At the risk of seeming overtly cliché, it was both a glad time and a sad time. I always enjoy these Cons tremendously, but a little darkness lay ahead this day.
Seconds after entering the Tampa Comic Con's outer perimeter, Terence Nuzum and I were both handed a "program" by a Con associate. I barely glanced at the paper, figuring it was something I could refer to later. Terence suddenly exclaimed, "Uhh...did you see this?!" I said, "See what?" He pointed to the program.
On the paper was an announcement that convention owner/promoter Tim Gordon had done much "soul-searching" and had decided after much thought to continue the convention series another year (very cryptic, that). The big change, though, was venue. After 6 years at the DoubleTree Inn, the Con is moving to Largo, FL, specifically, the Honeywell Min-Reg building at 6340 126th Ave. North. It would be near I-275, have plenty of free parking, and feature an inexpensive snack bar. All fine and well, but it puts the Con another 15 miles away from most of us, and I feared this would impact heavily how often I'd be able to personally attend.
Momentarily disoriented by this, I stumbled into the outer dealers area, and was shocked at how unpopulated it was, both in dealers and attendees. This was more like what you'd see close to 5:00pm pack-up time, not at noon where it's always been shoulder to shoulder (particularly August's show, which was a madhouse).
Tim himself showed up moments later (I'd already sent for him to approve our press passes --- the confused girl at the front desk was not our regular --- but after waiting several minutes we went ahead and paid to get into the show anyway. At $5 a pop, that's certainly no big deal). I asked Tim what the mysterious message on the program was all about and he told me in extremely carefully chosen words that the DoubleTree was under new management and they couldn't come to terms over their, well, new terms. Basically, the Comic Con was not regarded as profitable or prestigious enough or something and Tim and company were encouraged to find new digs. He was reluctant to discuss the matter further, so I dropped the subject, but the encounter was disturbing. I'm happy to report, though, that Tim's health is good, even robust. After that scare from a couple years ago, I always ask.
Focusing back on the event at hand, I decided to set aside brooding for some other time; there was a convention to enjoy!
At first (and for the first time ever) I didn't see horror/fantasy author Andrea Dean Von Scoyoc (Michael, The Two) at her table, so went to see Glenda Finklestein first. Besides also being an author of excellent repute (Nemesis Rising, The Edge of the Universe), and a filmmaker (Perfect Copy), Glenda is promoting her new internet video show, Sci-Fi Times TV. Next to Glenda was actor Jeffrey Breslauer (Swamp Thing, The Muppets Take Manhattan), a really nice guy I always like to stop and chat with. Finally, Andrea arrived and we had a very nice reunion and Terence took our traditional DoubleTree portrait photo (see pics, below). Before leaving the outer artists area, we managed a momentary brush with Terence's high school buddy, indie comic artist Joe Leone, Jr. (Unlikely Heroes) just before he left the Con for an appointment elsewhere.
Moving into the main ballroom, we were soon joined by PCR staffers Chris Woods and John Miller and....holy crow, could it be...Andy Lalino?? Yes the estranged columnist for PCR (Oddservations) had decided to grace the DoubleTree with a personal appearance. Andy's been busy working on his latest film Brainjacked for several months and apparently is able to leave the house again (haha).
Not many comics celebrities were announced on the website as scheduled to appear (and no TV celebrities this time), but a few regulars managed to make it in like Pat Broderick, Alex Saviuk, and Fran Matera (who was selling pencil drawings for $2 each!).
Comics and DVD pickin's were slimmer than usual with the fewer number of dealers present, but there is always a lot to look through regardless. Terence, John, and Chris managed to find several DVDs to their liking, and I almost....almost...caved in to getting some Crumb underground comics from the '70s (such a closet stoner am I). But I already have a lot of those, and I hate getting expensive duplicates, so I lamented not making a list to bring to the Con (truth to tell, though, this is the first time I remember seeing these here).
One thing I was looking forward to investigating was "Live Wynkoop TV" a confabulation of former Creature Productions assistant Doug Vater and wildman-actor Joel D. Wynkoop. According to his website, VEFilms.com, Doug was going to be streaming live video from the Con to said website. An impressive accomplishment if it turned out to be true.
Arriving at Wynkoop's table, I saw Vater on the side with a locked-down camera attached to a laptop computer. The camera was pointed at Wynkoop, and, (with me looking over Doug's shoulder), seemed to indeed be streaming live video! While I congratulate them on this, I have to say, the result looked more web-cam-ish than anything that would send CNN packing. However, it was live and it was Wynkoop. So, anyone with a need to watch several hours of Joel Wynkoop at his table, live as it's happening, this was the stop for you! (In all fairness, I should point out that we were all invited to participate in live interviews after the show in the film room. Terence and I left, but I believe the others did go down there.)
