“Dude, looks like Metal arms are in this year!”
I looked in the direction the voice was coming from. A Winter Soldier was pointing to the prosthetic Borg arm being passed back to me by security after their examination. I slid it on and nodded.
“Sure are,” I replied. “Just look over there!”
I pointed to the Sinister Six group. Doc Ock and his four static robot arms turned and smiled at us.
There were scheduling conflicts last year and I missed HOF, though I heard glowing reports from friends that attended and I really dug the cons first year (when it was MY turn to be Doc Ock!). It’s good to see that the show is growing at a steady, healthy pace. not too fast, not to slow. They’ve figured out a better way to maximize thier space too. It wasn’t shoulder to shoulder the way it had been in 2016.
I decided to try and hit the line for Kevin Eastman first. I’m not really a Turtles fan, but I respect the property and love the success Eastman became because of it. I found my friend Eric wearing his Jurassic Park outfit and waiting in Eastman’s line so I swung by to say hello. He expressed shock at me not being in costume yet and tried his best to convince me to do the costume contest. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to hang out and the contest was still five hours away. Still, waiting in this line would kill a good chunk of that time. It was a prodigious queue, curving down the end of the hall and I tried to find the end of it, only to be stopped by security. I was informed that the line had been capped at 150 people ( which they hit in the first 45 minuets of the show) and that I’d have to come back in three hours for the second signing. This situation was just a little too reminiscent of the confusion and poorly run ticketing system for George Perez the last time I was out here, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised. The convention schedule, released about a week in advance, had shown two specific “Signing” times – a weird thing for a comic convention like this (I see it regularly at anime cons, but not at comic cons), and It had spooked me. I decided to head elsewhere. After all, I wasn’t REALLY here for Eastman. I was here for Peter David.
Back in the 90’s, David was instrumental in shaping the the direction of DC’s Star Trek line, having taken it over from Mike W. Barr. This is my favorite era of Star trek and those comics have always been special to me. From there I migrated over to his novels – Rock and a Hard Place is my favorite TNG book ever. I took my place in line right behind one of the guys I knew from Panels:The Comic Club.
Approaching his table I pulled out a gift I had brought him. He picked up the furry blob and looked at it.
“What is it?”
“A Borg Tribble.”
He rolled his eyes in disbelief.
“I don’t know how I’m getting this through airport security…’what’s that in your bag sir?’ ‘um, it’s an assimilated tribble….?’ ‘OUT OF THE LINE!’ ”
He confirmed my suspicions about the Stone character in Rock being a prototype for the hero of his New Frontier books, though he has no idea what my have happened to him afterwards. I followed him to his panel and was fascinated by his stories of how he got into comics, and the way he kind of drifted into different assignments. It’s been an interesting kind of career.
I popped out of the panel a little early to go get into costume. I had decided to do the first half of the show in normal clothes since it was so hot and my Borg suit wouldn’t fare well in the end of summer weather. I applied the makeup in my car (God bless the guys at Rubber City Cosplay by the way. They offered to let me suit up and do my makeup in by their booth where they had a station set up. I had to decline because I was using latex and needed my car heater vents to dry it). I was trying something new this time – instead of just drawing sick green veins on my face I built them up using cotton and latex, THEN drew the green lines on the swollen veins. It ended up being the first time I found myself truly happy with this look.
Because I resent being charged for parking, my car was half a block away, parked in front of a house. Suddenly the door burst open and a slightly scary looking man stormed out staring at me.
“DUDE! I just had to run out here to see this,” he exclaimed in amazement. “That thing is off the HOOK! What’s going on?”
I explained about the con around the corner and waved goodbye. A car load of kids drove by headed to the Wendy’s across the street from the Canton Civic Center. They yelled at me from their windows and asked what my character was called. I told them I was a Borg and waved, trying hard not to squint. The heat was making the white greasepaint run down into my eye. I crossed the street with one good eye, and fished the napkin out of the hidden compartment in my belt, then cleared the tears and makeup from under my cowl. Outside the doors was parked the greatest vespa scooter EVER, painted red with decals to look like the bike from Akira. I reapplied some white as I wandered back in, thankful for the cooler temperatures in the convention hall.
