It’s convention time yet again! Yes, AGAIN. Yes, ALREADY. I KNOW, OKAY.
Saturday morning my wife Anne and I drove two hours southeast of Indianapolis to attend the tenth annual Cincinnati Comic Expo in the heart of their downtown that’s not so different from ours. After our great big Dragon Con experience and our happy return to HorrorHound Indianapolis, CCE was our third con in thirty days. We were in danger of burnout, but we each had personal quests to complete.
For me, it was the opportunity to meet the only two costars of Joss Whedon’s Firefly that I’d never met — Morena Baccarin, who played Inara the Companion, a dignitary of sorts in their far-flung future; and Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam, fugitive from evil space cops who acted as ship’s medic and as his sister River’s keeper in select moments when she’d let him. I’ve been a fan since its TV premiere (MCC’s first real entry was named after the first episode that aired) and have slowly been encountering the cast at various cons over the past six years like so:
- Alan Tudyk at Wizard World Chicago 2013
- the late Ron Glass at the inaugural Indy Pop Con 2014
- Jewel Staite at the first and last Awesome Con Indianapolis 2014 (then complemented the autograph with a later photo op at Indiana Comic Con 2017)
- Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, and Adam Baldwin at Wizard World Chicago 2015
- Gina Torres at C2E2 2018
- …and now, Baccarin and Maher at Cincinnati Comic Expo 2019.
In that sense this show was kind of a big deal for me, con fatigue or not.
We left home at 6:30 a.m. Despite road construction we were in line at 8:45 inside the Duke Energy Convention Center, where a bevy of extremely friendly volunteers greeted us every 20-25 feet and made sure we felt welcomed and informed. Even the security detail manning the metal detectors were above-norm gregarious. As two middle-aged customer service specialists, we appreciated those kindly assurances.
We general-admission fans were permitted to stampede into the exhibit hall at 10:00. I headed straight for Baccarin’s booth, which had a sizable line awaiting her arrival. To pass the time, Anne had her own quest to fulfill.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, we attended Star Wars Celebration Chicago back in March, where we met a handful of talented actors who’ve contributed voices to Star Wars spin-off shows and who’ve entertained us in other works. We also met John Morton, a stuntman who appeared as a couple of characters in The Empire Strikes Back, including Dak the doomed snowspeeder pilot. That was it for Star Wars movie actors. That list was distressingly shorter than we’d hoped.
All other Star Wars movie actors who set foot within McCormick Place that weekend were: (a) Star Wars stars we’d already met; (b) actors whose characters never spoke words, which is a deal-breaker for Anne; (c) charging fees beyond our budget (Forest Whitaker was fairly priced for his stature but would’ve required multiple sacrifices); or (d) several extremely awesome actors from current Star Wars films who were there only for special stage presentations far above the heads of us great unwashed masses, no autographs or photo ops offered because they might’ve caught fan cooties or whatever.
Six months later, while I waited in Morena Baccarin’s considerable line, Anne went and had herself a grand old time with some Star Wars actors who actually appeared in Star Wars films, who largely had lines, and who were willing to mingle with the hoi polloi.
Final math check: Anne met more Star Wars guests here at Cincinnati than she did at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Famous guests held at a distant, impersonal remove are standard protocol for rock concerts, but one of the most awesome aspects of the comic-con experience is actor accessibility. Seeing them live can be cool. Meeting them is cooler.
The Star Wars lines were short enough that Anne finished exchanging pleasantries with all four elegant British gentleman by 10:35. She returned to Baccarin’s line and found me moved more than halfway up. Shortly thereafter, Baccarin signed briskly and kindly; I switched over to Sean Maher’s booth and went through the same procedure with shorter but equally kind results. My autograph must-list was finished at exactly 11 a.m.
I’d had an optional name on the to-do list, too. Also in the house was Kathy Najimy, costar of King of the Hill, the Sister Act duology, the cult classic Hocus Pocus, and 100+ other works. Prior to Saturday, CCE’s website had her listed as charging $40 for autograph/selfie combos at her table, an absolute steal. We weren’t the only fans to notice. By 11 a.m. she had a line twice the size of Baccarin’s. Around 2 p.m. we learned her autograph/selfie combos were now $60. Last we checked, her line hadn’t gotten any shorter. By 3 p.m. we were done with long lines for the month and regretfully moved on.
As is normal for CIncinnati, Star Wars had a firm presence throughout the show floor, which we noted as we strolled ’round the place while waiting for Baccarin’s 2:25 photo op.
Full disclosure: I bought zero comics and zero graphic novels. We walked the entirety of Artists Alley and the exhibit hall. A fair number of top DC Comics creators were on hand signing and sketching, none of them working on DC titles I currently collect, which has been a short list for years. Even setting them aside…I just wasn’t feeling it. I usually look forward to overspending on new reading matter at cons, but I had a sort of mental clampdown. There’re a few reasons for that, but I’m not in the mood to double this entry’s word count for the sake of it.
I did buy a few items from one of the craft booths — a Hawkeye-themed painted canvas that may come in handy at work, as well as a few buttons for my backpack, which lost a few in Atlanta. I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t get the very benevolent seller’s name so I could plug her site and/or store here. She took a photo of the two of us with the mini-canvas, so if you happen to see a surprise photo of us either on Instagram or Etsy, let us know?
To kill more time, I grabbed a snack from the Tom & Chee booth, and we had a friendly chat with another Morena Baccarin fan from Tennessee, one who’s been trying to meet her at cons for years. We talked comics, lines, and how outsiders sometimes don’t get how much work these comic-con experiences can be. The photos, souvenirs, and artifacts we bring home look cool and signify pure fun, but the lines and the walking and the standing and the traveling can get wearying and trying, especially as we age and our bodies stop tolerating these hours-long slow-motion marathons that we put ourselves through. Hence our occasional need for more sugar.
Did I mention there were costumes? Of course there were costumes. Nearly all of the following photos of creativity cheerfully amok were Anne’s doing partly because I spent too much time in lines, and partly because the exhibit hall aisles were so narrow and thickly crowded with thousands of happy people that it was next to impossible for me to comfortably brake traffic in both directions without feeling like a big awkward road construction barrier getting in the way and ruining everyone’s travel times. We don’t have a lot of cosplay photos this time, but we’re happy with who we got. Once again, Star Wars ruled the category.
…and that was essentially our day. We took our leave of the convention center around 3:00. I was sorry we were too beat down to stick around for the panel starring the Star Wars chaps and the even later Q&A for all the Firefly guests. By then, though, I really was burned out and done. But happy with the acquistions, such as art…
…and autographs. Anne enjoyed new additions to her Star Wars collection, and I met a personal milestone. My Firefly DVD set has now been officially signed by all nine original cast members — an objet d’art six years in the making, signed across three states. For extra credit it’s also cosigned by Mark Sheppard (Supernatural, Leverage), who appeared in two episodes and who was also at Awesome Con Indy 2014 alongside Jewel Staite. Sheppard was the first person to suggest I stood a chance of ever meeting the entire cast and insisted on keeping his signature small to accommodate this potential future. To me this fanciful notion sounded awfully far-fetched. Years later, here we are.
The End. Thanks for reading! Lord willing, we’ll see you again next year. Unless 2020 is the year we turn into cranky homebodies. We hope not.
[Entry edited 9/22/2019 per Anne due to a Hoth-related oversight on my part. The management regrets the error.]