A couple weeks ago, I made my yearly pilgrimage to the Mecca of shopping and comic books: Roger Price'sMid-Ohio-Con 2001. To me, the true mystery about the con is how Roger makes it better and better every year.
Mid-Ohio-Con takes place the Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving Weekend, but to the true MOC-goer, it starts early on Friday. For me, a little too early. Oh, sure, I like to head down there and get in around noon so I can start drinki... er, hang out with all my other Con Buddies, but this year I was up earlier than normal. One of my duties at the Con is Graphics Boy. I do all the advertising and the program book. In with the advertising this year was mounting a bunch of foam core signs.
No problem, normally. Except, Thanksgiving Morning when I was trying to spray glue these things together instead of watching the Macy's parade, I realized I was out of Spray Glue.I could of course run down to OfficeMax and buy some more... if they were open.
So I ran out early, early Friday morning to the thankfully Black Friday-early-opening office supply store to buy some Spray Mount... and then to Ladies and Gentlemen hair salon to buy the hair confixor that I also ran out of the day before.
Hey, it's my hair. What was I going to do?
So I got everything done and together and started the two-and-a-half hour drive to Columbus.
So, why was this convention this best ever?
This was the first year that I've been completely in charge of the Mid-Ohio-Con Program Book. I sold the advertising, designed the book, chose a printer... heck, I even piled all the printed books into my loyal Mitsubishi Eclipse and drove them down.
I got to work with the legendary Dave Gibbons on the cover. "Work with" is probably an overstatement, and in the history of recorded time, I have never been one to favor the overstatement. He asked what he should draw for the cover, and gave him a bunch of suggestions. One of them was something vaguely September 11th-related. He gave me this.
I gotta say, I think this cover is just absolutely amazing. The rest of the book wasn't bad, either. Decent design, and a fair amount of ads, which is important, because they pay for the book. (And, if you'd like to advertise next year, e-mail me now, before the rates go up in March!) The program book was well received.
So why was this convention the best ever?
As I've related to you in my San Diego Con Report, I hatched the idea to have Andy Hallett as a guest at the show, and have him host Karaoke in the hotel bar that night. He turned out to be in San Diego as a guest of another booth, and I tracked him down like Robert Patrick in T2 and gave him the convention info.
Eventually, Andy said "Yes." He even brought along Mark Lutz, who played the "Groosalugg" on Angel.
Both were fantastic guests. The two of them are good friends, and I'd go to a panel just to hear the two of them talk. They talked about their time on Angel and the perils of makeup and those kinds of things. The highlight to me, though, was Mark describing his time playing "The Guy Natalie Married" on the Facts of Life Reunion Movie and doing a dead-on Charlotte Rhea impression. It's just frightening to see the guy who slayed all those monsters on "Angel" warbling out "Thankgsgiving's WHEN? " in a Mrs. Garrett voice.
That night, Andy hosted "Caritas at the Con" in the hotel bar. This was another in a long string of my brilliant ideas. Well, my ideas of late have been pretty lame to downright self destructive. The solar powered flashlight never took off, and this whole become an comic book artist thing is specious at best. But, occasionally I do pull one out.
Andy had hosted karaoke at San Diego, but he did so at one of the booths. Putting him in a karaoke setting worked so much better. Andy is a big karaoke fan, and that's how he was discovered for Angel . He was really good.
I was talking to him before the show, and anytime you get to hear the voice of Krevlorne Swath of the Deathwok Clan say "Thom, you are going to sing, aren't you?" you just know you're living a rarified existence.
Did I sing? Let me quote noted philosopher Clint Eastwood. "A man's gotta know his limitations." And I can not sing to save my life. I watched and applauded, but I didn't force anyone to suffer through vocal stylings that have been known to drive people insane.
But, it was dear old Uncle Tony Isabella's fiftieth birthday... or rather it was later in December, but Roger wasn't about to move the con around just because of an accident of birth. So we celebrated his birthday at the con by having Andy sing "Happy Biirthday" to Tony in front of his wife, kids and friends. Andy then forced Roger and Tony to sing "Mack the Knife."
Okay, now you may not be seeing this paragraph in it's entirety if you have a content filter that blocks out questionable content. I have a sound clip of Tony and Roger singing. I also have one of Bob Ingersoll singing "Paper Moon." This is not for the faint of heart. The sound quality's not good (hey, I was shooting with a digitial camera, you're lucky you got this!) but it'll give you some inkling of why I wake up screaming these days.
Files are in .mpg format with REALLY dark video, and each are about 1mB in size.
Later, I wound up doing a caricature of Andy, Mark and their agent Pat Brady. Andy's was all right, but Mark's and Pat's were probably my best of the show. I was sitting there, cracking jokes with them, telling them my stories of drawing pets and snakes, drawing Lou Ferrigno's family, and they were laughing right along.
Andy asked me if I did stand-up comedy. I don't, but it's on my List of Things To Do. Spurred on by that, I'm sure I'll be doing it sooner. And his agent gave me her card, saying to call if I was ever in LA.
