Monday, March 14, 2011

A Minion Discloses Comicon Secrets

Emerald City Comicon 2011
March 4-6, 2011

A story in which our hero spends much more time doing something than originally intended, includes a fist bump from Wil Wheaton for paying up money owed in quarters, gets a new nickname from a Buffy star, gets to see TJ Hooker in person, brings his Overlord cupcakes, and we find out that sometimes parking downtown is actually cheaper than the bus.

I have gone to various comicons in the past, most of them not having the scope that ECCC has grown to. A few years ago I started being a regular attendee at the ECCC and kind of wanted one of the red shirts that the workers of the con had. A few months ago now I saw a call for volunteers to be a MINION for the con and that it would include perks like being able to attend the con in exchange for time served. For whatever reason, I went ahead and clicked the button, filled out the form, and was successfully through the screening program and invited to give my blood, sweat, and tears. Cupcakes were mentioned. Fast forward to a couple weeks before the con and a meeting was held for potential minions, in which great attendance actually occurred, department heads were met with, and it became apparent that I might need to alter the original time I would serve and found myself agreeing to extra hours. Given that it appeared the con was actually well organized, I felt comfortable doing this.

My Friday was not nearly as open as I had hoped. So, I felt better about the Saturday hours. I would still have a lot of attendee time. But, my Friday availability continued to shrink in advance of the event so plans needed to be made. On Thursday eve I went to a place we shall code name Albertson's and picked up some most excellent peace offerings known as Hostess Cupcakes.

I was able to get to the con by 4:30 on Friday, much later than originally hoped for, but with cupcakes in hand as I entered 307 I hoped all would be well. Upon entering I was provided with my excellent green MINION tee shirt and whisked immediately up on to the show room floor to assist with Artist's Alley. The con was much busier on Friday than I really think anyone expected and Minions were tiring.

For the next four hours as the con wore down for the day and while artists were closing shop for the night I minioned my area. It was a great chance to help really hot women find artists their boyfriends liked in order to get something signed as a gift (actually happened). As I minioned Artist's Alley questions were asked of me, answers were sought, lines were wrangled, and much friendly banter occurred. Mark Waid actually used the sentence, "Excellent minioning" at one point. The creators whose work has found its way on to the silver screen or idiot box have a rather higher level of volume. I passed along a message to Phil Foglio that a buddy of mine would not be able to attend and he did a little drawing for me to give to him. When in my life would I ever be able to say that I did Marv Wolfman a favor? Also, I was able to scout the area out for when I would be an attendee and know where certain artists were. Friday gave me a good vibe and I had only been there four hours.

Sidebar 1: “To minion” is now a verb and I do not think that it was prior to being used as such at ECCC. I feel privileged to have been a part of something that adds to the English language in such a way. The green shirts we wore turned out to be kind of a special thing. I heard stories of people being offered things in exchange for their green MINION shirts. A few minions I saw got all sorts of autographs on theirs. Winning!

With sheer luck I managed to get back to the magical minion lair of 307 and grab my stuff in time to scurry to the big auditorium and catch the beginning of the Buffy Singalong. It is with great confidence that I state that the Buffy musical has the potential to become the Rocky Horror of our time. Plus, on Saturday morn I got to hear a Fellow Minion utter the sentence, "I haven't been to Rocky Horror since I was three," and realize that she wasn't joking. In addition, I scored a Buffy Sings, "Pump Me For Information" button that I wore with my minion badge for the rest of the con, including when I was standing later at the Spike table on Sunday. Nice.

Sidebar 2: I paid $3.66 to park downtown on Friday night. I only had to pay til six, but on Saturday I paid $4.50 round trip to take the bus in from the park and ride, and on Sunday parking was free and I scored a spot just off Pike a block from the con. So ... the lesson learned was that it was actually more cost effective for me to not take public transportation two of the three days. Public Transportation Funding Fail.

Despite having my boots in the car and Knut Bell playing the Hen all weekend I was already a bit tired. It was the 6th day of my work week and I had volunteered to be back at the con at seven. I am not a morning person in ANY sense of the word. It made sense to volunteer more hours in a way that would still allow for as much attendee time as possible so I did it.

