This was my 15th Mid-Ohio Con. Since I had such a great time at the '09 and '10 shows, I was concerned about what effect being bought by Wizard World would have on this home grown con. The trepidation started early, when I saw they were about doubling the prices for both convention goers, vendors and artists. At double the price, would it be double the fun. I had doubts.
First, the convention had moved within the Greater Columbus Convention Center from Exhibit Hall E to the smaller Battelle Grand ballroom. It seemed a strange choice for a con that promoted itself as being bigger and better than ever. While the Battelle is newly renovated, the con seemed very congested. Much time was spent just trying to make my way through bottlenecks. The Battelle has two floors and I'd heard a rumor that Wizard World had failed to sell out the upper floor, so then squeezed what they did sell into the main hall.
Aside from prices, the main fear about Wizard World taking over was that a comic book-centric show would now become a celebrity-centric show, the reputation that has been cultivated by Wizard World. True to form, the big guests were so-called media guests, that is, stars of TV and movies. Adam West and Burt Ward (Batman & Robin) were the marquee names, as well as Walter Koenig (Mr. Chekov), Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers) and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian).
I was interested in meeting Williams, having met several other Star Wars actors at previous conventions. He did a Q&A session, showing himself to be as smooth and cool as his characters and Colt 45. A word about the programming. First of all, there was only one slate of programming. Previous shows have had two or three different programs running simultaneously. Second, to accomodate this programming was a smallish room that only seated 160 people. Now, if you are expecting, nay trumpeting, thousands of attendees, you should have a larger room for fans to interact with the guests you've sold them tickets to come see. I was part of a standing-room-only crowd for Williams. I didn't even attempt the chaos that was West and Ward's panel. And as I left the con I looked at the future disappointees waiting in a long, long line to see the costume contest.
Back to Williams. Ok, so when these celebrities do a show, it's a moneymaker for them. They sell photos, books, memorabilia, etc., but especially autographs. It's expected, and if you check Ebay you'll see that their signatures do have a street value. To me, it's always been a trade off. You get to meet them, you get something from them (a signed 8x10 glossy), you can snap your picture with them. You get a story out of it. "Hey, look at me, I met Lando Calrissian." Ok, it's nonsense, in a way, but fun nonsense. Saturday is when I learned about the odious practice of the Photo-Op. Mr. Williams signed my poster (a reproduction of a French poster for his 1974 B-movie "The Take"). I thanked him and said, "Can I get a quick photo with you?" "I'm sorry, I can't," he said. "He's under contract," his assistant told me. So, here's how it works. Wizard World (and maybe other conventions, it's new to me) have divorced the autograph and photo into two separate money-making schemes. To get a picture with the celebrity guest, you sign up for a Photo-Op. Billy Dee, let's say, was signing autographs from 1-3, but then doing Photo Ops from 3-4. What's the price for this photo? Why, the same as an autograph, if not more. So, let's say the celebrity charges $30 to sign something. Then you want your picture with said celebrity. Now you're in for $60. Adam West and Burt Ward charge a combined $100 for their autographs, and then an additional $125 for photos with the not-so dynamic duo. I may be a crier in emptiness, Wizard World, but you got your last celebrity autograph money out of this sucker.
Now back to comics, because they were there, as well as several artists/writers I wanted to meet or see again. This is Ron Frenz signing a copy of a Thor comic he drew. I've never been a Thor reader or much of a Frenz enthusiast, but he's always done a solid, dependable job (pal Ted describes him as a J. Buscema/Kirby hybrid).
I challenged artist Chris Sprouse with another Caniff creation. Sprouse has previously taken on Steve Canyon and Dragon Lady. This time it was Miss Lace, complete with flowers in her hair. I also enjoyed revisiting artists Dave Aikens, Michael Golden, Tom Batiuk and having a nice chat with Gary Kwapisz. Gary is in the midst of bringing historically accurate comics to the masses with Civil War Adventures. Common pal Beau Smith missed the show due to health. Get well soon, amigo.
There were some surprises at the show, such as a bona fide tattoo artists doing actual tattoos. Talk about your impulse buys. I had a real friendly talk with the artist who drew this amazing piece of work. Traveling buddy Jerry Smith introduced me to the work of up and coming phenom John Tyler Christopher.
So, was it worth it? I think so. It's so close and I had a good time this year. A big thanks to my loving and amazing wife, who minded the fort and our wild kids while I went off on a selfish Quixote excursion. I didn't have twice the good time of previous years, but enough to bring me back. Especially if these gals go again (just kidding, honey!!)