5 Ways to Comic Con Part 2
By George Rose
May 10, 2018
Having a press pass at Comic Con is a lot like wearing an Infinity Gauntlet. Alone it’s a useless piece of metal that only has the potential to wield incredible power. It’s not until you start collecting celebrity autographs and photos that you begin to acquire the Infinity Stones. Each star comes with a unique power and you grow stronger with each addition to the glove. The problem with Avengers: Infinity War is that most of the movie is from the perspective of the heroes. Did you ever consider how Thanos learned of the gauntlet? Did you ever wonder what happens to him once he has it? In one hand, you could consider the Spider-Man moral lesson of great power coming with great responsibility. In the other, you might see that with great power comes the inability to control it and the inevitability of becoming consumed by it.
The Lord of the Rings comes to mind when I think about how power can turn the best person into a mad titan. It’s not easy wearing the Infinity Gauntlet or possessing a press pass. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of suspicious eyes and no outcome that can end well. Nobody looks at Thanos lovingly, even though his first motivation in obliterating the universe was to save his impoverished planet. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and I, for one, have learned the sadder side of taking over the galaxy. It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. Before my first press pass I was merely a fanboy pissing his pants in front of celebrities. What am I now? I’m not entirely sure but I know I’m something different. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing is up to the audience. To help you decide, here is the Great Philadelphia Comic Con recap that led this former fan to become the mad titan of press passes that feeds off of Infinity Stars.
#0) THE PRESS PASS aka THE INFINITY GAUNTLET
Before you can acquire stones, you must get something to hold them. I’ve never had a press pass before and only got mine a week before the event. This meant that I would not take my responsibilities all that seriously. Instead of hiring a cameraman, microphone holder or fluffer of sorts, I stuck with going to the event alone. This meant no actual interviews, no professional pictures or amazing video. What I got were pictures I paid for that were taken by the celebrity's assistant. It also meant purchasing a $1 inflatable microphone to take silly pictures with. The plan was to have fun, just like Thanos had a plan to save his people. God laughs at plans.
#1) JAMES REMAR aka RAYDEN (NOT RAIDEN) from MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION
Since the majority of the event would be chasing signatures from former Power Rangers, I decided to take advantage of the short line for Remar before getting that mission underway. You know, like a trial run. I’ve never had an Infinity Press Pass before and I didn’t want to hurt my Ranger friends if I was not in fact capable of wielding star power. Ever see Guardians of the Galaxy? Those that shouldn’t hold stones blow up. Rayden seemed like a safe bet to start.
The Funko Pop figurine I had for him was for the Mortal Kombat game since his film character didn’t have one. I asked him to cross out the Mortal Kombat X title on the Funko box and write Annihilation, which he did. I felt bad asking for a mega-autograph (signature plus additional text) but he obliged and was kind about it. I told him this was my first time as press and asked if I could hold my fake microphone in the picture that I paid for. He laughed and said it was okay. The autograph and picture were a great success! After a short period of disappointment on how he signed his character’s name, I learned the game form is spelled Raiden while the movie form is spelled Rayden (IMDB proves this). But it was too late, I was already upset that he spelled it “wrong” and giving in to my power seemed like the right option to rectify the situation.
After telling him I loved Annihilation, I let him know that it feels like I see him every few weeks because I watch Sex and the City reruns on TV before bed and his season comes around quite often. I intended to bond with him but instead came off creepy. It gets worse. I then go on to tell him that I bet women throw themselves at him at conventions because, you know, we’ve seen him naked on the show. He gave me a cautious look and said, “Those kind of women don’t come to conventions.” I didn’t know if he meant old women, groupie whores or weirdos with press passes. I thanked him and scurried off, already afraid of the powers that came with the first Infinity Star. I’d have to change things up fast or risk going crazy.
#2) ROMY J. SHARF aka ALPHA-5 from POWER RANGERS
I wasn’t sure if Remar’s hesitation with me was because of the press pass or that I basically told him, “Hey, I’ve seen your balls!” I decided both might be the issue so a total suppression of who I’ve become would be in order. Upon meeting Alpha-5 (the robot assistant to the Power Rangers), I came to learn she was a woman. The voice on the show was a man so I was pleasantly surprised to see a beautiful blonde sitting in front of me. I immediately declared that this was my first time with a press pass and that I felt like a scumbag paparazzi, hoping she would sympathize with the fan I was deep down inside. She laughed and told me not to worry. I then thanked for her “helping to raise me” as a young boy while watching the show. She smiled.
