my untrustworthy and manipulative brain took that as a free pass, but I am also still eating the tons of vegetables that my normal Atkins diet would have cut out.

So on Sunday we went to IHOP. This was dumb because it was Sunday at 11 AM and the place was absolutely packed. We don’t eat out a lot, but when we do it’s usually odd hours (again, because of my job) so I can’t even remember the last time we ate in a crowded restaurant. It didn’t actually take very long for us to be seated, but our waitress was extremely neglectful. And before you go thinking anything about her being super-busy or in the weeds, she managed to visit the table behind us an average of every six minutes or so. I could barely even get my beverage refilled once and it took forever to get our bill.

I don’t know why I told you all that. You people are probably too smart to go to IHOP on a Sunday morning anyway.

On the way down to the Marriott something very stupid happened. It’s the sort of thing that I feel only happens to me, but I’m sure happens to at least three or four other people on the planet on a pretty regular basis. We were traveling down the highway, minding our own business, having a fairly pleasant drive. And then all of a sudden there was this big, yellow jug in the road. Right in our lane, as a matter of fact. There really wasn’t anything I could do to avoid it. There were cars on either side and I couldn’t slow down a whole heck of a lot because I was already going the speed limit, which is a Cardinal Sin when traveling in Georgia (I am not a fast driver – just ask my wife). The jug was very large – the sort that a family-sized supply of orange juice would come in – but it looked empty and like it would either bounce off the car or go right underneath. So I maintained my course and ran right over the thing.

Naturally, it got wedged under the car. Going 65 miles per hour. On the highway. Also, keep in mind this is the car I just spent five hundred bucks repairing after running off the road while trying to catch a nap.

You would think that the road would have eventually torn this container apart to the point where it would dislodge and go flying out from under the car. But no. The damn thing stayed with us almost all the way to the Marriott. It was making the most horrible scraping noise and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do. I’m not Bruce Willis. I couldn’t tell Mrs. Troublemaker, “Take the wheel!” while I crawled out the window and reached under the car to dislodge the offending object.

I was hoping slowing down and exiting the highway might get rid of it. Or making a turn.

Maybe a bump in the road could do it. Nope. We turned down the access road that led to the hotel and as soon as we got within sight of these two joggers they both sort of jumped and turned around to stare at the car. Apparently the jug was making a worse noise outside the car than in.

We made one more turn and went over a sort of bridge and the fucking thing finally popped out. I would have gotten out and taken a picture, but I hate that thing and don’t want to make it famous.

You don’t know what kind of victory this is, but once we got inside the Marriott I was able to get Lil’ Troublemaker to go potty with no argument or promises of riches and reward. That’s a big deal.

We got to the admission table and while I was trying to get my wallet out to pay and talk to the dude this annoying girl was standing there asking if she could get a picture of us with some flyer. I told her to hang on and I’d give her a good one. I think she distracted the ticket guy as well because I think he gave me too much change, but I was distracted myself so I’m not sure. After I got our admission paid I put on the mask, turned around, and held up the flyer, which was for a screening of the sequel to Nicholas Cage’s fine Ghost Rider film. I wouldn’t mind going, but I’ll be working that night. I didn’t dislike the first one. I mean, it was crap, but I enjoyed it. The sequel looks just super and is by the geniuses behind the Crank movies.

Mrs. Troublemaker worked in a comic shop for fifteen years. This means she knows a lot of comic book people and is very friendly with them. By default I suppose this means I know these people as well, but I’m still not quite comfortable just chatting with them. Despite my almost demented compulsion to seek attention, I am not actually all that sociable. Where this is headed is to the fact that my wife knows Jason Flowers, Bobby Nash, and a bunch of other people very well and I don’t quite. So it’s a bit weird when she’s chatting and in her head we’re all buddies and in my head not so much.

