On March 29th, my wife, my younger brother and I hopped in my car and headed up to Louisville to attend Wizard World, our first ever comic convention. We had no idea what to expect, but we knew James Marsters and Kristine Sutherland (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) would be there, and that was enough for us.
What follows is what happened once we reached the hallowed grounds of the Kentucky International Convention Center. Most of these words are true.
We got there and immediately hard a hard time figuring out where we should go. “It’s in this convention center, right? Why are these doors locked? I see people in there. That girl is dressed like Huntress, so I know we’re in the right place. Those doors locked, too? How do we get in this place? HUNTRESS! HUNTRESS! I know she can hear me. She looked over this way. Why isn’t she letting us in?”
Eventually we found an unlocked door, and wound our way through a set of dark corridors. After walking through what appeared to be an airplane hangar, we got our wristbands and made our way to the floor.
The first thing we saw was a grown man dressed up as Robin, complete with tight green panties. We all nodded and agreed that it seemed like a decent indicator of what we would find there. He would not be the last Robin we would see that day.
Before heading into the fray, my wife took a look at the map. “It looks like the celebrities are set up in the back. Let’s swing by there and see what it looks like.” We decided to head up a side alley, so as to miss the mass of people in the middle. It was crowded, but not nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. We weren’t packed in shoulder-to-shoulder. We could move relatively freely for most of the day. That was a pleasant surprise. It was hot, but that was to be expected. Just as well. I love sweating in large groups of people.
We made our way back to the signing booths. Most of The Walking Dead people weren’t there yet, but pretty much everyone else was. Jason Momoa’s line was long. Marsters’ line was fairly long, but not too bad. Kristine Sutherland had a few people in her line. (We loved that Marsters and Sutherland were right next to each other. During their downtime, I assume they talked about various slayer-related difficulties they encountered. “I hated when she came back and had a zombie party at the house.” “I hated when she beat me up.”)
We saw a man walking out of Marsters’ line looking at his camera, and we immediately accosted him. “How was he? Was he cool? Did you get a picture with him? Can we see it? How much extra for the picture? Did you have to get his autograph to get a picture with him? Oh man, that’s a cool picture. He’s doing his Spike face and everything. Thanks! Off with you.”
A few Deadpools walked by. At least, I thought they were all Deadpools. As it turns out, it was two Deadpools and a Spider Man in a hoodie. I jumped up and down and asked for a picture with them.
We walked past Robert Hays’ (Airplane) booth, and found him sitting with his assistant. No one was in his line. They were talking and laughing with each other, but I could tell he was dead inside. I’ve seen This is Spinal Tap. I know how sad it is for no one to be in your autograph line. I looked around for Artie Fufkin, Polymer Records, but saw no sign of him.
“Should we go up and say hi?”
“It’s $20 for his autograph, and probably that much for his picture. I think you have to pay just to go in his line. Besides, what would you say to him?”
“Dunno. ‘I like that scene in Airplane 2 when you’re painting a picture of flowers, but then the camera pulls back and you see a naked woman sitting there.’ Something like that.”
“That’s not bad. Is that worth $20?”
“Nah. Let him rot.”
We saw a Silent Hill nurse and Elektra walk by, talking about God-knows-what. I desperately wanted to get my picture taken with Silent Hill nurse, but I didn’t want to hurt Elektra’s feelings by telling her to bug-off, so I let them walk on by.
I’d say roughly 40% of the people there were dressed like Dr. Who or a TARDIS. Whovians, as far as the eye could see. And pretty much all the men looked alike. As far as I knew, each of them had been an incarnation of the Doctor at some point. (There have been a thousand Doctors, right? I’m not making that up?)
I looked at a woman with a TARDIS dress and said, “Cindy-Lou Whovian?” I cackled loudly, because I’m the worst.
She looked at me blankly, so I cleared my throat and said, “I said, Cindy-Lou WHOvian.”
Here’s something I learned: Whovians are not to be trifled with. They suffer no fools. And, apparently, all the women pack their purses full of bricks.
When I came to, the woman was gone, but I would always have a broken nose to remember her by.
I saw something that said Back to the Future, and immediately started shoving Whovians out of my way to get there, screaming, “Out of my way, nerds!” (I don’t learn lessons easily.)
It was the DeLorean (or, rather, it was a DeLorean). “I put together a model of you,” I whispered as I reached out to trace its aerodynamic lines. “NO TOUCHING,” came a yell. I scampered away like one of Sweet’s minions and never looked back. Comic conventions are scary.
As fate would have it, that’s where I was supposed to be. I found myself at a table full of weapons. Glorious weapons. I turned to my brother; his mouth was wide open. “Are those Batman throwing knives?” I asked. All he could do was nod. I looked further up the table. Wolverine claws. Honest-to-God Wolverine claws.
