Or, “How My Wife and I Spent Valentine’s Day”. With special guest star Karen Gillan!
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we attended the first annual Wizard World Indianapolis, the newest version of the geek convention franchise that’s popped up in numerous major cities nationwide. Part One was all our costume pics; Part Two is the rest of our experience, including but not limited to the fun photo op seen above.
Last year’s Indianapolis convention experience were so varied in results that we had no idea whether to expect crowds massive enough to violate the fire code, or a deserted landscape with only the guests and ourselves as the only signs of life. Saturday programing was scheduled to begin at 10. Per our normal procedure for any other con, we arrived downtown a little before 7:30. Some downtown garages and breakfast restaurants hadn’t even opened yet. After grabbing standard fare from a Panera Bread, where I’m pretty sure we were their first customers (we had to wait for the bagel toaster to warm up), we trudged over to the Indiana Convention Center and found volunteers on duty, plus a handful of fellow early-bird attendees scattered and loitering.
We were the first ones to approach the designated starting point for the official non-VIP entry line. We made ourselves as comfortable as one can on hard gymnasium flooring for the next hour-plus. We chatted, we met other people near us, I took advantage of modern phone technology for as long as my pitiful battery would allow.
Strange but true: our line was ushered into the exhibit hall ten minutes before showtime. This never happens. Regardless, it was on.
By Wizard World standards, this was a really compact show. The exhibitors’ section and Artists Alley took slightly over an hour to peruse to our satisfaction, but I was pleased to find one dealer carrying trades for $5 a pop, and one back-issue dealer who helped me fill a long-standing hole in my collection. As of this weekend, I now have copies of all 125 issues of Power Man & Iron Fist. (Don’t give me look. I don’t mock your goals, do I?)
In Artists Alley, I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Salicrup, whose 20-year career at Marvel spanned my entire childhood and saw him rise to the rank of editor during my prime reading years. I fondly remember when he presided over Marvel Age, their in-house comic-sized promotional series that could’ve just been 32 pages of dry advertising if Salicrup and his team hadn’t also made it a tongue-in-cheek delight with material from funnymen like Fred Hembeck, Kyle Baker, and future writer/novelist Peter David. Salicrup is currently an editor at Papercutz, whose line of young-readers’ graphic novels include new Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys volumes that I’ve seen stocked at our local library.
Gary Scott Beatty is an indie writer/illustrator who edits and contributes to Indie Comics Magazine, a black-‘n’-white anthology for creators looking to do done-in-one short stories outside the usual publishers. I bought a couple of issues but haven’t had a chance to read them yet, though I noticed a couple of pieces from Arsenic Lullaby creator Douglas Paszkiewicz.
Both gents were a pleasure to meet, and I made sure to fork over some money to each of them.
The actors’ guest list contained several big names we’ve met in years past (cf. our previous pre-planning entry), but three names on the list stood out to us.
The biggest, most established name on that list: Big Bird from Sesame Street. In real life he’s called Caroll Spinney, but he’s Big Bird to all the good little boys and girls out there. In his busy schedule he’s also the voice of Oscar the Grouch.
He signed his 8×10 photo three times: once as himself, and once on behalf of each character. If you bought a copy of his autobiography at the table, he also sketched a little bird inside. Although Indianapolis temperatures were in the teens and winds were blustery to a painful degree, he and his wife were grateful to have escaped from the east-coast blizzard apocalypse for a few days.
My wife, a longtime Star Trek fan, also wanted to meet Anthony Montgomery from Enterprise, where he played helmsman Travis Mayweather. Montgomery happens to be Hoosier-born and a Ball State grad. Three cheers for hometown artists!
His current focus is on a new project called Miles Away, which so far has come to life as a graphic novel published through the old indie pros at Antarctic Press. He’s hoping to see the characters make the jump to animation and rattled off a list of established actors on board for voices, funding pending. Gotta be honest: based on the several enthusiastic minutes Montgomery spent with us, his four seasons on Enterprise barely reflected a scant fraction of his vibrant personality and energy.
At noon we risked the peril of seeking lunch outside the Convention Center because their food is unappealing and sometimes harmful, and yet hundreds of starving people will line up for it anyway rather than risk separating from the shindig for even one second. Unfortunately, we didn’t know the winter weather outside had become even more harmful. The snow never rose above a mild flurry, but the gusts felt about eighty below zero and were like man-eating bees trying to gnaw at our exposed flesh.
‘Twas true: a block east of the Convention Center, restaurants had no lines and plenty of hot, edible grub, for anyone who chose to brave the bleak ice-world gauntlet.
Upon our return to happy warm geek land, we joined the line to meet the Karen Gillan very briefly, costar of Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy and a sitcom this one time. The line gave me time to think, reflect, and see how other people tweeting at #WizardWorld were spending their day.
(That last one is true: last August on a lark I decided to give their onsite Wi-Fi access a whirl. I signed up and paid for it, and then at some point someone else logged into it using my credentials and kept me locked out for long stretches of the day. I blamed it on my old phone and poor service until I got home, reviewed the billing summary, and noted more than one device had been using it. My phone was the only internet-capable device either of us had on our persons during our entire time on the show floor. The company graciously refunded my fees, but good luck selling that service to me for the rest of my life.)
Gillan’s photo-op experience still proved to have a much shorter line than her autograph table, and, as shown in the lead photo, it gave us another opportunity for a jazz-hands performance, like our previous 5-second encounter with her former costar Matt Smith.