But it all paid off this past Sunday, because in the process of talking to Bobby Nash (and getting him to sign the copy of Bloody Olde England that Jason Flowers drew an awesome werewolf on) I got to talking to this guy Mike. Mike does the Earth Station One podcast with Bobby. Somehow or another we got to talking about the website and he mentioned they were looking for content providers. And then we got to talking some more and he mentioned they were starting a Doctor Who podcast and he must have noticed my erection, because he asked if I would like to join in. Mike said they were going to be discussing “Keeper of Traken” next Monday.

Now, he could have mentioned any Doctor Who story and I would have claimed that I’d be able to talk about it. Because I could find something to say about any of the Doctors and any of their stories. But this is part of the unofficial trilogy, man. The interconnected stories where the great and powerful Tom Baker passed the torch onto Peter Davison, father-in-law of Doctor Ten. I know some motherfucking “Keeper of Traken”. I’ve probably watched it, “Logopolis”, and “Castrovalva” more than any other Who serials; more even than “City of Death”.

So I said yes, I might be interested, except with the amount of enthusiasm a golden retriever displays for a steak covered in peanut butter.

Mike said he’d e-mail me this week and he damn well better or I’m probably going to have an aneurysm.

In my enthusiasm to discuss my possible appearance on the Earth Station One podcast I skipped right over poor ol’ Chris Hamer.

All of the artists at the con were in front of the dealer room at their own tables. Chris Hamer was at the first table when you walk in.

Mr. Hamer is an artist that I’ve spoken to before, but I’m not sure where. Probably Dragon*Con. That would explain why I can’t quite remember. He’s a super nice guy who does cool stuff and you can check him out here. He had a box of prints – as artists do – and the very first one in the stack caught the eyes of each member of the Troublemaker family:

That’s pretty darn awesome. I loved it and asked Lil’ Troublemaker if he wanted one to put in his room. He loved it, too. He’s way into Star Wars right now and he particularly loves the Hoth stuff. The fact that there’s a Tauntaun – or “Snow Donkey” as my son calls them and I think that’s too hilarious to bother correcting him – in the background just seals the deal. Hamer said that ours was the first print he’d sold of that particular piece and asked Lil’ Troublemaker how old he is. He held up the requisite four fingers and Hamer found print #4 and signed it to my son. Pretty awesome.

We stood by his table and talked about Anthrax for a while and then moved on.

Our first stop in the dealer room was a table full of toys, naturally. Against my better judgment we’ve been buying Lil’ Troublemaker 3 ¾” Star Wars toys. I was insistent that he stick to the Galactic Heroes/Imaginext scale stuff, but I let him have a bunch of duplicate figures and Mrs. Troublemaker bought him some old ones and now we’ve got a kid who thinks he needs every 3 ¾” Star Wars toy ever made.

But he really wanted Lando with a cape. And it just so happened that this table had Lando with a cape, as well as Luke as a Stormtrooper, Han in Carbonite, and an Amidala Mrs. Troublemaker wanted. Now, keep in mind – these were all variations of figures that my son had specifically requested before we even got to the comic convention. He wasn’t just picking random stuff out. So of course I had to get them. They were all carded and five bucks apiece, which seemed a bit steep to me for old POTF2 figures, but maybe not. They were all in long boxes marked $5. I took them up to the dude running the table and he made a little show out of looking at each one of these old, crappy figures like he was selling fucking family heirlooms. Then he tried to tell me Luke was more. I said no – he was in the box with the rest and looked him in the eye as hard as I could. I told him he didn’t even have any other Star Wars figures anywhere else. The guy actually started to keep up his argument, but I think he realized I was about to walk away and acted all put out and said, “Twenty bucks”. What a shithead. He was smart to change his mind, though. I was already running through the scenario in my head:

We had already told Lil’ Troublemaker we were buying the figures. He would have totally had a breakdown at that point if we didn’t. My plan was to pick him up and proclaim as loudly as I could over his crying, “I’m sorry buddy, but that man wanted to cheat us and you can’t let people take advantage of you.”

