Our Ten Terrific Tricks for a Stay-at-Home Comic Con

Quarantine Jazz Hands!

With your host, Dr. Bane-ton Forrester!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events, such as last year’s tour of the Art Institute of Chicago, give me the gift of new experiences and distract me from the physical decay at hand. It was a nice tradition while it lasted.

For my 48th birthday we had hoped this weekend would see us returning to Motor City Comic Con up near Detroit. Our first trip to Motor City in 2017 was a fantastic experience, and this year’s guest list had a few larger-than-life personalities we would’ve loved to meet. Then, much as has happened to You, The Viewers at Home, our best-laid plans gang agley. In the wake of COVID-19, businesses closed or severely restricted their services, workplaces were scuttled, my employers enacted strict rules about out-of-state travel, and any and all events involving two or more people were canceled. All one-man events, such as the worst YouTube channels ever, were allowed to continue on schedule. I haven’t had a birthday party in years, but the state of the world has derailed our road-trip tradition for my big day. Whether we can resume our practice on Anne’s birthday in October will hinge on a number of variables, none of them within my personal control, though I’d totally be on top of that for her sake if I had Dr. Manhattan’s powers.

Anne and I were determined to line up an enjoyable weekend for ourselves anyway. Between the two of us we made the most of these past two days with the resources safely available. We found a way to recreate ten (10) commonalities we’ve encountered at various entertainment conventions over the past several years. Welcome to what I nicknamed “TakeoutCon 2020”, which included the following comic-con-esque features:

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The Delaware Problem

Pixar Collection!

Once upon a time Pixar was so bulletproof that I aspired to a complete collection as each new film was released. You’ll note there are now intentional gaps as well as one pretender that speaks to why there are gaps.

Collections. Series. Runs. Seasons. Sets. Discographies. Filmographies. When geeks love a thing, they’re often overwhelmed with the desire to consume or possess all of that very thing. It’s not enough to say you’ve done some or many or several or a lot of a particular thing. Whatever you did, watched, read, listened to, or owned, what matters most is you managed all of it.

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Three Thoughts After Our First Dragon Con

Dragon Con Banner!

The start of Atlanta’s annual Dragon Con parade. Zillions more photos to come once I figure out some way to narrow them down to the best 200 or so.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’ve been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we’re aiming for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness…

I’m typing this on Saturday night upon the conclusion of our virgin Dragon Con experience — two solid days of convention awesomeness plus a three-hour prologue on Thursday. We’re exhausted and disappointed we can’t stay longer, but we’re coming away with hundreds of photos to sort, a bit more reading matter to add to my collection, four new jazz-hands photo-ops to add to that collection, new memories to savor and share in the days and years ahead, and a wider basis for comparison against the Midwest cons we regularly attend. (Not counting the two we had to skip in order to work D*C into our schedule.)

Before I collapse into unconsciousness in preparation for the 8½-hour drive home Sunday, I need to jot down three key takeaways while they’re still fresh in mind and while I’m still riding high on my happy post-D*C buzz.

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The Road to Dragon Con: 20 Years of Road Trips, 2 Lifetimes of Geek Culture

Dragon Con wardrobe!

This is no fashion blog, but sometimes I am faced with critical wardrobe choices.

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited 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 tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

Last year we traveled through Ohio, northern upstate New York, and Pennsylvania as a grand tour of Presidential burial sites. To cover as much ground as possible we stayed in a different city every night. The sights were many and fascinating, but being on the move nonstop was increasingly grueling and left us drained by the end of the tour. This year’s approach will therefore be rather opposite and in its own way commemorative.

2019 marks the twentieth anniversary of our favorite annual tradition. It all began in 1999 with our very first Wizard World Chicago. As newcomers to the concept of road trips, it was a big accomplishment for us. Apropos of our history, in 2019 we’ll be honoring the occasion by combining two of our favorite shared pastimes: vacation and convention.

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Happy Free Comic Book Day 2019!

Free Comic Book Day 2019!

This year’s haul, part 1.

It’s that time of year again! Today marked the eighteenth Free Comic Book Day, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or entertaining ordinary folk. It’s one of the best holidays ever for hobbyists like me who’ve been comics readers since the days when drugstores sold them for thirty-five cents each and comic book movies were sad, cheapskate abominations.

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Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 Photos #12 of 12: What We Did in the Star Wars

Buckle Up Baby!

Did YOU spot all the appearances of Donald Glover’s Young Lando in this very special maxiseries? I mean, you don’t win a prize or anything and I’m not even keeping track of them myself. I was just curious, is all.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

April 11-15, 2019, was the ninth American edition of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Celebration, recurring major convention celebrating their works, creations, actors, fans, and merchandise, not always in that order. After jaunts around the U.S. coast and overseas, this year’s was in Chicago, gracing the Midwest with its products for the first time since 2005. My wife Anne and I attended Thursday through Saturday and fled Sunday morning…

…and it all ends here, by which I mean we finally stop trying to prolong the magic of that eventful weekend. We’ve covered the cosplayers we saw; the actors we met; the big, big trailer we watched with thousands of other fans in an awkward communal setting; the one panel we were permitted to attend; the geek stuff we bought; and the other geek stuff we walked past.

Here on MCC, many such lists end with me promising all that “and more, more, MORE!” At long last, it’s time for the mores.

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MCC Live-Tweet: Our First Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019 Line

Star Wars Celebration Chicago 2019!

Yep, this thing again.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: this weekend Anne and I are attending this year’s Star Wars Celebration in scenic, freezing Chicago. Once again we returned to McCormick Place, a mere three weeks after C2E2, so the layout and the stress levels of Chicago traffic were still fresh in our minds.

