Monday, May 2, 2016

Thoughts On The Great Philadelphia Comic Con (2016)

Another week, another convention, it would seem! Yes, following right off the heels of East Coast Comic Con, I headed over to Oaks PA, for The Great Philadelphia Comic Con 2016! Readers will remember that I attended this convention last year, and enjoyed it quite a bit. One major difference between this year and last year for me, is that this is the first time I've ever attended a convention on my own. I've always gone with at least one person in the past, so I admit it was a little strange for me at first. I remembered someone once saying to me that you should go see a movie by yourself at one point in your life, and I almost feel like I can compare the statement to this particular moment as well. But enough about my stories of loser-status; let's talk about COMIC CON!

One awesome thing about attending a convention by yourself, is that you never really have to make plans with anyone. You can wander around and do whatever you want, and that's kind of neat. The first thing I did when entering the convention (besides using the restroom after that iced coffee I got from Dunkin!), was see D. Silverman from the Sci-Fi Photo Guys group. It is quite funny seeing the same people you met at a convention the previous week like that. I wanted to see if he'd recognize me, and of course he did. We both laughed and said "Whoa, a whole week!? Buddy, it's been so long!"

I immediately noticed walking in, that there were a great deal more people attending the convention this time around, despite the floor size being the same. I'm not sure if it was due to them getting better exposure, or the awesome guests this year (or even some fusion of the two), but it's safe to say this con is only going to get bigger as time goes on, and I'm a-okay with that! At first, I was a little nervous about doing everything on my own, but I quickly remembered something that my family, friends, and girlfriend all said to me at different points in time: I make friends with almost everyone I meet! Remembering this helped me a lot and made the day go by a lot smoother inside my head.

I thought if I could get over to meeting with some of the guests I wanted to see right away, that would save me some time later, when I'd prefer to just relax and look around. The first person I went up to see was none other than Johnny Yong Bosch, former black/green ranger from Power Rangers, and voice actor to many characters in Japanese anime (including Ichigo from Bleach, Vash The Stampede from Trigun, and Lelouche from Code Geass). We had a brief conversation before I got him to sign a funny print for me, and we took a great picture together too. Class act!

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Speaking of class acts, the next person I met was even more classy if that's possible. Julian Glover has starred as villain characters in just about every geeky movie series you've ever loved. Indiana Jones? Star Wars? Harry Potter? Game of Thrones? Yup, he's been in all of those. Really sweet man. I felt like I could have listened to him tell random stories for hours and not gotten bored. I got a kick out of the fact that all of his Indiana Jones prints were selling out faster than even the Empire Strikes Back ones.

I knew there wasn't too much time before my first photo op of the day, so I checked out some dealer booths around the area, picked up "Marvel Masterworks: The Sub-Mariner Volume 1," and headed into line to wait. Since this line was for Amy Jo Johnson, also known of course as the pink Power Ranger (on top of her other various roles in shows like Felicity and Flashpoint), I knew it was going to be long and hectic, and hopped in as early as I was allowed to. I was absolutely right too, as the line soon stretched across the entire hallway, likely the longest of any line in the entire convention! I got along very well with all the people around me in line, and we helped each other pass the time by talking about various geeky topics. Once it was finally time, I was relieved to see that I finally met a celebrity who wasn't 3 feet taller than me! She was very polite, and our picture came out great, minus the fact that I look like my eyes were about to close.

Without much time to even think, it was already time to line up for the second photo op I had planned, Erin Cahill and Jason Faunt, the former pink and red rangers from Power Rangers: Time Force (my personal favorite PR series, outside of the original Japanese shows). The line setup for this one was incredibly confusing, because all of the group photo ops seemed to be scheduled within five minutes of each other, and no one really seemed to know what they were doing. That was okay though, since I was able to stay near the front and get it all figured out. Before I knew it, I was already up at the front for the next picture. I have to say, meeting these two was absolutely shocking (and I'm not just talking about me getting starstruck). To explain, the photo op process is usually pretty simple: You walk up, shake hands and say "hi" for maybe a second or two, snap the picture, and you walk out as fast as you came in. This couldn't have been more different! The two of them greeted me like I was the famous person, and they were the fans coming to see me. They asked me my name as they introduced themselves, and even asked what kind of picture I would like to take, serious or goofy, etc. I opted for something funny, and we all agreed on this memorable shot.

For those who don't know, the red and pink ranger in Time Force are love interests, so I thought that was a pretty hilarious idea. Even the guy printing out the photo couldn't stop laughing about it. After we took the picture, both of them kept saying "PLEASE come by our booth later and show us how that came out!" Honestly, just amazing at the enthusiasm. I am officially spoiled when it comes to photo ops forever, thanks to them. I also have to add this to my collection of "I am extremely lucky my girlfriend is not leaving me over this" photos. Between Natalie Dormer and this new shot, I am very lucky to be with someone who understands this was all just innocent fun and that I would never even consider being unfaithful to her. Once again, I consider myself to be really lucky.

