5 Depressing Things I Saw At My Local Small Town Comic-Con
If you want to attend all four days of Comic-Con, you're looking at nearly $200 for tickets -- on the off-chance you can even get them, since they sell out faster than a warm cup of meth on a cool autumn night. Then you'll be one of upwards of 167,000 people in attendance in a facility which can technically handle that many, but still shouldn't, based on photographs showing a sea of cosplayers looking horribly lost and confused. But of course, that's Comic-Con with a big C. The San Diego one, where Marvel and DC bust out movie previews and actual media outlets set up camp outside for days at a time. I didn't go to that. I went to a small comic-con in Canada, just a few miles down the highway from where I live. I saw Alan Thicke.
The Guest List Makes Levar Burton Sad
Even though SDCC is the big daddy con, Canada holds its own with Toronto's Fan Expo. Attendance in 2014 was 127,000, which is half the country, minus undocumented immigrants and polar bears. It's a big deal, and features guests who are actual big-deal guests, like the living cast of Star Trek, the casts of Daredevil and The Walking Dead, and other actual celebrities whom you don't have to Google ahead of time. In Canada! This was not entirely the case at the con I attended.
The reason I even bothered to pack up and drive down the highway to this place was that I heard Alan Thicke was attending. You may remember Alan Thicke as the dad from Growing Pains and the real-life dad of minor pain Robin Thicke. Neither of these pieces of trivia, however, qualify the man to attend a comic-con as a guest. I was baffled and immediately in love with the idea. Before I go further, please enjoy Alan Thicke enjoying himself at the con.
Doesn't he look excited? The barely visible shoulder to his left was his cash pimp, who took the money for autographs because Alan don't dirty his hands with the Benjamins. Also, notice how free Mr. Thicke is. He is unfettered by fans. I could have gone up and licked his forehead. Call this a small-town con pro! However, this then occurred:
Where the fuck is Kevin Sorbo? If I show up looking for Hercules, I expect to see Hercules. I hear he did show up, but not while I was in attendance. And that really stuck in my craw, because I have seen every episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and wanted to ask Mr. Sorbo whether he woke up in a cold sweat more as a result of that show or because of Andromeda. Did you know there was a guy on Andromeda who had to quit because they made him wear a ridiculous costume that was giving him some kind of full-body rash that was killing him? I may have embellished the details a little, but that's mostly true.
Not to be outdone by a missing Sorbo, here's Levar Burton wishing someone would beam him to anywhere else in the universe. That's a little Trek humor between us friends, but the look on his face suggests if there was a pot of gold at the end of the Reading Rainbow, he'd be buying a bus ticket to wherever the fuck wasn't here.
Back to Alan Thicke. He's still busy playing Angry Birds. Out-of-date reference? Don't kid yourself, this is Alan Thicke. He's playing Angry Birds.
And look here, it's Kevin Nash, whom you might remember from the 1990s as Diesel. The WWF's Diesel. Back when it was the WWF! His hair is white as snow, and he looks like a stern grandpa. I would not say this to his face, as I'm sure he could lift me with ease and hurl me through literally anything that was within hurling distance -- which for Kevin Nash is pretty much anything within the range of sight. I respect him as an athlete and a man who has aged with grace.
The Attendees Were ... I Guess What You'd Expect?
Every con has cosplayers, and I'm going to tell you right now, this was the best one. This is a 5'7" Indiana Jones. He had glasses on, but you can't tell, and that's OK. This whole costume was 100-percent Hollywood realistic. That was a real whip, and that hat wasn't some cheap piece of felt shit from a costume store; that was the real deal. I wanted to hug this little guy and take him home.
Were there subpar cosplayers at the event? Sure. But I won't show any of those pictures or mock them. That there were about 15 Harley Quinns is A-OK, and so is the fact that a couple of them were dudes. There was a rich melange of cosplay going on -- some pretty good, some store-bought, and some that made you frown inwardly and question why you had paid to be in the same rom as that person. But whatever the case, a cosplayer is the kind of person who has the unmitigated balls, the cold as steel rocks, to get out in public dressed as some preposterously unrealistic being from pop culture and mingle with the straight crowd for a while, and that deserves your respect. These people are motivated by rabid nerdism or abject uncaring or straight-up ballsy not giving a fuck, and all three should make you give them at least a little nod of approval if you don't have that kind of motivation. I certainly don't. I wore a bowling shirt and a pair of snakeskin shoes. I cosplay as a degenerate 24/7.
The Grub Also Made Levar Burton Sad
No con I have ever attended has included access to food as part of their Plan A. The food is somewhere in Sub-Plan G, shoehorned into a corner of the venue that seats six and has an exit within screaming distance, should a deep fryer explode and take out of gaggle of Green Lanterns. This small-town con doubled down on food by having seating for 20 in a small corner where one could buy a $6 hamburger or, just off to the side, a random fellow with a hibachi was selling pulled pork sandwiches for the same price. He was literally about 20 feet from Levar Burton. What do you think about that, Levar?