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C2E2 Photos, Part 8 of 8: Geek Commerce on Parade

C2E2 Dalek!

This way to REGISTRATE! REGISTRATE! REGISTRATE!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! My wife Anne and I just got home from the tenth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″), another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous conventions in larger, more popular states. We missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team…

…and taken photos as a team, of whatever sights catch our eyes around the vast exhibit hall, which could contain several football games at once, though it does not because football is out of scope for geek mega-parties like C2E2.

In the spirit of the Moral of the Story from our seventh exciting chapter, in which we ultimately learned that photos are cool and words are dumb if you put too many together in a row, please enjoy one last photo gallery of stuff and things that demand your money or at least your attention. Looky!

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Another Convention, Another Sleepless Night Before

Badges!

Badges! And papers! On every table-shaped surface! So. Many. PAPERS.

My brain is buzzing too much to write paragraphs right now. Our ninth foray to C2E2 in Chicago is this weekend, and I think we’re ready, but I dunno if we’re ready ready.

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Hall of Heroes Comic Con 2018 Photos, Part 2 of 2: On a Wing and a Prayer

William Katt!

It’s William Katt! The Greatest American Hero! Believe it or not!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

In March 2017 my wife Anne and I attended the inaugural Hall of Heroes Comic Con in Elkhart, Indiana. Under the same ownership as the nearby Hall of Heroes Museum (which we’d visited the year before), HoHCC was a two-day convention contained entirely in Elkhart’s historic Lerner Theatre, a beautiful 94-year-old venue for live plays and other cultural events. The organizers made creative use of the available spaces and had the assistance of a bevy of friendly volunteers. Initial response from fans statewide and beyond was so overwhelming, they earned themselves an encore presentation, this year in a much warmer September as opposed to that wintry March…

…and it very nearly didn’t happen for us. Our original plan called for driving three hours from Indianapolis to Elkhart on Saturday, enjoying HoHCC, and returning home the same evening; then on Sunday driving 70-odd minutes west of Indy out to Turkey Run State Park for Anne’s annual family reunion. We would’ve been wasted come Monday if Plan A had happened. All lights were green through early Friday evening. Then a couple of things spun out of our control.

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Wizard World Chicago 2018 Photos, Part 6 of 6: Objects of Affection

cat nurse!

Space taxidermy! Me and a Sister of Plenitude from Doctor Who.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! This weekend my wife and I made another journey up to Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we found ample enjoyment and new purchases alongside peers and aficionados of comics and genre entertainment. A few guest cancellations dampened our spirits somewhat, but we persevered and enjoyed our couple’s outing anyway, especially since Anne’s entire weekend admission was free as a consolation prize given to her and a couple thousand other fans after David Tennant’s last-minute cancellation last year.

Now that site traffic has subsided to its normal insignificant levels and all our visitors and new acquaintances have retreated to their respective internet corners, we wrap our miniseries with one last photo gallery in honor of what it’s all about: all that stuff around the convention. Everywhere we walk in an exhibit hall, we’re surrounded by millions or nifty items , whether for sale or for display only. Two organizations in particular brought their finest collections to entertain, to educate, to raise funds, and/or to treat fans to deeper glimpses into revered elements from their favorite fictional multiverses.

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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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Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover…

Photobucket Rescue!

From the pre-MCC archives: Anne and I as a very different dynamic duo at Wizard World Chicago 2010.

Welcome to Midlife Crisis Crossover! If you’re only recently discovering the site, tonight we present a quick overview of what we’re frequently about when we’re left to our own devices. If you’re an occasional visitor, you might see a tidbit or entry you missed the first time around. If you’re a longtime follower who reads the site so devotedly that you could win trivia contests about us, please enjoy the above photo as a random bonus never before shared here.

Right this way for an MCC recap for new and lapsed readers!

Grieving the Erasure of Your Favorite Corporate-Owned Universe

DC: Where Legends Live!

DC Comics house ad from The Flash #339, cover-dated November 1984. A lot of ’80s characters are no longer around, and it’s been decades since fans begged DC to bring back “legends” like these.

We live in an entertainment culture where we take it as given that all the best ideas were conceived before we were born, so trying to forge new universes seems like too much effort. Reboots used to be a desperation move, but anymore they’re the norm for luring in new fans — not just for work-for-hire companies with an intellectual property catalog to keep fertile and growing, but for artists, writers, and filmmakers all too happy to make a lifelong career out of perpetuating the lives and histories of worlds and heroes they didn’t invent themselves. It’s a living.

It’s easy to scoff at reboots when they’re happening to characters that don’t matter to you. If you’re a geek for long enough, though, sooner or later they’ll get to a universe you do care about.

I’ve been there. I remember the first time I had a universe yanked out from under me.

Right this way for memories and lessons about two universes with a lot in common…

Wizard World Chicago 2015 Photos, Part 7 of 7: Why We Convention

Jeremy Renner VIP Badge!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time of year again! Anne and I are at Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we’re so far having a blast even though parts of it resemble hard work and our feet feel battle-damaged after two days of endless walking, standing, lining up, shuffling forward in cattle-call formation, and scurrying toward exciting people and things…

My wife and I took an okay number of photos over the course of our three-day stay and will once again be sharing the most usable over the next several entries.

Tonight’s episode: the miniseries finale! The panels we saw! The comics pros I met! The winners of the Annual “Convince Me to Spend Money in Artists Alley” contest! The troubles with conventioning while old! And more!

Right this way for one last batch of photos, anecdotes from the weekend, and one (1) costume pic!

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