Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012 - Day 3

Day 2 Late Night
Welcome back to my annual exhaustive recap of my experiences at Dragon*Con. I’ve already covered the first couple of days as well as DCW, but we’ve still got a couple more days and the Late Night Puppet Slam to go. I’m hoping I can get everything wrapped up by Friday.

            Side Note: As tends to happen when I am attempting to recap days-long events, I forgot something the other day. I totally forgot to explain Fairy Quest.
The first I heard of it was in that blurb in the Pocket Program that I mentioned last Thursday. I just thought it would be funny to have a backpack that said “Fairy Quest”. So it turned out the Fairy Quest people were at registration and were pretty excited about their wares. They were all in costumes, but it took me a while to realize they were representing various fairy tales characters. The one that was supposed to be Tinkerbell offered a hug if I bought a bag, which quite frankly offended me. If I want a hug I am perfectly capable of getting a hug without purchasing third-rate promotional materials. But what I did want was a good opening picture for my Dragon*Con recap. I ended up finding the Fairy Quest people after I picked up my badge and told the lady there I wanted one of the backpacks. She was very excited. Like, super excited. I told her about wanting the picture for my blog (I even had my business cards with me – a minor miracle) and she called all the girls in for the picture. She really was serious about getting all of them in on this. It was actually pretty cool. We got our picture:
And I thanked the lady and told her I’d be posting about them. She pointed out the stuff inside the bag and told me to be sure and fill it out and bring it by the booth. There were a bunch of different prizes and whatnot you could get. I never did, mostly due to this year being a lot more chaotic than usual (again, courtesy of Thursday night).
So here’s the deal: Fairy Quest is not some contingent of cosplayers or a fringe group from the Gay Black Pride Festival that was also going on Labor Day weekend. It’s actually a graphic novel (much as I hate that phrase, sometimes it is correct) by Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos. As a matter of fact, Ramos provided the art for this year’s Dragon*Con badge:
And it comes from Fairy Quest. I didn’t actually find all of this out until we were going to Toys R Us Thursday afternoon to get Lil’ Troublemaker’s Krusty Krab playset. I decided I really needed to look this thing up and find out what it was. The lady had mentioned making all of the costumes and the art I had seen was actually quite nice. Here’s the website if you’d like to take a look:
So there you go. Well, that’s not quite it. All weekend long the lovely ladies and that one dude that looked like he was photobombing the picture were hawking the Limited Edition Fairy Quest bags. On Sunday they were down from the five bucks I paid to one dollar. Monday they were giving them away. Evil said he got a whole stack of ‘em. Oh, well. At least I got to spend the whole weekend knowing I got my Fairy Quest bag.
So anyway, on to Friday night. Yeah – There’s still a little bit of Friday night left to cover.
After DCW we decided it was imperative to get over to the Hilton for some karaoke. For the past two years I had been wanting to “sing” at Dragon*Con, but had always showed up too late. It didn’t seem like things were going to work out a whole lot better Friday night, as we didn’t get over there until after 10:30. But then Inara and Little Pond told me they had been able to get a request in, so I headed up to the front to see if I was there in time. I was.
We hung out in the Hilton karaoke area and had many more adult beverages while I waited for my turn (probably a bad idea). I got a picture with one of my favorite amateur Instagram photographers:
Saw the second best Batwoman of the weekend:
And had even more beers while Inara and Little Pond did their song:

It’s good, right? Like, actually a very good job from both and quite frankly nothing to laugh about.
Strap in, because mine is next.
I do feel a bit of explanation is necessary before I unleash this on an unsuspecting internet. First, my voice was shot. I had spent the last three hours screaming at wrestlers and had no business going anywhere near a mic. My voice hadn’t recovered by the following Tuesday for the Earth Station Who recording, let alone an hour after wrestling. Second, I was even more shitfaced than I realized.
I’m not trying to say this performance ever had a prayer of being good, but I had no idea just how bad it was going to be. And just so you guys feel all warm and special, I put up a post on Facebook asking if I should post it over there. The FB Phantomaniacs couldn’t even get it to 20 “Likes”, so no go (that probably represents their wisdom more than anything else).