When I was a child, I dressed up as Wolverine for Halloween. I took black gardening gloves and used electrical tape to attach white plastic knives. I assume every male has done the same thing at some point in their lives. Needless to say (though I will say it anyway), the prospect of buying Wolverine claws was too good to pass up.
Sure, I hemmed and hawed for a while. “I don’t know. They’re $35 a piece. That’s a lot of halibut.” We tried them out and they looked awesome.
“We’ll knock off $5 if you buy the set,” the man behind the table said, sensing our excitement.
“$65 to realize a lifelong dream? Seems a bit high.”
I originally thought we should wait. “I don’t want to lug around two metal claws all day. They could get heavy. Let’s wait until we’re ready to leave.”
My brother immediately countered with, “What if they’re sold out by then?”
I panicked. I couldn’t live with myself if I left the convention without Wolverine claws. So I bought the set. I couldn’t give the man my money fast enough. I’m pretty sure I was giggling as I handed it over.
Best decision I’ve ever made.
We turned from the table and spotted The Avengers, all walking in the door at the same time. It was glorious. My favorite part was seeing some of the individuals later in the day. They were never all together as The Avengers again. It’s like they didn’t like each other at all, but they just had to make a grand entrance together. I respect that.
After that, we took off for the James Marsters panel. It was delightful. He sat up there for an hour, answering every insane question asked of him with a smile and a funny story. “How did it feel to kiss that Torchwood guy? What did you think about the ending of Angel? How come your hair didn’t fall out from bleaching it all the time? No, really, how did it feel to kiss that Torchwood guy?” He cheered when a grown man told him that he had, “warm fuzzy dreams about Spike,” after watching Buffy episodes. He sang a song that he wrote for a Western. “Was that from High Plains Invaders? I feel like that was from High Plains Invaders.” I could not stop talking about High Plains Invaders.
In a particularly sweet moment, a girl holding a video camera stepped up to the microphone and talked about how her and her mother were never particularly close, but they used to bond over their love of Spike. Now her mother was really sick, and it was her birthday, and would he mind singing “Happy Birthday” to her? Without skipping a beat, he looked directly into the camera, slipped into Spike voice, wished her a happy birthday, sang the entire song, then blew her a kiss. I’ve never seen a girl so happy in my entire life. It nearly melted my cold, cold heart.
We left the room on a Marsters high. “That guy was awesome, wasn’t he? Super awesome. I love him dearly. Let’s kidnap him and bring him home with us. He should be our friend. He’d love it. I have chloroform in the trunk. He won’t mind.” Ultimately, we decided against it, because we’re not monsters, there were a ton of witnesses, and the chloroform was a two-block walk back to the car in the rain.
So it was back to the floor with us. We only took one pass before hitting the Marsters panel, so we decided to take a walk among all the booths. There were tons of great artists selling their work. Others drawing pictures on demand. T-shirts. Key chains. Bumper stickers. Bikinis. Bathrobes. Statues. Backpacks. Recognizable movie characters made from nuts and bolts. A life-size E.T. If you can think of it, they probably had it.
We looked at a lot of stuff, and even considered buying some of it. A lot of it was expensive, but that’s to be expected. I assume you could buy a lot of the stuff we saw online, but buying it there just seemed more fun. Also, there was no guarantee that the product we found online would be exactly like the one in front of us. I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy a set of knockoff Wolverine claws, or a scratchy terrycloth Batman bathrobe instead of the awesomely plush one we felt up at the booth. There was a constant struggle between Frugal Adult Dusty and Giddy Elementary School Dusty. Somehow, Frugal Adult Dusty won out more often than not. That guy is a total buzzkill.
After walking through the booths, we thought we’d head back to the autograph tables and catch a glimpse of some celebrities. I creeped on The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson for a while, who ended up giving me a sidelong glance and slowly reached down for his boot knife. I moved on before he could plant it directly between my eyes from 100 paces. Scott Wilson is ruthless.
We craned our necks to see James Marsters, but his table was packed and his line was long. Ditto Jason Momoa (although we did catch Momoa on a small stage for a short interview and got pretty close, which was great. He’s a handsome man). The Whovians were lined up against the wall, waiting for their chance to point their Sonic Screwdrivers at Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. I saw a group of 5 Whovians, all wearing the exact same outfit and actually sharing the same scarf. It was wrapped around all of them at the same time, and they moved in unison. It was like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Was there a Dr. Who episode that covered that? If not, they probably wouldn’t have understood what I was trying to say. “What’s a body snatcher? Is that like a Dalek?”
We moved on to Kristine Sutherland. There were a few people in her line, but not many.
“She looks so sweet. Doesn’t she look sweet? I just want to go up and give her a hug. How much are autographs for her?”
“$25, I believe.”
