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Midlife Crisis Crossover 2017 in Review: Our Colossal Comic-Con Year

Queen Anne!

Alternate take of Queen Anne on the Iron Throne at Wizard World Chicago 2017.

Hey-ho, reader! Welcome to the sixth annual Midlife Crisis Crossover year-in-review. This unassuming site was launched on April 28, 2012, as a cathartic experiment in writing whatever came to mind without waiting for other people to start my conversations for me, and so far it’s been a fulfilling use of galleries and essays that might otherwise either languish unwritten in my head or collect endless rejection emails from every professional website ever. Come January we’ll be reaching our 1,700th entry, reflecting once more on the thousands of man-hours expended to date on this self-expressive vanity project, and rationalizing new excuses to keep sharing even on those harder days when it’s just me, an unresponsive void, and my wife Anne saying nice things to cheer me up.

Good news on the stats front, in a way: 2017 site traffic was up 10.75% over 2016’s, which had nearly matched 2015’s. We’re still nowhere near returning to 2014’s historic levels, but I’ll take any signs of improvement. MCC had a few memorable moments this year, including one special, horrible, awful occasion that saw our largest traffic influx since 2013, the last year we posted costume photos from Gen Con. Curiously, our biggest attraction the previous year was also the result of an unhappy headline that sparked interest in our own personal tangent. The readers of the internet have spoken loud and clear the past two years: they love us most whenever we have something to share about unhappy things. In a coincidental twist, this may also be why people turn to Twitter more than ever for their daily fix of news and/or commentary and/or metaphorical exploding heads.

Onward, then, to our annual blog-stats party! Featuring a selection of photos from the year that was, all outtakes previously unposted here on MCC. Enjoy!


501st Droids!

The abandoned Louisville Macy’s presents Star Wars fan props at Fandom Fest.

2017 on MCC looked like so:

MCC 2017 POSTS WITH THE MOST OVERALL CUMULATIVE HITS

1. FandomFest 2017 Photos, Part 1 of 2: The Hopeless Optimists’ Version
2. Louisville’s FandomFest: Con or Con?
3. Indiana Comic Con 2017 Photos, Part 3 of 4: More Saturday Cosplay
4. Yes, There’s a Moment After the “Lion” End Credits
5. Indiana Comic Con 2017 Photos, Part 1 of 4: Friday Cosplay

Geeks who love conventions agree: Louisville’s laughable Fandom Fest 2017 was one of the worst Midwest fiascoes ever to use the word “convention” in a sentence. Anne and I ignored any and all warning signs, bought tickets anyway, and recounted the consequences we suffered as a cautionary tale for others. So many cancellations and programming changes occurred in the two weeks leading up to the meltdown that I dedicated a few full days researching, keeping tabs on live updates, and networking with local fans and journalists to make sure we had the broadest possible scope and all the information we could possibly absorb before we approached the premises in self-defense mode. My results before and after Fandom Fest drew attention from a number of outlets, including generous links to my rundown at Heidi MacDonald’s Comics Beat (in which Anne and I are identified under our Branson stage name “Some People”), Reddit, Amazing Stories, and long-running SF fanzine File770. It was gratifying to know our poor choices as geek consumers ultimately proved useful — or at least entertaining at our expense — for someone out there. I beg everyone, if the showrunners get any funny ideas about rearing their heads in Louisville again: NEVER FORGET.

In a rare beneficial moment, Facebook also picked up on our Indiana Comic Con 2017 rundowns and included them among their additional news links visible to anyone who visited ICC’s official FB page. I’m guessing our status as Indianapolis residents gave us an algorithmic edge, and explains why Facebook otherwise ignores our cosplay galleries from all other conventions, not to mention all other MCC entries altogether.

As for the review of the 2016 Oscar nominee Lion: one of our peculiar habits is whenever we see a movie in theaters, we stay through the very end of the end credits and let you know if it was worth it. Sometimes those notes are good for long-term back-catalog search engine noise, but I’m not sure why Lion in particular rose to the top. Possibly I was the only American viewer to sit through the whole thing.

