While most of the comics industry gathers in southern California for ComicCon International (or the San Diego Con, as we “old-timers” still call it), I thought I’d share a few tales and quotes from conventions past.
Anxious to promote its online presence while on the convention trail, DC set up a couple of interesting events at the San Diego Con in 1996. One was a “Nonline Chatroom” which gathered quite a number of the regular visitors to the DC AOL chatroom and yours truly as the moderator.
It was interesting and amusing to see the reactions as each of the people walked into the room and introduced him/ herself by a screen name. So many of them had obviously pictured one another quite differently, based solely on online conversations. Equally amusing was how we all tried to refer to one another by real names (just remembering them got to be a problem) rather than screen names.
DC also set up a couple of computers logged on to AOL from the booth on the convention floor. These were used for live chats with various creators who visited the booth, as well as giving folks who couldn’t attend on-the-spot coverage.
At one point, I was in the booth with both computers, logged on to one as myself and the other as “DCO Guest.” I proceeded to interview myself, have an argument, and ultimately sing a duet of “New York, New York” bouncing back and forth from one identity to the other. Fans who were logged on at the time were cheering me on – one even requested an encore song – while my compatriots in the DC booth just shook their heads and said, “BobRo’s losing it.”
Back in 1976, DC, with the help of then-New York convention king and distribution guru Phil Seuling, decided to run a convention at NYC’s Commodore Hotel to celebrate Superman’s birthday. The plans were plagued with problems, the most severe being a strike by hotel workers the day before the convention, prompting a last-minute move to the Americana Hotel. (I’ll give you a complete rundown of the horror stories from that event in a future column.)
DC President Sol Harrison convinced Hostess Bakeries, makers of Cupcakes, Fruit Pies and Twinkies, to donate some baked goods as door prizes. However, I don’t think even Sol expected that we would get quite so many Twinkies. Boxes and boxes of the creme-filled cakes, enough to fill two canvas mail bins, arrived at the hotel!
At first, we were giving a Twinkie or two to each person who came through the door; nothing like a little sugar fix to rev you up for a convention! But by the second day, it was obvious that we had a lot more Twinkies than we had convention-goers, so we started to give out boxes of ten.
Even that didn’t seem to make a dent in the supply! By the end of the convention, we were handing people as many boxes of Twinkies as they could carry. Comics dealers were given cartons of them. DC staffers got as many as they could carry. And the rest ended up in the DC office, where anybody who could still stand to look at one could enjoy it as a snack.
At one New York convention, Frank Miller, then at the height of fame for his work on DAREDEVIL, wanted to walk through and look around without being mobbed by fans. Unfortunately, one of the con workers decided Frank’s arrival was news too good to keep a secret. He grabbed the P.A. system microphone and announced that Frank had arrived.
Within minutes, poor Frank was surrounded by fans seeking autographs, sketches, and anything else he was willing to give up. I realized that Frank was trying to escape and couldn’t see any way to do so, so I moseyed up to the edge of the crowd and said to no one in particular, but loud enough for most of the crowd to hear, “Gee, you’d think that guy would have the decency to tell them he’s NOT Frank Miller!”
Surprisingly, it worked. The crowd quickly lost interest and wandered away, and Frank was able to stroll the convention floor unmolested.
BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ
Part 2 of this four-part quiz.
13. The owner of Dollar the Dog is whom?
14. Of the members of Sgt. Bilko’s troop, which one got his own comic book?
15. Joining the Barracuda and Americommando to battle the Freedom Fighters was what fiery duo?
16. Of the numerous features in HARVEY HITS, which one featured a cat and mouse team a la Tom & Jerry?
17. If Homer Simpson makes a mistake, what is he likely to say?
18. Not your typical cowboy hero, would he save the west or ruin it?
19. The Skull Squad, Powder Burns, and Phantom Falcons all debuted in what 1940s title?
20. Of all the villains who’ve tried to kill Superman, which one actually succeeded?
21. Tell me the name of the mailman who delivered to the Baxter Building.
22. Howland Owl and Pogo Possum are pals of what ‘gator?
23. Egad! Who did the Missile Men rain down on?
24. Long before Dr. Fate and the Spectre arrived, Dr. Occult was a lead feature in what magazine?
25. America’s Typical Teenager hasn’t aged much in more than fifty years; name him.
BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. Though Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski (in Tennessee Willaims’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”) in perhaps the most memorable character, it was co-stars Karl Malden, Kim Hunter and Vivien Leigh who won Oscars.
2. Before he hosted his weekly variety show, Ed Sullivan wrote a newspaper column called “Little Old New York.”
3. On November 21, 1980 350 million TV viewers in 57 countries watched “Dallas” to find out who shot J.R. (It was Sue Ellen’s sister, Kristen.)
IN QUOTATION MARKS:
Most of the professionals attending the conventions are happy to meet their fans (as well as socialize with one another), but there are a few who have made their true feelings known by what they’ve said:
“There are two kinds of comics fans: pencil-necked geeks and fat fanboys. Pencil-necked geeks spend all their money on comic books; fat fanboys spend most of their money on comic books and the rest on junk food.” – One comics company department head to another describing what to expect at the latter’s first convention.
“I look around (at the fans seated in front of him) and wonder, ‘Is it possible that none of the rooms in this hotel have mirrors in them?'” – A prominent veteran comics artist looking at his audience at a Chicago Con in the late 1980s.
“We like to give away t-shirts at the big conventions. That way, we know the fans will change at least once in the four days.” – A comics company marketing person at San Diego in the early 90s.
That will do it for this week. If you’re out in San Diego this week, I hope you have a great time. Till next week…
TRIVIA QUIZ ANSWERS:
13. Richie Rich
14. Pvt. Doberman
15. Fireball and Sparky
16. Herman & Katnip
18. Bat Lash
19. Wings Comics
21. Willie Lumpkin
22. Albert the Alligator
23. The Metal Men
24. More Fun Comics
25. Archie Andrews
Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.