Having drawn Jan into the dark and sometimes scary world of Comicon last year (lured by the attraction of William Shatner), it was a no brainer to make plans for the 2012 con. Tickets went on sale on September 29th, and I secured ours the next day. $50 per person for a 3-day pass was well worth the price of admission. In December, 4 media guests were announced: Summer Glau, Eddie McClintock, Tia Carrere and George Takei. I was not familiar with Eddie McClintock’s work on Warehouse 13, as I had never watched the show, though it looks like something I would enjoy. I was definitely a fan of Summer Glau and Tia Carrere, they are, let’s face it, smoking hot. Of course George Takei is a science fiction icon, and after having met William Shatner in last year’s con, Takei would be a natural progression in geekdom. I had been following Mr. Takei on Twitter for some time, and it was apparent that he is just a very nice human being. Having already purchased the tickets to the con, I booked two nights at the Paramount hotel (where we had stayed the previous year). The Paramount had served us well the previous year as it is very close and well appointed.
About the middle of December, it was announced that special “VIP” passes would be made available at a premium price. These VIP passes offered the following benefits:
- 3-Day Adult Pass
- Express Entry
- Front of the Line privileges for all Autograph sessions with Media Guests (during their scheduled times)
- Front of the Line privileges for all Photo Ops with Media Guests (during their scheduled times)
- Premium and guaranteed seating at all panels in Room 4A (our large panel room)
- Souvenir ECCC Lanyard
- Exclusive 4×6 VIP Badge & wristband (used to identify you as a VIP)
- Exclusive VIP Show T-shirt
- Access to onsite VIP break room (for leaving coats/merch)
The cost? $200. I checked my Slush Fund®. Money was available. Seemed expensive, but just the front of the line privileges made it very tempting. I had already secured my “normal” tickets. How easy would it be to swap the normal ticket for the VIP? A question posed to the con’s Twitter account quickly answered the question. They would happily and quickly refund the cost of the original ticket. So the upgrade to VIP status was purchased.
One of the few folks to comment on my 2011 Comicon blog entry was a very nice lady named Jasmine, and we had since struck up a friendship on Twitter (follow her: @RocketJaz). She is a Seattle resident and fellow nerd, and she too was planning on attending the 2012 con. We made a plan to meet for dinner the first night of the con (Friday night). We also both followed Anne Wheaton (@AnneWheaton on Twitter, and Nerd Prime Wil Wheaton’s wife). Anne occasionally responded to our tweets and indicated she would be accompanying Wil to this year’s con. Jasmine and I made a plan to try and meet Anne. Anne just seemed like an extraordinarily nice person, and who doesn’t want to meet more of that kind of person? We were concerned Anne might be a little skittish about meeting nerdy strangers IRL (in real life), so we tried to be careful about being too pushy. She must be bombarded with all manner of requests on Twitter and other channels, so her reticence would be understandable.
As the weekend approached, Jasmine and I firmed up plans for our initial meeting. I had shared Jasmine’s tweets with Jan, and we were both stoked to finally meet in person. We would meet at the Elephant and Castle, a pub a few blocks from the Convention Center. Jan and I planned to leave Portland around 11:30 AM, hoping to arrive in Seattle around 3:00 PM. Best laid plans, and all of that, but we didn’t get out of the house until about 12:45. Driving to Seattle from Portland can be a little dicey this time of year, but the weather was decent for most of the trip. We encountered quite a bit of slow traffic at Tacoma, which lasted most of the remainder of the drive, and finally arrived at the Paramount at about 4:00.
We were meeting Jasmine’s crew at 6:00, but I wanted to hit the con real quick to pick up our badges and VIP swag before dinner. We settled in at the hotel, and then walked the short distance to the Convention Center. We went to the area where prepaid tickets are usually picked up on level 4, but were told to go back down to room 206 to get our stuff. Room 206 was not marked in any conspicuous way, so I don’t know how they would have expected us to go there. Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly, and our bags of swag were waiting for us. **EDIT: It turns out they had sent an e-mail about the VIP room on March 22, but I only just now discovered that message in my spam folder**
We trundled back to the hotel with our goodies to relax for a bit before heading to dinner. It wasn’t long before we were ready for a beer. I texted Jaz to let her know we would head over early to have a drink. As we walked the few blocks to the pub, Jaz replied they were on their way too. Somewhat surprisingly, the pub was not too busy for a Friday night, even if it as a little early. We got a table and ordered a couple of beers. I don’t remember the brand, we both got an IPA of some kind. We were sitting by a window, and could see folks coming into the pub. It wasn’t long before I saw three figures approach that roughly resembled my mind’s eye impression of what Jaz and her family should look like. I had texted her to let her know our location in the restaurant. It was obvious she hadn’t seen that text yet, but she stepped back into the lobby and checked her phone. She looked up, turned directly to me and I waved. First contact had been achieved! They came over to our table and we made our introductions. There was Jaz, her husband Ian, and daughter McKenzie. I must say I think McKenzie is a very cool name for a young lady. We hit it off immediately; Jaz and her family are just great people. We enjoyed a nice dinner and agreed to find each other on the con floor the next day. We made a short detour to the Hard Rock Café on the way back to the hotel so I could satisfy my pin collection cravings. The Hard Rock had a pair of ECCC exclusive pins I needed to add to my collection.