MCC BACK-CATALOG POSTS WITH THE MOST HITS IN 2017

1. Ten Lessons Learned at Our “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” Taping
2. The Resources After the “Spotlight” End Credits
3. Installing This Stupid Dryer Vent Cover Counts as a Victory
4. The “Wreck-It Ralph” Easter Eggs You’ll Never See
5. The Alderaanian Glitter Bomber Strikes!

Four of these five were also on our 2016 list and are basically the MCC Evergreen Entry Hall of Fame. The Colbert experience from our 2016 Manhattan trip joined the ranks, crushed all the rest, and is now the Hall of Fame’s team captain. I’m glad other would-be Late Show audience members are finding worth in it, but I can’t help being annoyed by this bold evidence that the internet does indeed love listicles to death. If I start cranking out more listicles in 2018, please know I mean them merely as a cry for attention.

St. Vincent!

Lobby display at St. Vincent’s in Indianapolis, where my mom spent time in surgery and recovery in September.

MOST “LIKED” POSTS OF 2017, A.K.A. THE WORDPRESS.COM DAILY POST WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGES: THE COMPLETE MCC 2017 PARTICIPATION CHECKLIST, MOST TO LEAST POPULAR:

1. A Day in the Waiting Rooms
2. A Bridge Across the Monongahela
3. Yesterday’s Entertainment Repurposed
4. Keeping the Ships in Order
5. Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 9: The Washington Monument, Mark I
6. Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 30: The Dragon Experiment
7. (tie) Scales of Danger!
7. (tie) Happy 2nd Earth Day Birthday, Giant Office Plant Monster
7. (tie) The View from Atop the Badlands (and 1,500 Entries)
8. (tie) If We Were Having a Coke and a Smile But You Stole My Name…
8. (tie) Lord, Grant Me the Resilience of a 91-Year-Old Great-Grandmother
9. Our 2005 Road Trip, Part 6 of 10: Riverwalk Wanderlust
10. (tie) The Annual Monumental Christmas Transformation
10. (tie) Pedestrians Among the Not-So-Pedestrian
10. (tie) Give Me All the Health Care You Have, Please and Thank You
11. Mamaw’s Temporary Setback

Quick primer for readers who aren’t also WordPress bloggers and have no idea what this list represents: each week the Powers That Be up at WordPress announce a “Weekly Photo Challenge”, a fun opportunity for users to share their photos with each other based on a one-word theme. While parts of our site dashboard do encourage and facilitate interaction among bloggers, writers, journalists, and amateur enthusiasts such as myself, the Weekly Photo Challenge is the most popular opportunity I’m personally aware of and happy to indulge, if I have material that fits the theme and if I can still render the entry of any real interest to other readers who might not be WordPress users. Not coincidentally, WPC entries tend to see slight participation upticks from passing virtual motorists. They tend to perform better than my average photo galleries, so it’s hard to let those chances pass me by.

Once again, however, we see unhappiness takes a lead over happiness, as #1 on this list comes from the time my mom had open-heart surgery. Update for the caring: she pulled through the surgery and post-op rehab well enough, but is more tired and listless than she used to be…and she wasn’t exactly a dynamo before the surgery. The prayers and kind thoughts and words were nonetheless appreciated throughout that trial.

Alex Guarnaschelli!

Iron Chef and Chopped judge Alex Guarnaschelli live at last January’s Fantastic Food Fest.

MOST “LIKED” POSTS OF 2017 THAT WEREN’T A WORDPRESS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE

1. Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 11: Inner Harbor, Spoiler-Free
2. Our 2005 Road Trip, Part 9 of 10: Oklahoma!
3. Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 6: The Universal Experience
4. Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 28: Jellyfish Heaven
5. {tie) Return to Paducah: Our Superman Celebration 2017 Coda
5. {tie) Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 8: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
5. {tie) Birthday 45: The Food So Far
5. {tie) Our 2007 Road Trip, Part 2: Signs of Georgia
5. {tie) Our 2003 Road Trip, Part 4 of 7: Mandatory Amusement Park

The good news: readers love travelogues and photos from places they haven’t been. They particularly love Florida even if the photos are years old. In the months between road trips I’ve been trying to return to old essays that were published prior to MCC’s creation, upgrading and reprinting them here to collect all my material in a single repository. It’s good to know that’s fitting in well. Once we wrap up our 2017 Baltimore experience this week, we have three annual road trips yet to remaster, from 2008 to 2010. One was a Top 5 vacation for us; one was not-bad but needs a sequel because we missed a lot; and one was The Worst Vacation of Our Lives. I’m at a loss which one should go next.

