So here’s the thing, I really want Retro Invasion to succeed. I love the idea behind it, the philosophy and more importantly, I love that it’s practically in my backyard. It’s one exit down from my office and the easiest drive I’ve ever had to a convention.
That’s one heck of a preface isn’t it?
When I entered the hotel this year I was shocked. Remember how last time The convention space was so packed with the tables that you couldn’t even walk between them? This time around things went the opposite direction… The room was still under blocked that I literally walked in looked around and walked out and asked if there was a second vendor‘s room because this One was so empty… It looked like less than 20 tables, including the guests scared of around a very large room… I’m surprised, because this room really would only take about 10 or 15 minutes to walk through and yet there wasn’t an enormous amount of programming going on either. To put it simply, there simply wasn’t a whole lot to do. Add that to the fact that they were once again going up against a mammoth convention competitor happening in the same market – I have absolutely no doubt that Akron Comicon was siphoning away potential attendees.
Being familiar with the layout from last time I managed to find my way upstairs to the movie room in time for a screening of Night of the Creeps. I’m pleased to see that they’ve marked the rooms this time so it’s a little clearer that these spaces are being used for convention functions. However, that didn’t stop them from having confused patrons and I found myself giving directions and pointing people to the correct rooms on a surprising number of occasions.
I don’t know if the screening for the movie was late or if somebody had simply misestimated the running time, but the film was just getting into the third act when it was time for the Night of the Creeps panel. This overlap is a real drag, because you had to choose between watching the movie and listening to the actors – something that would’ve been complimentary to each other if they’ve been scheduled back to back instead of one cutting the other off. I slipped out of the screening about six minutes early to make it to the panel room.
It was empty.
The lights in the room were dimmed, and I was confused – I checked the schedule and the panel was indeed scheduled to start in the next five minutes but no one, not even the moderators, had arrived yet. I decided to make a quick pit stop in the bathroom to kill some time and started heading back to the movie room when I bumped into a couple of young women in spooky clothing and bright hair. They asked me where the panel room was and I showed them, only to discover that these were the moderators and that they were arriving mere moments before the talk was scheduled to start. I probably could’ve caught an additional 10 minutes of my movie.
Jill Whitlow has a very convention friendly personality, she is polite and likes to see her friends but it’s still very much a convention kind of persona. Jason Lively on the other hand is completely cracked. He’s got very much a surfer dude bro personality, and is fun and engaging. He was a delight to hang out with, and while I was waiting in Whitlow’s line to have her sign my Night of the Creeps poster he kept getting bored at his table and running over to me to show me pictures from last time he was at a con. We chatted about Spooky Empire and Chiller and Jean Claude Van Damme movies. It was so much fun. He occasionally check in with Jill and play with her as well, Lively is very hyperactive, especially for somebody who had had as many beers as he’d already had that evening! The stars of Night of the Creeps are both charging $30 for an autograph with an extra $10 up charge if you wanted a photograph with them. I really hate this sort of pricing, and ended up only getting the autographs. After all, the only person from that film who still looks the same as they did back then is Tom Atkins (and I already have a photo with him)! The guys from The Warriors were just flat out charging $40. It’s kind of a drag and really pushing me away from collecting autographs. There was a time when I would’ve grabbed something from everybody in that room, but not with what they’re charging these days.
The panel was good, and I enjoyed what little I get to see of Night of the Creeps, but overall, Retro just doesn’t have enough to do. The convention really can’t keep you occupied for more than a couple of hours and I feel bad for the dude that was in front of me in line who had driven down from Michigan just for this event. This is Retro’s second try at getting the convention formula right and I don’t think they’ve done that yet. It’s my hope that they’ll still give it one more try and get it right, but at this point the goodwill and patience of the con community has got to be fading fast and I’m genuinely not sure if I’ll be back. Guess we’ll wait and see what happens!