It’s Thursday morning on March 10 in the Inland Northwest. The crisp air and traces of frost on the windshield remind us that winter is not quite ready to lay down arms and fade to spring. The chill from the biting wind doesn’t bother me this morning. In a few hours I am getting on a plane and flying to Burbank, California for Transformers Con (TF Con).
I wasn’t aware that TF Con existed until “Transformers Galaxies” writer, Tyler Bleszinski, told me about it in August, 2021. As a lifelong fan of all things “More Than Meets the Eye” this little nugget of information was huge. I instantly started doing research to hammer down the exact date the event started in 2022. All of my research pointed to March 11.
My cohort in commotion, Lug Nut, and I agreed to arrive in Burbank a day early for several reasons.
- It gave us more than 24 hours of flexibility if there were issues with our flights. We would not be late to the show because of a delayed flight.
- It gave us more time to hang out while raiding and pillaging the area collectibles/comic book stores/hobby stores.
- It was cheaper.
The combination of these factors had us touching down in Burbank at noon and 3:30 respectively. Lug Nut arrived before me. He secured our mode of transport for the weekend and took advantage of the downtime before my arrival to get off site work done.
When I arrived, Lug Nut picked me up at baggage claim and we were off. We swung by the hotel to check in and drop off our luggage. After that we headed out to become better acquainted with the city we would be calling home for the next few days.
We decided to check out a few places that sold geek collectibles. Before we could get to the first one we came across an establishment called Halloween Town. Given that my wife absolutely loves Halloween I asked if we could make a pit stop to see if I could get divine inspiration for Mother’s Day. I found what I want to get her; but due to the lack of space in my luggage I will be searching for the item upon my return home.
With so many “mom and pop” shops lined up so close to one another, the part of Burbank we were in felt like Small Town, U.S.A. The ambiance truly surprised me given we were twenty minutes away from Los Angeles. We decided to walk down the street and pop into any stores that caught our attention.
The first store, Back From the Past, was a geek’s dream for retro toys. They had everything from Star Wars to Thundercats. Displays were set up nicely under glass throughout the store so consumers could get a good look at the available treasures. They had a 1:6 scale ED-209 from Robocop that was absolutely stunning. If not for the cost (I wasn’t about to burn through all of my play money for the weekend 20 minutes in) and the inability to get this thing home without being damaged it would have been mine.
After that we saw an automotive magazine and manual store. For the 30 years I have known him, Lug Nut has been the biggest car enthusiast I’ve ever met. It’s only fitting that he works for one of the most advanced car manufacturers in the world. It came as no surprise to me that when we came to an automotive magazine and manual store he’d want to dive in. Surprisingly, we were only in there for about ten minutes. When he left the store empty handed, surprise was no longer adequate. I had to resort to astonishment.
After checking out a couple of random curiosity shops that caught our attention we went to a comic book store called House of Secrets. Sadly, they were already closed. It went to the top of the next day’s itinerary and we went to Costco to pick up snacks, breakfast items for the weekend, a a pizza from the food court for dinner.
GEEK ON A BUDGET CASH SAVING CON TIPS: #1
If you’re not in your home city for a convention, hit up the bakery at the local grocery store. You can get danishes, bagels, cereal, juice, milk and cream cheese that will feed you and yours for the duration of the event for a fraction of the price. I won’t tell you what to do; but spending $12 on avocado toast at the hotel strikes me as a bit excessive.
TF CON: Los Angeles – Day 1 (Before the Event)
Friday morning it’s 7:05 A.M. and I’m wide awake. I tried going back to sleep. It wasn’t happening. The anticipation of TF Con kicking off in less than ten hours coupled with the prospect of discovering what other geeky goodness was out there waiting to be found had me buzzing around the hotel room like Joy in the morning on “Inside Out”.
Lug Nut and I destroyed our breakfasts. Afterwards he had to participate in a teleconference meeting so our adventures were put on hold for a bit. No worries. I had some reading and writing to catch up on. After the teleconference was done we were out the door and heading for House of Secrets.
Lug Nut had another meeting he’d have to attend virtually at 12:30. That gave us a smidge over two hours to hit the shop, score lunch, and get back to the hotel. With Lug Nut behind the wheel, time would not be an issue. The Knight Bus in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” could take notes from him on how to be more efficient on getting from Point A to Point B.
House of Secrets has to have one of the best selections of Silver Age comic books I have ever seen in a brick and mortar store. They carried a good portion of the first hundred issues of the original Iron Man run. All were very reasonably priced. I did have some trouble trying to figure out what location in the store different back issues were kept in.
That was instantly forgotten when I went to pay. Under the glass at the cash register was a copy of The Avengers #57 at a ridiculously low price. I had the opportunity to get the first appearance of Vision in a comic for less than $175. It would be a hit to my play money for the weekend; but it was the first appearance of Vision. Lug Nut convinced me to think about it during lunch and we could come back if I wanted.
