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TFCON: LA 2024, Part Two- All The Fans… Roll Out!

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TFCON: LA 2024, Part Two- All The Fans… Roll Out!

Having received the green light from my wife to go to TFCON: LA and gotten the time off approved at my 9-5 job, I got down to the business of getting travel arrangements squared away. I had just over two months to work with. Working six days a week meant financing the adventure would not be a problem. Paying for it all in one shot would be.

I made my list of what had to be taken care of and prioritized the items. First and foremost was acquiring tickets to the event. If tickets to TFCON: LA were sold out before I got them I would not need airfare, lodging, or a rental car.

I ordered a weekend pass so I could get the opportunity to also purchase signings with Mr. Cullen and Mr. Welker. I didn’t see them anywhere on the site, so I assumed they would be added later. As it turns out, they were available for purchase when I got my tickets. I believe that they were buried in the add ons before submitting payment and I overlooked them.

Q’S CONVENTION TRAVELING TIP #1:

Always be sure you have looked over the entire site for anything that you would like to have in your package. If it’s really important, double check or reach out to customer support. Doing this ensures that you have the opportunity to get what you want on the first go. Plus a lot of sites will charge you an additional transaction fee every time you purchase something else. Those fees range from $5-$15 each. It doesn’t take long for that to start turning into real money.

Passes acquired, I started doing research for flights to the event. Even though it’s called TFCON: LA the convention is actually held in Burbank. That meant multiple options for airports to fly in and out of. I opted to go with LAX over Burbank because flight schedules and pricing worked better going that route.

I was flying on the day of the convention. The flights I found for Burbank didn’t arrive until after 11:30. II didn’t want to miss the first two hours of it getting my bag, a car, and driving. There was a flight that touched down at LAX at 10:00. I could get my bag and rental car and be there by 11:00.

Q’S CONVENTION TRAVELING TIP #2:

Be willing to use different airlines each way for your adventures. It allows for more flexibility in scheduling.

Q’S CONVENTION TRAVELING TIP #3:

In my experience of searching for flights, I found that on the weekends you can book fares for a lower cost. Tickets for the airlines I looked at were about $10 less each way on the Saturday when I bought them than when I originally researched them on a Tuesday. The reason behind this is a lot of people will search for flights during slow times at work.

On the next paycheck I got the rental car squared away. The cost of using the car wouldn’t hit my card until I picked up the vehicle. Paying the amount that would be charged in advance made for one less expense to worry about.

I didn’t particularly care what kind of vehicle I got, so I went with the “dealer’s choice” deal a rental company had on Priceline. It’s exactly what it sounds like. You show up. They give you whatever vehicle happens to be on the lot and away you go. Doing this made getting a car for the weekend almost $40 cheaper. That meant more play money at the convention.

After that the few weeks leading up to TFCON seemed to fly by. Before I knew it it was 4:30 in the morning on the day of the convention. It was time to get to the airport. I knew I was rolling the dice by flying out the day of the event. A lot could go wrong.

I based the decision off of wanting to be able to spend Friday evening with my family to celebrate the birthdays of my wife and two brothers in law. Experience at the convention a couple years ago taught me that the first hour would be spent waiting in line. My plane was scheduled to touch down a little bit before the doors opened at the convention. By the time I got my rental car and drove the 30 miles the land would be nonexistent. I was going to have their cake and eat it, too!

That had been the plan. Of course, anytime you give yourself next to no wiggle room for time everything happens at once. I was living in a fantasy where the shuttle for the rental car would be there as I walked out the door. I’d get to the rental office, sign some papers, and be rolling in no time.

Instead I found myself waiting 45 minutes for the shuttle and had to wait over an hour in the rental office. It was almost half past noon when I actually started rolling towards Burbank. It wasn’t good; but it could be worse. Then the freeway decided to make it so. There was a traffic jam that made the 30 mile trip take an hour.

By the time I found parking at the event site and got onto the floor of the convention it was already 1:45. I had already missed almost half of the first day. Not to worry. I could make up for lost time. I had my list of guests I wanted to meet and a stack of books to get signed. The challenge was finding where each guest was and using time management.

