Rather than throw my hat into the ring of every entertainment website in this country and regale you with tales of Comic-Con scheduling/highlights/must sees/exclusive announcements/bootleg video I decided it was story time. I want to tell you the story of the first sci-fi/fantasy convention I ever attended. It was called AdventureCon.
AdventureCon is an annual event held in Knoxville, TN. It is a small convention (the headliner of the show I attended was Billy Dee Williams) but it was my first and will always be held in high regard simply for that.
The show itself was what you would expect to be offered from a mid-sized university town in the south. It was held in the spacious (and far too expensive for the area) convention center and consisted mostly of the open floor for the retailers, creators, celebrities, etc. Up an escalator and down a hallway were the panel rooms which could not have been more than five in number.
But being there as a life-long comics reader was the sum of earthly bliss. There was a team of Jumpball players from Starship Troopers, Jaws from 007 (Richard Kiel) was pretending to bite into someone’s head for a photo op, I was happy to see Billy Tucci was there and I have never read a panel of Shi, I even loved that Billy Dee had a perpetual line for autographs even though he was charging $50 a pop and I realized that that was probably his biggest source of income these days. I got to sit in on a John Romita Jr. panel and I learned how to throw a punch from him. Another panel featured the actors under the costumes of Darth Vader and Boba Fett, two old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years playing catch up before an audience.
I don’t smile. Really I don’t. It’s just not my disposition and it has led to a life of being considered unapproachable by people who constantly think I am angry for some reason they’ll never know. At one point during AdventureCon I was leaving the floor and as I made my way to the escalator I looked up to see a girl coming down and smiling at me, and women never smile at me like that. I thought to myself, “Why the hell is that girl smiling at me? Do I have something hanging out of my nose? Toilet paper on my shoe? Am I just funny to look at?” But then I realized that she was smiling at me because I had a big smile plastered across my face and I didn’t even know it. I just happened to be looking in her direction. That was the moment I knew I wanted to be involved in that world; that those people behind those tables were sitting where I wanted to be sitting. It was a moment of clarity.
So I can tell you about my past experiences at Comic-Con; an Eddie Campbell panel (illustrator of my all-time favorite comic, From Hell), sitting in for a panel where Mike Mignola couldn’t stop telling Grant Morrison how great he thought All-Star Superman was (and it really is a great book), being too shy to talk to Dave McKean, Robert Kirkman giving me a copy of The Walking Dead and Invincible simply because he’s a great guy and a fanboy like everyone else, or even the highlight of my Comic-Con attendances where I met and spoke with the creator of Earthworm Jim (a game that shapes my humor to this day). They’re all great memories and I haven’t even scraped the surface of all the fun I’ve had at Comic-Con in years past.
But you always remember your first and AdventureCon was my first convention.