After all of the photo op fun, I finally had some time to get lunch! The cheesesteak I ate wasn't the greatest ever, but it was certainly good enough. I made conversation with the people sitting around me and we had some laughs together (Okay, so maybe I AM good at making friends at these events; what of it!?). Sometimes you can catch some of the best cosplays just by sitting around and letting them all walk by you.

Once I got up, it was finally time to start exploring the show floor and artist alley for a bit! I met Ethan Van Sciver, one of my favorite current artists for Green Lantern. He signed my copies of Green Lantern #1 (Vol. 4), Green Lantern: Rebirth, and Sinestro Corps War Special #1, all personal favorites of mine. I noticed that his table was a bit farther away than everyone else, and that he did seem a little distant mentally, so I hope everything was alright. He's an excellent artist, and I was very glad to see him.

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Walking down the same aisle, I met Robert Bruce. If you've ever seen the show Comic Book Men on AMC, Robert was the guy that the cast would always call up when they needed something looked at, in order to determine if they were being sold a legitimate product or not. That is more or less his job in real life as well, and his table had all kinds of interesting vintage figures, much older than me or him. He was also really funny and nice to everybody coming by.

Farther down the same aisle (seriously, was the greatest aisle ever, or what!?), I met up with Scott Hanna, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year as well. This time, after remembering he was the inker for some of my favorite Spider-Man stories, I brought my copy of Amazing Spider-Man #34 (Vol. 2) for him to sign. I already had the pleasure of getting John Michael Straczynski to sign the same issue at NYCC a few years back, so getting Scott to sign it was just icing on the cake. I told him how I had to basically choose between meeting JMS, John Romita Sr., and John Romita Jr. all at the same time, and how tough of a choice that was for me. Scott's another fun person to talk to, who has all kinds of great stories about comics he's worked on in the past. He's also excellent at pencils to boot!

If you read my previous blog about East Coast Comic Con, you remember the part where I mentioned seeing legendary Batman artist, Neal Adams. Well, as I said before, he did come to this event too. I was bummed by his pricing last time, and was waiting to see if he would do anything different for this convention. It turned out that he kept his pricing all the same, but actually added an exclusive connecting cover variant of Batman fighting Superman... for $100. Yikes. I thought I'd walk around a little more...

During the rest of the afternoon, I spent a lot of time checking out the various vendors and walking into panels. The panels I checked in on were for both Amy Jo Johnson and Johnny Yong Bosch. Both panels actually had a very different atmosphere. While we got to hear Amy say a lot of funny things involving depressing music and affairs with Jason David Frank (that obviously never happened, but made for a lot of hilarity), while Johnny Yong Bosch had to balance out time between talking about his career as a Power Ranger, and his career as a voice actor, while still making it entertaining for everyone. Both panels actually had a lot to contribute, and I was glad that I checked them both out.

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After the panels, I went back by the celebrity side to show Erin Cahill and Jason Faunt how the picture came out. They were both really happy, and thanked me again for coming out to see them. As I began to walk away from them, I noticed a guy just standing there, looking out at them. I motioned to him that he could walk up now that I was done talking with them, and kept looking down a lot. "I'm... a little shy" he said. A little surprised, I built up some confidence of my own and said to him "Look, those two over there? They will be THRILLED to see you. They are like kids on Christmas morning over there, and I guarantee you will not regret talking with them. Give it a shot!" He finally nodded and walked over to them, and I saw Jason give him a big handshake. It made me feel really happy to see that for some reason.

I couldn't possibly leave without saying hello to Austin St. John, the original red Power Ranger. I made a joke with him about how it confused me as a six-year-old, to see him named Jason in the show, while the character of Tommy was played by someone actually named Jason. He started telling me about some of the original ideas they had for character names to give him. While I can't remember any of the names he told me off the top of my head, I definitely remember my reaction to them: "... Yeah, Jason was definitely the better name!" Another great guy that I had a lot of fun talking to.

So the moment of truth finally came, and I walked back to Neal Adam's table one more time, and I carefully looked over all of the prices. For $30, he would sign any comic or print you brought him. He had comics already signed for $50, he was selling prints for $20 (though I don't know if that included signature), the graphic novel Batman: Odyssey for $80, an omnibus collection of ALL his Batman material for $100 signed (or $300 to get it with a sketch!), and that exclusive connecting cover variant for... $100. I finally decided that the most sensible option was to get the omnibus collection. Why? Well, for starters, it was the only thing there where you paid the retail price and got Neal to sign it, without paying anything extra, and it only made more sense when you compared it to books like Odyssey that were going for $80, yet were actually INCLUDED in the very omnibus I just mentioned. So after thinking way too hard on that little matter, I felt satisfied with the result, and happily got the signature of one of the greatest Batman artists of all time!

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With that little victory (and due to the fact that the omnibus was heavy as all sin), I finally made it back to my car to head home after a long, fun-filled day. Once again, this was another great local convention. The venue never felt too crowded or cramped, the people I met (both famous and not) were all wonderful to meet, and the atmosphere was simply priceless. Here's hoping I can come back next year, and preferably with another person this time! Thanks for reading! Realistic Dr. Zoidberg says goodbye!

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