I managed to get to the park and ride on time and get to the con by seven, which is something from where I am sitting. When I arrived I was promptly asked to assist with line wrangling those really enthusiastic convention attendee souls in line before the gates were open to get an early spot for the Priceline Negotiator guy. The convention center staff was kind of freaked by just how many people were there early, but they were in public space and it was before con hours. However, due to the excellent minioning done by a group early arriving minions those in line were herded to a good enough to stop the convention center staff from continuing to freak out sort of order. Eventually, a suit arrived and we were able to split the ticket holding group and the ticket buying group up and those who got in line did not get screwed over by losing their well earned front spots in line. This easily could have been a disaster, it wasn't. The convention center suit seemed impressed with our minion line wrangling abilities and those early attendees ended up well treated.

Once we got people in through the con doors, my task changed to that of the media lines, where I was magically transported to the same place all those early arrivals were. I was not a doppelganger of the guy up stairs ...

The Media guests used to be on the show floor, but the decision was made to move the location this year. I think that this turned out for the best, as it freed up a lot of show floor space and allowed the con to keep better order of an area as potentially crazy as the Media area will get. I was thankful that I ended up NOT in the area for The Shat, even though from all accounts it went very well. It looked like an absolute cluster#*(% on that side of the room. I was down with the TNG guys and it was busy enough. I had the Brent Spiner line and worked mostly with a guy name Mike that had a good handle on what we needed to do. The guys were good sports about candid photos, but that was in part because minions managed to convey the message that flashes were a no-no by repeating said instructions over and over and over again ... that part actually kind of got old. But, back in 02 at the Winter Olympics I was up at the Luge track and they actually had volunteers going along and giving people blue masking tape to cover their flashes. We did not go that far, but flashes could potentially blind and kill the athletes, in this instance it would just put TV actors into Diva mode if it got out of hand.

Sidebar 3: There was this guy in line for Spiner with this pretty comicon cool Captain America hoody that actually had a mask as the hood that fit over his eyes and had an A on the forehead and little wings on it. The existence of this hoody had his wife utterly horrified to be in its presence. My comment to him led him to show me the hood and had her recoiling in horror. However, when I pointed out how many people seemed to like it in line, including those suddenly taking his picture (leading to more reminders to turn off flashes) she had to finally accept that if there was one place, one time, and one audience where it might be okay to wear this item, it was at ECCC amongst his people. She seemed visibly relieved. He will never be allowed to wear it again, but for one moment it worked out for him. This is just one of the many services I provide.

Spiner was near Frakes and Wil Wheaton. In fact, the curtain between them had apparently been taken down by Frakes, who seemed to relish his role as MC for that side of the room, even going so far as to offer to sign anything William Shatner for five bucks. Spiner was a very nice man, polite to guests, and said thank you to Mike and I when he went on break. His handler helped us out with the volume he could do in a certain time period and it allowed us to cut his line off so he could get to his panel and photo op on time without leaving a group of people waiting for no reason. This was nice. I was near the Fringe people and TRON but I really didn’t get much of a chance to see what was going on over there given how steady our area was.

Sidebar 4: I recently downloaded a short story by Wil Wheaton titled "Hunter". Go ahead and google it really quick. Good. Anyways, it was kind of a pay what you want download. It appeared a couple bucks was the average and so I downloaded it for my Kobo. However, Paypal and I are not the best of friends so I had decided a couple weeks before con when I downloaded it that I would print out a hard copy, have him sign it, and then give him the two bucks in cash. A good plan. Due to lines and hours and my sudden desire to keep minioning, it became apparent that I would likely not get in the Wheaton line and accomplish this task. In both 09 and 10 I got his autograph and picture, including having him sign my VHS copy of Flubber last year (an apparent first for him, go ahead and look it up on IMDB, he plays a surly college kid son of the dean basketball player). Soooooo .... when Wil stepped out front of his table at one point, I slid over quickly and set the two bucks in coin in my pocket onto his table and informed his staffer very quickly of why. Wil was sneaking behind me to get back to the safer side of the table and apparently overheard my explanation, uttered the phrase, “In quarters!” whilst pocketing said quarters, and offered up a fist bump. A good story in lieu of an autograph? Win, I say.

