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Our Excuse for Skipping Three Conventions in One Weekend

Wedding Cake!

Actual wedding cake.

Dear Mr. Kotter,

Please excuse Randy and Anne Golden for skipping the Superman Celebration, Wizard World Columbus, and Indy Pop Con all at the same time. As evidence of their whereabouts, I submit Exhibit A: a photo of the official cake from the wedding they attended Saturday afternoon. Anne’s cousin and his new bride were the heart and soul of a wondrous occasion that marked quite a happy ending to a story that’s none of your business, if I may say so without you giving everyone detention. Also, in reply to your weird expression, yes, that is too a wedding cake.

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“Ready Player One”: The Movie Based on the Book Based on the Lists Based on the Collections

Ready Player Cyclops!

A grimdark timeline in which the only survivor of X-Men: Apocalypse was Cyclops.

Everyone loves crossovers! Who doesn’t get excited every time two to 10,000 pop culture characters of varying degrees of familiarity get stuffed into the same frames or panels and generate mechanical synergy for the amusement of fans and the enrichment of corporations? As a young teen collector of both Marvel and DC Comics I was bedazzled by the one-two punch of Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths, each of which tossed piles of IPs into dogpiles and let them take turns teaming up and punching each other into oblivion. This brilliant concept in apocalyptic storytelling wowed me at the time, but began losing steam over the decades as all the other annual Marvel and DC crossover events kept (and keep) producing diminishing returns for increasingly transparent financial cravings. Meanwhile in other media, we had the innovative novelty of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and mash-ups like Kingdom Hearts, Soul Calibur, and Super Smash Bros. We had obscurities like Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, while the previous generation arguably had their own predecessor in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Despite the amount of behind-the-scenes wrangling involved, the method is simple: pick lots of famous faces that each have had tons of stories and years of character development dedicated to them, cultivated by their creators and successors with some combination of time and care; strip away everything from them but their outer shell and a one-line descriptor of their most superficial traits; throw everyone into an arbitrary arena; make them fight and fight and fight; then, profit. Hurray! It’s a crossover!

To those who love crossovers and other spectacles a la Battle of the Network Stars, by all means keep loving what you love. After a couple decades or more of them, they’re not an automatic draw for me.

And don’t get me started on the crossover’s close cousin, the whole “Easter egg” fetish that’s become a mandatory element of every geek-related product ever, to the point that viewers spend so much time expecting recognizable tokens and high-fiving each other for spotting them that they become the point of purchase and the only reason to pay attention. Some works are so oversaturated with Easter eggs, they’re less like a narrative and more like an extended Highlight for Children “Hidden Pictures” puzzle.

That brings us to Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, adapting the novel by Ernest Cline that I couldn’t bring myself to touch after reading a lacerating review of its nostalgic self-indulgence that gave me more than enough signifiers to tell me it was Not My Thing. As if that weren’t enough, someone on Twitter (I wish I could remember who or in which recent month) shared numerous excerpts from the novel that confirmed it’s entirelty about the hero name-checking, listing, and pumping himself up with his never-ending stream of collector callback consciousness. Unless someone wants to pay me to bypass my gut reaction, count me among the viewers who saw the movie but didn’t and won’t read the book.

Frankly, I only saw the movie because I knew friends or family would ask me about it. In their defense and to my surprise, I’ll give them this: Ready Player One was a lot less anathematic to me than The Big Bang Theory.

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Keeping the Ships in Order

TARDISes!

I like to imagine myriad Doctors from across the multiverse fighting over which TARDIS is whose.

Pictured above is a forgotten scene from Indiana Comic Con 2016, a perfect example of how much work goes into planning and executing a convention, and how organized and squared everything appears to onlookers if you pull everything off without a hitch. Every large-scale convention requires a lot of moving parts — much in plain sight, a few under the hood, plenty moving across the counter if buyers and sellers each play their parts. Maintaining the order is no simple feat.