Bad news, though: anyone who formerly read MCC for the non-travel stuff has turned silent or fled. Admittedly we traveled so much in 2017 that it wasn’t hard to let that aspect of our lives dominate, but it means diminishing audience returns whenever I turn my keyboard toward other subjects. I knew that was a potential consequence, but that’s what my creative side felt led to pursue this year.

Starsky!

Paul Michael Glaser, a.k.a. TV’s Starsky, one of the handful of actors who didn’t cancel their Fandom Fest appearance.

HIGHEST ISOLATED TRAFFIC SPIKES

7/26/2017: What I lovingly call “FandomFest vs. the Guest Cancellation Bear”. Two days before the show, I put on my “cub reporter” beanie and went live with as much collated facts and cancellations as I could. I wanted others to know what they were getting into before they made the mistake of arriving at the mall (!) with actual expectations.
4/17/2017: The aforementioned Indiana Comic Con, when Facebook boosted our links for free for once.
8/1/2017: Heidi MacDonald’s post-game Fandom Fest report, which graciously nodded to our testimony.
8/28/2017: Wizard World Chicago 2017, Anne and I are members of the official unofficial WWC fan discussion group, a bunch of super awesome fellow geeks on the same page as us, many of whom love cosplay photos, especially if there’s a chance they’ll be in them.
4/24/2017: C2E2 2017. Their comics presence is the strongest of all Midwest cons, but their attendees are a little less enthusiastic about searching for photos after they get home.

MOST COMMENTED POSTS OF 2017

1. A Day in the Waiting Rooms
2. Birthday 45: The Food So Far
3. Wizard World Chicago 2017 Photos, Part 1: Comics Cosplay!

Nothing like real world momentous occasions to elicit sympathy and/or kind wishes from readers. Unfortunately after these three entries, it’s a steep drop to the several fourth-place entries barely worth noting. Most of MCC’s more prolific commenters in years past have found other pursuits. They’re not just skipping my site; they haven’t been posting on their own blogs, either. I don’t blame them. 2017 hasn’t been the most conducive time for leisure or creativity for many folks.

LEAST LOVED MCC POSTS OF 2017

All of our 2017 entries netted at least one (1) Like from other WordPress users, no shutouts this year as there were in 2016. Usually you can count on bots to click the Like button and feed you another virtual hamster pellet, but WordPress has plenty of bloggers curious about what others are doing with the platforms they provide. Out of 235 new entries, however, two earned only a single Like apiece and were crushed under the weight of millions of other, worthier WordPress usages this year:

* “Murder on the Orient Express”: The Train in Vain Strains Plainly to Maintain
* “Dunkirk”: Three Short Films About a Big Busy Beach

Lessons learned: (1) no one cares about essays where one’s ultimate opinion on a film can be summed up as “meh”; and (2) don’t be mean to Kenneth Branagh. I realize my movie entries are overlong and filled with trivia and thoughts no one cares about except me. If I’m going to keep writing them, obviously I need to keep this in mind and assume this shall ever be The Way Things Are. Collateral damage in response to our heavier concentration on conventions and traveling.

As a new annual feature, here’s a second take on this category. Noted without comment are the 2017 entries that earned the lowest number of hits, crippled by either headlines or subject matter that failed to pander hard enough for clicks, let alone for interaction:

* Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 23: Camden Yards on $0.00 a Day
* Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 42: Welcome to Our World of Toys
* Our 2004 Road Trip, Part 3 of 10: Another Great Lake, Another Gray Sky
* Our 2002 Road Trip, Part 3 of 5: The Meijer Garden Department
* Road Trip Origins Year 2, Part 3 of 3: The Gateway Attraction
* Best CDs of 2016 According to an Old Guy Who Bought 8
* Subgenius in France

Eden + Barrowman!