Then I did that thing I do where I say something stupid. I told her, “I hope the producers of the show didn’t know there was a woman in the suit or they might have paid you less.” There was silence. I added, “You know, because the #TimesUp movement didn’t happen yet.” Still silence. Then, I remembered something. To the eye I’m a white male. I’m sure many people misinterpreted Thanos based on his appearance alone and here I was, a white guy, talking about a woman making less money than a man. I needed to clarify. “As a gay man, I find I make less in a lot of situations.” Sharf lit up and everything changed. She gave me an autograph discount for purchasing two (one for a friend), which I then gave back to her to pay for a picture that I otherwise would not have been able to afford. All was right in the world.
#3) PAUL SCHRIER & JASON NARVY aka BULK & SKULL from POWER RANGERS
I learned quickly that I had to really downplay the press pass and play up the dorky kid dwelling inside. The next autograph was a test to this attempt because it was a two-for-one. The high school bullies that tormented the Power Rangers when they were in regular clothes were at the Con together doing autograph/photo-op combo deals. Although money was tight, these were the only two celebs I could afford to see that didn’t have a Funko Pop figurine created for their characters. I would use this chance to get my hat signed and a cool two-star picture.
The problem with a celebrity three-some is that if you aren’t the two stars, you’re not enough in the relationship to matter. These two men have been acting together for years as the longest running actors to grace the Power Rangers show (yes, even more than any Ranger). Their friendship is incredible to watch and difficult to get in on. One moment you’re left out as the two banter hilariously, the next you’re bombarded by both and can’t respond. As you get a brief moment alone with each, it’s like the other is being ignored. It’s a lose-lose situation. After taking a picture while pretending to be interviewed by my inflatable microphone, the two were summoned to go take the professional group photos with the whole cast. I was saved by the bell and spared more uncomfortable moments making a fool of myself with my press pass.
#4) AUDREY DUBOIS aka THE “O.G.” YELLOW RANGER from POWER RANGERS
The true first Yellow Ranger, Trini, was played by Thuy Trang who unfortunately passed away some time ago. Fortunately for fans, Trini was one of two characters who had different actors play them in the pilot. Though only in that first episode, Dubois now gets to tour with different Comic Cons as the O.G. Yellow Ranger to help fans complete their autograph sets. I told her how wonderful it is that we get to have her fill in as our honorary Yellow Ranger and thanked her for helping to raise me. Though our encounter was brief, it taught me that I now using the “thanks for raising me” line on multiple stars. What did this mean? Was I unoriginal as press? Was I a loving fan that got starstruck and couldn’t help but thank my former TV friends? It came as naturally to me as thanking a military veteran for their bravery and service, something I habitually do when I see someone wearing camo in public. Is it bad to repeat something nice?
The point is, several Infinity Stars down and I was starting to doubt myself. My original Con plan was to be a super fan, which got enhanced with acquiring a press pass, which forced my evolution from nerd to press to paparazzi to stalker without resistance. My first press pass was coming with all sorts of confusion and it was becoming a lot to take in. I missed the days of going to Cons with friends. It’s lonely at the top and, with so much distance between me and those down below, the line between fan and press and paparazzi pervert was blurring.
#5) KARAN ASHLEY aka THE SECOND YELLOW RANGER from POWER RANGERS
My first day at the Con was nearly over and I caught Karan just as she was closing up shop for the day. She was warm, kind and gracious. She gave me a huge hug and let me get a quick autograph. All of her markers were packed up so she used the yellow one I came prepared with. She signed my Funko Pop and started to head out. I quickly asked what she was doing while in town before the next day of the Con. Her answer? Going to see Avengers with some of the other Rangers (check her Instagram for proof). I thanked this nerd goddess for helping to raise me, she thanked me for coming to see her and I made it a mission to revisit her Sunday.
#6) STEVE CARDENAS aka THE SECOND RED RANGER from POWER RANGERS
The last autograph of the first day was Cardenas. He was actually scheduled to be at the Baltimore Comic Con on the same weekend, but that event got cancelled so he was able to come to Philly with the rest of the Rangers. He didn’t have a formal autograph booth and was instead tagged on the end of a row intended for shopping. This was perfect because it was more casual. I saw a girl get a free picture with him so I asked for one too after I paid for my autograph. He obliged and was even cool enough to grab my Funko Pop for the picture so it could be authenticated. The first Red Ranger was a jerk for making me personalize my signed Pop at NYCC in 2017 but the second was amazing for helping me authenticate my purchase. Thanos - I mean me and my press pass - passed our judgement and will spare Red #2.