As the routines go for those behind the counter, so goes a different set for those of us approaching the counters, bringing our offbeat interests to the party, our want lists, our spending impulses, and other critical factors that make comic, toy, and collectible shops a viable career track for anyone. Planning is vital for the sake of the geek economy.

Right this way for not much more than this!

Planning Our 2017 Geek Convention Itinerary

Mojo + Shaw C2E2 2011!

Cosplay flashback: X-Men villains Mojo and Sebastian Shaw at C2E2 2011.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Anne and I like conventions! Pleas enjoy these four photos never before posted on MCC while we dive in.

Being the married couple we are, cons are among our favorite shared activities, all the better if a given event has elements we can both enjoy rather than just one of us. I look for a strong comics presence; Anne brakes for classic-TV stars, be they from Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, or any other shows she watched over and over as a kid. And longtime MCC readers know in recent years we’ve made a new hobby of collecting jazz-hands photo ops. Thankfully here in Indianapolis, we have disgustingly convenient access to more cons than ever, whether at our own Indiana Convention Center or in the surrounding states. Our state motto “The Crossroads of America” isn’t just a tourism slogan — it’s an apt caption for any map showing our bicycle-spoke interstate layout.

After another inert winter, it’s that time again! The return of our favorite conventions is on the horizon, which means it’s time for us to plan ahead — review guest lists, buy tickets, draw up budgets, schedule our vacation time, dig up objects for autographing, redo our budgets, and get in shape to handle the long walks and longer lines. It’s all part of the game.

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Our 2002 Road Trip, Part 1 of 5: A Special Sojourn for Star Wars

Star Wars party!

Anne with our companions Shannon and Katrina in a movie theater far, far away. Well, okay, admittedly it wasn’t far for them

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son rode along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. From 2004 to 2011 we recounted our experiences online at length for a close circle of friends. From 2012 to the present we’ve presented our annual travelogues here on this modest website for You, the Viewers at Home, which I’m grateful includes some of those same friends who haven’t quit us yet.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, we told the stories of our first three road trips together: Wizard World Chicago in 1999; a St. Louis science fiction convention in 2000; and the 2001 Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois. In 2002 we continued our convention streak with Star Wars Celebration II, which was held here in Indianapolis and saved us the hassle and joy of a road trip. We had a ball, stood in lines for actors from the first five movies, and were pleased to meet a dozen-plus friends we knew from the Star Wars message board that was like a second home to us for years. Great time, but not a road trip.

We remedied that two weeks later with an idea that combined elements from our first three outings: a major cultural event plus Star Wars plus internet friends plus driving hours away from home. Add a dash of MST3K and a bit more standard tourism than usual, and that’s the story of how we planned a five-hour drive for a four-day getaway to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to hang out with fellow fans and see Star Wars: Attack of the Clones on opening day. Twice.

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Geek Shopping Now Easier Than Ever (for some)

Funko Joker!

Funko Pop presents Chibi-head Academy Award Winner Jared Leto, all yours…for a price.

It’s not this time of year without too much shopping! Or so I hear frequently from the media, TV ads, all surrounding retail shops, our local newspaper, the voices in my head that like buying new stuff for loved ones and myself, sometimes in that order. The true Black Friday experience — getting up ridiculously early the day after Thanksgiving and not one day earlier to compete for the privilege of loss-leader pricing on either understocked new merchandise or obsolete shelf-filler — lost my commitment when corporations decided a Friday should be fourteen days long.

The increasingly charmless holiday event notwithstanding, I usually have free time to spare that particular day regardless, so it’s still a good opportunity to leave my family behind for a few hours without guilt and go take care of my share of the Christmas season. This year I spent much of my morning at Indianapolis’ own Castleton Square Mall, where I usually don’t have a lot to do since women’s clothing and designer shoe shops aren’t my thing. This year, more than ever, quite a few stores were aiming specifically for my geek dollars with the kind of merchandise we normally see only at our annual comic and entertainment conventions. Suddenly “geek chic” is a thing and proprietors hope the masses will buy in.

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