This time out, I made one more upgrade to the Borg suit. I added a borg tribble of my own (with more lights on it that the one I presented to David) who would sit on my shoulder (magnets in the tribble and my costume). One of my favorite moments was a family coming up to me and asking for a picture. The little daughter, riding on mommy’s hip wasn’t too sure about my robot in corpse paint. I plucked the furry little ball off my shoulder and asked if she’d like to hold the Tribble. “He’s soft,” I explained as she snatched him from my hand. The camera got a big smile from her.
Across the hall, I spotted my friends Rocky (also dressed as a Winter Soldier, but also carrying around Rocket Raccoon) and Chris (Appropriately garbed as Casey Jones), who had just arrived. I let them know about the early lineup for Kevin Eastman and we headed that way. It wasn’t quite two yet, but the line was already the length of the civic center. As we stepped into the queue, I saw Ben from comic club rushing from the Eastman’s presentation and heading down the hall. I waved him over.
“Man, this is crazy,” he exclaimed. “It never occurred to me that people would actually duck out of Kevin Eastman’s panel to start lining up early!”
I introduced Ben to Chris and Rocky, and explained comic club. We all made a little nest in line. The guys chatted about new costumes, Infinity War and Turtles while Rocket and my Tribble got into fights.
“I was heading into the parking lot,” Rocky told us. “Rocket Raccoon was in my passenger seat. The guy at the gate took my money then looked in and said ‘You guys have a good time’. So apparently Rocket counts as one of the guys…”
To quote A Christmas Story; “The line stretched all the way to Terre Haute, and I was at the end of it”. Still, it was good to be with friends and we eventually got our stuff signed. I noted the “No posed photos” sign and slipped Rocky (ahead of me in line) my camera to snap shots of me meeting Eastman. Kevin drew “Casey Jones Doodles” all over Chris’s hockey stick, and loved my outfit as my borg arm handed over my comic using it’s claw. His assistant asked for a photo.
“There’s a LOT of cosplay at this show isn’t there?” Eastman asked. I acknowledged that Ohio has a lot of interesting costume culture.
There was just enough time after we got out of the endless Eastman line for me to plow through the 3-for-$1 bins, scoring about thirty books as well as a handfull of small pokemon for me to bring home to the kids. My backpack sagged on my shoulders, heavy with comic books as I headed backstage for the costume contest.
My name rang out. I was late and Spider-Man was looking for me.
“Coming! Coming! I’m here!” I panted as I shuffled off my backpack and stowed it under a backstage chair. Spidey pointed to the second line.
“Okay! Line up right here.”
I walked over and pointed at the floor.
“Right here? Here. Right THIS spot?”
Spidey gave me an exasperated smile and swatted me away. Looking around I found myself next to my friend Jason, who was ready with a quick change Clark Kent/ Superman costume (much like the one Maddie wore to NEO). Seems like I had friends to keep me company in every line I found myself in. Cassie and Vito were too far away for me to reach, but Dwayne snuck up behind me and greeted me – I hadn’t even recognized him in costume!
HOF is a good con, and consistently brings in top talent like no other convention its size. If they could just figure out how to handle the crowds for those guests, it would be a near perfect show. That and ditch the charge for the convention hall parking lot (Akron comic con, and Geekfest both managed to provide free parking, Heck, CONCoction MOVED so they could). Still, it’s good vendors, exceptional guest and good times with friends. Barring further schedule conflicts I expect to be back next year!
According to Wikipedia; Yuri’s Night is an international celebration held every April 12 to commemorate milestones in space exploration. Yuri’s Night is named for the first human to launch into space, Yuri Gagarin, who flew the Vostok 1 spaceship on April 12, 1961. In Cleveland, we hold it at the Great Lakes Science Center.
