5 Ways to Comic Con
By George Rose
October 10, 2018
We are in the midst of the Fall Comic Con season and I have never been happier, or more broke and stressed. With less than a month between each Con - Monster Mania on 8/17/18, Keystone Comic Con on 9/14/18 and New York Comic Con on 10/4/18 - there is so much to get done and even more money needed to do it. You’ve already had the pleasure of reading about my Monster Mania adventure and October is all about NYCC. The second biggest Con in the country (behind only San Diego Comic Con) is upon us and there’s never been a better time to gush over all the Fall Comic Con festivities. Get ready, my friends, as we journey back to September’s Keystone Comic Con! Note: As always the article will focus only on celebs at the event that I plan to get an autograph from and does not include the full list of attendees.
#1) PRE-CON RESEARCH
For their inaugural Comic Con, Keystone chose to host the epic 10-year anniversary of True Blood and fleshed out the guest list with additional B and C-list celebrities that are needed for a well-rounded lineup. After a ton of research to see which stars had Funko Pops available and a cost analysis of the event, my final pre-Con planning ended with these Pop purchases:
ANNA PAQUIN (True Blood, X-Men): Sookie Stackhouse for $25
STEPHEN MOYER (True Blood, The Gifted): Bill Compton for $16
JOE MANGANIELLO (True Blood, Magic Mike): Alcide Herveaux for $28
KRISTIN BAUER (True Blood, Once Upon a Time): Pam Sanford de Beaufort for $9
MAURICE LAMARCHE (Zootopia, The Simpsons): Mr. Big for $10
KEVIN CONROY (Batman TV/games): Batman Unmasked for $15
TROY BAKER (Bioshock & Uncharted games): Booker DeWitt for $10
That totals $113 for seven Funko Pops. Since the True Blood Pops are discontinued, I actually eBay’d two sets of those four Pops to make sure I got in a damage-free set between them. This is also a great idea for fans because you can bring extra Pops to trade with vendors at the event, especially if the character is appearing at the Con for autographs. The second set cost me $70 for a new pre-Con purchase total of $183. It is also smart to pick your favorite star to help dictate your wardrobe. For me, that was Anna Paquin. She was the lead in True Blood and is also in one of my favorite franchises (X-Men) as my favorite character from the comics/cartoon (Rogue). It’s also worth noting that she married her on-screen True Blood love, Stephen Moyer. With that being said, I found a picture online of Rogue and Gambit (my second favorite X-Men and Rogue’s love interest) as vampires. I saved the image, sent it to my custom t-shirt maker (That’s Crafttastic), designed a True Love logo as a play on words and spent $20 to have it made. New total: $203.
#2) CONVENTION DETAILS
Cons held within a city will usually require either a train ticket or a parking fee. $20 for parking near the Philadelphia Convention Center is very reasonable, plus maybe $5 in gas. New total $228. Although this was Keystone’s first year doing a Con, it is not the first time the Philly Convention Center has held one. It’s a great venue size spread out over two floors, one for shopping/autographs and another for panels. In comparison, Monster Mania was one floor of a hotel and NYCC is spread out over three floors.
#3) CELEBS AND SHOPPING AND RECAPS, OH MY!
MAURICE LAMARCHE (Mr. Big in Zootopia; $30 autograph, $20 selfie, $40 combo): Maurice is a legend in the voiceover acting world. He’s had small roles in major franchises, like The Simpson, but isn’t well known as a headliner. I guess most people desired his autograph for other projects because he seemed surprised that I knew him as Mr. Big from Zootopia. He was kind enough to recite several lines from the film while doing the mobster voice, but then continued well past what was comfortable. Then again, when the crowds are small and lines for autographs are short it’s not surprising that a celebrity would give extra time to each fan. Because he was my first celeb I spent the extra $10 to get his combo. $10 is a steal for a star’s picture and it’s a great way to authenticate your autograph. New total: $268.
KRISTIN BAUER (Pam in True Blood; $40 autograph, $30 selfie, $60 combo): Kristin was incredibly kind and lighthearted, a far cry from her bitter, cruel character on True Blood. Despite her sweet nature, she consistently went for a serious face in pictures and it’s times like this that require a friend at the Con to capture special moments. Since she sold booth selfies I made the smart decision of having my friend take the picture instead of Kristin’s assistant. If a friend does it, they can take several to make sure you get at least one great one. Also, after the pictures have seemingly stopped, your friend can continue to snap a few to catch you while you’re chatting with the star. It is in this moment that I was able to get a quick pic of Kristin and I laughing together over leaving our partners so we can run away together. New total: $328.
