Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This weekend Indy PopCon returned to the Indiana Convention Center for their the third annual gala of YouTube, gaming, podcasting, comics, voice actors, animation, and various other manifestations of pop and geek culture in general. My wife and I still regard 2014’s inaugural Indy PopCon as one of the best convention experiences we’ve ever had, but got a little lost when 2015’s event shifted focus toward luring in droves of younger fans. This time we were in the house Saturday for just a half-day with a short itinerary and muted expectations, but were happy to find ourselves another round of wacky fun.
We arrived at the Convention Center a little after 9:30 and left at 2:20. In between, we found quite a bit to do, a few interesting people to meet from the world of comics, and a few familiar faces from previous cons…
Unlike a lot of other cons, we didn’t have any major Hollywood names we were looking to meet, no famous actors with hours-long lines that we felt compelled to endure. The largest guest scheduled, Karen Gillan, regrettably canceled the Wednesday before due to shooting schedule changes for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Many fans were disappointed and received refunds for their photo ops and VIP package upcharges, but we’d already met her at last year’s one-shot Wizard World Indianapolis, so we were unaffected. A few other actors on the schedule were below our general radar, though I was tempted for a moment at the possibility of meeting Nolan North, famous video game voice actor from such franchises as Uncharted and Assassins Creed. Ultimately I opted out, but I was glad to see his line had a healthy turnout.
One guy I had to meet was the one YouTube star I recognized on sight: Jon Bailey, a.k.a. Epic Voice Guy, narrator of the long-running “Honest Trailers” series on the Screen Junkies channel (one of my very few YouTube subscriptions), along with the spinoff “Honest Game Trailers” over on Smosh Games (I check in once every 2-3 months). To be honest, I nearly missed him because for some reason, instead of seating him on the big autograph signing stage with the other YouTubers, or even giving him a table within 100 feet of them, he was relegated to an Artists Alley table and surrounded with lots of used-stuff dealers and fan groups on the opposite end of the show floor. Considering this is a guy whose team’s videos rack up one to three millions views apiece, I was baffled at the showrunners’ logic.
Epic Voice Guy had hoped to be moved to another table, but it hadn’t happened by the time we left. Oddly, we saw signs indicating other exhibitors had been relocated here and there as opportunities arose due to no-shows. Regardless: that’s Epic Voice Guy putting up with me in the lead photo, a pleasure to meet.
(At least one person who attended Saturday might know me as The One Guy in the Nexus Shirt. And I was gratified, for the first time in my life, to meet another human who recognized Nexus on sight. I wish I’d gotten his name and brought him a prize.)
Other fun sights around the show floor:
Reunions with folks we’ve met at other shows included:
* Brian K. Morris from Freelance Words, whom we just saw last week in Metropolis. This time he and his lovely wife were repping for Comicspriceguide.com, purveyors of neat writings and stuff from older collectors not totally unlike your humble aging blogging guy here. While we were chatting, they were given the official go-ahead from The Powers That Be to double their booth since the vendor assigned next to them was a no-show. (They were an odd choice of convention vendor anyway.) We helped them move a few small objects from A to B and therefore felt like honorary con volunteers. It’s nice to be useful.
* Writer Luther M. Siler, last seen at Starbase Indy and C2E2, having a great Saturday after a not-so-hot Friday. He collected way more cosplay photos than we did and has been sharing them on his own blog here and here, probably with one more gallery to come after Sunday’s over.
* Andy from Trek-rocker troupe Five Year Mission, from whom I intend to keep buying one CD per show till I’m caught up. They were likewise at Starbase Indy, where I bought their most recent album Spock’s Brain, which went on to become one of my favorite albums of 2015. This time I picked up their 2012 The Trouble with Tribbles EP but didn’t get a chance to listen to it before typing this. I assume it’s keen.
* Who North America once again brought all the Doctor Who things, including another Dalek, curiously standing on bathroom guard duty.
In our four-plus hours on premises we made time for two panels. At 11 a.m., a chat with the folks at Aw Yeah! Comics — one part indie publisher, one part comic-shop chain with locations in Muncie, IN; Skokie, IL; and Harrison, NY. We once visited the Muncie store at its previous location and identity and found it pretty inviting. Comics fans should recognize at least one, hopefully more, of the fine citizens on the panel.
In addition to speaking on the tricks and tribulations of owning a comic shop in a sad era when not every state has one, various members of Team Aw Yeah! spoke on topics including:
* What it’s like being a woman in comic-shop owning (short answer: no fun dealing with dudes who can’t believe a woman would own a shop)
* How digital comics like Mark Waid’s Thrillbent imprint have not, in fact, killed print comics dead despite the industry’s doomsayers
* The Silver Age DC story “Superman Owes a Billion Dollars” that made a believer of Waid
* Waid, longtime Cap writer and superfan, swears Steve Rogers: Captain America #2 settles the record for the whole “Hydra Steve” debacle that has people flipping out and not using their imaginations
* Kyle’s hot screenplay for Gymkata 2, soon to be a major motion picture if there were a God of Gymkata who could order Hollywood around
After panel: lunch. Nearly all of Indianapolis’ vaunted food trucks abandoned us and left money on the table. Thankfully Indy PopCon was aware of their insolence and, for anyone in their right mind who dreads Convention Center food, made catering arrangements over at the Pan Am Plaza, which they rented this year to host their great big GFUEL eSports Arena, a dedicated three-day home for video gamers to gather at screens and play at each other.