Man. That sounds like an awfully stuffy affair doesn’t it? Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Yuri’s night kicks off with the VIP arty at 6:30, in a roped off area serves amazing food from Cleveland’s most innovative restaurants. New York style pizza with prosciutto, soft tacos made from an amazing seasoned pork. Sandwiches and salads, a deconstructed sushi-like dish with mango and peppers. Strange margaritas in plastic cups and an open bar. And even here in the VIP, I found myself surrounded by sci-fi costumes. Some elaborate Star wars or giant astronauts, and some as simple as funny hats. There was even one person dressed as Stitch, complet with two extra arms wired to her real forearms. Cosplay is so pervasive at this event that a sign over at the Melt table (where they were hocking their take on oatmeal creams) read “If your outfit isn’n’t sci-fi related, you must give us your best Chewbacca impression before taking a cookie”.
The rest of the science center and it’s exhibits are available as well, but the halls felt eerily empty the first hour until the general admission began to trickle in. At one table, a young lady in a funny outfit served up cheese balls that had been dipped in liquid nitrogen. You have to keep the ball moving in your mouth or it’ll stick to your tongue (like Schwartz and the lampost in A Christmas Story). You breath steam out of your nose and mouth while you eat it. The taste is like a cheetos flavored snowball.
In one section, science demonstrations go on with bottle rockets, while further down there was a photo booth just around the corner from the main stage where they alternated between a band and a DJ. The lower area really starts to fill up the later the evening goes. Around ten, the floor was packed and I wandered down. I always say it’s not a party until the lightsabers come out, and I immediately found myself by a dark Jedi with two red lightsabers. Old Skool Cleveland pumped out cover songs and when they kicked off Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, we were all in full swing dancing. For a moment I lost myself.
Sometimes that’s easier in a costume. I pulled out my Borg suit for t he first time in a couple years. There’s not a lot of places for me to wear this, but it was right at home there at Yuri’s night. From the Balcony I spotted some friends coming in with a Xenomorph egg in tow and a chestburster popping out. I ran into Ghostbuster friends in thier spaceball costumes – I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t recognize them until they grabbed me to say hello! I screamed my lungs out for the I Dream of Jeannie team during the costume contest, and wandered around the science center like any curious Borg would – a drink constantly in my metal prosthetic claw.
I missed my chance to come out last year and now I really regret that. This may have been the best party I’ve been to in years, and as the night drew on I never even noticed the time fly by. It’s been ages since I’d been to the Great Lakes Science Center (Certianly before I was married) and I can’t think of a more fun way to renew my acquaintance with this particular attraction. I’m already thinking of my costume for the next Yuri’s night next year and I can’t wait.
Four conventions in four weeks is a little excessive, even for me – however, you have to admit that every show I’ve been to lately has been a different kind: Zipcon was an Anime Convention – very focused on Japanese animation and manga. You might see a Spiderman or Deadpool there, but really it’s all about the cartoons. Great Lakes on the other hand was a comic con. They had a more straightforward focus on mainstream comics, with only a couple of media guests, and all of them comic related. The 80s theme made a great deal of fun as well. Horror Relm is strictly a horror convention, with a heavy media and film focus. To their credit they do in fact have a literary component, but it’s overshadowed by the media guests.
That leaves us with this weekend, my first time out to the Cleveland ConCoction. ConCoction is a sci-fi convention – there’s a few more elements in there, a little bit of anime and comics, but it’s far more about speculative fiction. There is a heavy literary influence here, with very few media guests and more authors doing panels then actors. There’s a lot of Star Wars here predictably, but there is also an enormous amount of Star Trek here as well, hearkening back a little bit to the old days of Star Trek conventions. Seriously, I have not seen this many Star Trek costumes in one place in probably 20 years? That was fun and refreshing to be around again. It made it the perfect place to debut my new Borg outfit (truthfully created with ConCotion at least partially in mind) and I spent Saturday going around attempting to add biological and technological distinctiveness to my own. Sadly, all I managed to assimilate was girl scout cookies.