ANNA PAQUIN (Sookie in True Blood; $74 autograph, no selfies): While in line for Anna, I noticed her professional photo-op with Stephen Moyer was quickly approaching. The dual-photo was a pricey $170, but I figured I would treat myself for my upcoming birthday. After all, there’s no promise either of these stars shows up in Philly ever again, let alone together, let alone married. Divorce could easily ruin this chance for me in the future, and there will never be a better time to get this picture than in the present while wearing a custom True Love shirt. I left my friend in line to hold our place, ran over to the photo-op saws booth, spent $194 after taxes/fees for the ticket and got back in Anna’s line. With her photo time just minutes away, fans didn’t have as much time with her. I did have just enough to say how beautiful she is, how she played two of my favorite characters ever and how I designed a custom shirt to impress her. She loved the shirt but quickly thought of Stephen, who she said would go crazy for it. I could feel myself blushing and said I’d see her in a few minutes at the photo. New total: $596.
Professional photo-ops happen quickly, with people being given less than 30 seconds to get up to the stars, snap a quick pic and move out of the way for the next person. That didn’t happen for me. When I walked up, Anna stopped the flow and said to Stephen, “Look, that’s the shirt I was telling you about! This is the guy.” That’s right, I was ‘the guy.’ Anna knows me, now Stephen knows me and I was the lucky duck that got two whole minutes with two amazing, married, awesome stars fighting over which one loves my custom shirt more. Unfortunately, professional photographers only take one picture so I missed this entire moment but at least my one picture came out great! Afterwards, you go to a nearby booth to pick up the print. It is there that you can spend another $5 for a print protector sleeve and another $10 for a digital copy to be emailed to you. Yes, I spent the extra $15. New total: $611.
JOE MANGANIELLO (Alcide in True Blood; $84 autograph, no selfies): After my photo-op, I got into Stephen line because I saw he went right back to autographing. I was maybe 20th in line but still found myself waiting a while because he turned out to be a real Chatty Kathy. Then I turned towards Joe’s line and saw it was almost gone. A trend I noticed during the event was that if a star had no fan waiting in line for an autograph, they’d leave their booth with no promise of a return. With Stephen’s line taking some time, I bailed and ran over to Joe’s. Within a minute it was my turn and I was at a loss for words. Joe is one giant dude! Even with him sitting down I had to look up at him, up at that handsome bearded face. In his sultry, deep voice he welcomed me and shook my hand. As much as I wanted to tell him I enjoyed his nearly-naked turn in Magic Mike, I decided not to gay-out all over him and told him how cool it is he’s married to Sofia Vergara. He agreed he was a very lucky guy. Then, I said, “Well don’t shortchange yourself, Sofia is certainly a lucky lady as well.” I couldn’t tell if that was too gay or just gay enough, then decided any gay towards a straight guy is too much and I quickly ran off like a scared deer. New total: $685
STEPHEN MOYER (Bill in True Blood; $74 autograph, no selfies): I was finally back in Stephen’s line with a moderate wait ahead of me, maybe 20 minutes. While in line, I felt my cell phone vibrate. I looked down and saw a text from my friend who was standing next to me. It was a picture of me and Joe Manganiello. Turns out, my friends is a master photo thief and managed to sneak a picture of me getting Joe’s Funko Pop autographed. By the end of the day I would end up deciding to pay for a professional photo or selfie from all the other stars, except Joe, so it turned out to be a massive blessing that my little klepto friend stole a few pic for me. Stephen’s security seemed to be looking around for photo thieves so I told my pal to calm down so that neither of us would get kicked out of the event.
Then, it was my turn. Stephen remembered me from the photo-op because of my t-shirt. He asked me where I got it and I said it was custom made. I was so starstruck that I completely forgot to give him my custom shirt maker’s business card or mention her online profile. Instead, I continued to just say that it was custom but that the artwork was found online. Within seconds, Stephen’s assistant pulled up the picture on his phone and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he had his own shirt made and that we would be bound as brothers for life. New total: $759.