So now, ladies and gentlemen, I hesitantly present Phantom Troublemaker’s rendition of Faith No More’s “Falling To Pieces”:

Uh huh. Told you. Go ahead - laugh it up. And you’ve got to understand here – in my mind I was giving the very best rock and roll performance anybody had ever seen. Those little jumps where I’m barely getting high enough off the ground for a microbe to run under my feet? Those were full-on David Lee Roth-esque Rock Leaps. My ragged, off-beat vocals? A pitch-perfect recreation of Mike Patton’s unique stylings (although if you look back at live performances from the 90’s, my rendition of the song isn’t a whole lot worse than some of Patton’s).
So that finally happened. It won’t put me off karaoke, but I might think twice about doing it at Dragon*Con ever again.
I’m not going to say my song killed Friday night, but everybody pretty much dispersed afterward.

Day 3

I did not get up in time for the parade.
Well, that’s not true. I actually woke up around 9:30. I can’t remember if Mrs. Troublemaker was up or not. I know she ended up hanging out with Lady Monkey most of the day, but I’m not sure when. I just know that Hilton bed was darned comfortable. Seriously – I wasn’t even really hung over. I was just extremely comfortable and knew I had nor obligations or responsibilities. Not until my panel at 4 PM, anyway.
And that’s another thing that made Thursday night seem like such a mistake – I don’t get hung over at Dragon*Con. Not like I was Friday morning, anyway. I’m not gonna lie – I’m slow in the mornings and sometimes it’s tougher to get going than others. But I have never puked or actually been physically sick there. And I drank a lot more Friday night, not to mention a larger variety.
Have you heard of Apple Pie? I hadn’t. I mean, I had heard it mentioned in passing on Friday during the day, but I didn’t really know what anybody was talking about. I thought maybe it was a euphemism for weed or something. Nothing I needed to be messing with. But then on Friday night (yes, this whole post is going to be about stuff I forgot to mention from other posts) this guy had a jug of… something. And he called it Apple Pie. You’d think I would have learned my lesson after feeling like a complete moron for doing this last year:
I mean, I’ve got a government regulated job where I get “randomly” drug tested on a regular basis. Not to mention the possibility for inconvenient social diseases, as Lori Muffinface attempted to point out by yelling “Cold sores!” every time one of us was handed the jug. But I have the capacity to do stupid things from time to time. And damn was that stuff tasty. Thus far I have suffered no ill effects, but I believe I might be attempting to brew my own for next year. At least I managed to resist the horn of mead:
So anyway, back to my original point, I felt fine Saturday morning. Just comfy. And I had actually been planning to skip the parade this year anyway. Last year had been so crowded and messy. I wanted to give it a year off so I would be able to fully appreciate it in 2013. Besides, with all of the people I know that did go I have about fifty thousand pictures I can peruse at my leisure.
I didn’t roll out of bed until about 11:30. I brushed last night’s funk out of my mouth, showered, dressed, and headed for the Dealers’ Room, which I hadn’t really even investigated yet.
A quick note on hygiene – I don’t observe my typically manic dental habits at Con. Rarely do I manage to stick a toothbrush in my mouth before going to bed. I might swish around some mouthwash, but that’s about it. I floss and brush in the morning and usually the afternoon. I do tend to shower three times a day, though. Even if I weren’t wearing clothes that are a bit too warm for the season I’d be sweating my ass off, and I do not want to be contributing to the stink.
Speaking of stink, let’s talk about the Dealers’ Room. I have to say, I think it was disappointing this year. And I do believe it was the room, not me. Granted, I was in kind of a weird, off-schedule… funk isn’t quite the right word. I was having a fun, but it just didn’t quite click like it normally does. But I really do think the Dealers’ Room was a bit of a let-down.
Just to be clear, I’ll go over a couple of things that might have been my problem.
