GETTING THERE IS HALF THE FUN

It’s Wednesday night on September 8. Having wrapped up the day at my other job, I come home and start working on what really matters: WHICH BOOKS DO I GET SIGNED AT RCCC:2021?! Goodness knows there were a lot of options. After much internal debate I had my stack to take to the con. The internal struggle was caused by my personal rule of not having an artist/writer signing more than one item each… for the most part. 

I have a couple reasons for doing that. First, it keeps the amount of books that are being hauled to a minimum. Second, if you’re not bringing a huge stack of books to be signed by one creator EVERYONE can get their stuff signed and move along in minimal time. 

A few years ago I was at a con where someone decided to bring a long box of books by a creator. The creator, let’s call him ”B.M.B.”, signed every book in the box. B.M.B. took breaks from the owner of the long box to sign other books for other people, which was cool. The owner of the long box interjecting their thoughts and opinions on the conversation between creator and fans was not cool. 

To come full circle (and get off my soapbox), don’t bring a huge stack of books for one creator to sign and please remember the magical moments of interaction between fans and creator can influence the fan for a lifetime. Stay out of their conversation.

Thursday morning comes around and it’s time to get on the road. Originally we had a party of six for this adventure from Spokane to Portland. Myself, Cupcake, and True Neutral were going in my vehicle. Lord Trekker, Pyro, and DUDE! were slated to make the voyage in Lord Trekker’s vehicle. Unfortunately, a positive COVID-19 test kept DUDE! from joining us. It’s sad. I would have loved to hear what she would have had to say about the weekend.

The plan was for me to pick up Cupcake and bring him back to my place. When Lord Trekker and Pyro showed up we’d caravan to where True Neutral works and wait in the parking lot for him to come out. Once he grabbed his bag from his car we were good to go.

Five and a half hours of listening to the original radio broadcasts of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, discussions about all the new comic books coming out, someone in one vehicle almost mooning the other vehicle, discussions about the new tabletop games, and a couple pit stops later we arrived at our AirBnB with high spirits.

I wish I could take credit for being the one to think of the AirBnB. That belongs to the DUDE! She did the math and figured out that using an AirBnB would run each of us about $165 in total for all three nights we were there. By comparison, three nights in Portland area hotels would have run us approximately $310 each before taxes. Adding the money we saved with the ability to cook meals for ourselves (to keep even more costs down) and actually having an area for everyone to hang out in (besides someone’s hotel room) made AirBnB our way of doing Comic-Cons from now on.

After we unpacked the vehicles and got a bit more situated, we did a scouting mission to see what the parking situation at the Oregon State Convention Center would be like in the morning. That’s when Cupcake pointed out that there appeared to be on site parking available under the convention center. That would have been great to know about when we were there for Rose City Comic-Con in 2018.

A few years ago Lord Trekker and I established on-site parking is a MUST for bigger cons. First of all, it’s almost always cheaper than parking on the street. Secondly, it’s all about the convenience of being able to drop things off and pick up more. If I have bought an oversized item (think along the lines of Trypticon, Castle Grayskull, or the Cobra Terror Drome) there’s a lot to be said for not having to lug that item all over the con. The same goes for the beautiful art prints that are acquired along the way.

After establishing where we would park and how to get there, dinner became the next priority. True Neutral suggested a hole in the wall place called Robo Taco. When we got there I had my doubts. The place didn’t exude the vibe that makes one think they’re getting a spectacular meal. The vibe was more “I hope we don’t get mugged waiting for our food”.

The food took a while to be prepared; but it was worth it. I had ordered the House Burrito and received a Burrito of Unusual Size. I may have a pair of shoes smaller than this thing. It was absolutely delicious. I sent a picture of it to my wife telling her how great it was and how huge it was. She replied saying she had no doubt I’d finish it.

After dinner we waddled back to our vehicles and went foraging for groceries and other supplies we’d need over the weekend. I had two crockpot meals and two breakfasts planned out. Slow cookers are terrific for all day events like Comic-Con. Throw everything in before you leave and cook it on low until you get back from a day with your fellow nerds. I made chicken chili and a pot roast for my companions and I.

Day 1 of the Con

Friday morning I’m like a kid on Christmas Eve. Even though the floor isn’t open to us until 1:00 P.M. I’m chomping at the bit to get out the door at 10:30. I’m going with the logic that I don’t want to miss out on parking in the building.

