I finally have all the pics and scans edited and ready for my post on our recent trip to FandomFest 2013 a comic/related convention in Louisville, Kentucky. It was held at two buildings – the KICC (Kentucky International Convention Center) and the Galt House Hotel. Before I get into all the good stuff I have to address the bad. There was a considerable amount of bad – in the form of TERRIBLE planning and a severe lack of organization on the part of whoever managed this grand mess. Now I’m not a huge convention veteran but I have been to a few local small time stuff back in the early 80s, a BuffyCon in 2003 and another BuffyCon in 2004 & Wizard World Chicago in 2005. Up until now I sort of thought of Wizard World as a bunch of jerks who like to take fandom’s money and exert very little in the way of great management. This Saturday at FandomFest I learned just how GREAT at their job the Wizard World staff was back in 2005. In a word they were FANTASTIC. What we experienced Saturday – being herded from line to endless line all the while waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, only to find out people who JUST ARRIVED were already in the vendor room we were WAITING TO GET INTO. It made no sense whatsoever. Very few of the staff seemed to know what was going on or have definitive answers to our questions. The website scheduling info conflicted with the printed materials and neither were completely accurate. For some very bizarre reason they chose to have the celebrity guests and artists/writers in two different large rooms. WHY? Instead of having the guests spread all over the place why not put them all together? They had some guests in one area along with some lame and COMPLETELY UNRELATED vendor booths – I mean really why have a standard necklace/ear-ring stand at a sci-fi/fantasy convention? I have some simple suggestions for the FandomFest management team to improve things for next year:
- Give all your staff walkie-talkies – they are pretty cheap and at least that way when they are asked a question they don’t know the answer to MAYBE they can call and get one!
- Put some signs up! They have these inexpensive pole things made of PVC that you can put signs on telling people which line to stand in for various things. These are MOBILE so when you change stuff around for NO APPARENT REASON 5 TIMES A WEEKEND at least folks walking around can keep up!
- Fire whoever is responsible for this 90s throwback mess: http://fandomfest.com – really you gotta do better than that!
- Don’t make a downloadable PDF that has such a microscopic font that even the youngest eyes struggle to read it!
- Get the schedule down and make sure it’s right…then check it again before you make the PDF or update the site! Make sure one matches the other!
- When you do make a mistake – don’t blame the Celebrity Guests! Just own up to it and apologize profusely. Offering partial refunds would be a good touch.
- Attend a few Wizard Worlds or other big conventions for organizational/crowd control ideas.
- Most importantly of all RESPECT the line orders! First come=First Served. Don’t let people fresh off the street into a room others have been waiting HOURS to get into!
Anyone reading this that also went to FandomFest this year be sure to post about the problems you encountered over here since FandomFest is deleting negative posts on their Facebook page (and also because you know FB sucks anyway):
Now that all the negative stuff is out of the way lets get onto the positives. We could only attend Saturday so we had to struggle and pack in as much as we could in the one day. It was a frantic and exhausting day but I think it was worth it overall. I’ll start out with what I considered the most important thing. I got Stan Lee’s autograph. I brought my copy of Fantastic Four #72 and he signed the cover:
I also got my picture taken with him! Like you may have read/heard they do have this setup like a machine…its not like you really get to “meet” him. Just a very quick hello, snap and you are shuffled out for someone else to have a turn. But it was still very cool to be standing right next to the Father of the Marvel Universe. A man so responsible for so much of what made me love comic-books. Quite an experience even if a VERY brief one!
They had a few comic artists there that I like so I brought some comics for each to sign. The first one I got was Neal Adams. He was nice enough and chatted with me for a minute.
His autograph policy left a bit to be desired though. He was charging $20.00 PER BOOK SIGNED! OUCH. So I just had him sign Tomb of Dracula #1:
Next I got autographs from Arthur Suydam. He was very nice as well. We talked a little bit both at his table and later when I ran into him on an escalator. I asked him how to pronounce his last name! Turns out it’s Dutch and you pronounce it SUE (like Peggy-Sue) DAM (like Damn). 🙂 Always wondered about that. His signing policy was a LOT BETTER than Neal’s. If you bought any 11×17 poster print on his table for $20.00 then he would sign whatever amount of books you wanted signed. Nice guy. I bought a cool Walking Dead poster from him and had these three comics autographed:
That Moon Knight cover is also autographed by the last (and coolest) artist I had sign – Mark Texeira.
He drew the Moon Knight head on there too! In fact he put little head sketches on all the covers he signed for me:
His policy was the first comic is FREE…and only three bucks for each additional book signed. Now THAT is reasonable! The man is a real class act. He treats his fans as friends. He also does sketches while you wait. He was offering a deal on this hardcover sketch-book -$40.00 gets you the book AND an impromptu sketch inside the front cover. I thought that was too good to pass up so I got it:
Here is the sketch he did inside:
Awesome! We talked the whole time he was drawing. He was very outgoing and obviously LOVED drawing and talking to fans. He talked about all kinds of stuff. When I asked him about working for Marvel he said it had changed a good deal since the Disney buy-out. He said it was harder to talk directly to the editors now. Sounded like it was a lot more corporate of an atmosphere than before. Not what a life-long Marvel fan wanted to hear but it was something a lot of us had expected to happen! He also talked about how much he LOVED doing Wolverine so that’s what I had him draw in my book. Of course Wolverine is probably my favorite character of all time anyway but I was afraid he was sick of drawing him. He said “never” to that notion. He mentioned that he would love to draw a Silver Surfer story but he was kind of locked into the gritty-grimy stuff in a lot of people’s minds so he doesn’t get offered that kind of thing. After he finished my sketch he even posed for a picture with it (his idea!):
What a guy! I tell you this guy’s fun-loving nature and interesting conversation made the whole trip worth it!
After I got my autographs all done I browsed back issue boxes at several vendor booths. I found some good deals. I scored several hard to find Giant Size Marvel horror books from the 70s I needed for $5.00 each. After I got them home and graded them out they all list for 20-28 bucks each in the 2012 Overstreet Guide! I also found several of the late 70s Kirby Captain America issues I needed for only $3.00 each! These were also way under guide. Lastly I got Tomb of Dracula #18 for $3.00…which Overstreet lists for $34.00 in that condition. I was very pleased with my haul!
The big draws for my daughter Kristan was getting to meet John Barrowman star of Torchwood and of course Norman Reedus who plays Daryl Dixon on the Walking Dead (in case you’ve been in a media blackout the last couple of years). She got John’s autograph and pics with BOTH of them:
John Barrowman was a super-friendly and very funny guy…he even grabbed Kristan’s butt during their photo-op! Of course the lame photographer didn’t zoom out enough to capture it but trust me that’s where his right hand is:
She loved it! She also loved Norman Reedus:
I wasn’t there to see it but my Wife reports that Norman kind of hit on her (Kristan that is) during the photo-op and seriously checked out her butt as she walked away afterward. See a trend here? 🙂
We also managed (among the line chaos) to attend John Barrowman’s panel. It was pretty great…very entertaining. Since Kristan had a John Barrowman VIP pass she sat in the very front row and got some good pics and video with her iPhone. Here are some of the pictures from his wildly animated Q & A:
In this first clip John has some fun with a guy in a Thor costume and BLASTS the FandomFest management team over the terrible lack of planning and organization MUCH to the audience’s delight!
And in this one he does the “Only one on the Train” song and talks about a great scene from “Children of Earth”:
We had some good times. Hopefully next year they will have things a bit more together so we won’t have to go through so much hell just to get into a room!