Concoction has been around for three years now, and they been on my radar the entire time – my main barrier to entry has been the cost – concoction is a little bit more expensive than other shows its size and on top of that, their location is the Sheraton hotel at the Cleveland Hopkins airport – this is a problem because it means you are going to pay to park, and if the hotel lot fills up (which it did, long before I made it there) you’re going to pay a LOT to park. Just a Saturday ticket is $40 at the door, although if you register early enough you can get the entire weekend for about $45 or so, and if you can get into the hotel parking lot it’ll only cost a fiver for a place to put your car. But if you get stuck having to park at the airport lot, you’re dropping an extra $12. All that cost up front, with very few media guests has kept me away first few years, but when I won a admission last September during a costume contest, it definitely got me excited about coming and far more willing to brave the extra costs of going.
Yes, ConCoction costs more, but they try harder too. There is programming from early in the morning all the way up until midnight here, and that’s not even getting into after parties and stuff like that. There is a ConSuite on site as well, where are you can find food and beverage. I’ve seen Motor City Nightmares do a similar hospitality suite, but wit far less of a spread and you had to get a special VIP admission for it. At ConCoction, the Consuite is open to anyone attending the show. I had all of my meals there, and this is really a great thing… Not having to run away from the hotel to grab food, not having to strategically plan your meals. They kept me hydrated (kind of important in some of my costumes) and fed. They also held several the panels in this cozy dining room.
The panels at ConCoction are very interesting, not just the content but also in the way that they are run. A lot of them are far more of a forum than a strict panel – there is a lot of audience participation and conversation going on. As soon as I arrived, I ran into some friends who were on their way to a panel in the Consuite being hosted by Pete Mako (of Pete Mako in the Boogiemen, remember them from a few weeks ago?). I was still getting my bearings and found myself in the Consuite and noticed that they were there. I asked “I thought you guys were going to a panel!” Pete walked past me smiling and clapped my shoulder then said “This IS the panel!” The group, about have a dozen of them relaxed around a table and began discussing the topic of “Geek Dating”. It wasn’t the first time I’d see this, in fact later on I would sit down to a panel charmingly titled “Why You Are Here: Two Old Broads and Why They Ran (and stopped running) cons in Cleveland “. It was a discussion of behind-the-scenes at conventions, and what it was like to host the old Earth Cons back in the 80s. I like to consider myself a convention Veteran. I’ve been on the scene since I was a kid back in ’87, but these ladies were doing it back in the late 70s and started hosting their own show in’81… In fact Earth Con’s last show was held just before the first Star Trek Convention I ever went to! They discussed the difference between the Literary cons and media cons, something I’ve never even really been aware of – things were leaning a little bit more towards media and Star Trek conventions during my time. They reminisced about gathering diffrent groups together to gaming, sci-fi, comics and the how the cooperation from different groups help Make Earth Con a reality. The gamers would bring in Steve Jackson. The Comic people would bring in Stan Lee, while Earth Con would get someone like Anne McCaffrey or James Doohan. But then, the unity between the orginizations began to fragment, each wanting to hold their own conventions. It was fascinating to hear about how that cooperation transformed into competition.
I was riveted, so were a couple of the tweeners hanging out – a couple of junior high girls who were fascinated by the idea, and so excited about the convention experience that all they wanted to do was just find more shows to go to, and more time to spend at these events.
I sat back, trying to decide if thier giggling, gasping hyperactivity was annoying or inspiring.
The thing is, I was that age once. I remember… I remember what this felt like, I remember what it was like to break into the world of fandom, and I can’t help but smile – seeing it happen all over again, it really does makes me happy.
It really set the tone for a lot of the comedy show cases that we saw over this weekend There were two different improv troupes going on, and that made up a great deal of the sketch comedy happening, but also, later in the evening there was a group of stand-ups who came out to perform. This was really fun to see, with the subject matter tailored to fit the convention – sci-fi and fantasy genre jokes. Monster Bash is the only other show that immediately comes to mind that I know that has stand up as part of its routine. It’s a great late night filler and I had a lot of fun with it.
One of the highlights of Saturday for me was “Looking for Love in Alderaan Places”. It’s still improv, but with an outline. They know where they are going, and what the story is, but still keep in off the cuff. It has the feel and style of a classical farce – if it were written by George Lucas.