The only items I really had on my shopping list were the SDCC Exclusive Shockwave HISS Tank and a purple leather wrist cuff. The HISS Tank was going to be hit-or-miss. I knew there wasn’t much chance of finding a bargain on one, but I thought maybe since I wasn’t looking for much I could spend a bit extra on that. Especially since there wouldn’t be any shipping. The wrist cuff was something I thought would be an easy find. I wanted something studded or spiked, about 4” wide, and purple. I’ve seen such things before, and had actually even seen a regular Dragon*Con vendor selling them at that Goth Ball we went to (I should’ve bought them there). Unfortunately, the proliferation of Steampunk has pretty much eliminated non earth-tone leather goods from Dragon*Con. A dark, forest green was the most vibrant color I could find for most of the weekend.
Of course, I was also looking for a Wun-Dar, but I’m never too hopeful about that one.
Now onto the things that were not directly my problem.
First, everybody’s prices seemed fucking ridiculous. I expect that from the t-shirt tower and from a couple of the vendors with Doctor Who toys, but you can still usually find some bargains. Or at least a couple of places that are reasonable. There’s this one toy vendor that’s always in the very back of the Dealers’ Room. His prices are always just shy of unreasonable. Like, testing the limits of what I’m willing to pay. He’s a really nice guy, so I don’t mind buying from him. But this year everything was absurd. Usually his SDCC collectibles are pretty much in line with what you see on eBay, minus the shipping. This year they were way over. He had a bunch of fairly recent NECA toys marked as high as thirty-five bucks.
There was another guy who actually had a lot of good stuff, but none of it was priced. He even had the Shockwave HISS Tank. I was with Rescue John when we came across that one. I told him (Rescue John) that I don’t buy stuff from people who don’t price their wares. I think that’s a big, steaming load of horseshit and I won’t play ball. I’m not going to let you make a price by gauging the look on my face when I ask about it. The funny part is that the guy running the booth heard me mention the HISS and asked me if I needed help. I told him I didn’t and he asked what I was looking at so I told him the HISS, but that since it wasn’t priced I wasn’t interested. I moved on. I think Recue John thought I was a little harsh, but I can’t even tell you how much that irritates me.
I was also disappointed that my Masters of the Universe Classics guy wasn’t there. I met him at Heroes Con a couple of years ago and then he was at Dragon*Con last year. He’s the one that hooked me up with a He-Ro with the purple gem.
I could have spent a bunch of money on Battlestar Galactica figures. Me and the missus have been catching up on that show and holy shit is it good. So good that she wants to watch it as much as I do. So good that we didn’t interrupt a viewing marathon the other night to watch the new episode of Doctor Who. I get into television series all the time. I’ll watch an entire season in a few days. Mrs. Troublemaker isn’t quite as willing to do such things. But she is way into BSG. We’ll watch five or six episodes at a time if we can. I’ve never seen her as into anything. The most she had previously been able to do was the first couple of seasons of Bones and maybe when we were catching up on Supernatural a few years ago. But anyway, I could have dropped some serious cash on BSG figures and probably would have if they had had Starbuck and Baltar. This one booth had pretty much everybody else – and I had no idea there were so many BSG figures – but I really kind of needed those two to get started. I dig Helo and Tigh and pretty much everybody else, but I was really going to need my favorite characters to get going. A Caprica Six might have worked, too.
Speaking of Caprica Six, I think I just got this costume:
I mean, she looked hot anyway – that’s why I took the picture – but now I’m pretty sure she’s a mash-up of Caprica Six and Doctor Six. I’m not sure if it really shows in the picture, but she looks a lot like Tricia Helfer. Like, to the point where Mrs. Troublemaker and I kind of wondered if that wasn’t her. Also, I wouldn’t have previously thought “Sexy Colin Baker” would be a costume I was ready for. I was wrong.
Other than that, the Dealers’ Room and Exhibitor Halls just weren’t that exciting. A big part of it is the whole Steampunk thing I mentioned before. Now, I have definitely gotten over my initial dislike of Steampunk. That all started because it seemed like such an overnight thing – like Nirvana. Way back in the early 90’s Nirvana was huge. Like, in a day. One day nobody had heard of ‘em, the next you couldn’t swing a flannel shirt around your head without hitting somebody with one of those damn baby shirts on. It was dammed ridiculous. I still don’t understand how the whole grunge thing happened. Overnight. But that’s a whole other post. My point is that I have a natural tendency to dislike overnight successes. So three years ago when all of a sudden every third person at Con had a pair of goggles on their head it just rubbed me the wrong way. But I’ve gotten over that now and can appreciate the ingenuity and creativity that goes into the genre.