Lunch was dim sum at what appeared to be a family owned restaurant about ten miles away. Due to the amount of time I had spent at House of Secrets and road construction we agreed to get takeout. We didn’t anticipate the food prep to take quite as long as it did. It left us scurrying to get back to the hotel in time for Lug Nut’s meeting.
While he was doing his meeting I dug into our assortment of food. I’d never had dim sum before and was rather curious what I was in store for. At first glanced it looked like an oversized dinner roll with some sort of honey glaze on them. I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Then Lug Nut explained to me that they were filled with Cantonese food. After that I dove in and proceeded to eat far too many of them.
During Lug Nut’s meeting I was mulling over the pros and cons of adding that Avengers #57. It would look good on my wall; but getting it guaranteed that I would have to pass on any big ticket items that could cross my path. I decided that if House of Secrets was willing to move on the price a bit it would be worth the risk of not getting anything “big” at TF Con.
Much to my enjoyment they were. I took my newly acquired treasure and raced to the car like Sonic the Hedgehog. Ecstatic from this huge addition to my collection we moved on to a hobby shop that Lug Nut wanted to check out.
When I was growing up, we had a handful of hobby shops in Spokane that were dedicated to building plastic model kits. My father, Gnihsur, Lug Nut, and I went to them on a regular basis. I have never been in a shop with a variety as impressive as the one at Burbank House of Hobbies. In addition to the assorted military and automotive kits that I was expecting to see there was a terrific selection of geek based models. I saw Gundam, Marvel, and Star Wars models. They even had the NTE Protector from “Galaxy Quest”. I found a Pokémon kit for one of my children. Lug Nut scored a Delorian from “Back to the Future” to work on when time permits.
We returned to the hotel room with our most recent purchases in hand. We still had a couple hours to kill before going to the convention center to get our wristbands and begin festivities. Lug Nut suggested that we go to West Coast Customs to look at the cars they had on the floor.
There were a handful of unique vehicles in the lobby of West Coast Cutoms. There was a pink Mini Cooper with thousands of rhinestones that made it sparkle. There were also a fully restored Delorian and Tesla Roadster, respectively.
When Lug Nut got us the tour things got real interesting. In the back there were two Bugatti Veyrons receiving some work. We also get to see a Rolls Royce that belongs to Justin Biebert, a hot rod that belongs to Shaq, vehicles belonging to the Kardashians and vehicles belonging to Will I. Am, In the scheme of top gear head moments in my lifetime that tour is always going to be one of the top five. After the tour we took our SWAG bags back to the hotel to drop them off and prepare for an evening of geeking out.
TF CON: Los Angeles – Day 1 (At the Event)
The first thing I noticed when we got to where the event was being held was that parking was free and we had in and out privileges. I know it sounds silly to be excited about that. Parking at a con generally runs between $20 and $35 a day. If you have a three of four day event that starts turning into real money real quickly.
GEEK ON A BUDGET CASH SAVING CON TIPS: #2
When it comes to parking at a facility that requires you to pay, commit to that facility for the day. Most parking lots don’t grant in and out privileges; so driving off site for a bit will reset the clock when at most establishments the first two hours are the most expensive. It’s cheaper to pay for all day parking than to do this.
Lug Nut and I got in line to show our COVID vaccination cards, IDs, and get our badges. I was disappointed to see that instead of a badge we were issued wristbands. With their artwork badges make for great mementos after the event. A plain solid colored wristband just ends up in the trash at the end of the weekend.
Wristbands secured, Lug Nut and I were ready to hit the floor. That’s when we got another surprise. The main exhibitor floor of the convention was not going to open until the next morning. The only things scheduled for the evening were a couple of panels and a meetup to play Transformers: The Collectible Card Game.
With a couple hours to pass before the panels began we ducked out to get dinner. This evening’s dinner came from the recommendation of some friends that live in the area. It was a restaurant called Brews Brothers Brewpub. The chicken sandwich I had was huge, delicious, and messy. I’d highly recommend it!
After dinner we meandered back to the Con. The first panel was a memorial to Derrick J. Wyatt, a designer for the Transformers Animated series on Cartoon Network. Eric Siebenaler, Marty Isenberg, and Josh Perez shared some of their favorite Derrick moments, including a misadventure at White Castle while attending a convention in Cincinnati.
The next panel was call “The Secrets of Five Faces of Darkness”. The panelists were Flint Dille and Jim Sorensen. If you were a child in the 80’s or early 90’s Flint Dille influenced your life at some point. He wrote scripts for animated series such as Mister T, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and Garbage Pail Kids.
Mr. Dille and Mr. Sorensen walked us through the five episode story arc for the Transformers animated series that began the season after the animated movie. At the conclusion of their presentation they took questions from fans. I found it hilarious how he’d refer to characters that were a bad idea as “Round File”, “Train Wreck”, or “Dumpster Fire”.