Speaking of Creature Productions, I did run into John Lewis (head of C.P. and former PCR columnist for Creature's Corner). Daughter Ashley (Ashley's Hollywood), had, evidently, only stayed a short while before leaving with son Gavyn.
Our final ritual is a late lunch at Players Lounge, located right inside the DoubleTree. Unfortunately, the original has been closed and integrated into the bar area down the hall, so that bar is now the bar and lounge. (This, as was explained to us by our server, was due to cutbacks.) A new environment, but we made due. This fanboy/girl summit is always a worthy separate event all by itself!
As we enjoyed each others' company and discussed the happenings of the day, someone spotted actor Mike Christopher walk by the window. Unannounced as a convention guest, Mike was the "Hari Krishna" zombie in Dawn of the Dead and has been making the rounds at conventions lately. He came in and sat at the bar. We didn't let him leave, of course, without a fan assault, which he took in good stride, even posing for a couple pictures with us. A fitting ending to a weird/wonderful/sad/glad day.
THE DOUBLETREE COMIC CON, NOVEMBER 9, 2008. Click on images to enlarge. A new browser window will open. Besides the built-in magic of an event like this, check out the brighter-than-normal "spirit orbs" that inhabit many of these pictures!
Horror/fantasy author Glenda Finklestein and husband Tony are the first happy faces I see at the Con.
Actor Jeffrey Breslauer, right, graciously poses with yours truly.
At last! Delayed from appearing at her table earlier, goth/horror/mystery author, dark princess Andrea Dean Von Scoyoc and yours truly reprise our traditional DoubleTree portrait.
PCR's own Terence Nuzum, right, conspires with the Kingpin for control of crazed fandom.
Former PCR columnist, Andy Lalino (Oddservations), right, surprised us all with a visit. Chris Woods, left, and Andy are probably talking about Chris's Wynkoop T-shirt.
Terence and John Miller (ball cap) look over the wares of their favorite DVD dealer.
The number one indie film wildman himself, Tampa's own Joel D. Wynkoop, mans his table with typical ferocity as Cathy Wynkoop looks on. I can't beg, borrow, or steal that CREEP poster from Joel, though I've wanted it for years.
Yours truly, left, with Comic Con owner/promoter Tim Gordon, right. Tim is a terrific, kind and gentle individual who will have to move the Con to new digs after today (see story).
Former Creature Productions assistant Doug Vater has branched out with his own video business, VEFilms. Here, he mans the live internet video feed of Wynkoop TV.
With the video camera temporarily moved, we get a better view of the celebrity artist's area. Right in front is Fran Matera.
Indie comic artist Joe Leone, right, poses with his high school friend Terence Nuzum, left, seconds before he had to leave the Con.
Group portrait #1, taken in the hall just outside the Creature Film Fest, L-to-R: Doug Vater, Joel Wynkoop, Wanda Vater, Terence Nuzum, Nolan Canova, John Miller, Chris Woods, and Andy Lalino.
Just one sampling of the many comics dealers present at the Con.
This toy table attracted lots of fans looking for good deals on out-of-package toys.
A terrific shot of Marvel Comics legend Pat Broderick.
From the elevated platform where I was talking to Pat Broderick, I got a better over-view of the Con. Seated at lower right is comic artist Alex Saviuk.
Swinging my camera around to the left, I got the other "half" of the Con. Terence Nuzum and Joel Wynkoop are at lower left.
Nick Cuti, former writer for Warren Magazine Comics (Eerie, Creepy), at left, joins Creature Productions' John Lewis at John's table.
L-to-R, Nick Cuti, "Brittany", and John Lewis. Brittany is holding the DVD to "Creature Watch" in which she stars.
Terence Nuzum, left, and Joel Wynkoop, right, clown around for Lisa "FANGRRL" Ciurro, center, who'd just arrived.
I sincerely want to thank Tim Gordon for six terrific years of comic fandom at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tampa, and wish him and the cast of regulars who comprise the beloved Tampa Giant Comic Con and Toy Show the best of luck at their new location in Largo.
Relaxing after the Con at the refurbished Players Lounge, we were shocked by the surprise visit of Mike Christopher, the "Hari Krishna" zombie from Dawn of the Dead ! Mike graciously posed with yours truly for this shot. (Hey, where'd he pick up the Wynkoop T-shirt??)
Not only that, but he further honored us with this final group shot at the Players bar. Seated, L-to-R: Chris Woods, Andy Lalino, Lisa Ciurro. Back row, standing, L-to-R: Terence Nuzum, John Miller, Nolan Canova, and Mike Christopher.