Still, I don’t plan on owning any Steampunk gear or memorabilia, so a good sixty percent of the Dealers’ Room held no interest for me. Which isn’t such a bad thing. I ended up going home with a pretty decent wad of cash left over, something that almost never happens. I’ll just be tucking that away for Days of the Dead in February.
Another reason I didn’t spend as much was brilliant beer planning. I very firmly told Mrs. Troublemaker that neither of us would be buying hotel beer this year as long as there was still beer in the room. And we had plenty of beer in the room. So that worked out great. Seriously – I bet we saved a couple hundred dollars just from being prepared in that way.
Okay – so back to Saturday.
I wanted to browse Artists’ Alley more thoroughly than I had on Friday, so I headed to the Hyatt by way of Peachtree Center. See, I have this secret eatery where nobody is ever in line. In all the years I have been going to Dragon*Con, I’ve never had more than three or so people in front of me at this place. I think it’s because it is a little difficult to figure out just where to get in line. So I end up getting food from there at least once every year. This year it took a lot longer because some idiot forgot to make my order, but I bet I still got out of that food court faster than anybody else.
Wanna know which place I’m talking about?
Too bad.
I got my food and headed to the Hyatt. It was a lucky coincidence that Frenchy and the Punk were playing on the concourse. I had it marked on my schedule, but just hadn’t bothered to look at it yet that day. Pleased, I sat down, ate, and watched the show. I know these guys may not seem like my kind of thing, but there’s just something about them I dig. I saw a bunch of their videos on DC*TV last year and liked them. After I finished eating I managed to get some video of their last song:

Con was packed. Like, really packed. It took forever to get anywhere and I realized at one point that I had better start heading for the panel I was supposed to be on – 1982: Best Sci-Fi Movie Year Ever in Marriot A703. Luckily, I was in the Exhibitors’ Hall when I realized this. Unluckily, I had to get back to the Hilton to change clothes. Got to look sexy when you’re on a panel, right?
I rushed to the room, showered, changed, and rushed back to the Marriot (making the showering pretty much pointless). I walked into the room right at 4:00. Thankfully, things had not gotten started yet, but it was a packed panel so I ended up just outside the confines of the table. That was okay – everybody could check out my amazing purple jeans, not to mention my Le Sexoflex t-shirt:
(Photo courtesy of Wilson)
Right. So this was a big panel. In addition to Gary and Shaun from the previous day, we also had my fellow Earth Station One hosts Mike Gordon and Bobby Nash, (other people). This panel was an absolute hoot. It was a bit of a challenge, what with so many speakers, but we all had a lot of fun. I managed to get in my E.T. story and probably just enough witty stuff to be memorable. I mean, even without the mask.
Let’s face it – the mask is definitely a gimmick. It’s essential if I am going to continue establishing the media identity I have been working on for the past few years. I can’t have my Phantom Troublemaker nonsense clashing with my real job. But it’s still definitely a gimmick. Something that gets me noticed a bit more in the competitive world of online dork entertainment. Sometimes that’s not all good – I’ve been told by some it’s off-putting and alienating. Yes – people have said this to my face. Well, my mask.
We discussed the massive number of movies that were released in 1982. It really is mind-boggling. Just to name a few off the top of my head:
Beastmaster, E.T., Conan the Barbarian, Megaforce, The Thing, The Road Warrior, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Cat People, Swamp Thing, Blade Runner, Basket Case, The Dark Crystal, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Friday the 13th Part 3 (the one where Jason puts on the mask), Poltergeist, and The Last Unicorn.
And there are a ton more! It’s crazy. And I don’t think we ever really came up with a solid reason for it, though undoubtedly the simplified answer is money. “Money” is the root answer to any question.