The next morning we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Our VIP privileges allowed us early entry to the con, but by the time we got our VIP bracelets (pink, for Saturday), they were already allowing the general populace in. And there were a lot of folks. Our first order of business was to secure the Jason Palmer ECCC media guest poster for autographs. We had purchased his poster in 2011, and were able to get quite a few autographs. Jason himself sold us the poster and signed and numbered it for us. He was very nice.
Tickets for the Photo Ops were next on the docket. In the weeks leading up to the con, some media guest changes were made. Christopher Lloyd was no longer attending, but Lea Thompson would attend as his “Back to the Future” replacement. Tia Carrere was no longer attending. Some Harry Potter dweebs were replaced by other Harry Potter dweebs (sorry, just not into Harry Potter). Edward James Olmos was originally set to attend Friday only, but was now appearing all weekend. We got into the already fairly long line, but thanks to an attentive “Minion” we were instructed to use the VIP line, and went to the front of the line. Our first use of a perk! We decided to get photos with George Takei, Lea Thompson, Jason Momoa and Edward James Olmos. $170 later, we were on our way. The photo ops were staggered throughout the rest of the day. The first photo op was at 1:00 with Jason Momoa.
The Wil Wheaton panel was at 11:30 in the large panel room. I had never been to a panel because of the long lines, but wanted to use my VIP perk to see Wil. We had a little time to kill before Wil’s panel, so we set to wandering the con. Some of the media guests had already started signing so we took our Jason Palmer poster on a tour. We decided to try our VIP perk on the already long George Takei line first. We showed our pass to the Minion for the Takei line and were escorted to the front of the line. Mr. Takei had not yet arrived, and just a couple of other VIPs were ahead of us. Mr. Takei arrived shortly. A dapper gentleman named Brad took our money for the autograph. I looked at his badge. “Brad Takei”. Yes, that Brad! I said “Oh – you’re Brad!”, and expressed my pleasure in meeting him. We moved over to Mr. Takei for our turn for the signing. As I expected, Mr. Takei was very gracious and engaging. He took the time to write a personal note on our poster. Jan remarked on how beautiful his handwriting was. Our experience with Mr. Takei was very gratifying.
Jason Momoa was in the next line over and our VIP badge took us to the front his his line. He was a very charming guy and signed the poster while engaging in a little chit-chat. Jan very much enjoyed meeting Jason.
The next stop was Adam Baldwin. His VIP line was shared with Summer Glau, and the Minion there wasn’t particularly well organized. We were able to get Adam’s autograph fairly quickly, and he seemed nice enough to us. Apparently, later in the con, he and Wil Wheaton got into some kind of conflict, the details to which I am not privy. It seems Mr. Baldwin was being disrespectful in some way. If anyone reading this blog knows the details, I’d like to hear about it. We were able to jump over into Summer Glau’s VIP line fairly easily, but there were a few folks ahead of us. I didn’t think it possible, but Summer is prettier in person. She was just gorgeous, and very nice. Our poster was the first she had seen at the con, and she commented on Jason Palmer’s skill as an artist. Many of the other celebrities also commented on Jason’ poster. Summer’s photo ops were taking place at her table, unlike most of the other celebrities. I had my fancy (mostly new) Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera, and a competent Minion was stationed at the table to take photos. We were able to get a very nice photo with Summer.
We then headed over to the Edward James Olmos table. The VIP line got us right to the front, and we got the autograph in short order. Mr. Olmos was also very engaging. Our experience with all the celebrities was very positive.