I managed to hit the “State of the Star Trek panel “with Larry Nemecek. Larry is an American Star Trek author, actor, editor, archivist, consultant, interviewer and producer. He has portrayed Dr. McCoy in the Star Trek Continues web series episodes “Pilgrim of Eternity” and “Lolani.” and has been around the franchise for a good long time – the buzz of course, is not so much Star Trek beyond, but the new Star Trek series that CBS all access is producing There is a certain degree of trepidation and pessimism that comes along with any of it, and he reminded us of that same kind of feeling back in the days of Star Trek : The Next Generation. You know what, I remember those days and I remember that negativity, but I don’t remember if that was me or not. I’d like to think that it wasn’t, I’m pretty sure I was excited just because there is new Star Trek been produced in my lifetime and that was unthinkable.
One of my favorite slides he showed was this bullseye from the writers room, basically all the possible responses you could expect from a pitch – and everyone was always aiming for the center.
There is something surreal about the fact that I attended this panel dressed as a Borg. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room who found that funny, several pictures of the back of my head appeared online later on in the evening…
Litarary panels are fun, and really come from a different place than I’m used to. You get a diffrent kind of discussion, usually with far better referances and sources to back up opinions and ideas. “Growing up sci-fi” emphasised a lot of the isolation that you kind of felt as a sci-fi fan in the pre-Internet days. I’d kind of forgotten, and perhaps it wasn’t really true in my time, how sci-fi used to have a sort of “renegade “or “rebellious “reputation to it. I’m Pre-Internet as well, and I empathize with the writer who mentioned she didn’t know what it would’ve been like, how she would’ve handled it if she hadn’t had access to the online community when she was growing up as a sci-fi fan. It’s a fascinating perspective. I was blessed to have found friends in both school and Church who shared my passions and gave me an outlet for them. Equally fascinating was the writer who described reading the Star Trek novels long before they were ever able to see an episode of the TV series. This is fundamentally my story on how I experienced Captain Video and I totally get what you’re saying. I love seeing that idea overlayed on another series.
The comic book collecting panel, hosted by Ed Gosney, was little bit more familiar territory, though still very much more a discussion then a lecture. people talked about characters and earth that they loved. One of the Writers from the previous panel was there discussing how there are a number of comics in his collection where it was the art, the imagery itself rather than the story that captivated him. To the point where he eventually scanned those images into his computer, so he’d have the art without having to carry around the baggage of the books themselves. We talked about great finds, and the one that got away… One of the attendees told a story about a day out garaged saleing. He was with his mother but only had about three dollars to his name at the moment. In the back of this person’s garage he saw boxes, and boxes of comics. Longboxes full of rare stuff, seminal stories, important comics. The owner told him he could have the whole lot for $50. His mother of course, wasn’t loaning him the money no way no-how, so he grabbed a handfull of choice issues and ran out to the flea market. On the way there he called one of his buddies to let him know about the stash that was at this grudge sale – “if I don’t get out there, you need to “. He managed to raise the necessary $50 on those special issus he had snagged, and arrived back at the garage sale just in time to see his buddy loading that collection into his truck. Still from then on, every con that friend put on, he had his admission comped and a $15 credit at his booth.
I’m going on and on about the programming. I know. While I usually say that programming is the lifeblood of a con, it’s really true here. The vendors area is divided into three sections, an artist room, an authors alley and a proper dealers room. All three are about the size of my living room. Maybe a touch bigger. This is not Wizard World where you walk into a room the size of an airplane hanger packed full of vendors and scalper selling the latest things that Hot Topic has sold out of. The dealers here are artists and craftsmen, gamers and cosplayers.
You’ll find jewelry and puppets and dice and leather here. I saw custom fan neckties and mopey robots and strange flowers (I bought the girls wooden roses). It’s interesting stuff, more like the sort of thing you’d see at a Renaissance fair, not so much like what you may be used to seeing at a comic con. You can pretty much get through the dealers room in ten to fifteen minuets, so honestly, that better not be what you’re coming for.