Also thrilling was the presence of the Hooligans. It was even more exciting to see them there supporting me on Saturday than it was Friday, if only because Saturday is typically busier and also follows Friday night. Not only that, it would have been easy to feel like, “Oh, well we saw his Friday thing.” So that was pretty awesome. Plus the fact that the panel filled up fairly well on its own. We had an engaged and exciting audience that was eager to listen and to talk. Good times. I can’t wait to be back on some panels next year. Or at TimeGate, for that matter.
After the panel a couple of very nice people under the impression that I knew more than I do asked me why there were no toy panels at Dragon*Con. I ended up talking to them for a long time. I told them about the travesty of a toy panel that we had all gone to a couple of years ago and speculated that toys just might not be too high on the D*C priority list. It turned out they weren’t really talking about toys but about vinyl collectibles.
Not to go off on a tangent, but this wave of artist-designed vinyl collectibles from the past few years are not toys. At all. Let’s just get that straight. They’re art and they’re neat, but they are most certainly not toys. Toys are things that you can play with, that have features, that are priced according to their market worth and not according to some vague notion of rarity or artistic “value” (in most cases). I won’t argue against folks that want to pay sixty dollars for a three-inch-tall statue of a strawberry with a wacky face. I’ve bought too much stupid shit in my life to do that. But I will say that I can’t imagine the motivation of such a person.
So anyway, these folks basically ended up encouraging me to not only do a toy panel for next year but to pursue the idea of a Track centered around Toys. This is the point where I started to feel Mrs. Troublemaker’s laser vision boring into the side of my head. You see, my wife has a certain degree of understanding about the things that I do. My job is pretty horrible. I am not exaggerating – it is really just about the worst thing I could imagine doing that isn’t milking Malaysian male prostitutes and it doesn’t carry quite the same amount of personal dignity. But it pays the bills. My wife understands that and is very cool about the amount of time and money I spend on toys (actual toys), comics, and movies. Not to mention all of the non-profit dorkery. But I think if I had to attempt to coordinate anything of major significance she might just have to kill me. It took every bit of self-control in her sweet little heart not to beat me to death a few years ago when I made a costume; I can’t imagine if I were devoting hours and hours of time to a Dragon*Con Track.
That being said I would totally do a toy panel if I had the opportunity. It would be awesome. I also have another idea for a panel, but we’ll save that one for later.
After the panel me and the missus went to Calabrese’s table to say hi. I mainly just wanted to thank Bobby Calabrese for doing the Q&A and maybe buy a t-shirt or something. On the way we just happened to run into Doc Hammer.
I don’t like pestering celebrities. If they’re a favorite of mine I’ll totally do it, I just don’t like it. And I try to make it clear that if they don’t want to be pestered that’s cool. Doc Hammer was cool about it. I feel like these guys probably get sick of hearing about what a great show they make, but what else are you gonna say? I told him Venture Bros. was pretty much the best thing on TV (true) and that I was stoked about seeing the panel this year (also true). I mentioned the talk show format of the Venture panel from a couple of years ago and how awesome it was and he seemed to perk up a little bit at that. He told me to be sure and be there because this year’s was going to be even better. Then I got a picture with him:
You guys, I am a huge fan of the Venture Bros. and have an awful lot of respect for Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer. So to have met one of them in that situation and had them be totally cool was awesome. It’s always tough to meet a favorite creative talent and not have the encounter live up to your expectations. And believe me – my expectations are not high. All you really have to do is say, “Thanks,” when I’m done gushing. If you don’t want to chat or have a picture taken that’s fine. Especially in the halls or whatever.
After that we hit the Calabrese table. It just so happened that Bobby was the only one there and I’m not sure he quite knew what to make of me. I have no idea if he was at all familiar with me or my luchadork gimmick.
We got back to the room and I changed again. I have no idea what we did for the next couple of hours, but at 8 PM it was time for yet another Epic Dinner with the ESO Network.
Please feel free to go and read about the last one at TimeGate here.
This time around dinner was at a place called Mama Ninfa’s. I would just like to note that I gave Mrs. Troublemaker every opportunity to skip out on this one, but she really likes the ESO guys and wanted to go to dinner. So did Rescue John.