By now, it was readily apparent the extra money we spent on VIP tickets was well worth it. In the space of about an hour we were able to get autographs from 5 celebrities. That would have easily taken 3 hours otherwise. It was time to head to the large panel room to see Wil Wheaton’s Awesome Hour. Without the VIP pass, we would have had to have been in line at least an hour previous. The path to the panel room was not easily navigated, now that the con was in full force, and there was a sea of nerds as far as the eye could see. Fun fact: not all nerds are well versed in personal hygiene. We found our way to the panel room, and quite accidentally discovered the VIP entrance. We were led to the front row where the VIP seats were cordoned off with orange tape and found two seats together. We hadn’t been seated for more than two minutes when Wil was introduced to thunderous applause. We nerds really like this Wheaton guy. Wil explained that his “Awesome Hour” was really scheduled for ninety minutes, and he would try to allow time for questions at the end. Wil spoke of some of his upcoming projects, including the new Geek & Sundry YouTube channel which holds lots of promise for cool nerdy entertainment. My favorite part of his presentation though was when he shared how his friendship with his wife Anne has enriched his life. He explained that Anne is his best friend, and that they really “get” each other. That struck a note with me, as that is how I feel about Jan. He read some excerpts from a collection of works he is putting together to serve as a sequel to “Memories of the Future“, a collection of stories and behind the scenes insights relating to his days as a young ensign aboard the Enterprise. Wil’s ninety minutes were soon up, and the Q&A period was rather brief.
We found ourselves in a hurry to make it to our first scheduled photo op with Jason Momoa. Nerd traffic was still very heavy, so by the time we made it downstairs to the photo area, Momoa’s photo op was nearly done. As VIPs, were were hustled to the front of the line (Olmos’ line had already started forming). Our bags were secured by the Minions, and we taken behind the curtain. Jason was seated when we had him sign our poster, so I had no real sense of his size. The guy is just huge. I’m almost six feet tall, and he dwarfed me. We quickly got into our poses, smiled for the camera *click* and were hustled away. In Jan’s words, she nearly swooned from the experience.
We had just a few minutes to kill before our photo with Edward James Olmos, so we stuck pretty close to the photo area. The 501st Stormtrooper Legion was near the exit of the photo area, so we wandered around there briefly, the got in line for Olmos’s photo. Again, the VIP pass served us well. We went straight to the front of the line and waited for a few minutes for Mr. Olmos to arrive. Once he was set, we were whisked in and had our photo. He greeted us warmly and put his arms around us for the photo. Unfortunately, Jan had a bit of an “eyelid malfunction” during the photo that displeased her greatly.
Our next photo op with Lea Thompson would be in an hour, so we decided to see if we could get her autograph prior to the signing. She was at her table signing when we got there, so we took the VIP express to the front of the line. As we waited our turn I noticed Anne Wheaton was seated next to Wil at his table next to Lea’s. I figured this might be my only chance to say hello, so I called her name and introduced myself with my real and Twitter name. She was very nice but I didn’t want to take too much of her time, and it was our turn to sign, so the encounter was brief. Lea Thompson (@LeaKThompson) was very very sweet. There was a couple ahead of us with what looked to be about a five year old boy. He was a little restless and lamented the fact that he was thirsty. Lea had an unopened bottle of water on her table and gave it to the boy. Lea commented on how many signatures we had already collected on our poster. Lea is still a very attractive woman. She holds up to close encounters very well.
We still had a little time to kill, and were ready for some food. The concession stand on the exhibitors floor was pretty busy as expected. We went down to the first floor of the convention center to a pizza joint that sold by the slice. Their line was pretty long, but seemed to be moving fairly quickly. Jan and I each got a couple of slices, and we retired to the VIP room to eat. This is another prime example of how valuable the VIP pass was. There several large table set up with chairs with perhaps half a dozen other VIPs enjoying a break. The ability to get away from the crowds and even just sit down was a tremendous benefit. We chatted with some of the other VIPs while we finished our lunch. By this time, we need to get moving for our Lea Thompson photo.
We arrived in plenty of time for Lea’s photo. She had a shorter line than some of the other celebrities, and when our turn came, Lea had remembered us from the signing, and thanked us for coming back. Again, she was just very nice. And pretty.
We had an hour and a half until our last photo op with George Takei. I realized I had not yet had Wil sign our poster, so we VIP’d our way to the front of his line. I also realized in the 3 years I had been going to the con, I had not had Wil sign anything, since his line is always so long. I did get him to sign his ECCC 2010 pic at the W00tstock in Portland. A question I had meant to ask at his panel had to do with the fact he does not charge for autographs. I was able to ask him on Twitter later. My question was: since you do not charge for autographs, is there a favorite charity I might donate to on your behalf? Amazingly, Wil replied. He recommended the ACLU or EFF. So, if Wil has ever done anything nice for you, might you consider donating to one of these important causes? By the way, that is the first and only time Wil has ever responded to one of my tweets, so it’s kind of a big deal. 🙂 Also, Anne was nowhere in sight. Curses.