Begrudgingly, everyone piles into my vehicle so we can claim our parking spot and place in the queue for getting into the show. I had forgotten that this was the first con for Pyro and True Neutral. While they were going into sensory overload from the cosplayers in the lobby and the Rose City Comic-Con t-shirt and other paraphernalia stand I was eager to get in line. 

Once we got to the queue it dawned on me…. The show didn’t open until 1:00. Kids would be in school until at least 3:00. Most adults would be at work, too. A grin not unlike that on the Grinch’s face came across mine. I was going to have a three or four hour window to run amuck in Artist Alley. Better yet, I would get to do this without being hindered by a huge crowd! 

Victory was mine! I just had to be able to wait out the last 80 minutes while being really close to the front of the queue. I got teased by a couple of the others for being a touch overzealous to go talk with the creators. I tried arguing that I was making up for losing all of the Comic-Cons in 2020. That fell on deaf ears though.

As the minutes ticked away we went over our priorities for what we wanted to accomplish first when we got to the show floor. I had planned on catching up with Stray Dogs author, Tony Fleecs, first. Cupcake wanted to square away a photo op and autograph session with George Takei. Lord Trekker and Pyro were headed for artist alley to check out the prints. Being this was his first Comic-Con, Without any specific goals in mind for the con, True Neutral was curious to see what he would find on the show floor.

Right before the show floor opened we did a radio check to ensure that the two way radios the five of us were carrying were in working order. Then we were off. Before you could say Voltron I had spoken with and gotten books signed by Tony Fleecs, Jay Sullivan, Toni Howard, and Javan Jordan.

Having checked off a few things on my to do list in Artist Alley, I wandered the rest of the show floor in search of buck boxes, a copy of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #154, and whatever cool action figures I may happen to come across.

The action figures didn’t take long to find. The selection was somewhat disappointing though. There was very little in the way of retro toys. By retro I mean anything older than 1995. While I was lamenting not really seeing anything that I was remotely interested in on the toy front another part of me had realized that by not buying any toys at the con I was up at least $25. Then it happened. I was walking by a booth that didn’t really have anything that appealed when I saw Trypticon next to the booth’s cash register. 

Trypticon is the Transformers version of Godzilla. In robot mode he towers a good seven or eight inches over Grimlock. When Trypticon transforms he becomes a city/fortress, complete with a small car transformer to play with. I had wanted to get this figure since I read about him in Transformers #27 back in the 80’s. At the time he was too expensive.

Seeing him at the con stunned me. Trypticon is not found in the wild very often. I started looking him over to see what kind of condition he was in. At a glance it was obvious parts were missing. Most of the missing parts only mattered for city mode though. If the price was right he was coming home with me. After a round of negotiations that was really just a facade so the vendor and I could honestly tell our wives we had haggled over the price, Trypticon was tucked under my arm.

I went from comic booth to comic booth in search of my G. I. Joe book and buck boxes. Nobody had the G.I. Joe book. That wasn’t a surprise. It’s not a key book and doesn’t have a high print run. The lack of buck boxes everywhere was a surprise. One booth had it set up to look like it was a fleet of buck boxes. Then when I went to cash out the vendor started to tell me how this particular book was worth at least $150 and another book was at least $40. I looked at the vendor and told them if the books were truly worth that much they would be bagged, boarded, and not in the middle of a stack of books that was beaten to Hell.

I continued the quest for my grail. As side quests I was seeking out small press publishers to hear their elevator pitches. Those conversations led to titles like Tuskegee Heirs, City of Roses, Pop Apocalypse, and The Middle Ground going into my bag for future reading.

I did manage to find my G.I. Joe book during my travels. Sadly, with a price tag of $125, it wasn’t going home with me. I couldn’t believe how much the prices of some books had gone up. My white whale was a $50 book not too long ago. With some collectors still working AND receiving stimulus checks prices on all key and semi key books are going up exponentially. 

Around this point we took stock on the day and declared it a win. We’d accomplished a great deal. We had eaten a late lunch at a restaurant that had great food for everyone else, but couldn’t get anything on my order right. I didn’t care. It had been a great day at the con and I had chicken chili waiting for me in the crockpot at the AirBnB.

