Wizard World Chicago 2012 Notes on the Go: Friday Report — the Actors and Two Self-Publishers Who Won Our Day

I’m currently writing this from our hotel in Rosemont, where my wife and I are attending two of Wizard World Chicago’s four days of self-described “geek chic”, comics fun, sci-fi spectacles, and all the autograph lines you could ever want to live in. After four hours’ walking around the State Fair on Thursday and eight hours’ standing and walking today, we’re somewhere beyond exhausted, but excited nonetheless. And we still have one more day to go! (Other attendees have more. We simply don’t do Sundays.)

The least enjoyable part was the wait to enter the convention. Per our personal procedures, we arrived ninety minutes before opening time to ensure a sooner entrance than other fans who would be vying for space and line positions inside. Early arrivers are kept waiting in a warehouse-sized room with a barren floor that’s not terribly conducive to sitting through all those early minutes.

Even less charming were the WWC employees who kept shouting completely inaudible things at the crowd — possibly instructions, possibly encouragement, possibly rap-concert clichés, maybe even tapioca pudding recipes. I wouldn’t know because I couldn’t understand a word they yelled. Helpful practical advice to those guys, especially the one who was like a skin irritant to us at a previous WWC: that cavernous waiting room is not the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where sounds will reverberate like magic for one and all to take in. If your employers can’t be bothered to arm you with a microphone or even a megaphone, then you’re going to need to learn the difference between plain yelling and actually projecting your voice. They’re not the same thing, as one fan ably demonstrated when he returned the verbal volley well enough for all to hear and understand.

That wasn’t even our hardest wait of the day. The toughest endurance test was the complete Stan Lee triathlon experience. First my wife waited twenty minutes to purchase a Stan Lee autograph ticket for me. Then I waited a surprisingly speedy fifteen minutes to approach Stan the Man and his defensive squad for an autograph. No lengthy chatter or lingering heartfelt moments are encouraged — you give item to handler, handler has him sign it, other handler passes back to you, you go away now.

We also decided to throw caution and budget to the wind, and shelled out more money for a once-in-a-lifetime photo op with Mr. Lee. We saved ourselves one lengthy wait by ordering the photo-op ticket online, but the actual line experience was just over two hours, above and beyond the separate autograph procedures. In the final analysis, Stan’s people got more of our time than they did of our money. To make matters worse, the photo-op waiting area is more enclosed, with lower ceilings and more intense lighting. It didn’t take long for the temperature to rise and the area to become dehydrating. At one point I took my shoes off for a while and made fists with my toes. What worked for John McClane nearly worked for me.

(Fun distracting trivia: while waiting under those fast-food heating lamps, I noticed a TV personality we met previously at GenCon, Jarrett “The Defuser” Crippen. A police officer even before he won season 2 of Lee’s Who Wants to Be a Super-Hero?, Crippen was at WWC not as a signing guest, but as part of Lee’s security team, earpiece and all. I firmly believe Lee was in good hands.)

On the complete opposite end of the waiting spectrum was Falling Skies costar Colin Cunningham. The exasperating rebel biker chef is the first actor from the show to appear anywhere near us. As a fan, I couldn’t walk away from this opportunity. Lucky for me, Cunningham had no line at most times and was a heck of a gentleman, to boot. At least twice we even saw him leave his booth and go enjoy some moments around the show floor. I plan to savor these memories if and when Falling Skies season 6 comes around and has Pope promoted to main character after Tom Mason dies heroically while choking a high-ranking Skitter officer to death or whatever. I’d love to see more sci-fans flocking his booth the rest of the weekend and showing him some love.

All our other actor encounters were a delight, not a sour grape in the bunch. James Hong took his time with every guest, occasionally slamming the table and shouting at the next person, “NEXT. WHAT DO YOU WANT.” He even signed one lady’s arm, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t ask for it. Amber Benson and Juliet Landau were both charming conversationalists — so much so, I didn’t even get a chance to mention their specific Buffy roles at all. (Bonus points to Ms. Landau’s handler, with whom I was having a lively discussion about the numerous major life insurance companies that occupy much of our fair Midwest. Somehow he segued from that into asking me to defend my choice of Buffy season 6 as being my favorite, when I realized that I was keeping Landau waiting. My fault!) Meanwhile, my wife reported back to me that Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, Jeremy Bulloch, and Tom Felton were all dears, and that she wants to take Dean Cain home with us. We’ll have to see about that. (Hint: that means no.)

Now that our longest waits are mostly over (here’s hoping Amy Acker arrives successfully tomorrow), we’re looking forward to a slightly more leisurely Saturday. We’re narrowing down our list of Q&As we want to attend; we’re hoping to discern just where all the dealers and exhibitors are (for some reason they’re rent asunder by the newly centralized autograph areas and sprawled across three disparate sections of the show floor, one of which represents a new expansion from previous years that we haven’t even seen yet); and I’m hoping to spend some dollars in Artists’ Alley on new books to read by new creators (sorry to anyone who hasn’t published a book or comic yet, but our house has no good display space for art prints at this time).

About that last part: here’s a special shout-out to Unshaven Comics and Paper Street Comics, whose representatives were the only two dwellers in Artists Alley who called me out and attempted to sell me stuff. I was so overjoyed at the attention that I gave them both money. I haven’t had time to read either book yet, but I certainly plan to give them each a chance and this unsolicited plug. (Hopefully they’re not untalented grade-Z hacks. For now, I award points for bravery regardless.)

I realize that sales and marketing isn’t the most thrilling aspect of self-publishing, but something needs to attract my attention. Pedestrian or oversimplified art won’t do it. (So many wish they were Matt Feazell or James Kochalka. Very, very few people are either.) Simplistic titles or covers won’t do it. Staring down at your table or forlornly into space won’t do it. Hiding behind monitors definitely didn’t work for one table I willfully overlooked. Allowing yourself to be hypnotized by your smartphone guarantees my complete avoidance. (Big, BIG pet peeve.) Unless you have an astoundingly clever title that really knocks me out (I don’t think this has happened in decades), artwork that makes JH Williams III look sad and lazy, or recommendations from other people high above us both in stature, then you’ll have to work at selling whatever product you brought with you. Otherwise, you might as well save on table fees, stay home, and keep flooding social media with links and banner ads instead.

I had cash on hand. More than just spare change. Help me give it to you in person. You’d be surprised how well real cash spends, how it feels in the palm of your hand, and what sort of attention you just might earn yourself. Someday it could be you headlining a major entertainment event at age 91 with thousands of fans celebrating your accomplishments. You can bet your bottom dollar Stan Lee didn’t get where he was by living like a hermit and wishing really hard that people would notice him. Carpe diem by way of Excelsior, folks.

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Wizard World Chicago 2012 Notes on the Go: Saturday Report — A Few More Actors, One Q&A, and Photos from Artists Alley « Midlife Crisis Crossover

  2. Pingback: Wizard World Chicago 2012 Photos, Part 2 of 5: Sci-Fi Actors Ahoy! « Midlife Crisis Crossover

What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: