Welcome back, dear readers, to part two of our epic journey through the Nerd Kingdom that was Fan Expo 2009 this past weekend at the Toronto Metro Convention Center. If you missed it, check out part one here.
To recap: I spent the weekend in the press room of the Convention Center, running home base for Brent and Adam of Two Assholes Talking About Nerd Stuff as they put together their Fan Expo podcast. They ran around getting interviews and generally having a good time; I watched the gear and took care of associated issues. But in the interest of getting a fresh perspective on con-going (since I’ve never been to one) they did let me out now and again. The following is a description of our interactions with con people.
GIRL TREK 2009
As I mentioned before, Adam and Brent had me on the show partly because they wanted to give their listeners a newbie’s opinions on convention life. One of my myriad contributions was a segment called “Alex talks to attractive con girls” – contrary to my previous statements, there were actually a ton of really good-looking people in full costume at this year’s con.
Now, I went into this operating from a real-world perspective when it comes to talking to random pretty girls – that is to say, I’m just as likely to get screamed at and/or spit on by hot chicks if I try to start a conversation, because despite the fact that women dressed provocatively are probably looking for attention, they’re much more likely to be trying to attract the notice of the tall, dark and handsome guy with the Platinum card standing beside me, rather than the unwelcome advances of a scruffy roadie like me.
Adam made a good point, though – realistically, Fan Expo is like Halloween. People don’t dress up like their favourite anime or comic character because they want to be ignored. Quite the opposite – they do it for attention, and within this paradigm (he said) I was analogous to the guy with the platinum card. I didn’t look like our unfortunate nerd stereotype mentioned in the last post, and more to the point, I had a press pass which meant I was Someone Important. Or at least I could pretend to be. So I ran with it.
I guess I talked to half a dozen different con girls, all of whom ranked highly on my personal rating scale, but since I’m still a bit of a shy guy (believe it or not) I decided to couch my interactions with a pointed question based, unsurprisingly, on this blog — that way, I didn’t come off like I was trying to hit on them (because I promise I wasn’t). It basically went like this.
“Hi, I’m Alex James. I’m here at the con with Two Assholes Talking About Nerd Stuff, but I also represent a blog called State of Affairs. This is my first convention experience, so in the interest of informing my readers through a fresh set of eyes, I wanted to ask you a few questions. First, who are you dressed as? (This one was particularly important, because I rarely had any idea what they were supposed to be) Second, how are you enjoying Fan Expo this year? And third, can you give my readers any tips on how attractive women like yourself avoid the awkward advances of creepy fanboys?”
Now I’ve described the physical attributes of creepy fanboys already, but there’s something to be said for their less-than-stellar social attributes as well.
The fanboy is often totally socially inept, unable to carry on average conversation with most of the populace. He is often possessed of one or more speech impediments, a scathing case of halitosis, and body odor that could strip the paint from your wall. He will stand uncomfortably close to you, the attractive female congoer, breathing heavily and sweating profusely. The best-case scenario involves him quizzing you on Star Trek trivia or your taste in manga comics, all the while showing off his somewhat-impressive-but-also-disturbing expertise in his chosen subject. The worst-case scenario involves him waddling off to change his pants after several seconds of awkward conversation leads invariably to him firing a warning shot in his Superman undies.
With the prevalence of these unsavory characters at this event, I figured one or more of my beautiful, often scantily-clad female interview subjects would have come in contact with at least one of these social aberrations sooner or later. Of course, I was correct.
Generally, the responses I received ranged from “back slowly away, don’t make eye contact, and bolt for the door” to “nod, smile and then tell him your friends are leaving”. But my absolute favorite was this girl, who told me “the best way to avoid getting hit on my creepy fanboys is to bring one with you!” at which point she produced what I can only assume was her boyfriend, pictured here as well.
Each woman I spoke to seemed genuinely agreeable to me, chatting pleasantly with no hint of that “god, I do not want to talk to this asshole” vibe to which I’ve become accustomed. Of course, this leveled up my ego and self-worth in a big way, until I remembered I was being compared to Carl Wigglesworth the Third, known sometimes as “bLaDeMaSteR_ShAdOw” on Ain’t It Cool News forums, and also as Dungeon Master Thal’Goth in his mother’s basement. Considering one’s competition is a good way to keep one real.
Man, it is hard to avoid making jokes about these people. I feel like a bully.