#7) JOHNNY YONG BOSCH aka THE SECOND BLACK RANGER from POWER RANGERS
Although I only acquired two new Stars on day two of the Con, Bosch was not my first autograph. I had duplicates of several Funko Pops because my former Con partners-in-crime Travis and Heather were stuck at home with their newborn baby. Thanos also lost some friends in the movie so it’s known that doesn’t help keep a mad titan calm. Without my friends, I wasn’t sure which autographs they wanted with their budget. My day started with second visits to both the Yellow and Red Rangers, along with a tagged-on photo with Yellow. Since the Time Stone gave me another chance with old friends, I took it. Yellow left too quickly before and told me to come back, so I did. It was on this second stop that she also told me about the Power Ranger panel happening later on. Depending on time, I told her I would hopefully see them all then.
A few booths down was Bosch. I know there are only six Infinity Stones and we’re going on Infinity Star number seven, but the theory still applies: the more you acquire, the more you’re corrupted. As the most expensive Ranger at the Con - $50 for a selfie without a combo discount is a bit ridiculous, especially when the friends beside you are less - I opted for just autographs. I then decided to ask about the frequent absence of the Pink Ranger. He suggested she doesn’t do as many conventions as the others and prefers to be the only Ranger present when she does. Diva much? After he rolled his eyes and we laughed I had to head over to the unexpected appearance from Val Kilmer. I told him I’d see him later at the panel.
#8) VAL KILMER aka BATMAN from BATMAN FOREVER
He was only added to the convention guest list maybe two weeks out from the show so it wasn’t too surprising when he cancelled his appearance on the first day. It was surprising, however, when he made a brief appearance when I returned on Sunday. Despite an almost depleted budget, I called Travis to confirm we both needed this autograph. We did, we definitely did. He was the biggest celebrity at the convention and the only one who was hidden from the general audience, only to be seen by those paying for an autograph. No selfies allowed inside his fortress, either. His line moved quickly which also suggested a lack of conversation to come.
The thing about Kilmer is that anyone who follows the behind-the-scenes of Hollywood knows he used to be a difficult actor to work with. Anyone who follows gossip columns knows he had gained a bunch of weight over the years and looks terrible. I knew my time with him would be brief and, frankly, I was glad. I felt I had crossed a paparazzi line or two over the days, and I was tired of the fallout. Thanos probably never meant to hurt anybody but one day it just started happening, because people looked at him funny or something. If you cared to ask him about his road to Hell, I’m sure he’d share some regrets (did you see the movie yet?!) and probably admit that he’s ready for calm after the long snap... I mean, storm. I just wanted a nice encounter.
What I saw when I was ushered through the black curtain before Kilmer was heartbreaking. I was pretty sure that I heard a while back that he had throat cancer or something, but the man I saw was not the handsome Bruce Wayne we remember. His hair was long and graying. He was hunched over while barely being able to look up. I couldn’t hear a word he mumbled. It was in this moment that I looked into my future. The man that was once feared by those around him - I’d say a douchebag actor and a paparazzi prick both deserve to eat shit - was now a withered man. The guy that used to be a jerk now had a sad twinkle in his eye. He appeared humbled and completely grateful that some of us fans stuck by him long enough to still desire his autograph. Though he was the most expensive Infinity Star to acquire, it was the one that mattered most. It was the first time I felt my autograph money was actually helping someone.
BONUS: INFINITY WAR aka THE FINAL SHOWDOWN at THE POWER RANGER PANEL
The problem with peace is that it never lasts. Thanos, after all his destruction, finally finds peace. After the sad and unexpected appearance by Kilmer, even I had found peace. Yet with another Avengers movie due out in a year and my bloodthirst for more press passes in the future, it was only a matter of time before the bad boy inside returns. The end of my Great Philadelphia Comic Con experience would be the epic, all inclusive Power Rangers panel. Well, almost everyone was included. The panel was unorganized and small, so I put my stage fright aside and jumped up early on to ask a question. In the dozen or so Cons I’ve been too, I’ve never had the opportunity or the balls to ask a question at a panel. This time I was press.
“Where’s Steve?” I asked. On stage were the bullies (Bulk and Skull), a few of the Rangers and Alpha-5. The second Red Ranger, who had been tagged onto the event last minute, was forgotten for the panel. Yellow Ranger #2 immediately gets her phone out to call him. Suddenly there’s a pause. My first question ever as press basically outed the event staff for this screw-up while also acknowledging the Rangers’ lack of attention. I was off to a terrible start. Then I asked why we never see the group with the Pink Ranger. Yes, even though I already knew the answer I found myself stirring the pot in my moment of sickness. Seriously, I have stage fright. Despite this awkward encounter, I would later volunteer again to GO ON STAGE!!! I was among the audience selected to “morph” among the stars. It was the perfect way to end taking over the Comic Con Universe. Alone, power consumes. With friends, the stars will align. The team assembled and I was saved from myself. I don’t see the same happening for Thanos.