I took advantage of the time looking for particular guests to multitask. I could glance at the booths of the various vendors to see what they had to offer. I didn’t have much of a shopping list. I wanted upgrade kits for my Scorponok figure, a G1 Snarl figure, a Bumblebee figure for my Munchkin, something Shockwave for my Minion, an All Hail Megatron variant cover by Casey Coller, and any Starscream figures I didn’t have that wouldn’t break the bank.

Everything should have been easy to spot at a glance. While walking by the tables of some of the voice actors I spotted an upgrade kit for Scorponok’s legs that was almost $30 cheaper than what I had seen on eBay. That was an immediate purchase. My 21 inches of glory was going to get bigger!

That was the only item from my list that I spotted during my initial walkthrough. I started to survey the guests’ tables. Arthur Burghardt’s line was by far the longest of everyone I wanted to meet that day. I would have to try for him later. My curse with Flint Dille was carrying over from the previous TFCON I attended. He was nowhere to be found. I found Bob Budiansky’s table. It was vacant. He had stepped out for the time being.

I decided that I would use the time to do more of a deep dive at the vendor booths. I saw items that were the unicorns of Transformers collectibles. These were things that you’d heard of; but you never saw in person. They made one wonder if they actually existed. One such item was a G1 style Megatron figure that transformed into an original Nintendo Zapper gun. The same booth also had a He-Man themed G1 Optimus Prime. Both were cool. Both were well beyond what I could afford to pay.

I continued my search for Snarl and Bumblebee. Then I saw an affordable Bumblebee figure. Then it occurred to me, did Munchkin want the bug version or the Camaro? Of course he didn’t answer when I texted to clarify. That purchase would have to wait.

I saw a Masterpiece Skywarp for $90. This is normally a $250 figure. His box was beat up; but the figure was pristine. I wasn’t looking for this one. It was a seeker though, and Masterpiece figures are incredibly detailed. I decided to walk around for a couple while I mulled it over. In the time it took to decide to pull the trigger it was gone.

Q’S CONVENTION TRAVELING TIP #4:

If you find yourself on the fence about an item. Don’t walk away. Weigh out your pros and cons while you have the item in your hands. If you decide you don’t want it, no harm, no foul. If you do want the item another buyer can’t buy it out from under you if you’re holding it.

I made my way to Casey Coller’s booth. I was hoping against hope that he might have a copy of the All Hail Megatron variant I wanted. It made sense to me. The artist who did the work would be a great source to buy it from.

Alas, he didn’t have any copies. He did have an interesting story about it. That cover was the first time his artwork was used for a cover. After it was printed he received several complimentary copies of the book. He promptly gave all of them but one to his friends and family. No one had any idea how sought after this book would become.

While Mr. Coller didn’t have the book I wanted, he did have a print that I fell in love with. It was Optimus Prime holding a Pride flag. It was captioned “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings”. That was added to my bag.

When I turned around I saw Mr. Budiansky had returned to his table. Better yet, there was almost no line to speak of! I hustled over to get in his line. Mr. Budiansky was a guest in Quentin’s Enginewerks a couple years ago. I wanted a book signed by him for my wall. I also wanted to get a few of my other favorite issues signed.

Mr. Budiansky also had prints of the cover of Transformers #5 available for purchase. This is one of my personal favorite Transformers covers. I bought two. One for myself and one for Minion.

After leaving Mr. Budiansky’s table I checked on Mr. Burghardt’s line. It was moving. It was also just as long as it had been when I arrived. Logic told me that Mr. Burghardt would need a break before I got anywhere near him, so I moved on.

I caught up with Livio Ramondelli in Artist Alley. We talked about his book, “The Kill Lock”, and about the various figures that Hot Toys has put out. Then I bought a signed copy of “Transformers: Salvation” from him and moved along.

I did one last tour of the floor. During that time I found E.J. Su. He had a stack of books with an exclusive variant cover of Starscream that he had done for the new Transformers title. The price was very reasonable, so it was added to my horde of treasures. Mr. Su even signed it for me!

At this point I was starting to hit the wall. It was already after 4. I was tired and hungry. I decided to pack up, check in at my AirBnb, get some food, and recharge. The day had been a great success, and I was eager to see what adventures lay in store for the rest of the weekend!

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I grew up loving all things geek. I started reading and collecting comics when I was 8. My personal collection has roughly 8,000 books in it. When I’m not doing something geek-related I love spending time with my amazing wife and kids, gaming, and working on cross stitch projects.

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