We went back up to the main floor and headed to Artist Alley. I had purchased the “Monsters and Dames” hardcover book, which had illustrations by many of the artists present at the show. It was $30, with proceeds benefiting the Seattle Children’s Hospital. Our mission was to find as many of the artists as possible and have them sign their page for us. The artists would all happily sign the book for free. They were usually sketching commissions at their tables. I find their artistic process fascinating and wish I had even a small percentage of their talent.
With our scheduled time with George Takei approaching, we found our way back to back to the photo area. Mr. Takei’s line was quite long, and there were several VIPs ahead of us in line. A gentleman came into the line behind us and we chatted while waiting for Mr. Takei to arrive. He was attending without his wife and child this year, which seemed to suit him fine. We also chatted about the premiere the following night of Game of Thrones. He had read the books, and we we told him we had not, he asked our opinion of the events that had transpired during season one. I, for one, was blown away by the killing off of one of the main characters and threatened to stop watching in a very puerile way. But of course, Game of Thrones is just so good, I can’t stop watching it. Our turn with Mr. Takei came up and he, too, recognized us from the autograph session. He greeted us with “It’s nice to see you again!”. With that, we were done with the photo ops.
Back upstairs on the main floor we found ourselves at the Night Zero booth. They were hawking the collection of photographic novels, which I found compelling. We chatted with one of their reps for a bit and I bought “Night Zero: Origins”. They also had a photo area where they take a photo with props from their series and work it up into the same look and feel as their novels.
We wandered around the vendor area for a while, and picked up some T-shirts, and looked around, then went back over to Artist Alley get get a few more pages signed in my Monsters and Dames book. We were successful in obtaining several more artist autographs. It was now about 6:00 PM and Jan and I were both pretty tired, so we decided to call it a night. We rested in our room for a bit, then went down to the Dragonfish Cafe for a bite to eat and some cocktails. We enjoyed a couple of sushi rolls and a few of their signature drinks. I found their soy sauce dispensers Dalek-like.
Our original pan was to meet Jaz and her family at Lowell’s restaurant for breakfast on Sunday morning, but hey had other commitments, and it turned out that Jan had an upset stomach Sunday morning, so that paln was scratched. I procured some bagels and pastries from the nearby Starbucks as an alternative.
We made our way back to the convention center. I was still hoping to meet Anne Wheaton, so I sent out this tweet:
Unfortunately, my cell reception was very poor in most areas of the convention center, and was unaware she sent this tweet in reply:
My nerd radar must have been active, because we chose to go down the escalator very short after that tweet. I was completely surpised to see Anne and Liz Smith (@Dammit_Liz) waiting at the bottom. At the time, I had no idea they were waiting. It was a real treat to meet Anne. She is very warm and gracious and friendly. Add Liz as a special bonus to get this tweet from me:
I decided I wanted to get a picture over at the 501st Legion’s booth, and the line was quite short. I jumped in line (no VIP privileges here, I was a commoner) and pondered my options. I wanted to get a picture with Chewbacca, but he wandered away just as I got into line. My backup plan was Han Solo and Leia. After a few minutes, my turn came and I got my photo. I’m pretty sure this guy was not the real Harrison Ford, as I consider myself something of an expert on that. I have actually been in a movie (as an extra) with Mr. Ford, and can be seen in the same frame as him.
Now my task was to get as many photos with my camera as possible before we left. I had been carrying the 60D around all weekend, but not taking many pictures. We also had not been in touch with Jaz, so we wanted to make sure we caught up with them before we left. I texted her to let her know we were looking for them. We wandered through the vendor area towards Artist Alley, taking pics of as many interesting things as possible. One thing I hadn’t noticed until just then was that the banners hanging from the ceiling denoting the rows all depicted the theme from each of the ten years of the Emerald City Comicon. You can see an album of my photos here. We also got a few more artists to sign our Monster and Dames book as we passed through. Our last stop was in the skybridge area where a lot of the cosplayers gathered to show off their costumes. I got quite a few good photos there, and found Jaz and Ian and McKenzie out there. We chatted for a bit, and promised to invite them down to Portland for a cookout this summer. They are good people, and I feel like we started a lasting friendship.
We said our goodbyes, and went back to the hotel to pack up our bounty of swag and make the long drive home back to Portland. It started raining pretty hard as we got on the freeway, and rained most of the way home. We will return next year? You betcha. Will we get the VIP passes? Abso-frickin-lutely.
Forgot to mention this in the original post. An odd aspect of wearing the VIP badge was that many people thought we were actually famous for something or another. We got several comments or questions along the lines of “What are you in?” or “How are you a VIP?”. At first I thought it was a reference to my work as an extra on Leverage or Grimm (yes, I’m really that self-centered), but then I realized people were noticing my VIP badge and assuming I was actually somebody important. Very odd sensation when people think you’re a celebrity. Even George Takei mentioned that he thought he had met me before.