My friends and family know quite well that I am a huge geek. I have been a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and comic books for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching shows like Doctor Who, Super Friends, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I also fell in love with big screen films such as the original Star Wars trilogy, the Star Trek films, Ghostbusters, Batman, and Back To The Future. In my bedroom, you could find stacks of Spider-Man, Thor, Batman, and Thundercats comics all over the place.
Attending conventions that celebrated these things never really entered my mind until June of 2009, when a local convention named ConDuLac debuted in the Lake Charles area. It featured a number of panels, most focusing on Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica, as well as fan groups and a few local artists and authors. The featured guest was Richard Hatch, who portrayed Captain Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica and Tom Zarek on the re-imagined series.
Meeting Mr. Hatch did two things to me. First, it gave me the autographed 8x10 bug. Up to that point, I had only received a few autographs on whatever happened to be handy, and most of those have been lost over the years. With Mr. Hatch's autograph on a glossy photo of him from the old BSG though, I had a treasured collectible. Secondly, meeting Richard Hatch made me dig deeper into the world of conventions. I enjoyed his company so much that I wanted to meet more celebrities like him who were involved in science fiction and fantasy. The easiest way to do this, obviously, was to attend more conventions.
Just over a year later I found myself on the board for ConDuLac, now known as BayouCon, and was given the opportunity to attend my first big convention, the Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con, in order to promote the convention I was now a part of.
When I arrived at the convention with the director of BayouCon and a friend, I was immediately amazed at the long line that ran out of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Thankfully being a fan group, we whizzed right by this line and headed straight for the fan table registration booth. After finding our booth and setting it up, we had a few minutes to kill before the ticket holders were allowed into the convention.
I immediately noticed that we were only a stone's throw away from the booths for Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Torchwood), and Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back). I turned into a giddy little fanboy at that moment. After regaining my composure, I did a little more walking around and visited a number of tables for other upcoming conventions such as MechaCon, MobiCon, and CoastCon. I also visited with some old friends from the 501st (a cosplaying group dedicated to doing charity work dressed as the bad guys from Star Wars), the Mississippi Mandalorians, and the Louisiana Ghostbusters.
At the rear part of the convention floor was the comic book/graphic novel artist area. A number of popular comic book artists were there, including Kurt Amacker, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Tommy Castillo. Capstone Comics, Media Underground Comics, and other comic companies were also there. This area of the convention would become loaded with activity as the day wore on, as almost all of the artists were sketching portraits of visitors, working on art for upcoming books, or just generally talking to their fans.
I also managed to see the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo and the TeamFoX DeLorean replica made to look like the one from the Back To The Future franchise. Michael J. Fox supports the owner of this replica car, who takes it to conventions all over the country and accepts donations for Parkinson's disease research. It was a very cool vehicle.
There was also a gaming area and plenty of vendors with tons of goodies and collectibles for myself and other nerds to partake in.
The celebrity list was both long and impressive. Including the three celebs I've already mentioned, the list included Julie Benz (Sunday only), Kelly Donovan, Clare Kramer, James Charles Leary, and Nicholas Brendon (all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Ray Park and Daniel Logan of the Star Wars prequels, Adam West and Burt Ward from the campy 60's Batman, Claudia Christian from Stargate, Louis Gossett, Jr. from a ton of films including An Officer And A Gentleman, Peter Tork (The Monkees), Aaron Douglas of Battlestar Galactica, Cynthia Scott (Aliens), Walter Koenig (Chekov of Star Trek), Keisha Turner, Chandler Riggs, and Adrian Kali Turner (all of The Walking Dead), and Mark Ryan (Bumblebee and other robots from the Transformer franchise).
Meeting these celebrities could be both difficult and costly. For instance, the line for Billy Dee Williams (who only appeared on Saturday) was very long and didn't thin out until the day was almost done. An autographed photo of Mr. Williams was fifty bucks. I wanted very much to get an autograph from Mr. Williams, but that would have prevented me from getting another autograph that I wanted, Ray Park (Darth Maul).
Outside of Williams' line, Ray Park's was probably the longest. I did wait in line for roughly twenty or thirty minutes, but when I finally got to meet Ray, he was a very nice and genuine guy. He happily signed a photo of Darth Maul for me and I left with a big stupid grin on my face.
Throughout the day on Saturday, me and my fellow workers took turns manning the convention table while the others went out in pursuit of autographs, photos, and collectibles. My brother showed up at the convention as well and I got pictures of him with Julie Benz and Clare Kramer. I also purchased a graphic novel, Bad Kids Go To Hell, and got both of the authors to autograph it for me. They had a very fun set up with a classroom and three scantily clad detention workers.
When the second and final day of the convention rolled around, the crowd was only slightly smaller than the day before, but the energy and excitement at the convention was still high. I got to roam around quite a bit more on this day, and checked out the gaming area and some of the vendors in more detail. I also had a bit of cash left in my pocket and wanted to get one more autograph before leaving the convention. I bounced from table to table checking the prices for many of the celebrities. I wanted an autograph from someone that I was reasonably familiar with, but didn't want to shell out too much cash for the pic.
Hesitantly, I decided to visity with Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett). I was immediately surprised at how nice and funny the guy was. We talked for quite a bit of time and he told me how humbling it was to be supported by fans for playing a character who he hadn't realized was so popular among fans while shooting the film. I walked away from his table with an autograph and more respect for Mr. Logan.
The convention was very well received by both the visitors and the local press. There were a ton of reporters and photographers on site for the convention.
There were a number of people in costume for the convention as well. One of the most impressive to me was that of a young lady dressed as a Na'avi from Avatar. She was covered in body paint from head to toe, and wore only a skimpy outfit (similar to the ones wore by the females in the film), yet had no problem posing with photo after photo with fanboys, children, and dirty old men. Another impressive costume was that of a young man dressed as the Green Arrow. I asked him if I could take a picture of him and three other heroes joined him.
Overall, the Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con was a well-organized, well-attended event. They brought in big stars from science fiction, fantasy, and music that entertained the crowds, and gave comic book fans a chance to visit with some brilliant artists.
If I have any complaints about the event, it's that prices on almost everything were bloated. Granted, I expect to pay a bit more for concessions at an event such as this, but $3.25 is a bit pricey for a bottle of Coke, dontcha think?
Despite the big prices, I fully intend to visit the convention again next year. They've already confirmed one guest for the event. Doug Jones, who portrayed the Silver Surfer and Abe Sapien, has already signed up for next year. I'm excited to see who else hops onboard.
If you happen to be in New Orleans at the end of January next year, shoot me a message and then come see me at the BayouCon table at the convention!
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