There are a few more tables upstairs along the mezzanine. It’s a stunning view and a really cool space. It’s also out of the way and easy to neglect. The cosplayers are up there, and I made sure to get into a quick scuffle with Knightmage’s Darth Maul as we overlooked the balcony.
Oh yes. The band.
Five Year Mission is the collaboration of five Star Trek fans who endeavor to write and record a song for each of the episodes of the original Star Trek series from the 1960s. One of my friends is certain the bass player is going to drop dead after each show and have to be replaced because of the red shirt. It’s a remarkably good band with clever songs and good hooks. The band switches up instruments after almost every song which makes for an interesting dynamic – we get to hear just about every sing at one point and the songs honestly do get stuck in your head.
They weren’t the only musical act though. As I mentioned earlier, Pete Mako was here as well to do his set (which they scheduled during the costume contest! Come on! What’s up with that???). I caught his act at ZipCon and was really excited that he was going to be playing ConCoction. Pete was around all weekend helping out with bits here and there.
Cosplay is interesting at ConCotion. You don’t have the throngs of cosplayers swarming all around the joint like you do at an Anime convention, but a you have way more than the few dribs and drabs that filter into a Horror con. It’s a fascinating mix as well. There are a few superheros around, I saw a ninja Deadpool to die for. But there’s also fantasy, anime characters, steampunk folks, monsters and film characters.
There’s more puppets walking around than you’d expect.
It’s this fantastic variety that makes cosplay at ConCoction really something to see. There’s some innovation in a lot of these outfits I couldn;t have begun to imagine and I was always delighted to discover what new character was right around each corner.
They run the costume contest a little diffrently here. You sign up in the 10:00 hour, and are assigned a slot for pre-judging (mine was 1:45-2:00). You then sit down with the judges and talk out you costume. What it is, what it’s made of, how you did it, anything you really want to say. The masquerade is around 6. This is the stage show, MCed by Moxie Magnus, the chief cosmetologist on the USS Enterprise under Captain under James T Kirk, and the comedy (drag) queen of outer space. I had fun bantering with Moxie pointing out that my designation was 7 of 5 – none of the other Borg want to hang out with me and then sent me to ConCoction alone to assimilate the show.
The winner of the contest was this beautifully made Kaylee from Firefly, and I love this. It shows just how well they understand it. This wasn’t the flashiest costume, it’s not the trendiest. But it’s the most impressive because of the massive amount of work here. This dress is handmade, she did it all and it’s perfect. I’ve seen commissioned ones before and this is dead-on, a masterpiece of stitching. A great, well-earned win.
Santiago has been on hit TV Shows and Films on TNT, Lifetime, Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, USA Network, Fox, and of course on AMC as Julio in Season 4 of The Walking Dead.He’s the first person from the Walking Dead in fact, that I’ve met or gotten an autograph on that poster of mine in person from.
Santiago is a native of Lorain, which is a neighboring suburb to my own Elyria. We discussed the Lorain Palace and growing up in the area. The thing on his resume that I was honestly the most fascinated by was how he had done episodes of America’s Most Wanted. You never think about where they get the actors for the reenactments on those shows and I was surprised at how straightforward it is, casting calls the agent and an audition. For some reason I always imagined those shows casting differently. I only caught the tail end of his panel, but Santiago was around for after parties as well, in his Superman leather jacket and shirts. You can see he’s a fan at heart and fits well into this show.
After 11, the barfleet party happens. Drinks and dancing and socializing. The dance floor there is a smaller more intimate setting that the No Strings Attached Ball that happens around 8 in one of the main programming rooms, but still pumping the music with lights in the air and drinks in hand.
Honestly, there’s far more going on at ConCoction than I can cover. There’s always a couple things happening at the same time and I didn’t even begin to hit them all. I barely spent any time in the game room. There were always things going especially for kids in one room. There were music acts that I just couldn’t catch. I’m already registered for next year and if you can stash away a few extra pennies it’s definitely worth checking out.