The small town I live in on the east of Ireland has the population roughly of a New Jersey Gas Station at 3am on a Sunday morning; I know this because I've seen every Kevin Smith movie 37 times. So It’s no real surprise that my country isn’t really capable of sustaining a Comic-Con on the grand scale of American Conventions.
The first “Convention” I ever went to was called “Heroes & Legends” in 2012. It was held in an exhibition centre in Belfast. I say exhibition centre, it was held in... and I shit you not... The corridor of an exhibition centre. Zero merchandise vendors, a couple of prop displays and if I remember correctly just two local artists.
Michael Biehn (Terminator) was there, Claudia Christian & Patrica Tallman (Babylon 5), Colin Baker (Doctor Who) and about 11 members of the public. It goes without saying this convention wasn't exactly a genre defining moment, but for a relative back water like Belfast we have to give the organizers credit for a pretty decent celebrity guest line up.
Now...bear in mind this was my first ever convention. I had no idea how it worked so I had about £25 ($40 dollars) in my wallet and my poor non-complaining wife went along with me for moral support.
So I wander over to Colin Baker, I’m a Doctor Who Fan and I saw he selling photos so was happy to buy one. He was lovely, signed it for me for £10 and that was O.K.
I then strolled over to Babylon 5’s Claudia Christian. Now I LOVED Babylon 5. There was a point in time where you either loved Babylon 5 or Star Trek:Deep Space Nine and I was firmly aboard Babylon 5 in the battle of the Space Stations.
Claudia Christian was first at the table, I get real nervous speaking to celebrities but I managed to whisper “can I have an autograph please” thinking I could just get her to sign a bit of paper (I’m dying inside even typing this.) Before I could stop her she lifted a glossy photograph, signed it and held it out to me with a sweet smile on her face saying “£15 Please” so I have no choice but to hand it over.
That’s my £25.00 gone.
The beautiful Patricia Tallman who played telepath Lyta Alexander in B5 see’s this all go down, and like a great white shark smelled blood in the water.
“Would you like my autograph”
In my head:
“You’ve no money left.”
THIRTY seconds have gone by at this stage.
“SAY SOMETHING TO THIS BEAUTIFUL WOMAN WHO PLAYS YOUR FAVOURITE CHARACTER IN ONE OF YOUR FAVOURITE T.V. SHOWS.”
“No thanks, you’re all right!”
The look of absolute puzzlement and what appeared to be actual hurt on her face will go with me to my grave. I couldn’t have just said I’d run out of money, instead I insulted this poor woman to within an inch of her life.
Wasn’t even the most embarrassing thing that happened that day.
As I mentioned before I get really embarrassed with celebrities. After what happened with Patricia Tallman I just wanted to leave, but my wife said, “You really love Michael Biehn, here’s £25 go and get an autograph from him.”
I couldn’t face it with Babylon Five’s hottest telepath still firing me dirty looks – remember there were 11 people in this corridor, I couldn’t escape her. So I asked my wife if she’d go instead. I just stood in the middle staring anywhere but at Patricia Tallman.
Mel wanders over, fearless because she wouldn’t know Michael Biehn from Michael Jackson and asks him to sign a pic.
“Who should I make it out to?” Michael Biehn asks in his amazing American Marlborough Man drawl.
“Stevie Please” My wife says.
“Your name isn’t Stevie , Where is he?”
Mel points at me in the middle of this corridor.
“HEY STEVVVVVVIEEEE COME ‘ERE “ Kyle fucking Reese shouts at me from 12 feet away.”...So like a condemned man, walking the green mile to my execution I walk towards the table. All the time feeling Patrica Tallman’s rage wash over me like a tidal wave of hate.
Then Corporal Hicks from Aliens signs an autograph to me, after realising I existed.
I was hooked.
From that moment on I’ve gone to every single convention I can get to.
The standard here in Ireland is terrible to be honest. You occasionally will get a Lord of the Rings hobbit, maybe a minor Star Wars character among a sea of third Storm Troopers from the left or the guy that made Darth Vader a sandwich on set in 1978. We just can’t draw the big guns. Game of Thrones was filmed here and even then during 8 odd years of production legitimately one of the guests at “Titan Con” an entirely Game Of Thrones based convention was a woman who designed the drapes on set.
So my dream is to attend an honest to god, proper, American Comic-con.
I knew nothing about it and after Heroes and Legends I thought that if I just saved up and next year came around I could just jump on a plane to San Diego, stroll down the plane steps and just saunter into the Convention Centre.
I didn’t realise that in order to attend San Diego you need to first be born on a full moon, to the seventh son of a seventh son, who then pulls the magic sword out of the stone, to enter the draw, to enter the draw, to enter the draw to apply to the mailing list, to enter the draw to pay one million pounds for tickets. I exaggerate but not by much. I have come to terms that even before Covid-19 it’s something that is way out of my league. That amount of admin just isn’t in me.
But just once I want to go into a hall heaving with fellow nerds and meet honest to god big guns of comics that only go to conventions in America. I’m a huge Garth Ennis fan and he’s from my home town, but unless I go to the USA for a big show - I’m never going to meet him. Neal Adams, George Perez, Chris Claremont all these guys and a thousand others I’d claw my right eye out to meet.
I want to leave my comic book into a CGC same day booth and get that plastic crack back later that afternoon. At the minute it takes around six months for me to get a CGC back from verification. I’d probably get one quicker if I went to America and killed the guy from CGC and waited for my trial - at least I’d get to see the book in court. I'm only kidding...right?
One day, I don’t know when or which once but that dream will come true and I’ll get to visit the artist alley of my dreams.
At the very least I want to walk into a comic convention in the States sidle up to Patricia Tallman and pay the poor woman for an autograph.
For more information on San Diego Comic-Con visit their website comic-con.org
If you are reading this Patrica I hope you can forgive me...