It was 1pm on Saturday and off I went on my autograph seeking rounds. ECCC is a comic book based event after all ... I had put in my shift on Friday, added the hours Saturday, and felt good about it. For the next two hours I briskly moved about Artist’s Alley, getting a number of items signed by Geoff Darrow, Kurt Busiek, JG Jones, Mark Waid, Marv Wolfman, and others, seriously nailing at least 75 percent of the stack I had brought. However, it was apparent that there was more minioning left in me and so I posed the offer that if they needed me I would be back to help. Offer accepted, and at 3ish I was upstairs helping out with clearing out the big auditorium of TNG fans in order to fill it with Buffy fans. It was in my own self interest to do this, as I had planned to go to the Buffy and Boston Legal panels anyways. As such, I was in the room and able to reasonably follow along from near the stage and off to one side. Double win.

About half way through Captain Kirk’s panel it was requested by a Fellow Minion (something I will never tire of saying) to help get the line together for the screening of Browncoats to follow the Shatner panel. Since I had been able to enjoy a bunch of it I didn’t feel put out and headed over to get a surprisingly large number of people ready.

Sidebar 5: Fan films are a catch-22. Even at their best there is always a certain amount of hesitation I have watching them. Fortunately, Browncoats: Redemption is at the far upper end of the fan film phenomena. Once we got people in I was off minioning duty again and went and sat in, asked a question during the Q & A scoring a Jones Soda, and brought home a DVD.

It was 7pm and I was tired. 12 hours at the con, 8 working and 4 playing, had made for the good kind of tired. So, as I got back to my car at the park and ride I looked longingly at my cowboy boots and drove home instead of heading to where the cowgirls needed me as a dance lead, choosing to not be even more tired for Sunday. See, as I left I agreed to come in early on Sunday to help out again with the early birds. That, and I completely spaced the panel and movie from the guy on The Office.

It was 8am on Sunday and I had just scored a sweet free parking spot. Quickly we went back out and found the same exact four guys in the front of the line from yesterday already in the place where they ended up the morning before. There is a weird phenomena about lines, in that once they start, most people notice them and get in them. The convention center staff was very relieved that this was occurring and later as people filled in the much shorter than Saturday line things went very smoothly. No reason to reinvent the wheel every day. The same suit came over, the same process was followed, and the same result worked out well for everyone. Winning!

At ten I was an attendee again for a while, trying to finish off my autograph pile. Other than one writer who made an early exit I managed to complete basically the pile I brought in the 10 to 1130 stretch and the 230 to 330 stretch I was out getting things signed. At 1130 I went back to Media and worked the Brainiac table with Roy and Marlowe next line over with Xander. Given that these were sort of long shifts and in a group of people things can get warm I had been wearing a black bandana and my large martial arts wrist bands with my awesome green MINION tee shirt. Marsters and his people called me “Pirate Guy” to get my attention. I accepted the nickname in the spirit in which it was given and no one other than them will ever get away with it. Just saying. Spike has a very enthusiastic female following. I asked him at one point if all these women ever got old and he gave me a sly smile and no freaking way nod. Cool guy.

Sidebar 6: The woman who played Glory (Clare Kramer) was also near by and I had always thought she was a pretty lady, but in person … smo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-king hot. So, when she asked if I would mind standing near her table to keep an eye on it when she took a break the answer was of course that I would do anything she asked. I think I managed to just say something like, “Of course,” but you never know.

I was finished down in media again. Someone asked me when I was off and I got to say the classic phrase, "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" But, I said it in a fun way. It was actually better minioning than simply attending. It was stated once that the more we minioned the more we would want to, and that actually happened. There was another hour where I was able to get a few items purchased and signed and I returned to 307 to hang out and see if anything else was needed.

307 turned out to be a very cool place to be when not actually minioning or attending; we swapped war stories, told each other funny things, ate the donuts that magically appeared, and just hung out in the presence of new people that shared common interests. This may come across as overly sentimental, but hanging out and getting to know the other green shirts and black shirted staff members like Carly, Johnny, and Rose went a long way towards me working the extra hours I ended up choosing to work.

Sidebar 7: It is always good to run into people you know in large crowds. There were several friendly faces there including Paige at her Corner Comics booth.

Sunday night I was home and exhausted in the good sort of way. Some of my friends probably got sick of all my FB posts from the con, but so be it. Given that for some of them my being out of the closet about comicons and geekdom, maybe it gives them permission to admit to theirs. I think a few of them might end up as Fellow Minions in the future.

This is actually the second attempt at this post, as last week I spent several hours typing and saving only to have Blogger delete it. Their customer service would improve if they actually had any.