Day 2 of the Con

Day two’s festivities begin with access to the show floor starting at 10:00 A.M. To everyone in our party that means being ready and out the door by 8:15 A.M. To make that happen, breakfast is served at 7:30. There are those in the party that don’t appreciate being awake at such an early hour. They communicate in grunts and crude forms of sign language while waiting for their caffeine to kick in.

The parking garage seemed to have more activity in it on the second day. After attendance numbers that seemed a bit lackluster because of school and work schedules the previous day, there were noticeably more people in the queue for day two. When we arrived at the queue around 8:40 our group was almost at the very back of line number one. By the time the show started the third line was almost halfway full.

There weren’t as many priorities for day two. I had already gotten books signed by almost everyone I wanted. Saturday was about meeting up with the handful of creators I didn’t get the opportunity to meet on day one. 

After meeting Stephanie Phillips and Jeremy Haun I decided not to spend goodness knows how long waiting for Frank Cho to arrive at his booth. I had something else to work on.

The night before I came up with a plan to get the G.I. Joe book I wanted. Once upon a time I had bought a mystery box of comics. In that box I acquired a variant cover for a title that I wasn’t very interested in. Due to the scarcity of the variant, fair market value on it was approximately $100. I figured trading this piece plus some cash would equate to me obtaining my grail. 

Sadly there was no joy in Mudville. The vendor was not interested in making any trades. If I wanted the book it would have to be a cash only sale. I wanted the book; and had the cash. The rub was that was my play money for the duration of the weekend. I still needed to be able to eat lunch on Saturday as well as breakfast on Sunday. Rather than getting my grail I got the second highest book in my want list and called it good.

I returned to Artist Alley with my prize and had the great pleasure of watching a young woman in a G.I. Joe cosplay absolutely shredding an artist that clearly didn’t know his source material and was hoping to “mansplain” it to her. She paused long enough to ask if I could identify the character she was cosplaying as. When I correctly did so she went right back to going after the artist. 

I will probably never know exactly what was said to her to set her off. I do know that from what I saw she was articulate. She was right. After the way she handled herself Saturday, she will be a guest on my show when we’re talking about G.I. Joe. 

I made the rounds to see what other small press publishers I could find. There were a couple more that had some stories that I am very eager to read and write about. Most notably, The O. Z., and Good Boy. 

Having succumbed to a leg injury I spent the remainder of Saturday watching cosplay with True Neutral  from the most comfortable spot we could find. Cupcake and Lord Trekker had their photo ops with George Takei. They then went to Mr. Takei’s panel with Pyro. When our comrades went to the autograph area to get their photos signed by George Takei, True Neutral and I caught up to them. Lord Trekker got his autograph and then went to all the booths on his mental list to acquire the books he wanted. 

After that we proceeded back to the AirBnB. The next morning we went out for a nice breakfast and proceeded to make the journey back to Spokane.

Random Thoughts and Observations of the Weekend 

  • I have come to the conclusion that the Oregon State Police force doesn’t care about enforcing the speed limits from the Dalles to Portland. I was going 85 MPH in a 65 MPH zone and getting passed like I was standing still.
  • Ensure that you’re on the same page as someone else when asking about something. I had asked the owner of the AirBnB if they had a crockpot or slow cooker. I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask what size the one they had was.
  • Unless a seller has a sign saying all items are this price they’re planning to screw you if they don’t have prices labeled. ESPECIALLY if they ask you what price you’re thinking. If you shoot too low they’ll say something. If you shoot higher than the item’s value they’ll keep their mouths shut and pocket the difference.
  • When creating a cosplay be sure to go with something that allows freedom of movement.
  • When meal planning for your entire party, be sure to take everyone’s dietary needs. You may want onion rings; but if Cupcake eating them gives him gas that makes a room uninhabitable they probably shouldn’t be on the menu.
  • When doing a road trip it’s a good idea for everyone in each vehicle to have the address where they intend to stay in their phones. That way in a pinch everyone has the ability to look up directions.
  • If it can be helped, avoid buying road trip snacks at a gas station. You’re going to pay at least ¼ more than at your typical grocery store.
  • Cosplay does not equate to consent. Just because someone is in cosplay it doesn’t give you free rein to be a troll. Get permission before taking their picture.