I know that might sound rotten, but please understand that a certain percentage of the vendors – especially toy dealers – are without a doubt going to try and screw you if they can at a show like that. Why the heck do you think nothing is individually priced? These guys – some of them, not all of them – are like carnies. They know how to spot rubes and they skim extra cash off of them whenever they can. And don’t get me wrong – I’m no hardcase. These guys get over on me all the time. If I was a haggler I could probably save a good bit of cash at every con I attend, but I also don’t pay a penny more than I think is within reason.

I got our new old figures and stuck them in my backpack and we moved on.

Oddly, there was a booth diagonally across from that guy that was also selling Star Wars toys, only these were recent releases and were, in some cases, underpriced. Not just for a con, but for retail, even. We picked up a couple of figures from that guy, too. He had one of the new Vintage Ponda Baba figures that I haven’t even seen at retail yet, but it was the one figure in his whole display that I felt was overpriced. I mean, not badly; just more than I was willing to pay.

Next up was a huge spot full of Marvel Legends and a smattering of DC Universe Classics. 
This guy was pretty cool and was asking reasonable prices for most of his stuff. By reasonable I mean I felt like the prices were fair, but still more than I wanted to pay for the most part. He did get me with some of his Marvel Legends, though. He was asking fifteen for most of them, so I picked up Deathlok and Doctor Strange. I passed on Strange back in the day for one reason or another and I have only recently liked Deathlok thanks to his appearances in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force. I’m kicking myself for not picking up the Doctor Octopus he had.

We went around the room a few times – as one does – and headed out to get something to drink.

That’s when I saw Raven. Wrestling Raven, not Disney Raven.

I don’t try to talk to Raven. He lives in Atlanta and I have encountered him a couple of times and he’s not exactly gregarious. Now, if he’s not making a paid appearance; if he’s just out and about being Scott Levy, then I think the dude should be left alone and has every right to be a surly cuss if he wants. But I’ve been to a couple of events where he was doing signings and stuff and he was less than cordial.

Gnoll has a great Raven story. I’ll ask him if I can tell it some time.

So anyway, I have programmed myself to not interact with Raven. He’s one of my favorite wrestlers, but if the guy doesn’t want to be bugged, I can respect that. So we were walking out of the room and he was walking in and I averted my eyes and acted like I didn’t even see him and naturally he said, “Hey man,” and gave me a little nod. I was already in Ignore Raven mode so I didn’t say anything and just kept moving. Didn’t even nod or smile. The whole time my brain was yelling, “Why the fuck did you just ignore Raven!?! What is wrong with you!?!”

Hang in there. More Raven to come.

So we went and got beverages and opened up Lil’ Troublemaker’s toys so he could play for a little while. Mrs. Troublemaker ran some stuff out to the car and then we headed back towards where the con was being held.

The guy that did the lettering for Bloody Olde England was next to Bobby Nash, so we went down there to get him to sign the book. There was another guy named Peter Cutler beside Jason Flowers who had some cool-looking art and we ended up buying some prints from him. A couple of monster pieces and a semi-cheesecake Catwoman print for Jeffistopheles. He’d had a rough week. Since we bought three prints we got a free sketch book with a free sketch. I produced my Phantom Troublemaker reference and ended up with my favorite Troublemaker sketch so far:

And then Mrs. Troublemaker goes, “Oh, look – there’s Raven!” because the dude is sitting right there at a table with some 8x10s, some comics, and some statues. He smiled at us and said he had good deals on statues because he didn’t want to lug them back home. The guy was downright jovial. If ever there was a good opportunity to chat with the man who made Kurt Angle cry and run away from ECW like a ninny, this was it.

So of course I just smiled and nodded and turned around. Because if there is one thing I do not want to have to do, it is haggle with Raven. My fandom would have kicked in and I would have paid $300 for a fifty dollar Harley Quinn statue.

All in all we had a great time. Despite my social ineptitude I ended up talking to some really cool people and actually have a great opportunity with this whole Earth Station One thing. I never plan on making any money doing what I do, but I would love to get some more exposure and just talk to other nerds about the stuff I love. I mean, you guys see the comments. I answer every one. I crave nerd interaction. And this past Sunday I got it.

Good times.


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