“What about pictures?”
“About the same amount, but I think you can only take a picture with one person at a time. And the sign says, ‘Autographs’ for this timeframe, so I think you have to pay for an autograph to get a picture.”
We all agreed that it seemed high, but we still wanted to lurk and stare for a while. So we stood outside of her booth, talking to each other and sneaking glances at her. Since her line was sparse, and the aisle we were in wasn’t highly populated, I’m sure she noticed the three of us standing there for 15 minutes.
Then, an idea.
“What if we get her to wear the Wolverine claws? Do you think she would do that?”
“I don’t know. That’s a great idea, though. I’d pay good money for that. That picture would be awesome. Let’s ask her.”
So we walk up, my younger brother taking the lead.
“We all love Buffy.” We nod vigorously. She’s smiling. This is going well. Or perhaps she’s scared of what the three people who have been staring at her for a solid 15 minutes would do once they approached her, and thought a smile would disarm us. “Can we get a picture of you with the three of us?”
She was still smiling. “Of course!”
“Really? That’s great. How much?”
“Ten dollars?! A BARGAIN! An extra question: would you be willing to wear Wolverine claws?” My brother removed the claws from the bag and showed them to her.
Her smile never faded. What a pro. “Wolverine claws? Sure.”
And so we watched Ms. Summers grip Wolverine claws, smile sweetly, and pose with us for the best picture in the history of time.
We walked away giddy, and we couldn’t stop staring at the picture. “Let me see it!” We couldn’t stop talking about it. “Can you believe it? Look at how sweet she’s smiling! This picture is amazing. I’VE NEVER FELT MORE ALIVE!”
I felt so good that I threw a recently purchased Tribble into the teeming mass of Whovians.
“What is this?”
“A Tribble. You know. From Dr. Who.”
“That’s from Star Trek.”
Those Whovians can glare. I could hear them murmuring among each other and looking in my direction. I could’ve sworn I heard one of them utter the phrase “a reckoning,” but it was probably just my imagination.
We were getting tired, but we weren’t ready to leave. We decided to take one more pass through the throng of people in the middle of the floor, then find a chair and do some people watching.
Of all the fun we had, I think the people watching was one of the major highlights of the day. Here’s a short list of people we saw/interacted with:
Captain Jack Sparrow. Only one of them, surprisingly, and he was always in character. Or maybe he was always drunk. Hard to tell, really.
A shirtless dude in spandex. I have no idea who he was supposed to be, but I admired his confidence.
A gaggle of Harley Quinns. It seemed like every time I saw one, she was posing for a picture. People love Harley Quinn.
Pyramid Head from Silent Hill. Apparently he couldn’t see through the mask, and needed a friend to guide him around the floor. That killed me.
Leatherface, complete with extra-length chainsaw.
Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers walking around together. “What’s your favorite stalking tactic? Did you see that time I stuck a knife in a guy so hard he stuck to the door behind him?”
A family consisting of Bender, Lara Croft and Nathan Drake.
A group of Browncoats.
A Lego Man whose arms were so heavy his hands were literally shaking as he stood in one spot, having pictures taken of him. “Why did he make his arms so heavy? That looks like hell. That poor guy.”
And, finally, my favorites: The Glamorsteins, dressed as rockabilly Frankenstein’s monster and his lovely bride.
“Hey, can I get a picture with you guys?”
“Sure. You want us to attack you?”
Immediately they fell upon me, sensing my weakness. They took me by my feet and shook all the loose change out of my pockets. I’m certain they would have given me a swirly, but they had a lot more photo ops to get to. So they unceremoniously dumped me on my head, shouted “Poindexter,” over their shoulders, and were off. I loved them dearly. It may have just been in my concussed head, but I could have sworn I heard Link Wray’s “Rumble” playing as they strolled away.
We decided to call it a day. We walked out of the convention center and hit up BBC Brewery down the street. Great food. Great beer. Terrific atmosphere. If you’re ever in Louisville, I highly recommend it.
We talked about our favorite moments of the day, and went through all of our pictures. We thought about pulling out our Wolverine claws, but figured that would be frowned upon.
I looked to my left and saw Silk Spectre II. There’s something weird about seeing someone dressed as a comic book character just sitting down among regular people, munching on fries.
As we left the brewery, we heard an angry shout. “There they are!” I looked to see a group of Whovians, pointing their Sonic Screwdrivers at us, bowties glistening in the rain. The one in the front had the flaming Tribble on a spike. They inched forward. We turned and ran to the car, peeling out before they could finish us off.
Before long, my brother was asleep in the back seat wearing his Batman robe, clutching his Wolverine claws.
We all figured we would have a good time, but we didn’t expect to have as much fun as we did.
Our first convention was a good one, and we were already looking forward to the next one.