Wow. Can a role as the future seeing demon caricaturist be far behind?
So, why was this convention this best ever?
Virginia Hey played "Zhaan" on the wonderful show Farscape . She wore blue makeup and shaved her head and eyebrows for the role. She recently left the show for reasons I'll cover later.
I received the assignment of hosting her panel. Received? Technically I grabbed it. I told on Con Programming Director Tony that, in no uncertain terms, I was to host her panel. Tony, wisely realizing the size and age difference between us, as well as my kickboxing skills, decided to let the Wookie win, as it were.
There's always a Moment of Odd when you meet someone from TV. Your only frame of reference is their character and how they appear on screen. They're always diffferent in person, and very often in a good way. It's a more intense feeling with science fiction guests, because generally so many of them are buried under so much makeup.
So this was the first time I've seen Virginia in person. And she is absolutely stunning. At her panel, she said that she started out modeling in Australia. Looking at her, that shouldn't surprise anyone.
And none of my feelings toward her have anything to do with the way she was flirting with me. I can only assume she was heavily medicated that weekend. And, to be fair, she was flirting with a lot of people. Me, Andy Hallett, Mark Lutz... but still, look at that list. One of those things is not like the other.
(Mark Lutz. He's Canadian.)
She walked in on my arm to the panel. When I went to introduce her, she stood behind me, placed her arms under mine and started playing that "Whose Line is it Anyway" game where someone else is being your arms and hands. Which did tend to wander a bit.
Virginia was a lovely and gracious guest. She could talk forever, and everyone seemed thrilled to listen. As the host, my job is generally to select who gets called on to ask a question next, to ask my own when the audience runs out, and to keep an eye on the time. With Virginia, she spoke so much and so far afield on every question, she only answered three, maybe.
And I don't mean that in a bad way. She spent probably fifteen minutes answering a question about her hair (we she offered to rub all over me, oddly enough). Along the way, she touched on her feelings on having had to shave her head, a number of reactions that provoked, some stories of being on the show, and a half a dozen other things. She's a great storyteller (and heck, I am so in love with that accent) and covered so much ground that no one felt cheated.
Oh yeah, and she was all over me. She even, in front of a roomful of people, called me "attractive." Wow.
She also wanted to make sure that when people posted her comments on her panel, that it was done accurately. Rumors start on the internet pretty easily, and things do get misconnstrued. So let me, as they say on Fox News, fairly and accurately report what happened.
She said I was attractive.
She was pawing my chest.
She offered to show me her tattoo.
Everything else is kind of a blur.
So, why was this convention this best ever?
This year we roasted Paul Jenkins, writer of such diverse books as Hellblazer, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man and Witchblade. I've actually hung out with him a few times, downing a few Guinesses and other adult beverages. I know just enought about Paul to be a dangerous roaster.
Still, with quitting the Markell Company, and doing the Mid-Ohio-Con program book and advertising, I didn't have the time I would have liked to try to work on my roast jokes. My general feeling on hosting is that I do a joke about the roastee, and then a joke about the next presenter. There were five presenters, Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Storrie, Daryn from the Laughing Ogre, Jen Contino from Sequential Tart, and Beau Smith. I had two jokes.
Fortunately, late night pressure created divine inspiration hit around 1am the night before the Roast. I quickly whipped out my iBook and jotted them down... which is why you see me running the roast from my laptop.
The breakout speech at the roast was Daryn of The Laughing Ogre. His recounting of bringing Paul to MOC was priceless.
"I call Paul and ask if he'll come to MOC. 'Sure,' he says. And then I get him a ticket from Atlanta to Columbus.
"Then he calls and says 'Gib, my girlfriend is coming with me, so I'll need two tickets.' Sure, no problem, Paul.
"The next week he calls and says 'Gib, We'll need to leave from North Carolina, and return to Atlanta.' Sure, no problem, Paul. Let me just change that reservation.
"And then he calls and says 'Gib, now we need to leave from Atlanta and return to North Carolina.' Sure, no problem, Paul. Let me just change that reservation... again.
"Everybody take a long look at Paul. Good. That just cost me three hundred bucks!"
Of my jokes, my personal favorite was in making fun of Paul's British accent, saying that it helped him get work at DC, since he came in at a point when "DC would hire anyone who couldn't pronounce the word 'schedule.'"
Special props, too, have to go to my buddy Paul Storrie, noted writer of Justice League Adventures and the forthcoming Gotham Girls miniseries. (I get $10 every time I mention it.) For many of the presenters, it was their first time doing a roast. No one wanted to go first. Paul let me shove him in front of that oncoming comedy train, and handled it expertly.
All of the presenters were great. Each roast gets better and better. I don't know who we're going to roast next year, but it'll be cool.
Every one of these Mid-Ohio-Con reports ends the same way: You have gotta go to this show. It is, hands down, the best comic book convention on the planet! This one is no different.
Next year Kevin Smith will be there, by the way. Yeah, like my presence isn't enough.