Mama Ninfa’s is located in Peachtree Center, though judging from the interior temperature one would think it was more proximal to the sun. I’m pretty sure they just put uncooked food on the plates in the kitchen, but by the time they got to your table your burritos and chimichangas and whatnot were fully cooked. Steaming, even. Part of this was the temperature, but part was also the extraordinary amount of time that passed between when you ordered and when the food arrived.
Before I get too much further, I would like to say that I understand this is probably the busiest time of year for a lot of these restaurants. I’m sure it is a burden and a hassle to deal with the massive volumes they get over Labor Day weekend and I’m sure most of them do their best to cope with it. I would also like to say that upon hearing about or travails at Mama Ninfa’s one of the Lady Hooligans laughed and said she had eaten there a few weeks prior – presumably not during any sort of peak – and had almost the same experience we did. Also, I had dinner at a lovely Chinese place the next night and had no issues whatsoever.
So anyway, it was about a billion degrees inside Mama Ninfa’s. We got to the back area where Team ESO was situated to find no table. That’s okay – apparently there was a bit of miscommunication and we were running a bit late. I was fine with standing around for a few minutes to wait for a table. Fortunately a couple of gentlemen in a booth behind the ESO crew were vacating just as we arrived. Rescue John went to sit down at the table while I tried to figure out who to ask about cleaning it off and getting some menus. Mrs. Troublemaker wisely went and sat at a clean and already-menued table with Director Faber and Son William.
Eventually a fellow came and removed a few of the dirty plates from the table Rescue John and I had taken. Not all of them. Because clearly the smaller plate with the straw wrapper smooshed into a puddle of cheese was ours and something we needed to keep. I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t need anybody to wipe the table down. Dragging a grey, soaking wet rag across the top of a dining surface often creates more problems than it solves. But I wanted that filthy little plate gone.
I also wanted a beer. More importantly, Mrs. Troublemaker wanted a beer. I ordered a Miller Lite and Mrs. Troublemaker ordered one of her nasty, Mexican beers. She had to ask three times before we got them. I think it was the beer delivery person that finally took the little plate away and even wiped down the table. I have to give them credit, as they didn’t just swipe everything off into our laps, which happens a lot. I think what happened there is we had been in Mama Ninfa’s long enough to have gone through three shifts of waiters and this new one was fairly fresh, not having been in the eighty-degree heat for the past eight hours.
I also give kudos to Mama Ninfa’s menu. It was the easiest ordering experience of my life, as the options were
  1. One Taco, Rice and Beans
  2. Two Tacos, Rice and Beans
  3. Three Tacos, Rice and Beans
  4. Enchilada, Rice and Beans
  5. Churro
This totally blows my theory that #6 is the same at every Mexican restaurant (Taco, Enchilada, Rice and Beans), because Mama Ninfa’s didn’t even have six items.
I ordered “3” and I have to say it was pretty darn good. Not only that, it did not cause me any discomfort later in the evening. My stomach isn’t quite as bad as it used to be, but eating at a strange Mexican place is not something I would normally do when I have plans later.
Then the check came. With all twelve or so of us on the same check. That was a shame, as I really felt like the service at Mama Ninfa’s deserved an F+. But when you’re throwing in with a large group you don’t have the same tipping options as you otherwise might. I’m pretty sure that was Mama Ninfa’s wait staff’s plan. The cost of the meal was fairly reasonable for a Downtown Atlanta eatery – only about seven thousand dollars.
I thanked Director Faber for giving me yet another rich source of material for a post and we headed back to the room so I could take shower #3 and change into what should have been the most spectacular suit of the Con, but ended up being not quite right. As a matter of fact, 2012 might be the last year I wear a suit. Certainly the last year I buy one.
Come back tomorrow for that whole story and for the madness known as…


  1. Had a blast on the 1982 panel with ya. That was a fun time. The ESO dinner was nice, but it was a comedy of errors trying to get in with a table big enough for everyone.


    1. I'm hoping to find a recording of the 1982 panel somewhere. That was a good one. I LOVE ESO dinners. Material!