TV’s John Barrowman got a wish granted and geeked out over meeting Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie at Motor City Comic Con.

Like I said: busy year, especially when it came to conventions. Since 2016 Anne and I had been kicking around the idea of trying cons in other states just to see what would happen. By year’s end we tallied it up and realized we set new personal records and attended ten different comic and/or entertainment gatherings of varying sizes in six different states between March and October, in the following order:

* Hall of Heroes Comic Con, a new show in Elkhart, IN
* Indiana Comic Con, here in Indianapolis
* C2E2 in Chicago, the best large-scale comic-con in the Midwest
* Motor City Comic Con in Novi, MI — our first try of this venerated show, great time but a bit far for us
* The Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL, with its small-town setting instead of an arena
* Wizard World Chicago, which we’ve attended more times than any other con
* HorrorHound Indy, which has amazing guest lists even though horror isn’t strictly our thing
* Cincinnati Comic Expo, a return to the show we tried and liked for our first time in 2016
* Cartoon Crossroads Columbus, an absolute must for any Midwest readers who prize comics-as-serious-literature and would love to try anything and everything besides superheroes
* Fanboy Expo’s Totally Awesome Weekend in Knoxville, TN — a much smaller show than we expected, but with a jam-packed classic-TV roster up our alley

…and that’s not including other non-geek special events such as Indy’s Fantastic Food Fest and World of Wheels Indianapolis, where we were far out of our element but showed up for our own predictable reasons. Sooner or later the Midwest convention boom will enter its bust cycle and we’ll look back on this era of golden opportunities with fondness for what we used to get to do.

Regardless of whether or not the Midwest convention market holds up through 2018, Anne and I agree we can’t possibly do that many shows again. By October we were burned out and ready to take a break from the scene for a while. We’re also seeing preliminary 2018 guest lists recycling several actors we’ve already met, or widening their nets to bring in actors from shows we don’t watch. (Fans of Outlander will doubtlessly be thrilled at Wizard World Chicago’s 2018 announcement, but we’re not among their number.)

More importantly, the fourth quarter of 2017 saw our budget take a hit as a number of surprise expenses came at us all at once and presently demand our attention. Chief among those: Anne’s new car. Her old 1995 Saturn, which she fully intended to keep driving till it fell to pieces around here, nearly did reach that point and couldn’t be humored any longer. Hence the usurper now in its old parking space, a spiffy Kia Forte.

Forte II!

A bit of an upgrade for her, one she deserves in my opinion.

This among other reasons with dollar amounts attached to them is why we’ll need to step back in 2018 and let others have all the fun for a while. It’ll mean us attending fewer conventions, which will means lower traffic for MCC, which may spell doom or at least invite more online solitude. But sometimes the needs of adulting outweigh the wants of geeking.

In the meantime, we’re proud to report we ended the year on a high note. Last week we placed second in a Star Wars trivia contest at a local pub ‘n’ sandwich shoppe called Books & Brews. We were afraid the questions would be on the level of “Who was Han Solo’s best friend?” but were pleased and annoyed that the difficulty level was quite higher. If you remember how many costumes Queen Amidala personally wore in The Phantom Menace (actual Padme, not her body doubles) or the name of the space slug that nearly ate the Millennium Falcon, you just might have had a leg up on us. Special thanks to our friend Garrison and newly met colleague Jennifer for inviting us along on this extraordinary little outing, which proves we can have fun with our interests without enduring long lines or high ticket prices.

Trivia Contest!

Related note to other Star Wars trivia contest moderators out there: pretty please do your research and be aware Luke Skywalker’s first line in the final, actually released theatrical cut of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was absolutely NOT “Who are you?”

So maybe there’s hope for our 2018 after all, and we can forget about other 2017 mishaps, such as the time I busted my knee at Hall of Heroes Comic Con and couldn’t walk up stairs for three months, or the time I appeared as a talking head on French TV and almost nobody I knew cared. C’est la vie.

If you’re still reading this entry 2900 words later: thanks for reading! Here’s hoping you find great reasons for internet usage in 2018 that, Lord willing, have nothing to do with other people’s sadness or incompetence.

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