Monday, April 8, 2013

Geek Road Trip 2: KC Planet Comicon

 So, this past weekend the whole family road-tripped down to Kansas City for Planet Comicon. We made this trip last year, and within the parameters of travelling with a five-year-old and an 18-month old, it was pretty successful. Since this year's convention promised to be bigger and better, with even more must-see sci-fi guests, we decided to make the journey again.

  KC is about three hours from home, which is a long time to be trapped in a car with a cranky two-year-old and a bored almost-seven-year-old, so this year DH found a deal on an in-car DVD player. I'd been against this in the past, since a.) it's expensive and b.) we didn't have this stuff growing up and managed to survive just fine. (And we only had four TV channels. And we had to walk to the set and turn a knob to change channels. And if you missed a show, too bad, there was no finding it online or On Demand. But I digress.)

 I must say, though, it worked quite well; there was no poking, teasing or whining from the backseat, they were both engrossed in "Monsters Inc." and "The Backyardigans." Unfortunate side-effect: they didn't fall asleep in the car like usual, which means they were still awake when we got to the hotel at 10 p.m. - and so keyed up, they didn't fall asleep until 11:30, pretty much negating our attempt at going down the night before the con so we could be well-rested in the morning.

 Planet Comicon has grown by leaps and bounds. Even though they moved this year to a much bigger facility, it was still wall-to-wall people - not a surprise with the number of excellent guests they booked. Parking was atrocious, there was nowhere near enough nearby parking lots or garages. (Can't blame Comicon for that, that would be KC's planning department, who decided to build a massive convention center in an area of inadequate parking.) The lines to buy tickets were unbelievably long, but Comicon staff were there with signs and directions, keeping things semi-organized and pathways open. The lines moved faster than I expected, but next year, we're buying advance tickets - the will-call line was waaaay shorter!

 Once again, concessions available were inadequate and overpriced. There were only two concession stands, plus a couple of snack vendors and some vending machines. The line for the Quiznos stand was about an hour long all day - it never seemed to get shorter! I would expect concession workers to be better prepared for the expected crowds - I'm guessing attendance at about 2000 - and I hope they're able to streamline their operation for next year.

The staff, both convention center employees and Comicon volunteers, were polite and helpful, giving directions to the lost, organizing autograph lines, etc. The celebrity guests we encountered seemed to be having a great time, which means staff must have been taking good care of them!

We didn't get to see all the guests - Comicon doesn't have a lot for young children, which made for an easily-bored boy, and the two-year old can only be confined to a stroller for so long - but we managed to get to our first priorities. I got to see Wil Wheaton's panel - the first half was just him talking about himself and his life. He's an ubergeek, and a very funny and witty guy. During the Q and A he answered questions about everything from Star Trek to Big Bang Theory, and he has a great touch with the littlest fans, taking kids' questions just as seriously as ones from adults.
Wil Wheaton, wearing a fan-made Doctor Who scarf

I also got to see half of George Takei's panel (while the little girl napped in the stroller), and he is by far my favorite original Star Trek cast member to see at a convention. He's had such an interesting life, Star Trek is just a small part of what he has to say. Right now, he has a musical, "Allegiance," which premiered in San Diego and will be moving to Broadway soon. It's (loosely) based on his own past in a Japanese internment camp as a child during WW II. He's a fascinating speaker, with that wonderful, mellow voice, and the crowd loved it when he let loose his signature "Oh, my!"

George Takei

Our must-get autographs this year were George Takei and Lee Meriwether for DH, and Ray Park for me. Lee Meriwether (Catwoman in the Adam West Batman movie) didn't have the longest line, but it was definitely the slowest-moving line. I didn't hear much grumbling though, since the reason it was so slow is because she spent time talking and taking pictures with everyone who came through - a classy lady who seemed to genuinely enjoy meeting her fans.
Me, Lee Meriwether and DH (kids were uncooperative for photos)
DH's photo collage, signed by George Takei & Lee Meriwether

George Takei, on the other hand, had the fastest line, but he's been doing this long enough to have it down to a science. He had four helpers, plus con staff, to keep everyone moving and orderly, and still have a couple of minutes of personal chat while signing.

My best con moment was my Ray Park autograph. While waiting in Lee Meriwether's line a little after 3 p.m., I realized we were right in front of Ray Park's table - he wasn't there (probably getting a bite to eat before his panel at four) but the staffer said he'd be back at five. And there were already seven people waiting in his line!
Not having anything else to do at the moment, and figuring one line was as good as another, I took the little girl in the stroller and got in Ray Park's line, leaving DH and the boy to stand in Lee Meriwether's line. I didn't really expect to be able to wait there from 3:30 until 5, (Fruit Ninja and Star Wars Angry Birds on the iPad can only keep a two-year-old entertained for so long) but I figured it was worth a try. It was my lucky day, because Ray Park came back by about 3:45, saw there were people already waiting for him, and decided to do a little unscheduled signing before his 4 p.m. panel. I got my 12" Darth Maul figure signed just before he had to leave for his panel - and he said he liked my T-shirt! Squeee!  

So overall, an exhausting, but entertaining weekend. Here's some extra pix of some of my favorite cosplayers.


Beast (from X-Men)

Day and night Princess Fionas (the boy was literally struck dumb by these, but too shy to pose for pix with them)

She-Hulk, from the Fantastic 4 era

The best Logan (aka Wolverine) I've ever seen

Hawkwoman - those wings are real feathers, can't imagine how long it took to make

Look close, Batman from Batman Beyond is watching. Kinda creepy, huh?