At 2:30 we switched gears for something completely different. WWIndy was using the Convention Center’s Halls I, J, and K, plus the 500 Ballroom and a handful of meeting rooms. Happening next door in Hall H was the Indiana Home & Garden Show, which is exactly what it sounds like. We knew there was a chance of having some time to pass between events, and, wonder of wonders, I was able to obtain free passes through my employer. For us, the H&G Show was on. Because free time and free passes are a winning combination.
…so that killed about fifteen minutes. Also, fun discovery from our whimsical exploration:
Goofy but true: the folks at Pocket Pets had staked out both conventions. I thought they were a bizarre fit when we passed their WWIndy booth, but when we walked past the same materials in Hall H, I had to laugh.
We bailed out of the H&G Show with only a free pen to show for it, and had just enough time to make the 3:00 Q&A with Karen Gillan. The 500 Ballroom seats several hundred (it’s the same room where Gen Con’s Costume Contest is held every year), but we ended up sitting on the floor in the far corner due to popularity and decent convention turnout. This was our view:
Healthy crowd. Among the copious notes my wife took:
* Loves the challenge of doing non-Scottish accents, and even gave us a sample of what an American Amy Pond might sound like. Imagine her Selfie character saying, “Doctor! What’s happening? Rory’s dead again!” and there you go.
* Recently filmed a Western with Ethan Hawke and John Travolta called In A Valley of Violence.
* A fan handed her some kind of epic-length poem to read. She made it through a few lines until the trusty moderator saved the day.
* When she left the show, she took a pair of binoculars from the TARDIS and Amy’s ‘A’ necklace.
* Favorite episode: “The Eleventh Hour”.
* There were lots and lots of “What’s your favorite _____?” questions.
* Had no idea about River Song’s backstory, but Alex Kingston knew the whole time.
* If there were a female Doctor in the cards, her dream-casting would be Helen Mirren or Kate Mulgrew.
* Oculus was fun for her to make as a fan of old horror movies.
* She did indeed read The Infinity Gauntlet as part of her Guardians research.
* She doesn’t drive.
* Unfulfilled dream role: Lady MacBeth.
…and a good time was had by all.
After she left, we got up, nabbed a pair of actual seats, and stayed for the next attraction: the William Shatner.
His Q&A was a different experience altogether. He opened with a twenty-minute soliloquy about his Indiana ties (his wife’s from the town of Lebanon and their wedding was in nearby Brownsburg), horse-related things because that’s a passion of his, and some other things that were probably related but I didn’t write down. In the other twenty-five minutes remaining, he took five (5) questions in all. From an ordinary actor, each question might have merited a fifteen-second response. Most likely this would happen:
FAN: “What do you think of Star Trek Continues?” [a fan-made project]
MOST PEOPLE: “Haven’t seen it.”
Not from Shatner. The minutes-long answer digressed several area codes away from that subject and touched on the mythologies we create to explain phenomena such as UFOs, concepts of quantum superposition, and the Madden video games. When asked his opinion of Chris Pine, his first thought was, “I burn with envy,” and then he went on for several more paragraphs about other things in galaxies far, far away. Still another seemingly superficial inquiry sent Shatner into an existential reverie about the nature of self-definition and what all of our roles really, truly mean in the final analysis. Or something like that.
I’m not sure if Shatner’s simply bored with normal questions and avoided pat answers to keep himself interested, or if this was part of the grand act of Shatner Being Shatner. Outside of one YouTube disaster I watched last year, I’ve never seen him on a panel before. At times his answers sounded like Grandpa Simpson on weed. During the moments spent on Earth, he also discussed his comic series Man o’War, the poor Czech acrobat who had to wear the suffocating Twilight Zone gremlin suit, his contribution to Captain Kirk’s Star Trek: Generations death scene, his regular attendance at certain horse competitions at the Indiana State Fairgrounds every year, and his excitement for Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016.
We left the Ballroom dazed and slightly baffled. But we had enough energy and sense left to attend one last panel: “Marvel Comics at 76”, a slideshow history lesson hosted by two formerly Marvel editors: the aforementioned Salicrup, and Renee Witterstaetter, whose five-year stay at Marvel included seeing John Byrne’ celebrated Sensational She-Hulk run. She’s a regular at the two Chicago cons we attend, and even appeared in a previous MCC entry.
Their mission was to whiz through a couple hundred slides and 76 years’ worth of Marvel history in 45 minutes. At the forty-minute mark Salicrup was up to the early-’80s Claremont/Byrne Uncanny X-Men years. The remaining three decades were blazed through in a flurry of fast slides and shorter capsule descriptions. A lot of it was stuff I knew as an old reader, but some factoids and old covers were nice to revisit. I did learn two things: I didn’t know Basil Wolverton’s strange classic Powerhouse Pepper (a few reprints of which I read and appreciated as a kid) was published through Marvel before it was Marvel; and in Roy Thomas’ recent 720-page hardcover history tome 75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen, Salicrup’s two decades with the company only earned him two (2) mentions in the entire book.
When that panel concluded, my wife and I decided our day had as well. As I mentioned last time, the Costume Contest didn’t work out for us, and by this time we’d done all the exhibit hall shopping we’d wanted, met who we came to meet, and had run ourselves into the ground. And thus we took our leave, satisfied with our experience and our choices, gratified that so many hundreds of other fans had shown up despite the killer weather, hopeful that the attendance results were to Wizard World’s liking, and planning our road to recovery so we can do some of this all over again at the Indiana Comic Con’s sophomore effort in March.
As our Valentine’s Day experiences go, I’d call this one above-average.
Thanks for reading. See you next year?