Damn right. It was weird. On the far side of the con, there was also a single lemonade vendor next to Ye Olde Fudge Pot. I shit you not, that was the name. Three bars of fudge for $20. A solid two dozen varieties available, including chocolate mint fudge, cookies and cream fudge, and Reese's Pieces fudge. That's a fucking lot of fudge.
I opted to spend about $14 on a sausage on a bun and some poutine, as Canadian bylaws forbid any meal be eaten without a side of poutine. As a traditionalist, I enjoy my sausage with mustard. There's no secret dick joke in there; I just like mustard on sausages. Alas, the mustard provided by the con may have been left over from last year's con, and I was the lucky recipient of an antiquated mustard plug about the size of a thumb joint which spattered across the end of my meaty tube like an off-yellow squib. The gnarly chunk of dried condiment did little to convince me I was about to feast on the tastiest $7 sausage of my life. I would have snapped a photo, but the greasy miasma forbade the touching of phones.
The Cost Made Everyone Sad
It cost $35 to enter this event for the Saturday. A weekend pass was $80 in advance. It's $55 for a day to go to SDCC. New York's Comic-Con is $50 for a day. Keep in mind, New York Comic-Con featured Princess Leia, Ash from Evil Dead, the Doctor, the Punisher, Uhura, the Penguin, and Keanu Goddamn Reeves. This con had Jason Seaver. Would the value be the same?
Most of the con was a massive flea market of Pop figures, $1 comic books, and foam swords. Curiously, there were a surprising number of steel swords and fully bladed weapons as well. Canada doesn't give a shit if you want to stab someone for the sake of entertainment.
Smash Wrestling was included with the cost of entry, featuring all your favorite Smash wrestlers. Go on, name some. I watched one match, in which a wrestler beat up event security for some reason and the referee insisted on jumping every time a blow was landed to ensure the loudest slam against the mat possible. It took away from the show a little, and I was hoping the two combatants would simply punch him in the neck, but they never did.
Anything to liven up this snoozefest.
At one point during the match, the pro wrestler lifted the security guard's shirt so that he could slap his man tits. This sort of attack is generally frowned upon, but sometimes necessary to put someone in their place, assuming they have man tits to slap. However, the entire theatrical presentation fell apart when, laid up in the corner turnbuckle, the security guard's shirt fell down of its own accord and, for no good reason, as he leaned back supposedly stunned and unable to defend himself, he lifted his shirt on his own so the other guy could continue bitch-slapping his boobies. I was crestfallen.
Attempting to take in a seminar, I was quickly shooed away by the lady behind me talking to her sister about a fellow named Dan, who stole all her money and was going to get his ass kicked by Jackie and his boys when they got to town later tonight, but in the meantime could she borrow some milk and tampons. That this conversation was occurring in the middle of an animation seminar was maybe not baffling to me, but certainly confusing, at the very least. Had she gone to the event without a tampon? Why was I hearing about this? Milk? Why?
I needed to go see Alan Thicke, get my head right.
You know, it's easier to write the word "photo" than the word "selfie," and it also makes more sense.
The Overall Experience Was Sad ... But In A Good Way
When you pay for a con, you pay for an experience. You're not just there to see superstars like Kevin "God's Not Dead, But He Does Avoid Eye Contact With Me" Sorbo, or to buy overpriced but delicious fudge, or to watch people who made their costumes out of plumbing supplies and sofa upholstery struggle to maintain consciousness in a room that has no air conditioning and is hovering around 100 stagnant, fudge-stinking degrees. You're there for it all. A lot of people lose out on this fact, focus on one thing, and become easily disappointed. There wasn't enough to do, the line was too long, I couldn't touch Levar Burton's eyeballs to see if they were real. A con is like a stew: You need to savor every little bit together, not just pick out the chunks of meat like a schmuck.
With this in mind, this con was pretty dope. Pretty dope because I literally held a sausage in my hand while I snapped photos of Alan Thicke for the purposes of writing an article about it, which in turn meant I was being paid to do it. When else am I ever going to get paid to take pictures of Alan Thicke?
This may not be your cup of tea, and in fact may seem like the living embodiment of abject horror and boredom, but hey, we're different people, and I'm trying to be more positive lately. If I can't see the silver lining in processed meat dongs and '80s sitcom dads, then who am I, anyway?
Would I attend this con again? Maybe. Maybe the cast of Family Ties will be here next year. Maybe Balki from Perfect Strangers. I can only guess. But one thing I do know is that if Alf ever shows up at a con, I'm going to drop-kick him right in the sternum. Whatever happens, it'll be worth it.
You can follow Felix Clay on Twitter. Or not even follow him, but just show up in the same place at the same time.
You can wallow in even more small-town sadness in 6 Movie Locations You Can Visit (But Probably Shouldn't), and see why even big-city cons are terrible in 4 Miserable Experiences You Can't Avoid at Comic-Con.
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