Trinkets tinkle from the bottom of the tote bags. Let’s call them keyrings, for the plastic they’re made of do not look like they’ll hold onto anything under the lightest of strain. A fantasy novel where the spine meets a cracking margin leaving a visible sign of opening past the first page. A starter comic, that first taste of a series. These specific contents are gender-aligned.
Doesn’t matter how long you’re standing in line at the ticket booth, each left wrist gets a sticky slap. VIP badge doesn’t really matter at this point. It’s all arms-a-flashy each time back through the gates. They’re looking not at your chest or wherever you’re dangling the lanyard, but for the time. Offer your right arm at the ticket booth and they’ll gesture for the other.
Long are the line from the morning and well into the afternoon of that Saturday. The twine mingles with Disney On Ice skirting the same weekend. The comic convention line snakes from around the third floor to cover all it can before the line chugs with a mighty case to wrap a quarter and some of Rupp Arena.
Seats bearing unto a chasm greet Bob Layton as he walks into the crowd of under a dozen for his Q&A session. It’s a bad spot in the schedule. The chattering twisting monster outside the halls still waiting to get their wristbands. Still wondering which line has fewer costumes. Foregoing the booming distance of sitting up on the stage, Layton gathers the ardent and casual audience in the aisle of chairs to talk about the days of Charlton Comics, CPL zine, committing a felony and the various facets of Valiant Comics. It is informal, jovial, interesting.
The “Comics Under a Microscope” panel with Matt Hawkins, Christopher Preece and Nathan Fox, plays to the science and real-truths about what’s going on in the world. The cover stories, the recruitments right out of high school. The endless nights awake staring into the void of what the gatekeepers deign to provide shade for. Schemes and experiments going on that dress themselves up in the media with a shotgun of makeup. What looks like a boring panel on the schedule ends up peeling back the eyelids and blowing out the maps of hidden bunkers and following trains always-in-motion bearing the loads of nuclear missiles as they crisscross the country ever dodging the tactical tacks on a wall map.
Night draws the costume contest in Patterson Ballroom. Quickly as they line up nobody else is allowed to watch the spectacle or the extravaganza. “Completely full,” says the man at the door. There inside lies what knows of the fate of a two metre tall Mecha-Deadpool spotted in the afternoon walking through the gates of a nearby church.
When the masses breach the perimeter the booths heave and sweat. Gone are the strident lines with full forward paces. Now comes the shuffling, the chest-to-backpack tango and wondering what is keeping the people in front of you from moving on.
One case, of the Sunday, someone parks their wheelchair-enabled friend/relative in the middle of the walk as they quicken into the far reaches of did-they-even-come-back? Twenty deep they stand heading one direction, waiting patiently, unable to sidestep as the throng in the other flow is as thick.
Sweet relief is the annex, the wing of the hall, where the windows look out into the traffic. Stepping into the daylight removes you from the glance and browsing state, so only bother if you know which route to walk back into, save the detoured booths for later.
Neal Adams takes the mic for Denny O’Neil, absent for a medical shutdown. Two perspectives from the one voice. The moderator starts the panel asking questions and a refresher on Adams’ career before it’s over to the floor. Candid, punchy, it’s a case of bringing the ears to the edge, hanging on the word and story. Advocacy and looking out for other artists is the thrust of the session.
Henry Winkler free floats all along the line leading up to his booth. Talking, hugging, making for a warm experience and the whole stack of people are smiling from it. It's not just a table with photos, the Fonz is greeting and meeting with his fans.
Cast of Power Rangers are on patrol and head up a few panels. For the T-shirt and cover art of the convention weekend, it’s a nod this year that the focus is on Doctor Who. Three Doctors and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) roaming about and staking the back left section of Heritage Hall.
Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Peter Davison go rapid-fire in the cacophony of jokes, side-bars, interactions and playing it for the crowd. Waves of laughs and cheers are constant. A cube with a microphone is supposed to fly about across the crowd between questions but instead worms around no more than an arm’s length. Rarely do they stand and the questions float up from the seats disembodied. Energy is high and continues well until the wrangler screeches the panel to a halt for time.
Next comes the Buffy pair of James Marsters and Eliza Dushku. The microphone-cube block actually sails through the air from section to section. The moderator taking more control of the cube in this instance, asking for it to bounce back to him a few times before the cube dies, murmurs ring out and Marsters hops down from the stage to lean into the voice asking the question. Marsters effuses most in this affair with Dushku being cagey about being candid and candid on being cagey.
Poor looks on the security, or the gatekeepers, their faces dragging down and down as the weekend progresses. They’re looking for that wrist strap and it gets a wear on their necks. Directory of booth locations in the program guide is good for those who already know what number booth to be at. If you’re looking up the name of a certain artist or vendor you’re left scanning the entire non-alphabetical list.
A welcome hour presents itself between the last of the panels and as the doors close proper. Relax out that top shirt button, hang out that neck tie a slot. Sun shines in that twilight hour, benefiting from the switching panes of Daylight Saving Time jumping forward. Last of the last is walking back to the car before it starts to torrent.
- Hunter S. Thompson, The Raven 11x17 inch prints from Ben Templesmith
- Bookmarks featuring The Flash, Batman, Tenth Doctor with adipose, Deadpool, from Tressina Bowling
Topping off about 50,000 steps covering the floors of the Lexington Convention Center on 11-13 March 2016.
Reviewed on Monday, 21 March 2016