Food options included a Hot Box Pizza tent, sandwiches from Triple Play BBQ, or — if you wanted to skip straight to dessert — frozen yogurt from a food truck called Pink Walrus. (We also saw them hanging around downtown for the Indy 500 Festival Parade a few weeks ago.) For us, ’twas sufficient. Thankfully there were no lines because the Arena was nearly empty and the food options weren’t heavily promoted in advance. I wasn’t even aware they existed, but Anne caught a mention on Indy PopCon’s Facebook page.
Also thankfully, we had pleasant walking weather on our side — no major storm fronts, and no Equatorial heat waves buffeting us on the walk from Pan Am Plaza back to the Convention Center. Things nevertheless nearly turned deadly for one second when the wind knocked over this sign, which came within a few inches of clobbering Anne.
After lunch I wanted to attend a 1 p.m. panel starring this man: Mike Baron, kind of a major comics writer in the ’80s. He co-created two of my all-time favorite indie super-heroes, Nexus and the Badger; he wrote the first fourteen issues of Wally West’s post-Crisis Flash series; he was Marvel’s head Punisher writer from the late ’80s through the early ’90s; he wrote projects starring Deadman and Robotech; and so on.
He was, without hyperbole, the main reason I was here and bought tickets in the first place.
He recently relaunched Badger through Devil’s Due/1First Comics. #5 hits stores this Wednesday. Next to him at the table was Nexus co-creator Steve Rude, whom I met at my first large-scale comic con, Wizard Chicago 1999, and again at Metropolis’ Superman Celebration in 2006. Unfortunately he wasn’t feeling well, limited himself to just drawing, and bowed out of the 1:00 “Nexus Fan Panel”, leaving Baron to hold court alone.
Baron took the stage a few minutes early with ten of us in the audience, which included the one distinguished gentleman who recognized my Nexus shirt, one Indy PopCon volunteer sitting in the back as assigned room monitor, and of course Anne. who I suspect wasn’t the only plus-one in the room who had no idea who he was. His mode of speaking and digressing sound pretty much like many of the eccentric yet forthright characters he’s written over the decades. We few old-timers tried to come up with questions for him to satisfy whatever curiosities we brought and to stave off the awkward silence of one of the smallest panels we’ve ever attended. (We may have seen smaller. Can’t remember offhand.)
Topics that came up while we tried vainly to ignore the anime soundtrack blaring through the walls from the meeting room next door:
* Though he was once from Wisconsin, he and his wife now live in Colorado.
* He’s been writing novels for the past five years, has a few available for sale online and more ideas in the pipeline.
* The Badger revival is initially a five-issue miniseries, with more specials to come in the near future. The next planned story, “Vichyssoise”, will see Badger and his wizard employer Ham traveling to France and being so offended by their treatment that Ham decides to take it over and make some changes. If you’ve read Badger in the past, or if you’re aware that the current miniseries has Our Hero wrestling Vladimir Putin, this isn’t a stretch.
* There’s talk of bringing Badger’s one First Comics graphic novel, Hexbreaker, back into print. This just so happened to be one of the books I brought him to sign, after I had artist Bill Reinhold sign it a few years ago at C2E2. (In my mind it’s one of the best martial arts tournaments ever illustrated in comics.)
* He and Rude are in the middle of bringing back Nexus as well, with Baron plotting and Rude both illustrating and scripting, which isn’t how they used to do it.
* He’s still very much into martial arts, a Badger signature element that made it stand out among its ’80s contemporaries.
* Other comics projects in various stages of planning and working include a werewolf detective series called Howl (with Shane Oakley), something I forgot to take notes for called Groovin’ High (with Rod Underhill), and a newly gestating book with one-time X-Men artist Paul Smith.
…and then the panel ended twenty minutes early, fairly unanimously. We all silently agreed this was a bit weirder than expected, but I was fine with that.
I had a few other comics people I wanted to see that day before we left. We’d previously met Lee Cherolis and Ed Cho, the creators of the webcomic Little Guardians, at both C2E2 and Indiana Comic Con and gave them money each time, but this was the first time either of us remembered to ask for a photo.
Last but far from least: Scott Shaw! He was scheduled to appear previously at Indy PopCon, but this time let nothing stand in his way. Shaw! was a Hanna-Barbera animator for many a year and is best known to comics fans as the co-creator of DC’s Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, another childhood fave of mine that they recently tried to reboot and ruin. Shaw! confirmed his disapproval of their gritty new take, retold the story I’d once read in one of writer Mark Evanier’s columns about the time Shaw! won an ugly-Hawaiian-shirt contest at a con and nearly made the audience throw up, and really got a twinkle in his eye when he and my wife discovered they’re both fans of Forensic Files. While they enjoyed themselves, I stepped back and quietly enjoyed the Pig-Iron sketch I’d just bought.
…and that concluded our day at Indy PopCon. I wasn’t in much of a mood for back-issue hunting, for meeting YouTubers I didn’t know, or checking in with the roughly twelve thousand different geek podcasters who manned a lot of really plain-looking tables, brought laptops and free stickers and not much else, and competed to see who could lure in the most customers who want to pay money to hear other people gab about stuff they read, watch, or play. I have a couple of friends into podcasting and I get the impression it’s a big, booming business. If that’s what the kids these days are spending money on, then more power to ’em. Same goes for YouTube all-stars and monetized cosplayers, really.
While pop and geek cultures moves on without us in business directions that we can’t wrap our aging heads around, we’ll be around in our own little fiefdom, eagerly looking forward to more works from the creators that still resonate with us, keeping tabs on the characters that haven’t been rebooted too far beyond recognition, venturing forth to conventions whose diversified portfolios intersect with our interests, and gabbing about the stuff we like for free, both as a labor of love and as a long-term loss leader for whatever we’re actually meant to be doing with the talents we’ve been granted.
We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
The End. Thanks for reading. See you next show, I imagine!