To many, the words "comic book convention" conjure images of a frightening pageant of the disenfranchised, an unholy gathering of obsessed geeks who lurk in parental basement dungeons. This harsh exaggeration demands a rebuttal.
Yes, mockery is the standard operating procedure in sci-fi fandom, and it's a tactic I've used in these pages before, but it's time somebody spoke up for nerds. I understand them. I know them. I am them. It's time to come clean: Though it's a fact I often try to hide from co-workers, family and women I'm hoping to see naked, I am a dork. For most of my childhood and much of my adulthood I've had a weekly comic book addiction. I am well acquainted with the delicious smell of fresh newsprint, though these days my intake is severely limited, as I've become a socially functioning dork, with a career, friends and other interests. None of this has made me forget my roots. I remember the words to Green Lantern's oath, and I know the Mighty Thor's hammer is made of unbreakable Uru metal. God help me, I'm proud of this.
So, this weekend, when the throngs of freaks, geeks and weirdos reach critical mass at the Rock Financial Expo Center in Novi, greet them with open arms, but don't go unprepared for weirdness. There are certain things you can count on at every con, such as costumes. There'll be guys dressed as Aquaman. Last year there were no less than two couples decked out in full Ghostbusters gear. There'll be attention-starved drama-club girls in cleavage-bearing Renaissance fair outfits. There'll be at least one kiosk selling that weird anime porno where demons with long tentacles molest schoolgirls. There'll be a nearly ceaseless, drooling fanboys lined up to get their picture taken with the model in the Vampirella costume, if only to be close to a hot, semi-clothed girl.
Most importantly there will be a shitload of people from TV and movies the famous, the marginally famous and those with names you've never freaking heard of to meet, greet and charge for autographs. Most are as nice as can be. In fact, last year, Star Trek's LeVar Burton was kind enough to share with me an anecdote about some fans who got their sexual kicks from dressing up like cutesy animal characters and rubbing each other. He didn't have to do that he was in Roots, for Christ's sake.
Holy has-beens! Is that Adam West and Burt Ward TV's dynamic duo together again? And look, Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether: Two Cat Women for the price of one. Can we anticipate a titanic tussle of femme fatales? Names come and go, and cancellations are inevitable; sadly, Carrie Fisher and Warwick Davis won't be on hand to re-create their tender Return of the Jedi scene, where she was a galactic princess in distress and he was a midget in a furry Ewok costume. However, disappointment often leads to opportunity, as this year, when Ken Osmond (sidekick Eddie Haskell on Leave It to Beaver) dropped out, only to have Wally himself, Tony Dow, fill his shoes.
Look out for Brent Spiner, better known as the android Data, and who as documented in the cult classic documentary Trekkies has a devoted following of female fans, or groupies, some of whom refer to themselves as "Spiner femmes."
Feel free to "scratch glass and turn blue" in honor of late-night TV legend the Ghoul, who apparently loves his Detroit fans so much he will appear at the opening of a refrigerator if you offer him enough cash and a couple nice kielbasas.
No soup for you if you don't recognize the name Larry Thomas, who real Seinfeld fans know as the guy who played the "Soup Nazi." Scheduled to appear is Karen Allen, of Animal House, Starman and Raiders of the Lost Ark fame, an actress I'll sheepishly admit I had a boyhood crush on. The venerable John Saxon, star of Enter the Dragon, A Nightmare on Elm Street and countless other genre pictures will be there. [Full disclosure: I used to chat with Saxon on his message board; he's a heck of a nice guy.]
If all that star-gazing doesn't wet your whistle, then check out these huge names:
Charlene Tilton. David "Bud Bundy" Faustino. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. Can one building contain all that magic?
Sure, it's easy to goof on a guy who teaches himself to speak Klingon, or the girl who weaves herself a cloak, but are they really any geekier than guys who hunt for kraut-rock vinyl? Though a nagging voice in your head might tell you that this stuff is a waste of time, if it means being reunited with some dear old childhood friends you never met, or an even momentary escape to a happier world were all evils could be vanquished with the turn of a page, then that sounds like an excellent use of an afternoon.
Friday-Sunday, May 19-21, at the Rock Financial Showplace, 46100 Grand River Ave., Novi; motorcityconventions.com.Corey Hall is a freelance writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org