(Editor’s Note: the reason it’s so hard is twofold. a) A lot of them, like the guy who recognized Adam by voice in the middle of a particularly crowded area of the con, tend to bring it on themselves. b) I sort of, kind of used to be one of those people. But I’d never admit it in daylight.)
Adam and Brent made good on their promise to their listeners that this year’s Fan Expo episode would be one for the ages. While I loitered in the press room, overhearing interesting conversations (more on that in Part III) they were out scouring the con for cool people to talk to. As I’ve said many times before, Brent is a pop-culture guru, and he knows at least somebody in pretty much every nerd-related field. His contacts from his years of research scored the Assholes an interview on Friday with Joe Quesada, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics;
and contact with the Anchor Bay people who tried their damndest to get them an interview with Thomas Dekker, known to sci-fi fans as the guy who played John Connor in the short-lived TV series “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about these interviews here, because their podcast episode will be up in a couple of days and you should really listen to that, but suffice to say Joe Quesada is too polite to say “asshole” into a microphone, Max Brooks is hilarious, and Thomas Dekker is a bigger asshole than the guys running the show – to the point where Adam started referring to him as “Rear Admiral Dekker” (for reasons that should be somewhat plain).
On the last day, once I’d packed away our gear, we went for a stroll through the main floor of the con, where the boys were lucky enough to score a few more interviews – since I was at least present for these I can talk about them a bit.
Easily my favourite was the ten minutes we spent with Stacey P. Case, Commissioner of the Pillow Fight League. Now, I’ve written extensively in the past about the PFL, so if you want the background, go check that article out. Stacey and a few of the girls, including my sometime-crush P.H. Demon (if you’re reading this Demon, email me!), had set up a booth to promote the upcoming fights, and the Commish was kind enough to take a few minutes to chat with the boys. If by “chat” I mean “take the mic away and talk for ten minutes”. Which I do.
Stacey is a guy for whom the boundaries between reality and fiction don’t really apply. His personality fluctuates between that of a savvy entrepreneur explaining business tactics, and his over-the-top “bad guy” Commissioner persona. Oh, and he’s tall as a goddamn tree – that, I was not expecting. Monstrous size apart, Case was fun and informative, and you should definitely check out the interview.
Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it, PFL Fighters P.H. Demon and Charlie Davidson gave Adam and Brent a taste of what they do in the ring. Apparently those pillows are a hell of a lot firmer than they appear.
The boys also spoke with a fellow calling himself Skull Man, and his sidekick – the aptly-named Jason Argonaut.
These two run an event called Box Wars, which is more-or-less exactly what it sounds like. The idea is to build a suit of armor and an array of medieval weapons out of cardboard, and then take part in epic, Lord Of The Rings-style free-for-all battles against other, similarly-outfitted warriors. The goal is to destroy your opponent’s breastplate – last man (or woman) standing wins. I saw some DVD footage. It’s unreal. Here, take a look for yourself.
I want to do this. So very, very much.
Oh, and this is Skull Man and Jason Argonaut. The jawbone on Skull Man’s mask moves when he talks. It’s disturbing – and awesome.
Finally, on our way out the door, we caught up with the stars of “Rock Paper Scissors: The Way of the Tosser”, an indy film about the very real International Rock-Paper-Scissors competition.
I had no idea the competition existed, let alone the movie, but the stars/directors/writers Tim Doiron and April Mullen were absolute balls of light bouncing all over the con. They came dressed as their characters from the film, and only rarely broke character to talk to the press (like us). Cool people. I have yet to see the movie, but when I do I’ll be sure to write a review, just because Tim and April were so gosh-darn cute.
I’ll be honest – when Brent and Adam said they were going to interview all these people at the convention, I was a little bit dubious they would actually get what they wanted. All I’ve ever heard about interviewing celebrities, especially when you’re not a member of the mainstream press, have been horror stories detailing rampant prima-donna demands and spoiled brat behaviour on the part of the interviewees, and although I hoped for the Assholes’ sake their interviews went well, I wasn’t holding my breath. Turns out I was pleasantly surprised. With the exception of Rear Admiral Dekker, everyone the boys talked to were really cool, and once again I would urge you to check out the podcast interviews just as soon as Adam has them up. I’ll let you know.
Join us tomorrow for the final chapter of Alex Gets His Con On!