With only an hour left it was crunch time. As it turned out, my other two targets for the day (Kevin Conroy and Troy Baker) were finished their autograph sessions. I wasn’t too worried because they are Comic Con regulars so I’ll hopefully have the chance again soon. With extra time and extra funds, it was worth trying to change up my game. I went to my Funko sales buddy Andy’s booth (Alternate Dimension Toys from Newtown, NJ) and proposed a trade. We agreed he would give me $60 worth of booth credit for the True Blood Funko Pops I had, since I brought my spare set. In exchange, I picked up two Pops and they were the last of each kind available. I grabbed special fuzzy “flocked” versions of Big Bird and Ernie of Sesame Street fame. Both of the original stars were on site and still signing.
STEVE WHITMIRE (Ernie from Sesame Street; $40 photo autograph, $60 premium autograph, selfie included): If it wasn’t for Big Bird also being at the Con I may not have jumped at the chance to meet Ernie, as the two autographs are key in completing any Sesame Street set someone wants. Unfortunately, Steve was one of those rare stars that place different autograph prices depending on what you’re getting signed (photos vs memorabilia). It’s uncommon but super annoying. Then again, he offset this nonsensical pricing model by including a selfie with any purchase. Aaaaand going back to pessimism, it was super annoying that Steve’s assistant insisted he be the one to take the picture on my phone instead of my friend. This should have bothered me but I saw my klepto friend taking pictures on her cell phone as well. Seriously, my friend Michelle is the greatest convention friend ever. She’s a true stealth bomber. New total: $819.
CARROLL SPINNEY (Big Bird from Sesame Street; $40 photo autograph, $60 premium autograph, $30 selfie): Another older legend, another silly pricing model. I couldn’t be mad though because Carroll was practically on his deathbed. I was next up in line when I was told he would need to take a bathroom break and that, because of his age, he would likely be a little while. I took the time to walk the show floor for one last lap and decided to pick up at least one new t-shirt and one new Funko Pop. Since the new Venom movie was coming out soon, I found a shirt that had both Venom and Carnage on it, and spent $25 to get it. Then I found a rare glow in the dark Thor Funko for another $25 and considered my shopping done. Just as I got back to Carroll’s line he returned there as well. He barely spoke but was lucky to have his wife by his side to assist with the process. The $60 autograph price did not include a picture but for another $20 they’d include it. At this point, what’s another $20 to make sure I got a picture with every star I met?
He didn't’ sign his name so much as just wrote it on the box, which was ok because I got the picture to help authenticate what otherwise could be very easily copied by a fake fan. I thanked Carroll for coming to conventions even though it’s hard for him, and his wife responded by saying he would do anything for his fans and will keep coming as long as possible. I told her I won’t ask anything too crazy of him, like asking Big Bird to “flip the bird.” She begged me not to because he definitely would and it’s not exactly on-brand, which made me chuckle. The friend I was there with for the day had to leave a bit early so I was all alone, but Carroll’s assistant was kind enough to offer to take several. A few clicks in and his wife stopped the process. She told him to stop what he was doing and I was confused because I didn’t even feel him moving. I took my phone and looked at the pictures. There’s a few with the two of us smiling and one at the very end with what is clearly Carroll trying to give the camera a middle finger. This dirty old bird did not disappoint and gave me a once in a lifetime opportunity. New total: $949.
Mid-size venues are the best and Keystone was no different. It was a great event with a reasonable guest list, and cost about average what you should expect. Taking out the special $200 birthday photo-op, I spent about $750 for seven autographs, some pictures and a bit of light shopping. That averages to about $100 for each star to get a Funko in advance, get it signed and maybe get a picture. Not too shabby. To help offset my costs, I sold some of my uneeded Funkos from my collection to Alternate Dimension Toy prior to the Con for $415. So, technically, I only spent $500 for a killer blast from the past with my new True Blood BFF’s.
#5) OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
With Keystone now behind us, it’s time to start planning for the next convention. NYCC 2018 is October 4-7 and, though I wasn’t planning to go because of monetary restraints, I was approved for a press pass so I decided to stop in for a day. Would I go Thursday and meet Mark Ruffalo (aka the Hulk from Avengers) or would I go Sunday and meet Danai Gurira (aka Ocoye from Black Panther)?! Different stats on different days makes picking just one really hard. Only time will tell. Until next time, have fun at NYCC for those that plan to go and check out all my Comic Con pictures on Instagram (@RoseByAnyName) to see me in all my celebrity-filled glory!