by Philip Chien
Comic book conventions are not just for geeks, but it certainly doesn't hurt if you are one.
The primary interests at most comic cons (after the first one, you'll no longer refer to them as "conventions", but just as "cons") are comic books, science fiction, anime (Japanese animation), role playing games and costumes.
MegaCon is one of the largest comic book conventions in Central Florida. Their spring shows typically attracts about 15,000 attendees each day. The organizers are planning a "Mini-MegaCon" on August 22-23 - only two days and they are not expecting as much of a crowd. However just because it's smaller doesn't mean it won't have as many things to do. There will be Hollywood stars from cult television shows and movies, comic book artists and writers, computer role playing games, previews for what's coming up in future movies, and even a belly dance class.
Comic books are not just kiddie adventures. There are ones specifically for pre-teens but most are oriented toward more mature teens and adults. If they were movies most mainstream comics would be rated PG-13. Some comic books are considered "adult only" because of violence or sexual storylines. Many fans dress in costume at the conventions and there are very skimpy costumes.
There's plenty of interest in cult television series and movies. These series, primarily science fiction but also some action series, remain popular with their fans well after they're off the air. The definitive example is "Star Trek"; on the air from 1966-1969 in its original form and still going strong with many spin-off series and movies. There are also series with fewer fans but just as passionate about their favorite show and its stars.
Most television actors do their series and get paid for their work and if they're lucky they also get paid residuals if the series enters reruns and comes out on DVD. But for stars of science fiction series, especially stars or series which are especially memorable, it's another world. They have legions of fanatical fans who follow their careers and are still interested in them and their roles many years - or even decades - after their series went off the air. "Star Trek"'s Leonard Nimoy noted the passage of times, fans would tell him how much they enjoyed watching him play Spock in the 1960s, later they would tell him how their parents introduced them to "Star Trek" and recently they've been telling him that it was their grandparents who first watched him play Spock!
Some of the stars from these series have tables at cons where they meet their fans. For an extra charge (typically about $20) you can get an autographed photo or have a photo of yourself taken with the star. As a rule these are the supporting cast who aren't working on another movie or television series. Don't expect to see major stars unless there are special circumstances like a star doing a promotion tour for their new movie. Some of the stars are honest open folk who would make decent friends. Others are just putting on a good public face because they realize they need to be as appealing as possible to their fans. As with any group of people they're individuals. Some are surprisingly intelligent and articulate, others are not as cooperative and seem to be extremely bored meeting fans and answering the same questions again and again.
Dealers at cons sell photos of the stars, toys, and other products with their images which you can get autographed. Many dealers sell pre-autographed pictures - however there's no way to know for sure that those signatures are authentic. Autograph collectors have a saying - unless you watch the person sign the autograph there's no way to know if it's real. In many cases a star's signature is actually signed by their agent, little brother, or other friend. Authenticity certificates certifying that the autographs are real are not worth the paper they're printed on. There are industry associations which set integrity standards for dealers who sell autographed photos. In some cases the organizations may stop fake autographs, but they can't prove that a dealer's selling authentic autographs. When you get the autograph directly from the star you know it's authentic and it may even be personalized to you.
One of the shows with the biggest and most loyal followings is "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". It aired on the WB and UPN networks from 1997 to 2003 and was never a ratings hit. But it helped the fledgling networks grow and had incredibly good demographics for advertisers wanting to target teen and young women. Its fans encompass everybody from pre-teens to senior citizens and there is still a strong fanbase, even six years after the show went off the air. A monthly comic book series serves as a surrogate eighth season with decent storylines, many written by writers who wrote for the original series.
The 2009 mini-MegaCon features four stars from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" - Charisma Carpenter who played "Cordelia Chase" on "Buffy" and its spin-off series "Angel", Emma Caufield who played "Anya", Amber Benson who played "Tara Maclay", and Adam Busch who played "Warren Mears." Each of these actors has performed in other roles on the screen and on stage but they're best known for their roles on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".
MegaCon will have a panel on Saturday August 22nd with the four "Buffy" stars. It will be a lively discussion about their experiences on "Buffy", interesting secret behind-the-scenes information, and what they've been doing since the series finished. After the convention a transcript of the panel will be available at neatinformation.com.
Well, maybe you do have to be a geek to attend a comic book convention, but at least you're going to be among friends.
Photos by Philip Chien. Amber Benson photo copyright 2002 UPN.
MegaCon official website.
About the author
Philip Chien has been collecting comic books since he was a kid.
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